tv MSNBC Live With Velshi and Ruhle MSNBC January 3, 2018 8:00am-9:00am PST
prisoners. but you know what happened earlier today? the ethiopian leader in a surprise to a lot of folks announced he plans to release all political prisoners and close one of the country's most notorious prison camps. this photo courtesy of the associated press. we would love to hear your thoughts on facebook, twitter, snapchat, and instagram. that does it for me. i'll see you from the white house north lawn later this afternoon. now more news with stephanie ruhle, hey, lady. >> hey, lady, make sure you have your hat, coat, and scarf on, it's cold out there. >> will do. my partner alley velshi is off. it's wednesday, january 3rd. brand-new this morning, some explosive new quotes from former white house chief strategist steve bannon. he called donald trump jr.'s meeting with russians as treasonous. >> saying they're going to crack
don junior like an egg. >> steve bannon is basically saying, russia's not a witch hunt, russia is not a hoax, this investigation is real. >> president trump escalating his feud with north korean leader kim jong un. >> comparing the size of his nuclear button with the dictator of north korea. >> a wild day on twitter for the president. >> language that many people noted seemed better suited for the playground than the presidency. >> what we really ought to be focusing on is not that nonsensical tweet but this tiny sliver of an opening diplomatically. >> south korea and north korea have some communication for the first time in years at the same time that we see the president talk like this. >> we have two maniacs with nuclear warheads bragging about who has the bigger button. >> every good fighter knows when to hang up the gloves. for me that time is soon approaching. >> after 42 years in washington. >> hatch's decision paves the
way for former massachusetts governor, 2012 presidential nominee mitt romney, to run for the senate. >> wowsers. we start with a quote just obtained by nbc news. steve bannon seemed to confirm the legitimacy, i'm going to say that one more time, legitimacy of the russia investigation, the same one the president has repeatedly called a witch hunt. in a section about the infamous june 2016 trump tower meeting, bannon is quoted saying, quote, even if you thought that was not treasonous or unpatriotic or even bad -- enter the curse word of your choice but i promise you it's a dirty one, he goes on to say, quote, and i happen to think it's all of that, you should have called the fbi immediately. he goes on to say that investigators have paths to get to the president through his son don junior, through his son-in-law jared kushner, or
now-indicted former campaign manager paul manafort. joining me now, former chief white house ethics lawyer under president bush, richard painter. nbc news national security and intelligence reporter ken dilanian. and nbc news senior political editor mark murray. wow, gentlemen. mark, i go to you first. i want to pull another quote. where steve bannon says, this is all about money laundering. mueller chose senior prosecutor andrew weissman first and he is a money laundering guy. their path to blanking trump goes right through paul an afor the, don junior and paul manafort, it is as plain as the hair on your face. to give bannon credit, he's right. the first guy mueller picks is a money laundering expert. i remember back last december i want to see a big wall street backer of president trump who said to me, trump needs to be careful, he cannot get cute going after the intelligence
agencies and others, he doesn't want them going to his business, which has been very sloppy. and you know trump said last summer, his red line would be if mueller goes into their family business, a business that we know has been bankrupt more than four times. >> yeah, absolutely, stephanie. and of course we don't know how far it extends. but the fact that you're having someone like steve bannon of all people, former white house strategist to president trump, making these comments, which are a lot more revealing than you would end up hearing from any democrat at the house intelligence committee or the senate intelligence committee saying these types of things, what it really does is, as you put it, it really legitimizes from trump world that this russia investigation is real, despite all the comments from president trump and a lot of his backers, that this is phony, it's made up, a little witch hunt. steve bannon in this book is saying with these quotes, this russia investigation definitely has legs and it can go places. >> ken, you can love steve
bannon or hate him, but he's no dope, he's a smart guy. what are the various committees, the special counsel, how are they going to take this, what are they going to do with it, are they going to question bannon? >> absolutely, i'm sure they would love to, stephanie. the big question for me is, does he actually know anything or is this just informed speculation? he's not a trump insider for many years, but he was inside the campaign. he may know a lot, for example, about jared kushner's meetings during the transition. don't forget, kushner was meeting with a lot of foreign officials, including a russian banker, at the same time his family real estate empire was in bad need of some financing. the question is did he mix transition business and real estate business. does bannon know anything about that. what does he know about various deals the trump empire was involved in, including that trump empire moscow deal. does he have actual information that could further this case, or
is he just looking at it as an analyst and saying these guys are in big trouble. >> we know to this day president trump still has not completely distanced himself from any of his family businesses. we know jared kushner's sister, and remember, jared divested his investments in the family business and left it in charge of his sister and brother-in-law. and his sister was in china last year, flogging the family business, and oh, by the way, here say picture of my brother who has a very senior position in the white house, would you like to give us some money. so while bannon may be acting as an analyst and not an insider, there is something there. richard, when you think about other things bannon referenced here, he speaks specifically about kushner and deutsche bank, where i worked actually for eight years, and he says, it goes through deutsche bank and all the kushner, curse word here, the kushner, curse word here, is greasy. they're going to go right through that. they're going to roll those two guys up and say play me or trade me. so if steve bannon has a point
here, and we should remind our audience, deutsche bank isn't the only one to think about here, former deutsche bank chairman joseph ackerman was put on the board of the bank of cyprus by commerce secretary wilbur ross, bank of cyprus where we know or believe paul manafort was laundering money through. so how does the president's lawyers, who love to throw water calling all of this a hoax and a spoof and nothing, how do they handle these comments from bannon? >> well, i think the game's up here for president trump. steve bannon was an insider in the trump campaign, and inside the white house, all the way through last august. and he knows what's going on. he has the facts, because he's been in on the meetings with all these people. he may not have been at the trump tower meeting but i would be shocked if he didn't have knowledge of that before the public did.
and he also has knowledge about the inside facts about what's going on. he is a material witness, and he may have been part of this treason, but for whatever reason he's now disclosing what he knows, at least in generalities, and acknowledging that it was treasonous. it's not something we have to prosecute under the treason provisions of the constitution. there are plenty of ways of dealing with treasonous behavior and robert mueller is on top of it. and it may very well involve money laundering. and that's what robert mueller is going to find out. but this russia investigation is real, and i've been a republican for 30 years, i would like to support republicans, but i am not going to support any republican who refuses to acknowledge that we have a serious problem on our hands. and congress needs to stop trashing on robert mueller, making up stories about robert mueller, and focus on its own investigation of what happened
in 2016, the election, money laundering, and any other connections with the russians inside our government or for any of the families of people inside our government. this is very, very serious. >> all right, ken -- >> -- for the american people. >> ken, i have a two-parter for you. he goes on to talk about, to richard's comments, the trump tower meeting. if bannon knows so much, why hasn't he been questioned by mueller? >> well, we don't know that he hasn't. almost certainly he's on the witness list, stephanie. i was struck by his comments about the trump tower meeting because he essentially saw it as any other political observer saw it, that it was incredibly inappropriate if not illegal for them to take a meeting with representatives of the russian government offering information
about their opponent. they should have called the fbi, that's what everybody else who has done campaigns has said, and that was bannon's view. what we don't know is when did bannon learn about the trump tower meeting, when did the then-candidate learn about it, and what happened in the aftermath, when president trump was crafting that statement on don junior's behalf. bannon may be a key witness to that fact pattern because he was inside those white house meetings, steph. >> what does this do to steve bannon's relationship with the president? it's no surprise steve bannon has hated jared for months and months, he's a fool, he's a globalist, we've heard all that before. what he's tried to prove is that he loves the president and loves the country more than anyone else, "he" being steve bannon. the president has yet to go bad on bannon. but we know a hot button for the president is this russia investigation, specifically the
trump tower meeting, where it was president trump who directed on the plane from the g20 meeting, i believe, to write it up that it was a meeting about orphans, which it wasn't. this puts the president in a very dangerous position. will it force president trump to come out and turn on steve bannon? because clearly bannon is putting the president in a bad position, mark. >> yeah, absolutely. and stephanie, i would just add the motivation also by bannon here, as you just mentioned, there's no love lost between jared kushner and steve bannon. >> that's no surprise. >> the other thing is that steve bannon himself really wasn't present for any of the interactions that team trump ended up having with russia or their intermediaries. you look back at the june 9th, 2016 trump tower meeting, steve bannon wasn't there, he wasn't getting direct messages from wikileaks, as we know don junior was doing. george papadopoulos's
interactions, carter page's interactions, steve bannon wasn't there. so he might feel like he can speak more freely on this, about those who did have those interactions. >> what does conservative media do with this? until now they have taken the side of trump, going after mueller, calling it a hoax, directing us to hillary clinton or jill stein or somebody else. what does conservative media do now that steve bannon has dropped this bomb or i'll say dropped this egg, like he says don junior will crack like an egg. >> boy, that's a fascinating question, stephanie. a lot of it depends on what steve bannon says in the next 24 to 48 hours. dialogues does he come out and disavow these comments and say they were taken out of context and was portraying a nightmare scenario of how this could play out and he doesn't actually believe they're guilty of anything? that's my money of what we'll see in the next 24 hours. if he doesn't, he's becoming the enemy of essentially anyone who wants to defend the trump team from these very serious charges,
stephanie. >> hmm, how is conservative media going to absorb this one? all right, then. gentlemen, thanks. this is a very interesting conversation. and i can't wait to read the book. richard painter, ken dilanian, mark murray, thanks so much. while bannon is blowing up american politics or blowing up some people in it, president trump is taking on multiple nuclear powers. next, trump's gain of chicken with north korea's kim jong un. is it strategy or not? and much more ahead today. at noon eastern time, the senate is back in session. we'll have more on that coming up. will president trump will have lunch with mike pence, rex tillerson, and james mattis. kirstin nielsen will visit some neighborhoods devastated by the california wild firings. we'll have that for you. stay with us. you're watching "velshi & ruhle," at least the ruhle portion, live on msnbc.
welcome back to "velshi & ruhle." the president of the united states is provoking the world's nuclear powers in a tweet storm. president trump threatened nuclear war with north korea very twittevia twitter. he called iran corrupt via twitter. his tweets taunting north korean leader kim jong un are grabbing the most attention.
on monday, the dictator claimed the entire u.s. is in firing range of his nuclear weapons and the button is always on his desk. late last night president trump responded by tweeting in part, will someone from his depleted and food starved regime please inform him that i too have a nuclear button but it is a much bigger and more powerful one than his and my button works. let me stop here for a second and explain this nuclear button. it is not actually a button. it's a process. the president has what's called a nuclear football, with him wherever he goes. it's actually a 45-pound locked briefcase carried by one of his military aides. it contains secret information the president uses to form a plan of action if a strike becomes necessary. in order to authorize the strike, the president must verify his identity by giving the pentagon a unique code on a small card known as the biscuit. he carries this with him at all times. once authenticated, the president's orders are transmitted to launch operators
who then have to match the orders to sealed authenticators locked in a safe. once they determine the orders are legitimate, they turn their keys simultaneoame -- simultan starting the launch sequence. the north reactivated a telephone hotline to south korea to they could discuss sending a north korean delegation to the winter olympics. kelly, how significant are these talks between north and south and what do we know that they spoke about? for the last two years it's been a megaphone on the border and statements on state-run tv. >> reporter: yeah, and that's really the significance here, stephanie. it's not so much the substance of this conversation today. it became of lasted about 20
minutes. both sides made their introductions, they tested the line, and that was pretty much in. they didn't talk about those proposed talks, january 9th, next tuesday, when the two sides, the south hopes, will meet face-to-face to talk about the olympics. none of that came up. the significance today is, as you mentioned, for the first time in two years, there is a direct line of communication open between the north and the south. and it's been a big concern here in south korea, and among other allies, frankly, in the region, that there was no way to directly defuse a crisis with north korea. if there was some sort of incident, how do you talk to the north korean regime? there was no way for south koreans to do that until today, so that's really the big movement here. >> my goodness, a lot of movements happening. kel
kelly kocobiella, thank you. retired four-star general barry mccaffrey, gulf war division commander and current msnbc management analyst joins us from hawaii, and msnbc's am mun moym mohyeld mohyeldin. is this tweet dangerous or is it inartful? others will say, remember, take the president seriously and not literally. if you take him seriously, look, he might be the reason the north and south are speaking, is what one might argue. >> yeah, well, it's certainly the kind of tweet that we've never seen from any president before. as you say, fact check, there is no button, there is a briefcase, there are codes. in a way the president is simply stating the obvious, he has access to those codes and the u.s. has the biggest nuclear
arsenal in the world. does he need to spell all that out? maybe not, but he has. it's the global effectiveness that is more interesting. the white house seems to believe that kim jong un needs to hear this kind of direct talk and threat because that's what he's done for years, that's been his language, his currency for years. but there's no question that all of this also unsettles allies. foreign capitals are asking does the president really understand how dangerous this apparently very casual talk about the use of nuclear weapons and how easy it is apparently for him to set them off might be. and as we know, there's a real danger of war being caused, if you like, not by ground means or conventional means but by misunderstanding and miscalculations. that perhaps the biggest danger of all, stephanie. >> general mccaffrey, the average man or woman on the street might say, this is just tough talking, straight talking, this is what way voted for.
but mark kelly tweeted this quote. as a pilot in the u.s. navy, i was trained to deliver nuclear weapons. everything we did with these weapons was deadly serious. no jokes, no threats, no mistakes. by your estimation, does it appear that the president understands the gravity of nuclear war? >> no, probably not. look, i'm not sure if he's scaring the north koreans, but he's sure scaring me. it goes without saying that the u.s. has 6800 nuclear weapons and the north koreans probably around 60. we don't need to make that more publicly obvious than it is. my concern is that kim jong un, this young, untested, brutal despot, is afraid of his own generals. to maintain survival of his administration, he has to sound tough. i think this kind of comment from the president is more likely to provoke the north
koreans than anything else, never mind the fact, as bill points out, this is horrifying our allies, in particular the south koreans, the japanese, and the australians. >> ayman, the white house would say the sanctions are working, the tough talk is working. >> depending on where you sit in the analysis, some make the argument that north korea is trying to create a rift between south korea and the united states, and one way of doing this is to isolate the differences on the issue of north korea and try to exploit it. we know that south korea has favored a more diplomatic approach with north korea. they would like to talk to north korea. they don't want to be in the line of fire. they know they're the first to get it if war breaks out on the korean peninsula. their perspective has been, as some have argued, if they can create this rift between washington and seoul to try to win seoul over, they can get the
south koreans to perhaps tamp down president trump's rhetoric. that's something we've heard the state department spokesperson address, saying if north korea thinks they can exploit our relationship with south korea, that's not going to happen. but analysts who follow this say, no, in fact, it can happen. >> and general, is the diplomatic opening here with the hotline a good thing regardless of the motive behind it? >> well, i think any contact with north korea is probably useful to some extent. they are responding to the sanctions, which are having an enhanced impact on their desperately poor economy. i think a lot of this, to be honest, stephanie, is background noise. the north koreans are not going to give up their nuclear weapons. they're going to continue the program to develop a substantial icbm threat to the united states. we're really at a binary choice. do we understand this as the likely outcome, do we try to continue to isolate them
politically and economically, do we develop much-enhanced defensive measures and wait them out? or, as president trump seems to be implying, do we risk a nuclear exchange by a conventional first strike on north korea? that's really where we are right now. it's a very dangerous situation. and it's being pushed in the wrong direction by the president of the united states. >> all right. well, before we go, i want to turn to another foreign policy situation. president trump threatening to cut aid to pakistan, claiming it has given the u.s. nothing but lies and deceit in the last 15 years. now, i always think, what if i was a military mom, if i had a son or daughter, and we have tens of thousands of u.s. troops serving abroad right now, and president trump wants to raise tensions with pakistan, which is an ally. why, ayman? >> this is a baffling question,
at a time when u.s. troops are in harms way in afghanistan, you would want to have perhaps one of the most powerful nuclear countries on your side, not alien ating them. we've heard very tough language coming out of the pakistani government in response to the president's tweet, saying this is not true, we've done our fair share, we are victims of terrorists. there is a valid argument that pakistan has tried to play both sides of the fence for a long time. but to try to put them, as the president has done, in this difficult position, accusing them of lies and deceit, these are words often used for enemies, not for allies. pakistan has cooperated with the united states on a lot of sensitive issues, intelligence-sharing and what have you, now finds itself a target of the united states. we've created one more crisis with a nuclear-armed country, north korea, iran which has a
nuclear ambitious program, and now pakistan which we know is a nuclear armed country. this is racheting up pressure in a part of the world that cannot afford it. >> general, can you speak to this? we often say people feel comforted that the president is surrounded by strong generals. how do you think the generals are taking this latest, the president going after pakistan? >> i think they're probably dismayed. the lies and deceit part is probably an accurate description. pakistan is following its own national interests. afghanistan is their deep rear area, they're confronting the indians. they see it as to their advantage to confront the jihadist forces. they're unstable in their own nation, which is really four separate nations loosely united mostly by the armed forces. we shouldn't expect to publicly threaten pakistan and gain
foreign policy advantage out of it. this makes no sense whatsoever. >> all right, then. clearly we're going to keep covering it. bill, general mccaffrey, a myma mohyeldin, we'll leave it there. next, republicans hope to keep both chambers ahead of this year's midterm elections. we'll look at the key states up for grabs and how president trump plays in all of them. you're watching "velshi & ruhle. right shawn evans: it's 6 am. 40 million americans are waking up to a gillette shave. and at our factory in boston, 1,200 workers are starting their day building on over a hundred years of heritage, craftsmanship and innovation. today we're bringing you america's number one shave at lower prices every day. putting money back in the pockets of millions of americans.
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welcome back. you're watching "velshi & ruhle." in one hour from now two democrats will be sworn in as u.s. senators, doug jones from alabama and tina smith, replacing al franken. tina smith will have to defend her seat in a fall special election, meaning both of minnesota's democrats will face republican challengers. meantime, in the house, democrats need to win two dozen
seats to regain the majority. that's a big number. 15 house republicans are retiring or not seeking reelection along with six democrats. and four more house republicans and one democrat are resigning. the shake-ups mean democrats will still have to pick up seats by double digits and republicans will have to defend every single one of theirs. joining me now, axios editor in chief in this case johnston, and bloomberg politics reporter sahil kapur. democratic leaders have been bullish about 2018 for months. let's see chuck schumer back in november. >> i was head of the dscc. and you could smell a wave coming. the results last night smell exactly the same way. our republican friends better look out. >> all right. are democrats getting ahead of themselves here or do they have a chance to make up -- i mean, it's 20 plus seats. and while it is a huge victory to see someone like doug jones
win, remember, he was running against roy moore. >> right. stephanie, i can tell you that democrats are certainly getting very confident, especially in the last few months after these elections. they've seen the enthusiasm among their base in places like virginia, even new jersey. the alabama victory, of course that was unique, not every republican candidate is going to be as spectacularly bad as roy moore. but not every state is going to be as red as alabama. they think they have a shot in the senate, they probably need to take the seat of dean heller and win one of the open seats in tennessee, that seems possible. in the house they need to win, as you pointed out, 24 seats. hillary clinton won 23 districts currently held by house republicans, so there is certainly a playbook there they can use. it's going to come down to the constituencies that everybody thought would mobilize for president trump, but didn't. college educated white voters and suburban women, president trump won at least suburban
white women, and they seem to be moving away from him. if democrats can convince them to vote for their candidates, they have a shot at winning both chambers. >> nick, don't republicans just have to play defense? many, many people could find president trump morally reprehensible, but conservative christians look at trump and say that was a winning year, 58 judges, they like the sound of that. small business people might like this tax cut, and the economy is doing well. on that side, couldn't republicans just defend themselves here? >> right. i think the math at the start favors the republicans, just in the number of seats that democrats have to defend, particularly in the senate, there are ten democrats who face reelection in states that trump won. we have a poll in the field right now that will look at their popularity versus trump to see how vulnerable those are. but i think as trump's popularity has fallen, as the scandals continue, as democrats have shown strength in alabama, in virginia, in new jersey, i think the pendulum has swung a
little bit to make it much more realistic to talk about how the senate and house are in play. particularly the historical trend, that usually the president's party loses seats in the first midterm of their first term. and so i think those historical trends along with a lot of the political undercurrents here give democrats reason to be optimistic. >> the question i have is, is president trump an asset or a liability? maggie haberman pointed out on twitter, i notice that president trump campaigned heavily for luther strange and then he campaigned heavily for roy moore, and he publicly tried to convince orrin hatch not to retire. strange lost, moore lost, and/or inhapp -- and orrin hatch is retiring. >> the president remains more popular among republican voters than almost any downballot candidate in the senate or house is going to be. but with an approval ratings in
the mid- to high 30s where he seems to be stuck, that is certainly not going to be an asset for republican candidates in the general election. he's going to motivate a lot of democrats to show up. and a few constituents onstitue keeping my eye on are the obama/trump crossover voter. are they going to show up this time? if the idea of a president trump wasn't enough to turn them out, maybe a president presidency will be. >> when they talk about the base, i want to know who that base is. the traditional republican base is more mitt romney flavored. but a traditional trump base is steve bannon flavored. nick, how much influence steve bannon will have on these races? steve bannon and breitbart news backed roy moore. the gloves seem to be out and
steve bannon is swinging at the trump white house in this new book that's come out. >> he's said he's going to get involved in primaries. i would view it less what is the role steve bannon plays and what role do voters who think like steve bannon. this america first group who voted for trump, will they be motivated in the mid-terms to support trump? we've seen voters who hate trump and vote against him in the m - mid-terms. it becomes very much a turnout game because not as many come out as presidential elections. which voters will be the ones who show up in november? >> 2017 brought out a lot of people with a lot of passion on both sides of the aisle. let's see how it plays out in 2018. nick, sahil, thank you both. next, what have u.s. leaders done to prevent foreign meddling in this year's mid-terms?
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welcome back to "velshi & ruhle." this morning former white house chief strategist steve bannon was giving legitimacy to the russia investigation, telling an author he now considers the june meeting at trump tower to be treasonous. supporters of the trump administration have argued there's no proof russia successfully hacked any voting machines or physically changed any votes, and that is true, but it doesn't mean they didn't interfere in our election. instead, they ran an influence campaign on the american people and the trump campaign itself, something bannon is shining a new light on. on facebook alone, about 126 million americans were reached by tens of thousands of
russian-backed posts, according to testimony submitted to the state judiciary committee, all meant to sow discord and divisions. tweets with russian-linked content were viewed almost 300 million times. wikileaks either contacted or was praised by the campaign for releasing e-mails stolen from democratic national committee servers. meanwhile, two members of the president's campaign pleaded guilty in recent months. two more are under indictment. there are open questions about meetings between senior campaign staff and russians linked to the kremlin. bannon now says several of them give investigators lines to get to the president. and in 2015, after trump announced his candidacy, there were reported talks between the trump organization and developers to build a trump
tower moscow. according to "the washington post," one russian-born developer suggested trump visit russia, saying it would prompt vladimir putin to say good things about the u.s. presidential candidate, leaving many with uncertainty as we head into crucial midterm season. joining me now, reed stannish. reed, in your article you highlight the warning from the intelligence community report. and i want to share a quote. moscow will apply lessons learned from its putin-ordered campaign aimed at the u.s. presidential election to future influence efforts worldwide, including against u.s. allies and their election processes. we know we've got elections college in november. why aren't we ready, the president could have won the election and still could have said, russia tried to interfere, let's take action. but he didn't. president trump has done nothing
but compliment and praise vladimir putin since winning. >> yeah, absolutely. and this is a big problem, especially in the experts i spoke to for this article, a lot of them said that in order to better prepare for any kind of future interference, the united states is going to have to form a coordinated response across all levels of government. this is from local all the way to the white house. and, you know, for a lot of the reasons you just said, it's very unlikely we're going to get that coordinated response especially at the top level. >> what can we do? at this point we know we're not going to get it from the top level. the president still refers to all of it as a hoax. is there anything we can do to defend against influence campaigns? we know russians tried to involve themselves in emmanuel macron's election. is there anything that can or should be done? we know should be, but can be done? >> yes, obviously it's easier said than done, especially a lot
of the cyber security experts i spoke to, they're very adamant there are some very basic things that can be done to prevent future interference like what we saw before. one thing that was said to me is, look at what happened to john podesta, those e-mails are gained through a simple phishing e-mail. just improving simple cyber hygiene for campaigns can make a huge difference going forward. there's issues of trying to better protect voting machines. i know you said in the preamble here, 21 states were targeted. that's a huge issue moving forward. even though they weren't actually penetrated, that's a huge target and people are going to look for ways to better improve those defenses. and then there's also the other side of things, this is disinformation. there needs to be a more concerted effort to raise awareness, one, what kinds of problems are happening, that there is actually russian-linked foreign interference happening, trying to sow discord in the
american political process. it requires media literacy, training people to recognize so they know what is fake news. it takes time and takes some dollars, actually, as well. >> some dollars, and to admit that russia actually tried to interfere. all right. we're going to keep all eyes on this because most americans would agree, whether you're on the right or the left, we want a fair election. columnist reed stannish, thanks, reed. breaking news right now. remember when president trump said he was not aware of that trump tower meeting with russians? steve bannon said otherwise. joining me now, nbc's peter alexander, live at the white house, and nbc's senior political editor mark murray. peter, to you first, already this morning we're sharing quotes from michael wolf's new book. i'm looking at all this twitter noise saying, why are you guys believing anything steve bannon has to say? it's important to separate things out. steve bannon is very closely tied to president trump's base. steve bannon, who influences breitbart news, and whether or
not you like what breitbart has to say, the influence they have and the power they've gained in the last two years with the conservative community is huge. so you two have been going through the pages of this book. what specifically is going through the pages of this book. what specifically is steve bannon saying about that trump tower meeting? >> we know from excerpts we've received, and we obtained a copy of this book that we are going through as we speak right now, that steve bannon refers to that meeting in trump tower in june of 2016 as being been not just treasonous butun patrio unpatri he describes it. there is a place inside that book entitled "fire and fury inside the trump white house" where they had been meeting with trump tower on a day that, according to our records, the
president was at the white house. the meeting happened in the afternoon when we know the president had returned from a fundraiser. steve bannon, according to these excerpts, says simply the chance that don jr. did not walk these jumos, as he is quoted as saying, up to his father's office of the 26th floor is zero. in effect saying, there is no way that the president was unaware that this meeting was taking place under his nose, in effect, in his building at trump tower on that day. you'll remember that the white house press secretary, sarah sanders, said that the president was only aware of that meeting earlier this summer. that's after we first learned the details of the president putting out that statement or helping contribute to a statement that his son don jr. put out saying the meeting really focused on russian adoption and not anything further than that. so this is significant in that it gives us yet another window into what is believable about what would have happened back
then. we have reach oud not just to the president's attorneys today here at the white house and outside, but those representing some of the other members of the inner circle, including jared kushner who is said to be at that meeting today. when i'm done with you, we'll reach out to don jr. to see if they have any comment. stephanie? >> i'm still shaking my head at the word -- i'm not even going to say it again. mark, i turn to you, though. steve bannon making these accusations whether or not they're true, what does this mean for the robert and rebecca mercers of the world, massive supporters of trump and 100% backers of steve bannon. is steve bannon not creating a war between himself and the white house? >> yes, stephanie, i believe this could end up creating an entire rift inside the entire conservative movement, not just with the mercers, but breitbart, the news organization saying this has been a phony witch hunt
from the beginning on this investigation. it really has been the conservative base, those kinds of organs, that have really helped protect the president in his white house during the russian investigation. we've seen attacks go up against robert mueller, the special counsel. we have seen capitol hill really come to the president's aide when it comes to the republican side, but now is this rift. the longer it goes on that steve bannon doesn't knock down these quotes, i do think you'll end up having a conservative movement that is kind of frayed right now when it comes to the russian investigation, and certainly, again, the crux of all this is that everyone who has been saying "there, there" when it comes to this russia investigation, now steve bannon is joining those people. >> if steve bannon is telling the truth here, can't he carefully thread the needle that will make the argument he's wanted to make all along, going after these white house globalists?
what he's pointing to is money laundering. money laundering that has to do with the donald trump businesses, that has to do with the kushners, with the kush nne' ties to deutsche bank. remember, deutsche bank is tied to ross. steve bannon doesn't like that faction of the white house, and you've got the gary cohns, wilbur ross. wilbur ross was part of the campaign, but gary cohn wasn't. steve bannon could be successful saying, me, the naturalist faction to the white house, i'm true to what i was and always was. but jared kushner cared about his business and his money, as did don jr. if steve bannon can create this line, and if he's correct, wouldn't that be a huge win for him? >> i think as you're alluding to, steve bannon has always been more about the cause rather than the individual, and that is president trump. the cause is a populist type of
white house, and the more that that policy that is coming from the white house isn't all that populous, you could have a stand again steve bannon and say, i was against this from the beginning. let's go to the meeting at trump tower. that is significant, and we already know he ended up having a meeting with a crooked lawyer, but we know the interactions the trump team ended up having with russians and their intermediaries. whether it was that june 9 meeting, or whether it was don jr. in his direct tips to twitter. campaign officials were interacting with russians, and going back to the campaigns that i've covered since 2004, stephanie, that just doesn't happen. a normal campaign isn't dealing
or talking or interacting with a foreign government, particularly a foreign government that has an adversarial relationship with the united states. >> peter, if steve bannon seems to have this definitive information or smoking guns, wouldn't he be lawyered up and speaking to robert mueller and his team? why would he be sharing this with the general public? >> good question. questions that a lot of people for broadcast of this new book "fire and fury." it says on one of the pages, on the way back home to hamburg, germa germany, the russians, the president's lawyer, then mark casowitz, was kept waiting on the phone for an hour and then not put through.
a spokesperson for the president's legal team, a man named mark carollo, believes the statement largely directed by the president with the help of kushner and a kushner spokesperson, represented likely an obstruction of justice. carollo resigned after, refusing to work with the president. we're just getting these dpoerpts not >> mark: oro, that adding new layers to that meeting that took place june 2016, a year and a half ago, and you're making waves this much later. >> i'm on tv, so i can't tell. take me to twitter. we know the president has i in fuego.
since came togethhave they saidn the program? >> not to my knowledge. yesterday the president sent off 16 tweets. today he has been relatively silent, at least compared to yesterday. we'll be checking on that twitter feed throughout the day. >> before we go to ken, quick, peter, as you're feverishly reading through these quotes is, i don't believe, has ever uttered a negative word about steve bannon. >> these two men have a similar world view and talk about things. there is a press conference at 3:00 today with sarah huckabee
sanders. we look forward to posing these questions to her. my colleague and i were upstairs trying to get some ground on this. focusing on a private meeting which makes you ask how do they respond. i'm getting more and more excerpts as our team rifle ds -- rifled through, do you have anything to say about trump? >> we're going back to get her reaction of this notion by steve bannon that they took them upstairs. she has always said that didn't happen, but that would be an
interesting interaction if donald trump saw them after that meeting. >> it will be interesting to see how the soviet union uncovers anything. peter alexander, ken. i'm stephanie ruhle. my partner ali velshi will be back next week. i will see you back here tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. eastern. right now i hand you to andrea mitchell on "andrea mitchell reports." pushing buttons. president trump inflaming nuclear tensions with a tweet, taunting the unpredictable leader in pyongyang. >> i think this is very destabilizing. this is a tweet that could lead to confrontation and maybe even war. fire and fury.