IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Politics Nation, Transcript 5/21/2017

Guests: Jonathan Allen, Peter Emerson, Adolfo Franco, Jack Jacobs, Jonathan Allen, Steve Clemons, Hallie Jackson, John Shihabi

Show: POLITICS NATION Date: May 21, 2017 Guest: Jonathan Allen, Peter Emerson, Adolfo Franco, Jack Jacobs, Jonathan Allen, Steve Clemons, Hallie Jackson, John Shihabi


AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Good morning and welcome to "PoliticsNation."

President Trump is in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia this morning. And in the next hour he`s expected to deliver a speech aimed at Muslims around the world. He`s expected to urge Muslim unity in the fight against terrorism. MSNBC will carry that speech live.

Trump arrived there yesterday as he began his first foreign trip as president. On the campaign trail, Trump criticized Saudi Arabia often for policies on gays and women and possible involvement in 9/11. As we await the speech, we start today by asking can President Trump reset his image with the Muslim world? Can he shift from his past rhetoric about Islam?

Joining me now retired Colonel Jack Jacobs, MSNBC military analyst, Steve Clemons, and MSNBC contributor and editor at large with Atlantic Magazine. And author and journalist, Jonathan Allen. Thank you all for being with me.


SHARPTON: Let me go to you, Colonel Jacobs. It`s a trip that`s set to try and call for unity and against terrorism. And then the first thing he does is a big arms deal with Saudi Arabia. I mean, we see the pomp and ceremony, a warm reception that they did not give President Obama, and then an arms deal. How do you read this?

JACK JACOBS, RETIRED COLONEL: Well, it`s no change from the way it`s been for many administrations. We`ve been close to Saudi Arabia for a long, long time. And far away from its principle adversary, Iran, certainly since 1979. We`ve been selling arms to them for a long time. I remember being in various schools in the army basic course, to be in a general staff college and so on, and we had Saudi exchange officers in our classes, and indeed just about all of the Saudi air force has been trained by the United States.

The long-time ambassador, Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar was educated in the United States and learned to fly here. So we`ve had a very close relationship with these guys for a long time. And the jump to the chase, we`ve thrown our lot in with the Saudis and against Iran and have been doing for decades.

SHARPTON: Jonathan, what I`m going after here is despite all of this rhetoric during the campaign of we need to do things differently, and condemning the Saudis even by name, then candidate Trump saying what they were doing wrong to women, saying what they were doing wrong to gays. Even saying and inferring that they may have been involved in 9/11. Now, we find they warmly embraced and he`s continuing selling arms to them as the colonel said, we`ve done all along. No change here. No real exit from what was already done. In fact, continuation with a warm embrace, almost like let`s continue the tradition of arms deal and other things with the Saudis, and we`ll even give you a kiss at the airport.

JONATHAN ALLEN, JOURNALIST: Well, a medal will always help improve relations a little bit. I think Colonel Jacobs is absolutely right. You can go back and look at these debates from the early 1980s about providing weapons to Saudi Arabia and Joe Biden and a senator from Delaware being concerned about them falling into the wrong hands, potentially.

I think that nobody in Saudi Arabia or in the Middle East is going to be under the impression that Donald Trump didn`t mean anything that he said on the campaign trail, but to the extent that he`s learning in office about sort of real politic and the necessity to keep alliances strong, particularly those who -- with countries that are basically helping you in a lot of ways. To the extent that he`s learning in office, I think most people in the foreign policy establishment would say that`s a good thing.

SHARPTON: Let me go, Steve, here. Here`s President Trump earlier today talking about relationship with Saudi Arabia.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ve been friends now for a longtime. And the relationship is extremely good. We have some very serious discussions right now going on. And one of the things that we will discuss is the purchase of lots of beautiful military equipment, because nobody makes it like the United States.


SHARPTON: So he talks about the arms deal, Steve. Talks about a great relationship which contrast with his rhetoric during the campaign, but Jonathan says no one in the Middle East believed his rhetoric or believed he meant what he said.

How will it play back in the United States if at all? Will it play to his core constituents who may have believed him? Ad how will this continued relationship with Saudi Arabia play when clearly their policies with gays and women are something that we seriously question in this country at least most Americans?

STEVE CLEMONS, EDITOR AT LARGE, ATLANTIC MAGAZINE: Well, Reverend, I think to quote Donald Trump when he commented on health care, it`s going to be complicated for him. This is a defining trip, a defining moment for Donald Trump. This is the first country he visited outside the United States during his presidential tenure. It will long be referred to as to what it meant, what messages was he sending? There seem to be two elements of it. One is the arms deal which Donald Trump has linked to jobs. And also the oil and infrastructure investment deals that were part of a package of things that were announced and referred to yesterday by Rex Tillerson, of course, the former CEO of ExxonMobil. You`re going to have the fossil fuel crowd in America. You`re going to have some on the jobs side tied to this. It`s sort of the cynical side, if you will. Not necessarily the kind of industries, information industry we`re talking about, but that will be an element of it.

But I think that broadly in terms of the human rights issues, an element that we`ve seen some of the excerpts of the speech that Donald Trump is going to give later today. In that speech he says, we`re not here to lecture you, to tell you what to do, to tell you how to live. We`ll have a principled realism in our approach. And I find that are remarkable statement in the place, in the Islamic world. Because we do have concerns about human rights in these areas. He`s been meeting leaders of Muslim states where they engage in beheadings. Public beadings. The suppression of minorities, the suppression of democratic activists and various other groups inside these countries. In Bahrain, in Saudi and whatnot and we`re not saying anything about those. Donald Trump is basically -- other autocrats that suppress descent.

SHARPTON: But, Jonathan, isn`t that a very serious questionable display of behavior, to come out and say we`re not going to lecture you, we`re not going to talk about your misogyny, your homophobia, your beheading people, as Steve just referred to, your dealing with political opposition, your being autocrats and in many ways leaning toward, if not, in fact, death spots.

We`re not going to talk about that, but we`re going to do business with you, because we want to make sure that we all go against some of the forces that all of us disagree must be opposed, but we`re willing to overlook the fact that in many cases you behave just as badly as some of the elements, not all, but some of the elements that we are united against? Isn`t that really the height of hypocrisy, and setting a different standard in how we deal with international partners?

ALLEN: It certainly a major break from the Obama administration where human rights were really part of the basket or one of the baskets of things that American diplomats talked about for years. I think it`s a break from the George W. Bush administration where human rights was discussed and often a priority. Depending on the country that you`re dealing with, and the politics on the ground.

At the same time, it`s not terribly shocking. The policy regardless of the rhetoric has been pretty consistent with Saudi Arabia, as Colonel Jacobs had said. I think Donald Trump on the campaign trail talked about human rights because he felt like there was an opportunity to hit Hillary Clinton back a little bit on the campaign trail, and try to point out where she had relationships in countries with bad humanitarian rights records, rather than him actually believing in that, and certainly when business interest collide with human rights abuses, Donald Trump`s past suggests that he will always favor business over holding people responsible for human rights abuses.

SHARPTON: Colonel, I`m coming to you. But I want to ask Steve this before I let him go. You know, we`re waiting. We`ll hear him speak. He`s going from some of what has been released, he`s going to address the barbarism of ISIS and others. But it just seems to me to be a little less than what we should want to say, yeah, I talked about bigotry. I talked about misogyny. I talked about homophobia, I talked about you being against political opposition.

But wink, wink, everybody knew I was kidding. Everybody knew I was teasing. What kind of moral authority does that give the United States as he goes on this so-called reset mission, Steve?

CLEMONS: Well, he`s a very complicated messenger for this message. It also implies that many of these states have not been engaged in trying to deal with both domestic sources of terrorism within their own countries and then fighting it in places like Iraq and Syria. I mean, Jack Jacobs yesterday, we were talking about this. And these countries have a lot of complexities in them. They`re not all on the same page with each other. Donald Trump who`s been a champion of Islamophobia during his campaign is a very flawed messenger to go and basically counsel these states on what to do.

And another element of this which we have not been talking openly about is Saudi Arabia and the United States are not on the same side of things when it comes to who we`re funding and who we`re supporting inside Syria. The Saudis have been supporting some very nefarious players inside the Syria fight that make it uncomfortable.

So I think a lot of this is being papered over as somehow if we all were just good and we fought barbaric elements, all of these differences between us will disappear. It`s a platitude that will evaporate and disappear quickly after he departs, I think.

SHARPTON: All right. Thank you, Steve Clemons. The rest are staying with us.

Coming up, we`ll go life to Saudi Arabia to hear more about the trip and talk to an expert in Saudi matters. Will the Muslim world allow President Trump to lecture them on terrorism? We`ll be right back. This is "PoliticsNation" on MSNBC.


BARTIROMO: We are back. Let`s go to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia where NBC`s Hallie Jackson is traveling with the president.

Hallie, in less than an hour, President Trump is set to deliver a speech to the Muslim world. What do we know about it?

HALLIE JACKSON, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NBC: Yeah. This is going to be really the highlight, sort of the main event of his trip here to Saudi Arabia over the last couple of days. We expect the president to begin speaking to this conference of leaders in the Middle East in probably the next hour or so. We`ll be bringing it to you live on MSNBC when it happens. This is going to be significant. It`s something White House aides have been talking about for a while here and I`m looking at my phone because I want to read you a couple of excerpts from this.

The president is not going to, at least in the prepared excerpts that the White House has just released to us, talk about something we heard him say a lot which is radical Islamic terrorism, the phrase talking about the specificity of using that language. Instead, he is going to say that the Muslim world needs to essentially unite against extremism and confront the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist groups that it inspires.

This may seem like parsing of words or semantics, but it`s potentially significant that it could represent a little bit of the softening of language that we heard from President Trump repeatedly not just in this administration, but prior during his campaign as well.

This speech, according to senior administration officials, is intended to basically bring together the Muslim world against ISIS. The president here this morning has said in the next couple of weeks, once he gets back to the United States, he wants to hold a news conference with members of the media to talk about the fight against ISIS.

I think the speech is going to be interesting. We`re going to go out and see how it is received by folks here in Saudi Arabia. Because again, this is a president who has made very clear his position on, again, radical Islamic terrorism. So the phrasing that he will use today will be important.

SHARPTON: Thank you, Hallie. Let me ask you keep us updated. Thank you very much.

So the president reportedly looking to reset relations with the Muslim world. How will he do that? To answer that, I`m joined by Ali Shihabi, the executive director of The Arabia Foundation. Think tank that focuses on the geopolitics of the Arabian Peninsula. And back with us, retired colonel Jack Jacobs and author and journalist Jonathan Allen.

Ali, first, let me ask you to give us some -- enlighten us on the president and Saudi Arabia. Despite the rhetoric during the campaign where as I`ve mentioned a couple of times this morning, he attacked some of their policies, he really had a cordial relationship with them prior to that, and even there was some business interest. What can you shed light on about pre-campaign Trump in Saudi?

ALI SHIHABI, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, THE ARABIA FOUNDATION: OK. If you can just permit me, Reverend, to make a comment on the previous segment. You know, President Barack Obama visited Saudi Arabia four times during his presidency. He sold Saudi Arabia $115 million worth of arms. He would not have done that if he didn`t think that Saudi Arabia was making serious progress in the area of human rights.

President Obama wasn`t stupid. He could see things quite clearly. I think the big difference between Saudi Arabia and President Obama was in his attitude to Iran. Because Saudi Arabia found President Obama to be somewhat naive in overlooking Iran`s nefarious activities all across the Middle East in his obsession to sign the nuclear agreement. Just to make that correction, please. Look, as far as President Trump is --

SHARPTON: As you make that and I don`t want to get into a debate on that. I think President Obama was verbal about dealing with some of the progress he wanted to see made about human rights and about challenging that that move forward. That is totally absent so far from what we`re seeing from the remarks and prepared remarks of President Trump.

SHIHABI: Well, yes, but at the end of the day, you have to look at what he did also.

SHARPTON: I understand. I`m just saying since you raised it, let`s give the whole contrast there. But give me -- enlighten me on Mr. Trump and his relationship to Saudi Arabia.

SHIHABI: Well, I will. There is actually a zero business relationship between President Trump and Saudi Arabia. Rumors came out of companies in the campaign, but then it was shown that those companies were never established in Saudi Arabia. So he has no investments in Saudi Arabia. He has no hotels, he has no business, whatsoever.

I think what is interesting in Saudi Arabia and for generally in the Muslim world is that he has obviously pivoted strongly from where he was on the campaign. And I think you credit that to the responsibilities of the presidency, to the quality of his secretary of defense, his national security adviser, his secretary of state. And the fact that underlying this is a 50-year relationship through democratic and republican presidents between Saudi Arabia and the United States that has been a very close, very strategic and has cooperated on every level. I think what he`s doing simply confirming that despite what he said on the campaign.

SHARPTON: Well, Jonathan, can you buy that? I mean, that all of a sudden he has an enlightenment and growth in less than four months as president from the kind of attacks and just about vitriol he talked about with Saudi Arabia. And all of a sudden he had some great enlightenment now and the last three and half month as president and that his team was able to bring him there? They haven`t been able to bring him in any other areas of maturity in the White House.

ALLEN: Well, I`m not sure that there`s been a huge epiphany, but I think obviously he`s been advised and counselled, and it sounds from the excerpts of his speech like he`s at least realized on a practical level that it`s counterproductive for him to talk the way that he did on the campaign trail about people that he`s going to want to have alliances with. That includes the Saudi government at this point, and it certainly includes a large portion of the Muslim world and of the Arab world.

You can`t go in there and be offensive to people and then ask them for help in the fight on terrorism. That said, even with the excerpts of this speech, it`s certainly in a different place than you would have heard from the last administration or even from George W. Bush in terms of the way that he phrases the idea of alliances between the west and the Arab and Muslim worlds in fighting terrorism. This is not somebody who has come to the place of what I would say is a fairly consistent at least on a rhetorical level consistent message from Bush and Obama.

SHARPTON: Colonel, I think what I`m getting at is I think absolutely you cannot fight terrorism and ISIS and all without having alliances. But I think that what I`m really driving at here is that when a Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama did that, he attacked them. I think that a lot of the American public needs to understand that he`s doing what he attacked others for doing, and they did it, and he`s doing it maybe for the right reasons, but he really took them to task for doing exactly what he appears to be inching toward doing.

JACOBS: Yeah. I think there are two things at work here, and they were mentioned earlier. The first is that there`s a perception that one acts differently overseas and the rhetoric is much different when you`re here domestically. And related to that, is this notion. And it`s an assumption, that Trump`s base in the United States understands that he`s got to act differently overseas. They`ve already made a commitment to him and his rhetoric, and it almost doesn`t matter what he says when he`s outside the United States, because they know --

SHARPTON: Excuse me one minute. Here`s the president arriving at the conference in Saudi Arabia. Again, he`ll be addressing them in about an hour or so, and this is a conference that has brought together 50 Islamic leaders around the Middle East, and it will be a significant development to hear President Trump address leaders of the Muslim world. Particularly in light of his past statements and present challenges around among other things, the so-called Muslim ban and other things that he has proposed here in the United States.

He is now arriving, and will be addressing this gathering. A significant gathering. And the world will be watching to see what he will say, what he will not say, and what will be the reaction to the Muslim world. Certainly no challenge, no small challenge here.

Let me go back to my panel quickly. Ali, let me ask you, what is it that Mr. Trump has to try to do in this speech today realistically, what can he try to achieve and what is expected? How will it be gauged by people around the world?

SHIHABI: Look, it`s a scripted speech, and I think the more important thing is that he`s giving it. So really, irrespective of the nuances that he`s going to express, I think the speech has leaked, and it looks quite balanced, and frankly, everybody that he will be addressing among the leaders agrees with him that you have to fight radicalism and they are fighting Saudi Arabia is on the front line of fighting radicalism despite what the cynics think. So I think the symbolism is extremely important. And that`s the big value coming from this speech.

SHARPTON: All right. Thank you Ali Shihabi and Jack Jacobs. I`m going to ask Jonathan Allen to stick around.

When we come back, the last of four confederate monuments has been removed in New Orleans. That and more important updates on stories we normally cover here on "PoliticsNation". Don`t go away.


AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: Welcome back. We now want to update you on a few stories we`ve been closely covering here on "PoliticsNation".

Earlier this week a jury acquitted a White House Oklahoma police officer Betty Shelby in the shooting death of Terence Crutcher, an unarmed black man. It happened in Tulsa last year in an encounter that should have been a routine traffic matter, but went too far. Here is Terence`s twin sister after the verdict.


TIFANNY CRUTCHER, TERENCE CRUTCHER`S SISTER: Terence`s hands were up. Terence was not an imminent threat. Terence did not attack her. Terence did not charge at her. Terence was not the aggressor. Betty Shelby was the aggressor. Betty Shelby had the gun. Betty Shelby was following him with his hands up. Betty Shelby murdered my brother, and after she murdered my brother, all of the officers involved with the Tulsa police department tried to cover for her.


SHARPTON: I was there last week to support the family, and now with this verdict in which yet another police officer was exonerated in the death of an unarmed person of color, there is again a reason to continue to demand greater transparency from local authorities.

Meanwhile, we learned that the department of justice has launched an investigation into the police shooting death of unarmed black teenager Jordan Edwards in Balch Springs, Texas which occurred just three weeks ago. Officer Roy Oliver who has since been fired, and arrested, is facing murder charges in connection with the shooting.

And in New Orleans, just two days ago, the last of four monuments of confederacy era leaders was removed under a city council order. A statue of General Robert E. Lee who was defiantly facing north with his arms crossed was lifted by a crane from its pedestal late Friday. Here`s New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu.


MITCH LANDRIEU, MAYOR, NEW ORLEANS: These statues are not just stone and medal, they`re not just innocent remembrances of a benign history. These monuments celebrate a fictional sanitized confederacy. Ignoring the depth, ignoring the enslavement, ignoring the terror that it actually stood for.


SHARPTON: I say good for him. Good for the city of New Orleans. And good for the country.

Lastly, you may have heard that the national board of NAACP voted Friday to dismiss their president. Reverend Cornell William Brooks just three years after putting him in charge of the nation`s largest civil rights organization. I have a lot to say about that at the end of this show.

After the break, back to Saudi Arabia and President Trump`s first foreign trip in less than an hour. He will give a speech addressing the Muslim world. But also the president has a message to America. He says this trip will be good for American jobs. But is this just a distraction from the questions about Russia? That`s next right here on "PoliticsNation."


SHARPTON: President Trump has left on this international trip amid a series of new developments here in the U.S. two of them happening within minutes of him boarding Air Force One in Washington. "The Washington Post" reporting that the Russia and the Russia investigation has identified a senior aide, someone close to the president, as a significant person of interest. And "The New York Times" with the report that President Trump told Russian officials in the oval last week that FBI director Comey was, quote, crazy and a real nut job.

Now we learn that James Comey is ready to break his silence, accepting an invitation to testify in open session before the senate intelligence committee at some point after Memorial Day.

With us now, two political strategists, democrat Peter Emerson and republican Adolfo Franco. And on political reporter, Jonathan Allen.

Let me go to you, Adolfo. The president is going through this Middle East trip at a time that things are fever pitch around the Russian investigation. How do you deal with the fact that it has been identified now that there is a person of interest in this investigation that works close with the president now in the White House today? Not talking about Flynn here. Someone now in the White House, and that the president would say a day after firing FBI Director Comey, to Russians, in the oval office that he was a nut job? You`re talking to Russian diplomats about the FBI director that you just fired. How do you deal with this?

ADOLFO FRANCO, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all, this trip, of course, has been planned for a very long period of time. And it`s a very important trip to meet with our principal allies in the Middle East. The president goes onto Brussels for a major NATO address and then of course to the Vatican. This has been going on for a long period of time. So there`s no connection between --

SHARPTON: No, I`m not suggesting that at all.

FRANCO: OK. But the two items that you a person of interest, of course, we know this is now an investigation that`s going on. Because there is a person of interest. It does not mean there`s anything there, other than there is a person of interest. There have been allegations throughout -- I have yet to see any evidence of collusion or anything of that kind with the campaign. I don`t think anybody has been able to demonstrate anything concretely.

Lastly, your point about FBI Director Comey who has managed to, as you know, Reverend Al, has managed to alien and disappoint everybody. For the president to say something off the cuff like this, it is Donald Trump. We`re looking at him to their prism of conventional politicians and policy makers in Washington, and that he is not.

That has been some appeal to many people in the United States, and secondly, it is who he is. I`m not sure that is anything other than an off the cuff remark with nothing to suggest that there`s anything illegal about making such a remark to the Russian ambassador. Frankly, to anybody else, that`s his opinion of Director Comey, and frankly, one shared by many people.

SHARPTON: Well, Peter, I mean, I don`t think I said it was illegal. I just thought it was interesting that he would say to the Russians, calling the United States FBI director he fired a nut job, and I don`t know if it`s illegal or not. A lot of us would question whether it was appropriate given who he was talking to.

No one is saying that this trip wasn`t planned a long time ago, but you also cannot avoid the fact that there is a lot of heat here at home, a lot of questions, and are we wrong to raise those questions because he`s on a trip that was planned long ago?

PETER EMERSON, HUFFINGTON POST CONTRIBUTOR: No. Because actually we`re a nation of laws. We have a constitution, so the gentleman just pointed out that in terms of the facts, that`s why we now have a special council. I was an adviser during the house impeachment proceedings in 1973. There wasn`t a presumption of guilt. It was an establishing the facts and was the facts were established then decisions were made. That`s the jury we`re on right now.

The president certainly is hoping that this trip will distract. My concern is now with the launching of the medium-range missile by North Korea, that we could be looking sot some conflict that would be available to the president that would in some way galvanize as it often does in our history the American public behind him and that`s my real concern. It`s both getting to the --

SHARPTON: So your concern is they`ll create or they would lean toward an international crisis to avoid their domestic problem?

EMERSON: If presidents do it. And presidents would much prefer to be overseas once they get elected than hear domestically. It`s in our history up and down. So, yes, that is a concern. But I think first and foremost, I want the facts as our colleagues do around the world, and most importantly, I think now republicans are also calling for the facts.

SHARPTON: I`m coming to you, Jonathan. But, Adolfo, you cannot avoid the fact that there are a lot of people saying that what you just heard said here by Peter, that there are those that want to see those in the White House, those close to this president, want to see a war, and politically it would put the country in a different place, and you can`t ignore the fact that as you say, you haven`t seen the evidence yet, but we heard the drum beat on everyone from Hillary Clinton to Eric Holder, and never saw the evidence, so when it`s the other way around, I don`t think you all should get too defensive.

FRANCO: Well, I`m not getting defensive, Reverend Al. But I`m telling you, I`ve heard this jumping around Washington for 35 years as well. I`ve heard the drum beat back and forth whether republican or democrat. You`re right. Peter is right, we`ll get to the facts. That`s the point. I just haven`t seen any of the facts. I`ve seen a lot of baseless allegations or people`s memos that supposedly something happened, something was said. But we haven`t seen the facts. You`re right. We`ll get to the facts.

But this suggestion for a moment that now President Trump is responsible for North Korea launching a missile and somehow he`s looking for a distraction, my friend, the world events continue whether we like them or not. I think the president needs to deal with North Korea. The president has planned this trip. I wanted to underline that and underscore that for a long period of time. And not that anyone is suggesting in this program - -

SHARPTON: I want you to stay with us. We need to take a quick break. I want him to respond, Emerson. I want to bring Jonathan in, and I think we need to really discuss it. That`s what we do on this show.


SHARPTON: We`re back. Still with me two political strategist democrat Peter Emerson and republican Adolfo Franco and political reporter Jonathan Allen. You wanted to respond, Peter, that when Adolfo said there were no facts that he`d seen yet.

EMERSON: I would like to -- simply that we haven`t established the facts on the issue Russian intervention, the collusion, perhaps money laundering. But we have established a fact that this president, whether conscious or unconscious, is incapable of really telling the truth and sticking with it. I wrote a piece for the Huffington Post last July. His capacity to contradict himself not just in a day but in the same sentence is extraordinary. And so whether it`d be the promise of jobs that haven`t occurred. The other day he talked about Ford creating thousands of jobs. The same day that Ford announced it was cutting $10,000 jobs. So we have established that fact.


SHARPTON: Just a second. Jonathan, let me go to you. The fact that he has now come out that the president himself said that he questioned whether he was under investigation by the FBI director Comey, he said himself this. We don`t need a tape. He told Lester Holt this on tape. The fact that there are White House memos saying that there was certain statements made, this whole thing of calling the former, the same FBI director, former FBI Director Comey a nut job, they released that. That`s a fact.

And other fact that we are told that Mr. Comey in very copious notes saying that he asked him in the oval office about the instigation of Flynn. These are facts that whether they reach a bar of legality or illegality, those are facts. The politics to that is damaging to at least a lot of republicans that have been closely associated with him that now are saying, well, let`s see where this goes.

ALLEN: If you were teaching a class on the presidency 101 for new presidents, you would say, you can get away with almost anything, you can launch a war unilaterally these days, you can drone strike American citizens overseas legally. But the one thing that you don`t want to play with is obstruction of justice. And we haven`t talked about that yet, but we`ve been touching on it. Twice now the president of the United States has acknowledged, once in an interview with Lester Holt and then again in the notes that have come out from his meeting with Ambassador Kislyak and Foreign Minister Lavrov, that he has connected the firing of Jim Comey to this Russia investigation when he had the deputy attorney general and the attorney general make the case that it was about Comey`s handling of the Hillary Clinton situation.

So there is at least an acknowledgment of Donald Trump`s that the Russian investigation had something to do with the Comey firing. Now, is it possible he was lying to Lester Holt and possible that he was lying to the Russians? Of course those things are possible, but if you were a prosecutor looking into that, you`d have to put those statements out to, you know, either if you were an impeachment prosecutor in the House of Representatives or -- you`d have to put those out.

SHARPTON: That`s my point, Jonathan. We`re talking about whether or not justice was obstructed. We`re talking about whether he had interfered with an investigation. And we got it from Mr. Trump. I mean, whether he was lying or not, he`ll have to prove he was lying. He said it. And that`s why this, in many ways blew up to where it was this week. I`m the last one to say he doesn`t lie, but he`s going to have to prove he was lying when he did say what he said to Lester Holt and what was in the White House memos.

I`m going to have to leave it there. Thank you, Peter Emerson and Adolfo Franco and Jonathan Allen. Thank you all.

Up next, for my final thoughts. President Trump may be overseas but the struggle at home continues. I`ll explain in a moment.


SHARPTON: On Friday, the national board of the NAACP announced that it had removed its president, Cornell Brooks, from that office after three years. I have nothing but respect for Reverend brooks. He has been a fine and in my opinion courageous leader and I`ve enjoyed working with him as president of National Action Network as we have partnered with the NAACP.

But I also, as I talked to the chairman of the NAACP on the phone Friday afternoon, said that I, National Action Network and others, would continue working with the NAACP, we need them now more than ever, and we cannot let the media and the cynics get in the way of their goal, their missions, their need and the needs of all of us in the civil rights community.

Let`s not forget while we go through all of this rhetoric and all this what are we going to do now. We have an attorney general that has said the voting rights bill was an intrusion and has withdrawn from voting rights cases. We have an attorney general over the justice department that has ended the move toward commuting the long sentences of nonviolent drug offenders and that has said police reform know that is in many ways hurting the feelings of many of the police around the country in terms of their morale. We have real challenges around employment. We have real challenges when Alabama just Friday voted not to remove confederate statues. We need the NAACP. We can debate whether we need young or old leaders. The one before, Cornell Brooks, was young. Others have been old. No. What we need is the fight with vision and commitment. Age, charisma, has nothing to do with effectiveness. Don`t let people distract us. Keep our eye on the prize. And we need to keep doing it together.

That does it for me. Thanks for watching. I`ll see you back here next Sunday.