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tv   MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin  MSNBC  December 18, 2018 8:00am-9:00am PST

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he's going to get some time. >> good color. wish we were a fly in the wall in the courtroom, no cameras there, but our team is -- i appreciate you coming on, thank you both as well on this important morning. we're going to continue that coverage with our team from the courthouse to the hill to the white house with craig melvin right now. good afternoon to you, good morning, i should say with msnbc headquarters. craig melvin with breaking news coverage. moments ago the sentencing hearing started for president trump's disgraced former national security adviser, retired lieutenant general michael flynn entering that washington, d.c., federal courtroom there. he has pled guilty to lying to the fbi. flynn was a cooperating witness with special counsel bob mueller's russia investigation for over a year before this court date. prosecutors have indicated they are recommending no prison time, even as flynn's defense tries to soften the image for why he lied. in fact, the special counsel's office released more information
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last night, and over the weekend contradicting flynn's team. basically they say you did it, you knew it, and it wasn't just a few slipups. a jam-packed hour here at the courthouse. nbc's ken dilanian also in washington. hallie jackson standing by our chief white house correspondent here in new york. legal analysis. we brought them both out for this hour, danny cevallos and our chief legal correspondent ari melber. in washington two former top justice department officials, former chief spokesman matt miller also an msnbc justice and security analyst, we have all of our bases covered. i'll start with you there at the courthouse, ken. what are the expectations for today? >> reporter: well, craig, there may be two moments of drama at this hearing in the courthouse behind me, one of which will be when michael flynn has a chance to speak. after all, we haven't heard from
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lieutenant general flynn for a year since he cut that deal and agreed to cooperate and said in a statement at the time that he was doing this in the best interests of his family, that he knew he had done wrong, and he was trying to make it right. today we will hear from him in the courtroom very likely. the other issue of course is the question of whether he get nis prison time at all. now, both the defense and prosecution have recommended that that not happen, that he has cooperated sufficiently with special counsel robert mueller so that he should not be sentenced to prison for pleading guilty to the fbi. there is a wild card. that's in his presentencing filing, his lawyers made an argument that appeared to many to be trying to justify his lies by suggesting that the fbi didn't significantly warn him that it was a crime to lie to federal agents that he was trapped by the fbi. and the judge in this case may look askance at that and there's some speculation he may go against the recommendation of
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the prosecution and defense. looming over this hearing is what has michael flynn given special counsel robert mueller in those 19 meetings that flynn had with investigators about this investigation that has led to this pretty sweet deal. after all, in addition to pleading guilty to lying to the fbi, he's been imply kaicated i scheme to lobby for the government of turkey. he was not charged in that scheme. some of his co-conspirators were charged in court documents we saw yesterday, mike flynn took a pass on that. the question is why, what has he given robert mueller, craig? >> hallie jackson, president trump, he has already weighed in on these court proceedings that are underway. what's the president saying? >> woke up and went at it, craig. he's actually wishing good luck to michael flynn tweeting good luck today in court to the general. will be interesting to see what he has to say the president says, despite tremendous pressure being put on him about russian collusion and our great
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and obviously highly successful political campaign. the president is wishing good luck to a guy that he reluctantly fired for lying to the vice president who then lied to the fbi and was convicted of that. so it is a contrast to the way that the president has treated somebody else who's been cooperating with the special counsel, and that is michael cohen. the president's gone after that michael less so michael flynn in what has been really an extraordinary time for the president here, given that michael flynn was in the inner circle of his campaign in the early days of the administration. i remember covering the president's campaign, flynn was out there as a surrogate. he was one of the first members of that national security apparatus to come out and back president trump, then candidate trump, back when a lot of folks were not taking donald trump super seriously during the campaign. flynn came out, was by his side, was with him, was in effect rewarded by being named national security adviser ten days after election day during the transition. the president talked about the pleading guilty issue from flynn
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back in december, basically about a year ago from today saying i had to fire general flynn because he lied to the vice president and the fbi. he has pled guilty to those lies. it is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. there was nothing to hide. here's the thing, craig, the president's not wrong. it was not illegal, there was nothing illegal about michael flynn having met with the russian ambassador to the u.s. what was illegal is that flynn lied to investigators about it. there was a concern from people inside the national security community at the time that because flynn lied about it and russia knew he was lying because russia knew he had those conversations that essentially the kremlin and moscow of could have something over flynn. the president after pressure builds, after it turns out that the vice president went on television, defended mike flynn. turned out that was inaccurate. that was why flynn according to the president was ultimately let go. this is a moment now that's been a year and a half in the making, if you will, a couple of years in the making if you go back to
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the transition, and you know the president is watching. press secretary sarah sanders has acknowledged as much saying i do think all of america, she said, is interested in how this goes downtown. >> lieutenant general michael flynn inside that courthouse right now. he was national security adviser to the president for, oh, 24 days before he was forced to step down after those reports that he misled both the fbi and the vice president over his contacts with sergey kislyak, the russian ambassador. i want to call your attention to our viewers at home, our listeners on sirius satellite radio, prosecutors releasing a statement, a summary of the fbi's interview with flynn, and we want to show it to you here. this is -- and we want you to take a look at the answers provided to the fbi and you can see where the answers don't match up here specifically. for instance, agents apparently asked general flynn if he told a
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russian ambassador not to escalate the obama sanctions on russia, told the fbi agents quote, not really. i don't remember. he also said he was vacationing in the dominican republic without access to news or blackberry and didn't even know about the sanctions. however, in the plea agreement general flynn was forced to admit that, quote, he called the russian ambassador from the dominican republic after a conversation with a transition official at mar-a-lago and requested that russia not escalate the situation. ari melber, not just minor slipup there like his defenders claim, correct? >> correct. you're talking about something we don't usually get and that we as journalists and attorneys love to get. some of it is still interestingly redacted, but what's not redacted as you say is still plenty bad for flynn when it comes to the things he's police department guilty to. this puts more proverbial meat on the bone, craig, of why mueller and the fbi, again, the
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fbi at this time that this interview was conducted, mueller had not been appointed so it was before all that, and comey had not been fired. that's just your career fbi agents looking at this person in the national security position and watching him commit a felony to them in their view, and that he has now pled guilty to. what we're seeing here is probably only coming out, i think it's fair to say because michael flynn made his closing argument here even on the way to sentencing a kind of a trumpian salvo to diminish the thing he pled guilty to. >> tom, this is what flynn's attorneys write, quote, the agents did not provide general flynn with a warning of the penalties for making a false statement under the u.s. criminal code before, during, or after the interview. why does that married, tter or ? >> from my perspective that is not michael flynn's strongest argument here. this is a guy who operated at very senior levels of the united
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states government, had a very distinguished career. he was no doubt aware of federal law, that you can't lie to federal agents when they are interviewing you, and he didn't need to be advised of that fact. i think for today's purposes, it will be interesting to see whether the judge gives any credence to flynn's somewhat 11th hour attack on the process about how he was hoodwinked into this, how he wasn't advised by counsel, how he wasn't fully informed of the law. i think it's a bit of a high-risk strategy for flynn's lawyers to take this route because it does seem as though he had been on a glide path to maybe no jail time whatsoever. this might change the judge's thinking. we'll have to see. >> matt miller, does any of this back and forth affect today's outcome inside that courtroom? >> you know, with any other case, with any other judge you would say probably not. you would say you look at the fact that the the prosecutor has recommended no jail time, the fact that michael flynn has sat down for something like 19 interviews for 62 hours, has given substantial cooperation in the words of the prosecutor, and you would think that that
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recommendation of no jail time would be seaccepted but this jue i will say charitably is unpredictable and i think there's a very good chance that the gambit husband attorneys made last week to allude to some of these conspiracy theories around his interview might backfire. we've only seen these interview notes because his attorneys raised that argument. the judge ordered them released publicly, which is something very unusual, completely debunked the conspiracy theory. what we'll see in the courtroom today, for one, this judge emmitt sullivan never lets an audience go it waste. i think we'll hear very much what he thinks about that gambit by michael flynn's defense attorneys, and it wouldn't completely surprise me if it back fires and he gets a short jail sentence, two weeks, 30 days, something like that because the judge is upset about this argument that he has raised and the fact that really, you know, there just wasn't a lot to it. there was no duty by the fbi to warn him. you know, he's supposed -- he's expected to tell the truth.
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everyone is expected to tell the truth, and of course he's a former three star general who had run the defense intelligence agency, a long history of experience in government. he knows he's supposed to tell the truth when he sits down with fbi agents. >> we can tell you that general flynn and his attorneys are inside that courtroom. the sentencing phase we're told from our eyes and ears in that courtroom, the sentencing has not started yet. we can also tell you that members of the special counsel's office also there in the courtroom, we're going to of course keep a very close eye on what's happening here. while we have been having this conversation, another story has bubbled up, a developing story here, a bit of breaking news. apparently here in the state of new york the president, his foundation has agreed according to some documents here, agreed to dissolve itself. this just coming in, this is from the new york attorney general barbara underwood announcing that the trump foundation is dissolving. it is going to be distributing
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its remaining funds as that office pursues a lawsuit against the charity, the president and his three eldest children who oversaw the foundation. a statement released just a few moments ago from the attorney general's office, i'll read it to you in part, quote, our petition detailed a shocking pattern of illegality involving the trump foundation including unlawful coordination with the trump presidential campaign, repeated and willful self-dealing and much more. this amounted to the trump foundation functioning as little more than a checkbook to serve mr. trump's business and political interests. word just coming down that the trump foundation is no more. ari melber, surprised at all? >> this is significant. this grows out of all of those debates and reporting we've seen from "the washington post" and elsewhere about how the foundation was being accused of being a slush fund for donald
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trump's other interests, personal and political. that itself can be illegal. what we're seeing here is the triumph of the new york a.g. who has more than one investigation going in basically saying yes, this foundation's busted. trump had moved previously, okay, i'll scrap the whole thing and run off. the guy who never settles, the guy who is a mass negotiator. what then happened is the new york a.g. said, no, we want that under court supervision. we want to have the files. the normal things you'd want. this today is a victory for the new york attorney general and a loss for trump: you know, there was an old saying i'm not a businessman. i'm a businessman. >> yes. >> that applies here in a little bit different way. this is a court supervised order saying i'm not a foundation. i'm kind of an illegal slush fund. it's a little different than the business analogy, but it's still problematic and it goes to the heart of what donald trump has done with campaign funds, which we know is at issue in the wider
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new york federal investigation, which involves those hush money payments. so the notion that you have a failure by trump and a progress by another investigative arm relating to potentially illegal campaign activity is another big thing here happening amidst the background of the flynn sentencing. >> so much happening. danny cevallos, your take on this breaking news that the trump foundation is going to be forced to dissolve? >> not a surprise. team trump loves to fight, but this is not the hill to die on for the trump team because this is a civil case. the new york attorney general is a law enforcement entity but it also acts in a consumer protection role, and to that end, this is a civil lawsuitment anyone on trump's side wants to avoid a civil lawsuit at all costs because the rules of discovery are so expansive, so permissive that almost anything can be learned about the foundation and the people that run it, so it's not a big shock that people on the trump side of the equation are willing to make
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concessions, willing do dissolve, willing to probably even settle this case or do anything they can to avoid this case mooufving forward. a civil standard is preponderance of the evidence. it's not very hard to make out. >> chief white house correspondent hallie jackson just got off the phone with an attorney for the foundation. >> for the trump organization, yeah, who basically says they're the ones who sought the dissolution of the trump foundation. this i believe might be in some of the paperwork i'm told, ari melber and danny might be better positioned on that piece of it. he tells me they are happy we could get this resolved. it's the first reaction we are getting from that side of things. i will note that my colleagues back over at the white house, kristen welker, geoff bennett have reached out to the white house for any official reaction from president trump. it is possible, craig, that this may come up in just about two and a half hours or so from now when sarah sanders briefs for
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the fifth time since labor day. >> what hallie is reporting is what we were discussing is that the original gambit by the trump foundation folks is to say, fine, we'll close down. this dispute was over how to do that. reading from the new material we have from the new york a.g., they say in accomplishes a key goal of the enforcement lawsuit against the trump foundation that they can, quote, only dissolve under judicial -- and only distribute remaining assets to reputable organizations approved by my office. even if you're not a lawyer, you may remember there's a lot of drama every time donald trump claims he's going to give money to charity or veterans, it doesn't really go. now any of that money has to be judicially overseen and approved by the new york a.g. it's not really trump's money anymore. to build on one more point of interest, this is the civil place, which is not as big a deal, but the assertion here that there was campaign illegali illegality can be, can be criminal wooch
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criminal. we're not reporting that it is but the issue being what else went on in potential coordination that the new york a.g. says today was illegal. that's her word, may be of interest to other investigators. >> so just because the foundation now is dissolving itself, that does not in any way, shape, or form create some sort of immunity for future prosecution for criminal activity? >> not at all. all it does, and i suspect the strategic move if the defense team sought this move is that they get rid of one of the counts of the complaint against them. they resolve that. they're chipping away at the cause of action against them one by one. that might be what they're trying to do. again, they want to avoid at all costs civil discovery, which can be devastating and it can unearth information that can be used both in civil context and the criminal context. >> it was "the washington post" that documented a number of lapses at the foundation. journalists there at "the post" uncovering that the charity had been used to pay off legal bills, to buy artwork, golf
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clubs. >> self-portraits. >> yes. >> classic charitable item, a portrait of yourself. >> that's right. >> so while that's happening, again, to remind you general flynn in a courthouse, the sentencing hearing we're told has been underway now for roughly four and a half minutes. judge emmitt sullivan called that hearing to order there at 11:13, so we are going to stand by and find out precisely what's going on inside that courtroom. we're going to ask our panel to stay put. we'll talk about that. also, do we have a deal? hundreds of thousands of government workers facing the threat of no pay over the holidays because president trump has insisted on $5 billion to pay for his border wall. in the last 20 minutes or so, did the white house just blink on that shutdown possibility? at fidelity, we help you prepare for the unexpected
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a live look outside the federal courthouse in washington, d.c. where lieutenant general michael t. flynn is being sentenced by a federal judge there. flynn, of course, as you remember national security adviser to president trump from the president's inauguration on january 20th until february 13th of 2017, 24 days he served as national security adviser to the president. he stepped down as you probably recall, amid news, reports that he misled the fbi and the vice president about conversations with russian ambassador sergey
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kislyak. he is being sentenced for lying to the fbi, making false statements, and the special counsel's office, they're in the courtroom, representatives from the special counsel's office inside that courtroom because general flynn has been cooperating with that investigation for upwards of at least a year. we continue to keep a very close eye on those courtroom proceedings. we continue to keep a very close eye on what the new york attorney general has described as a shocking pattern of illegality that was willful and repeated. the a.g. talking about the trump foundation that was dissolved here, reportedly within the last 20 minutes or so, a stipulation resolving the foundation under judicial supervision. essentially both parties agreeing to shut it down and give the money to charities approved by a judge. keeping an yay eye on that stor and the other big story on this
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tuesday, congress just four days to pass a spending bill to avoid a partial government shutdown. just last hour, white house press secretary sarah huckabee sanders signaling that the administration may not require all of the $5 billion in border wall funding that president trump is demanding be included in the spending bill. >> the president wants 5 billion. would he take 2.5 billion? would that be an acceptable number? >> we would take -- we have other ways that we can get to that 5 billion that we will work with congress if they will make sure that we get a bill passed at the end of the day, we don't want to shut down the government. we want to shut down the border from illegal immigration. >> so white house correspondent yamiche alcindor in washington, jennifer rubin, both are msnbc contributors. i'll start with you yamiche, in full disclosure here, i am not familiar with the thorough machinations of government funding. i don't know the budgetary process as well as you and some
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of the other reporters there in washington, but is it possible that the president can just fine a few billion dollars for his wall without using congress? >> to my understanding there's no way for him to do that. the main thing to remember here, craig, is that there was already a deal last year to give him $1.3 billion, and the president now this year is saying i don't want that money. i want all $5 billion. up until his interview this morning, the president was sticking to that $5 billion amount. he was saying he wasn't going to budge. he said he welcomed the idea of a shutdown and would be proud to shut down the government over border security, and now you have sarah sanders saying, actually, hold on, maybe we can find a couple billion dollars somewhere else. that's going to be very, very hard, and congress is the body of government in charge of finding money, and chuck schumer is claiming that the trump administration hasn't even spent the $1.3 billion they gave them last time. they've only spent about 6%. i'm not sure if that's true, but the idea is that congress does
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not want to give the president more money for this wall, and because honestly, even republicans off the record will tell you they don't think that giving billions of dollars to a wall is the number one way to stop border security. >> jennifer, here's the thing as well, lawmakers leaving town for the holidays on wednesday. president trump starting his 16-day vacation to mar-a-lago on friday. it would seem as if there's some sort of deal in place. what's this really about? is this just about a border wall? is this just about $2.5 billion, or is it about more than that? >> first of all, there is a technical word for what trump is doing, and that's fold. he always folds in the end. he talks a great game, but in the end just like with his foundation, just like other standoffs, he always folds, and this is a fold, make no mistake. i think you're exactly right to point out the timing issue. trump doesn't like to be prevented from going on vacation. other presidents would say,
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fine, i'll sit here and wait for you guys. not this president. moreover, you have a bunch of republicans who are not coming back. they're never coming back, they're retiring or they've lost, so good luck trying to get those people back for some kind of subsequent vote. it is significant, however, that in their last moments in office, the last time they have control of the house of representatives, the republicans can't do what they want. they have the senate, they have the house, and they don't have the votes. i think it's a significant sign that trump has a reservoir of power that is slowly passing through the hourglass. he's getting weaker and weaker. stories like the ones today, future revelations and the ability to push back on saudi arabia and now on the wall, i think the democrats are probably licking their chops at this point. >> yamiche, let's also talk about the timing of this announcement of a deal, i guess.
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i'm reluctant to characterize it as that until we get something firm here from the white house, but it would seem as if a shutdown is not imminent. i think we can say that. that timing, the timing of this announcement while general flynn is in court and word that we're going to have a press briefing at 1:30 this afternoon as well, these have also become quite rare these press briefings. do we think that perhaps this might be an attempt to distract us from what's happening inside that federal courtroom? >> it's hard to say because the president is very, very aware of how the media works. he's aware of the fact that if he throws 18 things at us at one time, reporters i should say, that we are going to have to make some difficult choices. i always think about the fact that he pardoned joe arpaio who was of course that controversial sheriff in arizona in the middle of a hurricane. but guess what, i still had to run and get on stv and talk abot
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it. michael flynn's sentencing is such a big news day, i don't think there's any way for him to overshadow that. the president wants to go on vacation on friday. he loves to go to florida for the holidays. i think he's just trying to get everything out of the way so he can go on about his business and go enjoy his family and his friends down in florida. at some point there was going to have to be some sort of conversation about the shutdown. i had been asking white house sources for the last couple of days, what's the president going to do? i was getting nowhere. even the people who usually spin and say it's the democrats, it's really in the democrats' court, they weren't even telling me anything. i think the president at some point came to the conclusion he wasn't going to win this battle and had to do something. >> as jennifer would say, a fold. jennifer rubin, thank you, yamiche thanks to you as well. we're getting new notes out of the courtroom, general flynn, president trump's former national security adviser in that federal courthouse at this hour. he is being sentenced for lying to the fbi about his contacts with former russian ambassador
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to the u.s. sergey kislyak. we have some notes from inside the courtroom here. i'm just going to read these for you here. this is verbatim the exchange so far between judge sullivan and general flynn, judge sullivan said mr. flynn's briefing concerned the court because it raised issues that could have affect or call into question his guilty plea. judge sullivan then said i cannot recall any incident in which the court accepted a guilty plea in which he was not guilty, and i don't intend to start today. the judge goes on to say, i will inform you any false answers will get you in more trouble. do you understand? general flynn, yes, your honor. judge sullivan, do you wish to challenges circumstances under which you were interviewed by the fbi? general flynn, no your honor. i was aware that lying to the fbi was a crime. general flynn said to the judge in court. general flynn went on to say he does not wish to withdraw his plea. judge flynn said that he was
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competent and able to enter the guilty plea when he did. judge sullivan, are you continuing to accept responsibility for your false statements? general flynn, i am, your honor. that's what we've gotten so far from inside the courtroom. >> also, we're told that the judge asked general flynn whether he believed that he was entrapped by the fbi. general flynn responding no, your honor. his attorney did, i should say, no, your honor. ari melber, what do you make of the exchange so far? >> this is judge sullivan calling bs on mike flynn's last filing. this is rare, i should note. a lot of federal judges don't approach it with quite this much rigor. judge sullivan known to be tough on everyone, definitely on prosecutors, but also in this case on a convicted felon who's pled guilty but then filed last minute material calling into question his own guilty plea, which many people thought, well, which is it? so what i think we're just seeing here in these notes we're
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getting out of court, craig, is judge sullivan saying either own this, you plead guilty and you throw your mercy on the court, or if you want to relitigate this, if you want to withdraw your statements, which of course would hput him in a bit of a perjury problem, you need to do that. this is fascinating. i think everyone had a reaction to that last minute filing that we saw with regard to sentencing from flynn's side that seemed to be relitigating whether he knowingly made false statements, which he'd already pled guilty to. judge sullivan here not having it. >> we're also getting an update here, this is robert kellner, attorney for general flynn, quote principal reason we raised those points in a brief was an attempt to distinguish those cases between papadopoulos and others. those defendants had been warned and did have counsel and lied anyway. we thought it was important for us to plain to the court those aggravating circumstances that are not present here today. he fully accepts responsibility, stands by his guilty plea which was made based on knowing and willing conduct.
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we are ready to proceed to sentencing. it would seem as if we're going to get a sentence any moment now from judge sullivan. what do we make of that, danny? >> a judge must, not may, must put a factual basis for a plea on the record. oftentimes defendants will accept a guilty plea and then when it comes time to speak to the judge will waffle. they're essentially say something to the effect of, well, i pleaded guilty but i don't think i'm guilty. i just did it because i think it was a great deal or i'm looking at zero to six months and i don't want to do any prison time. that does not work, and that's what we're seeing here with general flynn, michael flynn. it's the same thing, essentially, only he did it after his guilty plea. his attorneys argued in a memorandum that essentially not for nothing, but i didn't really do this. so naturally the judge -- that's an east coast phrase, that's specific to new jersey, really -- so the judge is saying, look, i have an obligation to put a factual basis for your plea, and if you
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are pleading guilty and accepting this deal because you just like deals and not because you're actually guilty, then i got to take back your guilty plea. i've had this happen to me. every defense attorney has had a client in open court start to waffle on their guilty plea. flynn in this case did it after his plea through a filing to the court. >> mueller released his own memo on friday contradicting general flynn's legal teams memo. this is what he said, this is quoting agents who interviewed general flynn, and i believe i still have matt miller with me. matt, are you still there? >> yep. flynn agreed to meet without counsel. the interview was voluntary. flynn was told the topic would be his contacts with russian ambassador. he was given multiple opportunities to correct his false statements. also, flynn made false statements in a doj filing weeks later. here's the kicker, those statements were made while represented by counsel after explicit warning that providing false information was a federal
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offense. what image do we get of general flynn from these fbi reports that were released last night? >> i think someone who was very reckless, despite ascending to a very senior position in government, despite 33 years of service in the military was very reckless in this interview. he did this interview and lied. even though in his conversation with andy mccabe, then the deputy director of the fbi two hours before he held the interview, he seemed to acknowledge that he knew the fbi already knew the answers to the questions, that they would have been listening to that confecon and he went ahead and lied anyway. there is probably no judge in the country more receptive to a claim of government misconduct than judge sullivan. he was the judge in the ted stevens case where the republican senator from alaska was convicted. that conviction was dismissed because of government misconduct, and he regularly kind of beats the government -- you know, beats up on the government, has spoken out publicly and written publicly about how judges need to be tougher on the government and hold their feet to the fire, and
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so i think you see him today kind of probing the disconnect in the sentencing memo that mike flynn's attorneys claimed or filed where they tried to say, one, we take -- the general takes full responsibility, and two, he was somewhat set up, and so he's being very clear in asking both the general and i think pretty notably his attorneys is it true, do you still want to plead guilty? did you lie to the fbi? and asking his attorney, do you think that your client was set up, and the attorneys saying no i think is a very notable thing. you see the judge blowing the hole in this conspiracy theory that his attorneys danced around and we saw the president of the united states and others on the right do more than dance around but openly endorse. >> judge sullivan is going through that plea agreement there in the courtroom. so again, a sentence imminent. >> i think matt miller makes several important points, the first of which is we were seeing the outlines of a new defense of flynn that actually overlaps with the now infamous sunday
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morning show giuliani defense that crimes are not crimes. this guilty plea is not really a guilty plea because the fbi was unfair and he should have had better treatment. what the judge is saying as matt explained is, no, you're pleading guilty under oath. by the way of making past false statements, so you really need to be clear and honest today, mr. flynn, before we accept this plea deal in formality and sentence you. number two, let's remember why did mike flynn plead to this? it wasn't for fun. it wasn't a field trip. it wasn't a legal experiment. it was why most people plea, because there was something credibly worse that he was worried about being convicted of, in his case other crimes that would carry more jail time regarding foreign lobbying rules, as well as something that people pled to this week, which was other business financial crimes that came -- i mean, that were indicted this week irkd sd say regarding his business
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associates with foreign activity. he took this plea deal presumably because there was more bad stuff he didn't want. third and finally, it's good news for mueller to have a judge, people who watch this closely was quite tough on some others, including andrew weissmann, by coming out and going against the flynn lawyer. i think flynn's lawyers may have overstepped a little bit. if they could do this over, they might have tried to nod and wink at this trumpy conspiracy theory without going so far as having their guy called to the carpet in open court. >> judge sullivan again going over the plea agreement. we know that's what's happening right now. a live look outside that federal courthouse. we are expecting, as you can see there, based on the throng of reporters and the microphones of someone who are expecting after this proceeding there will be some statements made, but i want to bring in jeremy peters as well right now. jeremy peters is with the "new york times." he's a political reporter at
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"the times." thank you for your time. what are you watching for specifically to come out of this proceeding? >> i think the biggest unknown question -- and we may not have an answer to this at all -- is what type of information, if any, flynn has provided to prosecutors on the russia matter, because it appears that one of the most likely scenarios here is that he has been cooperating in an entirely separate case involving the indictment of two former business partners, and this we learned last week after they were indicted for -- for essentially not reporting foreign lobbying. this is an incident involving turkey in an effort to pressure the united states to expel a dissident, a turkish dissident who opposed the president of turkey. that appears to be something that flynn has been cooperating on, but we just don't know what he has been able to give prosecutors on the broader focus
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that this investigation has had into the trump campaign's efforts to possibly collude with russia during the presidential campaign. >> again, for folks who might just be joining us, we can tell you that general flynn so far in that courtroom, according to our eyes and ears there said that he was aware that lying to the fbi was a crime, says that he does not want to challenge the circumstances under which he was interviewed by the fbi. tom dupree is also still with me. tom of course former deputy assistant attorney general. going back to that fbi interview, that report that was released last night, we see a lot of contact between general flynn and sergey kislyak, the russian ambassador. anything in that report jump out at you, anything glaring. well, what really jumped out at me craig is the fact that when you look at the transcript, it was clear that flynn understood that the federal officials had a lot of information about the nature, the extent, the
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substance of his communications with kislyak, and when you're in that situation, you're being interviewed by the fbi, they are asking questions to you that indicate that they know pretty much what you did at various points in the transcript, flynn is saying things like, well, that's a good point. thank you for that helpful reminder. you would think at some point during this interview, a warning bell would have gone off in his mind saying, i got to be a little careful here. these guys have a lot of information. they may have a better recollection of what i said than i do. and that would be yet further reason for him to want to be straightforward, truthful, honest with the fbi. and the fact that even at that point when he was on notice of the extent of their knowledge, he still did what he did to me was somewhat remarkable. >> president trump continues to go after the special counsel investigation, continues to call it a witch hunt. he's called it a witch hunt on twitter. by our account 149 times to date. this morning he also spent some
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time on his favorite social media platform wishing the general luck, and then last week in an interview on fox, he defended the general. this is just part of what president trump said in that fox interview. >> it's a terrible system we have. what's going on right now with general flynn, the fbi said he didn't lie. >> i saw your tweet on that. >> but mueller said he did lie so they took a man who's a general and a respected person and a nice man, and i don't even know what he said about me because, you know, maybe they scared him enough that he'll make up a story, but i have a feeling that maybe he didn't. he's a tougher kind of a guy than cohen, but they took a general that they said didn't lie and they convinced him he did lie, and he made some kind of a deal, and now they're recommending no time. you know why? because they're embarrassed that they got caught. >> matt miller, in light of what we've just heard from inside that courtroom from general flynn himself that he was aware
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that lying to the fbi was a crime and that he continues to accept responsibility for his statements, how well does that comment from president trump age? >> i think it's been completely obliterated by the facts. look, this has been a conspiracy theory for months now, really going back to just after general flynn pled guilty on december 1st of last year, that he didn't really lie to the fbi. it's been a conspiracy theory because the agents came out of the room and said that his -- he seemed to be straightforward. he was acting straightforward. he didn't stumble over his answers. he gave all the indications of telling the truth. giving all the indications of telling the truth, being a good liar is not the same as actually telling the truth. the agents that conducted the interview knew because they had seen the tripleanscripts and th actually quoted from the transcripts that in fact he hadn't told the truth. so we have been kind of -- i think people that want to defend the fbi and want to defend the justice department have always
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been trying to combat this conspiracy theory just with the fact that general flynn stood up in court over a year ago and pled guilty to this crime. now with the release of these fbi memos, these 302s, you can actually look at what happened and see the way that the fbi acts asked him the questions, see that he didn't tell the truth, compare them with the actual record and know that this claim was completely false from the beginning, and now we know with absolute definitive truth that what the president said in that interview, what his defe defenders on the right have been saying for over a year, what members of congress on the republican side of the aisle have been saying isn't true, isn't born out by the facts in any way, shape, or foreign. >> likelihood we see any correction of the record or retraction? likelihood? >> i wouldn't hold your breath. and i say that jokingly, one of the things that's frustrating about these conspiracy theories, this is not the first conspiracy theory to take hold. we had the conspiracy theory about trump's wires being tapped. we had the unmasking scandal,
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the spygate scandal. even when they're debunked, the people that were responsible for promulgating them, there's never any reckoning. they never acknowledge they were wrong. they just move on to the next conspiracy theory. you won't see anyone fess up and admit to what they did. they'll just move on and spiefi and new conspiracy theory probably before the week is over. >> we are getting word here from the government now as i understand it, inside the courthouse. judge sullivan saying, quote, this is a very serious offense, a high ranking senior official of the government making false statements to the federal bureau of investigation while in the white house. that just coming from judge sullivan. we are now hearing from the government, when we get some sort of readout we will pass that along to you as well. what do we know? and one of our guests just alluded to this, what do we know about the nature of general
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flynn's cooperation with the special counsel's office to this point? >> well, we know general flynn has been so extensive and so cooperative that bob mueller recommended no jail time, even with what you just reported for the first time, judge sullivan weighing in on this and calling it a very serious offense. what we know is mike flynn did stay out of the press, which is what they usually request, didn't do a will the lot of int provided extensive information in hours of what were then cooperating interviews and debriefing sessions, and gave up whatever he could give up and has gotten leniency recommendation despite some of this behavior we've just been discussing. one other point i want to make, if you'll allow me to get a little legal. >> please do, that's why you are the chief. >> here's what's happening, when you go into court for a day like today, you're supposed to focus on why what you did wasn't that bad, which lawyers call mitigation. you're not supposed to go in and
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say what you did you didn't do. that's called pleading not guilty, and he already pled guilty, and so what we're seeing i think a little bit -- and i don't say this to be mean -- but i think we're seeing a kind of a clumsiness or recklessness or a desire to have it both ways from flynn and his lawyers. his lawyers are promulgating the strategy that actually overlaps with the way flynn we're told and he's confessed to acted in government. this is an individual for whatever reason has acted with great courage, served his country for a long time. did things i don't know that i could ever imagine doing. >> right. >> with regard to how he served this nation around the world. a lot of people look at those as the good things, and then at the same time as he rose up he made i think by his own admission -- and you can see why he's in court today -- terrible decisions. wanted it both ways, acted recklessly, and here he is standing there holding a recommendation from bob mueller who's not known as a softy that says no prison time and what does he do, instead of saying
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hey, what i did wasn't that bad and i also did other good things like serve my country, instead of focusing on that, his final salvo is a trumpy hannity tweety thing, but trump and hannity right now haven't pled guilty. i think what we're seeing, we don't know what this judge is going to rule, we're waiting on that, what we're seeing at least is the judge making mike flynn take that back under oath and get back to what he's supposed to do which is mitigation, which is explain why it wasn't that bad, but you can't take it back. there's no backsies in federal court when you plead. >> you always make it so plain. thank you. >> our chief white house correspondent is still standing by. hallie, what do we know about the relationship right now between this president and his now disgraced general who's in that courtroom? do they have a relationship still? >> reporter: you know, not much that we know of, at least not that the president or his white house has talked about publicly,
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craig. it is an interesting question given what you've seen from others who have been in and around donald trump's orbit. you look at for example, not just mike flynn but paul manafort and we learned recently that the special counsel said manafort was having contact with members of the administration fairly recently into the administration, even though he technically didn't have anything to do with the trump white house and had left the campaign even well prior to that. there are questions about the context here. now, i will say this, the last day mike flynn had the shortest tenure ever for a national security adviser, early on, january, february of 2017 when donald trump first came into office. the relationship between these men, we talked about this a little bit, but i do think it's important context because if there's something that we know about donald trump, it's that he likes loyalty. he prizes loyalty, prizes people who come to him, who stick by him, and who back him even against the odds. that is a way that you could describe mike flynn, who came into the campaign in the fairly early days of the campaign and
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backed donald trump when very few other sort of serious washington people or serious people inside the national security establishment were doing that, craig, and so that was something that obviously had an impact the then candidate trump, and when he was elected, ten days later he named mike flynn assane -- as a national security adviser, and so that is the lie that has him in this issue currently. and so in talking circleses, and the white house press secretary talked about this today and responding to the question of whether mike flynn wasbushed by prosecutors and what you are seeing from the michael flynn's defense team from inside of the courtroom, and the judge is that
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it is going to wipe away the talking point to move forward because even mike flynn and the team are now acknowledging, y h yeah, i didn't get entrapped and i knew what the responsibility was and what my obligation was and i lied anyway. so it is making for a lot of fodder from what we are hearing from sarah sanders, and i don't know but less than two hours. >> yes, 1:30 at less check. and so while you were giving us this analysis, more information coming from the inside of the courtroom in washington, d.c., and this is from the government and the attorney from the government apparently saying, quote, it remains a possibility that general flynn is going to continue to cooperate with the government. we would like to bring to the court's attention the eastern district of virginia case. the defendant provided substantial assistance to the eastern district in obtaining the charging document, and the judge asked if general flynn could have been charged in that case, and the answer is yes.
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judge sullivan says, the more you assist the government, the more you help yourself at time of sentences and what is this? >> this is what we discussed on your show ten minutes ago. why did he plea to this? because he could have been charged with worse crimes and now it is on the record, and judge sullivan doing what judges do, and this is good for flynn, because this is mueller's pr prosecutors saying that we think that we could have indicted flynn on these other crimes that we indicted this week in the eastern district of virginia and we did not because of his cooperation, and again, that is a good thing for flynn. i want to read what you just read judge sullivan moments ago breaking, the more you assist the government to, flynn, the more you help yourself at the time of sentence. and this is again going to go to the good news for flynn that is despite some of the other arguing around the edges that we have covered on the core of cooperating and giving up the goods and flipping on other people, and being honest,
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mueller's folks are now telling the judge, yep, he did it all of the way to the end. that is why we charged these other people in virginia and we could have charged him, but we chose not to. this is how the system works. the president has called this thing quotet what rats do, and how thugs and gangsters talk, but law enforcement and the judges say that this is good, because he gave up facts to help them to enforce the law. >> and danny, the phrase provided substantial assistance and how do you read that? >> oh, the magic words substantial assistance is a term of art in criminal cases which means that in the government's exclusive authority has determined that a cooperating witness has provided what is called the substantial assistance, and that is going to warrant the precious 5k 1 motion, and it is the strongest downward gravitational pull in a sentence n. a case like michael
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flynn's, it is not going to make as much of a difference, because he is at the lowest end of the federal end of sentencing guidelines zero the six months, and they would be fine with a noncustodial sentence and straight probationary sentence, and so that is something that substantial assistance is something that michael cohen did not earn and paul manafort, because that substantial assistance is a high bar and the government will only give it if a co-op ray or the is completely forth coming and completely helpful, and it is a real testament to how helpful he has been, but be warned that co-oprators still have to pay for their crimes. >> hallie jackson, what with has this president said in the possibility of a pardon? >> well, as it are relates to people who have been inside of the orbit, the president has been hesitant to rule pardons definitively for people, but
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what is striking as it relateses to mike flynn is that the president's tweet this morning, and forgive me, because the president tweeted again and are retweeted mike pence talking about the so-called space force and space command and that is perhaps on what is on the president's or the social media's mind as we are watching this go down inside of that courthouse going down in washington. this is what is striking with michael flynn, and something we talked about. the president is wishing good luck to flynn today. and that is that in addition to being a rather extraordinary comment from the president who fired the guy a year and a half ago for lying to his number two, ostensibly, the reason that the president gave at the time, and this is also a contrast to how the president has treated somebody else who has cooperated and you can see the president's tweet there who has coooperated with the special investigation, and other investigations, a different michael, michael cohen. and so it will be interesting to see what michael flynn has to
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say and good luck in court to him, and then you call michael cohen a rat. so if michael cohen is a rat for cooperating and why isn't michael flynn? so where is perspective of the president here, craig, because clearly he is much more sympathetic it is fair to surmise from the tweets toward michael flynn than he did towards his former attorney, and there could be a variety of reasons for that. >> the white house press briefing for folks who are joining us, and have not been joining us in the last hour set forth 1:30 on the east coast, we will be hearing from sarah huckaby sanders and to be clear, three major stories here. >> craig, whew. >> that the press secretary is going to be taking questions regarding, and general flynn by then, he will have been sentenced by this judge, and what appears to bel some sort of deal perhaps to avoid a government shutdown. >> yeah, well.
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>> and then the story of the trump foundation. >> right. >> and the trump foundation is being forced to dissolved. and anything else? >> well, the obama care ruling that came down that we have not heard from the president, and the stock market issue going on and the latest reporting on how the russian information campaign has been affecting all american, and so a lot happening, but with the three stories, we are discussing mike flynn, but it is beyond certain that sarah sanders is going to be asked about it. and so whatever and how it comes down, we will be here together. and forgive me, because when you talk about a possible shutdown deal, it is too early to the say deal, but outlines of the agreement that is coming together, but it is clear that the white shouse softening the position, and softening the president's stance and no longer saying $5 billion or bust for the border wall. now, there appears to be wiggle
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room, and the capitol hill team according to my colleague garrett haake nan is si pelosi is not wiggling or budging on, this and so it is up for the president. and as for the trump foundation, we heard back from the trump organization attorney who say ths they are happy that it is dissolved by the disillusion of the trump foundation is a big one we are watching. >> getting more information there from inside of the courtroom. and again, judge sullivan and general flynn, their exchange, and this is from our reporters inside of the courtroom and we don't have it on tape. and so, there could be a need for further cooperation for you, and do you understand that? general flynn, yes, i understand that. yes, your honor. and judge sullivan, if you want to postpone this and come back at some later point, that is fine with me, and the judge goes on the say that i have to caution you that the sentence imposed today mayt not be the
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same sentence that you would get after the cooperation end, because the court would like to be in a position to say that there is nothing else that the defendant can do to help the the united states of america, and judge sullivan says i will take into consideration your years of service and sacrifice and your cooperation, but on the very serious crime, as judge sullivan calls it, you can't minimize th that. judge sullivan, quote, arguably, you sold your country out. the court is going to consider all that. i cannot assure you that if you proceed today that you will nott receive a sentence of incarceration. 30 seconds here, and it sound likes the judge is going to send the general to judge. >> i have concern, because he o cooperates and the guideline range is zero the six months and similarly situated defendants get probation in guidelines like that, and in a situation, it
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seems a little surprisinging. >> 10 seconds? >> well, tough talk from a judge who clearly does not like what he has been hearing from mike flynn lately. >> a big thanks for the panel who joined me and a big thanks to you as well. we will continue the breaking news coverage, and general flynn is set to be sentenced any moment, and i will see you tomorrow morning on "today." here is andrea mitchell. i'm andrea mitchell, and continuing the dramatic sentencing of general michael flynn, the highest ranking official to face prosecution so far is at this hour inside of the courthouse, and inside of the courtroom for the hearing, and emmitt sullivan pressing the defendant with arguments made by the attorneys regarding the guilty plea, and flynn said that he does not want to the change or challenge his plea, and added that he was aware that he was lying to the fbi when it


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