Trump decries Mueller investigation. TRANSCRIPT: 03/08/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests:
Jeremy Peters, Jennifer Rodgers, Bill Richardson, Anita Kumar
Transcript:

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS
Date: March 8, 2018
Guest: Jeremy Peters, Jennifer Rodgers, Bill Richardson, Anita Kumar

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Coming up, you`re going to hear more about
what`s happening on tariffs, what the President decided to do today after
threatening to put on a worldwide tariff on steel and aluminum, he changed
that somewhat. “The 11th Hour With Brian Williams” starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight with the news dominated by a porn
star, a potential trade war, and an ongoing investigation, the President
agrees to meet with the North Korean dictator, the surprise announcement in
the White House driveway by the delegation of South Koreans. We`ll speak
with one of the few Americans who have negotiated with the North.

Plus, former Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort now wearing a second ankle
bracelet after pleading not guilty and yet another court appearance today.
We`ve got new developments on the Mueller front and the President`s
contacts with his witnesses.

And by moving on tariffs, Trump goes against his own party, some on his own
staff and it`s still just Thursday as “The 11th Hour” begins now.

And good evening, once again, from our NBC News headquarters here in New
York. Day 413 of the Trump administration. And just a few hours ago, we
learned that North Korea`s leader, Kim Jong-un, has invited President Trump
to meet about its nuclear program and the President has accepted. This is
a giant gamble that takes both countries and their leaders into uncharted
diplomatic territory, and that`s an understatement.

Andrea Mitchell and Bill Richardson both standing by to talk with us a bit
later on in the broadcast. But we begin with new insight into President
Trump`s thinking about the Russia investigation and special Counsel Robert
Mueller. The two men have yet to come face-to-face, as you know. And
while we have no idea of Mueller`s views on the investigation, there`s no
mystery about Mr. Trump`s opinion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Collusion now is dead
because everyone found out after a year of study there`s been absolutely no
collusion.

I will say this. There is collusion, but it`s really with the Democrats
and the Russians far more than it is with the Republicans and the Russians.
So the witch hunt continues.

I had no phone calls. I`ve no meetings. No nothing.

The Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever, but certainly, there
was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe
other individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: In just a moment in this very studio, we`ll be joined by Jeremy
Peters of “The New York Times” who has new reporting on the President`s
mindset these days about this investigation, which he luckily has promised
to share with all of us. And there were other related developments in the
case today. Trump`s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort was arraigned
in federal court in Virginia where he pleaded not guilty to tax and bank
fraud charges. That`s a separate case from the one in Washington, D.C.,
across the river where he`s already pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, money
laundering and other charges related to his work for pro-Russian
politicians in Ukraine.

He is under House arrest and both jurisdictions require that he be
monitored electronically. And that means he will now be sporting dual
ankle bracelets, an accessory not lost on a protester today outside court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show us your bracelet. Hey, traitor. Here`s your
flag, Russian`s flag.

Traitor. Traitor. You`re selling out America to the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Paul Manafort will face two separate criminal trials later this
year. Rick Gates, his former business partner and deputy on the Trump
campaign, he has pleaded guilty. He`s now cooperating with team Mueller.

Tomorrow, the special prosecutor is scheduled to hear from another witness,
Sam Nunberg, the one-time Trump campaign adviser who launched that notable
one-day media blitz this week to say he would defy his subpoena. That Sam
Nunberg has since thought better of it and will now testify before a grand
jury in Washington tomorrow. He has already been questioned by Mueller`s
team, remember. Here`s what he said about that on this very network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I know Bob Mueller. I know
that whole team, and they`re right. And they probably have something on
Trump, Trump did something pretty bad, if I understood them.

ARI MELBER, “THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER” HOST: What do they have?

NUNBERG: I think they were interested in something with his business.

MELBER: With his business?

NUNBERG: Yes.

MELBER: Did they ask you about the way he ran his business?

NUNBERG: Yes, they asked me about his business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: To a leadoff panel on a Thursday night, Julia Ainsley, NBC News
National Security and Justice Reporter, Jeremy Peters, Political Reporter
for “The New York Times” and Jennifer Rodgers, Former Assistant U.S.
Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now Executive Director of
the Columbia Law School Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity.
Welcome to you all.

Jeremy, we bumped up your advanced billing tonight. You have new reporting
on the President`s mindset given all we just ran through.

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, “THE WASHINGTON POST”: Talking to
people close to the President and close to his inner circle, you really get
a sense for the emotions that Trump is going through right now. One is
that he`s incredibly arrogant and dismissive of this inquiry. And that`s
because he has people like Sean Hannity whispering in his ear constantly
saying, this is a hoax, this is a witch hunt. You`re not going to have to
testify in front of Mueller, you`re not going to have to sit down with him.
Furthermore, they can`t indict a sitting President.

And this is not confined, Brian, just to people like Sean Hannity. The
President is talking to a lot of people, sounding a lot of them out,
getting their read on the situation. And they are, frankly, feeding some
of his worst impulses in this matter. That he doesn`t have to take this
investigation seriously. So that partially explains why he would be going
to witnesses and asking them, like my colleagues, Michael Schmidt and
Maggie Haberman reported today, how did it go?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

PETERS: What kind of questions were they asking you? Were they nice to
you? You know, so that suggests on one hand that he`s not quite taking
this seriously. However, it also suggests – you talk to more people in
the administration, around the administration, they will say he`s spooked.
He is worried that they might have something on him.

Sam Nunberg, you know, whatever his flaws, whatever, you know, however
unfortunate the series of events for the last 48 hours were when he went on
T.V. and did those interviews, he has echoed something I`ve heard from
other people who have spoken to the Mueller team in recent weeks, which is
they`re zeroing in on something. I don`t know what that something is. I
don`t think Sam Nunberg did, I don`t think anybody, but Bob Mueller and his
team know what it is, but it`s serious.

WILLIAMS: Let`s ask a former Fed counselor, how legally dangerous is the
President`s mindset as you hear Jeremy explain it?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, SOUTH DISTRICT
OF NEW YORK: Well, it`s dangerous in that he can get himself into a lot of
trouble. I mean, these impulses of his are already, you know, getting him
into hot water with obstruction. So the reporting from the conversations
that he had with Reince Priebus and with Don McGahn don`t go as for as to
suggest a new obstruction case to me. You know, he would have had to say
something new to McGahn, instead of just saying, what did you say, oh, I
don`t agree with that, you know, kind of go back and forth. He would have
to say, you know, go back to Bob Mueller and correct the record, tell him
that, in fact, I did not order the firing of the special counsel and so on.

So, I don`t think it`s kind of new hot water. But this whole idea of him
interfering with this investigation, talking to people about it, continuing
to delve into it, you know, again, it`s evidence of the obstruction case
that we already have that Mueller`s looking into. It`s another kind of
piece of that puzzle. You know, here is someone who`s so obsessed with
this investigation, he just can`t stay out of it. It makes it more likely
the time he fired Jim Comey and tried to fire Mueller that he was thinking
along those lines, too.

And secondly, again, it`s just part of this attack on the independence of
the Justice Department, the Special Counsel and the FBI, it`s that same
drum beat that has been going on for a while, his, you know, continually
trying to undermine those institutions.

WILLIAMS: So, Julia, as a matter of fact and not opinion, given what
you`ve learned about the lines of inquiry, and they are multiples under way
in the Mueller effort, the President, it would seem, would have a lot to
worry about?

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right, Brian.
I mean, I think he`s definitely spooked. He`s rattled is a word we`ve been
throwing around a lot today. And this reporting from “The New York Times,”
both Jeremy`s reporting and the reporting with colleagues, last night shows
a President who is very concerned. It also shows a President who is just
shrugging off the advice of his counsel, of his attorneys who are
representing him in this probe.

And if you think about the advice that they`ve given him, we know that they
are trying to work out a way, a scenario in which he would not have to go
before the special counsel to speak. They`re very much trying to insulate
him, keep him calm, keep him from incriminating himself. And he just keeps
shrugging that off at every turn.

And so this could be a President that would also shrug off the advice that
he shouldn`t go speak to Robert Mueller. He may insist on doing it because
he has this kind of – he has this ego where he believes that he could just
set the record straight and win on his own. And a lot of these moves that
he`s making along the way, could get him in that trouble that Jennifer`s
talking about now.

WILLIAMS: And, Jennifer, back to you. How do you deal with a client like
that who has admitted impulse control issues and, candidly, needs to get
good news kind of every day on multiple fronts.

RODGERS: Well, it`s very difficult. And this is one of the reasons he had
such a hard time finding a criminal lawyer back when he was shopping around
and he was asking kind of all the big names in the white collar defense bar
and, you know, lots of people were saying no for just those reasons and
also that apparently he doesn`t pay his bills. But it`s very challenging,
I mean, you have to keep working at it, keep working at it. You know,
eventually, some give up and move on and stop representing the client. But
you just have to kind of stick with it and try to explain to him in terms
that he will understand what the consequences are of his actions.

Some of that, you know, they`ve already, I`m sure, has been able to show
him. You know, look, you fired Comey. Look what happened. You`ve got Bob
Mueller and they can kind of show these consequences and hopefully get him
under control.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, we do know that if you leave the employ of the White
House you never leave the President`s cellphone. So, you and I both know
some of the folks in his circle. Who can you speak to that he`s getting
advice from? Is it a shrinking circle of people just by choice or by
happenstance?

PETERS: I mean, I think it`s the usual suspects. It`s Corey Lewandowski,
it`s Sean Hannity. You know, I don`t know that he`s still talking to Paul
Manafort these days, but it`s the people who were around him from the
beginning. Hope Hicks is certainly not out of the picture. I mean, the
President has surrounded himself with a security blanket of familiar
people. And that`s not going to change, Brian.

He is going to continue to seek out their advice, and in situations like
this, that worries some of his lawyers because the people he has surrounded
himself with from the beginning tended to be enablers. There`s been a lot
of, you know, revisionist history, I would say, about the role of people
like Hope Hicks in President Trump`s inner circle. You know, she was his
Trump whisperer, she`s leaving and that somehow Trump is going to be
unhinged or off the rails when she goes. Not really.

The people like Hope were there feeding some of the President`s most self-
destructive impulses. And he`s not going to change. That`s not going to
change. So I think that`s what worries some of his lawyers, that if he
were, to Julia`s point, put him in front of Bob Mueller, what might he say?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

PETERS: How might he contradict himself? And that`s something I`ve heard
with increasing frequency from people close to Trump, is that those who
have spoken with Mueller`s team or those who have gotten feedback from how
the investigation is going, what the lines of inquiry are, they`re very
worried that if Trump faces those kinds of questions that he would
contradict himself and put himself in real legal jeopardy.

WILLIAMS: And even more dangerous not know what others have already
testified to, like a Michael Flynn and others. So, Julia, we`ve
established two of the moving parts this week, Nunberg, Manafort. Anything
else that you`re aware of that we`re forgetting?

AINSLEY: Gosh. I think the big thing here is all of the foreign contacts.
We started reporting on this last week, Brian, as you know, reporting on
Mueller looking into whether or not Jared Kushner`s business dealings with
foreign individuals during the transition had an impact on foreign policy.
And now with this reporting about what happened in the Seychelles with Erik
Prince whose story now seems to be turning on its head, that he met with
the Emiratis and could use that as a back-channel to the Russians.

All of this is sort of coming to a point where we`re beginning to see
strings connect on a board, and it could be strings that Robert Mueller has
connected for a long time. But we know now that he`s really interested in
this meeting and he`s interested in not just the campaign at this point.
That Seychelles meeting was in January 2017 as the administration was
coming in.

So, I don`t think it`s getting ahead of ourselves to start to think that
Robert Mueller isn`t just looking at a campaign and a foreign government.
He`s looking at an administration that may have had something to repay to
that foreign government once they were inside the White House.

WILLIAMS: It`ll be interesting to see the passports of the Mueller
investigators because, while headquartered in Washington, this
investigation is absolutely a global enterprise.

Our thanks on a busier than average Thursday night to Julia Ainsley, to
Jeremy Peters, and Jennifer Rodgers. Appreciate it very much.

Coming up for us, that stunning news tonight that took the Pentagon, some
in the West Wing by surprise, State Department as well, talks between
Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. We`ve got one of the few Americans who has
negotiated with the North standing by live to talk to us.

And later, Trump goes rogue on tariffs to the chagrin of his own party.
We`re just getting under way on a Thursday evening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Welcome back. As we mentioned, there were a number of firsts at
the White House tonight. It was the first time anyone can remember the
President walking into the Press Briefing Room unannounced. It was the
first time anyone can remember South Korean diplomats appearing at
microphones in the White House driveway in the dark.

And for the first time a sitting U.S. President has accepted an invitation
to meet with the dictator of North Korea. The Pentagon didn`t know it was
coming. State Department was saying just the opposite just today. But
here was the news from the South Koreans tonight outside the West Wing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUNG EUI-YONG, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, SOUTH KOREA: I told President
Trump that, in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is
committed to denuclearization. And he expressed his eagerness to meet
President Trump as soon as possible.

President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un
by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later put out a statement
confirming the two leaders would meet saying in part, “He will accept the
invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un at a place and time to be determined.
We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime,
all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain.”

With us tonight to talk about it, Andrea Mitchell, our NBC News Chief
Foreign Affairs Correspondent, of course, the anchor of “Andrea Mitchell
Reports” noon Eastern Time on this network, and Bill Richardson, one of the
few Americans to ever successfully negotiate with North Korea. He also
served as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and he joins us from New Mexico where
he served, of course, as Governor.

Andrea, so many questions. First of all, the optics, the South Korean
delegation in the West Wing driveway, the fact that this admittedly comes
up with so many other things that are vying for this President`s attention.
And finally, the fact that we`ve been here before, maybe not quite this
far, but we`ve been close to here before.

ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all,
this is the President who was talking about fire and fury and threatening
military action, who on the January 2nd was saying that his nuclear button
was bigger than Kim`s after a very threatening message from Kim Jong-un to
the United States. You know, calling him “rocket man” and Kim calling the
President “dotard” and other insults being lobbed back and forth at the
U.N. speech.

So, the chang here dramatic, we first heard it at the Gridiron on Saturday
night when he said that there had been some progress, there had been some
positive messages. And then as the week proceeded, we saw those very good
talks between North and South emerging from, you know, mixed in probably
because of a number of things. We don`t really know, but certainly, the
sanctions have been hurting. And we can assess that there has to be some
concern about the threats of military action.

You have a very aggressive threat coming out of the NSC and the White
House. At the same time, Madison – Tillerson urging diplomacy, but
Tillerson completely undercut on the way back from Asia as the President,
you`ll recall last fall, tweeted out, don`t waste your time on diplomacy,
Rex.

The other big question I would have and Bill Richardson would be a really
good witness on this, is there are no diplomats, no senior diplomats. Just
last week, Joe Young, the most experienced diplomat we had in this whole
region, quit, and I`m told quit in frustration because he wasn`t even being
brought to White House meetings. He was being completely shut out by
Tillerson. And Tillerson himself has been marginalized by the White House
in great regard.

Just today, Tillerson saying that it`s going to be a long time before there
could be talks.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

MITCHELL: Now his aides say he`s just being careful to let the President
making announcements, but by all indications this was an inaudible call by
the President when he saw that there was the prospect of a meeting. He
thinks he`s the best deal maker. Abe was apparently called by Tillerson
just before but the President was on the phone with Japan, which is very
nervous about this. Not at all happy about, in fact, about South Korea
being so forward leaning towards North Korea – this President Moon, the
new South Korean President.

So, there are a lot of questions about these. This is a very big gamble.
And while denuclearization is now being discussed and a freeze on tests
right now, that doesn`t mean that Kim Jong-un will not be building his
weapons at the same time that these talks are taking place. We`ve never
even had a U.S. President, a sitting President talk to a North Korean
leader, no less give him a meeting when we have three prisoners, three
Americans still being held prisoner there. It doesn`t seem as though we
got anything on the table in exchange for the prestige of a meeting.

WILLIAMS: So, governor, without taking a thing away from this achievement,
I guess the polite diplomatic way of asking my favorite question, what
could go wrong, is talk to us about risk versus reward.

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS:
Well, the risks are that when you negotiate with the North Koreans, and
Andrea knows this, too, you`ve got to put your hand on your wallet.
They`re very wily. They are strategic.

I think Kim Jong-un is evolving from a bomb thrower into a strategic
thinker with an endgame. I mean, the Olympics, what he did there, the
invitation to the South Korean President, the invitation to President
Trump. He`s up to something. So we can`t be trapped. Those are the
risks. The rewards.

Look, there`s enormous tension in the Koreas right now. Vitally strategic
part for the United States. Enormous problems there.

U.S.-North Korean relations couldn`t be worse at this time. But now with
this potential breakthrough, although potentially dangerous, tensions will
ease. South Koreans, Japanese, citizens will breathe a little more easier
because, you know, at least nothing is going to happen, no missile test,
nuclear test until the summit in May. So, I think the President has
gambled.

You know, I don`t support 95% of his foreign policy but I`m going to give
him a positive pass on this one because I think it`s a bold stroke that
might yield something. The alternative is things couldn`t be worse right
now on the peninsula.

WILLIAMS: That`s true.

RICHARDSON: So, that`s what I would say.

WILLIAMS: And it`s good to hear you say that. Andrea, back to a point you
first raised. This word “denuclearization” in the statement really jumps
out at you, and a freeze in testing, though, I heard some people on cable
already tonight say, well, of course, they`re going to freeze testing.
We`ve just watched them test everything and everything seems to be working
pretty well.

MITCHELL: Well, just this week the head of Defense Intelligence had a
threat assessment that they have three long range missiles, two of which
can reach the Homeland, the continent of United States. We don`t know
whether they have solved the re-entry problems. We don`t know about
miniaturization, but they`ve surprised American intelligence in the last
year and a half with the progress they`ve made. And they have had 16
missile tests, 16 separate missiles have gone up on – 23 missiles, I
guess, is the total on 16 tests. So they`ve had a lot of tests in the last
18 months.

Look, Barack Obama told President Trump when he was still the President in
waiting in that one meeting they had in the Oval Office that North Korea
was going to be his biggest challenge. And we`ve seen how rocky it has
been.

I don`t take anything away from the fact that this is a big gamble and that
the reward is huge. I`m just saying one would wish that we had the
diplomats in place to handle what is going to be the most complex nuclear
negotiation since the end the Cold War. We don`t have people who used to
be, you know, the really experienced diplomats from secretary of state on
down.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

MITCHELL: And now this is rewarding Kim with a meeting at a very high
level. And we don`t know, you know, who is the better negotiator here?

WILLIAMS: Just having an ambassador in South Korea would help. So,
Governor, here`s the equation and we won`t be polite. You have one leader,
Kim Jong-un, who craves relevance, craves being a part of the conversation,
craves recognition. You`ve got another leader, I`ll leave it to you to
decide who it is, who craves flattery. How would you counsel the home team
going into this?

RICHARDSON: Well, I would say to the President, have a strategy. Don`t
just go for a photo op, although, you know, just them getting together I
think is a positive step. Get your diplomatic team. It should be a
combination of state department people and military people.

I would also say to the President, I think the military in North Korea, and
Andrea was with me when we got the remains of some of our soldiers, the
North Koreans handed them to us. I think they`re to the left of Kim Jong-
un. They don`t want a war against the United States. I think sanctions
have been biting them.

So, I would say to the President, get ready, be prepared. No tweeting.
Get your team in order. Don`t go calling him “rocket man.” Just take it
easy.

Thank the South Koreans. They have been very crucial here. Bring Japan
along. They`re – Andrea is right, they`re very nervous.

China, I think deserves some credit, too, because they have increased the
sanctions. They could be doing more, but I think those sanctions have been
biting. But don`t underestimate Kim Jong-un just because he`s 34 and
unpredictable and does wacky things. He has an endgame.

And if we`re going to reach some kind of a deal, it may not be total
denuclearization, but it`s going to cost us. It`s going to take a long
time. They`re going to want a relief from sanctions, an end to the
armistice. They`re going to want probably energy assistance. They`re
going to want quite a bit. But I think this is where diplomacy, instead of
talking about preemptive strikes, is going to be the rule of the day.

But I agree with Andrea, get a team together, don`t just do it yourself.
By the way, tell your secretary of state what you`re doing. That would be
helpful.

WILLIAMS: That might help. And we repeat to our audience something we
can`t repeat often enough. Korean War never ended. It`s just in a cease-
fire.

Our thanks to the two guests we were hoping could come on our broadcast to
talk about this tonight. Andrea Mitchell, Governor, Ambassador Bill
Richardson, thank you both so much. Fascinating conversation. We`ll
continue to talk about it as the date approaches.

And coming up for us, the sound and fury among Republicans over what the
President did today, what he signed today. And the question, will it
correspondent into any action at all? When the “11th Hour” continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Today I`m defending America`s
national security by placing tariffs on foreign imports of steel and
aluminum. And we want a lot of steel coming into our country, but we want
it to be fair and we want our workers to be protected. And we want,
frankly, our companies to be protected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Trump announcing new tariffs on
imported steel and aluminum amid fierce opposition, a lot from his own
party.

Starting March 23rd, steel will be taxed at 25 percent, aluminum will be
taxed at 10 percent. Mexico and Canada will receive exceptions. Today`s
move defied Republicans who are worried about the economic impact and a
possible trade war.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he`s happy with exemptions for
allies but he`s “concerned about the scope of the proposed tariffs on steel
and aluminum and their impact on American citizens and businesses.”
Speaker Paul Ryan who has been forced to take a pass on so much from this
president, came out with a statement that, for him, is positively
Churchillian, “I disagree with this action and fear its unintended
consequences.”

And there were Republicans in the Senate willing to be equally tough. Ben
Sasse released a statement that read in part, “We`re on the verge of a
painful and stupid trade war and that`s bad.” And a statement from Jeff
Flake read in part, “These so-called flexible tariffs are marriage of two
lethal poisons to economic growth, protectionism and uncertainty. I will
immediately draft and introduce legislation to nullify these tariffs.”

Well, here to talk about it our own Ali Velshi, he co-cost the “Velshi and
Ruhle” at 11:00 a.m. Eastern on weekdays, also happens to be host of our
3:00 p.m. hour Eastern Time every day. And Anita Kumar, White House
Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers

Mr. Velshi, I noticed Grover Norquist, for people who don`t know that name,
I mean this in the nicest way, he turned two generations of Republicans
politicians into supplicants. I add to sign his pledge not to raise taxes.

ALI VELSHI, VELSHI AND RUHLE HOST: And actually the most powerful not
elected man in the Washington possibly.

WILLIAMS: Tariffs are taxes, tariffs are taxes, tariffs are taxes, and one
more time for good measure, tariffs or taxes on American consumers. Your
reaction, Ali, through the words of Grover.

VELSHI: Well, Grover is an old friend and we agree on nothing. So I find
it very strange. I`m on Grover`s side on that and I`m on the same side as
the club for growth, because it is true.

There are real advantages to our free trade or our freer trade regimen, and
that means that prices haven`t gone up for many, many years. We`ve been
able to source things in countries where they`re cheaper for many, many
years.

Now, there are problems with the way we do this trade and President Trump
has identified them and Bernie Sanders have identified them, and lots of
people have identified them, and we haven`t done anything about it. So
this was an opportunity for the president to sort of fix some of the things
that are wrong with international trade. But again, he didn`t do it the
right way.

You`ll remember this started being about China.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

VELSHI: Then it became about Canada and Mexico. And today, during the
announcement, it was largely about national security. None of it really
makes sense. This is a shot across the wrong bow.

WILLIAMS: He also talked about dumping of steel.

VELSHI: Yes.

WILLIAMS: And dumping of dish washers across our country. I`m on my way
to work today saw not one dish washer across the countryside. What does
that mean?

VELSHI: So it`s a great old expression that refers to selling something in
a country for less money than it would have cost in its country of origin.

WILLIAMS: OK.

VELSHI: Taking control of the market by deeply discounting steel. Now,
there are issues. China does do some of this stuff and as the president
has rightly pointed out, it does it through transhipments. So while we are
not getting China`s dumped or very inexpensive steel directly from China,
we`re getting it from countries that don`t actually produce steel.

There`s a lot of good argument to deal with this, but the real problem with
China lies somewhere else. And more targeted approaches to dealing with
China or any other country make a lot of sense. The danger of this sort of
activity is that we buy a lot of stuff from other counties in the world.
They buy a lot of our stuff. And they are likely to retaliate because of
the impositions of these tariffs.

WILLIAMS: So, Anita, Republicans can stop this. They`ll need help. They
need a two-thirds vote to reverse something like this, but it can be done.
Will it be done?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: It can be
done but it`s very unlikely to be done. You heard and you talked to – you
mentioned Senator Flake introducing that bill to nullify this.

WILLIAMS: He`s on his way out of town.

KUMAR: Yes. It is going to be very tough for Republican majorities to
defy their president any year particularly in an election year. I just
don`t think it`s going to happen.

WILLIAMS: So because the president did campaign, Anita, on some version of
this, have you been forced to go back through to other things that have
gone against convention, but when the time comes, he says, “No, this is for
my people. I campaigned on this. It`s for my base.”

KUMAR: Well, I mean, he did campaign on it. I mean, what he did is what
he said he would do. He`s actually been talking about trade in some of
this language for a really, really long time.

You know, we`ve been hearing that at the White House even though there was
a lot of back and forth on whether he would actually go through with it.
They keep telling us, well, he`s been saying this for months, for years,
have you not been listening?

So, you know, but there was a back and forth at the White House where a lot
of his advisers obviously did not agree with it and didn`t think he would
do it and want him to do it. So here it is. He did do it.

You know, I think it resonates with some people, some people in the heart
land, the people that he has spoke to the Trump supporters, people, you
know, his base. But there are a lot of people facing elections this
November. This isn`t going to sit well with in suburban areas and other
house Districts.

You know, you mentioned some of the Republicans that were outspoken. We`re
used to hearing John McCain. We`re used to hearing Bob Corker.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

KUMAR: We`re used to hearing Jeff Flake. We are not used to hearing
Speaker Paul Ryan or Senator Mitch McConnell. I mean, those were tepid
responses from them, but they were absolutely scathing that they came out
and said those things. I mean, just to see both of their statements were
very, very telling.

WILLIAMS: And, Ali, when I read about a carve-out for Mexico and Canada,
kind of why don`t they call it, oh, I don`t know, North American free
trade, something along those lines?

VELSHI: Right, that`s exactly the issue. If there hasn`t been a carve-out
for Mexico and Canada, that would have immediately triggered a trade war.
And keep this in mind, we get most of steel as imported, most of the
imported steel oil comes from Canada. But you can`t just start a war, a
trade war with Canada about steel because most of our imported oil comes
from Canada. A lot of our electricity comes from Canada, lots of other
things.

And by the way, Canada is one of the few countries with which America has a
trade surplus. It`s a country that America sells more goods to, goods and
services than it receives. So why you`d want to start a war with Mexico
and Canada, trade war, it doesn`t make any sense. And that`s at least the
president was convinced of the value of that.

But the European Union is not happy about this. They`ve already said,
there all sorts of things that made in America that they`ll consider
putting tariffs on. And we`re going to have to face those consequences.

One last thought I`ll leave you with. For every steel and aluminum worker
you protect by doing this, there are 50 workers in industries that purchase
large quantities of steel and aluminum who maybe hurt by this. So this is
a difficult night for people who want to stand up for the American worker,
because the president will point out those he`s protected, and those plants
he saved, and those are going to be open, but we won`t hear about all the
others who lose jobs because of this sort of thing.

WILLIAMS: Our sincere thanks to two of our friends, Anita Kumar and among
the great ever Canadian exports, Ali Velshi. Thank you both so much.

Coming up, day 413 of the Trump administration, another day, however,
dominated by some degree of chaos inside that West Wing. We`ll have the
latest when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Quick review of the last 24 hours. When we left you last night,
there was no events scheduled on tariffs, but that happened today.

And then tonight, the rather unusual sight of the South Korean delegation
approaching microphones in the dark in the driveway, outside the West Wing
to announce a deal with the North, President`s accepted the invitation. As
we said to the ambassador earlier, what could go wrong?

Let`s talk about it with our guests, shall we? John Heilemann, MSNBC
National Affairs Analyst and Eli Stokols, MSNBC Political Analyst, veteran
journalists both.

John, to you, at a time of staff exodus, we have a porn star in the news,
we have tariffs in the news. We have Mr. Mueller who went to work today
just like any other Thursday.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: But the bottom line here
is, above all these things, this North Korea negotiation really matters.

WILLIAMS: It does.

HEILEMANN: It`s an existential threat the North Korea –

WILLIAMS: We got, 28,000 Americans there and –

HEILEMANN: We do, and the possibility of ground war and the North Korea is
pursuing a nuclear program that could reach the West Coast of United
States. Getting this right really matters, and the way that the
announcement was handled today with Rex Tillerson on the phone an hour
later saying, “We`re not ready for talks. Maybe on the horizon some time
in a few months, we might be able get there. And we don`t have an
ambassador to South Korea.”

WILLIAMS: There is that.

HEILEMANN: We don`t have an ambassador to the – a senior diplomat to the
Far East. We have chaos at the level of diplomacy where what you need when
there are high stakes is to have things buttoned up or buttoned down, one
or the other.

WILLIAMS: Because you and I are slightly older than this one, I can ask
you a question like this, what`s the chance it`s a Nixon to China moment?

HEILEMANN: You know, not impossible. But, I mean, again we`re hearing
discussion about how Trump instead of having negotiator, Trump going to go
in and do this on his own. And you`ve got two – I don`t want to say
unstable.

But two volatile characters in Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump with no real
staffing around him, with nothing like the kind of preparation that we`ve
seen covering summits throughout our long, way too long careers, you know,
could it work out? It could but, I mean, you wouldn`t bet on it.

WILLIAMS: Eli Stokols, one name we said repeatedly on last night`s
broadcast, that I`ve yet to use though I`m break my streak by using it now,
Stormy Daniels.

ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought I was going to talk about
– now, you`re throwing me a curve ball. I thought we were talking about
the lack of process at the White House.

WILLIAMS: We could go there.

HEILEMANN: But lack of process backs that too.

STOKOLS: I mean, when you think about this, it does – that is another
thing –

WILLIAMS: All of the pieces.

STOKOLS: – of a piece with the sort of frenetic nature of working this
White House. Sarah Sanders basically going out there, trying to beat the
story down, and sort of inadvertently, it seemed like confirming that there
had been some sort of legal effort to keep Stormy Daniels silent, begs the
question why.

Why is the president so concerned with whatever she has to say especially
when he`s already been accused by more than a dozen women of similar
infidelities and sexual abuse, and various things that are sort of part of
his reputation. What is it that she might have or what is it that she
could say that he`s so concerned about?

And I think people working in this White House, they don`t know all the
answers. They don`t know the answers to those questions. They don`t know
the answer to when reporters call in the morning and say, is there going to
be a tariffs event this afternoon? They don`t know right up until he does
it.

HEILEMANN: And what`s going to be in it, what`s going to be announced at
it. If there`s going to one, what`s the content of it going to be?

WILLIAMS: And what`s tomorrow going to bring? What`s Monday?

STOKOLS: And then, the fact that there`s no process in place now with Rob
Porter, it`s not just rob porter. There hasn`t been much of a process in
place in this West Wing with this president from the start.

But as John said, the North Korea thing actually matters in a different way
than Stormy Daniels, than a lot of these other things because of the
national security implications. And to think that the South Koreans
brought a verbal invitation from Kim Jung-un, you know, the leader of a
country that has been trying to be seen on a level of diplomatic playing
field, with the United States, to be seen as equals for 30 years, something
that no U.S. leader, no U.S. president has ever granted them.

And tonight, it sounds like President Trump agreed to that in the Oval
Office without any process really at all. You talked about Rex Tillerson
being in the dark.

HEILEMANN: Just repeat of the sake of – in a brief way. In doesn`t –
process is often just bureaucracy. Process is often overrated. There are
lots of times when you can cut through the clutter. When it comes to
things where there are high stakes, in the case of trade, massive global
economic stakes. In the case of North Korea, massive global geostrategic
nuclear military lives, blooded treasure, all of those things on line,
process matters in those cases because if you make a mistake, the costs are
so high.

It`s not like you`re just going to lose part of your base, or your approval
rating is going to drop 6 points, or you`re going to blow up piece of
legislation on Capitol Hill. You could blow stuff up. And this is where,
we`re going to look at this and say, hey, this stuff that is kind of funny
when they`re flying without radar under domestic circumstances, when you
get on this stage, man, I want process. I want premeditation, I want
process, I want coloring this inside the lines.

STOKOLS: You want expertise, right?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

STOKOLS: There are people who have studied this for years. Jared Kushner
went down to Mexico, didn`t involve the U.S. diplomat yesterday who
actually knows something about relations with that country. And it just
speaks to the disregard for institutional knowledge and expertise
throughout this administration. The president says, and he`s said it many
times, I`m the only one that matters, when he talks about his cabinet, when
he talk about the Foreign Service, and the State Department. And that`s
where we are, the president himself seems like he made this decision
tonight on his own.

WILLIAMS: Let the record show we value expertise. That`s why we invited
John Heilemann and Eli Stokols tonight. Gentlemen, couldn`t have done
better. Thank you.

Coming up, a closer look at today`s tariff event, hastily arranged at the
White House. Perhaps, there were some things that took place today.
You`ve got to see to believe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I`m delivering on a promise I made during the campaign, and I`ve
been making it for a good part of my life. I ever did this, I never really
thought I would. I said, let`s run for president. And look what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: President Trump took a moment to reflect on his unexpected
career change during today`s tariff announcement. As we pointed out in the
past, the president loves using words like reciprocal. He managed to work
in four of those today. There were any number of underrated moments during
today`s White House event.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re going to be doing a reciprocal tax program at some point.

It`s called reciprocal, it`s a mirror tax.

It`s called the reciprocal tax.

We want everything to be reciprocal.

Your father`s Herman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herman, sorry. Yes.

TRUMP: Yes. Well, your father, Herman, is looking down. He`s very proud
of you right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, he`s still alive.

TRUMP: Oh he is? Well then, he`s even more proud of you. Then, he is
even more proud. Anybody else, please, come on up.

Let`s arm wrestle, come on.

But you are great people, would you like to take a picture of the Oval
Office? I assume you`ve all been many times into the Oval Office. Come
on, let`s go and do that. Let`s go and do this. Yes, I`m going to do it.
We`ll go into the Oval Office. We`re going to sign this up. We`ll go into
the Oval Office and we`ll have a picture, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Just one event, an ordinary Thursday in the life of the White
House.

Coming up, another break for us, and when we come back, what made this
anything but an ordinary Thursday in countries all around this world of
ours.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Last thing before we leave you. In about three minutes here on
the East Coast, it will be gone. But for now, it is still Thursday,
International Women`s Day. This is observed every year on March 8th and
its full title is United Nations Day for women`s rights and international
peace.

The goal is to highlight, celebrate women`s achievements throughout history
and across the globe. There were demonstrations and rallies all over to
mark the occasion. Crowds marched, groups assembled across the U.S., in
London, in Paris, in Spain and Italy and Turkey, South Korea, the
Philippines and India, across South America from Uruguay to Argentina,
Brazil and beyond.

This year, more and more companies also got on in on it, McDonald`s as you
may have seen, flipped its famed golden arches into a W. Mattel released
17 limited edition Barbies which do not resemble the Barbies of the past
among them aviator Amelia Earhart and NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson.

There`s also this is benchmark on International Women`s Day, a record
number of women are running for office in this country. According to
POLITICO, at least 575 women have declared their intention to run for the
House, the Senate or governor. And there does seem to be more enthusiasm
for one party over another. POLITICO continues here “Of the 494 women who
have said they`re running for the House and Senate this year, 76 percent
are democratic candidates.”

Meanwhile, here in New York today, that statue called Fearless Girl on Wall
Street was draped with a bouquet of flowers while uptown at the United
Nations, some powerful messengers delivered a powerful message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REESE WITHERSPOON, ACTRESS: With the revelation that so many women had
been assaulted, discriminated against, and generally told to be quiet for
fear of losing opportunity and their job, we decided we were all going to
come together because enough is enough. And time is up.

DANAI GURIRA, ACTRESS: What the women and girls have made it through thus
far in the world shows us very clearly women are the more powerful sex, OK?
Because I cannot believe the things I`ve heard women say they`ve been
through and they still keep going day by day, and handle their business and
take care of their children and invest in their communities, and stand up
and make things better for people around them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you so
very much for being here with us. Goodnight from NBC News headquarters in
New York.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY
BE UPDATED.
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