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tv   Weekends With Alex Witt  MSNBC  December 1, 2018 10:00am-11:01am PST

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simple. easy. awesome. stay connected while you move with the best wifi experience and two-hour appointment windows. click, call or visit a store today. ♪ >> the passing of 41 george herbert walker bush, americans reflect on his service to the country. >> bush tried to govern in a spirit of bipar sanship that is almost unimaginable now. >> he never had the grandiosity that we often see. >> he was truly a remarkable man. we will remember the president and the legacy he leaves, plus the stark contrast between presidents bush and trump. how did the elder bush think about the ren gait republican president? hello, everyone. we're going to get to what's
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happening right now. new this hour, a solemn sight at the bush family compound. the flag is flying at half-staff, where president bush spent many idyllic days in the summers. other new develops today, president trump saying out of respect for the bush family, he is postponing a press conference which was scheduled this hour at the g-20 summit in argentina. the white house says president trump will declare next wednesday, december 5th, as a national day of mourning. also the president and first lady melania are expected to attend the funeral service at the washington national cathedral this week. we begins this hour with garrett
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haake. he's in houston where 41 lived. i'm sure the funeral plans are just coming together. >> reporter: you mentioned the services that we'll have in washington, d.c., where the former president will lie in state, folks who watched the services for john mccain recently, this will all look very familiar. the former president will lie in state in the capitol. there would be a funeral service at the national cathedral uptown in northwest washington, d.c. the president has said he and melania trump will attend those services. then the remains of the former president will come back here to texas to be honored all over again in his own home church here in houston, texas. then taken up the road about 100 miles to college station, the
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home of texas a&m university, and the bush presidential library. that's just the official service it is, and official remembrances. here in houston, i can tell you the former president remains an iconic person here. i suspect we'll see much more informally from citizens here in the city of houston, as they try to honor their most famous resident over the last 25 years or so, a huge booster over his whole life. >> i have to get to what the president did on november 1st, along with many other citizens as we're leading up to to the election. talk about that. >> yeah, the last time we saw the former president in public was to go cast his ballot early and in person for the midterm election.
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look, alex, texas has a robust early voting, absentee voting. he's 94 years old. he does not have to take his while chair to to the polls to go vote, but again it shows the commitment to the civic institutions of the united states and to his city and to his state, that you had the former president at 94 years old with his service dog in thai to make sure he casts his ballot and that was an image we all saw. ultimately becoming the last public appearance by this president, a fitting last tweet, last appearance by a person who dedicated his entire life to service to this country. >> sitting with his dog sully, and with his very, very dear longtime friend jim bakker.
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jeff ben ed, joins us now. >> great to be with you, alex? prompt had nothing but praise to offer. it was somebody of a departure. remembered for bosch did you boo, they referred to -- a man who loved his family. sarah sander is making clear that both prompt and the first lady will attend the funeral services at the national cathedral. that was something of an open question. as you well know, president trump declined to attend the funeral for the late barbara bush, given the sort of bitter relationship between president trump and is the bush family. we also learned that he did
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speak directly with george w. bush to express his condolences. he told reporters today as he sat alongside chancellor merkel at the g-20 summit. >> reporter: have you spoken top george w. bush and jeb bush? >> yes, he's a wonderful man. we extended our best wishes. he was a very fine man. i met him on numerous tag. he was just a high quality man who truly loved his family. that came through lout and clear. so he was a terrific guy. >> reporter: there is a bit of news to report. we're told president trump had an informal conversation last night with russian president vladimir putin. as you know, he called off his
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sit-down with the russian president. the white house said there would be no informal conversation between the two, but today sarah sanders released a statement, as is typical at multilateral events, there were a number of informal conversations at the dinner last night, including vladimir putin. we would have asked president trump about that, but he, you know, called it off, he says out of the respect for the passing of president bush. >> it should be nothing more than exchanging pleasantries. it could be described that way as well, right? we don't have any substance or anything to that conversation. >> reporter: right, that is a very fair point you make. you're right about that. geoff bennett, thank you very much. during his presidency, george h.w. bush broke with his party, but was it a move that cost him a second term?
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joining mess on the phone is george will. it's wonderful to speak with you. i took a look at the op-ed that you wrote today outlining this extraordinary life of the 41st president. he made a different decision, really a life change. talk about what was behind it, george? >> he was a product of two worlds, and real spent his life torn between two worlds. s he was the son of a senator, his father was one of the leading wall street investment banking. he married barbara pierce, a direct sandiant of the 14th president frankly pierce, but then after the war -- by the way, he graduated from andover, and they said go to yale first and then go to war.
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he said, no, i'm going to war first, and he became the second youngest naval aviator flying 100-some missions. after the war he got in his stewed baker and drove off to the west texas oil patch, granted by some weight monwall street money, but they lived in a paul shack, he try to do acclimate himself to the rising conservatism of texas, supporting goldwater, and running a fairly right-wing candidacy, and felt chastened by this, felt it wasn't really him, and moved back toward the center. he benefited all his life, less from winning elections than from
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gaining the confidence of people who could put him places, hence to the u.n., chairman of the republican national committee, ambassador to china, head of the cia, which speaks well of him. it means a number of presidents and others found him a repository of talent that they needed. >> george, do you think that those variousingses -- barbara bush famously joked that her husband couldn't keep a job, because of the many positions he held through his life. do you think that served him better than potentially being named vice president prior to when he was? >> i think it did. it might have been on nixon's short list. again when he was considered, when agnew had to resign during nixon's first term, but it worked out well, because he wound up president.
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one of the reasons he got elected president in 1988 was that the country really wanted a third reagan term, and this was the closest they could get. one of the reasons he had lost four years later is that it's really hard to keep the american people happy with one party's presidency for three terms. so ser it helped, then hurd. he became, quote a -- kind republican. what do you think makes him different than most right-leaning, right-wing, if you will, republicans? >> it's -- this will sound a bit
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odd, but it's not his beliefs, but his manners. someone who genuinely is a product of the american establishment, a genuine representative of elite values, all of a sudden at greenwich day school and andover and yale don't look so bad. furthermore -- again, it's typical of our assessment of george herbert walker bush, one of the great things he did is that he didn't do. he did not invade iraq when he could have. he said our mission has worked out with the united nations is to expel iraq from kuwait, which he did, and then he stopped. genius sometimes is knowing when to stop. >> some would suggest his
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domestic policy during his presidency was a bit of a disfoimt, deese spite he passed the americas with disabilities act and clean air act. what do you think he will ultimately be remembered for. >> for foreign policy, an enormous achievement to have been there when the berlin wall came down, and the problem of an accelerating rush to unify germany, alarming both paris and moscow simultaneously. so it was foreign policy. he was no more interested really in domestic policy than jack kennedy was, who famously said i'll spare you the expletive, who cares a darn about the minimum wage, foreign policy is what matters. jack kennedy was a navy -- served in the navy in the world war ii and the pacific theater as did george herbert walker
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bush, and these veterans were outward-bound in their interest. they will be remembered for what they did in foreign policy. >> makes sense given all that they witnessed in those positions. george will, thank you so much for weighing in. i do appreciate your insights. >> glad to be with you. coming up next, the new development in the special counsel probe, why michael cohen's lawyers say he deserves to avoid prison. sneed go from fresh to deliciously done in half the time. which means it may become the only thing you use in your kitchen. (tapping) for cooking, at least. (upbeat music) the ninja foodi, with tendercrisp, the cooking while parenting technology.
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. president trump now wrapping up his meeting with chance lop merkel, but new developments around michael cohen's guilty plea is casting a shadow. joining mess is robe-- a big weo you both. robert, to you first. we will learn more when he is sentenced in mid december in manhattan, but for now we see he's talking about the timeline during the 2016 campaign, stretching all the way into the summer of the 2016 campaign.
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this shows how the russia investigation and robert mueller continue to be a specter over this presidency, even as the president is abroad. >> laura, on his scheduled meeting with putin, canceled of course, the president declared in around intina that the cancellation of the meeting was all about ukraine. it doesn't have anything to do with the cohen plea. is it clear that that indeed is the case? >> it's absolutely not clear, alex. it's much more likely the reason he canceled his meeting with putin is frankly it's just not a good look. he's accused of colluding with putin, basically being putin's pawn, having ongoing deals with russia. that's looking increasingly likely that he lied. he's just no longer the president of the united states. he's individual one in the massive criminal investigation.
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i think he canceled it because it would have been an embarrassment to have this meeting on the record. as i look at the "new york times" and "the washington post," there are articles that suggest his attorneys -- cohen's attorneys are saying their client should not go to prison. what is the basis to this argument. do you think that's going to ha. >> at this point we'll have to wait and see, but they're trying to say because they're cooperating with robert mueller, they've provided dozens upon dozens of interview and testimony that they think he should try to avoid jail time. you see friends and family members of mr. cohen writing letters to the federal court asking for sympathy, asking him to stay out of prison, talking to michael cohen's closest friends, you get the sense he very much wants to avoid prison, think being his family and children, and this is part of the reason he's making this
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push. >> what do you hear, laura? >> maybe some sort of leniency. there's got to be a bit of a reward for cooperating, otherwise nobody would have any incentive to do so, but cohen is a career criminal. he's pleaded guilty to a lot of crimes, and he lied to congress. what message does that send to future corrupt individuals who want to hope the president cover up crimes? >> robert, the timing of the president's written submission of answers to robert mueller's questions, and that being followed up by the guilty plea, the admission by michael cohen that he's lied. talk about those two and the kind of peril this might put the president in? >> in brief, the president working with his lawyers like rudy giuliani, submitted written answers to robert mueller
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'questions, and after that michael cohen decided to fully cooperate. you'll have mueller looking closely at the president's statements, which were really given under oath legally. these are something you cannot perjure yourself in, comparing them to what michael cohen said. rudy giuliani has told "the washington post" and others that the president doesn't have any discrepancy with his answers, but you can't see in the coming weeks mr. mueller deciding to ask the president and his lawyers for further answers, based on whatever mr. cohen has said. >> would that then indicate that perhaps robert mueller didn't see the things the same way as the president's attorneys did? >> you could see mueller prod the timeline more, ask about that summer of 2016. what was mr. trump as a candidate aware of in terms of cohen's engagements, not just a paragraph answer. mr. mueller may want a three or
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four-page answer about the full context of the president's behavior at that time. >> laura, your take on this, the timing of the written questions and then the guilty plea? >> it must be terrifying for trump. his lawyers called the written statements a perjury trap. he could either admit to wrongdoing or lie and pray that cohen upheld the same lie. now cohen is fully cooperating and that puts trump potentially in a lot of hot water. laura basset and robert costa, thanks for weighing in. >> thank you. as we continue to reflect on the life of president george h.w. bush, we look at what might be his biggest accomplishment in office. (roger) being a good father is important to me so being diagnosed with advanced
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6:00 eastern, chris matthews will host a two-hour special remembering president bush. let's go to andy card who served bush 41, most notably as assistant to the president and white house deputy chief of staff. it's been a long day for you, but i wanted to bring you back again, because a lot of what you talked but was so poignant and insight everly with president trump on the world stage, how do you compare these two presidents in their approach, say, to foreign policy? what would you say each is appropriate -- or which approach would you say being more appropriate for the era? if you get my question, i mean, that was then, this is now. >> president george h.w. bush never demanded respect. he earned respect and he gave
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respect. he earned it because he gave it. on the world stage he respected every other leader. he didn't necessarily like them all. he invited them to be part of solutions. he had to deal with unimaginable issuing of diplomacy. when the berlin wall came down, the world was at risk for not only a cold war, but a hot war. he had expectations, and he understood people's concerns, like he kohl, and the need to unify germany, and he managed it differently than what most experts would have predicted would happen at the end of the cold war. he changed the way america thousand about helping americans. he thought we all should become points the lights.
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he called us all to give more in public service, and give more in service to our community. that continuing to live today. he also inspired people to get involved in government the bush school of government at texas a&m is a living legacy. he's invited thousands of young people to be trained in how to practice diplomat set, learn how to listen and be respectful, learn how to build partnerships and find common ground. he was very good at finding common ground. he also did an awful lot to help make a difference. yes, he hayes known for his foreign policy. he'll always be remembered for the work in foreign policy, but he brought great discipline to the entire system of government,
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by giving up significant political advantages by raising taxes when he had performed not to. when raising taxes helped us get us fiscal discipline that lasted for ten years in this country. no other president has done that. in terms of his presidency, he was the most successful one-term president in our history. >> yes, and that sentiment has been voiced several times today. >> clearly the most difficult challenge a president has is deciding to go to war. president bush went to war, first in panama, and then the war -- the first gulf war to free kuwait from the iraqi saddam hussein aggression. he followed the rules of the united nations. he built a large coalition that followed the u.n.'s expectations
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to get is saddam hussein off there. this was very controversial. he wisely said he was going to take the right response and respect the partners that he had invited to be part of that coalition, to keep to the mission that would been done. that was the gift, learning restraint, being a lead who are listened, showing character and understand that it's all about service, it's not selfish. >> thank you for weighing in andy card. your last answer has teed up my next interviews. the perils the president faced in making any decision that a president can make. introducing zero account fees for brokerage accounts. and zero minimums to open an account.
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this hour, new attribute bugts pouring in as the country mourns the passing of george h.w. bush. he died last night at age 94. his character and intelligent, his steadfast devotion, evident throughout his career, including in 1976, he was then asked on nbc's "meet the press" what motivated him to take on the job of cia director.
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>> i said this at the senate hearings, and times are up cynical, but i was asked to do it. i felt a sense of duty. i feel if you're called on to serve, you ought to serve. >> barry mccaffery, who led the army's 24th infantry division during "operation gulf storm." so with a welcome to you both, sir, john to you first, you were at cia during the gulf war. you wrote how george h.w. bush rescued the cia after the report. what was the immediate impact that bush was able to make in that role? >> well, he came to cia alex at
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the time when the agency was under great attack, and frankly employees there -- i was brand new there, were confused about where the agency stood. morale was lower than it normally is, and i have to say, he also came at a time when he been chairman of the republican party. many people said, can someone with that kind of political background lead a nonpolitical agency? i have to say he passed all of those tests. he was visible in the hallway. he was the kind of person who gathered young people together and sought our views. i recall going to his office on a saturday morning with about a dozen people, sitting around having coffee, briefing him, talking about where things were in the agency. he lifted the place up. to this day, he is a revered figure there. he would visit us frequently in
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his retirement, and always was welcomed for all those reasons. though he was there for only a year or so, he had a tremendous impact and is a revered figure. >> john, do you they he got enough credit for navigating the end of the cold war without escalating tensions? >> oh, yes. i was involved in a lot of that and grateful to have been. if you think about that time, 1989 to '92. the berlin wall comes down in '89. the soviet union falls apart in '91. china has the teeian man square disaster. and he was on his way to meet
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with gorbachev in the little island country of malta, and what i recall from that, a number of things. he was, a, very attentive, b, very knowledgeable, c, many people say this about him and it's true, extraordinarily gracious to us. it was the first time i had been in the oval office, so i was nervous about how that was going to go. a colleague and i often reminis reminisce, he asked if we would like a cup of coffee. we nervously said thank you, and he poured it himself. that kind of blew us away. we expected a butler to come in and do it. but in subsequent meetings, as others have remarked, there was no pretense there. it was just a very gracious man, asking me when would the berlin wall come down. my colleague and i looked at each other, and i think our
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answer was like, for all practical purposes, it's gone, because it was apparent to us some weeks earlier that germany would not be prevent are vented from uniting as it then subsequently did. >> general, from your standpoint, when you look back at the gulf war, does it now seem extraordinary that president bush was able to put together a broad coalition to respond to saddam hussein's invasion, and yet show restraint to not try to march to baghdad? >> of course, if it not were for chairman and secretary baker and chairman colin powell to reach out and bring this global community to oppose the invasion, it could have been a far more bloody and costly effort. his credibility had been gained over multiple decades of being in contact with people to include the cia.
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thank god for the cia. they're always an essential part of our briefing team. so remarkable guy. andover boy, 18-year-old combat pilot in world war ii. i had a lot of contact with him over the years, including when he came to my division, just prior to the attack on kuwait and iraq and the desert storm campaign. >> pretty extraordinary how he could end the fighting in about 100 hours. do you think that's among one of his greatest legacy, the shock and awe, which was so remarkable in the desert storm? >> well, yeah, sure. we had created a military, and bush and reagan were certainly a clear part of that. it was built to destroy the soviet armed forces in europe. then they put us against a giant
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army and air force in iraq, but in open terrain and clearly not trained or equipped to deal with us. so it's not surprising to me the outcome of the war, but bush, colin powell, schwarzkopf, combat veterans all three. what a sense of strategic vision on how to deal with military power. he's a remarkable man, one of the finest men i personally have run into. one adeck dote if i can. he came to ft. stewart to see the families. my wife was there to greet him as the division commander's wife. so jill expected to trail along behind him. he said o. no, you're getting in the car with me, told the secret service, don't you dare stop traffic. they're american citizens, we should defer to them.
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just incredible. thousands of people were coming in from all over coastal georgia to listen to bush talk. so this is a man with integrity and kindness baked into him. >> someone who always thought of others certainty. john mclouvrely, general barry mccaffery, gen, thank you for shares your thoughts on this momentous today. much appreciated. the headlines tracing president trump all the way to argentina. let's clear a path. let's put down roots. let's build something. let's do the thing that you do. let's do the thing that changes the shape of everything... that pushes us forward and keeps us going. let's do the work. tremfya® is for adults with moderate to severe plaque psoriasis.
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a web of tensions on full display in argentina. the president postponing a news conference that was scheduled for right now, saying it is delay was out of respect for former president bush. . the white house cited time limitation there, all the while bunching back at michael cohen and the mueller probe. let's bring in my panel. peter emerson has worked in three democratic administrations. jamichael singleton.
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republican strategist nicole. 9 peter, you served in the carder administration how do you h.w. bush who was prominent in that era. how do you contrast the political environment then and the political environment today? >> it was very distinct. president bush woke up every morning and said what can i do to make the country better and better for our citizens. he did it with generosity and thought and action, with a sense of humor, often at himself, with a sense of making it clear that he didn't have all the answers, he would ask for help, he'd admit he made mistakes, a true patriot. donald trump wakes up in the morning after usually a night of vociferous, violent tweets,
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assassinating people's kacharacr think be what can i do for myself, how can i make my life better, no intelligence in terms of world history or world geography, for many a traitor to the constitution, to the rule of law and the american values that president bush gave his entire life for in the military and in public service. >> david, i want you to react to what peter has just said there. do you agree but particularly with the first two points he made. is it clear donald trump does not wake up everybody morning thinking how he can make america safe and make life better for the scitizens. >> i do want to say my condolences to the bush family and friend and people that worked for him.
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still my condolences go out to them. when you talked about donald trump, this is a fellow who doesn't really seem to care about anything beyond himself. many call him a narcissist. i think that label fits. if you look at what he's tweeting about, he's not tweeting about how to make the world better. he doesn't seem to know how to deal with congress. he's lying all the time. he thinks he won the midterm elections. there's a degree of narcissistic delusion going on. he goes to argentina and he's incredibly compromised because of the information that's come out about his interactions with putin's office. he's secretly talking to putin's office to further a business deal while he was running as president. he can't act as president. he can't talk to the head of the russian state and what he's done
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with the saudi arabia controversy over the murder of jamal khashoggi, he can't talk to the leader of the saudi state. he's a compromised leader of this country who can't do the job. >> noelle, i'll going to have you weigh in on this. also, do you think the president has shown some restraint in terms of the tenor of this day, as i mentioned earlier. we were supposed to be in a press conference that started about ten minutes ago and that did not happen. >> actually, i do. you know, much to trump's credit on this, i think it would have been inappropriate to have a press conference when people, all the networks are covering george h.w. bush and his legacy and his record and the whole family and giving people a chance to come on and talk about the memories and the good things that he did. i think that it would have been inappropriate. and to peter talking about him being a narcissist, this is actually one of the things i think trump did that's good. i think he didn't focus on
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himself and what he's doing, he instead is letting the networks have a day and have a break to focus on a former president that a lot of people really, really respect. as far as what he's doing with the g- h-g-20, i think it was s not to meet with putin. >> do you agree with that or do you think it was also perhasmar the to have the press conference where he might have to answer questions about michael cohen. >> i definitely think it was smart not to talk to putin. the administration needs to figure out what its policy positions are going to be and i don't think they've figured at that out yet. as it relates to the president not having that press conference today, i certainly think that was the best decision. not necessarily because he would have had to answer questions about michael cohen but because the president isn't very disciplined when it comes to giving press conferences. he could have completely distracted the necessary coverage of former president
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george h.w. bush today. i think in this very rare, rare moment he committed some act of somewhat selflessness. >> sarah sanders said the president did speak with vladimir putin. they did speak together in way that anybody might when they have all these world leaders at one stage and having a dinner together. we do not know the content of that, whether it was merely exchanges pleasantries or hellos or anything more substantive of that. david, your thoughts as to why the president cancelled the news conference, certainly to not infringe upon the respect that would be afforded to our late president. do you think there was more to it? >> donald trump has never done anything out of conversation for others. he doesn't operate that way. he's not thinking, oh, this is going to take away coverage of george h.w. bush, a guy who he
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has denounced over the years. no, he did it because he didn't want to get up there and be asked why he had secretly communicated with putin's own office. this is amazing. while running for president of the united states, he was talking to putin about how putin could help him make money in russia. i mean, this is -- forget the collusion about what happened in terms of attacking the election. here he is colluding with putin to increase his business in russia. and that would have been the questio questions. he doesn't want to take those questions. we haven't seen sarah sanders come in front of the media to talk about this. this has nothing to do with giving the bush family a moment here. look at everything he's done over his career and find me one time when he's made a sacrifice for somebody else. >> all right, guys. listen, unfortunately that's going to have to be the wrap of this conversation. i thank all four of you for joining me.
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