Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: February 2, 2018 Guest: Anne Milgram, Robert Anderson, Jill Colvin, Matthew Nussbaum, Mike Murphy, David Maraniss
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Breaking tonight the memo and the blow back now. Donald Trump says people should be ashamed of themselves but then we got a look at out what the memo actually reveals about his own presidential campaign.
Meanwhile, the Russia investigation plows on. A former FBI colleague of the special counsel is here with us live tonight and he knows how Robert Mueller works a case. But will Mueller`s boss survive the Trump administration. The president tells reporters you figure it out when asked if he has confidence in Rod Rosenstein. "The 11th Hour" on a consequential Friday night begins now.
And at the end of another week, good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. This was day 379 of the Trump administration. Tonight the president has arrived in Florida. Here`s a number for you while we watch that. The president has now spent 123 of his 379 days as president at a Trump branded property.
Tonight we now know what`s in that top secret House intelligence memorandum that`s been used to accuse federal law intelligence of political bias and discredit the Russia investigation. The three and a half page memo was released earlier today despite as you know strong opposition from the FBI and Justice.
House Intel Chairman Devin Nunes, a Trump ally who one worked on the transition helped to write the document, has been pushing for it to be made public. A party line vote in the Committee set to release and motion, and the president who had the power to prevent it signed off on it.
The core of the memo raises questions about the FBI surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, alleging that the warrant was wrongfully obtain by the FBI and the Justice Department. The memo`s author point to the work of former British spy Christopher Steele who compiled the now infamous dossier on Trump.
Republicans say Steele`s dossier was a key part of the information shown to the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act court or FISA court to justify the continued surveillance of Page. But officials did not reveal that it was funded by the DNC and Hillary Clinton`s campaign, though, not initiated originally by them.
Earlier tonight Congressman Nunes talked about this memo and how it came together.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: I have an obligation to the American people when we see FISA abuse, the American citizens that are represented before this court have to be protected. And the only place that can protect them is the U.S. Congress when abuses do occur. I don`t believe that somebody like Mr. Page should be a target of the FBI, especially using salacious information paid for by a political campaign like this dossier was about Mr. Page.
BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Did you write it?
NUNES: Myself, Trey Gowdy, our two investigators and obviously checked by the lawyers and the rest of our committee members.
BAIER: Did you read the actual FISA applications?
NUNES: No, I didn`t.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: More on all of that in just a bit. Democrats on this House Intel Committee are outraged at the memo`s release. They have accused Republicans of, "Cherry picking information of the material by the FISA judges."
Tonight the top Democrat on the intel committee appeared on this network.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: When they raised this memo, which they raised with no notice to us, we said let`s bring in the FBI, let`s bring in the Department of Justice, let`s hear what they have to say. Let`s look at the full FISA applications. Let`s go through them. Let`s see what`s being left out of this memo. We took a vote on it and they voted no, we don`t want to know. We just want to publish or memo.
And so clearly this is not about oversight. This is about a narrative that they wanted to tell, that they wanted to get out in the public domain. And this is the latest chapter in an effort to distract attention from the Russia probe and try to put the government on trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The memo also notes those FISA warrants were signed off by a number of former officials who have either had run ends with the Trump White House or a part of the administration. Former FBI director James Comey, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, her successor Dan Boente, former FBI director -- Deputy Director Andrew McCabe, and current Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Rosenstein is Robert Mueller`s direct supervisor on the Russia investigation. That puts him right in the president`s cross hairs. Asked about the House intel memo today, note how the president spoke. Not about facts but in vague, dark almost threatening terms and offering no support for Rosenstein.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it`s terrible. You want to know the truth, I think it`s a disgrace. What`s going on in this country I think it`s a disgrace. The memo was sent to Congress, it was declassified. Congress will do whatever they`re going to do, but I think it`s a disgrace what`s happening in our country. And when you look at that and you see that and so many other things what`s going on, a lot of people should be ashamed of themselves and much worse than that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you still have confidence in him after reading the memo?
TRUMP: You figure that one out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Something else we noticed today, the memo also answers a key question about what setoff the Russia investigation in the first place. It confirms what the "The New York Times" reported late last year, that this investigation was triggered by an Australian diplomat who met Trump campaign advisor George Papadopoulos in a wine bar in London and became alarmed when Papadopoulos after a night of heavy drinking said the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton. And that triggered this investigation.
That dirt turned out to be the hack of the DNC e-mails. Papadopoulos has pleaded guilty. He`s now cooperating with the Mueller investigation. His wife said recently her husband, George could wind up as the John Dean of this investigation.
And on that note, let`s bring in our lead off panel for another busy Friday night. Ken Dilanian is with us, NBC news national intelligence and national security reporter, and we welcome to the broadcast Anne Milgram, former attorney general of the great state of New Jersey. She is these days a professor and distinguished scholar at the NYU School of Law. Also with us covering the president down in Florida Peter Baker, chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC political analyst.
Ken, you get the long wind up question. You get to be the first thoughtful person we have here tonight. What did we learn today? That`s another way of asking what was proven, what was disproven and what still dangles out there?
KEN DILANIAN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE AND NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, I`m struck by some of the most significant things we learn, do not actually prove the Republican piece that this memo shows corruption at the heart of the Mueller investigation. And first of all it`s the thing you just mentioned, which is that the memo is very clear the investigation began as a result of the information about George Papadopoulos, which came from a Australian diplomat. Nothing to do with Carter Page.
We also learned and this was known previously or at least confirmed that the surveillance of Carter Page began many months later in October of 2016. So, what does that tell us? That the investigation that became the Mueller investigation was already well under way. So whatever mistakes were made, and this is hotly disputed in the application for surveillance of Carter Page, could not, you know, sort of corruptly effect the Mueller investigation. It really kind of foils this fruit of the poisonous true argument which Republicans are making, and you heard it late tonight on Fox News, Robert Mueller should be fired because of this corruption. It`s not clear how that would follow at all.
WILLIAMS: This guy, Carter Page, who can come across as kind of guileless in television interviews, which he continues to do. We learned today -- they`ve been looking at him for years, like something like five years. Did we learn today he was a suspected Russian spy or operative?
DILANIAN: We knew that. Actually he pops up --
WILLIAMS: In that way we knew that?
DILANIAN: Well, this adds for the confirmation. It`s pretty clear. I mean he popped up in an old espionage case as a target of Russian surveillance. The Russians tried to recruit him. He admits this. Not successfully. Apparently, he says, you know, he was not a Russian spy, but that put him on the FBI radar back in 2013. And so -- then he showed up taking a trip to Moscow, which was publicly reported. And there have been news stories that said at that time the FBI began to scrutinize him and ask some hard questions about him.
Now, you`re right, this shows us more information that clearly they had reason to believe he was a suspected Russian agent. And they were able to get four different federal judges to sign-off on extending -- first applying for and then extending the surveillance of him.
WILLIAMS: We have learned to have a lawyer present for all of our discussions now. Counselor, you are it. What stood out to you today?
ANNE MILGRAM, FORMER NEW JERSEY ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well there are number of things that set out. I mean, first of all, as a lawyer I`, always looking for facts and --
WILLIAMS: That`s a funny habit you got.
MILGRAM: It`s amazing, and this memo had virtually none. And so I think that Ken has just mentioned what I think was also the biggest fact, which was a true sort of statement of how this investigation started, that it did begin with Papadopoulos and this conversation about the Russians having a e-mails.
In terms of memo itself, what is also stunning to me is that it is completely conclusory. It purported before we saw it to be a memo that was going to show that there was taint at the beginning that then meant that the FISA was tainted, and it does nothing of that sort.
And so I actually agree, and I don`t know if Ken was going in this direction, but there are a number of things in there beyond what Ken mentioned that I think really support the Mueller investigation and actually really do not support this claim that they`re making.
WILLIAMS: Peter, thank you for joining us first of all after a long day for you. And second you hear the tone and tenor of this conversation as we get to you, kind of the advance billing versus that thing that we read today and what we`re kicking around tonight.
And I`ve noticed on cable television representatives for the administration when they`ve appeared, statements that have come out are kind of saying there are no plans, there`s been no discussion to make any personnel moves at the Department of Justice. We`ve seen it. It wouldn`t be unusual if these were aides to the president trying to publicly will him out of a decision, trying to publicly move him, in this case, into preserving Rod Rosenstein as justice.
PETER BAKER, MSNBC Political Analyst: Yes, that`s exactly right. One of the things people are going to be watching the president here in Florida this weekend to see whether or not there is some sort of move to in fact take action against Rod Rosenstein. And I think you`re right. Most of his staff, a lot of his advisers think that would be a bad idea that would invite more controversy, invite more allegations that he was trying to obstruct the investigation.
And it`s not clear it would actually solve the problem he`s trying to solve. Rod Rosenstein has the power to fire Bob Mueller, for instance, but under Justice Department regulations it`s only if there`s a finding of misconduct. So far there is no actual substantial allegation of misconduct against Robert Mueller, even if in fact this FISA warrant were corrupted or attained in a less than perfect way.
So, you know, even if you put someone else in there as deputy attorney general you would then have to make the case that Robert Mueller had done something wrong and so for I don`t think a lot of people think that he has.
In fact, you heard Republican lawmakers today, at least some of them say leave Bob Mueller alone. This may prove some of the misconduct on the part of some of the people at the FBI and the justice department when Obama was in office and maybe even after Trump took office, but it doesn`t indicate anything about what Robert Mueller, the special counsel has done.
So, we`ll see where this leads. The president is here for the weekend. He`s got a few aides with him. He`ll see friends at Mar-a-Lago. He`ll have a chance to relax and down -- you know, decompress. But sometimes that`s the moment where he most gets upset about things and makes decisions that end upcoming back to be more controversial than they might have been had they been chewed over in the meeting (INAUDIBLE) in the White House.
WILLIAMS: Ken Dilanian, Dan McGahn, the White House counsel who has a interesting job these day and at the crux of so much of this, in his note kind of said -- reminded everybody this is product of the House of Representatives, where it`s heading back right now.
DILANIAN: Right, where some people interpret it as saying this is press release, it has no legal weight. And the point of that though is that if Devin Nunes and these Republicans really believe there`s corruption, misconduct at the heart of the FISA process, shouldn`t they go to the held of the FISA court, these independent judges who are appointed for life, and raise these allegations and let`s have it out. Let`s see what this word in testimony says because of course, the Democrats are saying tonight that the key allegations in this memo are false. They are saying that, for example, Andrew McCabe, the Deputy FBI Director, did not say as stated in the memo that there would not have been a FISA application absent the dossier. So we need to get to the bottom of that.
WILLIAMS: And counselor, you made the point that this did not show at all that this was a dirty at birth investigation. Let me take the other side. Is there anything in here actually exculpatory that is thoroughly embarrassing to Mr. Nunes the way the advance publicity was rolled out?
MILGRAM: Well, think there are two things to think about. The first is that there is a stunning amount that`s missing.
MILGRAM: And, you know, one of the key words there is that the Steele dossier is an essential part of the FISA documentation. They are missing all of the conversations we just had about the 2013. There`s a wiretap, where the Russians are talking about recruiting Carter Page. He has countless business trips after that. We know he`s essentially continues to work with and have conversations with the Russians.
And so that would be a key part of and we`ve also have -- it`s been publicly reported there was a prior FISA on him, so he`s already been -- he`s already been wiretapped. Additionally, the fact in the memo that they talk about that there are four -- three or four reauthorizations, no reauthorization can happen without new evidence that supports the claim that Carter Page is -- that the Russians are trying to flip Carter Page and that he`s potentially going to turn against the United States.
WILLIAMS: You have to stand in front of a judge every 90 days and say we`re learning stuff.
MILGRAM: And show something new --
MILGRAM: -- that again reproves the point. And that`s the first bucket which I think, you know, overall should not be lost, that there`s nothing I`ve seen that makes be believe that the FISA warrant was not completely justified. Could there be some problems and some issues at the margins, of course. I would never say without seeing information evidence that there isn`t.
The second thing is that the whole contention that Nunes is making here, the really only I think core piece of this is this allegation that it wasn`t disclosed, that essentially Fusion GPS and the Democratic Party. But two things. One is it`s been challenge by other members of the committee today. But tow, there`s really important piece of the memo where that actual paragraph says that there was information provided that an unnamed person -- Steele was working for somebody else.
As a matter of law the key question is that they are telling the judge that Steele was being paid. So he is not -- you know, he doesn`t come in as a good Samaritan who`s walked off the street to say, hey, I have information. He`s a financial interest and he`s being paid by someone. It would be really interesting for us all to know who that named person is. It`s very likely someone some might actually be recognizable or associated with either the Democratic or Republican parties who paid for the dossier. But regardless that`s a really, really I think critical piece that is lost in this conversation.
Again, I don`t suspect that the dossier was really the core piece of the FISA. But even if that`s their argument, we`ve already got evidence that the judge was fully informed that there was a payment that was made to Mr. Steele.
The only other thing I`ll say on this which I think is also important is that Steele himself never had primary information. So he always had sources. So if you think about the dossier or the conversations he would have the with the FBI, it was never him saying I spoke to Carter Page or I spoke to a Russian. He`s saying I spoke to somebody else who spoke to someone.
And to get into a FISA, everything that goes in there has to be independently verified. So there has to be independent evidence of it. So if you and I were sitting in as FBI agent, we would go -- if, you know, Steele says I spoke to "X," we would go speak to X or to Y, or to somebody else.
So, Steele is really -- he`s been made out to be this huge piece of it and I am deeply skeptical that that is the truth.
WILLIAMS: All right, Peter Baker, the nation turns its lonely eyes to our print journalist and in "The New York Times" tradition give me the R.W. Johnny Apple, Jr. lead piece, A1 Saturday morning, the thought piece kind of what we have learned? I`m reminded the "State of the Union" was Tuesday night of this week. What have we learned here come Friday night?
BAKER: Well, I`m just struck by, of course, the situation where we have a president of the United States basically at war with an FBI that`s run by his own appointee and a justice department that, again, is run by his own appointee. That`s rather extraordinary. Even during Watergate I don`t think we had Nixon in public battle the way we have seen with this president and it raise a lot of questions if you talk to law enforcement people around the country they`re worried about this. They`re worried about the credibility of the FBI as a result of this. Is the FBI going to look bad? Are there reasons that it would look bad?
But it`s a rather extraordinary moment, and it`s a risky thing for a president, too. Normally presidents don`t, you know, tick off the people who have subpoena power and are able to, you know, find out secrets. That`s kind of a dangerous thing as a politician to do. Something most presidents haven`t. So we`re at an extraordinary moment where this president is at war with the law enforcement apparatus of this country.
WILLIAMS: Ken Dilanian, Anne Milgram, Peter Baker, much obliged. Thank you, all three of you for starting our broadcast off as we said a consequential Friday night.
Still ahead for us, a former colleague of Robert Mueller standing by to talk. Plus, we`ll look at life inside the FBI after this tumultuous weekend, this ongoing Russia investigation.
Speaking of which, is the president really considering moving Mueller`s boss out of the job? The reporter who got him on the record will join us as "The 11th Hour" continues on a Friday night.
WILLIAMS: We`ve been talking about it for days, the reports that FBI Director Christopher Wray, might resign in protest in response to the Trump administration ignoring the Bureau`s request to keep that House Republican memo private. Wray instead took a different approach today by sending a video message to his staff saying, "Let me be clear. I stand fully committed to our mission. I standby our shared determination to do our work independently and by the book. I stand with you." He goes onto say, "Talk is cheap. The work you do is what will endure. We`re going to keep doing that work because we know who and we know what we are and because we know that our mission comes first, the American people come first."
After that memo`s release former Fbi Director James Comey hopped into Twitter to say this, "That`s it? Dishonest and misleading memo wrecked the House Intel Committee, destroyed trust with the intelligence community, damaged relationship with FISA court and inexcusably exposed classified investigation of an American citizen."
Having said all that, with us to discuss the implications of today`s memo release on the FBI, Robert Anderson, who spent over 20 years at the bureau and saved at assistant director of counterintelligence under then FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Mister Anderson, I heard someone very smart say on television that among the things we gave away today, unforced errors, we now told the Russians when we were conducting electronic surveillance in case they want to go back over anything they said, in case they want to go back over their steps. What`s your reaction to what happened today, and what was lost today?
ROBERT ANDERSON, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Well, I think, first of all, Brian, I think you`re right. I mean some of things that are being talked about on the media and news all because of the memo that came out, which really subverted the whole process set up to handle these type of situations in a classified and secure environment, it does give our adversaries insight into exactly how we look at, review, and in some cases extend coverages into our national security world. So I think that`s something that needs to be looked at and addressed.
WILLIAMS: Oddly, what it shows the world is how rigorous a process it is to get a FISA warrant and there are so many reason for those steps and why so many people have to sign off on it but you`re saying it`s way too high a price to just give away this kind of information.
ANDERSON: That`s absolutely right. And I`ll tell you it`s a good point you make. I mean if you`ve been inside the national security arena, especially in the FBI or other United States intelligence community organizations, the FISA process on a U.S. person is extremely rigorous. There are so many checks and balances built in from the field office level through the General Counsel, the National Security Law Review Branch and the FBI headquarters, and it comes up through the highest levels of the organization.
And I can tell you having been the assistant director of counterintelligence and signed off on hundreds and hundreds of FISAs, they never make it up the first time. They don`t make it up the second time. There`s numerous reviews before they even go across the street to be signed off by the deputy attorney general and then the attorney general.
And when you`re in front of the FISA judge, this is no rubber stamp. I`ve testified in FISA court many times. Some of these testimonies take hours and there`s a rigorous review. So I think people need to understand that. It`s not the rubber stamp that you hear some people say.
WILLIAMS: Thank you for that. The last time we had how on the broadcast I was reminded because you had just written an article about "How Robert Mueller Works a Case", for Time magazine. Let me take you back to your own headline and tell me at this moment in time, how do you think he is working this case? What do you think is going on?
ANDERSON: I think he`s going to keep doing exactly what he`s doing. This memo is not going to slow him down one bit. I will tell you, if anything, what I read today further substantiates the investigation that Bob Mueller is conducting is righteous and forthright investigation which actually substantiates a lot of the allegations that are written in the FISA package. So I think the memo does nothing but strength that case, and I think Bob Mueller is going to drive straight ahead.
WILLIAMS: What if the man above him is in peril? What if Mueller feels his budget or investigation is in peril? What do you think he do?
ANDERSON: Well, I mean, I think, first of all, I think he got to look at the team and you got to consider the team, he`s deputy attorney general. Because he`s a strong man, been in the department for 27 years and highly regarded. You know, I don`t think he`s in as much jeopardy as everyone says. I think it would be crucial mistake if they try to remove him. I think that the team its in place right now will go about this strictly under the rule of law. And it won`t matter what side of the House that you`re on and I think those evidentiary proceedings will commence.
WILLIAMS: Robert Anderson, can`t thank you enough for coming on. You`re always had to our conversation and our knowledge, appreciate it very much. Thank you.
ANDERSON: Thanks, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Coming up for us on a Friday night, the reporter who got Trump to answer that question about Rod Rosenstein today, she`s here with us to talk about where this Rod Rosenstein situation may be tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And I think it`s terrible. You want to know the truth? I think it`s a disgrace. What`s going on in this country, I think it`s a disgrace.
JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Does it make you more likely to fire Rosenstein? Do you still have confidence in him after reading the memo?
TRUMP: You figure that one out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The man Robert Mueller reports to at Justice is Rod Rosenstein, is someone to watch this weekend and pretty much everyday because of this widely held belief that the release of this memo was aimed at him, an attempt to give Donald Trump the grounds to fire him. Here was the top Democrat on House Intel Adam Schiff.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADAM SCHIFF (D), HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE: I think there`s a grave concern that the President who is looking for any pretext to get rid of anyone who doesn`t swear fealty to him might use this memo to argue against Rod Rosenstein or anyone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: As we continue to cover this developing story, we have two reporters on the story tonight. Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press whose voice you just heard asking the President about Rosenstein today in the Oval Office. So it was Jill, she was kind of sneering at and Matthew Nussbaum, White House Reporter for Politico.
If looks could kill, Jill, I was surprised to see that in the elapsed time since your question and his very dark answer, though, we`ve seen a little bit of a shift if White House aides are to be believed their public utterances, it`s as if they realized the memo didn`t have the desired effect and they`re now pumping some air back into the into political life of Mr. Rosenstein. Do you sense that same thing?
COLVIN: Yes. I mean, look, a White House aide said after that episode, was that the President has no intention of firing him that right now he remains in his job. But look, I think anyone listening to the tune of the President`s voice there, looking at his face as he said those words can clearly understand that the President has serious concerns about Rosenstein and is deeply suspicious of him. Felt like the release of this memo would be something that would help to make the case that this whole Russia investigation is just a hoax, that the FBI and the Justice Department are against him and that Rosenstein is part of that group of people, that leadership that can`t be trusted.
WILLIAMS: Matt, have you run out of words to describe the depths of the President`s desire to derail Mueller?
MATTHEW NUSSBAUM, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: It is getting harder. I mean, I think what we saw today was that, it goes beyond just Donald Trump in this effort to try to distract from and ultimately like you say derail the Mueller investigation. Republicans in Congress, especially Mr. Nunes and some of his allies in the Intelligence Committee and other Republicans in the House are trying to do whatever they can to play defense for Donald Trump.
I mean the idea that this memo was about shining light on the FISA process, I mean that`s farcical. And Donald Trump made as much clear this morning when he tweeted out, oh, this shows, you know, what awful things are going on at the Department of Justice and the FBI. And like he said in that pool spread today when he said people should be ashamed of themselves. I mean, this is about discrediting Bob Mueller.
Devin Nunes, Donald Trump fellows like Matt Gate, the Representative from Florida, their goal is to discredit Bob Mueller. And that`s what this memo trying to do. And look, they`re not going to stop there. This effort is going to continue. Whether Rod Rosenstein keeps his job throughout, we`ll just have to wait and see.
WILLIAMS: Jill, in normal times you`d be landing at Andrews tonight coming off a road show that follow the State of the Union to two or three states, maybe even four, that did not happen. We`ve got another shutdown looming less than a week away. What do you expect the business end of this West Wing will produce next week?
COLVIN: I`m sorry, what, the "State of the Union" -- wait, I`m sorry, I can`t remember that, that happened. That was only this week. Yes, the President has spent the days since delivering that speech was arguably -- I mean, it was very well received by a lot of people. Instead he spent it mostly talking to Republicans. And he spent yesterday talking to both the RNC, and a donor event last night, they`re talking at the Republican retreat yesterday. And today he spent a big chunk of his day speaking to immigration officials trying to make the case that Democrats are really slow rolling, trying to prevent the protection of these DREAMer immigrants, trying to blame it on him.
So there really hasn`t been any of the typical kind of momentum that you`d expect the White House to be trying put behind an agenda for this year. We`re getting really close to the mid-term elections, I know that we mentioned this all the time but they`re coming out very quickly. And the Republicans need to have an agenda to sell this year that goes beyond just hey, we passed tax cuts. It`s been really great for businesses and for workers. And we haven`t very heard very much of that.
WILLIAMS: Matt, the ratings for our friends over at Fox News have been just through the roof because of -- first, the text messaging story then the memo. Can you express the assist the administration is getting from the long and formidable arm of Fox News?
NUSSBAUM: Well, it`s enormous. You remember former President Obama said not that long ago that folks who watch Fox are in a different universe than those who listen to NPR. I think he could have gone a little further than that.
Over on Fox News, all it is, is, you know, there`s a plot going on within the FBI, within the Department of Justice to take down this President. And they`ve got on folks like Representative Gates, folks like Nunes who are fighting to advance this agenda whether the facts are there or not, and they`re not. But look, it doesn`t really matter that much, yes, it gives Donald Trump some ammunition for his tweets. It gets some of these people riled up. But I don`t think Sean Hannity going on the air and telling Bob Mueller to end his investigation as Mr. Hannity has dawn is really going to have any effect.
I think what Mueller has shown is that he can work through the noise, whether it`s coming from Fox News pundits or whether it`s coming from Members of Congress or from the President himself. His investigation continues, and I think he realizes and we all should recognize that these attempted distractions aren`t going anywhere anytime soon. You know, it was Uranium one, it was unmasking, that was the memo. Who knows how long until Nunes has another memo. If they`re going to keep throwing out these distractions, Bob Mueller is going to keep doing his investigative work.
WILLIAMS: Jill Colvin, Matthew Nussbaum, thank you so much for joining us on a Friday night after the week we have all witness.
Coming up for us is the Republican senator who spoke out today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONNY DEUTSCH, FORMER CEO, DEUTSCH INC.: I want to know what the people of this country are going to do if Rod Rosenstein is fired. We can`t take this sitting down. Trump is winning. He`s winning, kids. This crazy whacky guy is winning. And a year into this he is already not chipped, has cut away at the things that protect us. Half of this country thinks the media totally lies. At this point 44 percent of this country doesn`t trust the FBI. Guess what? A year from now if this hasn`t changed, maybe this table is in trouble if we keep talking like this. I`m not being dramatic. This is what`s happening, kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Things got serious and heated and emotional on Nicolle Wallace broadcast here this afternoon as frequent contributor Donny Deutsch ran through the damage assessment to all of us as he sees it so far.
Others spoke up today as well including John McCain, who is home in Arizona receiving treatment for cancer. He wrote today, "The latest attacks on the FBI and the Justice Department serve no American interest. No parties, no Presidents, only Putin`s. The American people deserve to know all of the facts surrounding the Russia`s ongoing efforts to subvert our democracy, which is why special counsel Mueller`s investigation must proceed unimpeded. Our nation`s elected officials, including the President must stop looking at this investigation through warped lens of politics and manufacturing partisan sideshows. If we continue to undermine our own rule of law, we are doing Putin`s job for him."
With us tonight, long time Republican Strategist Mike Murphy, worked with John McCain and initial a number of GOP candidates including but not limited Mr. Romney and Jeb Bush.
Mike, thank you for coming on, what does it say to you that the most sad and telling comments from the Republican side came from a guy who`s not been in the game of late because he`s, you know, in a battle of his life.
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Right. Well, look, John McCain, my old friend is what he`s always been, which is the bravest, the most honest guy in the Republican Party. And I applaud what he is saying. I hear similar things from other senators in Congress on the Republican side, but I hear them privately. I think more people have to speak up about this. Politics is not about declaring war on our institutions for your own personal gain, but apparently this President has no problem doing that.
WILLIAMS: Are you surprised by Paul Ryan -- you know, are you surprise, this is the most we`re getting from Paul Ryan? I keep hearing moderates express disappointment and people say things, like -- my goodness, the guy`s third in line to the presidency got a custodial function over the nation at some point?
MURPHY: Well, I`m a conservative and I`ve always been a Paul Ryan fan. He is my kind of conservative, but I`m disappointed. I`m disappointed in a lot of our leadership. I`m disappointed in a lot of our friends. There`s a point where the political game has to stop, and it`s not career before country. And I understand. Look, I`m in practical politics. These guys are afraid of their primaries. There`s kind of a herd instinct in both parties, which have become tribes. But there`s a point where it gets ridiculous, and, you know, declaring war on our intelligence community whoa re selfless civil servants, throughout there depending us everyone, heroes is the corruption. And we have to find people in the party who are willing to say that.
WILLIAMS: How great is the fear of a reckoning of a backlash and how great do you fear that`ll be carried out next November?
MURPHY: Look, I`m very afraid. I think, if you look at the President`s numbers, worst of any first term president, you look at the turn dynamics and the special election there`s a rising protest army against the Republican Party, and the way, you know, we`ve got ten months. We will see. Maybe there`s some policy agenda things like the tax cuts that will sink in and help but right now storm cloud on horizon, we`re bringing a lot on ourselves.
WILLIAMS: Mike Murphy, do you promise to come back and talk to us?
MURPHY: Oh, yes, absolutely. I`ll be happy to. And I will make one prediction. This memo will be over in 24 hour and we`ll be on to shutdown politics.
WILLIAMS: All right.
MURPHY: I think, everyone knows, it was kind of a dud. Even the people in the Republican Party have thought they are going to start some big trial balloon here. Nothing changed. It`s almost an embarrassment.
WILLIAMS: I think I might take that back. Mike Murphy, thank you. Always a pleasure to have you on the broadcast.
WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, Presidential biographer, David Maraniss, writing a book about the McCarthy era. And yes, he has an interesting answer to the question about whether or not he sees any parallels to today. There`s tail Gunner Joe right now. We`ll ask him about it when "The 11th Hour" continues.
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JOSEPH MCCARTHY (R), FORMER SENATOR, WISCONSIN: I present, general, you should be reviewed from any command. Any man who has been given the honor of being promoted to general and who says I will protect and honor, general, who protects communists is not fit to wear that uniform, general.
I think it`s a tremendous disgrace for the army, you have to bring these facts before the public, but I intend to give it to the public, general, I have a duty to do that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: In the end it turned out he had no decency. Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy rose to prominence in the `50s alleging rampant communist infiltration throughout American institutions, including the State Department and CIA. His accusations that the U.S. army had been infiltrated by communists brought him great attention before leading to his downfall and his eventual censure by the Senate.
Fast-forward to this week, the memo controversy. Former FBI Director James Comey, invoked McCarthy just yesterday when he said this on Twitter, "All should appreciate the FBI speaking up. I wish all of our leaders would, but take heart. American history shows that in the long run weasels and liars never hold the field so long as good people stand up. Not a lot of schools or streets named for Joe McCarthy.
Well, we welcome back to our broadcast, David Maraniss, Presidential Biographer, Pulitzer Prize winning author and journalist for the Washington Post. Among his works in his spare time "Barack Obama." The story and the Bill Clinton biography first and his class, he is currently working on a new book about the McCarthy era.
Great to see you again.
DAVID MARANISS, THE WASHINGTON POST, ASSOCIATE EDITOR: Thank you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: I`m a lay-person in this but I know one through line is the lawyer from New York named Roy Cohn, he was an acolyte of McCarthy. He was one of the New York mentors of our current President.
WILLIAMS: But my question to you is, what are the similarities are you uncovering?
MARANISS: You know, someone said that history doesn`t repeat itself but it rhymes. And I have seen so many of these rhymes in this story. You start with just today, the release of the memo evokes February 1950 when McCarthy is Wheeling, West Virginia saying I have here in my hand. You know, (INAUDIBLE) just like today was.
You have where is my Roy Cohn uttered by Donald Trump. Roy Cohn was a mentor of Donald Trump`s. He was Joseph McCarthy`s consigliere hatchet man. You might say that Trump has found his Roy Cohn in the few days, with not only Devin Nunes but a fellow Wisconsin like McCarthy and Paul Ryan who is defending him and helping him do this.
You have the Republican Part which supported McCarthy through -- about three years. Because he was doing their work for them, it`s battered ram going against the new deal and making Democrats seem soft on communism. Just as the Republicans today seem to be using Trump for those same purposes.
And then finally as you point out with the army, McCarthy went too far when he attacked one of the most revered institutions in American, and maybe Trump is doing that now going after the FBI and the CIA.
WILLIAMS: Tell the good folks what it took to end McCarthy and his era and who it took to end McCarthy.
MARANISS: Well, it was in the spring of 1954 when McCarthy -- they were called the army McCarthy hearings by a Senate subcommittee of investigations. And the subcommittee was looking into the fact that McCarthy and Roy Cohn were trying to get preferential treatment for another McCarthy aide in terms of his military service. McCarthy responded to that by attacking the army and saying that it was full of security risks and communists.
And finally a lawyer from Boston, Welsh, said to McCarthy, "have you no shame, Senator. At long last have you no shame. And by December, the Senate the censured Joseph McCarthy.
WILLIAMS: It also took the moral authority of a five-star general --
MARANISS: Well, truly as well. And so the difference -- the huge difference between today and then is Joseph McCarthy isn`t president --
MARANNIS: -- Donald Trump is President and Dwight D. Eisenhower did finally stand up very strongly, especially after McCarthy went after the army.
WILLIAMS: How are the hopes for your future of our republic these days?
MARANNIS: My hopes in the long term are great. In the short term, it`s really iffy.
WILLIAMS: In investigations, last question, the role investigations played in what you`re looking at now and we`re seeing what, three, four under way now?
MARANNIS: Well, there were -- you had the House Un-American Activities Committee, you had the Senate committees. Here`s the great irony of this. Russia is in both stories, right? But from completely different ends. It`s like a distorted house of mirrors.
And in that era -- Many of the same people who in that era were going after people who were said to be soft on communism, more communists are the same people today who are defending Russia and attacking the institutions. So you have these distorted investigations going on in both eras.
WILLIAMS: All I ask is that you hurry up with it so we can read it. It`s great to see you.
MARANNIS: OK, Brian. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: David Marannis, always welcome on this broadcast.
We`ll take another break. When we come back, a word about what we`re going to be watching, at least a lot of us, on Sunday.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go on this Friday night is about what millions of us will watch on Sunday. Like a lot of you, we`re going to get in our car, go over to our friend`s house and watch the Super Bowl.
The Super Bowl is a lot of things and while there is an indoor football game at the heart of it, that`s after hours of pre-game programming. It`s a marketing bonanza. It`s what passes for a national gathering place in terms of electronic media and popular culture now. And it`s a huge celebration of America, let`s not forget.
We`re going to see flags and members of the military and commercials intended to make us cry, even though they`re selling pickup trucks and beer, but we gather to electronically celebrate America like this once a year. And as we do this year, remember this. The folks at the economist, annual democracy index have a warning for us that we`re in a bad place and it`s getting worse.
The Washington Post puts it this way, "In 89 countries, democratic norms look worse than they did last year. Just 4.5 percent of the world`s residents live in fully functioning democracies, that`s down from 8.9 percent in just 2015. That precipitous drop is thanks, primarily, to the United States. In 2016 the economist demoted the country from the full to flawed democracy, citing a serious decline in public trust in U.S. institutions. In 2017 the United States didn`t fare any better as the report`s authors explain, President Trump was able to tap into the disempowerment felt by voters who were frustrated with U.S. political and economic stagnation. The reports` authors caution that this polarization foreshadows further democratic deterioration."
So, enjoy the game, keep your citizenship skills sharpened, especially if you sense that the America portrayed on Sunday on TV doesn`t match the country you are seeing these days. That is our broadcast for this Friday night and for our week. Thank you so much for being here with us. Have a good weekend and good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
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