Trump Lawyers seek deal with Mueller. TRANSCRIPT: 039/09/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams
Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS
Date: March 9, 2018
Guest: Peter Nicholas, Barbara McQuade, Matt Apuzzo, Susan Glasser, Michael Beschloss
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the weekend as it started with this
man, Sam Nunberg, this time appearing before Mueller`s grand jury. As “The
Wall Street Journal” is reporting, Trump`s lawyers hope to use a
Presidential interview as leverage to end the Russia investigation. The
reporter who broke that story with us here live.
Plus, news on the Stormy Daniels front, including Michael Cohen using his
Trump company e-mail to conduct business with the porn star.
And Trump tonight says the deal with North Korea is very much in the
making, ending a day of mixed messages from the White House about whether
his meeting with Kim Jong-un will actually happen. “The 11th Hour” on a
Friday night begins now.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New
York. This was day 414 of the Trump administration.
And there`s new reporting tonight about negotiations to set up a possible
interview between the President and Robert Mueller, the special counsel in
all of this. This comes to us from “The Wall Street Journal”
correspondents, Rebecca Ballhaus and Peter Nicholas, who report that
Trump`s legal team is trying to work out a deal with Mueller. We`ll be
joined by Peter Nicholas in a moment.
They write that according to a person familiar with the discussions,
President Trump`s lawyers are, “seeking to negotiate a deal with Special
Counsel Robert Mueller that uses an interview with the President as
leverage to spur a conclusion to the Russia investigation. The President`s
legal team is considering telling Mr. Mueller that Mr. Trump would agree to
a sit-down interview based on multiple considerations, including that the
special counsel commit to a date for concluding at least the Trump-related
portion of the investigation.”
Last night, here on this broadcast, we learned from “The New York Times”
Jeremy Peters, that the President continues to be dismissive of the Russia
investigation, even as he remains concerned about it. “Times” has also
reported that Mr. Trump did try to fire Robert Mueller but backed off. And
he`s been asking other witnesses about their interviews with Mueller`s
Here is what Trump said earlier this year when he was asked about a
possible sit-down with Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Are you open to
meeting with him? Would you be willing to meet with him without condition?
Or would you demand that a strict set of parameters be placed around any
encounter between you and the special counsel?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`ll see what happens. I
mean, certainly, I`ll see what happens, but when they have no collusion and
nobody`s found any collusion at any level, it seems unlikely that you`d
even have an interview.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Also tonight, there is new reporting from the “Washington Post”
about a letter from Donald Trump to Vladimir Putin dating back to 2013.
The “Post” reports this, “Donald Trump was so eager to have Vladimir Putin
attend the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow that he wrote a personal
letter the Russian president inviting him to the event, according to
multiple people familiar with the document. At the bottom of the typed
letter, Trump scrawled a postscript adding that he looked forward to seeing
beautiful women during his trip. The real estate magnate, who owned the
Miss Universe pageant, wrote the note at a time when he was looking to
expand his brand to Russia.”
“The letter, the first known attempt at direct outreach by Trump to Putin,
has been turned over to investigators probing Russia`s interference in the
2016 campaign. It`s unclear whether Trump`s missive was ever delivered to
the Russian president, and if so, whether Putin responded. Investigators
for Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III have asked witnesses questions
about the Miss Universe pageant and Trump`s interest in having Putin attend
the event, according to people familiar with the inquiry.”
As President, Donald Trump has been nothing less than complimentary to
Vladimir Putin and, in fact, has bent over backwards time after time to
give Putin the benefit of the doubt at very minimum. In fact, Megyn Kelly
asked the Russian leader part about that as part of her primetime special
on NBC tonight called “Confronting Putin.”
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEGYN KELLY, “MEGYN KELLY TODAY” HOST: Let me ask you about President
Trump. Any time he says anything about you, it is supremely deferential,
never a harsh word for you, although if you look at the way he speaks about
members of his own party, even of his own staff, never mind other political
leaders, he frequently personally insults them. Why do you think he`s so
nice to you?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator):
I don`t believe he treats me personally with reference. I believe that
he`s an experienced person; he`s a businessman with vast experience. And
he understands that if you need to, if it is necessary to establish a
cooperative relationship with someone, then you have to treat your current
or potential partner with respect. Otherwise nothing will come of it. I
think this is a purely pragmatic approach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Let`s bring in our leadoff panel on a Friday night. The
aforementioned Peter Nicholas, White House Reporter for “The Wall Street
Journal,” “New York Times” Reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner, Matt Apuzzo
is back with us, and Barbara McQuade, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern
District of Michigan, these days, a Law Professor at her alma mater, the
University of Michigan. Welcome to you all.
And, Peter, because it`s your reporting that`s starting us off, I would
like to begin with you. Talk about how advanced these conversations might
be. And from lay people to reporters, a lot of people reacted to this
today thinking, well, this fits a pattern of telling the boss or your
client optimistic things to keep him optimistic.
PETER, NICHOLAS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, “THE WALL STREET JOURNAL”: Well,
they are in the early stages of these negotiations, but what we learned is
that the interview with – that the President might give is something about
bargaining chip. And the Trump legal team will see some leverage here that
Mueller wants an interview and is trying to get one. And Trump might agree
to do this, provided that he can get certain conditions to be met. One of
those conditions is that the scope of the interview might be limited. It
wouldn`t be just be a wide-ranging no holds barred question and answer
session, but it would be strictly defined topics.
And the second might be Mueller would agree to bring this investigation to
a speedy conclusion, perhaps 60 days from the date of the interview.
Obviously, Trump has long said he believes this interview – this
investigation is invalid, it`s a witch hunt. And he thinks it`s harming
the country. So the Trump legal team believes perhaps this could be a way
to bring it to a quick end.
WILLIAMS: His attorneys, Mr. Dowd and Mr. Cobb, specifically are veterans
of the law, veterans of Washington. This is not their first rodeo. Did
you pick up in your reporting there is real optimism on their part toward
NICHOLAS: I think that there are factions within the legal team. And I
think that there are some members of the team that are more skeptical of
the idea of an interview. They believe an interview could pose a perjury
trial for Trump. It would expose him to some legal jeopardy. They also
think it could set a bad precedent that if Trump gives an interview, the
Presidents, 10, 20, 30 years from now might be obligated to do the same
because the precedent has been set.
But there are others who are more sanguine about an interview and think
that it actually could have some value in the sense that it could shut down
this investigation, could bring it to a close. And this is the missing
piece in the puzzle that Mueller sees. And if they provide Trump to speak
to the investigators, that might be all that`s necessary for Mueller to go
WILLIAMS: I know enough at this point in the conversation to call in a
lawyer. All right. Counselor, it`s your turn. Is there anything in
Robert Mueller`s category, in his character or background, that you think
would agree to this kind of ground rule?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY: You know, he might agree
to some ground rules but I don`t see him agreeing to the ones that have
been reported. You know, he really holds all the cards here and so he
doesn`t really need to give a lot of concessions. The idea that he would
agree to a time limit, for example, I just don`t see that happening at all.
In cases like this, there`s always potential follow-up from any witness
that you interview, and you just never know how much time that might take.
So that concession I don`t see at all. He really holds all the cards here.
You know, there`s this general concept that the grand jury is entitled to
every man`s evidence, and that includes the President.
And so, I think if he had to push it to a court, Robert Mueller could get a
court order directing President Trump to testify before a grand jury. Now,
he may not want to go through all of the hassle of that and the time and
the delay that might cause, so there`s some value in negotiating an
agreement to getting this done. But I don`t see that Robert Mueller has to
make any serious concessions to do that.
WILLIAMS: And, Barbara, it also seems that if they tie it to a date
certain, yes, the investigation has to end at some point, but what about
late discovery of evidence that comes in that would be cutoff from the
Mueller investigation because they agreed to a ground rule like this?
MCQUADE: Yes, and that`s why I think they would never agree to such a
rule, because you just never know what evidence. You know, any time you
interview a witness, you might learn something incredibly important. And
then you might have to do some follow-up investigation to chase that down.
So I also think that they would want to interview President Trump at the
very end of the investigation, after they`ve educated themselves about all
of the things other witnesses are going to say, they have reviewed every
document they can get their hands on. I think they`d probably going to get
one bite at the apple here and I think they`re going to want to do it at a
point in time where they feel like they are as informed as they are going
to be about the rest of the case.
WILLIAMS: Matt, your colleague, Maggie Haberman, was on cable tonight and
I`ll paraphrase her. She was saying that staff around the boss is worried
about North Korea because they fear what he can say, how he can give away
the story. They`re worried about Mueller is that he could perjure himself.
But talk, generally, Matt, about the degree of preoccupation on the
President`s part about this investigation. Your newspaper having reported
this week that he`s asking some of the people who have gone before Mueller,
hey, how was it? How were they to you? What were the questions?
MATT APUZZO, REPORTER, “THE NEW YORK TIMES”: Yes. Look, he`s made no
secret of the fact that the President wants to be out from under this. You
know, you can certainly get that from the journal story. You know, they
want to be out from under this. The lawyers have been signaling for months
and months that this thing is weeks away from ending.
It doesn`t appear that it`s anywhere near close. I don`t know how, as
other people on the panel have said, how Mueller could even make a promise.
I mean, well, how would you ever hold him to a promise that he would end
this in a certain amount of time?
The President wants to be out from under this and I think he`s very eager
to figure out the best route to get out from under it. And obviously, many
people around him are very concerned that if you put a President in a room
with a team of experienced prosecutors, this is a President who is – has a
reputation for hyperbole and false and misleading statements. And this
special counsel has made it clear that`s not something he`s going to
You know, he took a plea deal from somebody for – from Rick Gates for
lying in a proffer where he came into cooperate and lied. So, they`re not
going to accept any, oh, I screwed this up or I wasn`t totally accurate on
that one. You know, so there`s a lot of risk here.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Barbara, this letter to Putin, does it loom large in terms
of real evidence? We were reminded tonight, Donald Trump also tweeted
wondering if Putin was going to come to his pageant, wondering if Putin
could be his new best friend. That was back in June of 2013. Does any of
this kind of stuff matter?
MCQUADE: I don`t know that it looms large. It`s sort of interesting. It
probably raises more questions than it answers. I mean, it sounds just
almost like, you know, more of a fan boy kind of letter that wouldn`t it
enhance my pageant if, you know, the leader of Russia showed up. It seems
more like that was the motive there.
But I suppose you might want to learn a little more about it to see if, why
he was seeking to develop a relationship with Putin. Was it`s just for the
pageant? Or was it for other business deals and other opportunities? Did
they meet, in fact, and did they have further discussions either in person
or through intermediary? So I suppose it has some interest to the
investigators but I don`t know that it looms large.
WILLIAMS: Matt, what are the chances that the remaining West Wing aides
are locking up their five-point harnesses in preparation for this weekend?
We have the President flying to a friendly crowd in Pennsylvania right
after his tariff decision, kind of a red meat audience after the week he`s
APUZZO: You know, in the President kickoff the week, right, by saying
there`s no chaos in the White House. And you know, look, I`m not here to
give the White House, you know, communications strategy here. But in a
normal White House, in a normal year, when the President does something,
like issues these tariffs, which is obviously something that plays very
well with his base, and then there is this potential for a breakthrough –
diplomatic breakthrough with North Korea. This should be something that
the entire White House and the administration as a whole is messaging and
driving home and is organizing around.
And that, whether you want to call it chaos or disorder or whatever, that
has really hung over the White House, it just really makes it harder for
him to drive those messages home. And so, you know, here we are on a
Friday night and we`re talking about, you know, will the President
interview with Bob Mueller or who went to the grand jury? And we`re going
to talk about Stormy Daniels or we`re going to talk about the Miss Universe
pageant. This is all very unusual.
WILLIAMS: We really appreciate the three of you coming on our broadcast to
start us off on a Friday night. Peter Nicholas, Matt Apuzzo and Barbara,
Mcquade, our thanks.
Coming up for us, a key detail on Michael Cohen`s e-mails regarding to
payment to Stormy Daniels.
And later, is that meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un on or off
exactly? Some confusion today at the White House. The President himself
tried to clean it up just tonight. “The 11th Hour” on a Friday night
getting under way now.
WILLIAMS: New revelations in the Stormy Daniels` case could mean more
legal trouble for President Trump. NBC News first reported today that,
“President Donald Trump`s personal attorney used his Trump organization e-
mail while arranging to transfer money into an account in a Manhattan bank
before he wired $130,000 to adult film star, Stormy Daniels, to buy her
silence.” It goes on, “The lawyer, Michael Cohen, also regularly used the
same e-mail account during 2016 negotiations with the actress, whose legal
name is Stephanie Clifford, before she signed a nondisclosure agreement.”
Michael Cohen has maintained that he facilitated the payment using his own
money and that then-candidate Donald Trump was not privy to the settlement.
Cohen reportedly told ABC News today the funds were taken from his home
equity line of credit. The White House says Trump denies allegations of a
2016 extra-marital affair, although he has not publicly addressed the
The questions continue to swirl in the White House briefing room where
again, today, the press secretary declined to elaborate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When did President Trump, after that photo, see
Stormy Daniels? Did he text, e-mail, do you have any other information?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SERCRETARY: We have addressed
this extensively, and I don`t have anything else to add.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And then, second, you said from the podium, you`ve
acknowledged that the President, to follow-up in April`s question, knows
about the arbitration involving Stormy Daniels. So does he remember
speaking with his lawyer about that? Does he remember meeting Daniels back
SANDERS: I`ve addressed this extensively. I don`t have anything else to
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: In that last paragraph, we said 2016, we mean 2006. Copies of
the e-mail provided to NBC News by Stormy Daniels` attorney bring renewed
scrutiny to the campaign`s handling of its finances.
“The Washington Post” reporting today, “those two things together, that a
Trump organization e-mail address was used to facilitate the payment and
that the payment was linked to the campaign, would constitute a legal
violence. Stormy Daniels` attorney appeared on this network earlier today
to refute Trump`s claims of ignorance.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS ATTORNEY: Michael Cohen is a licensed
attorney under the New York State bar rules. And attorneys in every state
have very specific rules that they have to live by. There is a
requirement, meaning it`s not optional, that an attorney informs his or her
client at all times of all material facts relating to a negotiation, a
case, et cetera. So in this instance, if, in fact, Mr. Trump was Mr.
Cohen`s client, then there`s no question that Mr. Trump knew all about
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And here to talk more about all of this, we have convinced
Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of
Michigan to stick around as we need a lawyer yet again. And Jonathan Allen
joins us, our NBC News National Political Reporter.
So Barbara, I want to show you something. Preet Bharara, one of the few
people who was actually been fired since Donald Trump was President, former
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a man of equally keen
intellect and humor, tweeted this tonight. “Sometimes my personal lawyer
will just pay my mortgage off without asking. Such a good guy. I`m lucky.
Obviously, Barbara, the former U.S. attorney`s having fun there, but it
does cut to the heart of this, doesn`t it?
MCQUADE: Yes. Preet has a keen wit but I think he knows, you know, honing
in on the issue here, which is, you know, lawyers don`t give you $130,000
for nothing. And they have a duty to keep you apprised of what they are
doing on your behalf. And so, as the lawyer for Ms. Daniels said, lawyers
communicate with their clients. They have a duty to communicate with their
So, the idea that Michael Cohen did something and didn`t communicate that
information to Donald Trump would be a lapse of his ethical duty. So it
doesn`t really seem plausible.
WILLIAMS: Let`s talk for a minute about this new attorney for Stormy
Daniels as a motor racing fan, a lot of us know his name from the Endurance
car circuit. He has many starts under his belt as a race car driver. He
has raced at Le Mans and Daytona and Sebring in Florida in endurance races.
To the legal side of his life, tonight, he went on CNN and unveiled another
new e-mail. It`s an e-mail that happens to make mention of the Yom Kippur
break. It looks ordinary but he went on to detail tonight on why on his
view it`s far from ordinary. We`ll listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVENATTI: Now, why is this important to reference to Yom Kippur in the
office because it appears to be rather innocuous when you look at it? And
we assert actually that it`s not innocuous. Because if, in fact, the
payment was being made personally by Attorney Cohen, he wouldn`t need his
office open in order to effectuate the payment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Your thoughts, Barbara?
MCQUADE: Well, it`s an interesting point I suppose the idea is that he`s
using the office because this is corporate funds that are being used for
this payment. And the reason that would be significant, also, the, you
know, the e-mail, coming from the Trump organization is just yet another
link to a corporate entity. And the campaign finance laws prohibit
donations from corporate entities. They only allow donations from
individuals. And so if the funds were either paid for by the Trump
organization or reimbursed Michael Cohen, that would be a violation of
campaign finance laws and a criminal violence.
WILLIAMS: All right. Jonathan, now we need a journalist. To Sarah
Huckabee Sanders, she introduced this notion of arbitration from the podium
this week. The questions continue to pile up today. She`s continuing to
deflect. Does this cycle just remain the same in your view?
JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, I think this is
a story that`s going to keep going for quite a while, because of the
political nature of it. You know, on the legal side, the Federal Election
Commission is essentially impotent and has been for years, to the extent
they ever were interested in recommending prosecution of criminal –
potential criminal violations of campaign finance laws. They essentially
have not done that very often in the past. And prosecutors and juries
don`t seem particularly interested in that.
However, you do have a story where you have an adult film star alleging
that she had an affair with the President of the United States and that she
was paid hush money in order to make sure that he won the presidency. I
can`t believe all those words just came out of my mouth. Much like, I
can`t believe that I used to work computer to put the words Stormy Daniels
into a Google Search earlier to day to read some of the stories.
This stuff is pretty incredible. I think it will continue for some time.
You`re starting to see some pressure from Democrats talking about this on
Capitol Hill a lot more, because I think they`re frankly surprised that
there aren`t more Republicans that are concerned about this issue.
WILLIAMS: Jonathan, it`s new territory for you, for me, for Barbara, for
everybody who has a role in covering this. And I have to ask you, though,
is this a new standard of measurement? This is our President in the post
“Access Hollywood” world.
ALLEN: I mean, certainly, it`s a new standard, it`s unprecedented. You
know, we keep using that word for this presidency. I`m not sure that it is
a standard that other Presidents will be able to have applied to them. I
think Donald Trump is a unique figure in American politics
WILLIAMS: We`ll leave that right where it is for this part of our
conversation. Barbara Mcquade, Jonathan Allen, our thanks, appreciate it.
Tonight, coming up, the high stakes and high expectations ahead of this
meeting between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. “The 11th Hour” back after
WILLIAMS: One day after the surprise announcement that Donald Trump would
meet with North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, the White House today adding
to the confusion saying the meeting, in effect, might not happen after all.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: The United States has made zero concessions, but North Korea has
made some promises. And again, this meeting won`t take place without
concrete actions that match the promises that have been made by North
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Senior administration officials later clarified saying there
have been no new conditions added and the timeframe has not changed. And
then just this evening, another confirmation in the form of a tweet from
Donald Trump writing, “The deal with North Korea is very much in the making
and will be, if completed, a very good one for the world. Time and place
to be determined.”
Let`s talk about it tonight, Susan Glasser is with us, Chief International
Affairs Columnist for POLITICO, and Jeremy Bash as well, former Chief of
Staff for the CIA and Pentagon, he is an MSNBC National Security Analyst.
Jeremy, we have yet to be able to speak to either of you since this
happened. Where do you think this actually stands? And what do you think
of the whole idea of it?
JEREMY BASH, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, the White House said
that North Korea had undertaken concrete actions. And then, a few moments
later the White House had to walk that back because in fact Kim Jong-un has
undertaken no concrete actions. And this is a major concession to the
North Korea dictator to put him on the same stage as the president.
You know, normally, Brian, the way for the end for the end of the process
to swoop the big boss in, to kind of seal the deal. Here, we`re putting
our president forward first. I think diplomacy is good, it`s certainly
preferable to military consolation, but it gives the North Korean a lot on
the front end and I`m not sure we have gotten anything in return.
WILLIAMS: And, Jeremy, you and I have discussed and talked about it on any
broadcasts. They crave relevance. They crave attention. They crave being
taken seriously. And certainly, this goes a long way toward that.
BASH: Yes. And I think the lesson that the North Korean leader has drawn
from this whole year of confrontation is, “The more I test my missiles, the
more I test my nuclear weapons, the more I`ll be received by the White
House and President Trump as an equal, someone they have to take very
WILLIAMS: There you go. Susan, I want to read you some of the reporting
from the Wall Street Journal on how this went down, and then we`ll talk
about it. Inside the Oval Office late Thursday, President Donald Trump
interrupted a trio of South Korean officials as they analyzed an offer to
meet from North Korean Kim Jong-un and outlined possible diplomatic
options, “OK, OK”, Mr. Trump said, “cutting short the discussion. Tell
them I`ll do it.” The South Korean officials looked at each other as if in
Susan, this is hardly the crowd Lyndon Johnson used to call the striped
pants crowd from foggy bottom, the chin strokers, the diplomats of old,
even the West Wing staffers of old, this puts us in a new territory.
SUSAN GLASSER, CHIEF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS COLUMNIST, POLITICO: Well,
first of all, it`s notable there are really aren`t many not State
Department staffers at the senior level who appear to be read into this at
the time that this surprising decision was being made. But I guess, you
know, I guess, I have to say, on the one hand, it really actually tends to
confirm everything we already know about how President Trump is running
things in the White House, increasingly he`s untethered and unconstrained
by the senior staff he has remaining to him.
Of course, there are no real senior figures in the State Department charged
with diplomacy in Korea. You had the senior envoy leaving just a week ago.
You never had an ambassador to South Korea appointed. So it`s unclear who
would undertake the talks anyways except for President Trump himself.
But Jeremy made a really important point, which is it`s almost like the
backward summit, in which you`re doing the part, first, that normally comes
last or not at all. And, of course, that is a much riskier thing. When
you have the summit and you don`t have the deliverables ready, you haven`t
had the negotiations first.
You know, there`s a lot of skepticism and that I`m picking up today and
others are as well, from the entire kind of North Korea expert community
that`s very skeptical, “The New York Times” tonight I think is quoting
somebody saying there`s one of Trump`s own advisers saying, there`s only a
50 percent or less chance that the meeting actually happens.
WILLIAMS: And, Jeremy, of course, we have to be very weary of everything
looking like a shiny object, because the need to distract, and we have to
say this, is high. And here`s the part that upsets institutionalists.
This is the president that 63 million Americans voted for. This is the
But, Jeremy, is – does he bear a responsibility to listen advisers, listen
to the career desk officers at a place like the State Department who have
devoted their professional lives to the study of this enigmatic dictator in
BASH: Well, look, I think the president, the commander in chief can tell
the bureaucracy, hey, I want to go a different way on a policy matter. But
we don`t want the president of the United States to wing it.
We certainly don`t want him to wing it when it comes to high stakes nuclear
diplomacy. He needs the best advice from our military leaders, from our
intelligence professionals, our State Department diplomats. We`re going to
be much stronger if the president is armed and equipped with that
expertise. And if he goes out there alone without it, I think we`re going
to ultimately fail in this effort to get North Korea to denuclearize.
WILLIAMS: And, Susan, I have to say, a lot of veterans have admitted
there`s an information gap. That`s a polite way of saying, they know more
about us than we know about them. I don`t know who to blame for that, but
that`s kind of the fact of life, isn`t it?
GLASSER: Well, that`s right. You know, I did an interesting show of my
pockets a couple weeks ago with John Pac (ph) who had been the main CIA
analyst, trying to understand Kim Jong-un since he came to power six years
ago, the third generation if his family.
Think about this, we don`t even know the gender of Kim`s third child born
last year, officially listed by the U.S. government as gender unknown. Kim
up until this point had only ever met with two foreigners in his entire
six-year reign as North Korea`s leader. And so, to go right from Dennis
Rodman having been the only other American he`s known to have met with
directly to the president of the United States is an extraordinary thing.
I think that, you know, we spend a lot of time and effort trying to
understand North Korea, but the reality is pretty extraordinary to me, that
we know very little by design about Kim, about his family, about the power
structures, and the decision-making therefore that will be feeding into the
summit at a time when, as you said, they`ve been carefully, carefully
studying President Trump. And from what we can tell, they have read our
president pretty accurate will so far.
WILLIAMS: An excellent point about Deputy Secretary of State Rodman.
Jeremy, you get the last word, when they hear denuclearize, aren`t they –
isn`t that a nonstarter?
BASH: Well, I think it`s got to be the U.S. objective here. And I think
another objective has to be to stay close to South Korea. And I think part
of what happened here in the last few weeks is North Korea was sort of able
to drive a seam between the United States and our South Korean allies.
That drove those envoys from Seoul up north and now here we are with the
president saying, I`m not playing hard to get anymore, I`m yours.
WILLIAMS: You guys are the best, thank you so much. Susan Glasser, Jeremy
Bash, really appreciate the conversation tonight.
And coming up, staff exodus, high-stakes negotiations, a trade war, a
lawsuit from a porn star, our historian and author, Michael Beschloss will
talk about another week that was in the life of this administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The White House has tremendous
energy, has tremendous spirit. It is a great place to be working. Many,
many people want every single job. I read, oh, gee, maybe people don`t
want to work for Trump. Believe me, everybody wants to work in the White
This is Gary Cohn`s last meeting in the cabinet and of the cabinet, and
he`s been terrific. He may be a globalist but I still like him.
I`m delivering on a promise I made during the campaign and have been making
it for a good part of my life. If 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: Small sampling of a week at the White House. It was a week that
saw the Republican Party revolt over the possibility of a trade war, the
resignation of the chief economic adviser and a surprise announcement that
the president plans to sit with his counterpart from North Korea.
Here to talk about all of it with us, the author and presidential historian
Michael Beschloss. And, Michael, I`m going to read for you a quote from a
piece by the Associated Press.
Donald Trump has told confidants recently that he wants to be less reliant
on his staff, believing they often give bad advice and then he plans to
follows his own instincts, which he credits with his stunning election,
according to two people who requested anonymity because they are not
authorize to speak of the conversations.
And because you and I are of same mind, it had me thinking of two men, in
particular, who I`m going to put on the screen right now. On the left may
be the most powerful White House aide in history, Harry Hopkins, on the
right, maybe the most serious, McGeorge Bundy. What would these two men
make of a modern day West Wing where there`s a president but then a steep
falloff after that?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, AUTHOR & PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: These two men would
say probably four words, God help us all. Because they knew that, you
know, you could have the most brilliant genius, I`m not going to say stable
genius, but you could have a leader of a kind we`ve never seen in history,
a president needs an awful lot of help, and an awful lot of expertise.
For instance, you know, we now know that Donald Trump is talking about
going to a summit with the leader of North Korea. He needs people who know
the history of North Korea, who have dealt with this issue for a long time,
and as you were saying earlier on the broadcast, Brian, they are not there.
WILLIAMS: But then you ask him and he says, in effect, I`m the one that
got me to the dance. I`m the one the 63, 62 million people, I`m sure he
knows the exact number, voted for. How do you then as a staffer, as a
historian, as an institutionalist convince a guy like that, no, it`s really
important that you know history, culture, the biography of this ineggmatic
BESCHLOSS: I think that`s right. You know, at his age, he`s 71 years old.
I don`t think he`s going to change. And it`s a real problem, because what
you were talking about this week, these are all signs that he wants to let
Trump be Trump. And he wants to be surrounded by people who will not reign
him, who won`t give him that kind of expertise.
There`s reportage that he`s looking for a chief of staff who will be less
intrusive, and H.R. McMaster perhaps leaving. Gary Cohn did leave, might
be leaving for someone who will exceed to Donald Trump`s impulse as much
more on things like tariffs. This is all to my mind very ominous.
WILLIAMS: I also want to read you a quote from Peggy Noonan`s column of
the Wall Street Journal this week. It`s kind of the “what if” clause of
her article. Sooner or later something bad will happen, an international
crisis, or damaging findings from the special counsel. If the president is
the way he is on a good day, what will he be like on a bad day? It all
feels so dangerous. And, Michael, that puts a lump in your throat.
BESCHLOSS: It does. And I think she`s absolutely right. Because my bet
is years from now when we start to read about this administration from the
outside, from people who have actually been in it, we will probably find a
lot of times when some of the people we have been talking about, like
McMaster, perhaps John Kelly, have restrained Donald Trump from doing
things that could be very dangerous, both in the foreign policy and
economic arenas. Now, we are in a situation where those voices of
restraint might not be there anymore.
WILLIAMS: And what do you say when people ask you as I`m sure they do on a
near daily basis, is there permanent damage being done to the republic?
BESCHLOSS: I would say that this is a country that always revives itself.
If you go all the way back to the 18th century, this is a country that has
a phenomenal ability to rebound from mistakes that our leaders make, and in
some cases, mistakes that our members of Congress and Supreme Court and
citizens make too.
WILLIAMS: It`s always a pleasure to have you on the broadcast. You know
you`re welcome any time. Michael Beschloss, our great thanks.
BESCHLOSS: Thank you so much, Brian.
WILLIAMS: And coming up for us on a Friday night for a president who
usually likes to fly south to Florida for the weekend, who wouldn`t, what`s
important enough to make him fly to Pittsburgh instead this weekend? That
story when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Rick is a great guy and special, he`s a special person.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You won this district by 20 points.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can he do as well as you?
TRUMP: I hope so. I want him. I just said to him, I hope you`re going to
do as well, but we`re here, we`re going to be helping him. I`ll be back
for Rick. And we`re going to fill up the stadium and we`re going to do
something really special for Rick, I look forward to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was earlier this year, President Trump promising to return
to Pennsylvania`s 18th District to campaign for House candidate Rick
Saccone. Well, the time is now. Tomorrow night the president is scheduled
to make good on that promise ahead of Tuesday`s special election.
For starters, this is where the district is. It`s the southern suburbs
thereabouts of Pittsburgh. Trump did carry the district by 20 points in
2016, but recent polls show that the Democrat Conor Lamb narrowing the gap.
POLITICO wrote earlier this week, with Trump set to campaign with Saccone
on Saturday evening, some White House officials have questioned whether the
president should scrap the trip fearful that Saccone loss would be seen as
even more of rebuke to the president. But Trump has told aides in recent
days he`s going anyway, convinced that he`ll likely be blamed for a defeat
We asked Jonathan Allen, our National Political Reporter and veteran of
campaign reporting to stick around to talk us through this. So, Jonathan,
let`s do this as a lightning round. First off, why a special election, why
is this seat vacant?
JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Congressman Tim
Murphy resigned amid of scandal involving extra marital affairs. And one
of the headlines from was text messages suggesting that he asked a paramour
to have an abortion. He was a pro-life candidate. That very much knocked
him out of office.
WILLIAMS: Second, is two questions in one, why is this district so
important? Why is it interesting to journalists like you? And isn`t
everything in Pennsylvania about to get jumbled up in all the districts
changed around as they redistrict?
ALLEN: It`s a midterm of the midterms basically, Brian. I mean, this will
be an opportunity for folks to see where people in the – where voters are,
how it compares to last year. But it doesn`t have any real significance
beyond the one district.
However, there is an election there, so we`re all going to cover it and try
to gauge what we can and judge what we can coming out of it, and see if
that`s applicable to the midterms later this year. You`re absolutely,
right. Basically, the Pennsylvania maps have been thrown out. They`re
going to be probably new maps. And it could be that both of these guys are
in Congress in different districts come January. Or that one of them is
and the other isn`t.
So this is a short-term stint for somebody. It will be basically until
January of next year. And then this district will be gone.
WILLIAMS: And help me fill in the blanks on a bio of Coner Lamb. I know
this, he`s a U.S. Marine Corps captain. I know he is considered a pro-gun
rights Democrat who is personally opposed to abortion. And what else
should we know about him?
ALLEN: I mean, that`s the basics, Brian. I mean, this is a candidate who
is trying to show that a Democrat who fits the cultural values of Western
Pennsylvania can still win in that part of the country. Somebody with a
prosecutorial background as well.
You know, that`s who Conor Lamb is, he`s sort of the type of candidate that
Democrats who, you know, centrist Democrats believe they need to have to be
able to not only retake the House of Representatives in the fall, but also
be competitive in 2020.
WILLIAMS: I`ll tell you, both parties are spending a lot of money. You
would think this kind of thing was important to them. Jonathan Allen, you
and your reporting are important to us, always a treat to have you on with
us. Thank you so much for joining us on a Friday night.
Another break for us, and coming up, what it might look like when the
president orders up a military parade. We learn more about that today.
We`ll have it when we come right back.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, this was the event that got
Donald Trump to thinking. This was the Bastille Day parade in Paris.
One of the correspondents who was seated behind the president that day,
said she`d never seen his attention so riveted. And he loved every minute
of that parade. And that`s where he got the idea to have a parade of his
own back here at home.
Now “The New York Times” has gotten its hands on a Pentagon planning memo
containing the broad strokes of a plan. This is written by a Navy captain
who was on the staff of the defense secretary, former General Mattis. It`s
a memo to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It`s the first things we learn from
it is the planned date of the parade, this coming November 11th, Veterans
Day, also known as Armistice Day, notable because the weather can be dicy
in Washington in November.
Now, this calls from a parade route from the White House to the capitol, so
same length as the inaugural parade only in reverse. The president will
review the parade, it is written here from the capitol, surrounded by
veterans, including Medal of Honor recipients. It will highlight women in
the military, it will salute veterans from previous wars, it says in period
costume. And there`s also this potential disappointment to the president.
It says, wield vehicles only, no tanks. It says, consideration must be
given to minimize damage to local infrastructure. Put another way, an
Abrams tank weigh is just over of 60 tons and Constitution Avenue perhaps
wasn`t built for that. On the upside, the memo calls for a heavy air
component at the end of the parade, so a big flyover to include older
aircraft as available.
Again, this can all change. These are planning considerations. And it`s a
good bet that just about all of it is subject to change.
Before we go this evening, we have some reminders for you, especially for
the time-shifting viewers. You can watch us any time you please by
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there`s no reason why you would ever need to miss a single broadcast of
“The 11th Hour.”
And with that, that`s our broadcast for this Friday night and while we`re
at it, for this week. Thank you so much for being here with us. Good
night from MSNBC headquarters here in New York.
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