Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: January 26, 2018 Guest: Amber Phillips, Brian Bennett, Joe Kernen, Alan Gomez, Christina Bellantoni, Matthew Nussbaum, Jennifer Rogers, Cynthia Alksne
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, President Trump flies home. He is back at the White House touting his successful trip to Davos but ignoring questions on Robert Mueller in light of that bombshell story that he had ordered him to be fired.
The clock ticking down to the next big event in the Russia investigation, Steve Bannon reportedly scheduled to be the next big interview for team Mueller.
And is it getting more difficult for the Trump legal team or the Trump west wing team to carry out the task of protecting the president from himself? "The 11th Hour" on a Friday night begins now.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 372 of the Trump administration, President back at the White House tonight after his trip to Davos. He had a busier than usual week ahead. It includes formally unveiling his latest immigration proposal delivering his first state of the union address as president and attending a retreat with House and Senate Republicans.
All of it now against this backdrop of the latest big story, the White House has been forced to react to "The New York Times" exclusive last night that the president ordered the firing of Robert Mueller but for his White House counsel who said, "If he goes, I go" and so it was never carried out.
While "The Times" broke the story, similar accounts and confirmations have followed from NBC News, "The Washington Post", Fox News among others. Today, the president had the opportunity to respond to these reports.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you want to fire Robert Mueller?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Fake news, folks, fake news. Typical New York Times` fake stories.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you trying to fire Robert Mueller?
TRUMP: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The president`s lawyers are still negotiating the terms of any interview between the president and Mueller`s team. But a new report out in the Wall Street Journals says, "President Trump`s legal team has been studying a 1990s Federal Court ruling that could be the basis for delaying, limiting or avoiding an interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller according to people familiar with the matter".
In that case, a Federal Appeals Court ruled presidents and their closest advisors enjoyed protections against having to disclose information about their decision-making process or official actions. The court ruled prosecutors hoping to overcome arguments of executive and presidential privilege must show that such information contains important evidence that isn`t available elsewhere.
Earlier tonight, on this network, Harvard Law School Constitutional Law Professor Lawrence Tribe laid out his predictions of what could happen if trump were to refuse an interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAWRENCE TRIBE, PROFESSOR, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: I think we are right on the verge of some kind of explosion. When Miller says, "I want to interview you", and Trump after getting advice from his lawyers might say, "Well, I really don`t feel comfortable with it", if that`s what he says.
He will be ordered to appear. He will be subpoenaed. If he defies that subpoena, he will be defying a court order and that will lead to a constitutional explosion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Weekly Standard Editor Bill Crystal gave his own theory as to why Trump`s legal team may delay here as much as possible.\
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL CRYSTAL, EDITOR, WEEKLY STANDARD: Trump is scared of Bob Mueller. Trump will not testify to Bob Mueller and Trump wants this investigation to be stopped or slowed down, or impeded, or made more difficult, or discredit it as much as possible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: There is another high-profile witness slated to speak with the Mueller team and that`s Steve Bannon. A source familiar with the discussions as telling NBC News Trump`s former chief strategists is expected to meet with Mueller`s team by January 31st, that`s Wednesday of next week. Bannon was widely quoted criticizing Trump and his family as you may have heard in the book "Fire and Furry" which led to a very public falling out with the White House.
That`s left a number of people wondering what exactly Bannon will tell the special prosecutor when that interview does take place.
So, a lot to get to, a lot of questions. Let`s bring in our lead off panel for a Friday night. Matthew Nussbaum is here with us, White House Reporter for POLITICO. Jennifer Rogers is here with us as well, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now the Executive Director for Colombia Law School Center for Advancement of Public Integrity. And we welcome to the broadcast, former Federal Prosecutor Cynthia Alksne, a veteran of the Civil Rights Division at Justice, and she happens to be a veteran of this network, as well. Good evening to you all. Welcome to you all.
Jennifer, first things first, how important was this story last night about Trump`s order not carried out to fire Robert Mueller legally?
JENNIFER ROGERS, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I think it`s potentially huge. I mean, we know that we need an action and we need intent to get the obstruction case. And there`s lots of evidence, you know, implying that there was the intent when Comey was fired.
But this to me is a little bit of a clearer line between action and intent because you have Bob Mueller who is the special prosecutor. And he`s doing is the Russia investigation, right? You don`t have these other excuses about the Hillary investigation and not running the bureau the right way. So if in June, not even a month after Mueller takes over so he can`t possibly be mishandling anything, Trump is ordering someone to fire him.
It can only be to stop the investigation. I mean, of course, we want to know more about the conversation between McGahn and Trump, obviously, the reasons for the order would have been discussed between them and that`s still the big question here, what we don`t know.
But to me, unlike the Comey situation, it really, you know, it can`t be anything else. So I think there`s a pretty clean line of action to intent here and that`s why I think it`s potentially enormous.
WILLIAMS: Do you agree with professor tribe and that scenario he laid out if the president tries to resist?
ROGERS: I think so. You know, we`re bit in uncharted territory here. I mean, no one really has refused before. But it`s certainly important evidence. It`s evidence that they can`t get any other way. So I have to think that any court if presented with a president refusing to respond to a subpoena is going to order his appearance.
WILLIAMS: Cynthia, welcome. It`s great to see you again. You told one of our producers, we should keep our eye on the ball. Define that for us.
CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think we`re all focused on the obstruction because we`re just learning now about the attempt to fire Mueller and put together the obstruction. But remember, Mueller has known about this for weeks.
The real question is not obstruction because at this point, it seems pretty clear that there was an attempt to obstruct the investigation but why? Let`s keep our eye on that. Why was Trump willing to go by these extreme lengths to try to destroy and demolish the Russia investigation because there`s something he does not want Mueller to find out. That`s what`s really important that we need to know and we don`t know and Mueller probably does.
WILLIAMS: Matthew, I`m going to take you back to your beat and repeat for the benefit of all of us and we`ll talk about it afterwards, the number of denials about attempts to fire Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Does the president commit to not firing Robert Mueller?
CONWAY: The president has not even discussed that. The president is not discussing firing Bob Mueller.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But will he commit not to fire?
CONWAY: He is not even discussing that fire -- he has not discussed firing Bob Mueller.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is going to rule out once and for all firing Robert Mueller?
SANDERS: Look, I`ll address the second question first. President said last week, I believe last week, I`ve said several times before, there`s no intention or plan to make any changes in regards to the special counsel.
TODD: Is he setting the stage for firing Bob Mueller?
SHORT: No, Come on, Chuck. No, there is no conversation.
TODD: There is no way? There is no way he`s going to fire him.
SHORT: There is no conversation about whatsoever at the White House.
SANDERS: For the 1,000th time, we have no intentions of firing Bob Mueller.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So, Matthew, as you heard, there was no intention of firing Bob Mueller. What was the White House saying today because as we`ve learned from our lawyer friends on this panel, this was a consequential story?
MATTHEW NUSSBAUM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. I think what`s most spectacular has been their silence. After for so long saying as Kellyanne Conway was shown saying there in August, there`s been no discussion of firing Bob Mueller.
Now we know Trump ordered just that in back in June. Look, we know these aren`t the most credible people but for something like this, it really is explosive and to go back and see all the times they denied this. There has been no official denial from the White House aside from the president calling it fake news.
In that "New York Times" article, something I thought was big, was there is no Don McGahn in there saying, "Oh now, this never happened or, you know, declining to comment or anything like that." I think for a White House whose credibility is already in tatters, this is just sort of another hit to that.
WILLIAMS: Jennifer, I heard a lawyer on television tonight as the parlor game goes on, "The New York Times" says there were four sources on this story but I heard a lawyer say this is probably not a lawyer because of professional responsibility. They did not think a leak like this could come from a lawyer.
RODGERS: Well, it certainly wouldn`t be a lawyer with an attorney-client relationship with Donald Trump. So that is not going to be on a lawyer like that stuff. But other than that, I mean, there wouldn`t be any professional responsibility for a lawyer not acting in the capacity of a lawyer to, you know, keep that communication confidential. So I don`t know why it wouldn`t be someone who by profession is a lawyer.
WILLIAMS: Cynthia, a dual question for you. Number one, not brought up a lot, what about mike pence? And number two, if Trump woke up tomorrow morning wanting above all to fire Bob Mueller, doesn`t it at this point have to be for cause?
ALKSNE: Well, what about Mike Pence, number one. My guess is he will be interviewed before the president interviewed. And that will be a tipped off for us, that`s the presidential interview is either coming or is coming too ahead very soon. That would be my gut about Pence.
I don`t see how he fires -- I don`t see how he could possibly fire Mueller at this point. I mean, even the most weak need of the Republican leadership, I think what actually balk at that. Maybe I`m hopeful that they`ll stand up for the rule of law. But, I think they would and I don`t think it`s possible. And yes, it would have to be for cause. And, first, you would have to probably fire Rosenstein. So there would be quite a series of events that would have to happen and it seems impossible to me.
WILLIAMS: And, Jennifer, if you`re team Mueller, what does it remind us? What is it you want to ask Steve Bannon?
ROGERS: Well, I think they want to ask Steve Bannon a lot of things, right? I mean, he was right there in the president`s ear, you know, at least according to Michael Wolff`s book, you have this kind of contrary forces working in the White House but Bannon certainly was a very powerful person there, you know, talking to him and kind of guiding him.
So you just want to talk to him about a variety of things but certainly, the Comey firing. I do think regardless of the fact that of course, ultimately, Mueller wants to get behind the purpose of these firings and see what the Russia collusion case is all about. I think he`s really honing in on obstruction because it`s a potentially clean, easier case to make. And I think they want to going to have that one in the bag just in case he`s fired, in case, you know, something else happens.
So I think they are going to try to wrap that up first. So I think they`ll be talking to him about firing Comey. They`ll certainly be talking to him about all of these other conversations around Michael Flynn that will be an important topic of conversation for Bannon. So while they`ll talk about the Russian stuff to some extent, I think they really be focusing in on those things that are more related to the obstruction side of the house.
WILLIAMS: Matthew, is it the prevailing view that since Cobb and Dowd arrived, it`s a little bit tighter, there`s a little more control, maybe not overall of the president`s utterances?
NUSSBAUM: That`s right. There`s definitely been a lot less in the way of which hunt tweets and accusations against Mueller. We`ve seen less inside the White House of trying to dig up things about Mueller`s prosecutors, then sort of left that to Sean Hannity and his friends. But Donald Trump is not someone who is known for his patience. So you Ty Cobb saying in August, this would be over by Thanksgiving, and then he said it would be over by New Years. Now, he is saying it will be over in the next few weeks.
The president hears this and he is going to see that this investigation is not wrapping up, and how long he can let that go on and follow the Ty Cobb strategy, I think remains to be seen, especially because we know his instinct is not to sit back and let this continue. His instinct is to fight it.
WILLIAMS: Let`s also inject fatigue, international travel and Twitter. If we have the president`s Twitter post tonight, the president on his Twitter account liked by indication the Wall Street Journal story about his friend, Steve Wynn, the head of fundraising for the Republican Party, Steve Wynn of Las Vegas, Steve Wynn now the target of these sexual harassment allegations.
Story got powerful play today and widely distributed. It was just weird to see a like on behalf of the president of the United States again, though, not known for restraint in this venue.
NUSSBAUM: Right. With him and his phone after a long foreign trip, this is when he tends to get in trouble. These flights have not always been friendly to him. We remember it was on one of those when they crafted the statement about Don Junior meeting with the Russians to talk about adoptions. So it`s no surprise to see him getting a little bit loose after a big trip.
WILLIAMS: And his own doctor injected the Ambien factor as many travelers rely on it for overseas travel.
Jennifer, knowing what we know that the negotiation is going on with the president`s team and Mueller`s team, I ask you this every time you come on, where do you think we are in the scope of this investigation?
ROGERS: Well, I mean, I think we are getting to the end. They are starting to get closer and closer to the president. I mean, Bannon is close to the president. They are getting to the important people.
There is still a number of people to go so I think it will still be awhile. I don`t suspect that the president and his team will do too much to try delay things, so the article about the 1990s case and all of that because ultimately, it`s not going to stop it. And I do think that just dragging this out they realize this is not the best strategy for them.
So I do think we will get to the president`s testimony. I do think it will be under oath and I think it will happen sometime this year but I think we might still be a few months away.
WILLIAMS: Cynthia, you get the last word. What form do you think it will be, video? Do you think it will be in person? And what do you make of the calendar and how far along they are?
ALKSNE: Well, I think Mueller is a man of rules and the Department of Justice rules are very clear that you don`t want to do anything that would affect an election. So I think he will try as much as possible to stay away from the November elections. And that to me is some -- going to be some kind of guide.
So if it at all possible, I think he will want to wrap this up early summer so that he can be as far as possible away from November. You know, I`m not sure I really agree that in the end Trump is interviewed. I think he may - - all his friends are telling him not to do the interview. He thinks he can do anything with impunity and take five. There is not a lawyer in America who thinks he should do the interview. So I wouldn`t be surprised if there`s not a lot of bluster and in the end doesn`t do it.
WILLIAMS: What an interesting point to depart from this discussion with our thanks to Matthew Nussbaum, to Jennifer Rogers and to Cynthia Alksne, we really appreciate all three of you starting off our conversation on a Friday night at the end of a long week.
As we approach the first break here, coming up, the Herculean task faced by Don McGahn and others of protecting the president from the president especially this president. And Donald Trump`s fake news defense employed yet again today, plus another immigration deal appearing increasingly out of reach tonight on the Hill, all of it when we continue.
WILLIAMS: In plain English, this New York Times exclusive from last continues to dominate the news and our conversation tonight. And we now know that when President Trump decided to fire Special Counsel Mueller, it was White House Counsel Don McGahn who ultimately stopped him as "The Times" first reported and quote after receiving the president`s order, repeating order to fire Mr. Mueller, the White House Counsel Donald McGahn refused to ask the Justice Department to dismiss the special counsel saying he would quit instead.
It`s not the first time the people around this president have stepped in to stop something that could cause great damage to him or the presidency, but while the president`s staff tries to control the message, President Trump made it quite clear he sees himself as his own spokesman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEFF SESSION, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I presented to the president my concerns and those of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein about the ongoing leadership issues at the FBI as stated in my letter recommending the removal of Mr. Comey.
TRUMP: What I did is I was going to fire Comey, my decision. I was not --
HOLT: You made the decision before they came in the room.
TRUMP: I was going to fire Comey.
JOHN KELLY, CHIEF OF STAFF: He has very definitely changed his attitudes towards the DACA issue and even the wall once we briefed him when I was at DHS.
TRUMP: What we need is we need the wall. We need security. We need security at the boarder but we also want to solve a tremendous problem on the southern border which is crime. We need a wall.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The habit of the president raises questions about the relationship with his staff, his legal team at a sensitive time as he prepares to answer the special counsel`s questions. With us to talk about it tonight, Amber Phillips, Political Reporter for "The Fix" at "The Washington Post`, Brian Bennett, White House Reporter for "The Los Angeles Times", and Sahil Kapur is back with us here in New York, National Political Reporter from Bloomberg. Welcome to you all.
Amber, what is the concern level I`m guessing you get asked this a lot especially among Republicans whose names have to be on ballots in a few months.
AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE FIX: Yes. You`re saying what is the concern level, which is the chaos in the White House right now?
PHILLIPS: It is an 11 out of 10. I think that day to day and we saw with a couple weeks ago in immigration, policy making is a total mess with this president. You know, they don`t know where he is on the negotiating what he wants. But in addition to that, you have a president who has for the past year an uncanny ability to create drama and including massive legal drama like the story right when Congress doesn`t want to talk about it.
I mean, they`re hoping that this week, we were talking about Trump in Davos and talking about how good the economy is doing and the tax bill. Another incident I remember last year was right as the House Republicans passed a bill that would allow Trump to crack down on sanctuary cities. He tweeted about an MSNBC Morning Joe host and the, you know, accusing her of getting her face redone or something.
It`s just like that day after day, after day that Republicans are just banging their heads against the wall because they don`t know what is going to come out of him and his Twitter feed.
WILLIAMS: Brian, indeed, David Gergen who has in Davos tonight was saying the president had actually a pretty good outing and gave a half descent speech to a half reception but, of course, everything was against this backdrop with the conversation we`re having right now. Knowing what we know about Chris Ray, knowing what we know about Don McGahn, talk a little bit about the consequences of serving this president. I guess it`s not for the faint of heart.
BRIAN BENNETT, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: No, it`s not. And the number of his aides, especially the ones who`ve tried to bring order to the White House like John Kelly for example have really struggled especially in the last few weeks to keep the reigns on the White House in decision making that`s going on there.
I was in John Kelly`s office on Wednesday night when all of a sudden, the door bursts open and in comes Donald Trump, and we start asking questions and he blows the lid on a planned four-day rollout of his immigration plan, tells all the reporters that. And I`m standing next to John Kelly and I can tell by his body language that he, you know, realizes he`s going to have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan to clean up what the president just did.
Also, I heard John Kelly when we asked President Trump about Mueller and whether he would be willing to testify. And President Trump said that he would love to, I heard a sigh from Mueller -- from John Kelly standing next to me. He was really trying to keep a straight face and not show emotion.
But this happens time and time again where Kelly has been brought in. He really tries to organize the way that the president gives information and come up with a systematic way for him to make decisions but the president undermines that day after day, after day.
WILLIAMS: Sahil, did you find it curious or notable that John Kelly, Chief of Staff to the President, stayed behind on this trip?
SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Well, there is certainly a resistance among the president to being managed. I`m not sure that necessarily had to do with (inaudible) we had to do with this. There was some indications that he might not have gone either way. But the president`s resistance to being managed I think overshadows any strategic imperatives of his that messes up policy plans, messes up negotiations with the hill as Brian just talked about, about the immigration roll out.
WILLIAMS: The rollout planned for Monday. He clearly had come from a briefing on it and spewed what he learned.
KAPUR: Exactly. John Kelly who has some inherent tension with the president has someone who lives and breathe structure as a retire Marine general and the president is spontaneous free willing individual.
One anecdote from the campaign trail I think that I can share, it speaks to this a little bit. There is one staffer for then candidate Trump who would write some statement and speeches and things for Trump in speeches, Trump did not want to use that material when he was on staff, when the staffer left, Trump started to use those items more often in the speeches and statements.
It just kind of reflects that he doesn`t like it when other people steal his thunder, you know, like when other people seem to be taken credit. One of the differences between Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller for instance are somewhat the same mind set on the issue of immigration at least. Bannon, went off the reservation, he kind of made thing about himself. He started taking credit for things. Stephen Miller doesn`t do that.
Any time he goes on air, it`s always about how wonderful the president is and how much of a genius he is. They read the prime directive well.
WILLIAMS: Our guests have agreed to stick around. We`re just going to sneak a break in. Nobody will notice. Coming up, we`ll talk about the fake news defense that we heard again today.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tomorrow morning and really just in a few hours, Donald Trump is going to emerge in his hotel in Davos, Switzerland and any reporters within shouting distance are going to ask him about this story. One of the first instincts is to fall back on past practice and say never considered it, never thought about it, fake news.
ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I mean, he`s been saying that. And I think this report makes it very clear that, you know, this is just another example of a president indifferent to the truth. He looks at reporters with a straight face and says things that we know were flat out false.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were you going to fire Robert Mueller?
TRUMP: Fake news, folks, fake news. Typical New York Times` fake stories.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And that right there was the discussion we had in this room last night, followed by the president`s response this morning. It has become a go-to answer and a key part of a larger effort to diminish and erode the institution of a free press.
At the forum he attended in Davos this morning, the president went after the press in front of a crowd that included an international press core and there were audible boos in the room.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And as a businessman, I was always treated really well by the press, you know, the numbers speak and things happen. But I`ve always really had very good press. And it was until I became a politician that I realized how nasty, how mean, how vicious and how fake the press can be as the cameras start going off in the back.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS: Boo.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: More on that in a bit. The president has used the phrase fake news over 150 times on his Twitter feed alone. This started back in 2015 as the phrase dishonest media. I has shall we say evolved from there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The dishonest media, they are dishonest. You don`t believe they are dishonest. They are the most dishonest people. I mean, a big percentage of them.
Dishonest media were saying, well, he won`t be able to track 50.
But despite all their lies, misrepresentations and false stories, they could not defeat us in the primary and they could no defeat us in the general election.
The fake media tried to stop us from going to the White house but I`m president and they are not.
You can talk all you want about Russia which is all, you know, fake news fabricated deal to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats and it was press plays right into it. And the leaks are absolutely real. The news is fake.
Fake news. This is going to be great for people.
They have been fake news for a long time.
General Flynn is a wonderful man, I think he`s been treated very, very unfairly by the media, as I call it, the fake media.
Yes, I`m very honored by his comments. It was fake news, it was a totally phony story.
Very good relationship. I have very good -- that was fake news.
I don`t know what newspaper you`re reading but I guess that would be another example of as you say fake news.
Make sure you look up @realdonaldtrump, right? It`s our only way around the media. Fake media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Remaining with us for this conversation, Amber Phillips, Brian Bennett, Sahil Kapur.
Brian, it didn`t seem like the president was expecting to be booed from that audience in Davos. That line usually goes over well and he`s usually used to facing a friendly crowd.
BRIAN BENNETT, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, he had just delivered a speech about putting America first where he had stayed on script, delivered it in measured tones, hadn`t been booed. And then, he sits down and has Q&A, and immediately launches into a political attack on Hillary Clinton saying that the stock market would have gone down 50 percent if she would have been elected. And then, he launches attacks in the media saying but now he found out they are vicious and fake, and he was booed.
And I mean, it`s -- he reversed back into old habits quite quickly after delivering what was a pretty controlled speech.
WILLIAMS: Amber, when we talk about a chilling effect, when we talk about a corrosive effect of this phrase alone, talk about what that means.
AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE FIX: Yes, it`s a phrase that has consequences. I`m going to quote Senator Jeff Flake who gave an entire speech on the Senate floor about this the other week, a Republican criticizing his party, his own president.
And noted that there were dictators as far as Burma, Syria, Singapore, Venezuela and authoritarian leaders who have used this phrase fake news to brush off very serious criticism about their humanitarian policies. In addition to that, earlier this week, there was reported that a man had called up CNN and said, "I`m going to gun all of you guys down. This is fake news", and used that phrase repeatedly.
The parallels have to be drawn to one of Donald Trump`s first press conferences in January 2017. He looked right at a CNN reporter and said, "You are fake news." This is corrosive and it`s jumping outside his Twitter feed in a very real way especially recently.
WILLIAMS: And Sahil, as you know, it`s not a long walk between fake news to the deep state and we have seen the deep state morphed into conspiracies, especially just this week among our colleagues in the media business.
SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Absolutely. There are two dimensions, Brian, to which I look at the president`s attacks on the media. One is the fact the in policy is lashing out at people who he feels affronted by. He`s always gone this throughout his career, it managed to serve him at least reasonably well.
The other dimension is that, it first to delegitimize this Russia investigation in the minds of the voters who support him. He still polls at about 80 percent among the Republican base. A poll last month showed that as many as 80 percent of voters believe the Mueller investigation into Russia tampering the election, meddling in the election is politically motivated to hurt President Trump.
This is hugely important because the verdict of what ultimately happens in this investigation may not be in a court of law. It may be in a court of public opinion and Republican leaders and Congress are going to be scared of taking action against President Trump if they believe their voters will retaliate against them for it.
So I don`t think that`s necessarily was motivating the president. I think the impulse factor is one of it. The other -- the last thing I would point out here is that, President Trump has always as a businessman in New York. He`s been the king of the New York tabloid tabloids. He knew how to get the stories he wanted, also his life was an open book. He knew how to manipulate it. Then he moved to D.C. and dealt with a different crop of reporters who had been covering these institutions for years, decades even. And I don`t think he was good as manipulating that press cor and gives the kinds of stories he wants, so part of it I think is he`s lashing out of that.
WILLIAMS: Terrific conversation tonight, you guys were great and thank you for participating. Amber Phillips, Brian Bennett, Sahil Kapur. We appreciate it.
Coming up for us, why the fate of the DREAMers is being caught up in a larger showdown again over immigration, that`s when we continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to solve the DACA problem. I will consider that a great achievement to solve the DACA problem. It`s been out there for a long time. These are good people. These are people that should be able to stay in this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Speaking to our friend Joe Kernen of CNBC in Davos, Switzerland, the President there repeated his desire to find a solution to aid DACA recipients. Remember his promise this would be a bill of love.
Thursday, the White House put forward legislation proving a path to citizenship for nearly 2 million undocumented immigrants in exchange for major cuts in family based migration. What the President is fond of calling by pejorative the chain migration, the end of the diversity visa lottery and 25 billion with a B dollars for a border wall.
Today Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer rejected the Presidents proposal, writing on Twitter, "This plan flies in the face of what most Americans believe in turn on border force." One President Trump fired back to Schumer also on Twitter writing, "DACA has been made increasingly difficult by the fact that", here we go, "crying Chuck Schumer took such a beating over the shutdown that he is unable to act on immigration."
Let`s talk about it, and with us to do that tonight, Alan Gomez, he was USA Today Immigration Reporter and Christina Bellantoni, Assistant Managing Editor of Politics at "The L.A Times".
Christina, are you telling me that this is going to become mashed potatoes again that we`re in for another one of these showdowns over immigration while DREAMers kind of wait in the balance?
CHRISTINA BELLANTONI, ASSISTANT MANAGING EDITOR OF POLITICS, L.A. TIMES: If it even gets that far. Mashed potatoes need to be more political, kind of like that. You know, it looked like there`s a political reality here that is unfortunate for people who ware living in limbo. That is even if something weren`t be able to pass the Senate because comprehensive immigration reform is actually pass to Senate before under a different parties and different leaderships and with Republican support.
In the House, Republicans do not have a unified voice on this. So, if they really wanted to pass something, Republicans need to work with Democrats. Democrats feel like they can`t trust President Trump. Turn back last night there was a debate here for the gubernatorial candidates who are running for governor in California, and asked about this deal, should the Democrats accept this and deal with Trump? The answer was, absolutely not.
And that is Democrats talking to the most democratic liberal base in Los Angeles and they will not stand for a deal like this. So, especially when you see Democrats believe they have a chance at winning back control of the House this fall in the midterms, they are not going to cooperate with the President and give away something they say they feel very strongly about, no border wall and don`t mess with this other, you know, families.
The whole point for them is that you`re breaking apart families there, they want to help this one group of people. They don`t want to hurt a different group of families to be able to do that. That`s what the Democrats are saying.
WILLIAMS: Alan, let me employ an LBJ term, what about the good government types as he use to say, the good government types who really want to see immigration reform.
ALAN GOMEZ, IMMIGRATION REPORTER, USA TODAY: And I think there`s a lot of them there. I mean, we`re seeing a lot of the same voices on the Republican side that were there during the 2013 immigration debate when they passed the bill through the Senate, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake. They had been advocating for this.
But one of the remarkable things that president did when he release this immigration framework was unify both sides in opposition of this deal.
You know, you mentioned Chuck Schumer, there`s been a lot of blow back from the Democrats, but it`s been pretty unanimous from the Republican side opposing this because of how many DREAMers it protects. Breitbart labeled him, amnesty done, the Center for Immigration Studies which is a conservative group that opposes -- they want to reduce legal and illegal immigration dubbed that the art of the choke. And understand, this is from a group that was, at first willing to provide citizenship to about 800,000 DREAMers, that was a population covered by President Obama`s program.
But once it ballooned up to 1.8 million, all of a sudden they started -- all these groups running away from it, saying this is getting out of control, this is too much for us to handle.
WILLIAMS: I want to -- we`ve asked our guests to stick around. We`re going to take a quick break here, and when we come back, President Trump criticized by a fellow Republican and one-time rival who at the same time had a warning for the wider GOP. Our discussion continues right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEB BUSH, 2016, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Donald, you know, is great at the one-liners but he`s a chaos candidate. And he would be a chaos president. He would not be the commander in chief we need to keep our country safe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Two things here, first of all, doesn`t that feel like it was about 10 years ago and second, remember how those two got along?
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush repeatedly warned of the down falls of a Trump presidency when he was running for the GOP nomination. In return, he earned the nickname "Low Energy" and a life in political retirement at home in Florida.
In a new interview with Alan Gomez of USA Today, Jeb Bush again, sounding alarm bells about now President Trump. He says, "Republicans are in for a beating in the midterms if congressional races focus on the President`s character." Telling the, "If the election is nationalized and it`s not about the economy, then we`ll lose."
He also criticized Trump more directly saying quote, the character of the guy and the turnover in fighting and just the constant chaos around his presidency that is self-inflicted has made it hard for him. I want the President to succeed. I don`t think he will succeed if he continues on this path.
Before, I mention Alan Gomez back with us, as is Christina Bellontoni.
Alan, I have to ask you why did he choose other than the fact that you called him up to comment now. And is he contempt with his life these day?
GOMEZ: I mean, he absolutely says he is. I`ve been trying to get him to sit down with me for several months now. He finally agreed to do so yesterday. Sorry, days are very long these days. And he just -- you know, we`re just talking about the state of the party, the state of, you know, the one-year anniversary of President Trump being inaugurated.
And yet, and he was more focused on the future, looking at the mid-terms and worrying about what this Trump effect will be and saying that if candidates are able to focus on the economy, on things that going on in their district, that they should fair pretty well because of how well the economy is doing right now. But how hard the President is making that if he continues to generate these kind of headlines.
And I`ll tell you, it was interesting, I interviewed him during the morning. I get back to my office, I`m writing up my notes, I`m transcribing the interview and I`m at that part where he is talking about he needs to stop with all these dad headlines and as I`m transcribing, that`s when the "New York Times" story breaks about the President trying to fire Moore. And I`m just sitting there thinking, yes I`m sure Jeb`s a little bit more upset right now than he was this morning.
WILLIAMS: That`s why every day feels like a year.
So, Christina, you could make an argument that Jeb Bush feels much more of a custodial sense, a sense of stewardship over his party than the President elected under the banner of the Republican Party in office. Talk about the concern level you are sensing perhaps just among California Republicans but among all those Republicans who are going to be on a ballot in 2018 who may not be -- who may be more encumbered against free speech than Jeb Bush to say how they`re feeling.
BELLANTONI: Sure. We just did the USC Los Angeles Times poll that came out last Friday that showed that, you know, generic ballot, Republican versus Democrats, the Democrats have an 11-point advantage and there`s one reason and his name is President Trump.
So the party is definitely worried about this. That`s one reason you`ve seen a lot of retirements. But I have to say that, you know, Jeb Bush was all over the place. You heard that chaos candidate moment came, but there was a point where he actually the party rooting for him privately, and was changing his tune on the immigration, talking about anchor babies, you know, not always taking it to Trump, which clearly he felt and he is not the same kind of Republican that President Trump is.
And there is a moment where Republican leadership could have stopped his candidacy had they said some of the things that they say now that some of the things that Senator Flake has been empowered to say since he is not running for reelection back in 2015. Donald Trump would not have won all of those primaries and caucuses. And Jeb Bush could be president today for that.
And it`s just something to keep in mind that the party is easier for them to look backward let me say when we warned about this, this is what we are afraid off. At the same time, there was a moment where it could have been a moment of leadership for some of this Republican to say actually. We`d rather have a President Clinton than President Trump.
WILLIAMS: I think that was very fair. Alan, do you get any intention on his part that he`s going to run for anything ever again?
GOMEZ: You know, he left that little door open when I asked him that question, because he have to write when he were talking with his folks. He says he`s very happy, he is celebrating his, what is it, 43rd wedding anniversary next month. He`s got four grandchildren. They plays a lot of golf down here. He`s doing a lot of work on an education foundation he`s working on. He runs investment firms. So he says he`s happy, he says "Life is good" but you know, he left the door open he didn`t unequivocally say that he`s not going to run.
WILLIAMS: Two terrific guests on the Friday night, my thanks to you both. Alan Gomez, Christina Bellantoni, really appreciate it.
Coming up after our last break, the curious case of Melania Trump, one half of the first couple, when we continue
WILLIAMS: Few items before we let you go on a Friday night. The advance guidance from the Democrats on their response to the State of the Union was that it was going to be delivered by household name which in fairness turns out to be half right when we learned 37-year-old Congressman Joe Kennedy III have been given the nod.
The great nephew of JFK and Ted Kennedy grandson of RFK and Ethel Kennedy, son of Joe, Jr., the former congressman, Joe Kennedy III, you can tell he`s Irish, has Barney Frank`s old seat in Congress. He went to Stanford Harvard Law, spent two years in the Peace Corps. His selection is seen as an attempt by the Dems to return to their so-called core brand.
The state of the Trump marriage has been in the news this week after their 13th wedding anniversary passed without public mention, after Melania Trump canceled her trip to Davos with her husband and showed up instead alone at the Holocaust Museum in Washington then flew unannounced to the couple`s home at Mar-A-Lago in Florida.
The story that received wide circulation today broke on the "Daily Mail" website. It says that since the Stormy Daniel story broke, Mrs. Trump has been spending nights at a hotel in Washington and not in the White House. The White House issued a denial.
The NBC News went ask about the story. Notably, the president flew into Washington from Davos tonight with no apparent plans to spend this January weekend in Florida.
And the never Trump Republican Ohio Governor, John Kasich, is going to New Hampshire and this is right about the time when we notice when anyone in politics has travel plans to New Hampshire. He`s been a rumored primary challenger to Trump, you may recall he tried and failed to beat him last time around. And to be fair, his New Hampshire trip is not planned to involve any diners or dairy farms, rather a fireside discussion of politics on a college campus.
And that`s going to wrap it up for our broadcast on a Friday night and after this long week, thank you so much for being here with us. Have a great weekend and good night from NBC news headquarters here in New York.
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