tv MSNBC Live With Craig Melvin MSNBC February 20, 2018 10:00am-11:00am PST
thanks for being with us. follow us @mitchellreports. kacie hunt is here right next to me on msnbc. hey. >> hi, andrea, it's great to see you. good afternoon from washington, d.c. i'm kacie hunt in today for craig melvin. taking their demands to the state capital. the students who survived the school shooting in florida will board a bus in just a few minutes to talk gun laws with their representatives. we're going to talk to them about their goals before they leave and then take a ride on that bus with them. plus, a new charge. special counsel robert mueller just charged another man in his russia investigation. and he's expected to plead guilty in the next hour and a half. it will be one of many topics the white house will be forced to address at today's press briefing. it's the first briefing in a week. since then, we've had all of these russia headlines, questions about the administration's travel and that deadly school shooting.
so we'll start there. with that bus ride to tallahassee. at this moment, more than 100 students are headed to the state's capital for two days. students say they will hold protests and try to talk with state legislatures in their hopes to focus attention on gun control. nbc's tammy leitner is about to get on the bus. these students have really become such a force in advocating for themselves in the wake of this tragedy. what's the next step for them? >> that's right, they really have become a mouthpiece for a national issue. there are about 100 students here and their parents. they're leaving in about 20 minutes. and i actually want to let one of them speak and he can tell you for himself. this is alfonsalfonso, he's a j. you tell me, why are you about to get on this bus and take this journey over the next two days? >> simply, change needs to happen in this country.
in two aspects, one, attitude. this country undeniably has a gun culture and i believe that's one of the reasons somebody like nikolas cruz was able to acquire these weapons and nobody bat an eye. second of all, gun laws. it has to be more difficult for somebody who is mentally ill and disabled like him to acquire weapons like an ar-15. in this country, he's 19. he's not even able to go into the publix right behind us and buy a beer but he can buy an ar-15. i want to know where is the common sense to that. >> you speak very articulately for a high school junior. also for somebody who just lost a very close friend. where are you finding the strength right now? >> there exactly. the motivation for me is my people who i lost, my friends and the families that are never going to have their kids come back to them again. that motivates me every single day and it will never be a deterrent for any reason. nothing could bring me down,
being reminded every single day of the horrific things i saw and hopefully no one ever has to see ever again. >> last question, alfonso, do you think you guys can make a difference? >> definitely. we've opened doors that i feel like haven't been opened before. finally, our lawmakers are talking. we're on a national stage right now, international stage actually. and you know it's the first time i've ever seen people survive a shooting and then directly after it demand change, which something i think should have happened in this country a long time ago, but it's taking kids to do this. >> thank you so much, i appreciate it, alfonso. there you heard it, it's taking kids to bring about change, and this is all coming on the day that three funerals happened, that they are saying good-bye to three friends that were very close. the youngest victim that was laid to rest today, 14 years old. >> in coral springs, florida. thanks to alfonso as well. please convey to him that we are -- of course our thoughts and prayers are with him and all
of those who are making this journey troo to try to make sure there is more than just thoughts and prayers. we will be checking back in with you, tammy, throughout the hour. as the public and washington debate the role of mental health in mass shootings. a judge has ordered the release of a 2016 mental health report on the suspect in the parkland school shooting. the investigation lasted more than a month. report found no indication of abuse or neglect as alleged. it said cruz suffered from depression, adhd and that his most said he was on medication for that adhd. she also said that cruz began cutting himself after a breakup with a girl. he reportedly posted a snapchat of the cutting as well. cruz also reportedly drew a nazi symbol on his book bag. his mom later said she made him erase it. one counselor who spoke with cruz said he talked, quote, about wanting to purchase a gun and feeling depressed.
however, neither she, nor a crisis clinician, believed that cruz was a threat to himself or to others. our guest is an msnbc legal analyst. jonathan met zer is a professor of psychology at vanderbilt university. danny, i want to start with you. this debate, in the wake of this, it's become all too familiar. we start to talk about what can be done to prevent people with documented mental health issues from having access to firearms. what was missed here from the perspective of this child's mental health and yet no actual red flags that were caught by anybody that could have stopped him from purchasing that firearm. >> there are many different things that have to happen correctly in the mosaic of gun control in this country. as it is, the federal government can't even force states to report those who are not qualified to own firearms or at least the reporting requirements are patchwork at best.
when it comes to mental health, we have to strike a balance. society's always struck a balance, particularly so when juvenile records are involved. between the obvious safety of society but also the privacy of the juvenile with the idea that juveniles are different from adults. we seal their records because they have a hope that maybe a 25-year-old does not, that they may mature out of whatever phase they're going through. and that by the time they reach 18, 19, 20, that they will mature enough to no longer, to sort of grow out of this condition or bad behavior or bad conduct. modern science tends to show and the supreme court has acknowledged that that age of adolescence, when people are making poor decisions, goes way beyond 18 and into the 20s. but as it exists, most states look at 18, sometimes 17, as the magic line, before which we generally protect the records of
our juveniles, whether it be court, criminal-type records or mental health records, which are always presumptively secure and sealed. >> jonathan, you've written extensively on this topic, saying that focusing on mental health in the wake of these tragedies is the wrong approach. can you speak a little bit to danny's point? where is the right balance for someone who is a juvenile and who, you know, does have a right to privacy that may -- we've seen very sadly in this case, it conflicted with, obviously, the rights of these students that he killed. >> absolutely. let me just say as a psychiatrist, i completely understand why we turn to questions of mental health in the aftermath of mass shootings. on one hand, we're all traumatized. the idea of what happened to us is something that came from somebody who is outside the boundaries of sane or civilized society really as a natural human drive. the other aspect, as we've seen in this case, in this record, is there are significant mental health histories for mass shooters, things that are very
important to think about. often we learn that information in retrospect. the reason i say we should be wary and i agree with danny exactly about this balance is for a couple of reasons. one is that as we see in this case and in this file, there are many factors that went into this shooting, but none of them would have been predictive. in other words, there are many people who have depression, adhd, cutting, break-ups, g getting kecked out of school. of the many thousands who have those symptom, it's not like a mental health practitioner can go on to say this person is going to commit a shooting. there's no predictive value it the other, as we see here, it's a combination of mental health histories but also it's hard to take that out of the context of laws, cultures, access to guns, other factors like that. so what i worry about as a psychiatrist is we just say the problem isn't somebody's brain and not look at the larger culture. the final point, we can see with the way president trump and
other people are talking about this, when we focus just on this question of mental health, it becomes a code word for really not doing anything. because the subtext of that message is, well, gosh, this is just happening in somebody's brain and that sure is unpredictable. so it becomes for me a massive deflection of talking about what really needs to happen to enact -- communities that are safer, even if we respect people's gun rights. >> danny, to you on this, we're learning a little bit more about the -- how the defense is going to play out in this case as nikolas cruz faces these charges of murder, 17 counts. they're asking if -- or saying he would plead guilty to these counts in exchange for the death penalty being taken off the table. how do you see this case progressing legally? >> we look at the records that were just released. those are not particularly helpful to an insanity defense. i don't think his counsel is really exploring an insanity
defense. at least it doesn't appear so. in florida, every state has a different insanity defense. some states don't even have it anymore. but generally in florida, he had to have not understood the wrongfulness of what he was doing. not that he personally thought he was justified but, rather, he had to be unaware that society deemed what he was doing was wrong. and if he escaped, if he concealled his crime in any way or tried to, that's going to be a very difficult uphill battle. now, some of the efvidence that came out recently about his troubled childhood could become a nonstatutory mitigating factor in a death penalty argument. defense counsel could use that sort of as a bargaining chip and say look if we go to trial, we have some decent arguments, some nonstatutory mitigating factors, given his history. but then the prosecution could always say, yes, we've got some major aggravators, including the fact that he executed,
allegedly, almost 20 people in cold blood, and those would weigh heavily in favor of the death penalty, if it went to trial. so defense counsel has some very difficult decisions to make and some hard-driving negotiations to make in the coming weeks and months. >> thank you both very much for your time, i really appreciate it. and as those students prepare to take their message to lawmakers, a conservative writer makes the case for new gun control measures. and getting ready for court. the latest suspect to be charged in robert mueller's russia investigation expected before a judge in the next hour or so. we'll dig into the charges against him and his connections to the case. needles. essential for vinyl, but maybe not for people with rheumatoid arthritis. because there are options. like an "unjection™". xeljanz xr. a once daily pill for adults with moderate to severe ra for whom methotrexate did not work well. xeljanz xr can reduce pain, swelling and further joint damage, even without methotrexate.
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robert mueller handed down a new charge today in his russia investigation. attorney alex van der zwaan has been charged with making false statements to federal investigators, a felony. van der zwaan arrived at a fbi field office. he is accused of lying about talks with rick gates. gates and paul manafort have been charged with money laundering, tax evasion and foreign lobbying in connection with their russia-connected clients. there are reports gates is prepared to take a plea deal. van der zwaan is expected to plead guilty at a 2:30 court appearance. nearly 20 interviews have been charged as a result of the ongoing mueller investigation.
nbc news intelligence and national security reporter ken dilanian is following this story. ken, can you just give us a little bit of context here, who is -- i mean, this is yet another person that we have never heard of who clearly is playing potentially a key role in what is a drama that could reach to the oval office. >> van der zwaan is a young dutch lawyer with a major american law firm. he's poised to plead guilty to a single count of making false statements to robert mueller's investigators. the statements had to do with his work for his law firm about a report involving a ukrainian politician that was commissioned by paul manafort and rick gates, who have been charged obviously in this case. and the nature of the charges in the plea suggest that this young lawyer has something to offer robert mueller. he has some testimony that's valuable. and the question is what is that about. is it about the manafort case? manafort is already facing, you
know, a series of charges in what experts call a powerful case. why would muller still be pressing on that, in this area? and some speculation is mueller really wants to press the case against manafort to convince him to plead guilty and flip and give information, tell what he knows about the trump campaign. >> yes, ken, can we -- can you explain a little bit about what is our sense of how independent the investigation and charges into manafort and gates have become, vis-a-vis the president of the united states and potential collusion? in many ways we seem to when we talk about manafort, we talk about the ukraine, about a series of events, things that don't necessarily seem totally related. what in your view or in your reporting -- you touched on a little bit, but how does mueller bring those two things together or does he? >> it's a great unknown. but one theory a lot of my sources talk about is that mueller is approaching this like a racketeering case. he's moving up the chain. he's trying to flip witnesses
who may know things about whether the trump campaign cole huded with russia. paul manafort was the chairman of the campaign. so yes, you're absolutely right. these charges against manafort and gate involve illegal foreign lobbying and money laundering and have on their face nothing to do with the question of trump campaign collusion with russia. but if mueller is able to flip paul manafort and get him to testify about what he knows, that would seem to be a valuable thing for the mueller investigation. manafort also had a relationship with a russian oligarch, and don't forget, during the campaign, he was offering that oligarch private briefings. so there's strands there that suggestion manafort may know something. >> ken dilanian. to talk more, msnbc national security contributor
matt miller and alan rosenstein, law professor at the university of minnesota and former attorney in the justice department's national security division. alan, i want to start with you.
we touched on this a little bit with ken, but what does the role of a lawyer like van der zwaan potentially bring to the table in an investigation like this? what does a lawyer like that know, not know, be able to potentially say? are there any limits on what he could say based on any privilege that may have been part of his conversations? >> well, it depends on what he's being asked about. if he's being asked about questions relating to his representation of certain clients, then there may be some privilege issues that have to be dealt with. if he's talking about other issues, if the charge, for instance, is lying to investigators, tlahere's reallyo privilege issue there. i think what's notable about mr. van der zwaan and the charges against him is twofold. first, it shows the special
counsel is willing to indict anyone who lies to his investigators as part of this investigation. and that should send a strong message to individuals that have or will be interviewed by his
investigators. it should encourage a lot of candor. i think second what's really interesting about this individual is he's not just any old lawyer. he's actually the son-in-law of a notable russian oligarch who is a key putin ally. depending on how hard mueller presses, he may use this source not just to put pressure on gates and manafort but also to get information on how the russian government itself operates. >> very interesting. let's pick up there. you and i were sort of talking about what the most interesting thing is we learned from what mueller has done today. you were pointing to a conversation between the lawyer, between rick gates and someone we don't know. what is the significance? >> we're reading tea leaves. one of the things we learned is bob mueller holds his cards close to his vest and plays them when he needs to. one of the interesting little clues here is one of the conversations this person is being charged with is a conversation he had with rick gates and person a, a person who's not yet been named in september 2016, that the lawyer recorded. very odd thing for the attorney
to do, to record this conversation. if you think about the timing of that conversation with gates and the other unknown person. september 2016, a month after paul manafort left the campaign, left the campaign partially over questions about his dealings with ukrainian government officials and whether he told the truth in those dealings. clearly the content of those conversations is now known to bob mueller. he may even have the tapes of those conversations. if you look at the person, a, that's named in this indictment, this may be somebody who's already cooperating and helped mueller get to van der zwaan. >> or he could be protecting him. >> or person a is the person mueller is trying to put pressure on to get that person to flip. >> the point alan raised, the idea the special counsel's willing to go after somebody who lies to him. there seems to be a suggestion there that could potentially apply to the president. isn't this perjury trap? >> something his lawyers have talked about. you always have to remember the best way to avoid a perjure trap is to tell the truth when you
talk to investigators. we've seen this before. we've seen this is the way that mueller was able to flip mike flynn. it's one of the tools that investigators often like to use. you bring someone, set them down for an interview. oftentimes when you have that interview, the investigators already know the answer to some of these questions. if you like to them, or if they find out later, they're going to use that not just to potentially put you in jail but as leverage to get you to turn on other people in the conspiracy. >> alan, the first that mr. van der zwaan worked for put out a statement saying the firm terminated its employment of alex van der zwaan in 2017. now, it's skadden, arps, slate. is there a risk for the firm in what is unfolding here? how does that overlap? >> well, i think you have to
know more about what the charges are under lying. van der zwaan's information -- van der zwaan's charge. i think the real risk for skadden is reputational. we have to go to 2012 to understand what van der zwaan's role was. the reason he's inrovolved is i 2012 when he was representing the russian strongman vanokovich, commissioned skadden to write a misleading report that he had not prosecuted his opponents politically. at the time, skadden got a lot of heat for that. its engagement with manafort in some of these seedy dealings and these really inaccurate portrayals of what was going on in ukraine i think really could tarnish the firm in a very serious way going forward. >> matt miller, we naturally of course have already heard from the white house this morning saying that this new charge
underscores no evidence of collusion with the russians. can you unpack what does this mean in the context of the potential collusion investigation? >> you know, ken kind of put this well earlier, that there are many separate threads of this investigation. we don't know whether they'll ever connect. it's a mistakes for them to say the charges related to manafort and gates are separate from the overall collusion investigation. let's remember what they're charged with. not just laundering money in connection with their representation for some random foreign government but a foreign government controlled by a pro-putin dictator. manafort was having conversations with the russian oligarch close to putin offering access while he was the campaign manager. while he was not charged with anything like a conspiracy, you know, that would relate to collusion, it's not exactly unconnected from the russia investigation either. in respect to ty cobb's statement today that this has nothing to do with the white house, there's no way he can know that. we don't know who this unnamed
person a is that's mentioned in the criminal information. it may be paul manafort. it may be someone else from the campaign. it may be someone who works in the white house now. we don't have any idea. neither does ty cobb. >> matt mill, alan rosenstein, thank you. a lot to come on this story of course. meanwhile, a conservative writer makes the case for a new gun control measure in the wake of the parkland shooting. we'll talk to him about the change he thinks fellow conservatives should get behind. plus, nbc's tammy leitner is on that bus full of florida students who survived the school shooting and they're bound for tallahassee. tammy, what's going on there? >> we've just gotten on the bus. we'll be leaving here in about five or ten minutes, traveling 450 miles, about eight hours, so they can go and make their voices be heard and we'll be along for the entire ride.
about what the students may be able to achieve. >> what's going on in america? >> i don't know, but these children are going to change it. this young man and all his schoolmates are going to change it. >> eventually we will heal but now's the time to make a change and to do something. >> nbc's tammy litner is on one of those buses en route to the state capital. tammy, what's it like with those students? the interview you did earlier really resonated with me as i think it has been resonating with americans across the country. >> one word, impressive. this was pretty much mainly organized by students. earlier they were standing on top a car sending out their message talking to their fellow students saying, you know, they're going to be people that are going to try and stand in
our way of getting our message out but let's do this, let's stick together and get our message out. take a look at this bus. this is pretty calm and organized. i would say 90% made up of students. there are a handful of parents on here. there are about 100 students among the three buses. i was told there was actually more students that wanted to come along on this journey. they actually had to turn people away. it's about, as you mentioned, a 400-mile journey their making, about eight hours i'm told it will take to get to tallahassee. tonight, they're going to be sleeping in the civic center. tomorrow, they're walking over to the state capital to meet with state leaders and, you know, while this is a national issue, gun control, they're going to be lobbying state lawmakers, you know, keep in mind it's only been six days since the shooting. every single day there have been memorials, vigils, funerals.
today, there were three funerals of three young students. their friends who were killed and so while they're grieving, they're taking this grief and they're turning it into something positive, taking action. >> we'll see if it manages to make this story different from all the others. thank you very much. meanwhile, there are new calls to toughen gun regulation in the wake of last week's shooting including a new ban on assault-style weapons. those semiautomatic rifles were banned in 1994, along with large capacity magazines. but the ban expired in 2014. six of the ten deadliest mass shootings in this country have occurred in the last 5 1/2 years. let's bring in david french, a senior writer for the national review. david, i know there has been a wide variety of topics you have brought your voice to lately, but this is one where you're offering something of an unorthodox solution. clearly any measures to restrict
gun rights have been met with quite fierce opposition typically in washington. it's gotten fiercer in many ways with the rise of organizations like the gun owners of america for example. can you walk tloous through whau are proposing as a potential way to make sure this doesn't happen again? >> it's very simple, it's called a gun violence restraining order. the advantage of gun violence restraining order has, it's targeted specifically at people who should not have a gun. so what a gun violence restraining order does, it says if you have a belief if you're a defined, in a close relationship with another person, say your spouse, sibling, son, daughter, and you have a belief and -- based on evidence that a person in your household, for example, is a significant danger to himself or others, you can go to a judge and ask for a temporary order removing guns from that person. so it's very precisely targeted
at people giving off red flags. these things are sometimes called red flags laws. so what happens is if you look at the history of these killings, of these mass shootings, in the united states, with the notable exception of the las vegas shooter which is an outlier in many ways, time and time and time again, there are red flags that have been given off for sometimes months, sometimes for years red flags have been given off, but the existing legal structures are inadequate to deal with that. our mental health system is in many ways broken down. someone can be giving off red flags without having committed a felony which would deny them access to a gun. so this is targeted at individual behavior and it's individually problematic behavior and it provides due process. i think if you look at this and you compare it to what's happened in the past, this could have made a difference in multiple shootings. >> david, is this something that any of the states have tried or looked at? are there examples of a place
where this has been implemented and worked? >> well, california has just implemented it and slightly different version than what i propose in national review. but it's already been used several dozen times to remove guns from homes where people had exhibited threatening behavior but it wasn't the kind of behavior that would lead to a felony conviction or lead to a finding of mental fitness or institutionalization. it's already been used multiple times. interestingly, so under the california law, there's a provision to take the guns temporarily of the more than 60 times that it's been used, only ten times has that order been extended. so what's happened is it's often been applied to people who are in crisis. and when that crisis is passed, they receive their guns back, but some people, the crisis is extended and you have that opportunity to go back to the court and ask for an extension. so, again, it's all tailored to what's happened to a real
person. so imagine a situation where this existed in florida, rather than feeding your tip into the fbi bureaucracy, you instead go to your local judge and say here are the instagram posts, here are the things you did at school, this person should not have a gun, let's issue an order. and the other, the respondent would have an opportunity to contest the order. >> david french, thank you very much for you time. i'll be interested to see if there are any conservatives here in washington who are interested in exploring such an idea as that. it has been very hard to get even the smallest things done on this topic. >> thank you, but marco rubio is, he's tweeted in support of it. >> sounds good, thanks, i really appreciate it. heading to court soon, robert mueller's team expected to get its next guilty plea within the hour. we're live at the courthouse. and we're looking into the background of the man who was just indicted. how is alex van der zwaan connected to this investigation and specifically to rick gates
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today that could help us better understand where mueller's overall investigation is going? >> possibly, but frankly, i doubt it. the way these hearings usually go is the person will say yes, i did all the stuff you say in these charging documents. but that doesn't tell us much. all the fbi says here, all the lawyers say is when they interviewed him last november, he told them two lies that they -- two statements that they say were lies and he's apparently prepared to say he wasn't truthful at that time, about his contacts and his work for manafort and gate six years ago when they hired a washington, d.c. law firm and he was based in london office of that firm. to do work, in essence, justifying charges against the political rival of the ukrainian politician that manafort and gates were representing. these hearings tend to be very short. when you plead guilty, all the judge wants to know is are you
doing it intentionally, do you understand what rights you're giving up, you know you can't appeal, you're not on drugs, you're doing this fully and completely willingly and understanding all the consequences. that's the essence of these hearings. so i don't think we're going to hear a lot from the mueller lawyers. this is not one of these kinds of hearings where they show a lot of legs about the case. so i don't think we'll learn much more about it. based on what we've seen in the court documents, this is not like last friday, which was directly about russian meddling in the campaign. this seems much more oriented towards the already existing case towards manafort and gates and they're accused of failing to disclose their lobbying for ukraine, money laundering and some other charges that have to do with their conduct before the trump campaign. so that's a long-winded answer to say i don't think we're going to learn more about the road map of robert mueller's investigation. >> so, pete, your takeaway from this, this charge, is simply
that robert mueller is trying to put more pressure on paul manafort or is it something else? do you feel like you learned something different in finding out about this charge? >> i think there's probably a combination of things. turn up heat on manafort possibly. possibly turn up the heat about gates. and there's already some speculation that he may be prepared to plead. but the other thing is just this typical thing prosecutors do. they don't like to be lied to. they like to send a message to other people they're going to interview, you know, it's not nice to fool mother nature. if you like to us, we're going to throw the book at you. having said that, it's a single count of lying to the federal. i suppose if they really wanted to heavy up on this lawyer, they could charge him with one count for each statement, so that would be two counts, and then obstruction of justice. they haven't done that. so it does seem like they're trying to file the least charge, the smallest possible charge against him to get his cooperation. >> pete williams, thank you very
much. note to self, don't lie to the fbi if they ever come and ask. >> right. >> for more on alex van der zwaan, betsy woodruff for the daily beast. ken vogual, the "new york times." a short time ago, announced t"te times" staff won the george polk awards for uncovering connections between the campaign officials and the russians. congratulations to your whole newsroom. i want to start with you, ken. you wrote an extensive story on this firm and a report that they prepared that's part of this investigation into paul manafort that in some ways breaks new ground. can you walk through what, you know, based on the deep reporting you had done on this and what we're seeing unfold today, what you think mueller's team is getting from van der zwaan? >> sure. there's a couple things going on here. one is sort of the surface
issue. and that deals with this report that paul manafort commissioned on behalf of his client the former president of ukraine, victor yanokovich, the russia-aligned president of ukraine. that this lawyer that was indicted today was involved in. that essentially sought to whitewash the role of yanukovych and yanukovych's government in prosecuting a former rival, at that point current rival, who was convicted of corruption charges, yulia timonchenkovich, the former president of ukraine. so manafort got this report, saying no, essentially, there were no political motivations here. he also averaged for payment in the way that the ukrainians said violated our contracting rules and paid money. so that could fit into the case against manafort, money
laundering, banking violations. but there's something else here that's really interesting. this lawyer is married to a woman whose father is a russian oligarch who the treasury department said is very close to vladimir putin. there's an unnamed person in this complaint, in this charging papers that were released today. we don't know who that is, but there are potentially bread crumbs here back to russia and back to vladimir putin directly in what we're seeing from mueller in this indictment. >> betsy, to ken's point, let's talk about person a and who that could be. we touched on this earlier in the hour with matt miller. but what do you -- what have you taken away and what does your reporting tell you about who this person a might be and what the next step here could be? >> i don't have concrete information. i can't actually reveal the name of that person. >> i don't think any of us can, that's fair. >> a conversation with a person who's very well plugged in to the ukrainian lobbying world just a few minutes ago, and that person said the emerging
speculation seems to be person a is a ukrainian national. we day say with a degree of confidence it's not paul manafort. >> it's like sort of redactable -- >> right, they'd say who it was. we know it's somebody who currently doesn't have federal charges against them that are at the moment unsealed. and of course it's probably somebody working in, in some way, with the lobbying efforts that were under way on behalf of yanukovych. one of the most interesting subplots of the mueller investigation is the way that he has put the fear of god into many k street lobbyists, showing the federal government is going to crack down increasingly on people on k street who work for foreign governments in shady ways, try to skirt the laws about revealing the work that they do there. and additionally not just lobbying firms but also as we see skatt e n arps, an incredibly powerful legal firm, and other entities part of this influence peddling that many
foreign governments try to capitalize on. >> i know you and your colleagues at the "times" spend time talking to the white house lawyers, whether it of trump, the white house counsel, other advisers. how nervous does what happened today, how much more nervous does that make them about this probe? they're saying there's no collusion, but do they view this as a potentially serious issue? are they more nervous now about what paul manafort might decide to do? >> yes, i mean, that's where their concern comes in. it has to do with paul manafort and the pressure on paul manafort. they see all this stuff. they see manafort's work for viktor yanukovych and anyone else who manafort may have sub contracted, worked out from van covich to including podesta's group, mercury, public affairs, these are all firms that we've seen have some interest or generate some interest from the mueller folks, but they -- but the white house sees this as all totally peripheral to what they -- what is the core of the
russia investigation and mueller's investigation, which is meddling by russia in the u.s. presidential election, and any potential collusion between the trump folks and russia, they see this indictment today as completely unrelated to that. but what it does do, as betsy suggested, and pete suggested, from the courthouse there, is it puts pressure on paul manafort and it put pressure on rick gates, who we saw some reporting that we haven't confirmed suggesting that rick gates might be considering a plea deal. what that does is put more pressure on manafort to potentially give up something about the trump campaign that we haven't seen mueller really getting at, the connection between manafort and any potential collusion or work between the trump campaign and russia. >> ken vogel, betsy woodruff, really appreciate your time today. >> thank you. >> and the white house press briefing is scheduled to start in the next few minutes. there is a lot of ground to cover.
federal courthouse for this hearing, where he is expected to plead guilty to one count of lying to the fbi. we are here now, still with betsy woodruff and peter baker of "the new york times." also here with us, and peter, since i haven't had a chance to ask you about this yet, i'm curious, as the white house watches this unfold, i know you spent a lot of time talking to them about all of the scandals that they have been dealing w h with, but also, of course, friday the massive number of indictments for the russian troll farm. all of this causing great stress for the white house. what does this particular indictment of -- or excuse me, of these charge -- this charge against van der zwaan mean for the white house? are they more nervous now because of this? what do they read into this? >> well, obviously, any indictment like this makes them nervous. they don't know what it signals. they don't know where it's leading. if this lawyer can tell them -- the prosecutor something about rick gates or paul manafort,
does that add additional pressure to rick gates and paul manafort, who may or may not have sympathetomething to tell further about the campaign, they don't know. what the white house would tell you for the record, hey, this has nothing to do with us, if this guy didn't tell the truth, it doesn't in any way impugn there was collusion with russia or impugn the campaign. therefore we don't have much to say about it. i think you'll hear sarah huckabee sanders say something to that effect in the briefing coming up pretty soon. but any action by robert mueller raises the temperature level in the white house. >> betsy, i was talking to pete williams about this a little bit, too. is there anything that we might learn from this hearing about where mueller is going? or do we expect this to be pretty straightforward and for it not to really illuminate or show us any of mueller's cards? >> i don't expect any bombshell revelations in this hearing. i think the most information -- interesting information we're going to get from it, we have in this information that i was filed in the court document. and it shows the extent to which
mueller has zeroed in on the lobbying work that paul manafort and rick gates did for this putin-friendly ukrainian president, viktor yanukovych. part of the reason that's so interesting is that it cuts across partisan divides. this is something that republicans sometimes will get happy for you to highlight. the fact that the podesta group, which is, of course, a democratic-connected lobbying firm, mercury llc, which represents some former obama people, were actually working for the same people that paul manafort was working for. they were pushing this putin-friendly, essentially propaganda that skadden arps and that manafort and his allies created on capitol hill. they were reaching out to lawmakers about it, to influential people in the state department. it was very much a bipartisan effort to defend the imprisonment of the political opponent of a ukrainian leader who was close to putin. >> and peter baker, you mentioned that white house briefing, we have not heard from anybody in the briefing room for quite some time. and you kind of ticked through in your story that we've had the
florida school shooting, we've had those massive indictments at the russian troll farm, the security clearance overhaul. we spent how many days talking about rob porter and how all of these members of the white house staff don't have security clearances. what is the mood like right now in the west wing among the president's advisers. what of this long list of things are they most focused on right now? >> well, it's been a pretty toxic mood in the white house the last week or two. not necessarily because of all of these issues, some of these issues they've gotten used to, they happened, to some extent, you know, with some regularity. but the thing that really got people in the white house upset is this issue with rob porter and john kelly, the chief of staff, and what he knew and how he reacted and the handling of all of this. that people have felt left out on a branch that was being sought out from under them. and there's sort of a mistrust right now among people in the white house towards each other, it has created additional friction and tension in a place that's already kind of a hot
spot of, you know, high emotion and tension. so, you know, whether they can move forward past that or not is the real question. john kelly, obviously, put out that memo intending to revamp the security clearance process, but that's led to more questions. and we haven't heard the answers yet. again, maybe we'll hear a little bit more from sarah sanders today. >> yeah, on that point, peter, what you hearing about jared kushner? he's one of the people who has had one of these interim security clearances and we also know that he, quite frankly, has been reading almost everything that the president has access to on a near-daily basis, that he's asking our intelligence agencies more questions than maybe any other white house official. is it possible that there will be ramifications for him because of this? >> it's an unknown question. we don't know the answer to that. certainly the process and the procedure that general kelly put out last week would seem to suggest that there could be a problem for jared kushner, because he doesn't have that
permanent security clearance and doesn't look like he's about to get one. but we don't know how that will affect him. but white house people are saying, you know, he'll still be able to do his job, he'll still be able to do what he needs to do. today he's up in new york at the united nations to hear the speech of mahmoud abbas, the palestinian leader. he's focusing on middle east peace, as his main driving force. it's hard to imagine that you can be in such a sensitive diplomatic position without having access to the kind of top-secret security information that you need a security clearance for. so these are unanswered questions. again, i think you'll hear them answered today -- they'll be asked today. whether they'll be answered, i don't know. >> and betsy, we -- the question of family members in their potential involvement in this, overlaps, i think, what the mueller investigation we've seen mueller use going after family members, as another tactic in addition to his making sure to hold feet to the fire in an instance of perjury. mike flynn's son, for example, has been involved. from a broader perspective, the
white house insisting that not only does this charge today mean that there was not necessarily any additional evidence of collusion, but that, in fact, this is further evidence that there was no collusion. what -- what is the leap there? >> that's just not a connection that you can draw, based on these documents. if the white house wants to set off a confetti cannon every time a public court filing is released that doesn't say that the president colluded within the russians, it's absolutely well within their rights to do that. that's how the first amendment works. but it's not an argument that holds any sort of serious legal water. >> fair enough. betsy woodruff, peter baker, thank you very much for your time. that's going to wrap up this hour of "msnbc live." katy tur takes over the conversation right now. katy? >> hi, there, kasie, appreciate it. it's 11:00 a.m. out wet and 2:00 p.m. in washington where alex van der zwaan just showed up in court, the latest person to be charged by robert mueller,
accused of lying -- don't lie -- to the special counsel's team. more on that in just a few moments. but at the white house, sarah huckabee sanders is about to break a week of silence after a school massacre gave what one white house staffer told "the washington post" was a, quote, reprieve from the escalating pressure on the white house amid a flurry of scandals. the last briefing scheduled for that wednesday never happened. the white house kept pushing it back to get its story straight on rob porter. have they now? they ultimately canceled it as news to have the florida school shooting broke. we know that the tentative plan back then before it was canceled was to have chief of staff john kelly face reporters. you'll remember, it looked like his job was on the line last week for two reasons. one, he kept porter around despite the domestic abuse allegations and he and