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tv   MSNBC Live With Velshi and Ruhle  MSNBC  March 12, 2019 10:00am-11:00am PDT

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out of time. here's ali velshi for "velshi & ruhle." >> have yourself a great afternoon. hello, everybody, i'm ali velshi. my colleague, stephanie ruhle, is on assignment. it is tuesday, march 12th. let's get smarter. >> the nationwide cheating scandal involving college entrance exams has now been exposed by the fbi and federal prosecutors in boston. you've got these hollywood actors, felicity huffman, lori
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loughlin, they're just two of the people charged in this scheme. >> we're here to announce charges in the largest college admission scam ever prosecuted by the department of justice. we've charged 50 people nationwide. >> for every student admitted through fraud, an honest, genuinely talented student was rejected. flight risk. more countries and airlines grounding the 737 max 8 after its second deadly crash in five months. why are airlines keeping those in the skies? >> the faa expects to order mandatory design changes to the 737 max 8 by the end of april. >> uk civil aviation authorities have ordered their boeing 737 max 8 grounded as well. less than two weeks remain until britain is scheduled to leave the european union. it is still unclear whether lawmakers will agree to may's strategy. >> tonight members of this house are faced with a very clear
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choice. >> politicians have to come together and get their act together. the general public is sick of all this procrastination. 2020. all eyes are or beto o'rourke but has the delay in making an announcement making a bid for the presidency? and then you have joe biden make weighing his options. >> run joe run, run joe run. >> flattery is fine as long as you don't inhale. i look out here and it looks like my ole neighborhood, ready to take anybody on. we're learning explosive new details about the largest college admissions scam prosecuted boy the department of justice ever. prosecutors say 50 people are being charged nationwide in connection with a $25 million cheating scheme designed to get students into elite universities. much of the indictment ties to william "rick" singer, the founder of a for-profit counseling and preparation business called the key. he just arrived to a federal
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court in boston. his scheme was twofold. helping students cheat on college entrance exams and paying bribes to get kids into schools with fake athletic credentials. >> with respect to the s.a.t. and a.c.t. scheme, numerous parents paid singer between $15,000 and $75,000 to have someone either take the exam for their child or to correct their child's answers afterward. all to achieve a sufficiently high preagreed score on those tests. singer counselled parents to take their children to a therapist and get a letter saying that because of purported learning disabilities or other issues, the child needed additional time to complete the a.c.t. or the s.a.t. parents also paid singer money that he then used to bribe coaches and administrators to designate their children as recruited athletes for various schools. singer worked with the parents to fabricate impressive athletic
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profiles for their kids, including fake athletic credentials or honors or fake participation in elite club teams. in many instances, singer helped parents take staged photographs of their children engaged in particular sports. >> staged photographs of children engaged in particular sports in, some cases sports in which those children had never participated, let alone were competitive in or qualified to gain admission to a university on the basis of. 33 parents have been charged, including hollywood stores lori loughlin and felicity huffman. except for a usc administrator who has been charged, the schools themselves are not believed to have been involved in the alleged scheme. joining me now, tom winter who certainly got a break from what he normally does to be covering this one. nbc national security and justice reporter julia ainsley and federal prosecutor with
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expertise in racketeering, which is what some of these charges are, barrett burger. tom, let's start with you with two notable figures in the case, the two actresses. >> both felicity huffman and lori loughlin were involved to try to get their daughters into universities. in the face of felicity huffman, in one instance with one daughter according to e-mails and the information contained in the court documents, ali, she was able to work with one of the people charged to get her daughter to take an s.a.t. for an unlimited amount of time. that can normally be done for very legitimate reasons such as a learning disability or particular medical condition. in this case huffman coordinated with this company to make sure that her daughter went to the right location for the exam to be taken with the right proctor who was then bribed, according to the court documents. in a separate instance and the government said she did not go through with this plan but there
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was going to be another instance where she was going to do the same scheme with her other daughter. it's alleged that tens of thousands of dollars exchanged hand. for lori loughlin, it involved her daughter at usc. in that particular instance lori and her hundred dollasband coor got pictures of their daughter on an urg -- >> i didn't know what an urg is so -- >> it's the rowing machine. so they got pictures of her on an urg to say that she was the head or one of the people on crew with the l.a. harbor club. she had nothing to do with being on crew, according to the court documents. and so this was part of a package that essentially they put forward to usc to try to get her into that school. now, what we've learned in the last couple of minutes is that felicity huffman is in federal custody in los angeles. she should be presented in court later today. in addition to that, it's our
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understanding both in the reporting and from u.s. law enforcement officials lori is not in federal coustody. she's out of the country and will be taken into custody later. >> julia, there are coaches involved, there are guidance counselors, there are testing centers. tom has just talked about the parents. there's even a fake charity involved. >> that's right, ali. this goes back to 2011 and there was even a yale coach who cooperated with the fbi as part of this investigation because a lot of these coaches had to knowingly and fraudulently say that these students should be given preference in the admissions process because they had athletic potential to be on these teams, like that urg test. there's a student going over a very high pole vault, something that would be very difficult to do if you were put up to the test with no pole vaulting abilities. that is not the student that is applying. that is a picture the parent
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found off of the internet. they would essentially be paying people to tell them to put together a portfolio on their athletic abilities. on the testing side, people were involved as well, these testing centers. there were people who would come and take the test away from what your child had done, change answers to get a particular score. you can say i think a 1600 might be flagged. let's come down and get something that could get into a school but would be much higher than what these parents thought their children could achieve on their own. a lot of money changing hands here. again, it doesn't seem that the schools knew they were being fooled when they got these higher test scores and were told that these students had athletic abilities. but a number of very elite schools are involved in this, from stanford to yale to wake forest. it runs the gamut. it's really amazing. i encourage people to go through these documents tom and i have been poring over all morning. >> the schools are not charged and not involved in the scam. i think everybody in the country should take a moment to pause
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and realize that kids were admitted into schools -- it's one thing if your test schools are faked and the school may not have a way of knowing that. but on athletic ability, which is a measurable thing, there are kids that got into these schools which brings coaches into this thing. barrett, tell me how this is racketeering. i get why it's fraud. why are there racketeering allegations? >> i think when most people think of racketeering, they think of the mob. in 1970 the purpose was to infiltrate organized mob. since then prosecutors have used the statute to focus on instances where there's a pattern of criminal activity on behalf of that enterprise. so this is not just -- >> a pattern, something that can be replicated. >> exactly. >> something that feels a little more like industry than a one-off. >> it's a great tool for prosecutors to charge both state and federal crimes together. so the crime of racketeering is
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a federal crime but it's the underlying criminal acts can be state crimes that would be different for federal prosecutors to otherwise charge. this is a way of bringing together a variety of discreet crimes, putting them under the umbrella of this racketeering enterprise because everyone is focused on working for the same group here. >> tom, rick singer, what do we know about him? >> he has a plea agreement with the government. we just saw him entering federal court in massachusetts. we know that he has a plea agreement and at this point we expect to hear a little bit more as far as his role in this. he's somebody who looking at the court documents, we're still going through them, he might be one of the people who is cooperating in this. we know that one of the cooperating witnesses actually has an obstruction of justice charge against them because once they started to cooperate with the government, they took time to tip off people involved that there was an investigation. >> haven't people learned at this point? we've taught them nothing about
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legality for the last couple of years. >> once they're cooperating, they're going to find out if you decide to tip people off about the case. the thing that rank elled law enforcement here, they look at this and say these would be spots at these schools that other people that weren't paying bribes, weren't part of this racketeering conspiracy, that they would have otherwise been able to get into really terrific schools or really terrific athletic programs. you have the head coach of yale's women's soccer program tied up in this. you have other prominent ncaa division i coaches that are tied up in this. this of course follows on the heels of another -- another case that was prosecuted by federal prosecutors here in new york involving men's college basketball. so there's certainly a bit of a stink around ncaa programs and some of these high-profile schools right now. >> as we're looking at the list of the 50 people charged, i don't understand this but some are charged by information, some are charged by indictment and some are charged by complaint.
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is that relevant? >> yes and no. it's some in the weeds legal jargon there. if somebody is cooperating, it's likely they would be charged by information which is the same as an indictment but they agree they're not going to force the prosecutors to go to the grand jury. >> but they're all charged. >> exactly. there's really no difference at this point between being charged by complaint or indictment. >> and these are all criminal charges. >> all criminal charges and all have pretty serious penalties. if you're charged with racketeering, you can face up to 20 years in jail so these crimes are no joke. >> all right, thank you all. still ahead, boeing has a major problem. more airlines and countries are grounding the boeing 737 max 8 after the crash that killed all 157 people on board in ethiopia. the faa hasn't called for action yet, but can it wait? you're watching msnbc. opening.
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the federal aviation administration has decided that u.s. airlines can still fly boeing 737 max 8 jets after two deadly crashes in fewer than six months. but the number of destinations for those planes is shrinking. just this morning the united kingdom joined six other countries in grounding the max 8. britain is banning any flights of the model from arriving to, departing from or even flying through uk airspace. many of the countries are also
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grounding the max 9 models as well, although they haven't been involved in any crashes. and in the united states, senators from both sides of the aisle are calling for the faa to ground the jets until the investigation into the latest crash on sunday in ethiopia is complete. until we know what similarities, if any, the ethiopia crash has to october's lion air crash in indonesia. joining me now nbc news correspondent tom costello who covers aviation, less ovand, a retired captain and jeff wise, author of "the plane that wasn't there, why we haven't found mh-370." tom -- thanks to all of you, by the way. you guys are exactly the right people to analyze this. tom, let's start with you. what's the reasoning the faa is giving for not doing what some of its contemporary organizations in other countries are doing? >> the faa says it all comes down to data. it needs to know definitively
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that there is a reason to ground this plane and it says at the moment it doesn't have that. it does have nations around the world grounding them and airlines grounding them. can we put the map back up? the number of nations growing -- has grown. we've got not only what's on there already, we've also got france, germany, ireland, oman, os tr austria, the netherlands, turkish air as well. so there are as i count something like 55 to 60% of the global 737 max fleet is now grounded. for the most part it is flying in the united states and in canada. boeing is standing behind the plane. the faa says at the moment they see no reason to ground the plane. the airlines here in north america believe it is a good plane and have not seen any issues with it. but this cascade of countries
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and airlines now taking this action is quite amazing. moments ago i talked to the former secretary of transportation under president obama, ray lahood. he reminds us that he grounded the 787 when they were having battery fire problems. you may recall he grounded the plane over objections of boeing and the faa. he said he's glad he did and he would grounding the 737 max now because he said we can't afford to have another one fall out of the sky. boeing says all of their engineers believe this plane is safe. i should make the point the faa does say it's going to mandate a change in the software design on the 737 max by the end of april. boeing says we were already working on that, faa is aware of it. that's already in the pipeline. but they expect to roll that out quickly. that would deal with the automated anti-stall system, which many experts believe may have been at the root of the
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indonesian crash. >> i'm going to ask les in a moment to explain why people should feel okay about flying on these planes or not and what a pilot needs to know but i want to ask jeff, because jeff wrote in an article covering this an explanation that i think is easy to understanding. boeing engineers had to move the point where the plane attaches to the wing. this affected the way the plane handled. most alarmingly it left the plane with a tendency to pitch up which could result in an aerodynamic stall. to prevent this, boeing added a new auto pilot system that would pitch the nose down if it looked too high. according to a preliminary report, it was this system that apparently led to the lion air crash. we don't know the full results of that and we know nothing about the ethiopian airlines crash but this may be something that everybody is looking at. is this auto pilot system versus the plane's angle of attack
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relevant to this investigation? >> right. so the fear that if this is the case of the ethiopia crash as well, you're looking at airline that has suffered two losses in the first two years of service. this is terrible. the 777 went almost 20 years. the 787 hasn't had a single fatality. here you've got this plane that is a legacy, real work horse plane. first flew in 1967. boeing has tried to just sort of keep updating it and keep putting a fresh coat of paint on it, as it were. here they tried to increase its performance by adding a new larger engine to an air frame that was not originally conceived to carry it resulting in performance issues which they tried to paper over by adding an automated system. they can be great for improving safety but in certain circumstances they can be very dangerous. >> i'm assuming that american airlines and southwest, who fly
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these planes, about 50 of them between the two of them, they're not saying it in their press releases, but they're saying we're fine. we don't think the plane is a problem. i think what they might not be saying is we know what the problem is and our pilots can handle it. what's your take on this? >> i think you're absolutely right, ali, that that is the case. like jeff was saying, this is a reliable stalwart airplane that was developed since the '60s. it's been stretched and stretched and stretched, to the point that it has to be modified, as jeff once again mentioned, with reference to modifying how it's mounted on the wings. underslung wings is what we call them. it has the tendency to raise the nose when you add power. if you're at a slow air speed it can be more pronounced. if you have a higher thrust like these fuel efficient engines have, you run into this
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particular problem. here's where i depart from where boeing's philosophy has always been, you let the pilots know what systems they have and what they're dealing with. then if that system fails on them, then you have a checklist for it. and this was never communicated and we found that out after the lion air crash in october. pilots getting on this airplane now, i would not blame them for feeling uncomfortable. and i myself even as a passenger, retired airline pilot of 34 years, i would feel uncomfortable with this situation. however, in the u.s. i'm confident that my colleagues would be able to handle a potential emergency with this thing. but what concerns me is i'm very confident that the ethiopian crew was well aware of this lion air accident. and if they were facing the same situation, the same circumstances, the same factors and they handled the emergency the way boeing recommended, which is a very old procedure
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cauldronaway trim, which you basically disconnect the trim switches, and that's supposed to stop that whole system that's involved with the software, if that is disconnected, that's supposed to stop your whole problem. what if they did follow that procedure and it still did not rectify the problem. >> and we don't know that information yet so that's a very important point, les. we don't know whether the pilots of that disconnected the system and then were trying to manually control this airplane and it didn't work. tom? >> we've got some breaking news here on this investigation. the cee of ethiopian airlines is answering a question i've had for the better part of 24 hours, 36 hours. he said we are going to sending the black boxes outside of ethiopia because we don't have the equipment here to do a readout. it's going to be decided by the action investigation bureau and the country of aircraft manufacture, in other words, the united states, to decide where
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they are read out. it could be the usa, it could be somewhere else. so the black boxes so far have not been read out it would appear according to the ceo of the airline and they may be going to the u.s. for a readout. i also wanted to make the point that while american airlines is standing behind the plane and flying it, its own flight attendants union is calling for the ceo to ground the plane. the flight attendants at american say they are concerned about the max. >> jeff, knowing what you know about this, let's assume at the moment what we know, that there is a particular problem and that that may have been the problem in both crashes. it may be months before we actually know this. if you know what the problem is, and as les said pilots can be trained to handle it, is the plane okay to fly? >> we just don't know that. if someone was to say to me, hey, i've got this flight booked on a 737 max, is it fair to go, statistically, sure. there's no reasonable chance that you're going to come to grief, but that's not how people
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fly. >> they want to feel 100% sure. >> when you've got all these countries saying, hey, we don't want to go on this thing, it's asking for people to go, you go, you're okay. >> despite statistics, u.s. air flying is very, very safe. when you adjust for terrorist accidents, it's remarkably safe, but people see these news items. >> it's remarkably safe because we have decades and decades of a culture of safety where safety comes before money. when you have an airline -- i'm sorry, an aircraft manufacturer that has the appearance of wanting to preserve its profits as opposed to putting passengers at risk, that's potentially a problem. we're not just faced with whether airlines and countries will stop allowing this plane to be flown, the big question for boeing is are our customers going to stop ordering there. lion air has said it will switch its order from boeing to airbus. that's going to be very scary for boeing and its investors. >> and boeing shares are down
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again today. it's actually pressuring the dow in general, which is down largely because of the almost 6% decline in boeing shares. you can take a look at it there. in fact it's 7.5% right now that boeing shares are down after a big drop yesterday as well. thanks to the three of you, i couldn't ask for a better team to help me understand this. coming up next, president trump's $4.7 trillion budget is being called heartless in one op-ed because it slashes funding for the poor while boosting spending for the military. we'll break down who could lose the most. wn who could lose the most (nat♪re sounds) corey is living with metastatic breast cancer, which is breast cancer that has spread to other parts of her body.
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president trump's newly proposed 2020 budget is causing tension on capitol hill as democrats say the president's requests are nonstarters for negotiation. it includes $8.6 billion for his border wall and creased spending on defense. but his plan to make budget cuts to affect people and their daily lives is what's getting a lot of people upset about this. it proposes a $2.7 trillion cut to nondefense programs. officials claim that those changes will balance the budget within the next 15 years. now, let's take a look at the plans that are going to be directly affected. first, farmers.
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the group includes much of president trump's base. the new budget would cut 15%, that's $3.6 billion from the department of agriculture. now, officials say they plan on eliminating funds from, quote, overly generous subsidy programs. coming up next, health programs. back in 2016 president trump vowed not to make major cuts to medicare and medicaid. however, his new proposal plans to cut nearly $845 billion from medicare over the next ten years and $1.5 trillion from medicaid. president trump is also making major changes to hiv and aids programs. in february president trump pledged to end the hiv epidemic in the united states by 2030. the new proposal would provide $291 million to the department of health and human services to fight the disease, but it cuts funding for global assistance, which trump pushed for as well. and lastly, the department of education plans to cut 10%, $7.1 billion.
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the new budget proposal plans to eliminate higher education research, teacher development programs and the popular public service loan forgiveness program. noipi joining me now is yamiche alcindor. this doesn't address a recent fundamental republican concern that it eliminates budget deficits and ultimately goes to pay the debt down and yet it cuts things that as we've heard from democrats are nonstarters. i wonder initially whether this is going down a road toward a shutdown? >> i think it might be going down a road toward a shutdown, but i think we know that president's budgets usually aren't taken as seriously on the hill, even when republicans had control they looked at president trump's budget and said we're not going to be able to pass this. we have to make all sorts of tweaks. i think in this particular case the president is putting together a budget that outlines his policies and priorities.
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he knows nancy pelosi isn't going to cut medicare or food stamps and also understands that republicans on his own party aren't going to be happy about adding even more to the deficit. i would also add that it's really important to note that president trump's own base benefits from some of the same programs he wants to cut. so when he goes out in 2020 and starts talking to these large crowds, it's important to note that white americans that are working age with no college degree, they benefit from programs like welfare and food stamps. >> so let's talk about some of the programs for the case. president trump said at the american farm bureau association back in january he would help out farmers, especially those affected by the trade dispute. let's play that. >> we've had so many good weeks and good days and it's only going to get better because we're doing trade deals that are going to get you so much business you're not even going to believe it. >> so that didn't work all that well. farmers have been getting these
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subsidies. now donald trump is cutting money from the agriculture department. >> it in some ways boggles the mind. but the president is essentially banking on this idea that people will like his rhetoric, will like the economy booming and the unemployment rate being low and they'll say president trump is doing what he said he'd do even if it hurts my bottom line. i have interviewed trump supporters that even that were hurt still turn to the republicans and say this party better reflects my values than democrats. while farmers will be very upset at not only the trade issues but also the immigration issues where we're hearing stories where farmers can't even get employees to pick their fields, there's this idea that i think his base is still sticking with him, so that could still happen. >> good to see you as always. yamiche alcindor. we'll get a look at "empire" actor jussie smollett.
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the judge has decided to allow cameras in the courtroom. he is facing more than a dozen felony charges, accused of staging an attack on himself and reporting that he was a victim of a racist and homophobic hate crime. his representatives didn't release a statement today saying they will wait until thursday's hearing to make a comment. you might want to call it joe biden's big tease. in front of a rowdy cruowd of supporters today, joe biden dropped a major hint about whether he's running for the white house in 2020. we'll have the latest on that, next. he latest on that, next open al every day. that's what 24/7 means, sugar. kind of like how you get 24/7 access to licensed agents with geico. hmm? yeah, you just go online, or give them a call anytime. you don't say. yep. now what will it take to get 24/7 access to that lemon meringue pie? pie! pie's coming! that's what it takes, baby. geico®. great service from licensed agents, 24/7.
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you know, i'd like you all to -- i appreciate the energy you showed when i got up here. save it a little longer, i may need it in a few weeks. be careful what you wish for. >> welcome back. former vice president joe biden there this morning in d.c. dropping hints on what everyone seems to be wondering, is he going to run for the white house. he's one of two very notable figures who have not yet joined the already crowded democratic field of 2020 hopefuls, the other one being beto o'rourke who's heading to the early caucus state of iowa this weekend, nbc news confirms. the former texas congressman plans to announce his official decision he has said before the end of march. joining me now garrett haake and nbc national political reporter mike memoli. mike, you were at the event this morning. joeb w joe biden was speaking to a
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group very excited union workers. if he announces he's running, will he get that union support after democrats lost so much of it to trump in 2016? >> it certainly sounded like it from the reception he got from the international association of firefighters. we talk a lot about lanes in a crowded democratic field. biden advisers believe they can play in many lanes. there's the progressive lane. he's proposing potentially a $15 an hour minimum wage, tax reform to help benefit the middle class, free college tuition. they think he has a particular appeal to african-american voters, a very important constituency in the party given not just his views on policy but the fact that he was a very loyal partner for barack obama for eight years in the white house. what they feel especially sure of is more than any other candidate in the democratic field, he can appeal to the kinds of voters we saw in that hall today, middle class, middle age membership, especially white men that were a key demographic
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that swung toward donald trump in 2016. this union where he spoke this morning they have in the past invited republican candidates and democratic candidates to speak there. i spoke with the president of the union that all but endorsed him this morning. he said it's one thing for us to win california by 6 million votes or new york by 2 million votes. this election will come down to whether or not we can win back wisconsin, michigan, pennsylvania, and they think joe biden can do that. >> we were just talking about the budget cuts, medicare and medicaid. biden touched on medicare and medicaid this morning. >> trading medicare and medicaid for tax breaks? how is that going to help anybody in this room or most of the people you live with? how is that going to help this country? >> what's your take on this, mike? >> biden's pitch to voters if he does run, and there's still a sliver of doubt, would be very squarely focused on middle class
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voters. what you heard is a preview of that argument that he would take to donald trump. it's one that he knows well and was effective for democrats in the midterm elections especially. when he did some 60 events for democratic candidates, he heard the candidates themselves, those candidates that won the 40 house seats that flipped from republican to democrat. so this is effective not just in a primary election where he can talk about the unfair policies that the trump administration has proposed benefitting the wealthy instead of the middle class, but also for swing voters in the fall. >> garrett, let's talk about beto o'rourke. what do we know? >> he's going to iowa on saturday but he's going there for a senate candidate in iowa. he's been trying to make a decision about whether or not he plans to run for president. we know that he has made the decision one way or the other, and i now know after talking to some folks close to him last night that he will announce his
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decision before the ending of this month. as with biden, there's still, i suppose, a sliver of possibility he's a no, but all signs are that beto o'rourke will announce a candidacy for president here in the not-too-distant future. he's taking all the necessary steps. his e-mail list has been reactivated. he's running ads on facebook getting people to sign up to be the first to hear what his announcement will be. i'm told that he's reaching out to staff in a lot of the early states. beto doesn't have a day job so he can't hire people and he doesn't have a pac. there are pieces being put in place before this candidacy springs to life. >> so there's talk about a biden/beto joint ticket. do you know if beto has been involved in any conversations like that? >> no. he has been asked about the idea of running or being selected for vice president and said he's not willing to rule anything out. you know, i hear that kind of
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thing periodically, people ask me that question all the time, especially when i was covering his senate campaign. i don't know, in 2020 to me, it's hard to imagine a democratic ticket that includes two white men. >> mike, let's stock about stacey abrams, she seemed to be dropping some hints this week that she's thinking about running. >> yeah, that's absolutely right. this is a candidate when we talk about beto, this is a candidate who ran for a statewide office, in his case the u.s. senate, and was not successful. yet there's this outpouring of excite democrats thinking he would be a great presidential candidate. there are a lot of people asking why is there not that same excitement about stacey abrams who ran for governor of georgia, came very close to forcing a runoff if not winning outright. she in many ways is the future of the party. african-american women make up the most loyal skpit aens. there are a lot of strategists who think the best thing stacey abrams can do is run for senate in georgia in 2020. they think they have a chance of
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potentially picking up that seat in a state that's trending more purple. but if you're stacey abrams and you hear a lot of people talking about beto o'rourke for president, you have to think why not me. >> guys, thanks very much. garrett haake, mike memoli covering the campaign for us. we've got breaking news. an update on the boeing 737 max 8. the european union aviation agency is suspending all flight operations of the boeing 737 max 8 and 9. this puts pressure on the federal aviation administration here in the united states to ground these planes. boeing said in a statement they had full confidence in the safety of the 737 max fleet. another brexit deal vote is about to get under way. british prime minister theresa may has just 17 days to get a deal done but there's a sticking point called the irish backstop. we'll break down that what means next. you're watching msnbc. xt you're watching msnbc.
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just a short time from now, the british parliament is set to begin a key brexit vote, deciding if it'll accept the agreement negotiated by prime minister theresa may's government and the european union. ea earlier, the british prime minister warned that without
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support for her deal, brexit could be lost. and the pressure is on. there are only 17 days left until the transition period begins with or without a deal. the uk triggered a two-year clock when it invoked the eu exit clause, and there's no sign the european union is interested in extending that deadline. one key issue in this whole thing is this. this is the border along northern ireland, this part here, which is part of the united kingdom, and the republic of ireland, which is a separate country they that will remain part of the european union. lawmakers created the so-called backstop provision, ensuring there would be no hard border between the irelands, but pro-brexit politicians don't want this to become a permanent thing. in most other situations, a physical barrier of some type at border check points would be put in place to regulate the flow of good and people. but in ireland, things are different because of history. a physical barrier defines some of the most painful and deadly parts of the 20th century on the island. many in northern ooir lane and
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the republic of ireland say any border check points could reignite tensions that have been dormant since the 1998 good friday agreement. to head off that possibility, the british and the european union negotiators created a backstop provision. it keeps britain in the european customs union so there would be no border checks between northern ireland and ireland, but britain wouldn't be part of the larger eu in terms of trade policy. so that undercuts some of the key arguments for leaving the eu. and while some european officials have suggested that only northern ireland participate in the backstop, british politicians have rejected that because it would effectively create a border between the united kingdom and northern ireland in the irish sea, isolating northern ireland and potentially pushing it closer to reunification with the republic of northern ireland, which is part of the european union. joining me now from london, nbc news chief global correspondent bill neely.
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to today's vote, any expectations how this is going to go? is theresa may finally going to win a vote? >> reporter: i think the short answer is no. remember, just a few weeks ago in january, she lost a vote on the deal, exactly the same thing is going to be put to the house tonight by 230 votes. that was the biggest defeat in a hundred years. i don't think she'll be defeated by that margin tonight, but we'll probably still be in three figures. it would take an absolute miracle for her to win. the arithmetic simply doesn't add up. it was all looking quite good for her this morning. she came back from strausburg, having negotiated late last night with european leaders, and had got to what seemed to be a concession, some kind of legal assurance that the uk wouldn't be trapped forever in this arrangement, the backstop a customs union. but crucially, her attorney
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general said midmorning that while the assurances had reduced the risk that the uk would be permanently trapped in a customs union, it hadn't got rid of the risk altogether. so suddenly, the fancy wrapping paper and the new red ribbon that she put around the deal simply fell away. as a result, a few hours ago her main political allies in parliament, the northern ireland unions, said they wouldn't support the deal, and many conservatives within the hardline brexiteer bloc will either vote against or abstain. i think probably, and i'm not one to predict anything can great certainty, but probably this -- the vote is lost and the deal, as it stands at the moment, is dead. the big question is, well, two, number one, is theresa may politically dead? number two, what on earth happens next? >> we're close to 30 years away from the worst of the violence in northern ireland.
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i've tried to explain as best i can. how serious is it an issue if they don't work this out and there is a border between northern ireland and the republic of ireland? >> reporter: well, opinion in northern ireland, especially along the border, on both sides of the border, is absolutely clear. they do not want what's called a hard border. what that means is customs posts possibly protected by police check points, if it came to it, by army check points. there are, you know, reconstructed terrorists out there who would only be too happy to attack those posts. and you could have the beginning of the war again, the troubles. and nobody, nobody on the island of ireland wants that. ironically, a lot of people in northern ireland are not represented by the d.u.p., and they would be perfectly happy to see the uk remain. in fact, they voted for the uk
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to remain in the european union, but it looks like march 29th is coming fast. so just very briefly, the next step, tomorrow they'll vote yes or no on no deal. in other words, will the uk crash out of the european union? then on thursday, they will vote probably on whether or not to extend brexit, in other words delay it. >> bill, always good to talk to you about this, but it's a serious matter. bill neely for us in london. we'll be right back. ondon. we'll be right back. you should be mad at tech that's unnecessarily complicated.
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all right. thanks for watching "velshi & ruhle." katy tur picks up coverage in washington. >> hi, ali. thank you very much. here in washington, the house speaker has suddenly and publicly taken impeachment all but off the tanble. nancy pelosi called the process divisive and said, quote, unless there's something so compelling and overwhelming and bipartisan, i don't think we should go down that path because it divides the country and he's just not worth it. here's how nbc's first read frames pelosi's political calculation. it changes the conversation away from impeachment, gives at-risk dems a shield when asked the "i" word question, and places the burden on republicans. pelosi's new line on impeachment received divided reaction from her party. there are those who agree with her. among them, the chair of house intel. >> i think the speaker is absolutely right. in its absence,


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