Trump muddies damage control effort. TRANSCRIPT: 07/18/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Clint Watts, Philip Rucker, Anita Kumar, Jonathan Lemire, Joyce Vance, Bob Kerrey

Date: July 18, 2018
Guest: Clint Watts, Philip Rucker, Anita Kumar, Jonathan Lemire, Joyce Vance, Bob Kerrey

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, our coverage of another incredible
day, another instance of hearing the President`s answer to a question
followed by the White House telling us difference. While the President
tries in a new interview to sound tougher on Putin, “The New York Times”
reports tonight before his inauguration, Trump was shown intel that Putin
ordered the 2016 attack.

Also, new details right out of streaming T.V. series on that Russian woman,
the gun enthusiasts, she`s in jail tonight accused of being a Russian mole
living here in America and allegedly using sex to gain access.

Among our guests tonight, the Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia who the
Russians want back for questioning, the White House reporter who asked
those questions in Helsinki, and the former vice chair of Senate
Intelligence as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Wednesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New
York. Day 545 of this at administration.

And you would be forgiven for thinking right about now that we are up to
our necks in Russians and Russian influence in this country right now. It
was another one of those days and tonight, it just got more serious with a
bold story in the past hour from “The New York Times” which if true, makes
suspect everything the President has said about the Russians since being

The Times reporting it this way, “Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald
J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President
Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to
sway the 2016 American election. The evidence included texts and e-mails
from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top secret
source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the CIA how the Kremlin
decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who
attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to
cloud the very clear findings that he received on January 6, 2017.”

Well, today, the President was asked a question about the Russian election
interference. He answered it then the White House said in effect we heard
it wrong. Before we hear his latest remarks, here is the briefest reminder
of what he said on Monday at the news conference with Putin in Helsinki
followed by his attempt on a fix on Tuesday.


some others, they said they think it`s Russia. I have President Putin, he
just said it`s not Russia. I will say this, I don`t see any reason why it
would be.

I accept our intelligence community`s conclusion that Russia`s meddling in
the 2016 election took place. Could be other people also. There`s a lot
of people out there.

I said the word “would” instead of “wouldn`t.” The sentence should have
been, “I don`t see any reason why it wouldn`t be Russia.” Sort of a double
negative. So, you could put that in and I think that probably clarifies
things pretty good by itself.


WILLIAMS: Fast forward to a Cabinet meeting today when the President got
another chance to explain his view.


targeting the U.S., Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, let`s go. Make your way out.

VEGA: No? You don`t believe that to be the case?



WILLIAMS: Back up and just to be clear, that was the President seeming to
assert that the Russians are not still targeting the U.S., which is at odds
with the settled view of all the intelligence professionals in his

Few hours later, the White House moved into cleanup mode and gave its
account of what the President really meant there.


speak with the President after those comments, and the President was saying
thank you very much and was saying no to answering questions.

video that shows the President looking at Cecile and answering “no” to this
question about whether Russia is still targeting the U.S., and despite
multiple people in the room understanding that the President was responding
to that question, and despite the President having never before said the
word “no, no” repeatedly to ushers reporters out of the room, you`re saying
it`s a reverse. You`re saying the President didn`t.

SANDERS: The President said after the question was asked was “thank you
very much,” and then he said “no, no I`m not answering any more questions.”


WILLIAMS: Once again, and for the record here is the exchange at the
Cabinet meeting, Correspondent Cecilia Vega one more time. The President,
as you`ll see, continuing to answer questions even though Sarah Sanders
claimed he had stopped.


VEGA: Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?

TRUMP: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press, let`s go. Make your way out.

VEGA: No? You don`t believe that to be the case?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let`s go. We`re finish here.

Press let`s go.

TRUMP: Thank you very much, everybody.


VEGA: Can you clarify, you don`t believe that to be the case?

TRUMP: We`re doing very well – we are doing very well probably as well as
anybody has ever done with Russia and there`s been no president ever as
tough as I have been on Russia.


WILLIAMS: Well, there was more on the subject today as the President was
asked about Russian interference during an interview with CBS News.


JEFF GLOR, CBS NEWS: You said you agree with U.S. intelligence that Russia
meddled in the election in 2016.

TRUMP: Yes. And I`ve said that before, Jeff. I have said that numerous
times before, and I would say that that is true, yes.

GLOR: But you haven`t condemned Putin specifically? Do you hold him
personally responsible?

TRUMP: Well, I would, because he`s in charge of the country. Just like I
consider myself to be responsible for things that happen in this country.
So certainly as the leader of a country, you would have to hold him
responsible. Yes.

GLOR: What did you say to him?

TRUMP: Very strong on the fact that we can`t have meddling.

GLOR: But he denies it. So if you believe U.S. intelligence agencies, is
Putin lying to you.

TRUMP: I don`t want to get into whether or not he`s lying. I can only say
that I do have confidence in our intelligence agencies as curtly
constituted. I think that Dan Coats is excellent.


WILLIAMS: Dan Coats, the President referring to his Director of National

Tonight, the FBI Director, Christopher Wray, whose bureau has come under
repeated fire from the President and his allies over all of this agreed
with the DNI`s assessment of the Russia threat.


CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: The intelligence community`s assessment
has not changed. My view has not changed, which is that Russia attempted
to interfere with the last election and then it continues to engage in
malign influence operations to this day. To me, it`s a threat that we need
to take extremely seriously.


WILLIAMS: So for what it`s worth, there is the FBI Director. Another big
issue today is the question of what two men discussed behind closed doors
with only translators present for over two hours. Put more bluntly here,
our President was alone with a trained KGB spy for over two hours.

We know who the American translator was in the room. Her name is Marina
Gross. She`s a veteran of the craft who works for the State Department.
And since she`s the only other American witness to the conversation, some
in Congress would like very much to have the ability to question her about
what she heard.

Earlier on this network, Former CIA Director John Brennan, who is these
days Senior National Security and Intelligence Analyst for this network
raised his own concerns about that private two-hour plus meeting.


JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Two hours with Donald Trump, I have
real questions about that. Why did he not trust John Bolton, and Mike
Pompeo, and John Kelly to be in that meeting?

There is something that is very, very puzzling about this, and I am
concerned because I know how manipulative the Russians are and Mr. Putin


WILLIAMS: And again, and for the record, for good measure, in his CBS News
interview today, the President called Former CIA Director Brennan a low

Let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Wednesday night. Philip Rucker,
Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for “The Washington Post.”
Clint Watts is back with us. Former FBI Special Agent, Former Member of
the Joint Terrorism Task Force. His latest book, “Messing with the Enemy:
Surviving in a Social Media World of Hacker, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake
News.” It`s a timely work. And Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent for
McClatchy Newspapers. Good evening and welcome to you all.

Clint Watts, it is not because of a lack of rigor on my part that I asked
you a question so open ended as what is going on and again, if this New
York Times reporting turns out to be true, what does that mean about all
that we`ve witnessed?

CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: It means the President has muddied
the waters for 18 months, basically a year and a half now. He`s had very
specific evidence presented to him that there has been no doubt who
instructed this, which was Vladimir Putin who stood next to him on that
stage, and took Putin stance in Helsinki against his intelligence

Yesterday, he walked back and then muddied the waters even after his walk
back, saying well, and it could be other people, too, that were meddling in
the election. Today, more confusion, what does he really believe? And he
took a shot at Montenegro, NATO. These are all positions that the Kremlin
would love for the United States to take.

We are doing active measures on ourselves. It`s very hard to figure out
what the truth is. We saw it on Monday. The President`s Twitter account
puts out a tweet, Russian minister of foreign affairs says we agree.

He is more in line with the Russian position on almost all issues, and yet
he`s had this evidence all of this time. We have two indictments, one in
February, now one this month that layout both the hacking and the social
media influence. They are very detailed, there are tremendous sources

And this article from “The New York Times” shows that there was a – there
is a source that is so sensitive. It was compartmentalized such that CIA
Director Brennan at the time would only deliver to certain people in closed
letters. That source is so highly confidential. We probably only have
five like that, maybe in our entire country.

We are at that level right now where the President has seen that and yet
still will go out on stage and say he isn`t sure or it could be somebody
else or Putin told me it isn`t that way so why don`t we believe Vladimir

WILLIAMS: Again, I can`t say this enough, this is the reporting tonight of
“The New York Times.” It has not been matched by this news organization or
any other to our knowledge.

But again, if true, Clint, this means all the investigators on this case
from the special counsel on down have known this to be true as their
baseline predicate for the investigation of this President and all the
people in his orbit.

WATTS: Yes. And rewind this back to a little over a year ago when FBI
Director Comey was fired, he then talked to Lester Holt. He said, “All of
this Russia thing, you know, it`s a big nothing.”

Rod Rosenstein, he is the one who brought in the special counsel. He did
this. Why did he do this? He knows this information as well.

So look at the justifications for why we should look at this. Look at the
depth of this investigation and then look at where this investigation might
go. We are looking at the operators, the people that were executing the
hacking, the people that were doing social medial influence. What if they
work up the chain?

If we go back to Osama Bin Laden, the case against Osama Bin Laden, in the
1990s after the embassy bombings, you start off with the figures that do
the attack, but when the United States was attack, who do we charged? The
person who made the decision. What if we are looking at that coming
forward in the next few months and looking at the Americans that might be
tied to this case in the next few months?

We will going to have a major head-on collision between the White House,
the Special Counsel`s Office, the Department of Justice, and Congress. And
I think this is the time, especially if you`re in Capitol Hill, you need to
start making decisions about who you are in this for. Are you going to
ride with the President all they way to the very end or are you going to
stand up for this country and support your intel agencies, which are doing
the work?

We`re seeing a lot of breaking in the Senate. We`re seeing a lot of
breaking even in the House. You`re seeing DNI Coats come out and say,
“Hey, we still see Russian interference going on?”

We are on, I think, about a two to three months period here. We`re going
to have major institutional collusion in our country. And I think it`s
important that everybody start pushing in the right way now by putting
America first rather than President Trump`s ego first, which is what seems
to be the case in this.

WILLIAMS: Later in this hour in the chair you`re sitting in, we`re going
to have a former senator and I`m going to ask him who he sees in this
current group standing up.

Hey, Phil Rucker, it is only Wednesday. I am reminded by the calendar.
Can you walk us through what you think we have been through and, say,
nothing of the last 12 hours, let`s go back 72. Your trip, we saw you
there in Helsinki.

Brian, it`s been a remarkable 72 hours. A really tortured period for
President Trump. We know when he got on that stage with Vladimir Putin and
answered the question from John Lemire and others, about the intelligence,
he saying, I think, what he believed at that time and he`s now tried to
walk it back and then take back the walk back and the then try another walk
back from Sarah Sanders today.

And one point I think is so important about this week, we still to this
hour do not know what was discussed in that two-hour one-on-one meeting
between President Trump and President Putin. The Russian ambassador to the
United States briefed reporters earlier today in Moscow and said that there
were a number of important verbal agreements, that`s the word that the
Russians are using, that were made between Trump and Putin on a range of
issues. There`s talked that there could have been some sort of agreement
on Syria, but we don`t know that from U.S. officials.

The Pentagon, Brian, the senior officials at the Pentagon, according to my
colleagues at the “Washington Post,” are completely in the dark about what
was discussed and agreed to on Syria. So there could very well be real
policy changes for this country that President Trump agreed to with
President Putin that we just don`t know about because nobody else was in
the room. There were no note-takers, there were no advisors, and President
Trump as we know is not a reliable narrator on what happened on the facts.

WILLIAMS: Indeed, Phil. I saw some translated Russian television news
tonight and they`re all but trolling American viewers.


WILLIAMS: Speaking in vague terms about all that what was discussed and
agreed to in that one-on-one.

Anita Kumar, there is a term of art in our business called the pool spray.
It has nothing to do with backyard recreation in the summer months, it has
everything to do with the press pool that covers the White House and the
fact that cameras are allowed into often very quick events, and we have to
spray the room to show all the participants. They are the coin of your
realm on a daily basis.

You know one when you see one. You`ve looked at the tape of today`s.
Whose account do you believe?

mean, I`ve been – I was not in the room today, but I have been, as Phil
has, many times. President Trump actually does more of this pool spray if
he likes this to be seen on T.V.

I have never heard him say “no” when he doesn`t want to answer question.
Generally, what he does is just kind of ignore questions. Sometimes he
will say “thank you.” Thank you, meaning thank you it`s time to leave the
room as staff is ushering us out.

So, you know, we were surprised at the briefing today to hear what Sarah
Sanders said. It just didn`t seem like something that we had heard from
him before, some kind of explanation that seemed very different than
anything we had heard. So it`s surprising.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, we still heard the President even in the CBS News
interview using modifiers, “I would hold Putin accountable” and a shortage
of kind of present tense action words. I guess this is his language on
this subject.

RUCKER: Yes. And, Brian, it`s so revealing because I think he`s just very
uncomfortable saying what his advisors that have convinced him he needs to
say. We saw that yesterday in the meeting with Republican lawmakers, where
he – just reading his body language, he was so uncomfortable reading that
statement and any would say, for example, “I have full faith in our
intelligence agencies. I believe our intelligence agencies.” And then in
the next sentence adds on ad-libbing off of that statement, “Well, actually
it could have been other people, too,” which is definitely not what the
intelligence agencies have concluded.

So he`s clearly not comfortable talking about this. I think, you know,
what he believes is much looser and much more in line with what he have
said Monday in Helsinki because that`s been keeping with the comments that
he`s been making over the last year and a half.

WILLIAMS: And, Anita, what of the White House defense effort when Sanders
cites times when Trump has been critical of Putin but can`t name an
instance by name? You usually go up on a day like this with one or two
stories in you back pocket, do you not?

KUMAR: Right. I mean, that is the thing about Sarah Sanders and Sean
Spicer and press secretaries before them, you for every administration.
You know what some of those questions are going to be when you come out
there. They come out with a briefing book. They come out with examples of

Sarah Sanders was perfectly ready for the question today about what has the
United States done under the Trump administration to, you know, against
Russia. She was ready. Or what have we done on elections to sure up the
elections for this November?

She was either not ready or didn`t have an answer, couldn`t think of
anything. She just said that President Trump has come out and said things
about President Putin, but she had been asked several times for an example
and really couldn`t come up with one. And so finally she said, “Well, he
blames Russia for the interference in the election and that`s as tough as
you can get,” which, you know, as we seen, he`s gone back and forth on
that. So that wasn`t so tough.

WILLIAMS: A busy Wednesday night. Our thanks to Clint Watts, who, again,
wrote the book on this subject. To Phil Rucker and Anita Kumar, who write
a version of history of this topic everyday. Thank you, gang. Appreciate
it very much.

Coming up, Former CIA Director John Brennan calls it the height of
absurdity that the White House would even consider letting the Kremlin
question a former U.S. ambassador to Russia. That ambassador is with us
here tonight

And later, did the U.S. catch and accused Russian agent as she was fixing
to leave town and did she indeed use sex as a tool of her trade to borough
into American society and institutions. The 11th Hour underway on a
Wednesday night.



authorities yesterday named several Americans who they want to question,
who they claim were involved in Bill Browder`s “crimes,” in their terms,
including a former ambassador to Russia, Michael McFaul. Does President
Trump support that idea? Is he open to having U.S. officials questioned by

SANDERS: The President is going to meet with his team, and we`ll let you
know when we have an announcement on that.

HABERMAN: For a second, is that a topic that came up in their
conversation? Did President Putin raise this with President Trump?

SANDERS: There was some conversation about it, but there wasn`t a
commitment made on behalf of the United States. And the President will
work with his team, and we`ll let you know if there`s an announcement on
that front.


WILLIAMS: The questioning by Maggie Haberman of “The New York Times,” and
that was notably not a no. White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee
Sanders would not rule out the possibility of somehow letting Russian
officials question American citizens, including most notably Former U.S.
Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. She says she`s going to get back to
us on that.

In Helsinki, we heard Putin suggest the U.S. could interview Russians
indicted in the Muller investigation if Russia was allowed to question
Americans. President Trump called it an interesting idea.

Tuesday, the Russian prosecutor`s office said it wants to question one Mike
McFaul and several other Americans as part of its investigation into
financier Bill Browder for what the Russians say are financial crimes.
Browder will remind you an outspoken critic to of Putin lobbied Congress to
pass something called the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions on Russia
for human rights violations.

Well, today the State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert was asked
about all of it.


the White House with regard to that, but what I can tell you is that the
overall assertions that have come out of the Russian government are
absolutely absurd. The fact that they want to question 11 American
citizens and the assertions that the Russian government is making about
those American citizens, we do not stand by those assertions that the
Russian government makes.


WILLIAMS: Here to talk about it with us tonight, the aforementioned
Michael McFaul, Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and we`re happy to say an
MSNBC International Affairs Analyst. He is the Author of the new book,
happens to be germane to the discussion, “From Cold War to Hot Piece: An
American Ambassador in Putin`s Russia. And Jonathan Lemire is back with
us, White House reporter for the Associated Press. You may have seen him
questioning Presidents Trump and Putin in Helsinki on Monday. Do I know
the people I surround myself with or what?

So Mr. Ambassador, in addition to what Heather Nauert just said, closer to
what governments usually say in this event. Here is your former boss
tonight, John Kerry, Former Secretary of State. “The administration needs
to make it unequivocally clear that in a million years, this wouldn`t be
under consideration period. Full stop. Not something that should require
a half second of consultation, dangerous.”

Again, Ambassador McFaul, that`s the kind of thing governments say. Were
you surprised to not get someone reflectively watching your back from the
top of the government at the White House today?

a better word, surprised I guess, although a lot of things that come out of
the White House these days are not surprising. I was delighted by what the
State Department said. That`s an excellent statement, but the weird thing
about that statement was that dependent clause at the beginning. I can`t
speak for the White House.

They`re all one government. It`s the Trump Administration. And time and
time again, when we talk about Russia, it appears like we have two
policies. We have one policy by the entire government and then we have
another policy by President Trump, and it just does not serve America`s
natural interest to have that.

And number two, something very important here. I want to make sure people
understand by not batting away this as absurd, the President is suggesting
that there`s moral equivalency between an indictment put out by Mr. Mueller
of 12 Russian intelligence officers who violated our sovereignty, and the
evidence is overwhelming with a crazy cockamamie story that makes
absolutely no sense, no logical sense that somehow the U.S. ambassador is
helping money laundering. And yet by not saying that these things are not
equivalent, the President is suggesting there is moral equivalency to that.
And I just find it deeply disappointing. I hope they do a better job
tomorrow at the press conference.

WILLIAMS: And are we really lead to believe that in that two-hour meeting
on the kind of informational dark side of the moon with only interpreters
present, Putin says to Trump I have a great idea and here it is. Think of
it as kind of a player trade?

MCFAUL: Yes. It`s very consistent with the Vladimir Putin I know.
Disinformation is a tool they use all the time, that`s why I wrote the
whole book about it, Brian, to try to educate the American people just for
how the disparately the methods are that he uses both domestically and

And, you know, the way I interpret as, the indictment came out, they needed
something to say. I don`t think it`s an accident that the number of
Americans named is 11, almost the exact same number. And then he`s quite
ineffective story teller, Vladimir Putin.

I`ve been in those meetings many times, and you know, when you know the
facts, you can push back, but if you don`t know the facts, you can just
kind of nod your head and say “OK,” like the President said, that sounds
like an interesting idea, and that`s tragic. That means our President was
not prepared to go into that meeting for five minutes one-on-one with
Vladimir Putin, let alone for two hours.

WILLIAMS: You said it yourself, it`s all in your book in a manner. You
lay out how it is that this could happen, including this passage we`ve read
before about a kind of tense interplay you had at one point as ambassador
with Putin.

“He turned away to stare intensely at me with a steely blue eyes and stern
scowl to accuse me of purposely seeking to ruin U.S.-Russia relations.
Putin seemed genuinely angry with me. I was genuinely alarmed. The hair
on the back of my neck stood on end and sweet covered my brow as I endured
this tongue-lashing from one of the most powerful people in the world.”

And, Ambassador, because we know the stakes and we know what has happened
to innocent people on street corners in the U.K., a serious question I
never thought I`d have to ask you. Do you worry about your life being in
danger? Serious answer.

MCFAUL: Seriously, no. Although I just had somebody come to my house
today to deliver papers out of the blue. I didn`t take them. I wasn`t
there. So, strange things like that happen.

You read the passage, and I think it`s important to understand this is also
an act of intimidation against me personally and those other people that
are listed there. I`m a critic of Vladimir Putin. I think that what he
does abroad and at home are things that we should disagree with, and so
this is yet another tactic to intimidate me like he has done with other
people. And I wish, I just hope my own President, my commander-in-chief
would understand it for what it is and push back both in public and in

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, is there any indication in God`s green earth
that something like this could ever be agreed to? Is this just kind of
cruel 24-hour spooling out of a crazy idea?

prologue, that`s probably what this is, that the White House would
entertain an idea and would be talked out of it. The other branches of
government we saw a little bit of course in the State Department
spokeswoman today, members of the Trump administration with cooler heads
would prevail. This would be something that the president would sort of
float –

WILLIAMS: While 11 Americans sweat.

LEMIRE: Right. Of course, yes, that`s not taking into consideration here
because this president views things under a very narrow political lens, his
own. And in this exchange and we, of course, are not privy to the details
in that private meeting, but you could see it in that news conference that
I was in the room for where that he seemed generally enthused by this idea
that there could be this almost investigator swap.

And I`m sure his consideration was not at all the ambassador or the other
10 Americans who would be potentially subjected to this but rather his own
hide and how this could affect the Mueller probe. And could – it would
potentially serve to just further muddy the waters, that these Russia
investigators would go in, it would slow things down if, in some way, this
ever happened, he probably saw it as yet another way to damage the
credibility of an investigation that seems to be creeping closer and closer
to him in the White House.

WILLIAMS: We all watched you in realtime in Helsinki wondering the same
thing, which I`ll ask you now. Did it feel in realtime like you had just
obvious caused with your question a genuine moment, a historic moment to

LEMIRE: Thank you for that. I mean, certainly my job there was to simply
do my job and to try to answer – get the answer to a question. I think a
lot of Americans wanted for a very long time. And my colleagues and I have
tried verifications before but it seems like this setting was perfect for
it. And, you know, I did not know that it`s going to be called. We don`t
get a heads up ahead of time.

I prepared my questions, but I didn`t know until Sarah Sanders called my
name that I`d be the one to get the chance to ask that questioning. But in
that setting with President Trump standing near feet away from Vladimir
Putin, you know, with him repeatedly declining to fully back the U.S.
intelligence services and their findings. It seems like that was the
moment he needed to be put on the record in front of the whole world, who
you believe, Vladimir Putin or your own intelligence agencies?

And which should have been the (INAUDIBLE) that hit out of the park.
Instead, he equivocated. He waffled. He said he believed both sides. He
didn`t want to defend his own government. And then he had a chance to – I
gave him a chance, I said, please, in front of everyone here, admonish
Vladimir Putin for what may have happened in 2016. And at the very least,
could you warn him to never try this again and he didn`t do that, either.
So this is just simply – it is a question that has only raised more

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, our thanks, welcome back and Ambassador to you,
please keep talking to us about this as this story progresses and thank you
for coming on the air and being forthright in your answers with us tonight.

Coming up, the first court appearance for a Russian woman, suspected of
being a foreign agent. Prosecutors say, she`s communicating with Russia
spy agency all the while and she seems to have a thing for guns, when we


WILLIAMS: There are new details in the case of this Russian national
arrested and accused of being an illegal Kremlin agent. Maria Butina made
her first court appearance today. New court documents alleged she took
orders from a Russian official with close ties to Putin. And from the
looks of her apartment, she appears to been getting ready to skip town at
the time of her arrest.

Before we talk about this with our next guest, we get some quick background
tonight from NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams.


two years, Maria Butina was making a name for herself as a Washington D.C.
college student and gun enthusiast hoping to further relations with Russia.
She had a dark secret. Prosecutor say, her every move was directed by a
Russian government official, Alexander Torshin, close ally of Vladimir

Investigators say she hid in plane site joining the NRA to get close to
influential Republicans. Unaware law enforcement official say that the FBI
was watching her.

have been trying to penetrate Washington circles. This is very reminiscent
of the 10 Russian illegals, the sleeper agents who were arrested several
years ago. But this was a speed version of that.

WILLIAMS: At a 2015 Trump event in Las Vegas, she asked the candidate a

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If you would like to be the president, what will be
your foreign politic especially into the relationships with my country?

WILLIAMS: Court document say, she offered sex for access to an unnamed
political group. The FBI arrested her last weekend when she was packing up
to move. In court today, she pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors said she
should be jailed pending trail because she could slip into the Russian
embassy and the FBI couldn`t stop her. But her lawyer says she is no
flight risk and is known for months that she was under investigation.

Russian government, the Russian federation. She`s innocent in the charges
brought against her. Most importantly, she`s a young student seeking to
make way in America.

WILLIAMS: She`s not charged with being a spy. But the FBI says she was
part of a covert Russian campaign to influence American politics.

Pete Williams, NBC News at federal court in Washington.


WILLIAMS: Should she worry that her lawyer is reading of a piece of paper?
We don`t know. The Butina case is not a Mueller case. Mueller`s office,
as we`ve been talking about, did just indict those 12 Russian intelligence
officers. And tonight, notably, President Trump was asked again whether
he`s willing to meet with Mueller`s team.


JEFF GLOR, CBS EVENING NEWS HOST: But would you – are you more likely to
sit an interview now?

that. I`ve always wanted to do an interview, because look, there`s been no
collusion. There`s been no talk of Russia. There`s been no phone call.
There`s been nothing. And it`s– I call it a witch hunt. That`s exactly
what it is.


WILLIAMS: Well, let`s talk about this. And with us to do that, Former
U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor,
Joyce, if this isn`t crazy, it will due until crazy gets here as they say.
What do you make? What strikes you about this case of this young woman
again who was apparently fixing to leave town?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You know, it looks that way and it also
looks like we`re finally getting to watch that season of the Americans that
the producers wouldn`t run because it seemed too farfetched, right?

WILLIAMS: Yes, yes.

VANCE: All joking aside, I think this is a very serious case. Although
it`s not currently being handled but Mueller`s team, it looks like a case
that could end up there or that could be a companion case to their work
because of the very serious nature of allegations that Russians were trying
to influence the NRA. And we know that $30 million in money funneled out
of the NRA into the presidential campaign more than the NRA had ever
contributed. So there are serious questions that will need to be answered

WILLIAMS: And I know you`re not a political analyst, but spool this out a
little bit. And if that`s proven, if Russian money was in an NRA pool,
you`ve got all these people running for reelection in the midterms whose
opponents can now say, my opponent accepted Russia money from the gun

VANCE: There`s an enormous amount of political risk here potential for
people who are accepting money or who were otherwise intertwined with the
NRA. Perhaps that`s why we`re not hearing a lot of chit chat from the NRA
itself. I would have expected them to come out a lot more strongly and
defense their organization, and all of their many leaders who have appeared
in photographs accepting an honorary membership in Butina`s Russian gun
organization. But we`ve not seen that obviously there`s a lot of
information left here to come out and it could be very dangerous for

WILLIAMS: And gun rights, by the way, is just not a topic of huge interest
in Russia. Now, Joyce, to tonight`s “New York Times” headline, a clean
kill on their part reporting unmatched by other news organizations as of
the time of this broadcast. Here`s the headline. From the start, Trump
has muddied a clear message, Putin interfered. It says, the president knew
before he was president. If true, Joyce, what does this mean?

VANCE: Long standing DOJ policy holds that the Justice Department should
not indict a sitting president. And I still don`t expect that we`ll see
Mueller`s team depart from that policy. But this reporting if it holds up
is clear proof that the President has engaged in at a minimum a coverup of
Russia`s efforts to interfere with our election. This is a broad mandate
for folks on the Hill to pick up this information and to make a
determination whether the President`s conduct is something that violates
the oath he took to uphold the Constitution.

WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance, this is why we have you on the broadcast. Thank
you so much for clear and concise answers as we are all reacting to what we
have read on the pages of the “New York Times” tonight and elsewhere.

Another break for us. Coming up, he was Vice Chairman of the Senate
Intelligence Committee following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Senator
Bob Kerrey will talk to us about the relationship between Donald Trump and
Vladimir Putin and the U.S. and Russia when we come back.



TRUMP: I think I did great at the news conference. I think it was a
strong news conference. You have people that said you should have gone up
to him. You should have walked up and started screaming in his face.
We`re living in the real world, OK?


WILLIAMS: That was tonight his interview with CBS News. President Trump
as you heard defending his performance on Monday in Helsinki, standing
there next to Vladimir Putin. Still, people find the lack of certainty,
the lack of urgency in his wording and demeanor striking because they have
been warned by our government that the Russian attack remains under way.


activity in the lead-up to the 2018 election cycle?

MIKE POMPEO, CIA DIRECTOR: Yes, we have seen Russian activity and
intentions to have an impact on the next election cycle here.

HEINRICH: Director Coats?


HEINRICH: Anyone else? Admiral Rogers?


COATS: It was in the months prior to September 2001 when according to then
CIA Director George Tenet, the system was blinking red. And here we are
two decade nearly two decades later. And I`m here to say the warning
lights are blinking red again.


WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about this tonight with bob Kerry, former U.S.
senator from Nebraska who once served as the top Democrat on the Intel
Committee in the Senate. The position currently held by Mark Warner of
Virginia. Also happens to be former governor of Nebraska, he`s a member of
the 911 Commission. And he`s a Navy SEAL combat veteran of the Vietnam War
who is among 72 living recipients of the Medal of Honor. Senator, thank
you for coming back to the broadcast, we appreciate it.

BOB KERREY (D), NEBRASKA: You`re welcome.

WILLIAMS: What do you make of the last three days? And I guess now that
includes this story tonight in “The New York Times”?

KERREY: You don`t have enough time.

WILLIAMS: What`s happening?

KERREY: Well, you know, he got played by Putin. He`s been there for two
hours as a KGB agent, very experienced. And he played him. And the press
conference, in the press conference, the president is equating things to
the United States and America is dealing with things that the Russians are
doing. And he misses this tremendous opportunity to say to the Russians,
you got to play by the rules. And they`re not playing by the rules.

So look, I think part of the problem that the president is having is he
didn`t really experience the Cold War and he didn`t really understand how
he won the Cold War. We didn`t win the Cold War just with the military
efforts. And partly we won it because Ronald Reagan was willing to call it
the evil empire. He is willing to stand and say, Gorbachev, take down that
wall and Eisenhower the same way.

And part of the problem that we`re having with the president is having
that, it was a mistaken idea that we can do it alone, that it can be
America first on trade, there can be America first on national security, it
doesn`t work. It hasn`t worked for the last 70 years. And now Putin
regards the end of the Cold War as a great disaster for Russia. He`s
trying to rebuild it.

The president seems to miss that entire history and how we actually got the
job done. It wasn`t just military effort. It was willingness of our
leaders, in this case in particular, Ronald Reagan, to standup and say,
this is an evil empire. He`s unwilling to do it.

WILLIAMS: Well, that brings me to two of the president`s talking points.
Number one, that no one is been tougher on Russia than Donald Trump.

KERREY: Not even close.

WILLIAMS: And number two, and in away it`s been said this is aimed at the
base to normalize being nice to Russia, the notion of our relationships
never been worse that it is right now. And those of us with any history on
us know there are times in history it`s been much worse.

KERREY: Well, of course it was deeply insulting to say it`s worse because
the things that we did, we didn`t invade Crimea, we didn`t invade Ukraine,
we didn`t shoot down a civilian airplane. That`s a weird doing. That`s
what he`s doing. He`s the one that`s denying civil rights and inside of
his own country. He`s the one sending agents into England to kill people.
Not us.

He`s the one that`s created a deterioration in the relationship and a lost
opportunity frankly when the Cold War ended. It was difficult the
transition that Russia had to make to a market economy, to a democracy.
And he`s moving away from it.

WILLIAMS: So what do you think it is, a friend of mine watched the press
conference in over in Helsinki kind of a mild Trump supporter, comes away
from it and says, he kind of, you could believe they`ve got something on
him. What do you think its?

KERREY: Well, you certainly don`t want to believe Vladimir Putin, he says,
oh, no we got millions of people. Look, Donald Trump has been talking
about running for president since `87 or `88.

WILLIAMS: He`s been a prominent American.

KERREY: He does, more than a prominent American. He`s a person of
interest. And when you`re a person of interest in the Soviet Union
particularly in `87 and Putin was the head of the KGB at the time. I don`t
know if they got something on him. I think far more of interest to me is
and far more important I think is this demonstrates his failure of America

You`re going to run into trouble because you tend to create these
equivalencies. I can cut a deal. I can create a shopping center. God
knows what he has in mind. It`s not making a deal with somebody like
Vladimir Putin because Vladimir Putin is going to play you and he
unquestionably did play President Trump in that two-hour meeting they had,
later in the press conference.

WILLIAMS: Your bio which I read introducing you would indicate a man who
loves his country. You`ve been decorated for courage. My question is,
where do you think the courage is going to come from in this Senate and
this House? Name Republicans, remembering Republicans were the heroes of


WILLIAMS: Name one or two not leaving the Senate or House who you think
might stand up.

KERREY: Well, you know, look, there`s two kinds of people in Washington,
people who can count and people who lose. And right now, they`re counting
90 percent of the Republican Party are supporting the president. So it`s
really up to the American people who are supporting President Trump.
They`ve got examine this thing.

This is not attacking them personally. This is me pointing out that this
America first policy it tends to produce an environment where you can`t get
the trade agreements you want, you can`t get the military strategies you
want and you need some sense and understanding of history to know how it
was we got to where we are today.

It was Ronald Reagan saying this is an evil empire. Not Donald Trump
saying, evil? Where is the evil? No, I can cut a deal with him. You
can`t do that if you expect to have an outcome like we had after the end of
the Cold War.

WILLIAMS: What reassures you that this country you love is going to be OK?
These are hard times.

KERREY: Oh, we`ve been through worse. My god, we had 2,000 bombings in
1970 with 25 people killed, you know. We celebrated the anniversary of
Aaron Burr killing Alexander Hamilton across the river not too long. We
had 700,000 men died in the civil war, the area of reconstruction after the
end of the war. It was – we`ve been through worse than this.

There`s a lot of stake because you`re dealing right now with country trying
to answer the question do we go Democratic or do we go, you know,
dictatorship, do we take away freedoms. There is an argument that needs to
be made on behalf of freedom, on behalf of liberty. Again, it`s a lost
opportunity with Russia because they`re one of the countries going in the
opposite direction, moving away from democracy, moving towards taking
freedoms away from their individual citizens.

WILLIAMS: We are lucky recipients of having the same body clock. I like
that you`re a night person. I like so much that you come by and visit our
broadcast. Please always do. Senator, thank you. It is always a

KERREY: My pleasure.

WILLIAMS: Bob Kerrey, our thanks.

Coming up, it`s been pointed out before on this program and elsewhere, once
a phrase finds its way onto the president`s verbal play list, he gives it a
good ride. More on that when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Prior to our last item, just some reminders for you especially
for our time shifting viewers. You can watch us anytime you please by
downloading the MSNBC app on your phone. If you`re on the move, you can
listen live to us each and every night on Sirius XM satellite radio. We
are also available as a podcast wherever fine podcasts are downloaded. So
there`s really no reason why you would ever have to miss a single edition
of our 11TH HOUR broadcast.

Now, back to the news, the last thing before we go on a Wednesday night,
the phraseology lexicon of our president, he does have his favorites, his
go tos. And if you watch him on television a lot, as we tend to do for a
living around here, you almost find them sneaking into American
conversational life. And as we`ve found, when you watch Donald Trump, you
need only look at what`s happened.


TRUMP: You look at the economy. You look at what`s happening.

But if you look at what`s happened to steel and aluminum.

If you look at what`s happening with trade in China.

If you look at what took place and what happened. And it`s a disgrace. I
think it`s really a sad situation when you look at what happened.

We used to go to Syria. That was a place to go. And you look at what`s
happened. It`s so sad.

When you look at what`s happened in Vietnam, there is nothing more

If you look at what`s happening in California, they`re having revolts out

If you look at what`s happened in West Virginia and so many different

You look at what`s happening.

Take a look at what`s happening in Europe.

You look at what`s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, take a look at
what happened in Sweden.

You look at what`s happening in Germany. Take a look what`s happening in
Germany. Take a look at what`s happened in France. Take a look at Nice
and Paris.

You look at what`s happening in Brussels. You look at what`s happening all
over the world. Take a look at what`s happening to our world.


That is our final item for tonight. Our look at what`s happening here
today. That is our broadcast on a Wednesday evening. Thank you so very
much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters here in
New York.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today, the White House said that it was considering a
request made by the Russian government to hand over to Russia for
questioning America`s former ambassador to Russia.


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