For the Record with Greta, Transcript 2/14/2017
Show: FOR THE RECORD
Date: February 14, 2017
Guest: Kasie Hunt, Adam Smith, Jim Jordan, Hallie Jackson, Alex Isenstdt, Sabrina Siddiqui, Heidi Przybyla, Bill Kristol; Howard Dean; Heidi Przybyla, Sabrina Siddiqui, Alex Isenstadt
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOR THE RECORD HOST: And there`s breaking news tonight,
he got fired. And now, the Trump White House under siege with a growing
crisis surrounding former national security advisor, Michael Flynn, and his
December calls to the Russian ambassador. The White House today confirming
that the president has known for weeks about Flynn`s call. Meanwhile,
there`s breaking news today, Democrats on fire now demanding an independent
investigation. And there is more, tonight, new revelations the FBI
questioned Flynn in the first days of the Trump administration. Was Flynn
vulnerable to blackmail by a foreign power? Who knew what and when?
A matter of trust, now that`s the reason the White House says the president
asked for the resignation of national security adviser Michael Flynn just
25 days into the new administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We`ve been reviewing and
evaluating this issue with respect to General Flynn on a daily basis for a
few weeks trying to ascertain the truth. We got to a point not based on
illegal issue, but based on a trust issue with the level of trust between
the president and General Flynn had eroded to the point where he felt he
had to make a change. The president was very concerned that General Flynn
had misled the vice president and others. The president must have a
complete and wavering trust for the person in that position. The evolving
and eroding level of trust as a result of this situation in a series of
other questionable instances is what led the president to ask for General
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Now the press secretary also answering questions about why
the president said he did not know of the story on Friday when asked on Air
Force One in route to Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: When the president was asked on Air Force One,
yesterday – I mean, on Friday, rather. (INAUDIBLE) reports about
conversation with the Russians about sanctions, he said I don`t know about
it, I`ll look into. Was he being truthful?
SPICER: He was asked specifically is, was he aware of the Washington Post
story. He had not seen that at the time. Of course, he was involved. I`ve
just said that he was aware of the situation right after the White House
council informed him back in January.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: And here is what President Trump did say on Friday on Air
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNINDENTIFIED FEMALE: Reports that General Flynn had conversations with
Russia about sanctions before you were sworn in?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I don`t know about
it. I haven`t seen it. What report is that?
TRUMP: I`ve haven`t seen that. I`ll look at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Now, the president did not directly address the matter today,
but did tweet, quote, the real story here is why are there so many illegal
leaks coming out of Washington? Will these leaks be happening as I deal on
North Korea, et cetera? And just a few hours ago, The New York Times
reporting FBI agents interviewed Michael Flynn in the first days of the
Trump administration. NBC`s Kasie Hunt joins us from Capitol Hill. Kasie?
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS: Greta, good evening. Capitol Hill back in fourth
today over exactly how the investigation here are going to proceed in to
what happened over the course of the last 24 hours and the last several
months. The committee, of course, is already investigating potential Russia
influence in the U.S. election. But the question today was would those
investigation expand in scope to include what is happened with Michael
Flynn. Republican leaders including the majority leader in the senate Mitch
McConnell address this earlier today. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITCH MCCONNELL, U.S. SENATOR: The intelligence committee is already
looking at Russian involvement in our election, and they have broad
jurisdiction over the intel community where at large
ROY BLUNT, U.S. SENATOR: I think it`s likely that General Flynn will be at
some point asked to come and talk to the committee about both post-election
activities and any other activities that he would be aware of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HUNT: So why is this important, Greta? It means that this investigation
going on in the senate intelligence committees are likely to expand in
scope to include Flynn, now that is a little bit of movement from Mitch
McConnell, although he still resisting calls from Democrats to have this
independent investigation or independent select committee, et cetera. That
helps McConnell retain control over what happens in this investigation.
You`ll remember the intelligence committee conducts their investigations
behind closed doors. They have access to more information than other
regular congressional committees. But there will be – he will still have
some control over what exactly comes out of the investigation. We`ve also
talked – I talked to Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the oversight
committee in the house, he said, you know what this is taking care of
itself, so no movement on that front. But clearly, some increasing pressure
on the GOP. Take a look at this, Greta.
VAN SUSTEREN: Kasie, they`re also says in public in things like, you know,
take care of itself, Republican GOP, behind the scenes. Are they disturbed
or distressed that just few days into this administration there`s enormous
upheaval about 16 blocks away?
HUNT: I think this is becoming a pattern for Republicans members of
congress where they feel like every day they are reacting to a crisis that
is occurring up here – excuse me, down the road at the White House while
they are trying to kind of move forward with the major priorities that they
have. You know, what have Republicans have not done in this first month,
major progress on health care law, major progress on tax reform. Those are
the priorities for Republicans leaders here in congress. Instead, every day
they`re being asked questions about the latest flap. And I think this one
falls into a more serious category than many of the others. We`ve gotten
used to Paul Ryan getting up there and saying I`m not responding to the
latest tweet, I`m just not going to do it. But in this case, he came out
and said right away, look, this was the right move, I support what the
president did here. I think that tells you a little bit about the
seriousness of how a congressional leaders feels about what happened today.
VAN SUSTEREN: Kasie, thank you. With me Congressman Adam Smith, a Democrat
from the great state of Washington, and ranking member of the house armed
services committee. Good evening, sir.
ADAM SMITH, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Good evening.
VAN SUSTEREN: The GOP, at least, publicly served – days ago about saying
they`ll take care of itself. Do you feel the same?
SMITH: No, obviously, not. It was the house GOP has been. You`ve had, you
know, Senator McCain, Senator Graham, they`ve been calling for an
investigation into Russian activity in our election, at least for a long
time. You`ve heard Roy Blunt, John Cornyn, and others suggest that they
need to look into this. It`s the house that`s been largely silent and I
think that`s wrong. They should exercise their oversight.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, in my prior life I was a criminal defense lawyer,
and the idea of talking to the FBI is rather terrifying when you hear the -
- has. You know, Martha Stewart you may remember is investigated for
insider trading, never charged with insider trading. She met with the FBI
and was charge of false statements. What I`ve read in The New York Times
and this really would concern me tonight if I were Flynn`s lawyer, Flynn
himself. This is from The New York Times, investigators believe that Mr.
Flynn was, quote, not entirely forthcoming in the investigation, and that
was in the day`s right after the inauguration.
SMITH: Well, in my prior live I was a prosecutor, so I`m with you. You
know, if you are talking to criminal investigators or under oath, you`ve
better tell the truth. Or if you`re not sure say, no comment, take the 5th,
or something. So I think there is some jeopardy for Michael Flynn in this.
But the larger question really is what`s going on with the White House. The
level of chaos, the level of disorganization, you mentioned some of the
priorities that they haven`t moved on at all. And meanwhile, in the
national security front we`ve got the whole Russia problem which they seem
to refuse to look into it. Now, Michael Flynn was part of it, but it`s not
just Michael Flynn. You know, we`ve had the Russia up their activities in
Eastern Ukraine, through the use of guerilla warfare. President Trump
hasn`t said a word about it. So what is the relationship between Russia and
this White House beyond Michael Flynn?
VAN SUSTEREN: Would you be willing – because, look, I think that there`s
always a risk of jeopardy, legal jeopardy. Again, as a former criminal
defense – you know, always paranoid for clients thinking the worst could
happen. Would you be willing to give him some sort of immunity so that he
could testify before congress and say what any possible involvement that
Russia might have in any of this, even if he knows anything?
SMITH: Yeah. That`s not my call.
VAN SUSTEREN: Is that something that you would want them to do, the
committee, to get him to talk.
SMITH: Not yet.
VAN SUSTEREN: Why?
SMITH: Because there`s other people to talk too, and there`s other things
to learn from Michael Flynn. I mean, that`s the biggest chip you have, you
just don`t give it away.
VAN SUSTEREN: And in terms of General Flynn, good idea for him to resign.
SMITH: Yes, I think it was – it was a bad idea for him to be hired in the
first place. But again, lost in all of this, if you go back to when Michael
Flynn was hired, remember he was involved in some of these retweets of
these fake news conspiracy theories repeatedly.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, it was some.
SMITH: No, he was as well. And basically, you know, it had said many things
that showed that he was not qualified for this position. I don`t think he
should have gotten it the first place. So, I guess the only good news out
of all of this is at least he`s not going to be the national security
advisor. But as you indicated, as your reported had indicated, there is a
lot more to this story.
VAN SUSTEREN: And what are you hearing from the GOP in the house, I mean,
behind the scenes, when they go to the microphone what do they say to you?
SMITH: Well, mostly, it`s silence. Look, as far back as, you know, right
after the election, some Republican members of congress have said – come
up to me and said, do you think they have something on Trump? I mean, this
was even before the whole dossier thing came out. They were dumbfounded by
the way he was talking about Russia, given what Putin has been doing in
this country and in others. So they`re worried about this. They`re worried
about what the Russian connection is to the Trump administration. Because
keep in mind, before Donald Trump got elected to president it was typically
Republicans as much as Democrats who are sounding the alarm bells about
what Vladimir Putin was doing to the world. So they are concerned.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you for joining me.
SMITH: Thanks for the chance.
VAN SUSTEREN: With me Congressman Jim Jordan, Republican from Ohio, he
served on the house oversight judiciary committee, he`s also one of the
founders of the house freedom caucus, and had dinner last night with Vice
president Mike Pence. Good evening, sir.
JIM JORDAN, U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Great to be with you, Greta. Congratulations
on your new gig there. First time I`ve been on.
VAN SUSTEREN: Thank you. I have to get you down here to the set. That`s
what I wanted to do tonight, but we`ll do that maybe next week. All right,
what do you think about what`s going on with General Flynn now former NSA?
JORDAN: Yeah, let`s get the facts. Look, the intel committee is the right
place to do this. Let`s get the facts. Once we get the facts, if there`s
further investigation that are warranted, look, no one ever accused me of
being easy on my own party if that`s what`s needed, and the oversight
committee is the place that we should do that, then I`d be all for that.
But I want the facts first from the appropriate committees, the committees
of jurisdiction, the house and senate intelligence committee.
VAN SUSTEREN: How did it get to this?
JORDAN: Well, I`m not sure. You know, who knows how these things all place
out. I think what would be helpful is if we be focus on accomplishing what
we told the voters what we`re going to do, and maybe not all this focus on
what`s going on in the White House, who`s saying what to who, and all these
palace intrigue, where we could be focus on – let`s actually repeal
Obamacare which is what we told the voters we could do.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, I`ll get to that. And I`ll ask you though, but I know
that the freedom caucus had dinner last night with the vice president. But
issues having to do with Vladimir Putin and national security are not
things that we just sort of shovel off to the side because of other
JORDAN: I didn`t say that. I agree. And I think Putin, some of the things
he`s done are very wrong. And that we should approach it that way. I don`t
see a problem with engaging Russia. I think the pattern that Ronald Reagan
put down was a pretty good pattern to follow, engage but also demands
certain things. And when appropriate, you can walk away like Reagan did it
in Iceland. So I think that`s the proper approach. Let`s hope that`s the
approach that the administration will follow. But, right now, let`s get the
facts. And that`s – the proper place for that to happen is in the intel
VAN SUSTEREN: Do you believe that the intel community will be aggressive
and will jump on this and get moving? Or this is going to be something
that`s going to dog the entire Trump administration for the next four
JORDAN: I think Chairman Nunez will do his job. I think if it gets to the
oversight committee we will do our job. So, yeah, I think the key is to get
to the facts, and I think that will happen in all of the committees that
will in fact begin to look at this.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, last night you had dinner with Vice president
Pence, and I`ll get to the whole freedom caucus and Obamacare, but did he
mention anything about this? Because he`s the one who went on television
and repeated – apparently now, I don`t know if I`ll call it misstatement
or a lie, but he`s the one who looks so bad.
JORDAN: Yeah, Greta. I typically don`t talk about the details of
conversation behind closed doors and closed meetings. And I did have to
step out for a vote in the oversight committee during part of the vice
president presentation. But when I was there he did not get into this
particular issue. He talked in general about the things we need to
accomplish for the American people, including repealing Obamacare,
reforming the tax code, building the wall, all those things that we need to
get done. He talked about all – get outstanding jobs as the vice president
always does when he`s making a presentation.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, now let me turn to Obamacare and the freedom
caucus. It appears that you are much more eager to repeal Obamacare than
the rest of GOP`s. So what are you going to do about it?
JORDAN: We`ve said last night, we took a position, unanimous position, that
we should send the same repeal bill that was pass in 2015. Not – you think
about the context right now that people are talking about keeping some of
the taxes. There`re people talking about the Cassidy-Collins bill which is
basically – if you like Obamacare, you get to keep it. There`s talk about
not defunding Planned Parenthood. There`s talked about actually repairing
the bill not repealing and replacing, repairing as if, you know, implying
that there`s something worth fixing there, something worth keeping. So in
that framework we said let`s at least put on President Trump`s desk what we
put on President Obama`s desk just a year and a half ago, after all
everyone already voted for that. So we think that`s the right thing to do
and repeal, and then have a separate vote on replacement at the same time.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, what does speaker of the house Paul Ryan think
JORDAN: Well, we`ll going to talk to him here and, you know, briefly, and
we`ll see. But he has been fully committed to getting this done as quickly
as possible. We`re just saying let`s speed it up. And a good way to speed
it up is to pass what we`ve already passed.
VAN SUSTEREN: Congressman, thank you for joining us. See you on the set,
next time. Thank you, sir.
JORDAN: Thank you.
VAN SUSTEREN: NBC`s Hallie Jackson is at the White House with new reporting
on what the vice president knew about all of this.
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC NEWS: Hey, Greta. Yeah, a lot of new reporting to get
to here, so forgive me I`ve just printed out from the West Wing where we
are getting some information from some aides to both the president and the
vice president. Let me start first with Mike Pence because that is the
story that you obviously saw here on NBC News first, on MSNBC within the
last 60 to 90 minutes. The top aide, the press aide to the vice president
now confirming to a series of reporters, our reporting essentially, which
is that the vice president had been unaware of these inconsistency until
the night of February 9th, when, according to this person, the press
secretary for the vice president, Mark Lotter, the vice president found out
the immediate reports essentially. Pardon me I`m going to silence my phone
here for you, Greta. It is going off. So that is raising more questions,
right, which is what happened in those – essentially 15 days between when
the president, apparently, when the White House team was first notified
about these inconsistencies of Mike Flynn, and when the vice president
found out. I will tell you this as well. We`ve also spoke to press
secretary Sean Spicer in the last 15 minutes or so. I`m going to start this
by saying I don`t have the quotes in front of me right now, so notes that
these are paraphrases of what the press secretary said. I want to be clear
on that. But there`s a couple of points coming out of here. Number one, it
was that – Mike Flynn did not essentially change his story or add anything
to his story until February 9th when that Washington Post piece came out.
It was prior to that apparently. He had always said all along that he
didn`t believe he talk about sanctions, but then added apparently just last
week, the end of last week, that he wasn`t sure if he remembered correctly
essentially. The other key point coming out of here as well, some
information about the interviewing of candidates for this open national
security advisory position now apparently, I`m being told by a senior
administration official that Bob Harward, the – of course, retired vice
admiral of the navy, was talked to last week in addition to yesterday by
people inside the White House, and the quote from this adminstration
official is that we were getting all our ducks in the row, essentially,
well in advance, Greta. So that`s kind of the information I can give you
now. We`re going to go back and try to put some of this in a context and
I`ll report back if we get anything.
VAN SUSTEREN: Hallie, one quick question, any indication whether or not the
vice president is angry, in essence sort of got setup and nobody bothered
to tell him until he read about it last Thursday night on the newspaper?
JACKSON: I will tell you this, the characterization that I am being told
from somebody who is familiar with this is more disappointed in Mike Flynn,
but as Marc Lotter said on the record just in the last couple of minutes,
wishes him well, is grateful for his service. I have not gotten indication
that Vice President Pence was livid or furious, right? The adjective that
you see describe him. And if you know him and you do, Greta, he is somebody
who is externally not quite – he`s a little more collected if you will
with his emotional state.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right. One other question – the FBI apparently spoke to
Mike Flynn around the time of the inauguration, any information about that
because The New York Times reporting is that they thought that he was not,
quote, not entirely forthcoming, is the way The New York Times reporting
JACKSON: So I will tell you what we can report, Greta, here at NBC News,
and that is a senior official does confirm that the FBI talk to General
Flynn at some point right after the inauguration. It`s not clear it was the
day, or the day after, or the day after that, but sometime within those
first few days regarding this phone call with the Russian ambassador. But
the guidance that we were getting from this official is that this is more
about less about Mike Flynn and any issue there, and more about trying to
gets a sense of what Russia was doing, what Russia was thinking in that
relationship between Russia and the U.S. after, of course, the assessment
from U.S. intelligence analyst that Russia interfered with the election.
VAN SUSTEREN: Hallie, thank you very much. Ahead, stay on the breaking news
new information about the sequence of events leading to General Flynn`s
resignation. What we know, and what we need to know, and what we want to
know. Also, more about these security concerns over President Trump`s
dinner at Mar-a-Lago. These photos posted on social media are drawing the
attention of the powerful GOP house oversight committee. The chairman wants
answers. And later, brace yourselves, there is a potential Republican rift
over Obamacare with hardliners who demanding a fast appeal. Clash with GOP
leaders including Speaker Paul Ryan?
VAN SUSTEREN: Back with more on the General Michael Flynn controversy, a
crisis that is dominating both Capitol Hill and 16 blocks at the White
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNCILOR: The president is very loyal. He`s
a very loyal person. And by night time, Mike Flynn had decided it was best
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: Do you hear that? This is a sound of house Republicans
conducting no oversight of President Trump. Zero.
PAUL RYAN, HOUSE SPEAKER: I think the president made the right decision to
ask for his resignation.
JOHN MCCAIN, U.S. SENATOR: I think there is significant dysfunction in the
national security apparatus of the Trump administration.
UNINDENTIFIED MALE: General Flynn`s resignation is not the end of the
story. It is merely the beginning.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Now there are still many, many, unanswered questions. But
here`s what we know, on December 29th, weeks before President Trump`s
inauguration, President Obama levelled sanctions on Russian for the
election hack. That same day, General Flynn has a phone conversation with
the Russian ambassador. About two weeks later on January 15th, Vice
President Pence goes on national television and denies that Flynn`s
discussed sanctions on that December 29th phone call. On January 23rd,
eight days after Vice President Pence was on TV, press secretary Sean
Spicer also denies that Flynn discussed sanctions with the ambassador in
that December 29th call. Three days later, on the 26th of January, the
Justice Department warns the White House that Flynn could be vulnerable to
Russian blackmail. Now, NBC News is confirming Vice President Pence was
only informed of the warning on February 9th, 11 days after the White House
found out. The following day on Friday, February 10th, on Air Force One,
President Trump tells reporter he has not seen report that Flynn discussed
sanctions with Russia. And then today, Spicer clarifying and said that the
president was only speaking about a Washington Post article. And last
night, just hours after Spicer said President Trump was evaluating the
situation, General Michael Flynn resigns. Heidi Przybyla is an MSNBC
political analyst and senior political reporter for USA Today, Sabrina
Siddiqui is a political reporter with The Guardian, and Alex Isenstadt is a
political reporter for POLITICO. All right, first to you, Alex, how much of
a political fallout is this for the GOP on Capitol Hill?
ALEX ISENSTADT, POLITICO: Well, look, it`s a problem for them. Every day
they`re being distracted by a number of questions about the ways drama, or
chaos, and intrigue in the Trump White House, and it`s completely
enveloping all official Washington, all of congress, and it`s becomes a
huge, huge problem for Paul Ryan, for Mitch McConnell. And they need to
figure out how they`re going to get their agenda in which to move forward
at this point and try to get away from some of these questions.
VAN SUSTEREN: Sabrina, the vice president – he didn`t find out about it
until last Thursday night. In fact, the rest of us have heard about it long
before he did. What does it do to the vice president? What do you think
he`s thinking tonight?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN: Well, certainly a testament to how little
influence the vice president, Mike Pence, in fact has within this
administration. Where some of the earlier stages you can see his imprints
on some of the cabinet nominees, who were chosen, he was going to act as
that bridge to congress. But clearly, he has been shut out of matters
pertaining with national security, charges as serious.
VAN SUSTEREN: He was adult in the room.
SIDDIQUI: In part, because he was supposed to play the role of the adult in
the room. What we`re seeing is the only person in the room who at the end
of the day ultimately matter is Donald Trump. And I think that – congress
is concern, what I heard from a lot of Republicans, there was also
frustration that there is no communication between this administration and
Republican in congress who are put in a position where it`s almost
impossible to come out and re-defend the actions that this administration
has taken because they just don`t have the answers, and that was reflected
to in the contradictory statement coming out of the White House.
VAN SUSTEREN: How come there`s not a connection? You`ve got Reince Priebus
who is the chief-of-staff who`s very close to Paul Ryan who is speaker of
the house. I mean, except, I think he was trying to run from the story, not
trying to get anymore near it.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, MSNBC: Well, I don`t think at this level though that the
leadership, even if folks in the White House, that the leadership would
have any inclination at all what`s going on. And like Sabrina said, every
day is something different. But what is, this feels like Chuck Schumer
said, he`s right, this is the beginning of something. It`s not the end.
And, yes, on the one hand they have to try to move away from it to a
certain extent to try to push their agenda forward. But at the same time
because of the serious nature of this they`ve also have to look like
they`re actually engaging on a substantive investigation that are going to
get to the bottom of this, because there`s too much coming together here on
the connection with Russia, this second official who`s been fallen by a
connection to Russia.
VAN SUSTEREN: I don`t know how the GOP dodges this bullet. I mean, they run
the house, they run the senate, and they get to call who comes to the
hearings, but the problem is that it`s so link to Russia. I mean, it is a
SIDDIQUI: I think one of the challenges for the Republican Party even since
Donald Trump was the nominee, is this posture he has toward Russia, seeking
friendly relations with Vladimir Putin. Refusing to actually criticize
Vladimir Putin anytime he`s been ask, of course, putting in place Rex
Tillerson as his secretary of state, who also has called for sanctions to
be reverse. So there`s a larger portrait here of the adminstration that is
very much open to alleviating U.S. sanctions against Russia. It`s not just
about Michael Flynn. And what`s remarkable when Mitch McConnell and Bob
Corker, the chair on the senate foreign relations committee were directly
asked by reporters today, can you see what confidence that Donald Trump did
not direct Michael Flynn to engage in these conversations. They said, well,
that`s the question for the White House and Michael Flynn. At the end of
the day, we can`t say.
VAN SUSTEREN: You know, Alex, we have Senator John McCain using the term
significant dysfunction. I mean, obviously, he`s at odds with the White
House. But, you know, – Capitol Hill is a friendly landing for this White
House right now.
ISENSTADT: Well, that`s true. Look, McCain and Lindsey Graham are going to
be the most vocally outspoken when it comes to Trump, when it comes to
Russia. But it sort of makes you wonder as you look the daily chaos and the
daily intrigue that is gripping this White House, it kind of makes you
wonder. And all the factions that are in it. It makes you – how are they
going to get basic things done? How can they move legislation? How they`re
going to deal with the kind of things that presidents have to deal with?
They`re having a really hard time getting off the ground. It has been a
really bumpy first – not even months, three and a half weeks at this
VAN SUSTEREN: All presidents when they come to town – I mean, – is a
little bit of a mess at first. But this one – we`re getting a lot early.
VAN SUSTEREN: There`s something different about it.
PRZYBYLA: You know what it is, it`s the leak. It`s just the volume of the
leaks that are coming out as well. And we`ve had this discussion.
VAN SUSTEREN: From the intelligence community that`s here all the time,
where the leaks are coming from the new White House.
PRZYBYLA: I think both. It`s started with the intelligence – people are
nervous about heads rolling, and finger pointing, and who is going to be
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, panel stay with me. We`re going to take a quick
break. Ahead, Flynn fall-out, in the wake of the resignation President
Trump launches an internal investigation to find out who is leaking from
inside of the White House. Also, the demanding answers, the oversight
committee is asking if security was breached at the Florida dinner over the
weekend. More on the letter sent to the White House. And power lunch, Chris
Christie dines with President Trump at the White House. Was it just a
valentine`s date or was it a job offer? Coming next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN SPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: All of this information was
leaked. We have to wonder whether or not people who work for our government
who are entrusted with classified information and decisional based material
are leaking that information out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOR THE RECORD HOST: Press Secretary Sean Spicer today
on issue of leaks. Hours earlier, the president took to twitter tweeting
about “illegal leaks coming out of Washington.” And today the “Washington
Post” reporting Trump staffers are “so fearful of being accused of talking
to the media that some have resorted to a secret chat app.”
The report also detailing staffer`s worries about potential shake up on
some of the team, and also today, the president having lunch at the White
House with Governor Chris Christie and his wife. The White House saying the
meeting was not about getting Christie a spot in the administration.
Bill Kristol is editor-at-large for “The Weekly Standard” and of course
spent time in the white house in prior lifetime. All right, with the leak
(INAUDIBLE), ever successful?
BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Not usually, and
sometimes they really lead to bad things. I mean, people are beginning to
compare this to Watergate. That`s very premature. But how did Watergate
begin? Do people remember this? I just –
VAN SUSTEREN: Arrest, doesn`t it.
KRISTOL: Yes, but what was – why was – why did Nixon want burglaries of
various places? Because there were leaks. What was the name of the group
that he assembled was called, if I recall correctly, the Plumbers. Why is
that name funny or why is that inappropriate? Because they were plugging
the leaks, right. So, I mean leak investigations are dangerous. It can lead
President`s really into dangerous waters.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think it`s fair to say there is some chaos down the street
at the White House.
VAN SUSTEREN: They`re always this with a new president. Is this something
different from any new administration?
KRISTOL: Yes. I mean, this is the first National Security advisor to resign
within a month, and I`d say the problem is with a scandal, who knows where
it`s going to go where the rest of the truth is, but unlike some scandals
we`ve gotten used to – Dave Petraeus, let`s say he has an affair or
whatever. He doesn`t (INAUDIBLE) to classified information, he resigns.
In a sense that`s end of the scandal, right. I mean it was about him. This
scandal is not really simply about Mike Flynn, right. It`s about Mike Flynn
as top adviser to Donald Trump dealing with Russia, a nation who`s
government had lot of ties into the Trump campaign to say the least and to
Trump personally it seemed perhaps or as Trump organization.
And so once he`s out of the White House there will be a congressional
investigation. He will testify. What will he say when asked about did you
discuss this with Donald Trump, when, how, and I just think there`s a lot
more here. When they pull the threads on this one, is the FBI pulling the
threads or congressional investigators or the press, this one isn`t going
to go away so easily.
VAN SUSTEREN: So we should buckle up with this for the next four years?
KRISTOL: I don`t know, but it will be the next few months I think and we
don`t know. We really don`t know. I don`t believe that this was just about
a phone call. I don`t think this is about whether there were two phone
calls or five phone calls or whether he was quite candid with Mike Pence.
He could apologize for not fully briefing Mike Pence and that would have
been it. I don`t think we would have fired him. Is that such a terrible
thing? I mean let`s –
VAN SUSTEREN: I think the bad thing is – you look at you experience at the
White House, I look at my experience as being criminal defense lawyer and
when I saw this less than – I`ve read the words that the “New York Times”
used about it – here it is, “not entirely forthcoming” is what the “New
York Time” is saying that the FBI said in interviewing him. That to me is a
very bad code. Very bad code.
KRISTOL: Well, how do the scandals blow up? The FBI asks you something,
you`re not candid and suddenly you`re in trouble with the FBI and you`re
the criminal threat, right. That`s very different from a little political
scandal where vice president embarrassed himself by misleading people on
television for a few days. So that`s why I very much agree. This is a
criminal investigation by the FBI, right.
VAN SUSTEREN: I don`t think it is yet but I`m just trying to say –
KRISTOL: Well, first the investigation by the FBI.
VAN SUSTEREN: I`m saying that I would be very apprehensive if I were on the
sidelines. How is Trump doing as president?
KRISTOL: Not particularly well I think. I mean, he wanted to really hit the
ground running and do all these things, but as a result, he`s kind of way
out ahead of himself. He doesn`t like his administration staff. They
complain – the Democrats in Congress (INAUDIBLE) is just a fact. I would
have held back on things until you had people in place and stay in defense
in other places.
And so now he`s got – and the White House is doing what was happening and
now he`s got a national security advisor gone and other people looking over
the shoulders and you know, criticizing each other of the record. And now
they`re going to be obsessed with these leaks.
And look, I`m not – people shouldn`t leak classified information and there
were some of that perhaps and there`s maybe an attempt by Obama holdovers
or by past Obama office holder or by the permanent bureaucracies to go
I think that`s possible. (INAUDIBLE) defenders are saying this is the deep
state going after Trump. But you know what, that was true of Nixon, right.
The media was after Nixon. The Democrats were after Nixon. The intelligence
community was after Nixon. But you know what, if you do certain things, if
you cover up certain things, if you order certain things that are illegal,
it doesn`t matter if the voters – if the people going after you are in
VAN SUSTEREN: Well I hope you come back.
KRISTOL: I`d be happy to.
VAN SUSTEREN: Coming up, President Trump puts Speaker Ryan on the spot on
of the timing of Obamacare repeal. Hear what he said at the White House
today and check this one up. Could Oprah Winfrey play a role in the
confirmation fight for one of the president`s cabinet nominees? We don`t
make this stuff up. Details ahead.
VAN SUSTEREN: The very powerful Republican Freedom Caucus says it is
finished waiting. The group is calling for a full repeal of Obamacare not
later, but repeal right now. The (Inaudible) group of conservatives calling
out Republican Party leaders saying the American people cannot afford to
wait any longer. That drew a response from the Speaker of the House Paul
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I fully recognize and respect the strong
feelings that people have about this issue. We should be passionate about
this issue. It is about people`s lives. This affects every person and every
family in America. That is why we are taking a step by step approach so
people can see the changes that we are making so that they can see how they
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: How long does a step by step approach need? The timing came
up in the Oval Office today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He`s working on Obamacare.
It`s going to be very soon, right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
VAN SUSTEREN: Let`s turn to former Vermont governor, Howard Dean. Nice to
see you sir.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR of VERMONT: Thanks.
VAN SUSTEREN: Before we get to Obamacare. I have a question for you. Any
thoughts on this Michael Flynn controversy?
DEAN: Yes. I think it`s the tip of the iceberg. I think the president cut
his losses but there`s a lot more losses to come. And what this guy was
doing were apparently was pretty serious and there`s going to be – I think
that it`s going to be almost impossible for the congress not to investigate
VAN SUSTEREN: Although the fact we`ve got republican congress and
republican senate and they may not have the appetite.
DEAN: You know what, you`re right. But you have been here a long time. I
think that when Trump went after the intelligence community, they took his
measure and you`re going see stuff come out again and again and again. And
it`s not going to get easier. I think Bill Kristol was right when he`s
talking about Nixon. Nixon just made – because he was a guy who made
enemies which Trump does.
You know, enemies in Washington are different here. It`s a much tougher
game and I think he`s in deep trouble because you`re going to get his staff
for one reason and the intelligence community for a very different reason -
- leaking stuff – drip, drip, drip, for as long as he`s president.
VAN SUSTEREN: Turning to Obamacare, the Freedom Caucus wants to get rid of
it right away. I don`t think that the rest of the GOP, Paul Ryan and even
the president wants to do it right away. Where are you in sort of
Obamacare. I take it that you like Obamacare but I suspect that you think
that some things could be improved.
DEAN: Well, you know, I think that the kinds of improvement I would make
are unlikely to be made by a Republican congress. I always thought that we
ought to have a public option, people ought to be sign – be able to sign
up for Medicare, which is a pretty simple system to understand even if they
are under 65. That would make life a lot simpler.
VAN SUSTEREN: People generally like Medicare. (INAUDIBLE) It`s very
successful. It`s got some things that could take her (ph) with them.
DEAN: The truth is people actually like Obamacare as long as you don`t call
VAN SUSTEREN: Well, I think some people – a lot of people write me and say
that their premiums are going up,
DEAN: Yes, I think that`s right.
VAN SUSTEREN: Which Leader Pelosi denied to me but I get a million more
pieces of e-mails every time when people do that.
DEAN: Well, that`s because you get e-mails from people that are unhappy
about it, and they are going up in a lot of places but they`re not in some
other places. You know, our Republican governor just announced, although
his Democratic predecessor had a lot to do with this, a system that I think
is you could really do, and that is essentially putting Medicaid patients
in a decapitated (ph) care system instead of fee for service and heals
Medicaid is really the core of Obamacare along with getting rid of fees as
to conditions. Those are things that people want and people should have.
And there are some improvements that you could make that we can find
agreement with – not with Freedom Caucus, because they`re negative about
everything but with a lot of Republicans I think.
VAN SUSTEREN: In 2009, Republicans were upset under the statute is just
about 2,200 to 2,500 pages. There were about 2,200 references to the power
of the HHS secretary. And the Republicans didn`t like it because
(INAUDIBLE) abuse al that power. Well now a Republican secretary of HHS has
that power and the Democrats aren`t too happy. It seems to me that you can
do a lot of things within Obamacare without even – I mean the secretary
has so much power.
DEAN: Well, that might be. One of the problems always playing with
dynamite, the secretary is not known and he`s sort of a fan of universal
healthcare in general. He believes that free market works in health care,
which I doesn`t. But there`s a lot of doctors who believe that because
they`re not exposed to the healthcare system. They`re just part of it.
And I think that he`s going to have to be restrained by President Trump
because if he isn`t, the Republicans are going to take on the chin (ph)
2018. You cannot take 30 million people off their health insurance and you
cannot suddenly reinstall pre-existing conditions and hope the market place
is going to take care of it. It`s not going to work.
The other thing we should be incredibly (INAUDIBLE) which he cannot do
without Congress is to purchase state insurance across state lines. Now
that basically has a race – it crosses a race to the bottom and the
American people would be very upset about that. You can`t do that without
VAN SUSTEREN: Health care is so important that it would be great if we`re
working together on this.
DEAN: That would be good.
VAN SUSTEREN: It would be great. Anyway, nice to see you governor.
DEAN: Thanks very much.
VAN SUSTEREN: Security questions over what happened at Mar-a-Lago over the
weekend. Now a call for GOP committees asking for security information and
answers, and ready for this question, why Oprah Winfrey might affect
whether President Trump`s pick or labor secretary gets confirmed. Yes,
Oprah is involved. We`ll explain
VAN SUSTEREN: The House Oversight Committee wants answers and it`s not just
the Democrats in the committee who want them, the Republicans too. Their
questions include were security breached at that Mar-a-Lago dinner Saturday
night. The committee asked the White House for more information on
cellphone use and whether classified information was discussed and photos
of members were on social media and they appear to show the press and
others looking at documents at the table.
Now, the White House says security was not discussed in public and today,
presidential advisor Kellyanne Conway under fire for endorsing Ivanka
Trump`s clothing line on TV last week. The Office of Government Ethics
wants the White House to investigate Conway as to whether she violated
federal ethics regulations.
Back with me, Heidi Przybyla, Sabrina Siddiqui and Alex Isenstadt. Heidi,
first of all, I`m actually surprised this letter that went out from – with
my scribbling – this is the letter that went to Reince Priebus, Chief of
Staff, from chairman Jason Chaffetz, also Republican, writing information
about that dinner to see if security was violated.
HEIDI PRZYBYLA, POLITICAL ANALYST, MSNBC: Look, they have to do this first
of all just because this committee spent so much time on similar
allegations against Hillary Clinton in terms of using, you know, classified
information. We don`t know if there was any classified information shared
that night but there was also the incident about, you know, him sending
tweets potentially from a non-encrypted phone and then the Democratic
lawmaker who snapped classified information on his desktop. So they got to
at least look into it.
VAN SUSTEREN: So you do not think this is an aggressive inquiry and this is
just sort of like well, they just have to do it. Is that what you think or
you think –
PRZYBYLA: I think it depends on what they find but they have to not look
hypocritical that when this information is presented before them, that they
don`t just at least look into it. And Chaffetz is also coming under a lot
of political pressure as well to do some kind of oversight over Trump. He`s
had, you know, angry town halls and the Democrats going after him. So when
presented with this information, yes, I think he has to at least look into
VAN SUSTEREN: Siddiqui.
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, POLITCAL REPORTER, THE GUARDIAN: Well look, I think that
the fact of the matter as much as White House refers to Mar-a-Lago as
winter White House it`s not in fact the same thing because it`s not clear
what protocols are in place with respect to handling of sensitive or
classified information even though Sean Spicer said that it was not shared
You have members who are paying, you know, close to $200,000 into fees and
are within ear shot of the president. And so in addition to just the
security angle of it, there`s also the question of access where I think
there are also questions that have been raised about how are the members
being vetted and screened? Are they in fact, in a way, paying for access to
be up close and personal to the president especially when you have major
incident as we did over the weekend?
VAN SUSTEREN: So then we (INAUDIBLE) these big donor things anyway and they
show up on both Republicans and Democrats. Everyone`s paying money for
access. It`s a dirty little secret, I think. I mean, and it`s not for – I
wish we`d get money out of politics, but fat chance.
All right, Alex, Kellyanne under investigation, just went on “Fox &
Friends” over at the Fox News Channel network saying that you should buy –
essentially buy Ivanka`s line of clothing at Nordstrom`s. Go and buy it.
Now she`s getting a lot of heat because she`s endorsing a product.
ALEX ISENSTADT: She`s getting a lot of heat over ethics but the question is
how much teeth is – what kind of teeth is there really to this and what
effect does it really have. And remember, you know, people that I`ve talked
to in the White House say that has actually helped Kellyanne with the boss,
that she has a constituent of one essentially and that by hawking Ivanka
Trump`s stuff, it kind of impresses the president that she`s willing to go
out there and sort of stick her neck out for him. He liked that and so,
we`ll see what happens but by all means she`s been –
VAN SUSTEREN: I think she has learned her lesson. I mean I just think she`s
learned her lesson if they find her in some sort of ethics departure,
there`s going to be, you know, not a huge penalty or price to pay for it
and she has – and I`m sure the president loves that she`s defending –
PRZYBYLA: – one incident, you know, she gets a slap on the wrist and then
watch if it`s a pattern.
VAN SUSTEREN: She won`t do it again.
VAN SUSTEREN: All right, we need to take a break. What Oprah Winfrey has to
do with a looming senate vote and a Trump cabinet pick.
VAN SUSTEREN: President Trump`s Labor Secretary pick, Andrew Puzder is in
jeopardy. Four Republican senators are officially in the fence about
whether to vote for him. Puzder has been a lightning rod for controversy
and now a decade`s – he has decades old episodes of the Oprah Winfrey show
featuring Puzder`s ex-wife that surfaced.
And in the video, she alleges a labor secretary nominee physically abused
her and she went on TV to say it. The video according to people who have
seen it has now been provided to senators in Capitol Hill office building.
Note, the ex-wife has retracted these allegations. Puzder`s confirmation
hearing is Thursday. Siddiqui, your thoughts on this. Oh, Sabrina I mean.
SIDDIQUI: Well, look, I think – it`s OK. You have four Republican senators
who are now holding back their support and I think that this is real test
for Mitch McConnell`s leadership as well as for the Trump administration in
holding the line which they have done so far in most nominees as we saw
with Betsy Devos, Education Secretary.
They can only afford to lose two Republicans especially since Democrats
have mostly been unified in their oppositions and I think the chamber of
commerce has also joined in this pressure campaign on these four
Republicans who are saying that they`re not comfortable with this nominee
because they don`t want instance where they have to pull the nominee.
VAN SUSTEREN: Heidi, don`t get me wrong. I am not for abusing spouses but
this was 30 years ago. She retracted it many moons ago back in the late
`80s or early `90s. She has sent a letter saying that they have forgiven
one another for hurt we`ve caused each other. We made a pretty brutal
divorce. I would think that, you know, even Vice President Biden said
people change although the nominee denies this happened and she has
retracted it. But I would think some Democrats would likewise have paused
going that far back on someone.
PRZYBYLA: Yes. I just think you reach a certain tipping point and he`s also
got as we mentioned before, the issue of immigrant, you know, illegal
VAN SUSTEREN: This is labor –
PRZYBYLA: Yes, but you go – so now you`ve got like a trifecta. If you got
women`s group after him, you`ve got the immigrant issue, you`ve got labor
groups going after him, and she did – even if you assume, let`s say she
retracted it because it wasn`t – it was becoming a - she was using it as
leverage in her divorce –
VAN SUSTEREN: Maybe it`s untrue though. Maybe it was untrue.
PRZYBYLA: But she filed a police report when it happened.
VAN SUSTEREN: Was he charged?
PRZYBYLA: I don`t think so.
VAN SUSTEREN: I think that –
PRZYBYLA: She had a restraining order. She had a protective order and she
filed a police report.
VAN SUSTEREN: I mean I don`t know what happened. Alex, I mean, for some
reason, when it`s that old and everyone has retracted it I have trouble
ISENSTADT: It`s true but he`s emerged as the weakest of the nominees for in
terms of his process of getting confirmed and it`s a problem that potential
black eye for this administration at a really tough time for them right
VAN SUSTEREN: But the money thing, obviously now paying the taxes, that`s
just, you know, – that`s something they should set – definitely look
VAN SUSTEREN: Definitely indeed.
PRZYBYLA: There`s a history of bringing down nominees like Zoe Baird on the
VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, indeed.
VAN SUSTEREN: Anyway, thank you panel. Thank you for watching us. See you
back here tomorrow night at 6:00 p.m. eastern. If you can`t watch live, set
your DVR and follow me on twitter @Greta or check out my facebook page for
behind the scenes videos and more. “Hardball” with Chris Matthews starts
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