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thanks for watching "360," our coverage continues. "cnn tonight" with don lemon starts now. >> this is cnn breaking news. >> breaking news, attorney general jeff sessions speaking out moments ago on the political firestorm on his preelection conversations with the russian ambassador. i'm don lemon.
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listen to what jeff sessions tells fox news. >> never had conversations with russian about the campaign, them assisting in the campaign, anything like that. >> that's in the wake of the attorney general's announcement he will recuse himself from any investigation related to the trump campaign. president trump defending attorney general and charging democrats are quote overplaying their hand. and learning that vice president mike pence routinely used private e-mail account as governor of indiana. talk to the reporter who broke to story. get to jeff zeleny and mish ale kosinski. earlier today attorney general recused himself from investigations related to the trump campaign, possible contacts with russia. what is the latest? >> stunning turn of events in the last 24 hours.
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late last evening breaking in "the washington post" when senior official said it's all partisan, nothing to see here. but end of today attorney general holding news conference at justice department recusing himself from any investigations at all. this is not any cabinet member. senator sessions was first to endorse this president. as close as anyone on thor in circle is to this president and by the end of the day recusing himself not simply because democrats complaining but republicans calling for him to step aside, he's not objective enough potentially to address any type of investigation. but this is what the attorney general said tonight on fox. >> i have not had any such meetings. not meeting with russian officials on continuing basis to
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advance any campaign agenda. sometime before that i had met in my office in official way with the russian ambassador. and so that was the answer i gave. i think it was an honest answer, tucker, i thought i was responding exactly to that question. and really became a big brouhaha. >> he's right about there. it's big brouhaha to use his words there but republicans again also concerned about this. goes back to how he answered the question in the confirmation hearing. if he ever had meet wgz russian officials and turns out he did. that's the reason he had to recuse himself. not anything anticipated 24 hours ago and overtaken entire message this president tried to deliver this week, speech he gave, making case for his agenda. not much room for that today with the attorney general
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conversation. >> and play another part of the interview where he talks about not recalling what happened during the meeting. listen. >> i don't recall any discussion of the campaign in any significant way. it was in no way coordinating of effort by doing anything improper. and i don't believe anybody that was in that meeting would have seen or believed i said one thing that was improper or unwise. >> right. >> and it was really a sad thing to be attacked like that. but think we've explained it and we intend to move forward. >> jeff, during his confirmation, he said he had no contact. now he's saying he doesn't recall what happened in the meeting. what are americans to believe here? >> that is the issue here. we don't know what happened in the meeting. don't know there was anything unethical or improper that happened in that meeting. but remember during this confirmation hearings, he said there was no meeting. just theness is of what we're
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learning day by day, hour by hour here is alarming republicans in this town. leave democrats aside for a second. this is alarming republicans because things coming out in real time. we don't know the full answer but this emboldened congressional investigators to try to get to the bottom of this. >> another part of the interview is why he believes he should recuse himself. >> reason i believed i should recuse myself is because i was involved in the campaign. to a degree i think it would have been perceived that i wouldn't be objective in participating in investigation that might involve the campaign. >> right. >> so he seems to understand that now but that was part of the question presented by senator al franken at the time. he's saying he didn't understand it during the questioning. >> saying that because the question referred to people associated with the campaign, campaign surrogates, did they
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have contacts with russians, he wasn't thinking of himself in capacity as committee member meeting with ambassador, normal thing to do, but thinking in terms of campaign surrogates meeting about the campaign with russians. so he maintains that he did not still talk about the campaign in these meetings, but his mind was framing it differently. of course now in retrospect he says, he wished that he had been able to clarify it then. >> so many questions here. jeff, i understand we're hearing from the white house. what is the white house saying? >> we are indeed. president again this evening trying to stop this conversation and talk about this. look at statement here. jeff sessions is an honest man. he did not say anything wrong. he could have stated his response more accurately. but it was clearly not intentional. this whole narrative, the president says, is way of saving face for democrats, losing an
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election that everyone thought they were supposed to win. the democrats, he says, are overplaying their hand. they lost the election and now they lost their grip on reality. the real story he goes on to say is illegal leaks and all the other information. it is a total witch hunt. witch hunt it may be but not democratic one. thing that pushed them to action today was criticism and worry from republicans. >> similar to what happened with general flynn. moments before he resigned or some movement in the story, white house contemplating what to do yet standing behind him and issuing similar statements at the same time. >> and remember in that case he said he didn't recall but we know that those conversations between flynn and russian ambassador were captured and recorded by routine u.s. surveillance.
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so whatever was said in those conversations flynn knew that because it was recorded, there was absolutely no way to -- even if he couldn't remember what he talked about, if there was a chance he did say that, it's there on a wire tap and transcript for people to read. in the case of sessions, this whole meeting and way he thought of it in his mind under questioning could have been exactly as he said. i mean, this all could be precisely as he described it. he gave some detail today when he was talking in press conference. but given this issue was so sensitive, even though the flynn issue was fresh while sessions was being questioned during the confirmation hearing, just with the russian hacking, such a sensitive subject, you would think that the future attorney general would in his mind think what contacts at all have i had
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with russian officials and that he would have been extremely careful to mention that he had this meeting, benign, with a russian ambassador just to get that point across under that kind of questioning under those circumstances. of course that's not the way it happened. read "the washington post" calling kislyak the least memorable man in the world. >> interesting that you said what you said. during the interview and questions today, wondering why he didn't amend his statement, especially given what happened with flynn, flynn having to resign for something that white house said they didn't believe was big deal and had the fu confidence. >> new information. >> fill us in. >> at the time of the republican convention last summer in ohio,
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in cleveland, other campaign officials, foreign policy advisers and others meeting with the russian ambassador. that's not all. also after the election at trump tower in december, jared kushner, the president's son-in-law, and michael flynn also met with the russian ambassador. not meetings part of the time line at any time before right now. at this point the white house is trying to put everything out there or more things out there about meetings and everything. we know about multiple meetings. question hanging over this, what did the russians hope to gain from these meetings? we don't have an answer to that. >> thank you jeff and michelle. bring in the reporter that broke the story that mike pence used private e-mail account to conduct business as governor of indiana and was hacked. thank you for joining us.
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reporting that vice president mike pence as governor of indiana used his e-mail for state business. what can you tell us? >> we filed public information request and got e-mails that showed that pence routinely corresponded with top advisers on matters of state business including matters of state security, discussed fbi arrests in terror related case with state homeland security adviser. and additional e-mails not provided to us in response to the records request, deemed too sensitive, exemptions in the open records law for deliberative and confidential materials. so were also additional e-mails, not sure how many withheld for that reason. using this account to deal with
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sensitive issues. >> was this illegal for him to do this? >> state law is silent on whether you can use private e-mail address, but i don't think it's uncommon. what he needs to do to comply with the law is make sure that any e-mails related to state business are retained and available to the new administration, in this case for example, so that people can request those e-mails through the public records. >> did that happen? >> what pence's team told us, he has hired a private law firm to go through his aol e-mails and provide those to the state of indiana. they say that process started sometime around when his term was finishing up. but there's some -- we're not totally clear on whether the new
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administration necessarily agrees with that assessment. still waiting on more information from them. >> sounds awfully familiar doesn't it? >> whether they have in fact received those e-mails. >> sounds familiar. >> pence criticized hillary clinton pretty harshly on using private e-mail account on accountability and having sensitive materials that could be hacked. >> and preserving the record as well. >> there are differences. pence didn't have security clearance for federal issues the way that clinton did. obviously not dealing with quite as sensitive information. >> and didn't have private e-mail server in basement but used private e-mail account. there is a difference. >> that's right. >> but e-mail account was hacked? >> that's right. a scammer appears to have been able to penetrate pence's e-mail
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account and able to send e-mail to his contacts saying that pence and his wife were stranded in the philippines and needed some money wired to them. we know at least one hacker was able to break into his e-mail. >> you obtained some of the e-mails. what was in them? >> there are a variety of issues. ones we requested for security related. there's discussions about everything from the security gate at governor's reds denside how the state is responding after shooting at canadian parliament. most sensitive thing we did see was some requests and updates about investigations. in one case a terror investigation. now his homeland security official responded with information about some fbi
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arrests but does appear a lot of that information if not all was already public. but he says in that e-mail he just got an update from the fbi and relaying that information to pence. >> no response from the white house or the vice president tonight? >> the vice president's office sent us a statement saying that pence didn't break any laws and complied with all indiana laws regarding these records and also said that any comparison to clinton is absurd. >> tony cook, thank you very much. i appreciate it. >> thanks for having me. >> when we come back, white house in turmoil tonight over new revelations of campaign advisers' communications with russia. can the trump administration get past all this? modern life deserves a modern way to pay.
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breaking news, tern general jeff sessions speaking out. he will recuse himself from any investigation into the trump campaign. bring in robert ray. investigator for whitewater and ron nairn for ted cruz's campaign. and -- and richard painter. ethics lawyer under george w. bush. attorney general maintains he didn't lie to congress. did he perjure himself as some democrats are saying go too far? >> it's overstated. don't want to accuse anyone but in context i go with mike
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mackaceae. and the president got to right, i don't think there's any intention to mislead and anybody who says the little there warranted perjure prosecution doesn't understand how difficult that is to do. issue is not that but the underlying facts and what the context is. now that the attorney general has recused himself, ordinary processes will get at whether there is issue or not. >> shouldn't there be recordings, acting in capacity as senator, be someone in the office with him at the time during the meeting? shouldn't there be a transcript of the meeting? >> i don't know if transcript. i think he already acknowledged at press conference he recalled at least two or three people that were there when the ambassador was there. i imagine if there's issue, investigators will get to the bottom of that. happen through the ordinary processes of the department of
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justice. anybody that suggests that the attorney general should resign for justice department incapable of handling a full inquiry, we're three weeks into his tenure, seems overblown. richard, he maintains he didn't lie to congress. do you think he perjured himself or are democrats overplaying their hands as president said? >> what he said wasn't true. he said he had no contacts with the russians. he didn't qualify it saying no contacts about the campaign. he said he didn't have contacts with the russians. >> are you saying it's convenient excuse now he's found out? >> well, he had two contacts with the russians. he didn't tell the truth. whether inadvertent or had amnesia or intended to lie, i don't know, obviously to prove perjury, have to prove intent to
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lie but answer was not true, statement was not true. that's worrisome. standard for attorney general isn't whether they have committed perjury. you want an attorney general able to discuss critical issues such as contacts with the russians truthfully and to remember meetings that he had with the russian ambassador only months earlier. russian spying on u.s. citizens is a very serious problem. they're doing this in other countries as well. we just heard about vice president pence's e-mail as governor of indiana, my concern is the russians get into aol accounts and hack them. we have a serious problem with russian espionage in the united states and if we can't remember and tell the truth, that's not
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conduct befitting attorney general of the united states and i'm very worried about that. >> brian stick with us, do you think because democrats releasing statements, stepping up the microphone, saying that jeff sessions needs to resign, do you think they're overplaying their hand? >> i think justified in at least suggesting needs to be perjury investigation here. the facts are attorney general jeff sessions raised right hand, swore an oath and made a statement that was demonstrably false as richard noted. we don't know if willfulness was at hand, maybe did have amnesia, benefit of the doubt but should be investigation. but if it was benign meeting and in official capacity as senator, why not volunteer it and set the record straight when he had the follow-up opportunity with
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written questions from senator leahy. i think he said in one answer to tucker carlson he could not recall discussing the election in any significant way. that's two caveats in one sentence. i work at justice department. strikes me as lawyer speak for yes he discussed the election with the russian ambassador. i think democrat and republicans are justified in calling for investigation. >> good question from tucker, considering what happened with michael flynn why didn't you amend your statement. or did anyone on your staff say holy smokes perhaps should clarify? no. never gave that a thought, or considered he needed to clarify something when michael flynn was forced to resign over something
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similar. >> i think very different circumstances and sessions deserves benefit of the doubt. if you watch the whole questioning session, that was campaign context and he met with the russian ambassador in senate capacity. not unusual. and not unusual for ambassadors and other representatives of foreign governments to look at our campaign. i met with a ambassador in south carolina. it was simply a conversation where they were coming down to south carolina to witness the primary process and so on. it's not unusual for people in a campaign to have conversations with ambassadors at all. and in this case it was in his official capacity. so i think when you look at context, it's clear that he did not -- we was not referring -- >> i've got to ask you ron. >> thinking of himself in campaign capacity whatsoever. >> you have to give people
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benefit of the doubt but attorney general of the united states and highest in that capacity and at confirmation hearing, you've been serving not only as surrogate but adviser to campaign, you're a senator as well, they ask you about contacts with russians, why -- how could that slip your mind if you are vying for such an important office? >> well, you'd have to ask him. >> truth and context matter. >> asking question about the inside of his brain. but the entire leadup to that line of questioning was in the context of representatives of the campaign. i don't think senator sessions was in any capacity a decision maker, or anything with respect to the campaign. there were other people who clearly were having interactions with the russians, it appears, documented pretty well so far. even though those individuals probably not happy about it but
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not senator sessions this is way overblown. senator cruz is right calling it a nothing burger because that's what it is. there are plenty of things that have taken place to far that have been wrong but this is not one of them. >> if it's big nothing burger, why recuse himself? continue the discussion after the break.
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back now with breaking news
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on cnn, reports that vice president mike pence routinely used private e-mail account to conduct business as governor of inlds and it was hacked. from the "indiana star." reporter was just here. panel is back. what do you think? >> it's credit to the reporter who broke the story. gumshoe reporting for him. hillary clinton's use of personal e-mail server was inappropriate, think if do it over again, do it differently and greatly regrets it to this day. during the campaign it was overblown, taken to great extremes and all perspective lost. because this is very widespread and common, including with vice president pence. won't be holding my breath for any republicans on capitol hill
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crying foul about hillary clinton to do the same with the vice president. >> and of course it's been say didn't have private e-mail server and hillary clinton did, it's difference. but report says that chief technology officer at computer security company said the e-mail accounts of pence and clinton were probably equally vulnerable to attacks. in this case they had been hacked and would be hypocritical to consider the issue different than a private e-mail server. >> as soon as find server in his bathroom, will be comparable. but everyone in the u.s. government needs to step it up with cybersecurity. needs to be aware your accounts are vulnerable to hacking and
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need to be trained on what phishing it and other techniques. in the case of vice president pence it was scammer looking to make a couple of bucks who penetrated his account but in the case of hillary clinton, john podesta and dnc, more nefarious characters at place. but people in the u.s. government in any capacity at all need to step up and make sure their accounts are secure and not conducting state business on private accounts. >> brian you're not buying that. >> no. ron said a bunch of things that aren't true. no server in a bathroom. and personal e-mail is personal e-mail. neither should have been using it for government work but stop excusing it for pence's case because it's same thing. tell me the difference?
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>> because hillary clinton's e-mail system was designed to avoid scrutiny and keep her private e-mails out of the hants of a republican congress and you lost the election because of it. done deliberately and designed by lawyer and you guys paid the price. no one would trust that someone who went to the extent that hillary clinton did to keep e-mails that were government business out of the oversight of the u.s. government is believable. that's why you're not in the white house right now and donald trump is. >> the do think the way this was blown out of proportion exacted a heavy price and auto reason it -- >> not blown out of proportion. >> with all due respect, not answering the difference with mike pence. used personal e-mail for work purposes. didn't hand over any of those personal e-mails he used until after he left the governor's
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office according to the report. used own personal attorneys to review and decide which was government related and which wasn't. exact same circumstances. not saying he did anything wrong. >> not exact same circumstances as your former boss whatsoever. >> how are they different. >> ron, according to the technology expert said both as vulnerable and would be hypocritical to consider this different. >> it's very different. >> you believe it's different he doesn't believe it. >> nobody sets up private serve for that purpose. >> during the campaign mike pence talked about hillary clinton's uses private server. >> after concluding that hillary clinton was only extremely careless handling classified information, on friday, director comey and the fbi announced they'd learned of the existence of e-mails that appear pertinent to their investigation and the
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fbi has reopened the investigation. we want to commend the fbi for reopening this case. for one simple principle. and that is no one is above the law. >> why doesn't she release all the 33,000 e-mails she didn't turn over to the fbi and congress initially. i think the american people have a right to know. >> the fbi has reopened the investigation into hillary clinton's classified -- handling of classified documents on her server. >> lock her up, lock her up. >> so ron my point is that you and brian aren't going to solve it now. wasn't solved for two years or more. but bring robert in here. does this put president trump and republicans in a sticky spot here? >> no. look there's one simple distinction, one involves national security information and other doesn't. i agree with the general premise
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that every public official needs to be careful about separating the personal from the public's business. you get into trouble particularly in a world now where we need to be more and more concerned from a cybersecurity perspective about the ability to be hacked. only in that sense are the two situations comparable. major distinction is one involved national security information and other doesn't. rest of it is getting lost in the weeds. >> and argument between the two gentlemen there. richard i have to ask you this. learning that days from br trump took office turned down ethics training used by previous administrations. wondering if this could have be avoided. >> should get used to this.
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i gave ethics lectures and told them to not use personal e-mail for official government business and people went ahead and did it. no nobody thought classified information. be crazy but. of course the investigation is about politics. we all know that. bottom line is stop using personal accounts for official government business and also don't write anything embarrassing in your personal account because it's probably copied to vladimir putin, he's got it. that's the world we live in. >> can you see a big difference between pence and clinton? >> i think using personal e-mail server for any official government business is a dumb move. that's what i told people in the white house. but it's not illegal. and you know, i think we should make it illegal because one, it
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is a security risk, that's the biggest risk, in the hand of some foreign power and presidential records act and state level they have obligation to retain state records. just flat-out rule it's illegal. hasn't been the rule. people doing it despite the advice. it's not good idea and going on. written in the clinton staff manual, don't use it. got to have a rule, no more of that. get into political food fight over it. >> i've got to go. thank you all. i appreciate it. coming back. the white house says nothing to see here with repeated contacts between trump officials and the russians, but what do both parties want to get out of these contacts? that's next. ♪
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we've learned that attorney general jeff sessions met with the russian ambassador prior to the election and he's not the only one. senior aide jared kushner and ousted adviser michael flynn also met with the ambassador. discuss with senior fellow at counsel of foreign relations and author. and former rt anchor and associate professor at stonybrook school of -- and author. almost from the beginning the trump campaign has had a
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compelling, puzzling questions about why he is friends with russia and won't criticize vladimir putin and so on. what do you think? >> i think this is a monumental scandal. stress how -- this is to have evidence that president of the united states and his inner circle are in complicit with hostile foreign power. in the past this is only in the pages of bad spy novels. but this is reality. seen numerous senior campaign officials lying about connections with russia. saw paul manafort fired over the summer because of the connections and mike flynn fired because of the connections and now attorney general sessions having to recuse himself from further investigations because of connections with russia. i have a simple question for
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you, if they don't have anything to hide, why are so many of them lying about connections to russia. >> good question. jonathan, what do you think? >> first of all lying is the key thing. not talking -- talking to russians, need more people not fewer talking to russians. one of the cardinal features of the cold war is we blamed everything on the other side and thought the world was a zero-sum game. we don't know to this day what motivates donald trump to be so contrarian and like vladimir putin so very much, not to criticize him. that's a great puzzle and we've talked about this before, we don't know whether someone gave him a lot of money, whether he had a russian girlfriend and saw the wonders of the russian soul or discovered them as crass rich guys like him and made life
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better or saw putin as guy hated by american establishment, everyone in washington and in his contrarian way, he wanted to cheer for him. we don't know. but it's not because they're dealing with the russians, it's because they're lying about dealing with the russians because in this cold war atmosphere to be seen with the russian is a bad thing. that's pretty stupid. >> as they say, it's always the cover-up. liz, i have to ask you seems daily oar weekly find out about another trump campaign or administration adviser or surrogate or official with a tie to russia, what do you think of this campaign? is this targeted campaign by the russians? >> according to u.s. intelligence agencies it is, that was the conclusion, that russia hacked u.s. elections with the intent both to undermine democracy and to get president trump elected. after the election, the russian officials were clanking
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champagne glasses in celebration. you got to think why is the kremlin, russian propaganda, targeted hacking, clearly campaigning for trump to get elected. so there's this web of connections and a lot of shadiness, lot of questions. this is just adding on to all the existing questions. one thing that's striking for me is beyond just these questionable characters with connections to russians is the rhetoric we're hearing from surrogates and trump himself. mr. sanders mentioned we don't know what trump wants or what his motivations are. haven't seen his tax returns. but we know what putin wants. he wants sanctions lifted on the ukraine, hurt their economy. he wants to see a weekend nato. he wants to see a weekend european union. and trump has spoken to all those things and also supported
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brexit, also called into question the relevance of nato. he once made a statement saying he might recognize the annexation of crimea. just a couple of weeks ago there was -- i was in ukraine recently, uptick in violence on the front line there, it was after a phone call between trump and putin and trump was asked does that bother you and he said he didn't know if russian forces were even -- if russia was even backing separatists and ukrainians, this is just a known thing among the policy community and people watching what is going on. it's really puzzling. another thing, being in ukraine, sanctions are a huge deal for them. seen as one of the only things deterring russian aggression, it's existential thing, really counting on allies, u.s. and
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nato. it's disturbing to see sanctions as possibly back door deals being made. it's remarkable. >> and what of attorney general's connection to russia? we'll discuss that next. ♪ say carl, we have a question about your brokerage fees. fees? what did you have in mind? i don't know. $6.95 per trade? uhhh. and i was wondering if your brokerage offers some sort of guarantee? guarantee? where we can get our fees and commissions back if we're not happy. so can you offer me what schwab is offering? what's with all the questions? ask your broker if they're offering $6.95 online equity trades and a satisfaction guarantee. if you don't like their answer, ask again at schwab. there's nothing more than my
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back now. max let go through this. time line. april of 2016. then-candidate trump met with sergey kislyak, russian ambassador before a speech in washington. in july 2016 senator jeff sessions met at republican convention in cleveland. and three others. carter paige, j.d. gordon and -- met with him. and september 2016 jeff sessions meets one-on-one with the ambassador in his office and december 2016 jared kushner and michael flynn met with the ambassador. he's known as top spy recruiter. why meeting with him? what is going on here? >> i worked as foreign policy adviser on three presidential
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campaigns, and i don't remember having these contacts with hostile foreign powers and goes beyond this. "new york times" reported that u.s. and dutch intelligence have found communications. if there's benign explanation i'd love to hear it. not hearing that. we're hearing the real problem in the leaks and this is mccarthyism, engaging in name calling and not explaining what is going on. this is serious. we need to get to the bottom of this, know what happened. this was attack on the foundations of our democracy going on by the russians at the same time that all these trump people were meeting with the russians. >> sometimes officials do meet with foreign ambassadors and agencies. >> of course. >> what bothers you about this so much? >> two things, one is at the same time conducting meetings, russians were undermining our
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democracy, intervening in our election to support donald trump. number two is if everything they were doing is above board and innocent, why lying about it? doesn't make sense. only way to get to bottom of it is have independent counsel appointed by justice department. it's great that attorney general sessions said would recuse himself. but that's not enough. republicans on the hill are shielding trump. being patsies for president trump. not going to get to the bottom of this. >> that's the subpoena power. >> great digging by "washington post," "new york times," "wall street journal" and others but you need subpoena power, needs to be special counsel because you can't trust justice or capitol hill republicans to do a thorough job. >> quickly get the others in. response? >> i don't know how you know that kislyak is a spy recruiter.
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it's hard to be when you're ambassador and everyone is watching you and listening to you all the time. as far as i know he's a professional kploem at. >> that's reporting from cnn and intelligence agencies. >> i just think it's easy i to say it and may not be accurate. second of all, russians were trying to do something, weaken hillary clinton. they were worried that hillary clinton would come in, create a no fly zone. they happen to hate her, think she's complicit in trying to surround russia in the revolution that went on in ukraine and bunch of other things. >> got to go john. >> they got the cracker jk prize when donald trump won. not expecting that. trying to get the pulse. >> i've got to go. >> i talk all the time -- okay. >> get liz in. final word. >> he's the russian ambassador,
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whether or not it's right to characterize him as top spy, he's a mouthpiece working for the russian government. i could go on about this. we'll talk more about it i'm sure. >> thank you all. i appreciate it. we'll be right back. limited dat. t-mobile one save you hundreds a year. right now get two lines of data for $100 dollars. with taxes and fees included. that's right 2 unlimited lines for just $100 bucks. all in. and right now, pair up those two lines with two free samsung galaxy s7 when you switch. yup! free. so switch and save hundreds when you go all unlimited with t-mobile. but shouldn't it be about firsts?d in zeros. and seconds? how about adding a third? we think there's a bajillion ways to measure success. like making your toddler giggle like this. yep that's a success!
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