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tv   Deadline White House  MSNBC  December 21, 2018 1:00pm-2:00pm PST

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sue herera, co-host of "nightly business report." "deadline white house" with nicolle wallace starts right now. >> hi, everyone. it's 4:00 in washington, d.c. donald trump wags the dogg as the investigations into him close in, he plays chicken with the lives of federal employees and their families by walking the country toward a government shutdown. and the world is less safe today after the dramatic resignation of the last human guardrail. defense secretary jim mattis' resignation, a clear rebuke of donald trump's reckless decisions about troop withdrawals in syria and afghanistan. the backlash to donald trump's impulsivity being felt this afternoon at home and around the world. and reigniting questions about who trump is working instability in office. from secretary mattis' resignation letter, quote, my views on treating allies with
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respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues. because you have the right to have a secretary of defense whose views are better aligned with yours on these and other subjects, i believe it is right for me to step down from my position. "the washington post" greg sargent writes, mattis' letter does not merely express substantive disagreement with trump. it also creeps right up to the edge of hinting that the degree to which trump is acting contrary to the national interest is suspect. that analysis seems accurate when you consider this reaction from russian columnist vladimir frolov in "the new york times." trump is god's gift that keeps on giving. trump implements russia's negative agenda by default, undermining the u.s.-led world order, u.s. alliances, u.s. credibility as a partner and an ally. all of this on his own.
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russia can just relax and watch and root for trump, which putin does at every tv appearance. "the washington post" white house team adds this reporting. quote, at perhaps the most fragile moment of his presidency, and vulnerable to convulsions on the political right, trump single-handedly propelled the u.s. government into crisis and sent markets tumbling with his gambits this week. and richard engel reports, quote, seems like all my military contacts worried about an unconstrained president trump taking a baseball bat to national security strategy to divert attention, or for whatever motivates him. two former four-stars just told me widespread concern. we are on dangerous ground. the explanation for all this mayhem as described to me today by a close trump ally, quote, he's scared. he's scared of mueller. he's scared of his base. he sees it all crumbling around him. joining us to discuss the extraordinary developments, some of our favorite reporters and
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friends, ben rhodes was the deputy national security adviser to president obama. mark jacobson, served as a senior adviser to secretary of defense ash carter. retired u.s. army general barry mccaffrey also joins us. and here in d.c. in the studio, bureau chief for the boston herald, kim atkins and alecia menendez. we have a couple days this week. your reaction to the resignation and what happens next. >> i think it puts us on very uncertain ground. it looks as if the u.s. government doesn't know what it's doing. mattis, a defense intellectual, absolutely idolized by the armed forces has been very respectful to the constitutional authority of the president. finally got push today far. i don't think it was syria. i think it was the lack of a coherent u.s. government national security policy. pentagon, state, cia, treasury,
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others. uncoordinated. and finally, i think he was troubled, as we all should be, at excoriating our allies and embracing thugs like putin, duterte, erdogan and others. we are in an unsustainable position for foreign and defense policy. >> general, let me read you some reporting about secretary mattis' day yesterday. "the new york times" reports officials said mr. mattis went to the white house with his resignation letter already written but nonetheless made a last attempt at persuading the president to reverse his decision about syria. mr. mattis, a retired four-star marine general was rebuffed. returned to the pentagon, he asked aides to print out 50 letters of his resignation letter and distribute them throughout the building. what do you think happens today in that building without someone who was viewed as standing between, not just the president and the military bureaucracy, which nobody thought the
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president understood, and some -- many presidents don't. but secretary mattis traveled around the world and addressed troops and was very forthright about the problems we were having in our politics here at home. who fills that vacuum? >> well, first of all, there is some good news here. 2.1 million men and women in the armed forces, active guard, disciplined, competent, 60,000 killed and wounded fighting to defend america. we've got civilian secretaries, service secretaries in the pentagon, the deputy secretary of defense, pat shanahan, first rate public servant. having said that, we're in trouble. i tell people we have nine combatant commanders. joint commanders for the armed forces. there's only two civilians who give them orders. not the jcs. nobody but two civilians. the secretary of defense and the president of the united states acting as commander in chief. trump can now pick up the phone,
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call a combatant commander and on the surface it's patently illegal, they'll do what he tells them to do. we're on shaky ground. the president sounds impulsive, erratic and making fundamentally bad decisions. >> republican chairman of the senate foreign relations committee bob corker has, throughout trump's presidency, questioned the president's competence for the office he holds. he -- when secretary tillerson was run out of the state department, voiced those publicly, he is again expressing some of those concerns. do you worry about the president's capacity for the office he holds? >> i don't worry about it. i don't think he has the capacity. it's just an astonishing situation where with zero experience and relying on his daughter and son-in-law, both with no experience in national security or foreign policy, he's impulsively snapping out these decisions, normally having
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consulted people like -- talk about being in love with kim jong-un. for god's sakes, who ever heard something like that? one of the most murderous, brutal, cruel despots on the face of the earth. we're in a bizarre situation. the world turned upside down. and congress, article 1 of the constitution is congress. they'll have to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities and step in and provide oversight over what increasingly, to be blunt, looks like a rogue presidency acting outside the bounds of american values. >> wow. let me just come back to you and underscore that. do you see this moment in trump's presidency of a president who is a rogue president? >> well, i do. but we've had several of these. this is a continuing thing. people talk about the wheels coming off their presidency from the start. this has been a bizarre
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situation. we've never had a -- a lot of the constitution, this short document depends on people accepting the myth, the norms of constitutional action. this president isn't doing that. and i think we ought to be concerned. our allies are aghast. they can't believe what's going on. i actually think if we heard inside the politburo, i bet the russians are semi scared as well. we're still this giant nation, military power, economic power. they couldn't be too happy about erratic president of the united states although he is wrecking nato alliances and other partnerships that are vital to our security. >> ben rhodes, i'm just going to ask you to react, respond and add your thoughts to those of general mccaffrey. >> well, nicolle, what worries me here, as you alluded in your opening, is a convergence of factors. trump has a democratic congress coming in. that means he's not going to
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pass any domestic legislation. he's got scandals closing in from multiple directions. he's got a stock market that's tanking and a potential economic downturn on the horizon. and so the risk is that he will gravitate toward those areas, particularly national security and foreign policy, where he feels less constrained. and if you remove general mattis, the last of essentially the people who were more invested in the traditional brand of american foreign policy, he has people who are now willing to implement that vision. and we should be very clear, nicolle, two years is a very long time. a time in which crises can happen. an economic downturn can happen and so trump's capacity to be a wrecking ball on the international order that the u.s. has built is very extreme whether it's in a trade war, a military conflict, changing the fundamental nature of our alliances. we should all be very afraid about where this rogue presidency is headed. >> so mark jakeoshson, let me ask you to jump in. you know, this idea of wagging the dog, donald trump trying to
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distract from his problems was confirmed to me by a close trump ally who described him as scared. scared of his base, which we see in his walking us to the brink of a shutdown perhaps later this evening and this irrational rogue military action that was so severe, so foolish that secretary mattis resigned over it. where do you think we are right now? >> well, just listening to ben talk about two years being a long time. i just started thinking about the next two weeks. we have russian forces on the border with ukraine. the russians spouting disinformation about the ukrainians trying to take some sort of action against the russi russians, trying to get them to take the blame for something that might happen. and we're going to have nobody in charge. we have an unplanned withdrawal from syria about to take place. we're now hearing rumors about perhaps a 50% cut in u.s. forces in afghanistan and again, while the obama administration had reduced forces in afghanistan, that was planned. that was thought through.
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there was discussion and debate. and again, getting back to what you said in your opening remarks, when secretary mattis was in iraq, as general mattis, he had said something to the troops along the lines of every time we treat an iraqi civilian well, al qaeda is rolling in their graves. and every time we abuse our iraqi friends, al qaeda is dancing in the streets. and we have a foreign policy now where our enemies, al qaeda, the russians, isis, are really feeling emboldened. and our allies on the other hand are largely feeling that they are being abused. that we're not there for them. and i can't say that's wrong. i'm not sure we'll be there for them. >> i want to say something that i don't say often on this show. let me show you something from "fox & friends" because it's instructive to the why. why the president is acting like this. this is a big, significant crack in the president's base from "fox & friends'" host that we
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know he saw this morning. >> sarah, he's giving russia a big win. vladimir putin praised him. he also is doing what he criticized president obama for doing. he said president obama is the founder of isis. he just refounded isis because he got 30,000 men there and they are already striking back. >> general mccaffrey, when you've got even, you know, a network that doesn't get a lot of credit for telling the truth that often when it comes to donald trump's policy, speaking the truth about the effect of this decision to pull all our troops out of syria, what happens next? >> i don't think we know. we're on unchartered ground. interesting flipping back and forth to fox news, i notice they didn't cover mattis' resignation until really later this morning. it was all a big blank. astonishing. they were trying to think through what to do next. i mean, the notion that we're just announcing over twitter feed that we might withdraw half the forces in afghanistan. afghanistan is a mess. we're desperate for a political
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solution. we've got them trying to talk the taliban into some governing relationship. you announce you're taking your military out, you take all the hard power behind diplomatic maneuvers. so again, it's impulse. it doesn't make much sense. it's uncoordinated. our allies are aghast. our enemies are encouraged. we are an incoherent government acting more like a third world power. >> ben rhodes, the general keeps blowing my mind. i want you to respond to that, but i also want you to weigh in on -- explain -- help us understand, if people haven't worked in government, they don't understand that it's not just a leader to a leader but a defense secretary in america has dozens, probably hundreds in mattis' case of relationships around the world. and they really stabilize some bilateral and multilateral relationships. so during the trump presidency, i don't know that there's anyone who has likely provided more
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reassurance than secretary mattis to our allies. >> no, as general mccaffrey knows full well, these countries depend on us for their security in europe and asia. these partners on the ground like the syrian kurds depend on us for their survival. and what has been so strange to watch over the last several days is that we've essentially seen that the foreign policy of the united states is totally difference from the foreign policy of donald trump. for the last several weeks, the state department, the defense department, has been signaling actually almost an escalation of our presence and mission in syria. that's what they've been telling these countries. and to have donald trump essentially completely pull the rug out from under his own policy and announce a 180-degree pivot, that's what's so destabilizing. if you want a drawdown of forces in afghanistan or syria, there is a way to do it where you convene the government over a period of weeks and months and formulate a plan. consult with allies and those partners on the ground. you're transparent. and then you execute. this is not at all what
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happened. and what we're seeing is what happens when the winds of an unstable president with no experience and capacity to do the job is overwhelming the ongoing work of the u.s. government. that is going to be incredibly destabilizing around the world because now these countries don't know who to trust and listen to. they don't know if they call the state department, defense department if the people they are speaking to speak to the president. what's clear is that they don't. >> mark jacobson, i said the president will not find anybody more capable than secretary mattis at not creating turmoil, face-to-face with the president, at being -- i don't think anyone can suggest that he wasn't always respectful of the chain of command but of not turning the world upside down. when the president tweeted about the transgender ban in the military, mattis worked through the process and sort of protected that institution from that arbitrary move. when the president ordered a military parade because he liked what they looked like in north
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korea and france, they went through the motions of trying to plan a parade for him, and they ultimately unwound it at a natural pace. and when the president sent troops to the border, something i'm sure secretary mattis didn't think was a good use of the lives and the interests and talents of the men and women of the military, he went along with it as long as he could. what do you think could possibly come close to filling secretary mattis' role? >> well, if we can bring bob gates back, that would be great, but he's no fool, and trump is not going to get someone like that. i was looking back at resignation letters. those that are public. all the way back to the truman administration from secretaries of defense. and even in his resignation, mattis was so careful to make sure that he did this in a professional way because he knows that the millions of men and women in uniform right now are going to read this. and what he is saying to them is, look, you are serving your nation. you've taken an old to uphold
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the constitution of the united states, and if you can no longer fulfill that oath if you can no longer, in his case, support the president's agend athen it's your obligation to do the professional thing and resign. i like what "the washington post" has written. i think they are probably right in terms of some of the veiled criticisms. but mattis didn't hide that either. he's critical of the president in has resignation letter but in such a professional way. i'm not sure there is anyone else out there at this point who is willing to serve and that trump is willing to have. that's a very small overlap you have there. >> general mccaffrey, i want to give you the last word. i want your thoughts on this history made. never before has a secretary of defense resigned in this manner, on principle, and in a way that we all know was about principle. >> yeah, look, i've worked with some unbelievable public servants. bill perry and bob gates and ash carter and we've had some remarkable, intelligent,
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experienced, capable people in that office. mattis may well have been the best one given the circumstances that he's being forced to confront. having him leave is deeply unsettling. having an acting attorney general who i can't understand why he's in office having been confirmed by the senate four times myself, why is he even there? the homeland security secretary about to go over the edge of the cliff. it looks as if the government soon to be in the hands of president trump, his daughter and his son-in-law, acting in somewhat unguided manner. >> you have all blown my mind. i'm grateful to all of you. ben rhodes, mark jacobson and general mccaffrey. after the break, one former white house chief of staff describes the trump presidency as ushering in a constant state cav of chaos. also, the twin threats to the mueller probe. we'll discuss the two men both
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hostile to the mueller investigation. one running the justice department. and the other about to run the justice department. i wonder how that happened. and donald trump and the shutdown hot potato. after promising to own the government shutdown, trump today tried to pass the blame to democrats. all those stories coming up. (chime) - [narrator] meet shark's newest robot vacuum. it powerfully cleans from floors to carpets, even pet hair, with ease, and now for cleaning surfaces above the floor, it comes with a built in shark handheld. one dock, two sharks. the shark ion robot cleaning system. there's brushing...and there's oral-b power brushing. oral-b just cleans better. even my hygienist said going electric could lead to way cleaner teeth. and unlike sonicare, oral-b is the first electric toothbrush brand accepted by the ada. oral-b. brush like a pro. got it? got it. nooooo... nooooo... quick, the quicker picker upper! bounty picks up messes quicker and is 2x more absorbent.
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president trump did plunging the country into chaos. secretary mattis was one of the few symbols, the few items of strength and stability in this administration. everything that indicates stability, everything that
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indicates strength, everything that indicates knowledge is leavingon general kelly, general mattis, so others. mcmaster. exactly. there is chaos now in this administration. >> chaos seems to be the word of the day or the week or the year. it's the word former secretary of defense leon panetta used in evaluating the situation. quote, we're in a constant state of chaos right now in this country. all that may satisfy trump's need for attention is raising hell with the country. the post continues, panetta said the resignation of matt sis a singular moment and his later which underscores how mattis sees trump's approach as misguided puts the security of the nation right now at some degree of risk. here's what panetta means. this part that talks about allies and says one core belief i have always held is that our strength as a nation is inextricably linked to our strength of our unique and
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comprehensive system of alliances and partnerships. while the u.s. remains an indispensable nation in the free world, we cannot protect our interests or serve that role effectively without maintaining strong alliances and showing respect to those allies. joining us, aaron blake, senior political reporter for "the washington post," charlie sikes. your thoughts? >> it's always been chaos. this has always been the chaos president. but the chaos has been contained by the guardrails. that's what makes this feel so different because the guardrails are down. the chaos unleashed. and we've felt this way in the past about this administration but you feel it as this great unraveling going on here. you have the investigations. what's happening in the stock market. you have the government shutdown, the quintessential adult in the room leaving, and so i don't know whether we have a turning point here but you get the sense, you hear that word rattled across the board.
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people are rattled about this. people are concerned about this in a way that we thought we'd be numb to after almost two years of this presidency. but this feels different, doesn't it? >> are you rattled? >> very much so. >> are you scared? >> yes, i am. >> what your scared about? >> i'm scared about -- when you get rid of general mattis, what other decisions are going to be made? the decision-making process is now naked. where you have the president on the phone with some of the world's authoritarian thugs making decisions on the fly. the only people he's listening to, ivanka and jared and we're talking about the man with the nuclear codes. what could possibly go wrong? i don't want to know the answer to that. so much could go wrong. >> so much talk about jared and ivanka. they served as repellents in the chief of staff search. could the president ever come close to making any change there? >> i don't think so. i think this is really a tendency, a really continued
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move and maybe the mattis resignation hastens it toward a situation which they are only going to be hiring people who are going to be confirming what the president already believes. we've already seen this to some degree with the transitions we've seen some high-profile jobs, including secretary of state where rex tillerson was replaced with mike pompeo who has questioned the intel community that he once led in order to adopt a more pro-trump viewpoint. we have seen it with the chief economic adviser. we've seen it with the national security adviser. we've seen it with the attorney general now where he's basically seemingly auditioning these people who have adopted his views of the mueller investigation. but with mattis, i think for the first time, you have somebody who explicitly came out right after they resigned and said it was about differences, and the president needs to be more on board with him. it's going to be tough to find somebody on board with him in the military mainstream. so the question from there is, does the president go for some kind of an ideologue who agrees
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with him on nationalism, on interventonism or somebody who is going to be a yes man who is going to just allow him to do whatever he wants to do. >> to add to that, someone who sees strategic alliances as a burden rather than a strategic advantage. i am really curious about what republicans on the hill are planning to do. i mean, they have to get through this shutdown. once there are confirmation hearings for mattis' replacement, what is the line they draw for what they're willing to accept and not willing to accept? how far are they willing to push that nominee on how much their positions on what is happening in syria, in afghanistan align with the president's. and are they willing to hold that line? are they willing to hold up additional nominees in addition to satisfy what they believe they need? >> not to get in the weeds, but it's a great point. tammy duckworth is tweeting she'd like mattis to head up to the hill and testify to what those differences are. i'm not sure you'd find anyone in the republican mainstream who
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believes in all of this isolationism and retrenchment. a lot of -- and for better or worse, i understand it's polarizing, but a lot of mainstream republican thought is not isolationism. the post-9/11 republican military establishment is to confront threats where they gather. >> look how the senate has reacted to this syria announcement. you basically two two republican members of the senate on board with this. mike lee and rand paul. pretty much everybody else is being strongly critical or is saying nothing. that's maybe the biggest amount of opposition the president has seen from congress for any of his actions, maybe with the -- >> since last week was khashoggi. >> with the fact those were happening so close to one another now is a testament to how -- >> never trump republicans at the table -- >> look at the reaction to mattis' letter. if you look at this letter, he was writing it for everyone at the pentagon. he was also writing it for the
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history books to make very clear why he was leaving. and everyone who i talk to, republican, democrat, people former administration folks, former national security people, people may have disagreed with his decision to leave. no one disagreed with a thing that he wrote in that letter when he talked about the role of the united states in the world, the importance of our allies, how we deal with our adversaries. no one disagreed with any of those principles or with the fact that, as mattis said, president trump does not embrace them. >> you said here as general mccaffrey's words rolled over me, rocked me. a rogue president. >> yeah. it's incredible that this is somebody who is this well respected, who is basically laying out in as polite and respectful way as he can, that's what he labeled the president as being. he labeled him as not embracing the important values -- >> that's scary coming from a general. >> at the beginning of the
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administration, president trump talked about all my generals. >> they're all gone. >> they're all gone now. >> i also want to get all of you on the record on this question which is back in the water now about his stability or lack thereof. >> it's been obvious. we're going to see how unstable and eratsic this president is because the narrative woof all heard is it would be much worse if we didn't have these grown-ups around the table. paul ryan says you don't know what we prevented. now we're going to find out what is going to happen. we've learned a couple of things. the appeasement does not work. the appeasement -- you know, whether you are lindsey graham having golfed with the president or whether you are members of the cabinet -- >> mitch mcconnell appeases him. >> that's right. we don't know whether republicans are going to draw the line, but you get the sense of, okay, we tried this. it has absolutely failed. and also, we've also learned that everyone who is associated with donald trump is diminished
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in some way. even the most solid individuals. think about what rex -- whether you're talking about rex tillerson or jeff sessions or any of them. but general mattis was the one -- and this is what does make this -- he was such an iconic figure. it will be interesting to see what he says afterwards because he really when you think about it, he went to extraordinary lengths to appease donald trump. he gave him almost everything. >> the military parade, the -- >> i'm going to give you that because if i give you all of this, you won't make the ultimate reckless decisions and then here we are where he's making the ultimate reckless decisions and none of that worked out. >> i think it was a year ago that senator corker talked about his instability. he talked about it first. he talked about it most publicly. he described this west wing as adult day care. it may still be adult day care but there are no more caregivers. >> i don't think there's an appetite to question this on the hill. so instead what you're going to see are reverberations of what we saw during the conversation leading up to what now looks
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like a shutdown where what you saw were conservatives going on conservative media calling the president gutless and spineless over funding for this border wall. convincing him that he was going to lose his political base, and that being the only way to change his mind on policy. the question is, is there -- is there someone in the republican party who can do the same when it comes to these questions of national security? and can they convince him that there is a political price to be paid for the course he is taking? >> kimberly, what do you think the political cost is to this? mattis was, in his own right, part of the package. mattis was popular even with trump's base, if for no other reason than he was deferential to trump. you liked that someone like mattis who trump called "mad dog" mattis. he was more thought of as a monk who was very interested in literature and academic and strategic and intellectual. they like it. this is a political blow to the president.
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the likes of which any departure has precipitated. >> i'm not sure the president realizes that yet, but it certainly is a major blow to him and republicans and those who support him need to increasingly decide, do they continue to dance with the one that brung them as we have been so far. or do they -- >> staggering. >> or do they begin to assume the role that mattis once did and try to act as the type of guardrails we've been waiting for republicans to do. >> you have a president who listens more to ann coulter than general mattis. think about that. >> heaven help us. alicia, thank you for being here. robert mueller's job may have become even more difficult as the president recruits anti-mueller extremists to the justice department. how could that affect the possible subpoena fight over the president's testimony, if that should come to pass? we'll ask our panel. stay with us.
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as robert mueller's investigation quite possibly heads into its highest stakes chapter yet, donald trump has finally secured what he has always wanted. loyalists atop the justice department. donald trump making no secret since the earliest days of the investigations into him and his campaign that he wanted his very own roy cohn to protect him from the investigations with acting attorney general matt whitaker rejecting advice he should recuse himself from the investigation and incoming ag bill barr on the record as hostile to robert mueller's obstruction of justice investigation. mueller's probe may be in more danger than at any other time since it began. "the new york times" reports today, quote, together the developments underscored the potential threats to mr. mueller's ability to complete his work without interference at a time when his inquiry appears to be drawing closer to the white house and the president's most trusted associates.
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let's bring in former u.s. attorney joyce vance and here on set, mike schmidt from "the new york times." joyce vance, let's start with you. your thoughts to these twin threats, possibly, to mr. mueller and his investigation. >> if the last couple of days have taught us anything, nicolle, it's that we have to stop shying away from believing conspiracy theories. i mean, i think we all try to avoid buying into them. we all want to try to believe the president has good motives, but at some point you just have to look reality in the face and say, this is a president who is committed to bringing on board leadership at doj that will do one thing, and that one thing is cut off the mueller investigation. whitaker, the acting ag, is fully committed to doing that. now it looks like we've got a permanent targ nominee who thinks along the same vain. to me the most important takeaway from the last couple of days was when i read the letter written by the office of legal counsel at doj and sent up to
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the hill on behalf of an acting attorney general whitaker. and it made a point of saying, you know, nothing has changed at doj. rod rosenstein is still in charge of the mueller investigation. but at the same time, the acting attorney general has declined to recu recuse, and that means he can step in at any moment in time. so on the one hand, he's trying to pacify us and tell us, you know, nothing to look at here. move along. but at the same time, we know he's a threat to the investigation. a threat we shouldn't ignore at this point. >> mike schmidt, donald trump said to you in an interview about a year ago that this is exactly what he wanted. >> he has been very open about the fact that the attorney general is someone whose most important thing is to be working for him. to be loyal to him. everything else following the rule of law, guidelines, that's less important. we saw that a month into his presidency when he tried to stop jeff sessions from recusing himself from the russia
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investigation going to try and essentially lobby him to not have. it's just not a priority to him. trump knew he picked him. and who knows what role it played in that decision, but whatever it was, the white house thought that they could overcome that on the hill and get him confirmed. >> joyce, do you think that mr. barr has any sort of chance of not being confirmed or at least facing some tough questions about his views on the obstruction investigation? >> the republicans have 53 votes in the senate come january so it seems like he would really have to stumble badly to not be confirmed. but i wouldn't want to be him -- >> it's such a sad commentary that 53 of 53 republicans are going to be unfazed by what mike schmidt just said the president knew that his pick to be attorney general was hostile to the obstruction of justice investigation which a lot of trump allies think represents the gravest threat to trump on
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the mueller side of things. you don't think any one of them could possibly be bothered by that? >> i don't because this is the same senate largely that has declined to stand up and put in place a law that would protect the mueller investigation from political meddling. not something that would give mueller free reign but just some legislation to protect him from interference from the white house. and to the extent that any of the republican senators have been willing to stand up for mueller, it's folks like jeff flake who won't be around come january. so i don't really hold out a lot of hope that there will be anything other than rigorous but ultimately not fatal questioning by democratic senators when he comes before them. >> a trump ally today described the president as scared. scared of his base and scared of robert mueller. what does mueller have left on his to-do list? >> the biggest thing we don't have an answer to is the subpoena. has mueller sought to get a subpoena from the justice department and will the justice
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department okay that and allow him to subpoena the president for his testimony? and that's sort of i see as the last chapter of the trump obstruction investigation. my question is mueller could sit around and investigate the president for obstruction as he continues throughout his presidency but he's got to -- at some point. the question will be as we come to the new year, will there be a subpoena? if there is, it will certainly delay the investigation at least by a few months. >> would that definitely land on whitaker's desk, the decision of whether or not to approve a decision to subpoena? >> it would be an enormous decision that would go all the way to the top. >> joyce vance, how do you think that would end up? >> one would like to think that whitaker would feel that gravitational force that my friend chuck rosenberg likes to talk about at doj. >> he's an idealist. >> but we all are. i'll just tell you, everybody who has ever worked at doj, we believe in that gravitational pull. and that people who work inside of the institution do the right thing.
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but after watching what's happened this week, i think it's no longer safe to make that kind of assumption about matt whitaker. and ultimately, he's there for one reason. that reason is to protect the president. he is the president's roy cohn. it seems unlikely to me that he will let, you know, mueller subpoena the president unless, for whatever reason, he's put into a position where he can't avoid it. and so i still have to say my money is on the career folks at doj who are smart, who understand institutionally how we get things done, and maybe there's a little bit of hope from that line of vision. >> mike schmidt, last question. i heard from someone today who surmised that bill barr was horrified to be on a graphic all day, every day with matt whitaker. do you have any reporting on the state of being matt whitaker, what he plans to do with his possibly short tenure there? >> not really. and that's sort of the unusual thing. is he auditioning there for another role in the administration? would he be a good permanent chief of staff for the
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president? we know that whitaker was someone who was on cnn who was able to reach the president that way and to get on his radar. and then very unusual pick to run the justice department. if he was good enough to run the justice department, would he be good enough to run another department within the government? >> there are a lot of openings. >> so does that put whitaker in an unusual spot where he has to try and prove something to the president? it's different. >> it is that. joyce vance and mike schmidt, thank you so much. donald trump may have tempted fate when he told nancy pelosi and chuck schumer he'd be proud to shut down the government. looks like he's going to have a good opportunity to make himself proud of himself, even if no one else is. that story is next.
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hold, did you? that was just last week. today the president sang a very different tune. >> it's really up to the democrats. totally up to the democrats as to whether or not we have a shutdown. it's possible that we'll have a shutdown. i would say the chances are probably very good because i don't think democrats care so much about maybe this issue. >> donald trump completely ignoring the fact or maybe hasn't been briefed yet that his party holds the majority in both chambers of congress. his passing the blame didn't go over well with democrats. eric swalwell tweeted this. you're a child. this isn't hot potato. this is people's lives. their small business loan. their first home loan. their paycheck and dignity at christmas. you were given options to secure the border and you chose chaos. aaron blake, what do you think? >> the republicans have remarkably little leverage here. you have for three reasons. you have that quote that the
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president said ten days ago that you just played there. you also have the fact that the border wall, which used to be somewhat popular, is no longer popular. >> maybe it's because it's steel slats now. >> maybe that will help it get out of the artistically designed steel slats. 30% to 35% of people support this. you're shutting down the government for something most people aren't even asking for in the first place. and if you look at past shutdowns, the side that is adding what are seen as extraneous things that are outside the realm of general government funding that are in addition to what's usually in these spending bills, generally loses those debates. it even happened with democrats earlier this year when they tried to get a daca deal as part of the government shutdown. all of those are working against republicans. if maybe it was one or two, maybe they'd have a shot. maybe the democrats will eventually be charitable and just want to get this over with. throw a billion or $2 billion at them. but the republicans don't have the leverage here. it's questionable why they are even trying to play this hand.
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>> charlie? >> it is interesting how vulnerable donald trump feelimb the ann coulter. >> a close friend of his described him as scared of them. >> your entire political strategy is built on monolithic support from your base, you cannot afford to have that opposition. they signaled this week they weren't going to let him off the hook, so how does he unwind this? now that he's invested his manhood and his strength in all of this, how does he back off? he was trying to finesse it by saying, well, you know, what, the succession of nafta is going to pay for it. by the way, hanging over all of this, and erin's point are right on target. hanging over all of this is donald trump promised that the taxpayers would never have to pay for this wall. the mexicans were going to pay for this wall, and now he is shutting down the federal government because the american taxpayer won't pay for this wall. >> kim. >> and he also loves a fight,
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particularly when he is fighting with -- >> who is he fighting with at this point? >> it doesn't always have to matter, it seems. when he's feeling more and more hemmed in by the mueller investigation, he -- >> by ann coulter and rush limbaugh. >> he takes that. he thinks that's what his base wants, and that's a fight that he can fight over the wall. the wall, as i said to you before, it's become a part of his identity in a way. >> an extension of his hands as well. >> well. and, you know, i think at this point it's not even -- i think he knows that the wall that he campaigned on won't get built. he certainly knows that mexico won't pay for it. but he keeps going back to that like he goes to campaign rallies to make himself feel better. when he's fighting, he wants to fight for this wall. he hasn't thought through what the end game is. >> he reminds me of ted cruz back in 2013 who had no end game whatsoever. but, again, saner heads prevailed at that point. but who is the saner head now? >> we'll see if the president breaks out the dr. seuss books. >> the saner head left the
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government yesterday. aaron blake, how does this end? >> that point is completely pertinent to this. we would have a better idea how this ends if the president had a perception of how he wanted it to end. he didn't offer goalstarted. he basically said, congress, you pass it, and then he decided what he was going to do. even coming out of a meeting with senate republicans today, there was reporting that said he really didn't tell them exactly what he wanted out of this and how firm of a line to draw. it's much more difficult for the senate and for the house to deal with these things if they don't know what is being required for the president to put his signature on that dotted line. >> i want to ask you about mick mulvaney's role in all this. keep going, though. >> i just think if the president had come out and said right away, $5 billion is my red line, if it's less than that, i'm not signing, republicans would have approached this differently. they wouldn't have gotten so close to the end, and they might have had a better outcome. the fact that that is waiting so long till the end means nobody really knows what they're doing.
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they're flying by the seat of their pants. john cornyn kind of that part os is constant improvisation. that adds uncertainty to -- >> uncertainty to chaos. we know mick mulvaney called donald trump a terrible person, but wait till you see what he said about the wall. that's next. more savings on car insurance!? they helped with homeowners, too! ok! plus motorcycle, boat and rv insurance! geico's got you covered! like a blanket! houston? you seeing this? geico. expect great savings and a whole lot more.
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do i like donald trump? no. is he a role model for two of my -- my 16-year-old triplets? is he a role model for my sons? absolutely not. yes, i'm supporting donald trump. i'm doing so as enthusiastically
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as i can given the fact i think he's a terrible human being. but the choice on the other side is just as bad. >> i think donald trump is a terrible human being said no-incoming chief of staff about the president he serves ever. but there's more. mick mulvaney also not a big fan of a wall, which he actually called a fence. a fence. here's what he said about it in 2015. the fence doesn't solve the problem. is it necessary to have one? sure. would it help? sure. but to just say build the darn fence and have that be the end of an immigration discussion is absurd and childish for someone running for president to take that simplistic of a view. that, charlie sykes, is donald trump's chief of staff's view on the wall, that donald trump is about to shut down the government over. the people closest to the president tonight, as he navigates through the shutdown, if he looks to his left and sees his chief of staff or his right, and i don't know who else is around other than his kids. he's not someone who agrees with him. >> i don't mean to give the
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spoiler here, but we know how this ends. we know what the trajectory is going to be. if the president does not trust the people around him, eventually he'll turn on them. >> this guy didn't start yet. it's not even clear he's moved into the chief of staff's office yet. >> it's already flawed. by the way, this mentality, he's a terrible human being, but let's put him in the oval office, make him the most powerful man in the world, that is how we got to this moment now. >> melania says be better. >> this is perfect we found these comments from mick mulvaney. we have a chief economic adviser who is a free trader who is now the face of president trump's trade war and protectionism. we have a national security adviser who is extremely hawkish on things like russia heading in too taking that job. >> and syria and afghanistan too. >> i mean one of the preeminent hawks. we have a secretary of state who is publicly questioning the intelligence community that he once led. you know, it's normal for people who work in the white house to
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have to stand up for policies that they don't necessarily believe in. i'm sure that you had that experience in in sways. but it is another thing for a lot of these people to be working against positions that were the polar opposite of the one they held before. that to me suggests these are not just people who are ambitious, but people who are doing whatever it takes to serve in the white house, whatever it takes to keep serving donald trump. >> exactly. mulvaney has survived by doing whatever donald trump has asked him to do, not challenging him in doing whatever he says and being sort of like a guy friday. this is his third job in the administration. and donald trump doesn't want a chief of staff of, and mick mulvaney promises to not be his chief of staff and let him do whatever he wants to do. >> aaron is right. he's surrounding himself with yes-men. this is the last president on earth who should be surrounded by yes-men, who basically go in and say, i have no principles. i am going to give this man whatever he wants, and i'm willing to surrender, you know, everything that i've worked for and believed in just to be what?
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admissi ambition is a terrible drug. >> the opposite of madness. >> the theme of the day. kim atkins, charlie sykes, and aaron blake. thank you. that does it for our hour. i'm nicolle wallace. "mtp daily" starts right now. high, chuck. >> nicolle -- >> i'm like is he ready? it's before 5: >> i almost needed the seven-second delay button. it would have been me and mazie hirono. but then u.s. senators say anything these days, right? well, if it's friday, is this the beginning of the end of what we have known as the trump presidency?

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