Staff shakeups hit the White House, latest updates in the Russia probe
Fired. Or forced out, president, Trump replaces, more senior, staff with like-minded advisors. I'm, Pete Williams in for Robert Costa we, discussed the churn inside, the White House as Robert Miller's Russia investigation. Looks at the Trump organizations, business, practices, tonight, on Washington. Week but. They'll always be change and I think you want to see change just, 14, months into office President, Trump reshapes, his administration. This. Week he fired the Secretary, of State and chose the CIA director, to take over the, president, is also reportedly, preparing to name his third national, security, adviser in less than a year scandals. And embarrassing, headlines have put other cabinet, secretaries on. Thin ice including. VA secretary David, Shulkin, interior. Secretary Ryan's Enki and EPA Administrator. Scott Pruitt over their lavish, travel, spending and HUD, secretary, ben Carson, over a $31,000. Dining-table for his office also, this week the Trump administration slaps. New sanctions, on Russia to punish Moscow, for 2016. Election, meddling and its, attempts to penetrate the u.s. power grid all, this as the u.s. joins allies, in blaming Russia for a nerve agent attack, in Britain we, discuss it all with Jonathan, Swan of Axios, Abbey. Philip of CNN, Peter, Baker of the New York Times and Susan, Glasser of Politico. This. Is, Washington. Weekly. Once. Again live from Washington. Substituting. For Robert Costa Pete. Williams of, NBC News. Good. Evening here's a tip, for top officials, in the Trump administration who, are eager to keep their jobs don't leave town James. Comey found out he'd been fired last year while on a trip to Los Angeles Rex Tillerson was, warned that he was about to be fired on a visit to Africa and got the final word just a few hours after returning, home, president. Trump insists, that reports, of West Wing chaos, and more purges, to come are exaggerations. But, the president, acknowledges, that he is considering. More changes, after his sudden firing, of Rex Tillerson for, teller syns replace, the president, has chosen CIA, director, Mark a Mike Pompeo, a hawkish, Trump loyalist, who's a former, Kansas congressman, and a graduate of West Point and Harvard Law mr.. Trump wants Jeana Haspel, to become the first woman to, lead the CIA she's, a career, CIA, employee, currently the deputy director, her, confirmation could, be complicated, though by the fact that she oversaw, a torture, program in a CIA prison, after 9/11. And mr., Trump is apparently ready to replace national. Security, adviser HR. McMaster that, word comes just a few days after the president suggested, that, he wants to build a new team of advisors, who are aligned, with his agenda and style, here's, how the Washington, Post summarized, the turnover, in the turmoil, the, mood inside the White House in recent days has verged on mania, this Trump increasingly, keeps his own counsel and. Senior aides struggle, to determine the gradations. Between rumor. And truth so. Peter Baker what is going on is the president more comfortable, making in these decisions or does he want people to fight it out to see who's gonna win well, this is definitely the wildest week we've seen in the Trump presidency since, well. Last week probably another thing is he likes this kind of, chaos. If you want to use that word he likes this kind of churning. It's it's it keeps, things exciting remember, he spent 14 years as a reality show host he wants us coming back for the next episode so we have a cliffhanger this week HR. McMaster supposed, to be fired but, not today so, come back next week we'll see whether he's there now is this your own metaphor or do you think that's the way he really thinks about I do you think it's the way he thinks about our reporting is shown that he told people at the beginning of his presidency think of this like a reality show with a weekly episode you have to keep the viewers, interested I don't mean it's the only way he thinks it was presidency, of course but, it is part of his way. Of keeping us engaged and he. Doesn't mind that, we. Get off discipline, other presidents, really really resist you, know hosting. A sorry, sponsoring, a big trip to California, for the purposes, of showcasing. His big policy. Initiative on the border wall and distracting. With something else this person has no problem with that if you want to pay attention to the other thing fine he's gonna do three four or five things a day keep, up with a please okay so on Rex Tillerson let. Me ask you again what was the most surprising, about that that had happened or that it took so long to happen I think it took so long to happen in a way he's been kind of the, forgive.
The Phrase but dead man walking for quite a while people remember, it was last August he was reported to have said by. NBC, that the president was a moron it's. Really hard to come back from that and I, think the president only left him there so long because we had all been writing stories and reporting, stories on air about how he was on the way out and he you, know decided, to show us that he was the one in charge not us so, he left Rex Tillerson in place for a while but it was ultimately gonna happen so Abby could he have lasted, longer if he had been more adept at internal, politics within the administration, instead of being such a lone. Cowboy perhaps. Would probably not it seemed very much that the problem, with Rex Tillerson and, this administration, was a personality. Misalignment. With the president and that they didn't have a style. Of communicating, with each other that was effective, and beyond. That Tillerson, I had, a very hard time being, second. Fiddle, to another, chief, executive, he came from Exxon where he, was the top man and wanted to run things his way he wanted to take his time restructuring. The State Department, for example which, some people have criticized, is essentially, a gutting of that department but all-in-all, Tillerson. Did not fit into the government, particularly, well and he certainly didn't fit into Trump's chaotic, world well, at all at, the end of the day the moron issue, became. Kind of the. Big elephant, in the room with Trump in part also because, Tillerson, never, actually denied it he still to this day has, not denied, it he simply, just doesn't answer the question and with, Trump he you know he knew about it he, wasn't happy about it but Tillerson insistence. On continuing. To just let it be there was, something that kept it front, of mine for Trump every time they. You know but we're face to face on whether, on substantive, policy, issues or on other more my new things just simply, being in the same room, Susan we know about their big differences, on the, Iran nuclear deal for, example but does Rex Tillerson deserve. Some, credit for setting the table for the North Korean talks or did that happen in spite of him well. It's interesting obviously the presidents, decision, to go ahead and announce that, he was going to meet face to face with Kim Jong was, a surprise to everybody including, the South Koreans who were there to present the author including. His own staff remember. He this was last week's episode so we might have forgotten but, you know president, Trump did an extraordinary, thing he, actually walked. In pulled, his aides out of a meeting with South Korean said no no I know, I supposed to meet with him tomorrow I'd like to do this right now brought, him into the Oval Office look, at that picture and it tells you an awful lot I think about how the Trump, White House is working right now you have HR. McMaster in, there you have Jim mattis the Secretary of Defense you have poor, Rex Tillerson off in Africa not even consulted, everybody. Sitting around, Donald. Trump says, I'll just do it so sure. Rex Tillerson was, advocating. For, negotiations. For months but remember President, Trump started to publicly undercut, him on that that also began, over the summer with, tweets by the way while, Tillerson was on overseas, travel. And you. Know there, no one believes that this is part of some carefully, planned out strategic. Summitry. That Donald Trump is engaging in so you. Know we don't know what the background work is remember there's no ambassadors. South Korea the, State Department's longtime, envoy. Jo Yoon just, quit the State Department, and, so you know you don't have a long preparation. Already, underway, for this summit, between Trump and Kim, so there may be a new secretary, at the State Department Mike, Pompeo, what, do you know about his style about, whether, he might go about fixing. The hollowed out State Department, that Rex Tillerson has, left him and how, will he be different well. He'll be different the most important, way he'll be different is you. Had a Secretary, of State which did not speak for the president and, that was very obvious to everyone, was. Obvious to foreign leaders it was obvious to people on Capitol Hill one. Senator, who is very close with Mike Pompeo and it's very close with Donald Trump said to me you. Can have separation, between the president, and his Attorney General I mean we've seen that Trump is obviously, loathe and, despise as, Jeff Sessions takes, great Glee in humiliating, him but actually that can be if useful you can have a bit of separation between the Justice Department the White House you can't have that with the Secretary of State Mike, Pompeo, has, a personal, intimacy with Trump he briefs him daily, he's, a guy's, guy, they, joke, they it's, actually kind of a jocular relationship, in the similar way that Trump.
Had Actually with Mike Flynn they just you, know shoot, whatever, and so, I think you're gonna have a a Secretary, of State that there, is no distance between him and the president and and that is gonna be the biggest difference thank you for saying whatever funny. There is, Mike. Pompeo knows how to talk to Trump the. The the major tasks with, people who work for Trump is that even when you disagree, with him on policy, or on something else you, know how to say it to him in a way that doesn't get his back up Trump, tends to react to people trying. To a, school him or trying to tell him what to do and. It's simply, managing. Your manager, I mean it's a simple skill of being in a workplace so which the Allies would rather, have a secretary of state who speaks for the president, or one who speaks in ways that they find more acceptable yeah I think the first actually, I think they would rather have somebody that they believe, genuinely represents, the president because then they know what they're dealing with then they can actually get a message to the president then they can actually have some influence perhaps in reshaping the. Thoughts if they were if they can resurrect Tillison of their. Direction it meant nothing so if they convince Mike Pompeo they, can get dick, thing is really important, too because you. Know it's been portrayed in it's sort of conflicting, ways on the one hand is this about loyalty, and president, Trump wanting. Somebody who blindly, reflects, his policy priorities, on the, other hand he's. Shown, with his, new economic, adviser. Who. Is against, the tariffs was publicly coming out against them, and now he's willingly. Appointed, somebody like that same thing with Mike Pompeo I don't think that he is just an America, first or he's much more of really, a kind of hawkish, conservative. Almost in the Dick Cheney mold than he is which means that he and Trump will have policy. Disagreements, but it's more about his. Art in flattering, Trump and making Trump feel like, he's on the team let me ask you a question about Geena Haspel because there's some question about whether, she might have a tougher time getting confirmed.
What About that is that she has the fact that she's the first woman going for but is there a chance that she might not make it the, chance certainly rate, Rand Paul has already come out against her he's also come out against Mike Pompeo with, a 51, to 49 margin, Republicans, can't afford to lose a whole lot of people in, her case obviously there's the issue of torture it's gonna ring that up in, hearings, what. Was she doing in Thailand what responsibility, is she have having, said that she, does have the support some Democrats who, work with her including, some people who worked in the Obama administration and found her to be professional, who defended. Her she. Would be the first woman at the CIA she's a career person, at the CIA which was you. Know probably benefits, her in this, effort so. We'll see I think it's it's, not well. Moving on to Russia the Trump administration announced. New sanctions to punish Moscow, for interfering, in the election, in 2016 and, for, cyberattacks targeting. US and European electrical. Systems and nuclear power plants, this week the u.s. also joined Britain, France and Germany and condemning, Russia for a nerve agent attack, on a former. Russian spy and his daughter in the UK that has left both critically, ill during. An emergency UN, Security, Council meeting on Wednesday, the US ambassador nikki, Haley blasted. The Russian government, for that attack. The. United, States stands. In absolute. Solidarity. With, Great Britain the. United States believes, that Russia is responsible. For the attack on two people in the United Kingdom using. A military-grade, nerve, agent, the. British government expelled more than 20, Russian, diplomats, after announcing that the poison, used in that attack was, developed, by the former Soviet Union President. Trump left it up to the US ambassador to deliver the strongest, combination. And he didn't mention the sanctions, at all so question. To you all first of all to Peter. This. This step. Against the Russians the sanctions, I've got two questions one is does that have any practical, significance is, it more symbolic, than practical, and secondly. Are. You more interested in the fact that it mentioned the hacking than in the fact that it mentioned I mean they had the hacking, attacks the cyber attacks then the election hacking yeah both good questions I think on, issue of tangible impact note not a lot these are a handful of people a handful of organizations that probably don't have assets here anyway probably weren't planning to travel here anyway, the important thing about it is it's the first statement, made, in effect, by the Trump administration since, taking office that the election hacking requires, a retaliation, requires, a response by. The United States having, said that we still have the dual government, system where you have nikki, Haley willing to say tough things about Russia and you have Rex to listen until he got fired willing to say tough things about Russia we have the Treasury Department now taking action and the president knighted States still not he did, not blame vitamin Putin he did not put a finger on him but, you're right about the other thing the the part about the electric plants is the scary part and this is something we'd known about for a while but had not been confirmed by the US government not been put out there by the US government as a Russian Enterprise and it's it's a sign of how serious, some of this stuff really is and and Jonathan we make a lot about the fact that the the administration, issued, the sanctions that means that they endorsed, the finding of the intelligence, community that the Russians really did hack do, you accept, that as, as. A fact, and the, I guess the other part of this is. Given. That the fact that this is sort of secondary, to to, what we were really putting out the message on the cyberattacks. But. Do, we accept, the fact that the Trump administration is, fully on board with them with the intelligence, community's findings well, you, asked me about the Trump administration you. Didn't ask me about Donald, okay well I revised, that. Require. Very different answers so does, the truck has the Trump administration effectively. Given the Good Housekeeping Seal, of Approval tumors and diamonds yes of course, because, they're sanctioning, 13, like, literally, every single person, they indicted but, does Donald Trump accept.
More. This investigation, is legitimate, no of, course, he doesn't anyone. Who's spoken to him privately will, tell you that so you, do it's this dual track, system, again with the Moller investigation. Where you will have senior officials, who think that it's completely credible if he I was with Mike Conaway this morning, who's been on, the Republican, House Intelligence Committee running that investigation he won't say a bad word about Mahler he says it's a totally legitimate Enterprise Trump. Doesn't think that Trump, thinks it's a witch-hunt well I want to ask you about that investigation. Because we had their preliminary, report out there sort of initial, take on it there through doing the interviews. Do. The Republicans, all pretty much agree with what the what we heard this week about how there was the Russians weren't really trying to help Trump, know. So. Mike. Conaway actually regrets the, language, that they used in that first talking point and it's, sort of to get in the weeds a little bit the. Talking point basically said that they don't agree with the assessment that the Russians wanted, the, Putin wanted Trump. Trump, to meet Hillary what. He's actually saying is a more nuanced, point and he regrets that it came out that way his point is he doesn't trust the tradecraft, that lay under that that it meets the standards of the IC so, look. It's a muddy point and it's just one committee it's the house Intel committee we haven't heard from the Senate Intel, committee because one party on the committee and it's just one party on the committee and we're gonna get a dissent from the Democrats by the way the reporters will come out it's probably gonna we're gonna get some of it next Thursday, and it's gonna be very controversial, on that point and also the, the central. Point they're making which is that there is no evidence that, there's been any collusion, ABI, and Susan let me ask you about the the, us statement, on the Russian, attacks. In the UK was. It slow coming out Susan and what's. The significance of, the u.s. adding, its voice to this and sort of saying yeah us too well, look of course it's slow the bottom line is that you, know the the United, States and United Kingdom have, had a long-standing. Special. Relationship, and this week I think we we did not show ourselves to be the very best friends, of Great. Britain in the world we signed on we did sort of the formal things that one would do as allies. But. The president United States was, not there right, alongside Teresa may who gave you. Know really one of the speeches of her career in in Parliament, this week in which she personally blamed Vladimir, Putin for, this attack this nerve, agent. This chemical weapon is one of the deadliest things, manufacturing.
The Former, Soviet. Union it. Is it is only produced by a state there are only two possibilities, there for for. This which is number, one the Russian government, launched. A terrifying, attack, with a chemical, weapon in a crowded British. Or number two they've lost control of this deadly, weapon either outcome obviously, is terrible, the British government, has shared intelligence with the United States and his partners saying, that it was the, British government now this the, Russian, government this now happens, days. Before, the, Russian presidential, election, and I can put that in quotes, we know the outcome of the, election on Sunday Vladimir, Putin you. Know will will be re-elected to another, six-year, term and he's already by the way the longest-serving, Russian, leader since, Joseph Stalin this. May be exactly what Putin wants he's. Not only attempting, to knock off you, know his turncoat, former, spies and sending a message of tough-guy ISM he's now gotten the West days, before, his election playing right into his campaign theme which, is by the way the West is united, against me and therefore you need me as your, leader but, for the White House to put out that statement was the bare minimum, that they needed to do at that point in time to reassure, not. Just Great Britain but also all, of Europe that the United States is there that they are actually, willing to stand, with them when literally, a chemical. Weapon is essentially, deployed in the, middle of a city. A crowded city but. The president was, that same day hours, later asked, about the. The, attack and his, were own words were very muted, he essentially said it's, a sad thing that happened, it looks like it might have been Putin that's, not in any way what, this. Sort of situation. Warranted. And President Trump still is demonstrating, this reluctance to go as far as he needs to go the, White House and the administration and. People like nikki Haley are trying, to do the, forceful, part but, when it comes to the president and his mouthpiece Sarah, Sanders the press secretary, there's, always a little bit it's up there it's always a step below in terms of the volume of a condemnation Peter, I want to ask you about the report that the Muellers team is subpoenaing, business, records from the Trump Organization because. It was at your newspaper where the president, said if the, Muller team started going after his business that would be a red line what do you make of that statement, and what, does what does it mean yeah well. To be clear was an interview we did last July with the president and when we asked the question we did couch it we said if he went into your finances that went beyond Russia so there is that you. Know extenuating, Clause there that's important, to that he would that be crossing, your red line he said yes so, we don't know where the Muellers subpoena. Covers, business, matters that go beyond Russia at this point, now. Would, that cross present, trunks red line what would that mean we don't know president Trump's red line on many things can change on from week to week so, it's but, it's an important issue and it's something to watch all right thank you all thanks very much stay, tuned to find out how you can support, your local PBS station that, in turn supports, Washington, week and our, conversation, continues, on the Washington, week extra where we'll talk about the, secrecy, surrounding the, soon-to-be-released, book, by former FBI director, James Comey plus, big lessons, from Tuesday's special election. In Pennsylvania. Where a Democrat, appears to have won a reliably, Republican, district, you can watch it online later tonight and all weekend long at pbs.org.
Slash, Washington. Week Robert, Koster returns next week I'm, Pete Williams thanks, for watching. You're. Watching PBS.