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tv   Andrea Mitchell Reports  MSNBC  February 14, 2020 9:00am-10:00am PST

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charles have and me and kenny have. but the key thing we had for each other was respect. after we won our first championship, who is the little guy who jumped in my arms? roll the tape. once we figured it out, that's all that mattered to me. >> that wraps up this hour of msnbc live. "andrea mitchell reports" starts right now. >> barr fight, the attorney general says the president's tweets about active criminal cases make his job impossible. is that aimed as restoring his image with his own prosecutors and congress. >> i cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me. pressure points, as he climbs in the polls, mike bloomberg poses a bigger challenge to joe biden, while the former front-runner clings to hope that he can win in south
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carolina. what happens if joe biden does not win south carolina? >> he will be in a very precarious situation. and deal reached? a tentative agreement may have been made between the u.s. and the taliban in order to draw down american troops from our longest war. but former defense secretary ash carter does not trust the taliban to live up to it. >> i would keep a small u.s. presence in afghanistan, continue to help the afghan security forces to strengthen themselves. the taliban, remember what these people stand for, they took the country back to the middle ages. i'm a skeptic. and more on my interview with ash carter coming up as we have breaking news today.
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good day, i'm andrea mitchell in washington where president trump is claiming he did not interfere in roger stone's sentencing despite his tweet pressing for a lighter sentence. william barr surprised many with his declaration that mr. trump should not be tweeting about criminal cases, a rare rebuke from the attorney general loyal to the president's wishes. >> you're saying you have a problem with the tweets? >> yes. well, i have a problem with some of the tweets. i'm happy to say that, in fact, the president has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case. however, to have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department and about judges before whom we have cases make it impossible for me to do
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my job. >> the president going right back to twitter this morning to take issue with at least one comment from that interview, the president saying he has the legal right to interfere in criminal investigations if he ever chooses to do so. democrats still say the fix is in and this supposed declaration of independence by the attorney general is all for show after an unprecedented series of resignations and criticism from elected prosecutors around the nation of how the stone case is being handled. joining me now philip rucker co-author of "a very stable genius," jeff mason and matt miller. first to you, matt miller. you know the justice department better than any of the rest of us. it just seems as though this series of developments on the stone case are so unprecedented,
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so shocking to people inside and outside doj, that what the attorney general has done in this interview with abc does seem to be more for show. how do we judge it? >> today marks one year that bill barr has been attorney general. it's the one-year anniversary of him being in that job. in that time, the president has tweeted and spoken dozens and dozens of times about the people who work at the department, former employees at the department, potential investigations, and barr has never objected to that before. i think the difference that happened this week is that the president did it in such a way, when barr was intervening in a case that involves a close ally of the president who is -- has been convicted of lying to protect the president, it made barr's position untenable inside the department. and i think you have to look at it, there's a great anecdote in phil's book about when the mueller report was transmitted to the justice department, the president wanted to call over to bill barr and ask what he was
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going to do about it. but people told him, just trust the attorney general, he will do the right thing. and the attorney general did. and i think the attorney general has been doing everything the president wants, within his capabilities, he's been launching investigations into the president's perceived opponents, trying to steer investigations into the president's political allies in the most beneficial way and it blew up this week because the president couldn't take the help that barr is giving him, it became untenable for barr inside the department. i suspect other people in the department who are willing to take action maybe to walk out, maybe to pull themselves off cases, that would have made it very hard for bill barr to continue to carry out his job the way the president actually wants him to do and i think that's why you see -- >> wasn't there a criticism of the president's tweets ability a juror, the foreperson on the case, wasn't that criticized by a chief judge in the one -- >> it was. the chief judge for the district of d.c.
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i think, you know, we've gotten used to the president attacking all sorts of people on twitter. the president attacking a private citizen who was doing her civic duty is one of the lowest -- really the lowest things he has done. he was attacking this juror because she's a democrat. that's first of all irrelevant. people on both parties obviously serve on juries and it's something that was known to the stone case. >> and the defense never objected. >> to the stone defense. they never objected. you see the judge, the chief judge for that circuit pushing back because the president is really calling into question the ability of the judicial system to do its job. it's going to be hard for the public to have confidence in the sentence in the stone case no matter what the judge does because of this inappropriate interference by the president and the inappropriate interference by the attorney general pulling back the original sentence filing.
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they've brought question to the justice department and to the ultimate outcome of this case. >> philip rucker, in your book, you outline case after case signifying so much distress by secretary of state, secretary of defense, the secretary of state was fired. we've seen institutions diminished by the president, the intelligence agencies, the state department notably. but the justice department has always -- until now and until the tenure of this attorney general, been a separate entity that could not be politicized. >> yeah. i think that's right, andrea. what we're seeing is a president determined to try to politicize the justice department. he has been venting publicly for all of us to see for months now about the way the justice department handled the russia investigation, about what the president sees as wrongdoing in the origins of that
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investigation and in the execution of it. and in the final conclusions reached by robert mueller, the special counsel, and what you're seeing now with attorney general bill barr is an attorney general more willing to follow what the president wants done, willing to open that investigation as he did into the russia investigation which is going to -- the findings of which we expect to come out at some point here in the near future and the president, because he got away from the russia investigation without legal consequence, because he survived the impeachment proceedings in office, acquitted by the senate, he feels empowered according to the people i've spoken with in recent days, empowered to exercise his power as he sees fit and to do what he wants to do without fear of ramifications or rep percussions. >> is this the ultimate expression of what the late great senator moyhand used to
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call. are we just getting used to this? >> i don't know. but this has been the normal for some time in this administration and probably will be whether it's another year or another five years. >> well, when we talk about this, jeff, daniel patrick was talking about the norms that have always been established in institutions and how they become politicized. and that's what we're seeing here. >> yeah. matt and i were talking about it before how people's sort of appetite/outrage meter has changed because of everything that has happened over the last three years. what i found interesting over the last 24 to 48 hours is how the white house is responded to it. last night you had stephanie grisham releasing a statement saying bill barr's comments don't bother the president at all, the relationship is strong. it seemed like one of those rare moments when the white house thought and the president
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thought this is a time to hold my fire because if you look at bill barr's words versus his deeds, this is someone who has been a supporter of the president for virtually everything that he wanted as a member of his cabinet. then today, probably because the president's been watching the news coverage and getting a lot of play, the president felt like he needed to send out that tweet saying i have a legal right to weigh in on criminal cases even though i haven't so far. that seemed to give just sort of a window into his thinking that, yes, he's okay tolerating what bill barr said about him even though it was critical, but only to so far of an extent. >> so he has a legal right, although it hasn't been the practice of presidents to weigh in. there was an occasion back with richard nixon talking about a case that was pending and a lot of storm over that. >> yeah, look, it depends on what you mean by the right. there's nothing in the constitution, nothing in statue,
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nothing in regulation that prevents the president from taking control of the justice department and ordering the attorney general to carry out his directions in dropping cases and bringing cases. but in practice, the norm since watergate has been that there has been independence from the white house at the justice department. so the president can't used the justice department, can't use the power of the state to investigate people, prosecute people for his own political gains. the president does not believe in that norm. i don't think that bill barr believes in that norm based on his actions, like -- leave aside the words that he used yesterday. if you look at his actions, he's doing everything the president wants. he doesn't want the president giving up the game by talking about it publicly. >> before you go, philip rucker, i want to ask you how you read the return of hope hicks. >> yeah, it's significant. hope hicks was one of the president's closest confidants and advisers throughout the campaign in 2016 and then that
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first year in the white house. her title when she left the white house was communications director but her influence was beyond that. she sat outside the president -- outside the oval office and spoke with him all day about everything. and her return, i think, for the president is going to be something of a comfort blanket. she's something who he is very comfortable around and talking to and as he enters the campaign and the heat of what could be a difficult re-election campaign, he's probably going to be leaning on her for her political and communications advice. >> philip rucker, jeff mason, matt miller, thank you all. boiling over, nevada's most powerful union says its been harassed by bernie sanders supporters. [ fast-paced drumming ]
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nevada's powerful culinary worker's union has decided not to endorse any of the democrats in next week's caucus. they've criticized bernie sanders for his medicare for all plan which the union claims it would jeopardize their benefits. they've said it's led to a barrage of online attacks from sanders' supporters. it's a blow to former joe biden who needs all the support he can get. joining me now garrett haake, dan balz, and yamiche alcindor, white house correspondent for the pbs news hour. welcome all. garrett, first to you out there, the nevada caucus, of course, it's a caucus. let's first of all talk about the procedures. they're not using the same app that iowa used, are they? or are they? >> reporter: no, they're not, but they're using a digital tool for check-in.
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in nevada there's another wrinkle because there's early voting that starts this weekend. they'll have early votes cast. then those numbers get incorporated into the caucus process that happens a week from tuesday. excuse me, the following week. there's an added level of complication here with the early vote even without the app and tool-based process that was a problem in iowa. i've talked to a lot of voters about this. the nevada caucus has generally speaking been a well-run operation. they've not had the same kinds of problems that iowa has. but a lot of nevada democrats are nervous including the campaigns to make sure this goes smoothly and we don't have a repeat of iowa. >> indeed. and, dan balz, what about joe biden? he has to do well in nevada because the next step is south carolina and in south carolina, he's facing some real competition. competition for the african-american vote.
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tom steyer is there who hasn't placed almost anywhere so far but is doing well by spending a lot of money in south carolina and trying to court the african-american vote. >> you're right. vice president biden needs a good showing in nevada in order to tee up the following week in south carolina which is really -- has always been and now even more so is his fire wall or we will see whether it remains his fire wall. there's been an interesting switch in the way he's talked about things. he and his people said he was the candidate who had the broadest support across the party. he has not been able to translate that into votes in either of the predominantly white states that started the process, iowa, new hampshire. now he's saying he's the candidate of black voters and black voters will decide this nomination. it is crucial for him to do extremely well in south carolina. his people believe given the
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fluidity and the volatility and everything we've seen over the last few weeks that there's a way for him to climb back into this race. it will start in nevada. if he has a poor showing, that could weaken him in south carolina. >> first of all, bloomberg is also a big factor. let's talk about bloomberg. he's been courting african-americans, creating a new organization to try to reach out to african-americans. at the same time, he's raised a lot of concerns among people i've spoken to as well as public criticism now, elizabeth warren criticizing him now, because of his comments about red lining, stop-and-frisk. how does he overcome this? >> it's hard to see mike bloomberg overcoming this mainly because there are so many policies that he touched personally as mayor of new york city and that he commented on as mayor of new york city that it's hard for him to then switch and say, i apologize for all the things i think about.
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looking at stop-and-frisk, he was defending this policy up until the moment he got into the race. he said this policy was needed. then you have his comments about red lining, making the case that banks should not have been able to give credit to poor people when really red lining was about targeting specifically black and brown communities and saying these people don't deserve the credit. they say there were people who were targeting black and brown people and giving them credit in a way that was hurting their communities. rather than putting the blame on the people that were possibly taking advantage of people, he was putting the blame on the community. i think he's going to continue to have fierce backlash and elizabeth warren is being very vocal about this. she's also struggling and trying to get a little bit of energy back in her campaign and fire up her supporters. >> how do you explain the very
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predominant influential african-american members of congress, the mayors who have been signing onto mike bloomberg? i think it is, from my reporting, that they are very worried that the front-runner, joe biden, is not going to make it and they're looking for an alternative to bernie sanders. >> well, i think there's that. but there's also this idea that michael bloomberg has been an ally of people who were focused on gun violence. take lucy mcbath. she came to be known publicly because of her son jordan davis being shot and the man being placed in -- being sentenced because he murdered her son. but she said, michael bloomberg was someone who was an ally to me when it came to gun violence. he also gave $5 million to the voting rights organization run by stacey abrams in georgia that is looking at voter suppression. so he's been doing things that african-americans find to be an ally and find him to be an ally in some ways. but i think they're going to be -- his opponents will remind people that he was the mayor who
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liked stop-and-frisk and talked about red lining in the way that he did. >> dan balz, when i was talking to james clyburn yesterday, the african-american vote is 60% of the democratic primary vote. he made it clear he's not endorsing yet. he's not stepped in. although his grandson -- i think it's his grandson is working for joe biden. but this is really high noon, if you will, to mix metaphors for joe biden. he has to win south carolina. it's been said if he doesn't win, it could mean the end of his campaign. >> well, i think that's right. the only hesitation i have in saying that's exactly right is we've seen some odd things happen in this campaign already. you saw amy klobuchar run fifth in the state next to her home state and suddenly -- >> fair point. >> -- come back into a strong third.
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and i think every campaign, particularly the biden campaign and the warren campaign, take some hope that things are so messy right now and so unpredictable, that a bit of a spark can get them back in it. but i think you're absolutely right about south carolina for vice president biden. it has been the key state on the calendar for that campaign from the very start. if he falters in south carolina, it's hard to see he has any real momentum going into super tuesday. >> we should point out that we expect mike bloomberg will be on the debate stage for the first time in nevada next week and this could be tough. they're all going to be gunning for him, dan. >> well, they will be. although they're all going to be gunning for one another in a sense. i think there are a number of the candidates who are eager to have michael bloomberg on that stage and to be able to go after him. he has a mixed record. the things that we were talking about are potential problems with voters for him, put aside the support he has with
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african-american mayors which is impressive. but his record is mixed. there are certain things he's done on gun violence and on climate change that are -- that warm the hearts of liberals in the party and there are things he's done with stop-and-frisk and the red lining and other things that will make people pause. one of the reasons he has support from so many mayors is they have worked with him over the years and they have a lot of respect for him. the second is that he has funded programs in their communities and elsewhere that they have been able to take advantage of. and in a sense, there is a debt being paid as a result of that. and so the mixed record that he has, has been kind of on the sidelines. he's had the ability as a candidate to spend all the money to create his own image and now he's going to have a problem in the debates. >> dan balz, garrett haake, and of course yamiche alcindor, thanks to all.
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breaking news just in from the department of justice, federal prosecutors have decided not to pursue criminal charges against former fbi deputy director andrew mccabe. this according to an email sent to mccabe's attorneys. in a statement to nbc, mccabe's lawyers said we are pleased that andrew mccabe and their family can go on with their lives without this cloud hanging over them. and we can also report that a letter was delivered to former fbi director mccabe's attorneys, the justice department saying in that letter, we write to inform you that after careful consideration, the government has decided not to pursue criminal charges against your client. case closed, i guess. an agreement to bring america's longest war to an end has been reached with the taliban. we'll have the details coming up next. stay with us. you're watching "andrea mitchell reports" right here on msnbc. no.
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and more on that breaking news just in from the department of justice. federal prosecutors deciding not to pursue criminal charges against former fbi deputy
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director andrew mccabe. tom winter joins me now from new york. tom, this is a big deal because mccabe was left twisting for months and months, long after the grand jury has refused to indict him despite pressure from the white house. >> that's correct, andrea. it's been five months since reports came out that a grand jury failed to indict andrew mccabe and obviously significant amount of time after an ig report. the ig report was dated april 13th, 2018. we're coming up on almost two years since it came out that andy mccabe lacked candor, according to the inspector general in interviews they conducted with him regarding leaks to reporters and other activities in his time at the fbi. in the letter to andrew mccabe's attorneys, the justice department says we write to inform you that after careful consideration, the government that has decided not to pursue criminal charges against your
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client. the letter concludes based on the totality of the circumstances and all of the circumstance known to the government at this time, we consider the matter closed. as you remember, andrea, it was approximately two years ago where the fbi fired andrew mccabe prior to him being able to retire and obviously this saga has been going on for a significant amount of time and has caught the president's attention and his ire on twitter. andrea? >> and i think he was fired only maybe a week or two weeks before retirement -- >> i would need to double-check that. but your sense of that is exactly correct. >> tom windster, thank you for e breaking news. more breaking news on the foreign front. officials in munich at the global security conference there have confirmed that a tentative deal with the taliban that could lead finally to american troops being withdrawn from america's longest war. joining me now is wendy sherman
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now at harvard's kennedy school, and james stavridis. both of you have long experience with this dreadful war that has consumed america and taken so many american lives and left so many of our men and women wounded. but a lot of caution here, this is the taliban and, admiral, we're talking about a tentative deal for a seven-day cessation of violence which would then lead to larger talks with the kabul government itself perhaps host bid one of the partners. we're a long way from peace. >> we're so far from peace in our time. hopefully what we're also far from is a vietnamlike crash and burn. three quick points, andrea, based on four years as nato commander, commanding 150,000
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troops in this fight from 2009 to 2013, number one, there is no war-fighting solution here. we're not going to kill our way to success. we have to negotiate a conclusion. number two, the taliban are in plaquable, very difficult. the fact that the ambassador who is negotiating this thing, has managed to get it this far is a tribute given how difficult the opponents are. and number three, however this thing ends up in terms of u.s. troop withdrawals, we need to maintain a conditions-based approach so that we avoid that vietnamlike crash and burn at the end. >> wendy sherman, you've been involved in so many of these negotiations with the taliban, with others. how much would you trust the taliban and perhaps even more importantly, there's nothing in this agreement that would protect the rights that were written into the constitution of
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afghanistan after the taliban were ousted -- was ousted for women and that was so painstakingly negotiated by madeleine albright and you and your other colleagues. also kept up by the bush administration and the very strong importance of the role of women that first lady laura bush held very close to her heart. she was there very often. >> indeed, andrea. i agree with everything that the admiral just said. we're a long way from peace in our time. and probably one of the most sering episodes in my life as a diplomat was going to the refugee camp in pakistan after the taliban had driven women and men out of afghanistan and indeed madeleine and i med with those women because they could only meet with women and the stories they had to tell, these were teachers, doctors, and they
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had been completely denigrated. they had been raped. my daughter was a young teenager at the time and a teenager told me about her sister being raped. when it comes to an agreement with the government and the taliban has completely dismissed the kabul government, so those peace talks are going to be something we have to make sure that women are at the taliban and that they indeed ensure their rights. laura bush has continued her work with women in afghanistan and i really applaud her for that effort. >> and i just wanted to also share with you that our colleague richard engel has just concluded an interview with the foreign minister in munich and we wanted to play a little bit about -- from that interview about how close the iranian foreign minister believes we were to war over the soleimani killing. let's watch.
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>> how close were the united states and iranian to war? it seemed very close to me. >> we were very close to a war because the united states initiated an act of aggression against iranian in a very cowardly way. >> was iran trying to kill american troops? >> we wanted to show to the united states that they cannot bully iran. that actions against iran will have repercussions. but the intention was not to kill anybody. >> where do we stand now with iran, admiral? >> that is a very interesting admission from the foreign minister which i think speaks volumes of the fact that iran is not looking to get into a war with the united states. two points to be made here, one is, the current debate on the hill about war powers, i think
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this puts it sharply in focus. i agree we were within inches of getting into a war. war defined in this case as massive strikes against iran, attacks in the persian gulf, shutting down the gulf, shipping, all of that. we were so close. that should not happen without the congress having a voice in it. so that, i think, is one key point and takeaway. and number two, at this point, i think the iranians are going to lean back and wait for the election. there are two very different paths forward following the election and i think they would be well, well considered to kind of stand down on anything too dramatic at this point, see what the wind blows across in november, and then we'll have to reassess that u.s./iranian relationship. the fundamentals are not good here. there's no military solution here. we have to arrive at a diplomatic way to solve this, the kind of thing that
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ambassador wendy sherman has devoted her life to doing. >> and iran has their own elections and it would not be good to get into war before that is resolved. i don't want to let the week to close without sharing a little bit more of marie yovanovitch's speech, the first time she's spoken out since almost a year ago, she was forced out of her position. this is the career ambassador who's no longer with the state department, marie yovanovitch. >> throwing up our hands is a self-fulfilling prophesy. in these trying times, optimism is no longer a default setting for many of us. it's a choice. we could give up unilaterally or we can believe in ourselves and in our country, do the hard work, make our own luck and hopefully prevail. we always have a choice. >> wendy sherman, the best and
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the brightest, another person forced out of the state department. >> just extraordinary. marie yovanovitch is amazing. i run the center for public leadership at harvard kennedy school and teach students to become exactly the kind of public servant that ambassador yovanovit yovanovitch is. in those comments she talked about leadership, talked about how every student at georgetown, at princeton where she went, harvard where i teach, are privileged and they should be about servant leadership. she's the emblem of servant leadership and is holding on to optimism even as the state department has been hallowed out. she's my hero today and the hero of many people every day. >> and just to add one other point to that, boy, is that the american story? it's the immigrant voice and masha was ambassador when i was commander. she's everything that wendy sherman just said and more.
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>> thank you so much for your perspectives. i knew i could count on the two of you who know everything and everyone. admiral james stavridis, ambassador wendy sherman, thank you so much. the silent majority, why haven't republicans criticized the president's retaliation against impeachment witnesses. you're watching "andrea mitchell reports" only on msnbc. colonial penn can help.
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president trump says that he would be open to voting for a gay presidential candidate. he was asked about this on his radio show yesterday. >> would americans vote for a gay man to be president? >> i think so. i think there would be some that wouldn't and, you know, i wouldn't be among that group, to be honest with you. but i think that, yes, i think that -- it doesn't seem to be hurting pete buttigieg, it
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doesn't seem to be hurting him very much. but there would certainly be a group, you know this better than i do, there would be a group that probably wouldn't. >> this, of course, despite the fact that rush limbaugh, the man that the president gave such honor to in a unique conferring of the medal of freedom at the state of the union address had a screed against pete buttigieg just the other day. joining me now is charlie sykes and rick tyler, republican strategist and former communications director for senator ted cruz, and adam jentleson. nevada is coming up next week. >> it definitely is. >> interesting currents here, let's talk about nevada for a second. because joe biden has to do better in nevada for his sake, even going into south carolina, where south carolinians are going to say, why are we
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sticking with him when he was no future because of how poorly he had done in the first races and he may well do better in nevada because it is much more diverse field. but the culinary union has failed to endorse. they could have endorsed him since they're against bernie on his medicare for all. how do you lead that? >> i think the failure of the bid biden campaign to secure the endorsement was a blow to them. i think endorsing biden was still an option. and so that's a blow to biden. >> what about harry reid, everyone talks about the reid machine. is he just watching or is he playing another role -- >> senator reid is paying close attention to everything that's going on in nevada. i think that he first and foremost thinks the saipcaucus
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first and foremost in his mind. he was key in getting the caucus moved up on the calendar which has been a huge boon for democrats in nevada. it's helped democrats there turn it from what used to be a red state into a blue state these days. he's got the greater good in mind here. his first and foremost goal is to make sure democrats can continue to win in nevada up and down the ballot. >> rick tyler, as you look at the democratic race, they came out of new hampshire so fragmented with the leaderboard changed with amy klobuchar's surprisingly strong finish, based on the momentum i think coming out of that strong debate performance, and elizabeth warren so far behind and joe biden coming in fifth. >> i think amy klobuchar probably benefitted most from iowa sort of being a muddle because she did come in fifth and it's interesting that she's from the midwest and she was rejected there. but new hampshire voters, she finished very strong there.
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joe biden finishing fifth in new hampshire to me, that's the story for him. i think it's over for him because his theory of the race as we say in the business is over. his theory was that he was the person who could beat donald trump and nobody believes that anymore, or at least half the people who did believe it, don't believe it. and now you see that buttigieg and klobuchar, people believe they can beat trump and mike bloomberg can beat trump. biden has got to come back. but i'm skeptical. >> what about bernie sanders, charlie sykes? rick did not mention that bernie sanders could beat donald trump. >> yeah, i'm in the camp of people who don't think that bernie sanders can win this election. i've been talking to a lot of swing voters here in wisconsin, people who are really disgusted and disillusioned by donald trump. and there are swing voters.
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and they might vote for one of the more moderate candidates but they're not going to vote for a democratic socialist, bernie sanders, and i think democrats have to after a billion dollars of research is dumped on him after the media vetting which has not taken place aggressively dismantles him. is this country prepared for four years of radical change and massive disruption of the economy? are they willing to vote for somebody who is going to take away their private insurance? this is a question the democrats need to talk about and the anxiety among senate and house democrats is not ill-placed. that, in fact, bernie sanders as the head of the ticket, could have tremendous consequences all up and down that ticket. >> and rick, what about the republicans in the senate? you know them so well.
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who is going to object to the president? when are they going to say maybe we were wrong about him learning his lessons from impeachment? >> never. >> look at his behavior this week. >> members of the senate are followers. and too many of them were looking at their own states where donald trump is popular. they think their political fortunes are wed to him. i've been often critical of mitt romney. you got to hand it to him. he at least stood up and said the president committed acts worthy of impeachment. i think that's right. and he said so. and he'll be remembered for that. >> indeed. charlie, rick, and adam. good to see you. and coming up, deconstruction, the trump administration's taking a jackhammer to the national security counsel. what's that all about? you're watching andrea mitchel reports on msnbc. s tough to quig cold turkey.
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big changes at the national security counsel. according to a former pentagon speech writer over the last six months robert o'brien has the first restructuring in a generation. he cut a third of the staff. many of them career professionals. it hampers the ability to meet the world's challenges and hamstring the next president.
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and you see vindman was one of the people pushed out and his twin brother. joining me the author of the piece. his new back is "white house warriors". and now we have the trump administration transforming the nfc. how's that working out? >> well, so far the president was complaining for a long time about witch hunts in washington. he's gone on a snake hunt. snakes what he's reportedly calling those in government who oppose him. and the snake hunt, the first target is the national security counsel, the group of staffers created in 1947 to help the presidents meet the challenges of an interconnected world. donald trump and robert o'brien over the last six months have dputed the staff making it both less adept, less cape capable of doing all the jobs that used to do the dot connects and to a degree undermining america's
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ability to meet some of the complicated challenges like coronavirus and other things. >> john, the former defense secretary ash carter who is now at harvard and mit was with me last night. we talked about vindman and his brother both ousted from the nsc. clearly retaliation. and of course the defense secretary mark esper said there would be no actions taken against them, but the president said there should be. they're considering it. this is what carter said about it last night. >> you have to kind of respect progressalism. and -- professionalism. when you do something like that to someone who is a professional and was doing his duty as he saw it, it's more than just a transgression against that individual. it's a transgression against the professionalism of government. >> i mean, he, vindman,
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according to mccaffery, a retired four-star and one of our senior advisers, contributors here, was part of an elite group of military people trained in languages, brought to the nfc because of what they could contribute. and then all he did to get pushed out was answer a subpoena and testify as honestly as he could under oath. >> absolutely. i mean, i think this is clearly not about alexander vindman's performance in his job. donald trump claimed he never met with him, and robert o'brien didn't meet with him. this is clearly about what he did in last fall when he sort of stood up and did what he thought was right and did what everybody else thinks is right. tell the truth when asked questions about what they saw. it's important to remember that this downsizing in the started in september of last year which is exactly the same time as the ukraine scheme blew up. the whistleblower's report went
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live at the end of september and robert o'brien at his first town hall on october 10th told the national security council he was gutting the staff by a third. this is about more than vindman. this is about in some ways punishing a institution that didn't play along with the ukraine scheme and punishing those willing to step up and testify to congress and tell everybody and tell us, the public, what happened. >> there was criticism under president obama the nsc was bloated, not what it was intended to be. what the professionals at the nsc do is in different bureaus, for different dwigs, they report up facts, intelligence. they help inform the decision makers and you don't have that, and you also don't have a national security cabinet anymore with great experience. >> yeah. they connect the dots. right? they help make sure all the pieces in government are talking to each other and the policies are synchronized. you see even more than punishing
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those who opposed donald trump, this is about imposing his world view on the national security council. focusing less on transnational issues and more on the geographic transactional deals he likes to make with other heads of state. >> that's it for today. happy valentine's day to everyone. chris jansing is in new york. >> happy valentine's day to you. thank you so much, andrea mitchel. good afternoon. i'm chris jansing. we have breaking news with the department of justice. just announcing they will not bring charges against former fbi deputy director andrew mccabe for allegedly lying to investigato investigators. this move likely to anger president trump and potentially escalate ongoing tensions with attorney general bill barr. trump has publicly urged that action be taken against mccabe who was acting head of the fbi after the president fired james comey. joining me now, investigations