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tv   The Rachel Maddow Show  MSNBC  March 29, 2018 9:00pm-10:00pm PDT

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that is our broadcast for a thursday night. thank you as always so much for being with us and good night from nbc news headquarters here in new york. today's news has been full of all sorts of surprises. we have reporter carol lee joining us, and the single best reporter on veterans issues will join us tonight. one year ago when trump fired all the u.s. attorneys and federal prosecutors across the country, that got a bunch of attention for two reasons. first is that he did it suddenly and with no warning. and over the years lots of presidents have decided to replace all the previous u.s. attorneys but nobody has ever done it this way, with the demand they all get out of office that day, hand in your
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keys, get out, no handover plan, no time to wind up any cases or set up any ongoing management arrangements. so it made a lot of news, one, because it was very sudden. it seemed to be maybe an impulsive decision, it did not seem to be a well-planned out thing which is a serious thing when you're talking about federal law enforcement. that also made news because some of the u.s. attorneys who got fired were very high profile people, for example, preet bharara for the district of knock. furthermore, he had been publicly assured for the right to keep his job. he was told he would be able to stay on in the trump strae administrati administration. in the year since those firings happened, though, while those
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things are also still interesting, what's turned out to be super interesting in the long run is that even though it really was a mass firing out of the blue last march, there ended up being a tiny handful of u.s. attorneys that the president decided he would hold on to. none of them was famous at all at the time. they've all become a little bit famous since. they include rod rosenstein, who at the time was u.s. attorney in maryland. they didn't get rid of him. he ended up becoming the number two official in the justice department, he is the direct supervisor of the robert mueller special counsel investigation and therefore rod rosenstein has been publicly attacked by the president of the united states. there was also dana boente. he became head of the national security division at the justice department and then mysteriously
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dana boente was fired. that still remains a mysterious t turn of events. if you have any information that can explain what happened to dana boente after they put him in this series of high fall utili alutin jobs. and you should also know there's this man, his name is john w. huber, one of the handful of u.s. everyone tos who wasn't fired. he was u.s. attorney in utah when trump took office and he
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still has that job to this day, u.s. attorney for utah. like dana boente and rod rosenstein, he is basically a respected, fairly noncontroversial, definitely non-high profile career prosecutor. but now john huber is about to have his time in the spotlight as well. attorney general jeff sessions last year made a very high profile and ultimately very consequential announcement about recusal. not long after he was confirmed as attorney general, it was discovered by investigative reporting that he had not told the truth during husband cis confirmation hearings, about his own time with the russian government. after issuing a bunch of fierce denials, he ultimately had to concede that, yes, he had those contacts and basically he had lied about them. a lot of people expected he would have to step down as
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attorney general. instead what he did was he announced a broad recusal. he announced he would stay as attorney general but he would recuse himself, pledge not to involve himself with anything at the justice department or the fbi that related to the 2016 campaign, including anything related to the trump cam ppaign and also the clinton campaign. >> i have recused myself in the matters that deal with the trump campaign. the exact language of that recusal is in the press release that will give to you. i've said this, quote, i have now decided to recuse myself from any existing or future investigations of any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the united states. >> any matter relating in any way to the campaigns for president of the united states. that was the attorney general jeff sessions a year ago after he got found out lying about his
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own contacts with russian government officials during the campaign. that announcement of his recusal is the reason why not jeff sessions but rod rosenstein oversees the russian investigation related to the trump campaign. but that recusal should have taken him out of involvement in anything involving either of the campaigns and that's on top of the commitment he made during his confirmation hearing that he would stay away and not involve himself in any investigations that involved hillary clinton that were raised as a campaign issue. >> mr. chairman, it was a highly contentious campaign. i, like a lot of people, made comments about the issues in that campaign. with regard to secretary clinton and some of the comments i made, i do believe that that could place my objectivity in question. i've given that thought. i believe the proper thing for
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me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions involving those kind of investigations that involve secretary clinton that were raised during the campaign. or could be otherwise connected to it. >> any questions involving those kinds of investigations that involve secretary clinton that were raised during the campaign or could otherwise be connected to it. okay, attorney general sessions is supposed to be recused in anything involving the fbi. broad rekoosal. the fact that he is supposed to be recused from any of those matters of course raises questions about his involvement in the firing of the fbi director and the deputy fbi director. remember both james comey and andrew mccabe were ostensibly fired because of their actions
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related to hillary clinton during the campaign. on top of at that there have been calls made by members of congress demanding that the fbi's handling of investigations of hillary clinton should itself be reviewed. republicans have insisted the fbi was wrong in the way it pursued those investigations because secretary clinton was somehow let off the hook. they want to investigate the fbi for not locking up hillary clinton. and they want to investigate the fbi because the fbi investigated russian interference in the election. they want to investigate the fbi for vgting that. for them getting a court to approve multiple search warrants to surveil a trump campaign -- republicans think that's the real scandal?
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that the fbi ever looked into that or pursued that? so they want the fbi itself investigated on those matters. well, attorney general jeff sessions today announced he has asked utah u.s. attorney john huber to lead that the investigation of the fbi. again, john huber one of just a handful of u.s. attorneys who was no now apparently this is not a new probe that is being led by job huber. u.s. attorney john huber has, according to jeff sessions, already been conducting this investigation of the fbi for some time pu for some reason jeff sessions just decided to make it public today. >> and nobody is quite sure why attorney general jeff sessions decided to make this public today. nobody's sure to what that make
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of it overall because this is weer weird. we're in new territory today. we've never seen anything like it before. and this announcement today comes one day after the justice department's inspector general announced he will review that application for that surveillance warrant on trump foreign policy advisor carter page and the inspector general announced he will conduct a review of the fbi and justice department relationship with christopher steele, the former mi 6 agent that wrote the trump dossier in the republican controlled congress. why is this happening now and why are we learning about this now? we've learned about both inquiries and jeff sessions has gone out of his way to say publicly he requested both inquiries. the inspector general review and this other review by the prosecutor. jeff sessions set both in motion and they are both happening at the same time.
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and i think there is a couple of important things to know about that from today's news. one of them is about jeff sessions. one of them is about christopher steele but let's do the jeff sessions one first. this morning this letter was made public from republican senator chuck grassley and democratic senator diane feinstein. a letter to the trump campaign that's bipartisan. that's a republican and democratic senator signing the same thing. cats and dogs riding the same goat. we never see anything bipartisan anymore. this is like a circus trick. here it is, they today sent this letter to the trump campaign reupping a bipartisan demand that the trump campaign hand over to the senate judiciary committee documents and communications from the campaign related to russia and there are a few elements of wonder here. one is that this is a bipartisan request. two, they are alive. a congressional inquiry into the
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russia scandal. what? the request is also quite literally wonderful. it is cause of wonder because of its one footnote. has one footnote in the letter and acknowledges a spelling difficulty for the last five months since george papadopoulos was charged in the special counsel's investigation. look at the very bottom of this letter. the whole point is they are reupping a document request to the trump campaign about russia. hand us documents that contain these keynotes related to the russia investigation. footnote, while your search terms included the word papadopoulos, we ask you to include pop -- asterisks, p-a p-a-d and anything after that to account for possible misspellings. think about it.
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if you only ask for e-mails in the trump campaign that correctly spell the word papadopoulos, you might imagine you won't get many documents handed over. number one, they want the search done again including common misspellings of george papadopoulos' last name and communications from two people, rick dearborn and a man named john mashburn. i know they both sound like fake names you would invent for a burner hot mail account but these are real guys. john mashburn was the policy director for the trump campaign for a time.
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his name is obviously unfamiliar because he rarely if ever surfaced in the high profile scandals afflicting the trump campaign and trump administration. the one place he does turn up is as a point of contact for the campaign on a mirky incident that took place at the republican national convention in 2016. where still to this day, nobody really admits who exactly insisted that the republican party's national platform needed to be changed to go softer on russia. that mystery is where both john mashburn and rick deerborn make the announcement where they were consulted on the changes to the platform while it was being negotiated. so why today are chuck grassley and dianne feinstein inquiring about those two guys? johnson. about a couple of hours later, bingo, a scoop from investigative reporter mark at
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reuters. mueller probing russia contacts at republican convention. quote, investigators probing whether donald trump's campaign colluded with russia have been questioning witnesses about the events of the 2016 convention. one issue they have been asking witnesses about is why and how language was deleted from a party platform. maybe they dynamic partisan duo believe they can shed light on this for the senate investigation, as well. that's the place where they both turn up in the russia scandal as best as we can tell. but here is the thing, mark today also goes on to report that mueller's investigators have been asking witnesses about several matters that specifically relate to jeff sessions. quote, mueller's team has been asking about a convention related event attended by both russia's u.s. ambassador and jeff sessions.
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quote, investigators asked detailed questions about conversations that sessions, then a campaign advisor had at a campaign event attended by russia's ambassador to the united states. mueller's team is asking whether jeff sessions had private discussions on the sidelines of a campaign speech that trump gave at washington's may flower hotel in april 2016. if this new reporting is correct, this means a couple things. first, and most importantly, it means that in current inquiries by the special counsel's office, what they are asking witnesses about now is about the central matter under investigation. it's not just obstruction of justice. they are asking about the question of contacts with and potentially collusion with russia. that's what they are asking witnesses about and that's supported by the court filings we got from mueller's prosecutors where they described having evidence that trump's campaign chair repeatedly had contact with someone with known active ties to russian intelligence during their work on the campaign.
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so part of what is important about mark's reporting is that collusion is clearly still in the mix in terms of what mull er is looking at, anybody will be alarmed by these reports about what mueller is asking witnesses about now. the other thing about mark hosenball's reporting is, hey, that's the attorney general you're talking about there. the currently serving attorney general of the united states is the subject of active inquiries in the mueller investigation on multiple fronts while he's serving as attorney general which involves him setting up multiple inquiries and whether or not the fbi should have been investigating the russia matter at all and whether they have been too bias in favor of hillary clinton. he's the subject of inquiries by the mueller investigation,
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meanwhile sicking these two investigators on the russia investigation? this is a rat's nest. and boy, does that purported recusal seem to be sagging under its own weight these days. so serious new questions about the attorney general. but i mentioned there were important new developments that relate to this in the news today about jeff sessions and also about christopher steele. well, the one about christopher steele comes in the form of an alarming brand-new scoop tonight from nbc richard engel and that's next. .
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richard engel had this scoop tonight on "nbc nightly news." >> tonight new clues that could solve what's been a week's long mystery, how were former russian spy sergei skripal and his daughter poisoned with a nerve agent that left them criticallyily? we've reconstructed their last known movements on march 4th in salisbu salisbury, england. at 1:30 they set out from home for drinks at this pub. followed by lunch around the corner. at 3:35, they left the restaurant and soon collapsed on
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a nearby park bench. chemical weapons expert walked us through the crime scene. >> heading towards the center of town. >> he thinks the fast-acting poison was likely smeared on something they touched. >> if breathed in can kill you instantaneously. if absorbed through the skin, which i think is the case in this attack, within minutes if not hours. >> british authorities say they think the poison was left on the skripals' front door. the kremlin denies it but another russian spy turned double agent has no doubt his former bosses were responsible. >> this is your kgb id card. >> basically a license to kill. >> he says just last month he got a call from a friend still on the inside. >> he told me look, be careful. look around.
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>> his source told him he was one of eight on a hit list. it includes him and christopher steele, author of the infamous trump russia dossier. >> nbc's richard engel just tonight reporting that christopher steele, also u.s. investor and whistle blower and at least five other people besides sergei skripal turned up on a hit list three weeks before he was on a park bench suffering from the effects of a rare russian nerve agent. i can tell you for sure richard is going to have more on this story, and you should stay tuned to anything richard engel says over the next couple of days. promise me. sergei skripal was attacked along with his 31-year-old daughter. watch this from itv news from britain tonight. >> this is itv news at ten. >> good evening.
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there were those who said that no one could recover from the nerve agent poisoning that left the form are russian spy sergei skripal and his daughter critically ill, but there was some remarkable news today. she is improving rapidly and no longer critically ill, though her father still is. if she's well enough to talk and there are suggestions that she is, then this slow-moving investigation may get a new and rapid lease of life. >> it has taken weeks of investigation for experts to be able to say with confidence that the house where sergei lived is the place where the would-be assassins tried to kill him. the highest concentration was found here on the front door. police built a metal wall, a crime scene attracting worldwide attention and condemnation. if the former spy and his
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daughter were twin targets for assassination, it seems the plot at least partially failed. sergei is still critically ill, but his daughter's condition changed from critical to stable while she's by no means well it is a remarkable turn around and the hospital says she's improving rapidly. given the fears about the potency of novichick. >> although it been around for a long time they are relatively new. we don't have as much information about those compounds. we don't know if the problems could reoccur but in terms of long-term effects, it's possible she will have memory loss, concentration, breathing problems. >> sergei is in critical
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condition in the u.k. but he is described as stable. his 33-year-old daughter yulia is conscious and she is talking and no longer considered critically ill. we're seeing a diplomatic fight. 27 countries have expelled more than 150 russian officials of various kinds. today the russians started resip reciprical expulsions. russia says they may go further but so does britain.
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britain is insisting they might not be done with their response to what they see as a chemical weapons attack. teresa may is considering actions potentially looking at what is a large problem with russian money laundering in london and she's been pushing hard on this in public and in parliament. >> when faced with the evidence, we gave the russian government the opportunity to provide an explanation but they did not do so. they did not explain why russia has the weapons program or lost control of the nerve agent and no explanation how this agent used but instead, they have come back with carcasarcasm and defie and deployed 21 arguments and suggested they never produced it.
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or they produced them but then destroyed them and tried to claim their agents are not covered by the convention and pointed to the physical injuries at other countries including slovakia, sweden and the czech republic and tried to climb the united kingdom was responsible to such contradictory theories is unworthy of their people and great history. >> here is the interesting thing, over the last couple weeks, our country has taken action against russia. the u.s. finally implemented some of the sanctions congress required against russia for their attack on our election. the trump administration said they would sanction the people indicted in russia by robert mueller, which sort of undercuts the president's claim that the mueller thing is a big witch hunt, right?
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russia retaliated and threw out 60 american officials, a direct punch back taken against russia officials a few days ago. that's interesting given the investigation swirls around the president and campaign and given the previous difference to vladimir putin but the second big scoop of the night. headline -- trump tells aides not to talk publicly about russia policy moves. quote, president donald trump's national security advisors spent months trying to convince him to sign off on a plan to supply new u.s. weapons to ukraine to aid in that country's fight against russian-backed separatists, yet when the president authorized it, he told aids not to publicly tote his decision. trump argued doing so might agitate vladimir putin. he doesn't want us to bring it up. it's not something he wants to talk about. that happened in december.
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policy change made but trump doesn't want anybody talking about it. it might upset putin. that same dynamic is with the policy moves we've seen recently. the white house announced monday that the u.s. would expel 60 russian diplomats, the largest number since the cold war in response to the nerve agent attack in the u.k. but the president did not comment on it and he quote insisted that the white house's message include the idea he still wants to work with russia. quoting nbc news' story tonight, trump was similarly silent today after russia said it would excel u.s. diplomats and close the consulate in st. petersburg. nbc news tonight describes a similar dynamic at work to put sanctions against russia in response to actions in our election. at times nbc news reports the president has directed aides not
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to talk about those sanctions. been a lot of surprises in the news today. this counts as like a surprise in your lifetime of news, right? because this isn't about like action by the u.s. government that they want to keep quiet. this isn't stuff the u.s. government is doing in secret. these are public actions by the u.s. government designed to have a public effect while the president is refusing to verbally acknowledge he's doing these things. you're not keeping it secret. it's been a weird day but this is a weird dynamic. carol lee joins us next. your letting go thing. your sorry not sorry thing. your out with the old in with the new, onto bigger and better thing. get the live tv you love. no bulky hardware. no satellite. no annual contract. try directv now for $10/mo for 3 months. more for your thing. that's our thing.
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quote, trump tells aides not to talk about policy headline news. that's from carol lee and courtney and kristen welker. thank you for joining us tonight. congratulations on this. >> thank you. thanks for having me. >> you have this remarkable reporting tonight as the white house started to take policy actions against russia including sanctions and expelling diplomats, the president is not just keeping silent about these himself, he's trying to keep other people in the administration from talking about these things. did your reporting turn up any credible information of why he's
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doing that? >> yeah, well, officials we talked to basically summed it up to two things. one is, which is interesting, is that the president doesn't want to be seen as appeasing the critics including the media. that the one reason and another is that he just, he wants to still have better relations with russia. he holds out hope and in his mind if he speaks negatively about putin or really aggressive in what he says publicly, that will anger putin and hopes for a better relationship will not happen and one of the interesting things that we learned is that part of what the president's team has started to do is motivate him to take policy action, which as you mentioned are getting increasingly tougher and the way they do that is say okay, if you want really good relationships with russia, putin responds to strength, so you need to be stronger and you need to be tougher on him and they say that the president kind of bought
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into that and gets that argument and at the same time he'll take the steps and aids are left not really knowing what to do, whether they should talk about it or not and often times he'll say he doesn't want to talk about it. >> your reporting today comes in the wake of the do not congratulate story where the president was reportedly advised in writing by his national security aids he should not congratulate president putin and called up president putin and congratulated him right away. is there concern the president's behavior towards putin, the personal level, the way he's talking to him is under cutting the policy impact of the increasingly tough measures? >> there is particularly on that phone call. we were told the president may not have seen them but the aids decided not to brief him on that orally because he was going to
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do what he wanted to do anyways and so there is concern that he's, you know, he's not being tough enough in his rhetoric and that somehow diminishes the policies. but in the president's view, he feels that he doesn't need to be tough rhetorically on putin and in fact, according to his advisors, was tough on putin in the phone call and russia had and showing images and called the leaders of france and the u.k. and germany and said what is with this guy? we got to stick together. he's dangerous. who knows how their reaction was but something along the lines of like yeah, we've been trying to tell you that.
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so then he gets on the phone with putin and he says, you know, look, if you want an arm's race, we can do that but i'll win and he posted i just got this $700 billion defense budget. it's the biggest ever. you don't want to mess with me. that's a private conversation and he said they had a very good call and he hopes to meet with him. >> if we believe the aides he was secretly being tough with him. if that's true, what we know from the president's own words is what he also said was congratulations, you did great in your fake election and come visit. this is a weird subject for this white house. carol lee, thank you very much. congratulations on this. >> thanks, rachel. >> much more to come tonight, stay with us.
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happened here tonight and tha
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it will be implemented, right, david? better be david. [ applause ] >> we'll never have to use those words. you'll never have to use those words on our david. >> we'll never have to use those words on our david, the collective dade. we'll never use those words. you're fired on our david. yesterday somebody used those words on our david. but tonight, our david told chris hayes that those words didn't end upcoming from the president. >> when is the last time you spoke to him? >> i spoke to the president yesterday. >> what was that conversation like? >> we spoke about the progress that i was making, what i needed to do from a policy perspective to make sure that we're fixing the issues in v.a. very focussed. he was very inquisitive about the things that we're working on making sure that we were focused on the job at hand. >> wait, that's before you were
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fired? >> that's correct. >> you spoke to him, he made no mention of the fact that he was about to terminate you? >> that's correct. >> and then you found out via tweet? >> right before that the chief of staff kelly gave me a call, which i appreciated, gave me a heads up so that was much after the phone call. >> president speaking to him pleasantly talking about policy, expressing no problems with what he's doing. hangs up, can you call that guy and fire him? joining us now is a person you should read any time there is veterans news in the country, leo shane, thank you for being here tonight. appreciate your time. >> thank you, rachel. >> so david shulkin has gone out with a bang. he says the reason he was fired is because he was opposed to
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abolishing the va, so people used personal scandals about him and other means to push him out but that was the real reason. does he make a compelling case? >> we heard multiple reasons. the president in ohio said he forced the secretary out that he was upset about wait times even though we've heard from the president many times he's been happy with the progress. this issue of privatization, overhaul of the va has been one since trump came into office and one shulkin has had to fight against his term there. so we've seen a real internal power struggle here. some folks disagreeing on the policy how much va care should go outside of va, how much private funds should go out. shulkin has really become one, and the veterans groups saw him as one that stood up against privatization efforts. >> he said he was going to speak out, as a private citizen, there are veterans against privatization, even though they want full funding and support for the va, they've been strong against these efforts to privatization.
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almost nobody admits they are trying to privatize or abolish va health care. but the saga of shulkin by the way he's going out is saying this is something that's being actively worked for. is it your sense there's support for that in congress that could make it happen. >> is it your sense there's actual support for that in congress? >> it comes down to your definition of privatization. there's a couple proposals in congress that would increase the amount of veterans that go out for care. we've seen democrats and republicans say there needs to be more of a partnership, there's not enough capacity at va, it doesn't make sense to have veterans go to va hospitals for routine care, if it's a lot
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more for routine care. the question is where does that line come down. what secretary shulkin was backing and said he was backing is some sort of plan that leaves va at the center of the care and there are forces in the white house that said that's not enough, veterans should be able to choose what they want. this is what veterans are concerned about, can people make that decision, what does this mean, how far does it go and does it end up siphoning dollars from the va. do you end up starving the v.a. in order to pursue this option. >> let me ask you about dr. ronny jackson, the next nominee. everybody i talked to, he's beloved by everyone who knows him. he's the most universal liked person in washington, but he clearly has no experience running any large organization of any kind and there's this crushing perception that he's
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not capable of doing this job. i'll show you a couple reactions, one long time republican lobbyist gave a two-word prediction for jackson's chances of being senate confirmation, harriet sena senate.
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>> a lot of veterans groups don't even know this guy. they're totally unfamiliar with him. as we look ahead to the confirmation process, there's going to be very tough questions about the democrats, his views on health care, his familiarity with benefits and member kworia services and hundreds of other things the v.a. does. right now it's tough to handicap, we don't know what people could be opposed to. we know by all accounts, he a very good white house physician and several presidents and their staff, liked him in that role. it's a big question mark to see what is he going to say, how can
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he survive the confirmation process, and when he's faces these tough questions wl, when getting grilled on what private means, what do you know about education benefits for veterans? is he going to wilt or come with stellar answers. >> leo shane, i wanted to talk to you about this as soon as i heard it went down here. >> any time. have me back any time. >> thanks, will. stay with us. it's 6 am. 40 million americans are waking up to a gillette shave.
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order online and gewant us to do about what woulthis president?fathers i'm tom steyer, and when those patriots wrote the constitution here in philadelphia, they had just repelled an invading foreign power. so they created the commander in chief to protect us from enemy attack. the justice department just indicted 13 russians for sabotaging our elections. an electronic attack on america that the chief investigator called "warfare". so what did this president do? nothing. and is he doing anything to prevent a future attack? the head of the fbi says no. this president has failed his most important responsibility- protecting our country. the first question is: why? what is in his and his family's business dealings with russia that he is so determined to hide, that he'd betray our country? and the second question is: why is he still president? join us today. we have to do something.
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one last thing about the firing of the have. >> a. secretary. he says he was fired because he was standing in the way. no, no, he was fired because of a travel scandal. here's how we know he wasn't fired about a travel scandal. scott pruitt took a trip last year, and part of the reason it cost the taxpayer so much is because it wasn't just scott pruitt, it was first class tickets for himself, his head of security, and staffer, all on the taxpayer dime. it sounds like that should be the worst part of the story but keep reading. the reason pruitt went to morocco in the first place was to pitch the benefit of
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liquefied natural gas imports on morocco's economy. he's the epa administrator, that is so far out of his lane he's driving on the wrong side of the road. what we do know is at the time he's waxing poetic about natural gas, there was only one in the united states owned by shaner energy and we know scott pruitt was living in shaner energy's lobby's house. the lobbyist firm specifically lobbies on issues related to the export of liquefied natural gas. so today he was living in his house while he was traveling on your dime to go pitch liquefied
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natural gas imports. i wonder what he was paying for in rent? i wonder if his rent was paid by now it's time for "the last word with lawrence o'donnell." >> that's a little swampy. >> usually you say it's like oh, you're living in the house. literally living in the house. >> i have not heard of a closer relationship than that, actually. you can't get closer than living in the house. >> maybe if they were sharing clothes. >> so you seem pretty close to convinced that it wasn't the travel. the travel is not why donald trump fires people, expensive travel does not get you fired in the trump administration?