tv MSNBC Live With Ali Velshi MSNBC February 19, 2019 12:00pm-1:00pm PST
acting attorney general matthew whitaker. "trump asked whether jeffrey s. berman, the united states attorney for the southern district of new york and a trump ally, could be put in charge of the widening investigation, according to several american officials with direct knowledge of the call." the "times" goes on to report that "whitaker had told associates that part of his role at the justice department was to jump on a grenade for the president." just moments ago the president said this in response to the "new york times" report. >> no. not at all. i don't know who zbaf you that. that's more fake news. there's a lost fake news out there. no, i didn't. >> [ inaudible question ]. >> very good. i have a lot of respect for mr. whitaker. he's done a great job. he's a very, very straight shooter. i watched him during the hearing, some of it. i thought he was exceptional.
he's a very fine man, and he should be given a lot of thanks by our nation. >> well, the reason these new details are so important according to the "times" is because they "reveal the extent of an even more sustained more secretive assault by mr. trump on the machinery of federal law enforcement." joining us now to take a closer look at this blockbuster report is "new york times" justice department reporter katy benner, who contributed to the article. good to see you. thank you for being with us. this is intriguing. >> thanks for having me. >> let's put this into context. the president spoke to -- according to the "new york times" reporting spoke to his attorney general at the time, asking if somebody friendly to him at the attorney's office in new york could handle this case. give me the context around this. >> sure. i think this really helps us get inside of donald trump's head. he believes that law enforcement and that the justice department and that basically everybody in the executive branch exists to help him and to protect him. so we see here a case where he
sees an investigation closing in on his former attorney. it seems like it could be dangerous to him. and so what he wants to know is whether or not somebody who he believes feels that the president has done something good for him, has made him the u.s. attorney, somebody who he feels owes him a favor, can be put in charge of that investigation. >> and one of the lawyers, a criminal lawyer from georgetown whom you interviewed for the story, says that this could speak to the president's mindset, right? whether or not this was illegal depends on what the president was trying to do with that. was he, as danny cevallos, our legal amount said, was he acting in his capacity as president who oversees appointments to the justice department or was he acting in the capacity of someone who was being investigated by federal prosecutors and trying to derail that investigation? the answer to that determines whether or not the president was trying to obstruct justice. >> exactly. and this goes to the heart of what the mueller case and the mueller report will say.
you know, when we see whether or not bob mueller finds there was obstruction, the president tried to obstruct justice or even an indictment against the president, it will hinge on this question of did donald trump intend to obstruct justice, did he intend to interfere in an investigation or is he acting from a deep belief formed over many years that the people around him need to be loyalists who protect him? >> one of the things from the article, a quote from one of donald trump's attorneys in response, mr. trump's lawyers add this novel response. "the presidential has been public about his disdain for the mueller investigation and other federal inquire quiz so he's hardly engaged in a conspiracy. he fired one fbi director and considered firing his replacement. he humiliated his first attorney general for being unable to control the russia investigation and installed a replacement, mr. whitaker, who has told people he believed his job was to protect the people. but that, they say, is donald trump being donald trump. in other words, the presidential's brazen behavior, public behavior, might be his
best defense. >> well, it's interesting to see that as a defense. clearly his attorneys do see this as a defense, but one of the strange things about the trump presidency is how numb we've become to behavior we would never have put up with in any other leader. we see his own attorney saying this is just another example of the president doing something that in any other administration would be considered unheard of. but because of who he is, how he behaves, how he believes he is al 4r0ud to act we've become numb to it. and this is going to be another example of us letting it go because it is donald trump. >> katie benner, good to sew you as always, my friend. katie benner, justice department reporter at "the new york times." let's unpack the implications of the story. nbc's justice correspondent pete williams and michael conway former counsel to house judiciary committee during the nixon impeachment inquiry. thanks to both of you for being here. michael i want to cite "the new york times" report citing a criminal law professor about this that i was just talking to
katie about. julio sullivan a criminal law professor at georgetown said she believed there was ample public evidence that mr. trump had the corrupt ip tent to try to derail the mueller investigation. the legal standard for an obstruction of justice case. take that in the context of this particular allegation as printed in the "new york times," that donald trump called michael -- called whitaker, matthew whitaker, when he was the attorney general and inquired as to whether a trump loyalist could be put back in charge of this case, someone who had been recused from overseeing this could be put back in charge. give me your analysis. >> absolutely. this isn't a mystery where we have to dig out the facts. donald trump has said so. it's just another example of him trying derail the investigation of him and his campaign. look back after he fired james comey. he told the russians in the oval office that he did it to stop the investigation. "the new york times" story is
very instructive because it's a compendium you will compendium of all these things. as the yoert said we've gotten a little numb to this. but the fact is if you go and rob a bank without a max that's not a defense to lobbing the bank because everybody saw you do it. he's doing it in the open. he's obstructing justice every day. >> well said. pete williams, earlier you and i talked about a response that the white house had provided pointing to testimony that michael -- i keep calling him michael. matthew whitaker provided to congress. let's listen to that together, and then i want to get your take on it. >> congressman, thank you for that question. i came to washington, d.c. in ok october of 2017 to be attorney general sessions' chief of staff. i have the greatest respect as you know for general sessions. and i am really honored to carry out the role of acting attorney general -- >> if i may, that's very nice. but that wasn't the question i asked. >> well, as you know, i am, as i
mentioned, honored to serve as acting attorney general and i'm honored that the president selected me to be the acting attorney general. i can assure this committee that before appointing me to this position the president did not ask for and i did not provide any commitments, promises concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation -- >> that's not the question i asked, sir. >> all right, pete. again, usually when i play what somebody said in front of congress, i don't actually have to ask for a reporter's interpretation of this. but if this case we actually need that because the congresswoman was asking a particular question. whitaker answered something different. and now that is what the white house has pointed us to as the explanation to this "new york times" story. what's your analysis of this? >> well, partly fwhar pointing us to. but they're also pointing us to the statement that he made earlier on in the appearance before the house judiciary committee. because in that answer to congresswoman lofgren he was saying before he took the job nobody had asked him anything.
but he was more definitive earlier when he said "at no time, at no time has the white house asked for nor have i provided any promises or commitments concerning the special counsel's investigation or any other investigation." and they say that he stands by that statement. so he's basically saying it's not true without -- that seems to be the implication of what he's saying. now, one very minor point. the "times" story says that jeffrey berman, who had been the u.s. attorney appointed by president trump, had recused himself. actually, u.s. attorneys can't recuse themselves. he was recused by a person in the justice department, a senior person, at the urging of other people in the u.s. attorney's offices because they just thought it wasn't appropriate for him to be involved. and the "times" says that's what whitaker was thinking of, i can't unrecuse that since the justice department had made the decision. >> what's the part they didn't think was appropriate? why was this guy berman not in
charge of the investigation? >> simply because he's -- for the simple matter that the senior people as i understand it at the u.s. attorney's office had made the determination without consulting mr. berman that given this was an investigation that touched on the president it wouldn't be appropriate for him to be involved. they raised -- this is right out of the u.s. attorney's manual. they raised this issue with main justice and main justice said yep, you're right, he should recuse. >> so michael, give me what i must be missing here. the president's investigated, is being investigated, or his people, michael cohen or whomever is being investigated. the president calls up the attorney general. assuming the facts of the "new york times" story are true, we have not been able to independently confirm that. calls up the attorney general and says want to get the berman guy back unrecused on the case. what possible good reason could there be for such a phone call to have taken place? >> there can't be any good reason. and i think mat whitaker's going to be collateral damage just
like so many other people, roger stone and others, who have been accused of lying to congress. i want to come ak to one thing, ali, that you said, and i don't think you're missing much at all. when danny cevallos pointed out was he doing it as president or was he doing it as a person under investigation, it doesn't make any difference. because if he did it as a person under investigation it is obstruction of justice. if he did it as president it's abuse of power. richard nixon was impeached by the house judiciary committee on both grounds. >> but a president does have the right to appoint his district attorneys. or -- >> of course he does. of course he does. but if he's doing it to gain an advantage as you've cited, as "the new york times" story stated, he thinks people are there to protect him. you appoint the u.s. attorney to enforce the law in that district. and if the president's trying to subvert that then he's given of both obstruction of justice and an abuse of power. he's using his power in a wrongful way. >> gentlemen, thank you for your help in breaking this down. pete williams, nbc news justice
correspondent. michael conway, former counselor in the house judiciary committee during the impeachment inquiry of president nixon. on to another story for the moment. the talks of a potential risk to u.s. national security. that's according to the democratically controlled house oversight committee's new report. they are investigating allegations of ongoing efforts by the trump administration, get this, i hope you're sitting down, to transfer sensitive u.s. nuclear technology to saudi arabia. the chair of that committee, congressman elijah cummings, issued the report after several whistleblowers warned that the administration's rush to transfer these highly sensitive technologies in violation of the atomic energy act, which ensures that nuclear materials are properly managed, and acting without congressional review. ak0rding to the report, those whistleblowers "warned of conflicts of interest among top white house advisers that could implicate federal criminal statutes." this is where it gets good.
"beyond that, what is so worrisome here to experts is that this transfer of u.s. nuclear technology," again, quote, "could allow saudi arabia to produce nuclear weapons that contribute to the proliferation of nuclear arms throughout an already unstable middle east." okay. there's a lot here to get to it is this newest report by the house oversight committee. joining me now is the democratic congressman from illinois rajakrishna murthi. he's a member of that committee. congressman, good to see you again. thank you for being with us. >> thank you, ali. >> there are so many weird aspects to this but one of the more important ones is that there's an allegation from these whistleblowers that michael flynn might have been involved in this thing and tom barrick might have been involved in this thing and that michael flynn's involvement in this might have actually been for personal gain, which is a story you've heard before. >> yeah. surprise surprise, michael flynn was working for a company that stood to gain billions of dollars if this transfer of sensitive nuclear technology
occurred with saudi arabia, and then he turned around as national security adviser and lobbied to get that transfer through. and it turns out everybody seemed to be literally in with flynn on this particular deal. >> there's that, and that's alarming and that's worrisome, that someone advising the president on national security might be in on it according to the report, h.r. mcmaster comes in and says this doesn't make any sense on a lot of levels, we've got to stop doing this. but there still seems to be uncertainty as to whether the white house is still considering this transfer of information to saudi arabia, which also seems strange. our enduring love affair with saudi arabia despite evidence that suggests that perhaps it should be more of a casual friendship. >> absolutely. even as late as last week apparently president trump was in discussions of this potential nuclear deal. and this comes on the heels of the jamal khashoggi killing where, you know, the trump
administration was unusually muted in its concern about what happened, and now we might know why. even as they were hashing out an agreement with the saudis, they didn't want this khashoggi murder to get in the way of that. >> the other issue of course is that saudi arabia, like everybody who wants to get nuclear stuff, they all say it's for the creation of energy, and it might very well be. but saudi arabia is not a signatory to the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and our laws actually prevent the transfer of certain technologies to countries that we don't know are going to manage their nuclear power or their nuclear capabilities properly. >> that's correct. there's something called the atomic energy act of 1954 which rerkds that under section 123, 123 of that particular act, that congress actually give approval for the transfer of sensitive nuclear technology such as the technology at issue here. clearly they were trying to do an end run around congress. they were trying to do an end run around conflict of interest statutes. and so thankfully these
whistleblowers came forward and brought to our attention on the oversight committee what's happened, and thankfully chairman cummings is now the chairman and can actually launch a full-throated investigation into this. >> because this information was known. when democrats were not in charge of the committee, republicans sort of just chose to ignore this information. >> that's exactly right. chairman cummings repeatedly, over and over and over again, asked trey gowdy and the chairman, chairman's staff, to pursue this particular issue. but they were 3w4r0kd eveblockep of the way. i should tell you the same basically happened on the intel committee. >> yeah. >> so here we are, finally we're in the majority, we're here to serve as a check and balance on the trump administration. and so we're going to actually hold them accountable, launch a full-throated investigation here, and make sure if laws were violated the appropriate people are held accountable and to prevent this from happening again. >> and i buy those novels at the airport, congressman, and they have plots like this, right?
where the national security adviser is advising the u.s. to take some policy that's contrary to its national security interests but might be getting paid on the back end of it. you know, like this is the stuff i think only exists in airport novels. i didn't know it exists in the real world. >> yeah, reality imitates fiction here. and you know, on the one hand we were concerned about the trump administration acting on behalf of russian interests. and now we have to worry about saudi interests. wholesale is out there that we have to worry about the trump administration acting on behalf of. >> we'd hope it would just be american interests. thank you, sir. good to see you as always. congressman raja krish ma moorthi of illinois. bernie um, bernie's back. the vermont senator made it official, running for president in 2020. the campaign donations by the way already pouring in. but with an already crowded field of progressives how does he stand out in a field that sounds a lot more like he did last time around this time around? that's next. plus later in the hour i'm joined by one of the attorneys general suing president trump over his declaration of a national emergency, in quotes, arguing that the president's use
trump next year continues to grow. vermont senator bernie sanders, who sought the democratic nomination in 2016, announced this morning that he's launching another bid for the white house. he joins nine other democrats including five fellow senators who are already in the race. sanders' campaign released a video in which he talked about why he's running for president again. >> our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial, and environmental justice. together, you and i and our 2016 campaign began the political revolution. now it is time to complete that revolution and implement the vision that we fought for. >> sanders focused on economic issues in 2016, and those same issues will be at the center of this campaign. let's take a look at some of them. one of his signature proposals has been his push for medicare for all, which you know we've been discussing a lot on this
show. sanders want to replace the current private insurance system with a national government-run insurance program. many of his fellow candidates also support some version of this idea. another signature issue was his plan to abolish tuition and fees at public four-year colleges and universities. sanders also wants to cut student loan rates in half and allow americans to refinance student loans at lower interest rates. he's also proposed paying for that by enacting a transaction tax on large wall street firms. sanders also wants to raise federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. that's more than double the current rate of $7.25. now, a number of states and cities have already approved a minimum wage increase with some as high or soon to be as high as $15 an hour, and many companies have given credit to bernie sanders's push for a higher minimum wage. sanders also wants into crease the number of americans subject to the estate tax. he's proposed a progressive tax structure for estates valued at $3.5 million or more.
that's the same level as they were in 2009. estates valued at more than $1 billion would be subject to a 77% tax. a short time ago president trump shared his thoughts on sanders' announcement. >> i think he missed his time. but i like bernie because he's one person that you know, on trade he sort of would agree on trade. i'm being very tough on trade. he was tough on trade. the problem is i doesn't know what to do about it. we're doing something very spectacular on trade. but i wish bernie well. it will be interesting to see how he does. i think what happened to bernie maybe was not so nice. i think he was taken advantage of. he ran great four years ago, and he was not treated with respect by clinton. >> sanders won the new hampshire primary in 2016 but this time around it looks like he could face some serious competition there.
nbc news capitol hill correspondent and host of kasey d.c. is here with me. she joins me from new hampshire. kasey, good to see you. senator sanders owned the left flank, the progressive flank of the democratic primary season in 2016. this time he's sharing that space with another -- with several candidates really who have some similar views including california senator kamala harris, who's in new hampshire today. you talked to her about why they're different. >> i did, ali, and you're absolutely right. bernie sanders had a chance to take on clinton one on one in 2016 and he came to represent both a more progressive vision for what the party should be but also, you know, an anti-establishment figure. people who wanted to protest what they saw as a coronation of hillary clinton had one alternative and that was bernie sanders. quite frankly, this was an entirely different field this time around. i'm sure we have one of the
graphics that shows either the current field or the potential field, take your pick. it's an enormous list of people. now, bernie deserves -- bernie sanders deserves credit frankly for pushing the debate in the democratic party in a certain direction. i mean, they are talking about the policies that he brought up when he ran in 2016. however, that means that it's much, much more crowded. and i do think there are some questions about how his impact in the race is going to be felt and part of that is the fact he embraces this label of democratic socialism. president trump talked about socialism in the state of the union, and some of the other democratic candidates have been trying to distinguish themselves. kamala harris, among them. she told reporters yesterday that she was not a democratic socialist, that in fact she was a democrat. and i tried to follow up with her and push her on what exactly she meant by that when i interviewed her earlier today. take a look. >> i strongly believe that we need to have medicare for all.
and within that system there -- >> do you think that's social invite or not, medicare for all? >> no. no. it's about providing health care for all people. it's about understanding that affordable health care should not be a privilege, it should be a right. it's about understanding that in a democracy and the way we have constructed our democracy, we at least in concept have said that your access to public education, public health, or public safety should not be a function of how much money you have. >> so when i asked her what the policy differences were between her and a potential democratic socialist she didn't name any. and you saw her there say she doesn't think that medicare for all is a socialist policy. instead she immediately answered saying, well, i can tell you my story. which i think shows you that she is really running on the biography that she brings to the table, something that bernie sanders says shouldn't necessarily be relevant, you that should focus on those policy differences, ali. >> kasie, thank you, my friend. kasie hunt in manchester, new
hampshire for us. you can catch much more of her interview with kamala harris sunday on "kasie d.c." right here on msnbc. if you don't always watch it watch it anyway because she has great, great interviews every week. coming up next former acting fbi director andrew mccabe says he told congressional leaders, republicans among them, about the counterintelligence investigation that he he opened into president trump's ties to russia and none of them objected. we'll have those details after the break. you are watching msnbc. (danny) let me get this straight. after a long day of hard work... ...you have to do more work? every day you're nearly fried to a crisp, professionally! can someone turn on the ac?! no? oh right... ...'cause there isn't any. here- (vo) automatically sort your expenses and save over 40 hours a month. without you, we wouldn't have electricity. our hobby would be going to bed early. (vo) you earned it, we're here to make sure you get it. (danny) it's time to get yours! (vo) quickbooks. backing you.
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former acting fbi director andrew mccabe told nbc's "today" show that top lawmakers including republican leaders did not object to the investigation into trump's relationship with russia. >> it would have been that majority leader of the senate mitch mcconnell, speaker of the house paul ryan and democratic counterparts. did you tell them that you had opened a counterintelligence investigation into president trump? >> the purpose of the briefing was to let our congressional leadership know exactly what we'd been doing. this was a recommendation that came to me from my team. i reviewed it with our lawyers. i discussed it at length -- >> did you tell congress? >> and i told congress what we had done. >> did anyone object? >> that's the important part here, savannah. no one objected. not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds, and not based on the facts. >> no one objected. the gang of eight referenced in that clip is a bipartisan
congressional group comprised of top leaders in the white house -- i'm sorry, in the house and the senate as well as the chairman and ranking members. i'm going to ask my control room to put the gang of 8 picture up because we're on the wrong graphic here. i need to show you who they are. let's put that up. there we go. that's the gang of eight. these are people who are authorized to receive regular briefings on national security intelligence. now, the intelligence oversight act of 1980 requires the cia director and the heads of all departments and other entities involving u.s. intelligence activities to keep this group fully informed of all intelligence activities including any significant anticipated intelligence activities. so mccabe was doing what the law required that he do. but that involves talking to four republicans and four democrats who are sworn to keep the classification of information in a tight circle. so with all the president's reaction and suggestions that the fbi's investigations are proof of a deep state conspiracy
against him, take a look at the republican members of the gang of eight who according to mccabe did not object to the fbi's investigation. here are the pictures of the actual people. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell, chairman of the senate intelligence committee richard burr, then house speaker paul ryan, then house intelligence committee chair devin nunes, who by the way was running back and forth to the white house, so it seems sort of hard to believe that devin nunes knew that they were talking about this and didn't share that with the president. also hard to believe the president's accusations of a deep state when you see those four pictures on the left. does he believe that paul ryan, devin nunes, richard burr and mitch mcconnell are part of the same deep state that the intelligence community is made up of? joining me now is msnbc's intelligence and national security reporter ken dilanian. ken, we have not confirmed "the new york times" reporting on this. we don't know that this actually
happened. or i'm sorry, of even what andrew mccabe has said. we know that he said that to savannah guthrie but we don't know that it actually happened. >> that's an important point, ali, and first let me congratulate you for getting the intelligence oversight act of 1980 in a script. as the intelligence reporter i appreciate that deeply. but you're right. i am treating this with a little bit of skepticism because i've seen this movie before on the cia and torture where the cia claimed they briefed certain members of congress and the members said they didn't reall getting that briefing. so far none of the gang of eight have come forward and confirmed they were told this. and you'll notice in that interview with savannah andrew mccabe never explicitly said yes, i told them i had opened a counterintelligence investigation, we had reason to believe the president was compromised by a foreign power. that's crucial because one can imagine based on what we know about, for example, mitch mcconnell's skepticism about the intelligence that russia interfered in the election, one can imagine mitch mcconnell asking, well, what's the basis for that? and you can imagine the democrats asking, okay, you're saying the president is compromised, what should we do going forward, what are the
implications of this? we haven't heard any of that. and in mccabe's book on page 246 for those who are reading along he describes this sxeps doesn't say anything about explicitly informing them that it was a counterintelligence investigation. that said, the act you that described does require the congress to be briefed on significant intelligence acts. usually that's covert actions by the cia but it can be about counterintelligence threats to the united states. >> what i always appreciate you doing is pushing back so we don't all get carried away with the story we don't have all the details on. but i would say, let me push back on you a little bit. if the gang of eight were briefed by andrew mccabe and andrew mccabe said that in his book and then said it to savannah guthrie, the gang of eight might not be people who are going to tell us what did or didn't happen. >> well, that's true. they are hamstrung by the fact this is a classified briefing and it may not be in their interest necessarily. for example, devin nunes has been lambasting this investigation for a year, right?
calling it a witch hunt and discrediting it. what would it look like to his base if it came out that he had known for all this time that there was an fbi counterintelligence investigation into donald trump and he didn't say anything about it? so you're right. we have to evaluate the motives and the accounts. i'm waiting to see what our reporting tells us about what these members tell us and what our sources tell us not on the record on these committees, ali. >> ken, thank you very much for your reporting as always. ken dilanian, nbc news intelligence and national security reporter. and a quick programming note. tonight former fbi acting director andrew mccabe will join lawrence o'donnell live on "the last word." 10:00 p.m. eastern. right here on msnbc. coming up, we'll take you to north carolina, where tainted ballots and a still undecided 2018 house race are at the center of an investigation into possible election fraud in the state's 9th congressional district. but first, states aye abrams, the 2018 georgia gubernatorial candidate who lost to republican brian kemp, testified about
voting rights and voter suppression in her state at a field hearing before the congressional black caucus today. >> on election day voters faced extremely long lines, registered voters missing from the rolls, insecure, inadequate and malfunctioning voting machines, insufficient provisional ballots, and election staff would were ill equipped to meet voters' needs. as a citizen of georgia and as an american who believes in our system of representative democracy i am obliged to do all in my power to advocate for an end to voter suppression in all its forms and in all its spaces. >> remember, stacey abrams comes at this from a long time ago. this has been her work for several years. ache ra abrams pushed for georgia to adopt an election system that allows for paper ballots and the hand counting of ballots which she calls an auditable systems. that's what a lot of election experts are calling for these days. we'll be right back. you're watching msnbc. ors usualr them because, often,
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them in the unofficial returns. now, today is day two of the state board of elections hearing, which is working to figure out whether it needs to hold another election. that's how bad things are. several voters claim that one man behind a get out the vote effort collected absentee ballots and either changed the vote or didn't submit them. he was literally walking around with these things in bags. and just hours ago a key witness testified about the arrangement made with that man, leslie mccray dowless. >> were you aware of the payment arrangement that had been made with him? >> yes, ma'am. >> what was that arrangement? >> the arrangement as it was explained to me was a monthly fee for mr. dowless. i believe that was $1200. $1200 during the primary. we went up to 1625 per month in the general election. he was to be paid for absentee ballot requests, forms that he he generated. that was $4 an ab sebtee ballot
request form in the primary. went up to $5 an absentee ballot request form in the general. my understanding from what mr. dowless told me was that money all went to the workers, that that money didn't go to him, that it all went to the workers he was employing. >> now, dowless was a consultant hired by get this, republican mark harris's campaign. and yesterday his stepdaughter testified that he directed her to fill out ballots that were not completed. >> so if it was unand tsealed ae ballot was not completely load ed voted you would fill in the other offices? >> yes. >> and who directed you to do
that? >> it's important. there was actually a house seat at stake here. nbc's leanne caldwell is in north carolina. she's following this closely. she joins me now. leanne, there just seems to be a preponderance of evidence that something is amiss and that somebody had ballots that weren't filled out and was getting paid for them and that there are a whole bunch of people who think the only solution here is to have a new election. >> that's right, ali. and that's what this hearing is producing. what we are finding out is this hearing is showing there is fraudulent activity regarding these absentee ballots. the state investigators opened the hearing yesterday morning with this really explosive claim saying there was unlawful corroborated activity and there was very widespread and coordinated. and that set the tone of the hearing that has detailed a lot of suspicious and unlawful activity regarding these absentee ballots. this person at the center of the storm really is mccrae dowless,
who you just spoke about. and dowless, his stepdaughter testified against him, saying that they not only illegally collected absentee ballots but they sometimes tampered with them as well. now, the missing piece here that has not been corroborated is what the republican candidate mark harris knew. he did of course hire dowless to work on his campaign, or to contract out for his campaign for some of these get out the vote efforts, but there's no indication yet that mark harris knew exactly the work that dowless was doing, ali. >> all right. so technically speaking, there are three democrats and two republicans on this committee? >> yeah, that's right. and what they're going to do at the end of this hearing, which could be tomorrow-s they're going to have to decide on if they're going to hold a new election or if they're going to certify this race for the republican mark harris, who has
a slim lead. and if they are going to certify the race, it only needs the support of three board members. if they're going to call for a new election, it needs the support of four board members. there's three democrats, two republicans on the board. and we should find out within the next 24 to 48 hours what is going to happen with this final house race that has yet still to be determined. >> it is a wild story. leanne, thanks very much. leanne caldwell for us in raleigh, north carolina. msnbc national correspondent tremaine lee spoke to officials in north carolina last month, and the sheriff's candidate who lost in that uncertified election. >> i am not familiar with mccrae before all this happened. >> you never heard of him? >> i personally had no knowledge of him. i mean, you know, it all kind of runs together. we deal with a lot of things. we didn't hire him. we didn't engage him. we don't know what he did. and if he broke the law he should be held accountable. >> what about those who hired mccrae dowless?
should they be held accountable as well? >> we believe in mark harris. we have no reason to believe he did anything wrong. >> do you buy that republican leaders didn't know about this? >> i certainly do not. under any circumstance i would. >> they knew -- >> they knew him as sure as they knew their next-door neighbor. i was lead investigator at the state board of elections for over 15 years. well, what i found was vote buying at like $5 a vote -- >> $5 will get you a vote. >> and maybe a beer. and this was mainly mccrae dowless that rumors and the vote buying was coming from. and we were not talking as far as mccrae dowless picking up absentee ballots back then. moving on, mccrae dowless has gotten much more brazen as the years have gone on. >> with what you found did anyone ever face any criminal
charges? >> no. no. >> it should not be that we have to cheat to win. it should not be that we have o to -- >> you ran for sheriff and you lost. with everything swirling around the election do you think that maybe something might have happened in your race? >> when you look at the 9th district, it covers nine counties-w bladen county being involved. if one race in that county is tarnished, to me it tarnished the whole race. >> tremaine lee joins me now. tremaine, good to see you, my friend. there's a lot of history here in north carolina, redistricting efforts that took place that redrew it so that republicans controlled 10 of the 13 congressional districts. they are now approving -- they approved a constitutional amendment that's going to make it harder to vote. >> that's right. >> i.d. laws. so something's not smelling right in north carolina as it relates to how votes are cast and counted. >> there's certainly a long
history, especially in the rural southeastern part of the state. gerrymandering is one thing, right? politicians choosing their voters. but there's a long history of allegations of voter fraud and election fraud. when you've spent any time down in bladen county, even though mccrae dowless has emerged as an unlikely figure at the center of this political storm, everyone knew what he was up to. >> interesting. >> so when you talk to republican leaders and ask them did you know who this guy was and should anyone be held accountable, they're stammering over themselves that they've never heard of this guy but everyone in town, it's small town politics. he was what some people describe as, again, a two-bit criminal and there was no question what he's up to and that's why they hire him. again, any amount of time there, you talk to people at the diner, you're talking p politicians and voters. i went to a neighborhood where they said that people were descending on this poor black community where folks were coming in to pick up absentee ballots. being in possession of someone's absentee ballot is a crime let alone filling it out. there's a long history going back at least 2010. and that's more recent. but it's a long, long scandalous
history down there. >> it is kind of a crazy story and you know all sorts of characters work on elections but you would think if you knew somebody was involved in criminal activity you wouldn't want to be paying them to -- >> but it's also payday for a lot of get out out the vote peo. we're talking about a very rural, poor segment of the state and look for elections as pay y payday. >> interesting. thanks for your reporting on this as always. to another story now. the legal challenges to the president's emergency declaration are officially under way. the latest is from a group of 16 states which is trying to prevent president trump from redirecting billions of dollars to construct his border wall. the states all have democratic governors except one, maryland. the lawsuit claims president trump has ignored the balance of power and, quote, veered the country toward a constitutional crisis of his own making. for more on this, i'm joined now by one of those attorneys general who joined the lawsuit. graywall from new jersey. sir, thank you for joining us. >> thanks for having me. >> let's talk a little bit about standing.
earlier, danny cevallos was on here, we were speaking to the attorney general of maryland. the question he had, i'm going to paraphrase it, what's the standing of somebody in new jersey or maryland about a border wall on the southern border and a national security issue? >> that's a great question. and a lot of this will be borne out in the l itigation. primarily as state attorneys general we have an obligation to push back against the administration when they violate the rule of law, when they violate our constitution and in this case over a manufactured crisis which the president said he didn't need to do. that hurts new jersey because the min being pulled for this border wall, which is unnecessary, is being pulled from money we could use for public safety in new jersey, which we would use for drug interdiction in new jersey. that's the potential harm to new jersey residents. we intend to use the litigation to find out exactly where the funding will be pulled from. >> i want to play you what the president said on friday which a lot of legal experts are saying may have been his legal undoing in terms of this national emergency. let's listen. >> but on the wall, they
skimped. so i did -- i was successful in that sense, but i want to do it faster. i could do the wall over a longer period of time. i didn't need to do this, but i'd rather do it much faster. and i don't have to do it for the election. i've already done a lot of wall for the election. 2020. >> what's the problematic part about this, the fact that he said for the election, the fact far he said i didn't need to do this, i just want to do it faster? >> everything. everything's wrong with it. he didn't need to do it. there's no emergency. it's purely ideologically driven. this is to satisfy a campaign promise. it's a vanity project. the reason he's doing it is to appease his base. and every fact that they put forward undermines their own arguments. the wall is not going to stop terrorism, the wall is is not going to stop drugs. there's not a crime problem that the wall is going to stop. it's all undermined by tear own data and that's just the final nail in the coffin where he said he didn't need to do this. >> i was also talking to danny
about a national emergency. it's a sort of a complicated not most well-defined thing in america. it's part of a whole lot of different laws, but one of the things danny said is federal law contains to real guidance on whether the validity or definition of a national emergency turns on a president's honest belief that it exists. nor do emergency declarations turn on how long the situation existed prior to the declaration." so the problem is, i think we had 58 emergency declarations. >> 58 or 59. yeah. >> 58 or 59. of which some 30 or 31 are still in place. how do you deal with something that's sort of nebulous? >> when the law was enacted in 1979, one of senators who put forward the law said this declarati declaration, this power that we're giving the president has to be limited and can't be used for partisan purposes or frivolous reasons. the flclip you showed showed e t exactly that.
this is a partisan wall, a frivolous idea and not an emergency. i think the drafters of this law looked out for this type of conduct. this is precisely the type of conduct that doesn't constitute a emergency. there's no there, there. there's not even a close call here. >> new jersey attorney general gurbir grewal, thanks for being here. >> thanks for having me. up next, we're getting a step closer to have a new branch of the military. president trump's space force. we're going to explain that after the break. you're watching msnbc. the nerves in your colon. miralax is different. it works with the water in your body to unblock your system naturally. and it doesn't cause harsh side effects. that's why i choose miralax. look for the pink cap.
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the space force is one step closer to happening. president trump signed a policy directive last hour requesting the defense secretary draft legislation to establish the first new military branch in more than half a century. space force was controversial at first because the air force already has the air force space command, and because early estimates found a new branch would cost about $13 billion. imagine how much wall you could get for that? today the white house announced plans to reduce the expense and the redundancy by ordering the pentagon to consolidate into this new branch. eventually headed by a general or admiral who will also zemserve on the joints chi of staff. to counter threats in space from countries like china and rush sla. there's no word yet about what the space force uniform will look right. i have ideas, though. while the u.s. turns its attention to space, other private companies are as well.
the lower price of solar panels is fueling something of a solar revolution and we're now seeing supersized solar farms popping up across the world, and soon, here's the interesting part, in space. makes sense, right? why not have your sole faear fa space in nbcnews.com has an in-depth look at how the panels are powering the future. it's part of a new series you should be sure to check out. go to nbcnews.com/poweringthefuture. this is an interesting area. we're going to be focusing on it. all right. i want to take a quick look at the markets before the close and i want to show you magic. what you're looking at on the dow is magic. it was in the negative. it was in the red. then it was in the green because right at that point, president trump said something about the march 1inth deadline to reach a deal with china. he said it's not a magic date which means we might still get some kind of a deal with china. investors like that. that's why you're seeing gains on all three markets. it is magic. that wraps up -- that wraps
up -- my mouth is not magic today. that wraps up the hour for me. i'm going to see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. eastern with stephanie ruhl ae and 3:00 p.m. eastern. "deadline white house with nicolle wallace" starts now. hi, everyone, it's 4:00 in new york. we have a breaking news bonanza today. "the new york times" out this afternoon with an obstruction of justice opus. it's the kind of reporting that reframes how we look at questions about the potential depth and breadth of donald trump's conduct. in this instance, obstruction of justice. the new york edition. new reporting in "the new york times" making clear that donald trump sought to interfere with the investigations out of the southern district of"times" als reporting on the obstruction of justice case into the president likely being assembled by robert s. mueller. we start with the cases out of new york which many trump allies believe represent a grave legal threat to the president. from the "times" today, "as federal prosecutors inan