tv Morning Joe MSNBC September 29, 2020 3:00am-6:00am PDT
i think wallace is tough and everyone recognizes that, democrats and republicans. >> hans nichols thank you as always my friend for getting up early with us. we'll be reading axios a.m. in just a little bit. you can sign up at axios.com. that does it way too early on this national coffee day tuesday. "morning joe" starts right now. good morning and welcome to "morning joe," it's tuesday, september 29th. it's debate night. tonight is the first debate between president donald trump and joe biden. the two will face off on stage in cleveland at 9:00 p.m. eastern. moderated by fox news' chris wallace. the prechosen topics include each candidate's records, the supreme court, the coronavirus, the economy, race and violence in u.s. cities, and the integrity of the election. there will be no opening statements. president trump will be given the first question of the night. both candidates are expected to
wear masks entering the venue and will not shake hands on stage. tonight's limited audience will also be tested for the virus ahead of the debate. along with joe, willie, and me, we have former u.s. senator, now an msnbc political analyst claire mccaskill, columnist david ignatius. and historian and professor of the presidency at vanderbilt university, jon meacham. there's just so much going on between the scotus nominee and senators, some choosing not to meet with her and that going on, the bank records, the tax returns raising so many questions about this presidency and about his interaction on the foreign stage being so deep in debt and whether or not he was exposed in any way as he interacted with world leaders and who he chose to connect with personally and have friendships
with versus others. the whole thing is in question. >> "the new york times" has another piece up late last night that will comb through how much money donald trump made on his name licensing, not as a builder or businessman but his name. we'll talk about that in a moment. but as for tonight the strange campaign of 2020 has been fought from a distance, lobbing grenades at each other, going on twitter to attack each other. and now we get hand-to-hand combat. doesn't do many interviews, going to a lot of places where president trump is not celebrated at a rally. jonathan swan got to him, christopher wallace got to him. we'll see if joe biden does the same when confronted with the things you laid out, coronavirus deaths 205,000, the scotus nominee hanging in the balance as you said, mika. and also this tax question, joe,
which shows not only did donald trump pay less in federal taxes than anybody you can think of in this country but also he's not the man he presented himself to be in 2016. and that goes to his supporters even. we'll see if people in the middle -- look, he's lose right now. he's walking in tonight as trailing in the race without question, we'll show polls that reveal that. and he's also been exposed in the two "new york times" pieces as not being the man he pitched himself to be the last 40 years or so. >> let's start there. as you look at the debate tonight, you have to understand what you're looking at. where we are in this campaign. and where we are is at an inflection point. donald trump is losing. his support over the past few days has been dropping.
in some places precipitously enough so to concern his advisers. we showed you yesterday polls from two of the most important states, wisconsin and michigan. and in wisconsin, down 10 points. he's losing support there. in michigan, down eight points. these are must win states for donald trump. unless he can pull off an inside straight which depends largely on the state of pennsylvania. nobody in the trump white house thinks donald trump can win without winning the state of pennsylvania. new polls out last night shows a 9 point lead. joe biden opening up a lead in the state he should win and a state that we all thought was too close all along. well, you look at what's happened with the supreme court appointment. something again we predicted last week was going to shatter support in areas he needed to
gain support, among women, college educated people that used to be republicans that are breaking joe biden's way. among independents. and then this morning a washington post abc news poll coming out from pennsylvania also showing joe biden at 54% to donald trump's 45%. a 9-point lead but again for all those people crowing about this being 2016, look at that top number. look at the top number in that pennsylvania poll. joe biden's not at 44% with donald trump at 43%. he's at 54%. he's gone over the 50% threshold. could he lose still? yes, he could lose still. a lot of things could happen. but claire mccaskill, things are breaking badly against donald trump. as i say, way too much and makes
mika roll her eyes when i say it, in politics when you lose and sometimes when you lose you win. i predicted last week within minutes that this was going to cause -- minutes of ruth bader ginsburg's death while people were calling up fretting, i said this is really bad news for republicans who are gleeful right now because this is going to gut them of support in the very areas where they needed support the most. >> it will be interesting to see in this debate tonight if trump's demeanor reflects the fact that his campaign is beginning to panic about the states he must win. it will be interesting to see if he continues on this path of being kind of a jerk, a bully. and what's -- i think is going on here is there's a lot of women out there that are just
exhausted by the chaos that trump represents. they're exhausted by the line. they're exhausted by the absolutely abuse of norms in the white house. campaigning on the south lawn. you know, having your children busy -- you know, now we know he even considered putting ivanka in as vice president. this is what people are waorn ot with. joe biden has a simple task, he needs to be a nice guy, an honest guy and underline with an exclamation point that he is the only one on the stage that has ever passed anything protecting your health care. >> jon meacham we go back to 1980 again and look at that one debate between jimmy carter and ronald reagan. reagan painted as a radical warmonger. and his job was to show up, not scare anybody, deliver his lines
and walk off the stage. it's exactly what he did. and it led to a landslide victory. donald trump has been saying for months that joe biden is old. that he's demented, that he can't complete sentences that he has to take drugs. he's really teed the ball upp perfectly for biden. and claire is right, the thing that's causing trump to bleed support from women and suburban voters is what a hostile presence he's been on and off tv. if he plays to that, jon, i suspect that only makes things worse for him. >> it was in cleveland 40 years ago where president reagan -- governor reagan, didn't quite close the deal but he opened the margin. it was a week out from the election. i think that's where the analogy falls apart because the carter/trump thing they belong
in different galaxys. but i do think that we have this incredibly important point before us, which is do we want to continue to be the worst we can be or do we want to try to be better, if not the best. and that may sound grand. but i think it's an era and a moment to think a little grandly, because president trump is the fullest manifestation of the darkest of american forces, right. some of the darkest of human forces, really. selfishness and greed and appetite and ambition. and what the tax story shows and endless data shows is that he is a figure, a created figure of fantasy. what was the line, a poor
person's idea of a rich person. but now we know he's not even a rich person really. all of that is a little rational, and as i hear myself talking i worry this is analog analysis because what's on the ballot here is, do we want a return to a nodding acquaintance in our public life with reason, or do we want to continue to indulge in this fantasy driven world of passion where our appetites govern everything. and i -- i totally agree with you on the numbers, the 54/45. if on election night, if on that first tuesday night after a monday in november we're seeing 53s and 54s by biden's name, then there's a good chance that the deficit of decency that has
afflicted us for four years will be erased. if it's 49/48, if it's -- you know, if these numbers are below 50 and they're closer, there'll be this beraj of litigation and an attempt to null fie the will of the people. i'm not an alarmist. i think everybody should be ready. read up on the constitution, what it means if an election goes to the house of representatives. he's not going quietly. >> one thing to note as we discuss everything going on around the debate and there's so much going on. is that most americans by vast majorities have made up their minds. polling, 86% of people said they're not going to have their minds changed today. so you have 15% of americans who watched this show and they're
still trying to decide what to do. so a lot of people are going to watch tonight, of course. but bear in mind that 86% of americans have watched the show for the last four years and have decided to cancel it or continue it for another four. >> no doubt about it. this is just like we said in 2016, that was a campaign that was not a referendum on donald trump so much as it was a referendum on hillary clinton. four years later, shoe's on the other foot. this is not a referendum on joe biden. this is a referendum on donald trump. you can see the numbers. people much more excited to vote against donald trump than they are to vote for joe biden. and that's going to be a powerful motivating factor. i talked about the supreme court opening, how quickly the republicans moved.
hours after ruth bader ginsburg's death to go back on their word four years ago, to lie to their constituents. lindsey graham lying to his constituents in south carolina. steve daines lying to his constituents in montana. cor cory gardner lying to his constituents by lying through and pushing through a supreme court selection. we talked about how that's going to have a very bad impact for a lot of voters, republican -- traditionally republican voters that have been moving democratic for the past four years. but this tax story. this tax story hits him in another demographic. working class americans, nurses, schoolteachers, construction workers, waiters, waitresses, people that have blue collar jobs that have found out now that a guy who claims to be
worth $5 billion has been paying less in taxes than them for years. in fact, while they're paying thousands of dollars in taxes, he's only giving the irs $750 while he lives in the white house and exclusive properties across the globe, jet setting in jumbo jets from one property to another. >> joe, i think the tax story really devalues two of the most important themes for donald trump. one is this idea that he sold in 2016, i'm the master builder, i'm the businessman who can fix america's problems. we see he isn't really much of a business man. he's a name licenser. he is somebody who has accumulated enormous amounts of
debt. so i think that hurts him. the second thing that hurts him is this strange way he's positioned himself as the billionaire who's the friend of the working man. and i think these tax numbers make it very hard to make that argument. biden already has up a simple kind of graphic which says how much more did you pay in taxes than donald trump? i bet that's a line that joe biden will use tonight, he'll turn to the audience and say how much more did you pay for taxes, you policeman, woman in the firefighter, front line worker, how much more did you pay? i think that gets people. we all know about federal taxes. we don't like paying them and we find out that somebody has evaded taxes, that hurts. the final thing about the tax story, as nancy pelosi rightly said, this is a national security story. >> yes. >> donald trump if he was seeking any other job in the federal government could not get
a security clearance. the first thing that the fbi and other investoigators look at is your debt situation. are you valuable from pressure from other people. and what we're learning now from "the new york times" is that massive trump is vulnerable in the next four roughly years he has over $400 million in personally secured debt, goes right to him that comes due, and he has that vulnerability. we do know going forward he's vulnerable. debates sometimes reveal character and we'll see if that happens tonight. certainly biden has new ammunition, ways to say, hey, folks, which isn't somebody who's pretewhat he's pretending
be. this isn't a billionaire who isn't paying taxes. >> i think you can look at the numbers and have real concerns, david by how he acted towards turkey, how he acted towards the philippines, how he's acted with other people who he's gotten money from. and david, really quickly before we move on to the tax return story in full. you talked about cyrvulnerabili i have a more frightening question, what happens if he loses? what happens if jared, ivanka -- what happens if jared and ivanka and donald trump -- >> and all the secrets they have. >> -- the so-called crown jewels of american intel. what about the inside information they have on the development of a vaccine, the
dangers inherent there could be equally as bad as far as him trading state secrets to get out of 400, $500 million in debt. >> obviously we don't want to speculate about what he might do to relieve his -- what will be a severe financial burden if he's defeated -- >> no. but you were talking about what people -- you're talking about how -- what people have to worry about before somebody gets into government service if they're carrying a debt. there are other things we need to be looking at too to be prepared for all eventualities. >> absolutely. and just to reinforce the basic point. anybody who is coming into government, who is handling very secret information would be asked about their debts, quizzed up and down. if anything, what's happening
with "the new york times" reporting over the past few days shows us why we need to know a presidential candidate's and a president's tax returns. this is essential information for voters in understanding how somebody behaves in business but more in terms of national security so we know the baseline for people. and donald trump, if he's defeated is going to have a terrible time keeping this empire afloat. this is a period like the 1990s when three or four of his businesses went bankrupt he nearly went personally bankrupt. you look at the numbers and you know he has a terrible crisis coming. who holds the debt, that's the final question that we need to know. we need to know who holds that $400 million in debt. >> absolutely. just to underline david ignat s ignatius' headline here, this is a national security story. we'll stay on that in the days to come.
in "the new york times" reporting on donald trump's tax returns, they focus on the role the apprentice played in shoring up his finances. starting in 2005, the reality tv series provided a new stream of cash for a business suffering heavy losses. according to the times, mr. trump's genius wasn't running a company, it was making himself famous, trump scale famous and monetizing that fame. while the returns showed that he earned some $197 million directly from the apprentice, over 16 years, roughly in line with what he has claimed, they also reveal that an additional 230 million flowed from the fame associated with it. trump parlayed the show's big ratings into sponsorship deals for domino's pizza and laundry
detergent. the times writes there were seven figure licensing deals with hotel builders, some with murky backgrounds in former soviet repolitiublics. and other developing countries. and there were schemes that exploited misplaced trust in the tv version of mr. trump. success of the show led to taxable income for the president for the first time in year. over three years he paid $70.1 million in interest taxes, later refunded with interest via an aggressive couaccounting maneuver now under audit. responding to the article, white house spokesman judd deere called it another hit piece full of smears before a presidential debate. >> it's in the documents.
it's not from "the new york times" it's the irs. let's bring in steve ratner. i know you have charts, but first big picture this is what businessmen have been saying for 40 some years that donald trump is not a business man. he's a guy who licenses his names to steaks and vodka and buildings and mattresses and anything else willing to put his name on it. what is this latest new york times piece posting overnight, what does it tell you? >> i think it illustrates the point made a minute ago that donald trump is not a businessman, a guy who operates and runs businesses, but a guy who promotes himself and makes his money off his name, image, personality and so forth. the fact he went bankrupt multiple times in the 90s helps you understand what a bad businessman he is. but the vast prepond reps of the
income trump has been making has been from the licensing deals from the apprentice, licenses of not just dominos pizza but things like double oreos and investments he had with third parties in which he derived income but not from anything he was doing but really the efforts of these other people. when you add them up, you can see there's about $600 million or more he earned from the sources. but meanwhile from his own businesses, businesses he ran, he was losing $175 million. so, in fact, donald trump, the great businessman, the guy who was going to run america like he ran a business, i hope not. turned out to be a bad businessman after all. and now he's facing $400 million of personal loans coming due shortly. he potentially owes the irs another $100 million, we may
find out that donald trump isn't a billionaire at all. >> you look at these numbers, it's hard to see how he is actually a billionaire. claire mccaskill, not only that but these tax documents also show that he's actually not failed once, he's done it twice. he got $400 million in equivalent of today's money from his father. he blew that. his businesses went bankrupt. he just completely collapsed financially in the early '90s. and then, as he struggled through the '90s and into the first part of the new century, he was so desperate that, as "the new york times" said, an endorsement for a big and tasty burger was one of the few bright spots in his financial situation until "the apprentice" came
along. "the apprentice" came along he made about $400 million, another $400 million and he blew that too by making stupid investments in golf courses and other places across the world that have been bleeding him of his money for the past decade. >> donald trump is like nine parts ego and one part business man. so it's boom and bust. the boom is when he gets money from his father and then he goes bust. then he has another boom when he markets himself and his ego and gets a lot of money from a television show. and then he goes with his ego to get golf courses because he loves golf and sees himself as a big golfer and those are going bust. it is interesting. but i think one of the most powerful things in all these documents in terms of the voters and elections is the fact that he paid more in taxes to the
philippines and to panama and to turkey than he did to the united states of america. in 2016, the year that this country said he's our guy, he paid 750 bucks. and he paid over 300,000 to other countries. so america first? not so much. >> that's just remarkable. and you look at the money that he's gotten from the other countries. again the question is, does another country actually control the debt that donald trump has to pay back? is it a bank? is it a u.s. institution? hard to say, but i know around the time of the election, the top banks in new york at least were saying they wouldn't loan donald trump a dime. but claire makes a great point, jon meacham. here's a guy that, again, continues to stiff the u.s. government.
and again, tax avoidance is one thing. if you do it legally, that's -- obviously that's the problem of the united states congress and a tax code that favors -- well, it favors, unfortunately, the billionaires that can do this. but this looks like tax evasion. and donald trump, more importantly, looks like a snake oil salesman. while the united states, across 240 years, have had quite a few famous snake oil salesmen, none of them ever landed in the white house. >>, you know, to me the -- just two thoughts. one is, i live in a state where i suspect president trump will carry, we have 95 counties, i suspect he'll carry between 90 and 92 of them. when i drive not far from where i'm sitting, the trump signs are
quite large. and i want -- the mystery of the age is, why these folks don't particularly care about everything we've just been talking about. their view is, maybe he's not as rich but he's richer than me and i'd like to be rich. that's one thought. the other is, yeah, he only paid 750 bucks in taxes, man i wish i could get away with that. just on a gut check level, this will not be as damaging or it won't be damaging at all with this 45% of america that is with this guy no matter what. and that's the besetting and fascinating and dangerous story of the age. and it's linked to american history because i think the great question is, in 1968
george wallace got 13.5% of the popular vote. donald trump got 46.1% of the popular vote in 2016. how did that number grow? through an increasingly diversifying country, there's your answer by the way, large part of it. there's this gap -- reality gap in the country between what -- frankly what we've been talking about and the people who care about what we've been talking about and a huge chunk of the country that simply doesn't care. and i think the -- what vice president has to find a way to do and i think he will, is i think this scranton versus manhattan dichotomy is working. he only needs a few folks who look like me in the right number of states to say, as willie was saying, you know what, i've seen this show, i'm tired of it,
let's move on. maybe it will be a big blue wave and a landslide and this will seem -- the trump era will suddenly seem like an anomaly. but i don't think so. there are deep and fundamental questions about who we are that will not be resolved by this one election. and i think that's what we have to continue trying to figure out. >> you know, i don't want to simplify this too much but you ask what changed between george wallace in '68 and donald trump in 2016 and even 2020. george wallace didn't have a reality tv show that was beamed in to millions of americans' homes for other the course of a decade that pushed the lie that he was an effective, no nonsense businessman, who was their idea of success. and i think what is so devastating about this new york times story is not the tax avoidance, not even the tax
evasion. that reckoning will come after the election. it is that donald trump has been proven again to just be a terrible business person. i was talking to somebody that i know very well, a huge fan of donald trump and just loved when it came out, absolutely loved "the art of the deal". and after the first series of these articles came out about six months ago, i said you do realize that when you were reading "the art of the deal" page by page, word by word, you do realize that you were richer than donald trump? because, of course, tax documents show that donald trump lost more money than any american over the course of '80s and the early 1990s. he was literally the worst business man in all of america. lost more money.
and so, boom, bust, boom and then bust again. we're learning again he made money from the apprentice, he's already lost all of that money. and it completely cuts in half the lie, the myth that was spread during the apprentice that, as you said, most business people in new york laughed at the prospect that donald trump was pitching himself to americans as a good businessman because they knew how bad he was. they are the ones whose loans he wouldn't repay. they are the ones whose construction bills he couldn't pay. they were the ones who he had been stiffing for two decades. >> if you look in "the new york times" piece his losses by 2002 were close to 353 million because he rolled them over and over and over. and then along comes "the apprentice" to throw him a
lifeline. two things are true, the story of donald trump as a business tie con are fiction. that's laid out in "the new york times" the last two days. it's also true what jon is saying, that doesn't matter to a lot of people in this country. will it matter to enough people to swing the election? we'll find out. and steve ratner, donald trump's defense of this has been me andering. one of the things he said -- and i want to give you a crack at it -- he says i paid many millions of dollars in taxes but was entitled like everyone else to depreciation and tax credits. that's one of his defenses of paying $750 in federal income tax for a couple of recent years. what do you make of his defense there? >> it's a sad day for america when we're sitting here debating whether our president is the
worst business man in history or one of the biggest tax evaders in history. but that i guess is the situation we find ourselves in today. we talked about his record as a businessman. now let's talk about his record as a tax evader. one way to not pay taxes, to lose a lot of money. another way to not play taxes is to play a lot of games with your taxes. i don't want to get into depreciation and double entry book and all that. but a simple example of what he did that all viewers should be able to relate to. back in the '90s, he bought a big house up north of the city. he was planning to redevelop it. the local people fought him and stopped the redevelopment. so he started using it as a retreat for the trump family. if you go on the trump organization website today you see it says this is used as a retreat for the trump family.
but he has taken writeoffs for tax purposes for the expenses of running that property, so for the maintenance and property taxes and utilities, he's writing that off against his taxes. i don't know anyone who does that with their weekend house. it's illegal. but it's the things he does cutting every corner, doing everything he can to minimize his taxes. so his low taxes are partly the function of the fact he's a terrible businessman but partly in the fact in my 40 years or so on wall street dealing with taxes i have never seen anyone cut as many corners and take as many liberties and frankly break the law with taxes. steve ratner and claire mccaskill thank you for being on this morning. we appreciate it. still ahead on "morning joe," reaction on capitol hill
to "the new york times" reporting on the president's taxes. including silence from the top. top republicans. a new warning from dr. anthony fauci as the global coronavirus death toll hits 1 million. >> and mike pence as donald trump was saying we're turning the corner, mike pence warned americans yesterday be ready, the numbers are going up. as we go to break, a note that joe's new book is coming out november 17th. you can preorder that now. we'll be right back. i'm happy to give you the tour, i love doing it. hey jay. jay? he helped me set up my watch lists. karl! he took care of my 401k rollover. wow, you call a lot.
53 years of flights you never heard about, and one that you've heard everything about. >> they're calling it miracle on the hudson, everyone on board, 155 people make it out alive. >> my whole life prepared me for that moment. from my father, a naval officer in world war ii i learned the awesome responsibility of command. from my service as an air force officer and fighter pilot i learned that serving a cause greater than one's self is the highest calling. it's in that higher calling that donald trump has failed us so miserably. now it's up to us to overcome the attacks on our democracy. knowing nearly a quarter million americans won't have a voice, casualties of his lethal lies and incompetence, 11 years ago i was called to my moment, now we are all called to this moment. when you look down at our beautiful boundless country, you don't see political divisions.
it reminds us of who we are and what we can be. that we are in control of this nation's destiny. all we have to do is vote him out. >> vote vets and the lincoln project are responsible for the content of this advertising. >> that was a first look at a new tv ad, new tv and online ad. a joint project from vote vets and the lincoln project. joining us host of politics nation and president of the national action new york, al sharpton, his new book "rise up" is out today. in it he writes this is a book for the outsiders and the outcasts. the rabble rousers and the tree shakers. people who don't give up when the dye is cast but instead dig in their heels and ready themselves for the oncoming fight. >> that quote from your book and
the sully ad, it shows we are at a turning point in this country. and it's something that you saw very early on while there's a transition from barack obama's administration to donald trump's administration. you talked about a meeting you had with john lewis, you talk about the concerns that you and lewis and other civil rights leaders had. you write about that in the book. tell us about it. >> i think what we are seeing as we are here on the morning before the first debate between joe biden and donald trump, is america's really going to have to choose whether we're going to continue on the path that we were headed under barack obama and those before him, or whether we're going back on a path where health care is no longer considered something we want to make available to all americans, where voting rights are not secure, where women's right to choose are not secure. where climate change is not
understood to be scientifically sound. and where policing is about protecting citizens and not allowing police to be above accountability and above the law. and that is what we are at the cross roads at. i write about that in the book. i write about not only talking with john lewis and other civil rights leaders that were afraid that we were moving toward the wrong road. i talk about how i've had 30 years of experience, arguing, debating, fighting and sometimes being in more cordial conversations with donald trump. i'm probably one of the few people in public life that has spent time talking with trump and president obama in very serious conversations. so i know the difference between the two roads. and i challenge people that it's time to stand up at whatever station they are in life. that this is a country of people that are change agents. they're not the country of people that remain complacent
and indecisive. >> jon meacham who his latest book is on john lewis, number one "the new york times" best-seller is with us and has a question for us. jon? >> reverend, what's your message to the broadly white evangelical world that professes a belief in the same scriptures, same text that you believe in but apply them so differently. >> my message is that if you read the scriptures, it was always those in charge of the church, the religious hierarchy at the time and god sent profits to prof size to them that they were misinterpreting the scriptures, whether it was the old testament from jeremiah to those that are later the profit micah and others, they prof sized first to those that were
the leaders of the temple. jesus came and challenged those in the temple. so i would challenge them to see if you are the ones holding up the religious airs to kra si committed to the church or what the church represents? if you're committed to twhat th church represents, you ought to be feeding the poor, not giving coverage to the rich. you ought to be pconcerned abou preserving the land that god gave us and treating all of god's creatures equally, not giving cover to those who made it their politics to be divisive. i talked about that in the book. i grew up in the theology like people of reverend jesse jackson. i was mentored by people who said you don't just wear the cross you bear the cross. i think too many in the
christian right today has tried to wear the cross, not just bear the cross. it's time to bear the cross and not use it as a fashion statement. >> if you can go further in that, especially at this time of crisis and choice for this country. what are hoping people will do? what do you mean by rise up? >> i want people to say i may not lead marches, go to pr protests, have access to media. but in my house i can say are you registered to vote? are you going to go vote right now in an early voting state? am i going to talk to the people in my bingo lodge, beauty shop, am i going to be an agent of one to say we live in a nation where people do not have guaranteed lives of equality and equal opportunity and where health
care is a given that people with preexisting conditions don't have to worry about whether teyw can afford to get sick. just basic things i want people to rise up and do. i'm saying in your life show some initiative to define why you exist and what you're about in your own life. >> you mentioned your relationship with donald trump, the fact that you can get on the phone with him or have over the years. you guys sort of in some ways came up together in new york city in that you were these big figures in the papers a lot in this era. i'm interested to the reaction of the last couple of days by "the new york times" of tax stories that shows something you know because you've known him for so long, which is that donald trump actually isn't a great builder and a great businessman. he licenses his name and has created a story around himself that eventually got him elected
president. >> you know, donald trump has been able to build a great myth. people in new york, particularly new york circles that knew him knew he wasn't a great businessman. he put his name on project that is he never owned. he was known for not paying many of his contractors. he was known as somebody that was more slick than smart. many couldn't understand, including me, how he got away with it where it didn't come out in the election. i think that donald trump has been able to be a promoter more than he was a producer. and he hyped himself into a situation that he himself was surprised he got in. i talk about in the book the most surprised person in the united states the night he won was him. because now he had to perform for real and not just do an act because now it had real consequences. i think it's sad that the country had to go through this experience but we must make sure we don't have a repeat performance.
>> the book is, "rise up, confronting a country at the cross roads". out today. reverend al sharpton thank you so much. we'll continue this discussion tomorrow. coming up this morning an alarming new report from "the new york times," how senior white house officials pressured the cdc to play down the risks of sending children back to school. "morning joe" is back in a moment. school "morning joe" is back in a moment verizon knows how to build unlimited right. start with america's most awarded network. include the best in entertainment and offer plans to mix and match starting at $35. plus, buy the samsung galaxy s20+ 5g for less than $5 per month, and get another on us. only at verizon.
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there are certainly parts of the country that are doing well. but as you mentioned correctly, there are states that are starting to show up tick in cases and even some increase in hospitalizations in some states. and i hope not but we might well see increases in deaths. >> but with cases and positivity rises in ten states in the midwest and near west, and with this historic advance in testing that's being distributed, 150 strong around the country, as president, the american people should anticipate that cases will rise in the days ahead. >> very importantly vaccines are coming but we're rounding the corner regardless, but vaccines are coming and they're coming fast. we have four great companies already. it's going to be added to very rapidly. they're in final stages of testing. and from what we're hearing, the results are going to be very
extraordinary. >> i mean, president trump with a very different message and tone. different from dr. anthony fauci, and different even from vice president mike pence who finally had to actually say the truth, it's going to get worse. meanwhile, "the new york times" is reporting that top white house officials pressured the cdc this summer to play down the risk of sending children back to school. according to documents and interviews with current and former government officials, the white house spent weeks pressuring public health officials to fall in line with the president's push to reopen schools and the economy as quickly as possible. according to the times white house officials tried to circumvent the cdc in a search for alternative data that the pandemic was weakening and posed little danger to children. this comes on the heels of a new cdc report that finds teenagers
are twice as likely to be diagnosed with coronavirus than young children. they released the numbers yesterday showing the overall number of pediatric cases in the u.s. tops 600,000. joining us dr. dave campbell. i want to get to children in just a moment, but first overall where we stand. coronavirus cases in the midst of entering the flu season and the deaths now surpassing 206,000. are we getting worse or better overall? >> mika, some states are better. but even those that have turned that corner for the improved rates are now seeing, in late september, that their numbers are creeping back up. new york being one. i'm in florida. we've opened back up, we're in phase three, bars and restaurants have been opened up. they were packed this weekend. i can attest to that looking at
friends and family members who felt free to go out. we can anticipate now that it's getting cold up north, kids are going back to school and we have the flu season getting ready to overlap with the coronavirus pandemic. that numbers across the country will again start going up. they're already doing that in nearly half of the states right now, mika. things are not better. dr. fauci said we are not in a good place and across the country that is true. and those states that have looked at their numbers and seen their positivity rates low and felt that that gives them the liberty to open back up and be more cavalier in their behaviors. more cavalier and progressive in their business professors, may be looking at getting knocked back down. so i have grave concern for the next couple of months, mika. >> in that story that mika just read you have the white house putting downward pressure on the
cdc to paint a rosie picture of the impact of coronavirus on young people. and the other day dr. robert redfield suggested in a phone call that president trump's adviser dr. scott atlas is arming president trump with misleading data, including questioning the efficacy of masks, whether young people are susceptible to the virus and the potential benefits of herd immunity. on the heels of that report, dr. fauci also expressed concerns that the president is receiving misleading information on the virus. >> cdc director is concerned that dr. scott atlas is sharing misleading information with president trump. are you also concerned about that happening? >> well, yeah. i'm concerned that sometimes things are said that are really taken either out of context or are actually incorrect. >> david ignatius that's dr. fauci again diplomatic as ever
walking this tight rope talking about another doctor on the coronavirus task force where he serves and saying what dr. redfield not only was overheard on the phone but reiterated to nbc news, which was dr. atlas with no experience in infectious diseases but became a favorite of president trump was put on the task force and is feeding bad information to the president. >> i'm interested in knowing from dr. dave what the effects on the cdc has been of the white house interference and second guessing, if dr. dave is still on. what does that do to the top doctors associated with the cdc? how do they put up with this? >> dave? >> it has to decrease the morale, draw down on their willingness to be open and up
front, david, with the information they know to be true even when they put the information out is twisted, perhaps in subtle ways, by the white house to make the american public confused. make the american public think thats that face masks aren't important or that having children less likely die of the disease be like having children less likely to transmit the disease, which is incorrect. we're going to be in october soon, it's going to get cold, schools are open and we have flu season coming. all of those bits of misinformation, as subtle as they may be from the cdc having their words twisted, has to, as it would by human behavior and human nature hurt those in the leadership positions of the cdc, david.
>> and also hurting people who are getting the wrong information from this president. dr. dave campbell thank you very, very much. it is just past the top of the hour on this tuesday, september 29th. it is debate night. along with joe, willie and me we have msnbc contributor mike barnicle, national affairs national and executive editor of the recount, john heileman. editor at large for the nonprofit news room the 19th errin haines. and donny deutsch is with us as well. so tonight is the first debate between president donald trump and joe biden. the two will face off on stage in cleveland at 9:00 p.m. eastern. moderated by fox news' chris wallace. the prechosen topics include each candidates' records, the supreme court, coronavirus, the
economy, race and violence in u.s. cities and the integrity of the election. there will be no opening statements. president trump will be given the first question of the night. both candidates are expected to wear masks entering the venue and will not shake hands on stage. tonight's limited audience will also be tested for the virus ahead of the debate. so, joe, the backdrop of the debate tonight is many. we have the scotus pick going -- floating around and the meetings with senators and president trump's choice for the supreme court. we have the tax returns. and we also have some new polls, which are pretty tough for president trump in the state of pennsylvania. >> you know, willie, it's fascinating that immediately following the death of ruth bader ginsburg there was this belief that this was going to be the october surprise that donald trump was going to be selecting the sixth conservative justice for the court, it would destroy
the affordable care act, reverse 50 years of pro-choice precedent. few days later few people are talking about that as much as they are not only "the new york times" breaking story on donald trump's taxes but also a spate of new polls out of the industrial midwest that show donald trump losing pretty badly in wisconsin, michigan and pennsylvania. so the set up for tonight is about as tumultuous as it could be. make no mistake of it, pick your sporting analogy, if you want, donald trump loves boxing, so if this is a boxing match, he's going into the 12th, 13th round way behind on points. he's got to make something happen tonight against biden. >> the numbers we're showing here are the inside straight from 2016. wisconsin, michigan and pennsylvania. and in all the polls we have up on the screen right now, he's
down either double digits or just under it at 8, 9 points in the states he has to win to win re-election. so he is losing coming into this. it'll be interesting to see, joe, what that means for his approach. he knows, he looks at polls despite his outward confidence he knows he's down. so does he go all personal? right at joe biden's son, for example. someone that i would venture to say the vast majority of americans either don't know or whose story they don't know the specifics of or aren't particularly interested in as they lost a job or loved one. coronavirus remains at the center of everyone's life so the president may try to deflect but people are thinking and living with this coronavirus. this is what has changed their life. >> that's it. >> there'll be moments of desperation, perhaps an entire 90 minute debate of desperation from president trump because of the polls you just showed there. >> and john heileman, where does he go? again, he's down in these polls
for a reason. because his attacks, his attacks against biden haven't worked. if he calls biden -- you know if he comes in and says, joe, why don't you take a drug test? joe biden can come right back and say, mr. president what he need to be talking about are giving covid tests to americans which you've deliberately said you weren't going to do because you wanted to keep the case counts down now over 200,000 people have died. if he talks about hunter biden, even what we found out from the latest revelations from "the new york times" takes family grifting to a whole new level with donald trump. if he tries to call him a socialist, that doesn't work either. donald trump, this is a guy who told larry king live -- on "larry king live," after the
september 15, 2008 crisis, that he was good with nationalizing banks. nationalizing banks. he's got -- i just -- i don't see that this guy has anywhere to run. and again, against a backdrop of this "new york times" stories and bad polls out of the industrial midwest. what's donald trump's line of attack against joe biden? >> don't know, joe. and i hesitate to offer suggestions, i'm not really sure that i want to be in that business. i think the -- i think that you got to go back to remembering the framework of the race and what all of these debates, all three of them collectively are going to do. it's worth keeping this in mind. we look at the debates and we analyze them, preview them, analyze them, sort of say in the immediate aftermath who won, who lost. you think about 2016, if you all
think back to the three debates between hillary clinton and donald trump, the only time donald trump has been in a presidential debate before -- they both have debated a lot in different settings but not at this level. those three debates, in the moment every single one of them, we all collectively, when i say we all, i mean the media class, elite class, donor world, the people who sit in judgment of these things. there was a view that hillary clinton won all three of those debate, she was more composed, better on the substance, trump lied a lot, didn't have his stuff together. trump said many outrageous things, spent time working the refs, complained about the mic, all this happened and then the election happened. in the aftermath if you went back and talked to hillary clinton's advisers and other people, they looked back and said, maybe we didn't win these three debates conclusively the way people thought we did, because the cumulative effect of
all three on the race was it left hillary clinton looking like the status quo and made donald trump in the end look like change. he looked like the radical agent of disruption. that fed into the structure of the race. he lost on points, was not a good debater but he made the key points over the three debates. this debate tonight is going to maybe have the largest audience in the history of televised debates, the record to this point is was the first clinton/trump debate and the next was the reagan/carter debate. what's going to happen over the course of these three debates. that's where we get back to what trump has to do. in the end, the race, if it's a referendum on donald trump's leadership, and especially his leadership during covid, donald
trump loses and he knows he loses. so far joe biden has made this race a referendum on donald trump's leadership, on covid in particular, where trump's approval is in the mid 30s. trump has to make the race a choice and disqualify biden. what's he going to do for these three debates is everything at his disposal to try to rattle biden, get under biden's skin, force biden to make an error and question whether biden is up for the job. i think that's what trump is going to try to do. so in the end a lot of what happens in the debates rests with joe biden. can he for three of these nights, but particularly tonight, not make that kind of mistake. can he say to america, you guys are ready to fire donald trump, now i'm going to close the sale and make you comfortable that i'm a genuine alternative. i can run this country and i'm better than that guy and you want to spend the next four
years with me, not him. that's i think what it all comes down to and it's going to be a lot of smaller things that add up for that but that's the question for tonight and october. >> the real challenge for donald trump tonight is the fact that he's been a one trick pony his entire presidency, he only knows one speed, one tactic, and that's being as destructive, rhetorically, as possible. donny deutsch, yes, four years ago, americans wanted the change agents they had enough of the bushes, the clintons, they'd seen it in the white house. people wanted something new, and they bought into donald trump's line to black voters, what do you have to lose? here we are four years later, read the room. read the country. people are exhausted.
they're tired of the chaos, of 17-year-olds running around in the streets with ar-15s shooting and killing people. they're tired of covid. over 200,000 deaths. they're tired of the lies from donald trump. don't believe me, look at the polls that show overwhelmingly they disapprove of what he's done on covid. now they disapprove of him putting another supreme court justice on before the election. you can go down the list. people want steadiness. and what donald trump should do is go out and try to appear steady and talk about the economy, because that's the only thing he has going for him. but he is incapable of being steady. he's incapable of going out there and not attacking. he's incapable of not sowing even more chaos. >> joe, you're talking about
post purchase cognitive disdance. you saw a sports jacket you like, price was right you bought it and now you have buyer's remorse. that's what joe biden has to hone in on. start with the one poll across different polls the one number you say understands people like me. understands my problems. where donald trump is under water by 15 points. why is that? if you take the essence of some of the three or four major stories of the last month and break them down to the simplest form, such as he calls war heroes losers and suckers, of course you go to war, not me. that's for you. or he says you know what, i'm going to lie about covid and not protect you. i'm going to only worry about me and my survival as a politician. when it comes to taxes, no, sucker, you pay taxes not me. by the way p. they're going to take away your preexisting conditions, not mine. it comes down to as simple, as
primal as that. that you were suck erred in and this guy does not care about you. and it is park avenue and scranton. that's what joe biden has to deliver. the other thing that joe biden has to deliver is strength. the one thing trump has, we know it's false bravoda, i'm a tough guy. and biden in one of his speeches he talked about donald trump how dare you call my son a sucker, he went to war and you want to take away his preexisting conditions that's the way you per son fie this you versus me stuff. so i think donald trump is teed up to be a bunching bag tonight and biden just has to show up, look confident and strong and can put him away. >> for the first time since march, mike barnicle and i are in the same room. he came to 30 rock today he's way over there.
>> that must be nice. >> mike, let's talk about tonight, you're plugged into the biden campaign, how is he looking at the night, it's the first time he's stepped into the ring face-to-face with donald trump. what is he expecting? are they ready for the personal attacks? >> i think he's eager for the chance to stand next to donald trump on that stage tonight, willie. of course, he's anticipating a plethora of personal attacks and probably right off the top. tonight we've been talking about it all morning, right, the toughest job tonight is going to belong to chris wallace, sticking to the line of topics that he has. donald trump's problem tonight is that america knows him. joe just mentioned change agent. he has been a change agent. the question is has your life changed for the positive or negative because of this change agent? he has every hour of every day that he's been the president, he has saturated the media with
impressions, images, rhetoric of himself. so the country is kind of tired and kind of used to hearing donald trump every day, all day long. so joe biden tonight, i think, as donny just pointed out, if he stands there, appears steady, resolu resolute, familiar with policy, which he certainly will be, this country and i think the biden campaign thinks the same thing, needs to be calmed down. they need somebody steady at the hand at the till, and that's joe biden. if he's able to pull that off, there might only be one debate. donald trump may quit on his stool. >> errin haines, what are you looking at tonight? what would trump's argument be for the past four years? obviously, joe biden is going to be pinning the coronavirus failure on him fairly so and a
number of other things, the carnage that he created. >> well, yeah, mika. i think there's a few different dynamics at play as we head into tonight. joe brought up sports references. i've been spending a lot of time not following the campaigns watching the playoffs, wnba playoffs, nba playoffs, debates are like the playoffs of politics, right? and most voters come to the game with their team already picked. there's a monmouth university poll just out that said while three out of the four people that are going to be watching the debates who were polled but only about 3% of them are -- said that they were likely to hear anything that's going to change their mind, right, so what that means is you have people watching this. you may have a running back that fumbles the ball, a quarterback that gets intercepted, they may make you mad but at the end of the day they'll probably still
leave with the team they picked. the goal here for both candidates is to fire up their team, headed into the final five weeks of this election. you talked about the polling, especially out of pennsylvania, where i am, that shows joe biden up nine points and him up 26 points with women. i spent a bunch of time talking with women in western pennsylvania. they tell me exactly what's said here. the whole theme of we know joe. scranton is not necessarily wilkes-barre, which is not necessarily philadelphia, but at the same time he is somebody that they feel like they identify with in a way they didn't necessarily identify with hillary clinton. in a way that, frankly, they did feel like they identified with donald trump four years ago because he was somebody who was saying what, i'm like you. i'm going to fight for you. but you know, what the theme of "the new york times" stories is, is who is donald trump? is he the person he portrayed himself to be in the past 15
seasons of the apprentice and while he was in office, he said he's somebody who's rich, successful. like you. most of the tax players didn't pay nothing or $750 in taxes. so feeling like they know him or feeling like he told them the truth, he's going to have to convince his folks and he's certainly going to be asked about this. i would expect chris wallace, the first question is probably going to be about the taxes, the coronavirus or, you know, his commitment to whether he's going to have a peaceful transfer of power, none of which the president wants to be talking about tonight. >> john heileman we talked about it in the early part of the show. you look at the pennsylvania numbers, they follow numbers out of wisconsin and michigan that show deteriorating situation for
donald trump across the midwest. and in pennsylvania, a state that i've never quite understood why the numbers have been as tight as they have there. i expected wisconsin and florida and arizona, north carolina to be tight, not pennsylvania so much. polls that have come out the past two days have shown joe biden blowing open a nine point lead in a poll, this follows polls we saw out of michigan and wisconsin that showed a steady lead, a large lead, a 10 point lead in wisconsin for joe biden. and even in omaha -- not omaha. even in nebraska, too, i think it is. which for people that have been looking at their electoral maps too closely over the past six
months many people considering that to be a tie breaker. even there, in omaha, you have joe biden well ahead of donald trump in a state that hands out their electoral votes by congressional district. big swing the last three, four, five days. what's been your read on these polls? >> well, i think you're starting to see it's a -- you're starting to see -- remember, six core battleground states you're talking about the three upper midwest ones, wisconsin, michigan which seem like they're increasingly out of donald trump's reach. i don't want to rule them out completely but consistently we've seen biden ahead. as you pointed out in the first hour, biden over 50 now consistently in wisconsin and michigan. pennsylvania has been the lag erred. i think the explanation, the
central part of the state, the central part of pennsylvania, that non-pittsburgh, non-philadelphia part is more conservative than any part of wisconsin and michigan. it has a character of appalachia, the southern quality to it. that's why it's different to wisconsin and michigan but it seems to be going now more in biden's direction. what does that mean? it means on the owe side of the battleground coin you're seeing tightening in arizona, florida, north carolina. i think the president's team looks at the southwest now as the way -- now, those are all three states he won. so if he loses those three upper midwest states, keeps the three battleground states, florida, arizona, north carolina. that's not enough for him. he has to win someplace else, the picture in nevada, minnesota, new hampshire, the ones they thought they might be
able to claw away from biden, out of the clinton column, they're not looking promptiisinn any of those places. the walls are closing in on donald trump, it's not that he can't win it's just the pathways available to him are getting narrower and narrower. and it's why the debates matter so much. i think mike barnicle is not wrong, that's what's at stake in the course of all three of these debates. joe biden can't guarantee himself the presidency, i would never say that, but given the polls, strong performances by biden, rebutting trump's claim that he's not an alternative the country believes in, if he can get over that hump in the course of the debates he's going to take a big step to closing the deal overall in terms of winning this election. >> so another thing i'll be watching is how chris wallace,
joe, handles situations in which trump might say something that is not true. is it going to be on biden to fact check trump and then that goes into a huge scrum or is the president going to be held accountable when he delivers information that is patently false? >> you can be assured, if it's chris wallace, both candidates are going to be held -- are going to be held accountable. there are times where chris wallace makes his father look like a reserved interviewer. no, chris wallace will certainly hold both sides to account, i'm sure. but donny deutsch, we're sitting here, looking at one thing after another, the dominos seeming to fall joe biden's way. that tells me that we're probably headed for a reset. there's always a reset.
in 2016, of course, everybody was talking about president hillary clinton. and then comey's letter came out. in 2012, barack obama was going to just glide to victory over mitt romney, then had a bad first debate against mitt romney. a real loser of a debate. and just absolutely shook the confidence of the obama team. you go back to 2008, of course, it was a financial crisis on september 15th, right in the middle of that campaign and a lot of americans thought that john mccain did not respond well to that. you can go back to 2004, you had george w. bush having a horrific first debate against john kerry and then the osama bin laden tape at the end of the campaign. then go back to 2000, george w. bush's dui arrest from college or whenever that came out that
the bush team said cost them countless evangelical votes at the end of that campaign. there is always a reset in this campaign -- in these campaigns. there have been every four years in this century. you're just wondering if if tonight is going to be that reset where donald trump can begin clawing his way back or whether joe biden can really start to consolidate these advances? if he does consolidate the gains and if there's not a reset in this campaign and it keeps moving in biden's direction, that would be the first time that's happened this century. >> i'm going to go with the first time this century. i think the october surprise, actually, is not going to be a surprise, and it's going to be sadly, as we've been being told by every expert that corona is going to rear its head in ways it hasn't the last few months
that's the backdrop that super cedes everything else. we know the president's history on corona. we know he's trying to force kids back to school and in the coming weeks, just talking about four weeks now that the virus gets worse and that's the discussion, he loses. nothing in donald trump's arsenal that fights that. fights 200,000 lives going to 400,000 lives or 380,000 lives going into the end of the year. so i think the october surprise is not a surprise, it's in front of us. i think this is so big, how we saw in the first hour you got 90% of people basically have made up their minds. i think the backdrop of corona is the surprise/nonsurprise. >> yeah. and willie, by the way, the surprise for us is that donny deutsch continues to be filming from a dentist's office. >> it is. >> i'm not sure why -- >> maybe he needs a cleaning.
>> -- he changes different rooms but it's still the dentist aesthetic that he has. it makes you flinch. >> he's getting a whitening. >> john heileman just texted me has -- the debate commission said chris wallace is not going to be a fact checker tonight. and also the biden campaign said they're not going to chase donald trump down rabbit trails and fact check this guy. i got to say, i wouldn't have done three debates with a guy who's lied 20,000 times. >> he's never not lying. >> i wouldn't give somebody a platform to sit there and lie. i know that's not a politically correct thing to say, might have given him one debate. he gets up and look at his press conferences and the guy is lying most of the time. why give somebody a platform to do that to spread misinformation
to tens of millions of people. >> the commission has been clear the moderators are not going to be fact checkers. but it's chris wallace, so i suspect he'll embed in his question the fact. he'll find ways to make sure the facts. but i don't think joe biden wants to go into the vor text of every question. donny, your appointment is coming up we have to let you go. i know you go in for the veneers. >> i thought i put the books back there it would help. >> no, not fooling anybody. let me ask you about "the new york times" tax story here and what you think the impact might be. as errin haines said, this is baked for a lot of people. people are going in rooting for their own team, not a lot of minds to be made up. but you can see a scenario with
joe biden standing on the stage saying if you're a schoolteacher, firefighter, police officer, you paid more in taxes than this big shot on his jet pitching himself as a billionaire businessman. what impact do you think this will have on the race? >> i don't know. it's a phenomenal piece of journalism, sunday and today's "the new york times" as well. phenomenal journalism there, phenomenal investigative report. the effect on the election, i don't know. it's a story with a drip treatment effect. it's out there and people -- you want people talking about it. and it's simplistic enough in its es sen as we talked about here today, $750 in taxes. 70,000 for your hair, donald? to take care of your hair? these are elements that people talk about. the depth of it, he's a crook. people sort of know that. a lot of people sort of know that. his career as a businessman, that might be revealing to
people, that he's a terrible businessman. the impact i think is going to be a slow impact. i think maybe the polls at the end of the week might measure a bit of it. i don't know whether it moves the electorate one way or another massively. i don't think so. >> john heileman, donny deutsch and errin haines, thank you all. still ahead on "morning joe," peter baker and susan glasser joins us with their new book on the man who ran washington, the life and times of james baker. plus peter's new reporting on the finger pointing inside the trump campaign over how the tax story is being handled. we'll talk to the top deputy in the mueller investigation who says the team should have done more to investigate donald trump's finances. former chief of the justice department's criminal fraud
this president appears to have over $400 million in debt, 420, whatever it is, million dollars in debt. to whom? different countries? what is the leverage they have. so for me this is a national security question. we take an oath to protect and defend. this president is a commander in chief. he has exposure to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars. to whom? the public has a right to know. >> this is why the american people deserve to have a full accounting of the financial interest, including the indebtedness of the president of the united states. i do share in that concern. who does he owe the money to? tell us. who do you owe the money to? and do you owe debt to any foreign nation?
do you -- you know, do you owe debt, do you owe money, let's be clear about what debt means, you owe somebody money. do you owe anybody money who is impacted by any decision you make as president of the united states? we need to know that. >> top democrats are connecting the tax story to national security, it's directly connected. inside the trump campaign, "the new york times," peter baker reports, quote, there was a quite concern where aides took notes of tracking numbers from rasmussen reports that showed support falling after the tax story. among mr. trump's circle, there was finger pointing about how the issue was handled and the hesitancy to discuss with him the issue they know he is sensitive about. >> there's always finger pointing because nobody can talk to him. >> i think about him on the
world stage, though, koe cozyin to dictators -- >> these crises are never managed because nobody can talk to him. you're right. there's a reason why this guy apparently is cozy with dictators but doesn't care a lot about democratically elected allies across europe. >> no. chief white house correspondent for the "the new york times" joins us along with staff writer at "the new york times" susan glasser. co-authors of the new book "the man who ran washington, the life and times of james a. baker iii". we congratulate you on the book. we'd like to talk about the political situation right now with the debate tonight and the backdrop of the scotus pick, a lot of republicans going against their word and pushing that through. but also, the big story of these
tax returns showing a president to be, at the very least, a horrific businessman. at the very worst, though, potentially vulnerable and exposed in terms of presenting himself to the world as america's leader but in need of a lot of money. peter? >> well, i think that's right. as you guys have been talking about this morning. the issues are twofold. there's the issue of not paying a lot of taxes. it hits a lot of americans close to home, $750 is so little, almost all of us, clearly, would say we pay more than that. and then there's the issue of indebtedness. who he might owe. $300 million coming due in the next four years, when he proposes to be president of the united states for a second term. and that's an extraordinary amount of money. it obviously suggests a level of, you know, indebtedness that will be a factor for him even as he's trying to manage the
country's affairs. >> susan, these are the sort of issues that have moved former republicans and the bush family, whether it was george h.w. bush or george w. bush or jeb bush, moved them away from support of donald trump. and yet, in your book about james a. baker, an extraordinary man and a fantastic book. this man, who came to prominence because of a personal friendship with george h.w. bush and a guy who has thrived in a system in washington d.c. that donald trump has broken to pieces bit by bit, you start the book with him wringing his hands over whether he can support donald trump or not. i found that to be fascinating. >> well, you know, joe, thank you so much. i think that jim baker, his struggle really has been the republican party's struggle.
it's the hostile takeover as jared kushner put it recently of the republican party. baker over five years we watched him torn about this, told us that he thought donald trump was nuts, told us he thought him to be crazy. idealogically he was opposed to many of the aspects of what trump was doing. baker is a free trader and internationalist. i remember going to see him after the inauguration and he was offended by the sheer incompetence of it. why is he saying mexico is going to pay for the wall, they're not going to pay for it. he shouldn't say that. yet he couldn't clearly renounce where the republican party is headed. that tells us the story why the election is so much closer than you would think it would be with more than 200,000 americans dead and the like. >> peter, what is it that makes
him more loyal as a republican than even those friend and loved ones that e he spent his life working for and working with? i find it fascinating that he's one of the few that -- around the bush family who has remained steadfastly loyal, at least with his vote, to donald trump? >> it's interesting. he previous tappreciates a lot the white house can accomplish he's made the calculation i think a lot of republicans still have, as much as they don't like donald trump, as much as they think he is, you know, erratic and volatile, that it's still better from their point of view to have a republican than a democrat in the white house. but he's torn about this. there was a point he talked about joe biden, he said i think i can vote for joe biden, biden was his kind of democrat in the sense that biden, similar
generation, outlook on the world, biden is the kind of democrat that jim baker can sit across the table with, make a deal with. in the end he said i can't do that. even though my party has left me i can't leave my party. and that struggle, that wrestling, as susan said is so telling about where the party is, where the establishment that build the party of ronald reagan and george bush is today. wrestling with this conscience and struggle they don't want to have to confront. >> susan, let's talk about this man who accidentally got into politics. the reason i'm laughing is, he is obviously the wise man of washington. the most effective operator in washington d.c. over our lifetime, save for maybe bob gates is in competition with him. but as you pointed out and
detailed, this guy ran five presidential campaigns for three presidents, he was treasury security. he rewrote the tax code from top to bottom. he was, at least from my observation, by far the greatest chief of staff over the last half century. and if there's ever been a more effective chief of staff in american history, i'd love to know who it is. and yet, he stumbled into politics, really accidentally after the tragic death of his wife and after a good friend sa said, hey, you need to keep yourself busy, help run my campaign. >> that's right, joe. the friend, of course, was george h.w. bush his doubles partner from the houston country club. the thing that's amazing about jim baker that i didn't know until we started working on the book was how accidental his career was.
he didn't get to washington until he was 40 years old. it might be the world's most successful mid life career switch, actually. within one year of coming to an obscure appointment in the commerce department he was running the campaign of the incumbent president of the united states jerry ford. and playing on the bigger stage he pulled up -- can you imagine somebody who combined sort of -- into the jobs -- and i think for us it was also an exercise to realize that while there are some universals about building power in washington, that era, the end of watergate to when deals were to be had, has really vanished. it's hard to imagine that even -- could make things happen in this broken -- we're in today.
>> peter, the dominant figure in washington d.c. for nearly four decades, jim baker, a man of enormous talents, depth, how did he manage to subsume his ambition to be president of the united states or did he? >> he's a figure i think who gets close to a president and after a while begins to think i can do this job. i understand how to do it as well as this guy. you saw that rivalry from time to time with him and his good friend george h.w. bush. there were moments that bush would bristle that baker was seen the real power and bush would lash out saying if you're so smart how come you're not running? and baker thought about running. we spent time in his archives, he opened them to us, there was a file with letters that were sent to him when he was chief of staff, people saying you ought to run for president. he did toy with it in 1996.
he did make a faint look at running. but in the end backed off. the republican party had begun to change by then it would be the party of newt gingrich not ronald reagan or george bush and baker was no longer the hot stuff in a party that was moving to the right and moving towards a more confrontational brand of politics than baker was personally confidemfortable wit >> susan, i want to ask you about a chapter in baker's life that always fascinated me. he, of course, ran jerry ford's campaign. then he ran george h.w. bush's campaign in 1980. a campaign that actually got pretty nasty between bush 41 and ronald reagan in the primary. and yet after bush was vanquished, ronald reagan reach out and began using baker almost
seamlessly. talk about that relationship. that doesn't happen in politics often but it happened here, why? >> it is extraordinary. first of all, it speaks to the fact that they wanted jim baker's talents inside the reagan circle. what's amazing is that baker had actually run two national campaigns against ronald reagan, his first assignment as you said in 1976 was counting votes, delegate votes at the contested convention in 1976 against reagan and ford won that. and that made his career. he was known as the miracle man after that victory. so he ran that campaign. he ran bush's primary campaign against reagan and they still wanted him inside the tent. there was enormous intrigue and back stabbing in that reagan inner circle. and some of his people in particular stuart spencer and mike diever realized that baker
could keep them from being completely disorganized. it was almost a coupe in a way to bring baker inside the inner circle. i think it was ap amazing testament to baker's skills really that they wanted him. >> the new book is "the man who ran washington. the life and times of james a. baker iii" susan glosser and peter baker of "the new york times." thank you both. jonathan lemire says tonight's debate could be a pivotal moment in a race that has otherwise remained stubbornly unchanged. jonathan joins us with his new reporting. you're watching "morning joe." we'll be right back. ♪ k. ♪
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to the debate tonight, you're looking at parallels to 1980 on not just the presidential but the senate side of things. what potential are you looking at? >> yeah, you know, mika, joe and i were talking about this the other night. on the show last week we were saying the '80 debate as being a parallel dynamic to what we're about to see tonight where in '80 the country decided to fire carter but wasn't sure it was okay with reagan and reagan had to prove that he was acceptable. that's kind of maybe the same thing going on here with biden and trump. where biden has to prove he's acceptable alternative. if he does, the race could break in his direction. the thing joe and i were talking about is whether there might be a broader parallel. you look at the senate races across the country, back in 1980 with reagan's landslide, you saw one of the great historic landslides for -- in the senate where republicans swept the senate, crushed democrats not only won every in-place seat but
knocked off secure incumbents. so you look at these -- this night right now, in the wake of the supreme court pick, it's like not only are mcsally and gardner and collins and all those -- thom tillis, they seem to be losing altitude in real trouble in the republicans in the senate, but you start to wonder, is it possible that a john cornyn, you know, someone like that in texas, does that race suddenly start to look vulnerable. lindsey graham was a classic case of the republican incumbent who in normal race would be able to win with a strong incumbent at the top of the ticket. he looks like he could easily lose this race now. i wonder if you might not just see joe biden win this race but a huge coattail where democrats knock off a ton of republican senators and take control of the upper chamber. that seems to be the parallel. >> lindsey, just help me, help me, he keeps saying because he knows he's losing. >> he does.
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good morning and welcome to "morning joe." it's tuesday, september 29th. tonight is the first debate between president donald trump and joe biden. the two will face off on stage in cleveland at 9:00 p.m. eastern. moderated by fox news' chris wallace. the prechosen topics include each candidate's records, the supreme court, coronavirus, the economy, race and violence in u.s. cities, and the integrity of the election. there will be no opening
statements. president trump will be given the first question of the night. both candidates are expected to wear masks entering the venue and will not shake hands on stage. tonight's limited audience will also be tested for the virus ahead of the debate. along with joe, willie and me, we have former u.s. senator now nbc news and msnbc political analyst claire mccaskill. columnist and editor for "the washington post," david ignatius. and historian and professor at vanderbilt university, jon meacham. there's so much going on sween the scotus nominee, and the senator, some choosing not to meet with her, the bank records, my gosh, the tax returns raising so many questions about this presidency and about his interaction on the foreign stage being so deep in debt and whether or not he was exposed in any way as he interacted with
world leaders and who he chose to connect with personally and have friendships. >> "the new york times" will have another piece up that will comb through how much money donald trump made on his name, his licensing. not as a businessman but on his name. we'll talk about that in a moment. tonight, this strange campaign of 2020 has been fought from a distance. lobbing grenades at aech ear. going on twitter to attack each other. and now for the first time, we get some hand-to-hand combat where donald trump will be confronted by joe biden. doesn't happen very often. doesn't do many interviews, doesn't go to a lot of places where he's not celebrated at a rally. jonathan swan got to him, christopher wallace who is moderating tonight got to him. we'll see if joe biden does the same thing when confronted with coronavirus, deaths at 205,000, a million around the world. we make up more than one-fifth of those.
the scotus nominee hanging in the balance, as you said, mika. and the tax question, joe, this shows not only did donald trump pay less in federal taxes than just about anybody you can think of in this country, but also he's not the man he presented himself to be in 2016. that goes to his supporters even. we'll see if people in the middle who -- look, he's losing right now. he's walking in tonight as -- trailing in some polls, which he's been exposed through the two "new york times" pieces as not being the man he pitched himself to be for 40 years or so. >> and, i mean, let's just start right there, willie. as you look at the debate tonight, you have to understand what you're looking at. where we are in this campaign. and where we are is at an inflection point. donald trump is losing.
his support over the past few days has been dropping in some places precipitously, enough so to concern his advisers. we showed you yesterday, polls from two of the most important states, wisconsin and michigan. and in wisconsin, down ten points. he's losing support there. in michigan, down eight points. these are must-win states for donald trump. unless he can pull off an inside straight, which depends largely on the state of pennsylvania. nobody in the trump white house thinks donald trump can win without winning the state of pennsylvania. new polls out last night shows a nine-point lead. joe biden opening up a lead in a state he should win. a state that we all thought was too close all along. well, you look at what's
happened with the supreme court appointment, something we predicted last week would shatter support in areas he needed to gain support among women, among college educated people, that used to be republicans that are breaking joe biden's way. among independents. and then this morning, a washington post/abc news poll coming out from pennsylvania showing joe biden at 54% to donald trump's 45%. a nine-point lead, but, again, for all those people crowing about this being 2016, look at that top number. look at the top number in that pennsylvania poll. joe biden is not at 44% with donald trump at 43%. he's at 54%. he's gone over the 50% threshold. could he lose still? yes, he could lose still. a lot of things could happen. but claire mccaskill, things are
breaking badly against donald trump, as i say, way too much and makes mika roll her eyes when i say it. in politics, sometimes when you lose and sometimes when you lose, you win. i predicted last week within minutes that this was going to cause -- minutes of ruth bader ginsburg's death, while people were calling up fretting. i said, this is really bad news for republicans who are gleeful right now because this is going to gut them of support in the very areas where they needed support the most. >> it will be interesting to see in this debate tonight if trump's demeanor reflects the fact that his campaign is beginning to panic about the states that he must win. it will be interesting to see if he continues on this path of being kind of a jerk, a bully,
and what i think is going on here, there are a lot of women out there that are just exhausted by the chaos that trump represents. they're exhausted by the line. they're exhausted by the absolute abuses of norms in the white house. campaigning on the south lawn. having your children busy -- now we know he considered putting ivanka in as vice president. this is what people are worn out with. and i think joe biden has a very simple task tonight. he needs to be a nice guy. he needs to be an honest guy. and he needs to underline with an exclamation point that he's the only one on this stage that has ever passed anything protecting your health care. >> and, jon meacham, we go back to 1980 again. i think we need to go back to 1980 again. and look at that one debate between jimmy carter and ronald reagan. reagan painted as a radical,
warmonger. and his job was to show up, not scare anybody, deliver his lines and walk off the stage. it's exactly what he did. and it led to a landslide victory. donald trump has been saying for months that joe biden is old, that he's demented, that he can't complete sentences, that he has to take drugs. he's really teed the ball up perfectly for biden. and i think claire's right. the very thing causing donald trump to bleed support among suburban women is what a hostile presence he's been on and off tv. if he plays to that type again tonight, jon, i suspect that only makes things worse for him. >> it was in cleveland 40 years ago where president reagan -- governor reagan didn't quite close the deal but he opened the margin. it was a week out from the election.
i think that's where the analogy falls apart because the carter/trump thing, they belong in different galaxies. but i do think that we have this incredibly important point before us, which is, do we want to continue to be the worst we can be or do we want to try to be better if not the best? and that may sound grand but i think it's an era and a moment to think a little grandly because president trump is the fullest manifestation of the darkest of american forces. some of the darkest of human forces really. selfishness and greed and appetite and ambition. and what the tax story shows and endless data shows is that he is
a created figure of fantasy. what's the line he's -- a poor person's idea of a rich person. but now we know he's not even a rich person particularly. but all of that's a little rational. each as i hear myself talking, this is sort of analog analyses. because what's on the ballot here is do we want a return to a nodding acquaintance in our public life with reason, or do we want to continue to indulge in this fantasy-driven world of passion where our appetites govern everything? and i totally agree with you on the numbers, the 54-45. if on election night, if on -- that first tuesday night after a monday in november, we're seeing 53s and 54s by biden's name,
then there's a good chance that the deficit of decency that has afflicted us for four years will be erased. if it's 49, 48, if these numbers are below 50 and they're closer, there will be this barrage of litigation and an attempt to nullify the will of the people. and i'm not an alarmist. i think that everybody should be ready. read up on the constitution. read up on what it means if an election goes to the house of representatives. he's not going quietly. still ahead on "morning joe," "the new york times" is dedicating thousands of words to donald trump's failing finances. steve rattner does it in five. quote, trump can't run a business. we'll look through "the times" piece and steve's chart next on "morning joe." ♪
in it's second record on donald trump's tax returns, "the new york times" spotlights the role "the apprentice" played in shoring up his finances. president trump's tax records show in 2005 the reality tv series provided a new stream of cash for a business suffering heavy losses. according to "the times," mr. trump's genius, it turns out, wasn't running a company, it was making himself famous. trump scale famous and monetizing that fame. and while the returns showed that he earned some $197 million directly from "apprentice" over 16 years, roughly in line with what he has claimed, they also reveal that an additional $230 million flowed from the fame associated with it.
trump parlayed them into sponsorship for pizza and laundry detergent. "the times" writes there were seven deals with hotel, some with murky backgrounds, soviet republicans and other developing countries. there were schemes that exploited misplaced trust in the tv version of mr. trump, who off-camera peddled worthless get-rich-quick seminars. success from "the apprentice" led to taxable income for the president for the first time in years. he made so much that over three years he paid a total $70.1 million in income taxes, later refunded with interest via an aggressive accounting maneuver now under audit. responding to the article, white house spokesman called it, quote, yet another politically motivated hit piece full of
inaccurate smears appearing before a presidential debate. willie? >> it's all in the documents. it's not from "the new york times." it's from the irs. let's bring in former treasury official, "morning joe" economic analyst, steve rattner. i know you have some charts you're going to walk us through. big picture here. this is sort of what businessmen like you and businessmen around new york have been saying for years that donald trump is not a businessman. he licenses his name to steaks and vodka and buildings and mattresses and anything else willing to put his name on it. what is this latest "new york times" just posting overnight, what does it tell you? >> i think eng it illustrates the point that was being made a minute ago. that donald trump is not so much a businessman, a guy operates businesses and runs businesses, but a guy who promotes himself and makes his money off his name, his image, his personality and so forth. the fact that he went bankrupt multiple times in the '90s helps you understand what a bad
businessman he is. but, in fact, as mika was just alluding to, the vast preponderance, and we have a chart on this we can put up, if you want, the vast preponderance of the income trump has been making has been all from these kinds of licensing deals. from "the apprentice," licensing not just to domino's pizza but also from double oreos and also investments from third-parties in which he derived income, but not from anything he was doing but from the efforts of these other people. when you add them all up, you can see there's about $600 million or more he earned from these sources. meanwhile from his own business, businesses he actually ran, he was losing $175 million. so, in fact, donald trump, the great businessman, the guy who was going to run america like he ran a business, i hope not, turns out to have been a pretty bad businessman after all. and now, as you say, he's facing
$400 million of personal loans coming due shortly. he potentially owes the irs another $100 million. we may find out donald trump isn't a billionaire at all. coming up, a look at tonight's debate through a historical lenses. doris kearns goodwin explains how past presidentses fared for re-election during a time of national crisis. presidential politics in the age of coronavirus next on "morning joe." non-valvular afib can mean a lifetime of blood thinners.
command. from my service as an air force officer and a fighter pilot, i knew that serving a cause greater than one's self is the highest calling. it's in that highest calling of leadership that donald trump has failed us miserably. it's up to us to overcome his attacks on our very democracy. knowing nearly a quarter million of americans won't have a voice, casualties of his lethal lies and incompetence. 12 years ago i was called to my moment. now we're all called to this moment. when you look down at our beautiful boundless country, you don't see political divisions. it reminds us of who we are and what we can be, that we are in control of this nation's destiny. all we have to do is vote him out. >> vote vets in the lincoln project are responsible for the content of this advertising. >> that was the first look at a new tv ad and -- new tv and
online ad, a joint project from vote vets and the lincoln project. joining us now, host of msnbc's "politics nation" and president of the national action network, reverend al sharpton and in his book "rise up" out today. he writes, this is a book for the outsiders and outcasts, the rabble-rousers and tree-shakers, the people who don't give up when the die is cast but instead dig in their heels and ready themselves for the oncoming fight. >> rev, thanks for being with us. that quote from your book, the sully ad, it shows we are at a turning point in this country. and it's something that you saw very early on while there's a transition from barack obama's administration to donald trump's administration. you talk about a meeting that you had with john lewis, you talk about the concerns that you and lewis and other civil rights
leaders had. you write about that in the book. tell us about it. >> i think what we're seeing as we're here on the morning before the first debate between joe biden and donald trump is america is really going to have to choose whether we're going to continue on the path that we were headed under barack obama and those before him, or whether we're going back on a path where health care is no longer considered something we want to make available to all americans. where voting rights are not secure, where women's right to choose are not secure, where climate change is not understood to be scientifically sound, and where policing is about protecting citizens and not allowing police to be above accountability and above the law. that is where we are at the
crosswroe crossroads. i write about that in the boo. i talk about how i've had 30 years of experience, arguing, debating, fighting and sometimes be in more cordial conversations with donald trump. i'm probably one of the few people in public life that has spent time talking with trump and president obama in very serious conversations, so i know the difference between the two roads. and i challenge people that it's time to stand up. whatever station they are in life, that this is a country of people that are change agents. they're not the country of people that remain complacent and indecisive. coming up, the lead prosecutor in robert mueller's special counsel office, andrew weissmann takes us inside the russia probe next on "morning joe."
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irs so long to get the audits done? >> are you concerned about -- >> i have concern that the irs isn't getting their work done. >> and how much he owes potentially? >> i want to wait until the irs gets done so i know how much he owes. >> i don't even know what to say. senator chuck grassley of iowa, chairman of the senate finance committee, has a hand in writing tax law, focusing on the irs when he was asked about "the new york times" report on the president's tax returns. wow. talk about having a blind eye at the obvious. spok spokespeople for john thune of south dakota declined to comment. ranking member of the house ways and means committee brady declined to comment but called in for a source for "the times"
reporting? so who ratted him out? yeah. joining us, jonathan lemire, mike barnicle is back with us as well. it seems, jonathan lemire, that republicans will do anything to protect trump, which is kind of a frightening scenario when you look at what was revealed in those tax returns. >> mika, this was extraordinarily predictable. the republicans have, with very few exceptions, refused to challenge the president on any sort of misbehavior, whether illegal or just improper. and what we saw yesterday was a chorus mostly of silence, and those republicans and conservative voices that did speak out struck those notes. blaming the system. blaming -- suggesting that the problem was not that the president didn't pay taxes but how we learned that the president didn't pay taxes or only paid $750 in federal income taxes a year. and the chorus considered last
night on conservative media, fox news and others, like giving the president credit for outsmarting the system. suggesting this is just proof that he is a great businessman and a great negotiator because of his ability to avoid those taxes. of course, leaving out the idea that average americans simply can't do that. it's only for the ultrawealthy who have the ability to dodge the system like this and pay next to nothing. and those average americans don't have that option. it remains to be seen how that cuts with voters. i'm sure some will, indeed, applaud his financial dexterity but i think there will be some working class voters who he desperately needs in november who will look at their own paycheck and realize they are paying a lot more taxes than the president and question its very fairness. >> jonathan, before i ask you about debate prep tonight, i want to publicly thank you and mike for both telling me that you both will back the new york yankees on their march to a 28th
title which begins tonight in cleveland. that's very generous from two red sox fans. jonathan, let me ask you about the debate tonight. we've talked about this from the side of joe biden. about what he may do when he comes out. let's look at it from the president's side. the campaign actually put out a list of questions they say joe biden must answer tonight. the first question on that list is asking about hunter biden and the lone he got. is that where they're going out of the gate, right to hunter biden, joe's son? >> first of all, willie, on the baseball playoffs, that's not how the text chain went last night. i'm happy to share the receipts with viewers. go tribe, go cleveland. in terms of the debate, yes, we're seeing here a couple of things. first of all, the trump camp already working the referee, chris wallace of fox news, who the president has sat down with a few times already this year and has had tough interviews and
has complained afterwards he didn't feel they were very fair. joe biden has not sat down with wallace and wallace has a very good reputation. he's the only 2016 moderator to get another chance this time around. as far as the president's strategy tonight, expect him to throw the kitchen sink at joe biden. that's what his aides have told me as weiss been writing in the run-up to tonight's event. yes, we'll hear a lot about hunter biden. we're going to hear a lot about joe biden, the 47-year career politician. we'll hear about his ties to china and so on. they're going to try to paint this picture of a washington insider who, he and his family have benefitted from corruption in that time in washington. of course, there's no evidence, the trump campaign has not pointed to evidence of any kind. they can read the polls. the trump campaign is down and only 35 days to go and only a few major set pieces left. there will be a lot of people watching tonight. there aren't that many undecided voters left. it remains to be seen how much
tonight could move the needle unless one way or the other it's considered a blowout. unless one of the candidates stumbles or delivers a vicious attack or perhaps goes too far. as far as the president has, his aides worry, he has fallen into the trap so many incumbents do. he believes doing the job as president in debate prep. he has done very little in formal preparations. >> joining us now a lead prosecutor in robert mueller's special counsel's office, andrew weissmann. he also served as chief of the justice department's criminal fraud section and as general counsel for the fbi under director mueller. he's now an msnbc legal analyst and author of the new book, "where law ends: inside the mueller investigation." andrew, i have a couple of questions for you where the investigation stopped and why. but can i first ask you about these tax returns, what they tell you on the face of it from what we've seen so far as
released by "the new york times"? >> i think the tax returns tell me that this is something we really should have looked at. one of the things i describe for readers, and i'm going to tell you now for your viewers, are the very difficult decisions we had to make in this investigation. i think the first thing to note is when you investigate the president of the united states for 22 months, you are living under a sort of damaclese because the president of the united states has the ability to pull the plug on your investigation at any moment. and early on in the investigation we issued a subpoena to deutsche bank and the white house called us up, irate, asking, are you doing a financial investigation into the president? that does not normally happen. i've investigated organized crime cases, i've eninvestigated
enron. usually the person you're investigating does not have the ability to demand an answer with the threat of pulling the plug on your investigation. so, director mueller had a very difficult decision, at least at that early stage of the investigation, do you go ahead with the investigation and risk being fired, or as he decided, do you go forward? we know he was able to, with a lot of help from wonderful agents and prosecutors, prove what russia did, how it hacked into the election, how it hacked into the dnc. it was helping candidate trump. we proved, and this was the seem i led, we proved that paul manafort was sharing internal polling data with a russian intelligence officer during the campaign. where i have an issue is that at some point it was necessary to revisit that decision not to follow the money. the way we did with paul
manafort. that's something we diplomat do. so, you end up with this report in "the new york times" and i looked at it, frankly, with personal regret. is that something we should have done? >> so, if you had, though, even at that late date, would the risk of being fired have been greater? and would being fired from the probe at that late date, perhaps, provided some insight that americans needed? i'm just wondering as you look back? of course it's always easier looking back to say this could have happened. but, i mean, was there enough consideration that we need to go back to the money no matter what? >> i think there are two answers to that. my view is later in the investigation, we should have crossed that red line that the white house was putting down with respect to a financial investigation and followed the
money, even if it risked being fired. one of the mantras i talk about in the book is a number of us saying, better to be fired. we had to do our job and if that resulted at that point, after having produced a lot of results and showing the american public what the russians were up to, what the campaign manager was up to in providing information to russian intelligence, that at that point it was better to cross that line. because right now, although we have "the new york times" reporting, there are a lot of unanswered questions such as, who does he owe? who the president owes $400 million to? one of the leads we have on that question is eric trump in 2014 made the statement that the trump organization does not rely
on american banks for money. they have enough funding from russian sources. and that's something we don't have the answers to. >> andrew, it's willie. the book outer today lists several instances where you were frustrated that the investigation didn't push further or at least go harder at donald trump. you talked about the finances, the financial ties to russia. you talked about subpoenaing the president himself and the president's family. and you also talk about obstruction. you say you were frustrated that robert mueller didn't explicitly and clearly come out and say there was criminal obstruction here. what was his arg upt back to you? why not take that step? >> robert mueller making that decision was motivated by the purest of reasons. his concern was that if you publicly say that the president has committed a wrong, at the
same time, you are not able under department of justice policy, which we were bound to follow, we had no choice but to follow that sips we were department of justice, we could not indict the president. his concern was that the president would not have his day in court. so, it came from a very noble place, the idea that he would actually not label the facts that were laid out in the obstruction of justice part of the report. my argument, as i lay out in the book, under the special counsel rules, we were supposed to write an internal report to the department of justice. it was the attorney general's decision whether to make that public or not. so, we had every right under the rules to set out what happened. this is really where i think -- one of the things i laid out is we did not anticipate the treachery of attorney general
barr. at that point he just started. people thought he might be an institutionalist. he was a personal friend of robert mueller. and he basically hoodwinked us. and said it was all right not to issue that finding, only to have him on march 24th, 2019, a day i will never forget and i recount in detail in the introduction to issue a purported summary of our report that was nothing like our report at all. >> you led me to my next question. when you prepared that report, you worked on it for two years, you knew what was inside it, you knew the story it told. when attorney general barr got out ahead of you all and suffered his own summary, what were you thinking? what was your reaction? what were the specific places you thought, boy, he has completely manipulated what we have said? >> let me give you some examples of how he manipulated what we
said. first, he said that the white house fully cooperated with our investigation. let me just give you one simple fact as to why that is just not true. the president of the united states never sat for an interview and refused to actually tell us what his story was. how is that full cooperation? another is even though the attorney general said russia interfered with the election, he made it sound like russia was bipartisan, it was just to sow discord where the proof in the case was russia had strongly put its thumb on the scale to support candidate trump in the primary and in the general election. and, finally, he made the determination that there was no obstruction of justice. frankly, everyone three weeks later when you could finally read all of the facts, no reasonable prosecutor could conclude that that was not
obstruction of justice. there were just -- there was so much evidence of the president obstructing our investigation. >> so, andrew, let's go to today and "the times" double-barrel stories on president trump's tax situation. they appear to have at least viewed some of the tax returns, from their reporting, which is incredibly spectacular reporting. if that reporting you've read about in "the times" on his taxes were dropped on your desk when you were backs in the eastern district as u.s. attorney, assistant u.s. attorney, do you see anything in what we've read, what we found out that's indictable? >> so, it's potentially indictable. i don't want to get ahead of the evidence we have so far. but this is -- this is not rocket science. we did this kind of tax case with respect to paul manafort. so the irony here is we followed the money with respect to paul
manafort, but we weren't able to and didn't follow the money with respect to the president of the united states. and what you want to do is you want to look at what is actually reported in the returns, and then you compare it to what it is the trump organization and donald trump knew at the time. what was he telling his accountants? one of the reasons you have the president fighting so hard to keep the information about what -- that his accountants have from the manhattan district attorney's office because that is critical information. i describe in the book, when we found that information with respect to paul manafort, that was an a-ha moment, where we knew that we now had a tax case because we could compare what he knew internally versus what he was telling the irs. >> would his tax assembler, his tax person, whoever it was, would that person also -- or that company also potentially be
indictable? >> potentially, but you have to remember, they're presumably relying on information they're getting from donald trump and people at the trump organization. so, i would say they're sort of a second tier of people to look at. but it's a good question because one of the things that we found with respect to paul manafort is there was a person at his accounting office who knew that paul manafort was doing something not just sleazy, but illegal, and that person went along with it. and she ended up being a devastating witness for the government in the paul manafort trial. testifying about what she knew and what paul manafort had done. >> all right, jonathan lemire has the final question. jonathan? >> andrew, i wanted to go back to what you said a moment ago, it was a real pivot point during
the investigation. and you expressed frustration that the president didn't sit down for an in-person interview. this is obviously looking at hindsight now, but could that have been handled differently? could a subpoena have been issued? was there a way to down for tha interview, which potentially could have changed the course of the investigation and why wasn't it done at the time? was it a matter of fears the president would disband the entire probe itself? >> there was that fear because we had the concern that we're investigating somebody who could pull the plug. but that's an area where, as i describe, i disagreed. i was very concerned about the precedent that we were setting by not calling the president to task and not requiring him to testify. special counsel mueller bent over backwards to try and accommodate the president.
when the answer was, no, i'm not going to answer your questions and have follow-up questions, at that point, i thought it was necessary to get the information. i described it as, this is hamlet without hamlet. we were missing the central character in our story, and i was very concerned about what this means for the next investigation that we have, god forbid, of a president of the united states, where they're going to be able to look back and say, well, look, this is something that isn't necessary. it wasn't done in the special counsel investigation, and i don't think that is a good precedent to set because here, his testimony, that is donald trump's testimony, was so integral to understanding his intent and motive in looking at all the things we were charged to look at. >> all right. the new book is "where law
ends." inside the mueller investigation. andrew weissmann, thank you very much for being on the show this morning. just over four years ago, donald trump and hillary clinton went head-to-head in their first presidential debate. >> in all fairness to secretary clinton, yes, is that okay? good. i want you to be very happy. it's very important to me. >> donald, i know you live in your own reality, but that is not the facts. >> i think my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament. i have a winning temperament. i know how to win. she does not. >> secretary clinton -- >> i think donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. and, yes, i did. and you know what else i prepared for? i prepare to be president. and i think that's a good thing. >> that debate, that debate set the record as the most watched
debate in american history with 84 million viewers. and given the stakes this time around, there's a similar expectation of a massive audience this evening. joining us now, pulitzer prize-winning author and presidential his ever toian, doris kearns goodwin. also author of "leadership in turbulent times." i don't know what the historical parallel would be today, but the stakes are high tonight and donald trump, fair to say, is a bit in a corner? >> well, there's no question if you look at history, that the most important factor that determines how a president is going to fare as an incumbent in an election is how he's handled a crisis. this is a huge crisis we're in. in 1932 when president roosevelt was able to show that hoover had not mobilized national resources to take care of the increasing great depression, was able to show that the country didn't
have guidance and that he wanted to take responsibility and put national resources together for it, he won in a landslide. so tonight i think when we look at the debate, the handling of the crisis is central. there will be attempts at distraction. there will be all sorts of other things brought up, but it is the crisis we're all feeling. every single person is being affected by it. it was the crisis in 1944 in the middle of world war ii that allowed roosevelt to win. 1864 that allowed lincoln to win because sherman had gotten to the sea and we were doing well in the union war. it is the issue. and maybe the only issue. everything else fits into it. >> doris, a fundamental question for you over the course of history about debates. what is whether or not they actually matter. we know that hillary clinton was viewed as having won those three debates. she lost the electoral college, lost the election. in 2012, mitt romney wiped the floor with president obama in the first debate. president obama recovered and came back and won re-election.
especially this year, we've been talking about the poll numbers that say 86% of americans have made up their minds. can these debates, any one of the three of them shift what's coming on election day? >> i think mostly it's the underlying factors that determine who wins the election. historians and journalists like the narrative that something gaff was said and that changed things. when bush looked at his watch, that made all the difference or gore audibly sighing in the debate with bush. political scientists say it's the underlying factors that make a difference. the really interesting question tonight is, will this debate be seen as alternative universes by the different people who are watching it given our divided media. sometimes it makes me think of the old lincoln/douglass debates. when you're reading just your republican newspaper, they'd say he was carried off in triumph, he was so great. you read your democratic newspaper and they say he fell on the floor and was so terrible
they had to drag him out on the floor. i wonder whether tonight we'll see one party saying oh, he did this. you can always pick something somebody did well and something somebody did badly. maybe they'll see alternative debates tonight. that's the difference today from, you know, the earlier debates in 1960. but it seems to me the one person that i think did make a difference in a debate was ronald reagan when he came with his closing argument, are you better off now than you were four years ago? can you buy things easier in the stores? unemployment better? are we respected more? he was distilling the underlying feeling that we were less respected than we were. i think that helped to congeal the support for him, and then he got ahead after that. most of the time political scientists would say it's what the people are feeling. it's the economy. it's the deeper things that cause an election to be turned. >> doris, i have an underlying factor question for you. and it's probably -- >> yes, sir. >> it's probably rooted more
toward roosevelt but you'll be answering that in a couple of seconds. the underlying question is this. the cdc, dr. redfield, is in a spat with dr. atlas who is a consultant to the cdc telling someone on a plane that everything that atlas says is false. that he's provided false information to the president and the president is urging schools to reopen and young children to be sent to schools. so my underlying question to you is, do you think the element of who cares most about us people are children, our families, is that a huge factor for people watching this debate? >> i think it's a monumental factor, absolutely. when people feel that the problems are too large for them to solve and certainly the virus is too large for us to solve, the economic catastrophe that's
followed it is too big to solve. they want the leadership to be caring about them. what he really does when he comes in is he says, you've given me the gift of leadership. i promise you, i will take responsibility. and then he put those people to work. and he gave them jobs and gave them an underlying safety net. he showed that he cared about them. it wasn't that hoover didn't care about the people. but he couldn't suggest a picture that he did because he wasn't willing to take the actions that were necessary to do something for them. i keep going back to that moment when president trump said he thought he had the decision to decide whether to reopen the schools or not, even though it's in the hands of the governors. he said it's the biggest decision i'll ever make and i pray to god i get it right. instead of inspiring the governors to do some national action, instead of doing a national mask mandate or social distancing mandate, he picked off the different states. liberate michigan. that's when you need to know that he has your interest in mind. it's when you care about a
president -- most of the time you can do without him, but you need him. when roosevelt got into office, this guy writes and says my roof fell off. my dog ran away. my wife is mad at me. i've lost my job but everything is all right because you're there and i know you'll take care of me. that was an exaggerated sense of what you're asking me, but i love that mystery of leadership. >> doris kearns goodwin, we didn't allow jonathan lemire to ask you a question because we knew you guys would start talking about the red sox and that's just not happening. okay. one final story to tell you about before we leave you this morning. new reporting out by "the atlantic" says that, in private, many of trump's comments about religion are marked by cynicism and contempt, according to people who have worked for him. he continues, former aides told me they've heard trump ridicule conservative religious leaders, dismiss various faith groups
with cartoonish stereotypes and deride certain rights and doctrines held sacred by many of the americans who constitute his base. asked for comment, a white house spokesman told "the atlantic" that people of faith know that president trump is a champion for religious liberty and the sanctity of life and he has taken strong actions to support them and protect their freedom to worship. the president is also well known for joking and his terrific sense of humor which he shares with people of all faiths. okay. that does it for us this morning. stephanie ruhle picks up the coverage right now. hi there. i'm stephanie ruhle. it's tuesday, september 29th. it is debate day. not to mention we are just five weeks away from the presidential election. tonight, at 9:00 p.m., president trump and former vp joe biden