Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: February 5, 2018 Guest: Michael Schmidt, Frank Figliuzzi, Jill Wine-Banks, Michael Crowley, Jackie Speier
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: The breaking news we`re covering tonight comes from the New York Times. What Donald Trump`s legal team thinks about him sitting down for an interview with Mueller? The Times` reporter on the story joins us live.
Also as Trump spoke about the economy today and declared America open for business, the cable networks cut away to cover the largest single point drop in the history of the market.
And the president says the Democrats who sat silently and didn`t applaud his speech are un-American and suggests they might be guilty of treason. All of it as "The 11th Hour" gets underway on a Monday night.
Good evening once again as we start a new week from NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 382 of the Trump administration, a day when the stock market took a massive and history making dive. At one point today falling nearly 1,600 points before settling down more than 1100.
It happened while the president was speaking about the economy. It caused, as we said, the cable news networks to switch away to cover the plunging market. This was also the day when the president accused his political opponents of treason and called them un-American for not applauding during his state of the union address last week. We`ll get to all of that in just a moment.
We begin, however, with the breaking news tonight from the New York Times. Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman once again sharing a byline to report that, "Trump`s lawyers want him to refuse an interview in Russia inquiry."
Michael Schmidt will just here in just a moment. He and his colleague write that according to four people briefed on this matter, "Lawyers are concerned that the president who has a history of making false statements and contradicting himself could be charged with lying to investigators". The lawyers and aides believe the special counsel might be unwilling to subpoena the president setup a showdown with the White House that Mr. Mueller could lose in court.
One of the voices arguing with Mr. Mueller is Ty Cobb, White House lawyer, whom Mr. Trump also brought onto deal with Mr. Mueller`s investigation. Mr. Trump`s pension for bravado has been a factor that his lawyers must contend with. The president has bragged to some aides that he would be able to clear himself if he talk to Mr. Mueller`s team in one deposition related to a libel case that Mr. Trump brought against the journalist Tim O`Brien.
Mr. Trump admitted more than two dozen times under oath that he had lied in the past about a range of subjects. Mr. Trump ultimately lost the case.
There is also news tonight in the latest chapter over the House Intelligence Committee memos pertaining to this Russia case, and the potential for a new showdown with the White House. The Intel Committee voted unanimously to release the Democratic rebuttal now to the Republican memo which accused federal investigators of improperly obtaining surveillance warrants for former Trump campaign advisor Carter Page.
The Republican document if you were watching last week, then you know was released late last week by the committee chairman and Trump ally Congressman Devin Nunes, Republican of California. Democrats on the committee contend its real purpose is to discredit the Mueller inquiry. Here`s the committee`s top Democrat earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: As this investigation has progressed our own, and perhaps more significantly the investigation by Bob Mueller, as more and more individuals have either going to indicted or pled guilty in connection with this investigation and the evidence has mounted, both in terms of the issue of collusion as well as the issue of obstruction. There is a rising sense of panic clearly within the White House and as well on the Hill. There is an effort to put the government on trial.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Now, the Democratic rebuttal is that the White House, and the president has five days to decide whether to block it or release it. Administration officials tell NBC News the White House will treat it exactly like the GOP memo and put it through the very same vetting process.
Last week, the president made it clear he was willing to release the memo, reportedly even before he read it. This afternoon, a speech extensively on the economy, he indicated he was still very much interested in that document and sees it as clear evidence of wrong doing in this Russia investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But did we catch them in the act or what? You know what I`m -- oh, did we catch them in the act? They are very embarrassed. They never thought they would get caught. We caught them. Hey, we caught them. It`s so much fun. We`re like the great sleuth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Let`s bring in our lead off panel, shall we, for a Monday evening. One of the authors of that New York Times report, Michael Schmidt, Times Washington Correspondent, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counter Intelligence who is the past worked for Robert Mueller, Jill Wine-Banks back with us as well, Attorney and former Assistant Watergate Special Counsel, and a Michael Crowley returns to our studio, National Security Editor and Senior Respondent for POLITICO.
Michael, you get to go first by dent of your shared by line tonight. Is this a case of believing they have everything to lose, team Trump does, and very little to gain?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think that`s what they believe. They think that they are basically exposing the president to more criminal charges that could come at him if there were problems to happen in that interview. I think they believe Bob Mueller is going to come to his conclusions probably regardless of what the president has to say.
And I also believe they`re concerned about the president in a situation like this. The president is someone who really likes to talk. Often makes false statements, and goes on and on about things that he often doesn`t know what he`s talking about but believes he can talk himself out of. He believe he can convince people of things.
And as his lawyers, I believe, they think that that is a dangerous situation for him to go into. And even if you talk to folks that don`t represent the president, they think that based on who he is and based on who Mueller is, this is just not a good combination.
WILLIAMS: Michael, the dynamic in your story, again, well-sourced that you laid out is so fascinating. It paints a legal team out here and one lone dissenter and that`s Ty Cobb. He of the handlebar mustache and name dripping in baseball history apparently and distant relation, why Ty Cobb as the sole person arguing for no, I think it`s a good idea. I think transparency is good. You should follow your gut and talk to Mueller?
SCHMIDT: Well, this has been Ty Cobb`s position from the beginning. He came in over the summer. At that point, the White House had not been very cooperative with Mueller. The president was attacking Mueller, considering getting rid of Mueller, pushing for Mueller to be removed.
And Cobb came in and basically said, "Look, you guys don`t have anything to hide. Let`s be as cooperative as possible and provide them with the documents as much as what we have, let`s give it to them in hopes of hastening this. And if there`s nothing to hide, the faster we do this, the sooner the cloud will be lifted". That`s been his perspective from the beginning. He believes they can get a speedy resolution to this.
The issue Cobb has run into is that, he has put different ends that he has thought he`s been sort of ground hog here of the Mueller investigation coming out at different points to say that he thinks it`s going to be over, last year saying Thanksgiving and then the end of the year. More recently saying he thinks it would be done maybe by the middle of February.
He`s been wrong in those instances. But at the same time what he`s trying to do is keep the president believing that there is an end in sight and that he can cooperate his way out of it. If the president is never charged in this and nothing ever comes of it and Mueller says he`s done nothing wrong, then Cobb will look like a genius that sped this process along.
If the president has issues that come out of this and it`s based on information that White House has handed over, Cobb will be in a much more difficult position historically.
WILLIAMS: Now to our in-house counsel for terms of this conversation. Jill Wine-Banks, Jill, I want to read to you the statement Ty Cobb response tonight to the New York Times tonight. "The professional and active discussions between the Office of the Special Counsel and the president`s personal lawyers regarding how and under what terms information will be exchanged are understandably private".
So that says nothing, and that was the job of this statement to say nothing. But let me ask you, Jill, if the president says no, I`m good, change my mind, not anxious to come in and sit down, I`m going to avoid it, what`s the path from there?
JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL COUNSEL: clearly the path is a subpoena. And they`re betting that Mueller won`t want to issue a subpoena, and I honestly cannot imagine what is going through their mind as to why they would think that, because if they need the president`s testimony, and if the investigation would benefit from it, then they will subpoena him. And he cannot refuse the subpoena.
And if it`s a subpoena, he would be appearing before a grand jury instead of possibly being interviewed in his office with his lawyers sitting next to him. He would be in a room without his lawyers. And, therefore, in much more jeopardy, if he`s likely to go off the track, but what does it say that we`re talking about that he`s going to lie?
This is ridiculous. I mean, the assumption that everyone is making is he cannot possibly answer questions before a grand jury or before the prosecutors, and not get himself in trouble for perjury. That is a scary fact to me, that he cannot be trusted to tell the truth.
And you`re right we`ve seen a lot of examples of that. But I think he should know that this is not a civil case and this is not lying to the public. This is lying under oath, or lying to a prosecutor which has the same penalties as lying under oath.
WILLIAMS: A really important point. Frank, if you are a member of the Mueller team, and you see this guy for terms of this discussion, this client, in his public utterances, anxious, willing to come in and talk, then you see counsel say, "You know what, we`ll see". What signal does that send?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTER INTELLIGENCE, FBI: So, I think we`re all slowly but surely becoming players in the strategy of Trump`s interview decisions. And here`s why I`m saying that, and here`s what`s probably going on among the Mueller team tonight.
It`s a chess game that`s being played out in the court of public opinion. So the battle ground is being prepared for what potentially could end up in an impeachment proceeding. So public opinion becomes very important and what I think is going to be happening here is, you know, we first heard the president early on say I don`t know. We`ll see, depends on the lawyers.
Then, we saw him come out and say I`m looking forward to it. I want to do it under oath. Assuming the lawyers agree. Now tonight, we`re hearing the lawyers say probably not, maybe not a full interview. I think what`s going to happen here is you`ll see an offer being made for a very limited interview, partly in writing, partly some parameters put around it. You`re going to see Mueller come back and say, "You can`t set the parameters for a criminal interview. We`re not going to do that".
And you`ll have a standoff, and this is a problem for Mueller, because Mueller is going to say, "If I say no, and decline any offer or interview, I look like I`m not allowing the president to tell his side of the story". Much of the public will have a problem with that.
On the other hand, Trump can go around saying, "I offered an interview. It was partial, but I offered an interview. He said no." And again, this prepares the battle ground for a potential impeachment. That`s what I think is going on here. We`ve had attorney client privileged information leak out tonight, shouldn`t be leaking out. I think there`s more to it going on.
WILLIAMS: Talk to Mr. Schmidt about that. Michael Crowley, Frank makes a very good point, a series of them. In a political sense, can the president ever -- this is why Bill Crystal compares this to the O.J. trial, an efforts to get to the jury pool. We`re all the jury pool if you go by Frank`s argument. Can the president politically afford to say no, I`m not going to sit down and talk about this case?
MICHAEL CROWLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR, POLITICO: I think it`s possible he can, Brian. And this is where this story line merges with the story line around this memo and why is the Nunes memo so important to Republicans, so important to the president, so important to the White House, because it is a way of undermining Mueller`s credibility, trying to portray Mueller and everyone associated with the investigation as bias, as out to get Trump, as having something to hide.
And so, you`ll start to see the president invoking the memo in this context. If he`s asked about why he might have reluctance to talk to Mueller on Mueller`s terms, he`ll say, "It`s not fair. You saw we sleuthed it out. We got to the bottom of this. It`s not on the level.
And, Brian, I don`t think that the middle of the country is buying that. Certainly, the left is not buying it. I do think that Trump`s base is absolutely loving that argument, and should this wind up coming to Congress for a potential impeachment, that`s all Trump needs to survive.
WILLIAMS: Michael Schmidt, when the president made that line about sleuthing it out, to Michael Crowley`s point, he`s right. The people in the crowd had no idea what he`s talking about, and I would guess the people in the cable news audience, a number of them have no idea what the president was talking about. What`s your reporting on the real reception or lack of it on the Nunes memo when it finally hit?
SCHMIDT: Well, I think that a lot of folks in Washington were surprised by the lack of there-there that was in the memo, and some folks wondered whether they should have just kept it classified and it would have had perhaps a little more sexiness or a shroud to it that would have enabled the right to continue to run with it, and make an issue about it with a mantra, release the memo.
I don`t know if in the president`s mind is softens the target of Rod Rosenstein enough for him to be dismissed him. My guess is this is probably not enough to win over certainly Senate Republicans who would be very important in assessing or dealing with the removal of Rod Rosenstein. So I`m not sure whether it advances the ball in the way the president believes it is.
But, you know, to try and predict what the president would do, would be a foolish game here. I think many of us never thought that he would get rid of Comey. I think it looks like a situation where it would be very difficult for him to get rid of Rosenstein. But as we`ve seen with this president, he can survive things and move forward at least in near time in ways that no other politicians can.
WILLIAMS: Frank, what`s the short version in your view of the damage done by releasing the GOP memo?
FIGLIUZZI: Oh, boy, it`s been soaking and saturating with the public now. The damage is done so even if the president signs off on a release of the Democrat memo, the damage is almost irreparable to the institution of the FBI, to the effectiveness of the FBI. And it`s a shame that it`s been allowed to just fester for several days now.
And now, in light of today`s disclosures, I`m not even sure the president is going to sign off on that. And what`s going to have to happen now as Chris Ray, the Director of the FBI is going to have to make a decision. Does he come out looking political and start rebutting point for point the republican memo? That worst thing an FBI Director can do and it jams him up. So the damage has been done for that.
WILLIAMS: So, Jill, the GOP memo is the only one we know about so far. Let`s assume the Democratic memo is everything it`s said to be. Does -- either document have any real effect on the Mueller case?
WINE-BANKS: I don`t think so. First of all, the people who believe in the president are not going to change their viewpoint. And the people in the rest of the world are not going to believe what the president has to say. I also want to go back to something Michael Crowley said where I have a slightly different perspective on it.
The Saturday Night Massacre started because Archibald Cox gave a press conference, did something very rare for a prosecutor, and he went public saying the president has made me a compromise offer, and I cannot accept it, and here`s why. I have a right to the tapes. It`s important evidence. And I cannot accept his compromise. And here`s why I need it and here`s why identify right to it.
And I think the same thing could happen here. Where Mueller might have to go public and say I need the president`s testimony. And this is why I need it, and why I have a right to it. And I do believe that if it goes to court, the Supreme Court will ultimately say that the president must submit to a subpoena. So he will win in court. He, Mueller will win and the president will lose, and we`ll look worse for having fought this.
WILLIAMS: Michael Crowley, it`s been proffered finally that in the world of political water carriers, Mr. Nunes may be without peer right now. Has he been damaged in this whole process?
CROWLEY: Well, yes. I mean, I think that the memo particularly when you saw him trying to walk back today, really what was the key assertion in the memo and the key point in the memo was that the FBI did not disclose in its application for FISA Warrant to surveil Carter Page. But the FBI did not disclose that there may have been a political backing behind the Christopher Steele dossier which the FISA warrant cited.
And this was the great outrage that the FBI was sitting on this incredibly important piece of information. That one of our key pieces of evidence may have been derived from a Democratic money. And Nunes came out today and admitted actually it was in a footnote. And, you know, I saw somebody point out basically his complaining was the type was too small.
So the information was in the warrant, but what Republicans like Nunes and some others were reduced arguing today was you didn`t put it in big enough letters. It wasn`t clear enough. It really I think undermines the key point in the memo and did a lot of damage to Nunes` credibility. And by the way, Nunes did have a lot of credibility to begin with. This is not a guy who came to the table with the Sterling record of expertise in these issues, who had really won the respect of his colleagues as many others in the intelligence committees have.
WILLIAMS: He also said today that Papadopoulos had never met Trump. And, of course, we have pictures of the two of them at a meeting, sitting at the same table and that wasn`t good look.
Our thanks tonight to Michael Schmidt, to Frank Figliuzzi, to Jill Wine- Banks, to Michael Crowley, thank you for starting off this week with a terrific discussion off the top of our broadcast.
As we approach our first break, still ahead for us. We have a Democratic member of the House Intel Committee standing by with her reaction to the tonight`s news. And later, the president suggests Democrats who didn`t clap for him last week might be guilty of treason. Not the kind of thing you hear every day. We`re just getting started on a Monday night.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back and back to this Democratic rebuttal memo.
It is headed for the White House for review, a lot of people wondering if President Trump will actually turn it around, approve its release, and if so, how much of it might be redacted, prevented from public view?
Earlier today, White House spokesman said it will go through the same rigorous review, vetting process as the Republican memo did before it was released. Here for more on this, we are so happy to be joined live this evening by Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Democrat of California and, importantly, a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Congressman, I`d like to start right off. I heard a Republican member tonight on another network say this Democratic memo has been intentionally loaded up with facts, with facts that pertain to sources and methods in the intelligence business. And the inference was that it was going to make it very difficult for the White House to release it without redacting. It would make for a bad look for the President Trump White House. Your response?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, my response is I think they were telegraphing that to us in committee this evening as well. You will see once the transcript has made public that the chairman, Mr. Nunes actually spoke to that point. I would be surprised if the president did not take a hatchet to this memo. This memo reads like a post graduate dissertation to the Republican memo which is like a fourth grade book report.
The document that the Democrats have put together through their staff is filled with details and with annotations and footnotes. So it gives a much richer context for the memo that was provided by the Republicans. And I do think that we`re going to be very disappointed because I think the president -- I mean, frankly, I don`t know why the president should be allowed to make this determination.
He`s already referred to our ranking member Mr. Schiff as sleazy and biassed and little, so I would think that we would have someone other than the president make evaluation. And we have sent it to both the Department of Justice and the FBI. Whatever reductions they suggest should stand.
WILLIAMS: I want you to listen with us to Chairman Nunes, the Republican chairman of your committee talking with Sean Hannity. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. DEVIN NUNES (R), CALIFORNIA: Part of the reason why we know that we`re right is because the relentless attacks on me, Trey Gowdy. I mean, they even go as far in their memo, they attack Trey Gowdy and myself in their memo, and they come to conclusions. What did they say for ten days? They said that our memo came to all sorts of conclusions. Our memo didn`t come to any conclusions, our memo just listed facts. And their memo, people will see, they actually come to conclusions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So that is the Republican chair of your committee. What has happened to the House Intelligence Committee which is one of the repositories, ideally of our nation`s secrets in your view is it broken forever now?
SPEIER: Well, I hope it`s not broken forever, but it has been deeply wounded by this process. And it has not helped that request that we have made for persons to be interviewed have been denied, that our request for subpoenaing documents from many of the witnesses have been denied. They have really done their level best not to be cooperative and, frankly, not to do an investigation. That is not their goal.
WILLIAMS: I keep hearing Steve Bannon has a subpoena deadline expiring tomorrow. Do you expect to, A, hear from him and, B, hear from him tomorrow?
SPEIER: I would answer no to both of those.
WILLIAMS: Any reason why? Have you been waved off of a Bannon appearance?
SPEIER: Well, I can`t really speak to it, but I would be surprised if Mr. Bannon shows up, and I would be surprised if Mr. Bannon answers any of our questions.
WILLIAMS: All right, interesting. We`ll see what happens tomorrow. Our thanks tonight for joining us to California Democrat Congresswoman Jackie Speier of House Intel, thank you for your time and for coming up.,
Coming up, the treasury secretary said last year the markets could be considered a report card for this administration. The question is how does today`s record drop affect the grade for this semester so far? Stephanie Ruhle among our guests when we come right back.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Trump`s speech today was interrupted by a record plunge in the stock market. The three cable news networks quickly pivoted to numbers from Wall Street that at a time were heading straight down at a terrifying speed. The Dow closed down over 1100 points. The biggest single day point dropped and the index`s history erasing all of its gains for the year thus far. A prolonged market downturn could present of course, new problems for a president who has repeatedly died himself to this market`s fortunes.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I haven`t looked yet at the stock market, but it`s been going up at record clips. We have a tremendous streak going on, and that`s only because of the optimism.
The stock market has gained almost $3 trillion in value since the election on November 8th, a record.
We`ve added 3.3 trillion.
The $3.4 trillion.
Almost $4 trillion. We`ve created more than $5 trillion since Election Day, $5.2 trillion in value. More than $7 trillion.
We`ve created now almost $8 trillion worth of value. Just in the stock market.
And by the way, the stock market since our election is through the roof. Isn`t it too bad that the Obama administration gets a lot of credit?
Our stock market has reached an all time high today, all time high. Think of it. Nobody ever talks about it.
I just want to state that as you probably have noticed, the stock market hit an all time record high today.
I`m very proud of our stock market, what`s happened since I became president.
The stock market hit today 23,000. That`s an all time record high. So congratulations to everybody in our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about what we just witnessed today. Our own Stephanie Ruhle is in San Francisco tonight. She is the host, of course, at the 9:00 a.m. hour here MSNBC and then for good measure comes back at 11:00 Eastern Time every day as co-host of the appropriately named Velshi & Ruhle. And before television she was a veteran of the investment banking world. And here with us in New York, Jonathan Lemire, a White House reporter for the Associated Press, and of course, an MSNBC Political Analyst.
Stephanie, let`s turn into a simple bromide, if you`re going to own it as much as he has on the way up, you got to own the downturn and the bad days and the record drop that happened today.
STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC CO-HOST, "VELSHI & RUHLE": Which is why no other administration would do such a thing. If you`re going to live by the sword, you die by the sword. For the President there in that mad tosh to say no one ever talks about the stock market, that`s pure nonsense.
The President and the administration talk about it, every chance they can. And also the media covers it. But the reason it`s so risky is that markets are irrational. The Obama administration very rarely talked about the markets because they understood this. Remember, Janet Yellen just left her seat last week, and of course, she was the Fed Chair. We had very positive, easy money economic policy. And you have to put into perspective the fear of missing out we`ve seen in the markets over the last year.
President Trump has had pro-business policies. Deregulation, the market likes that. We`re at full unemployment, but we face serious inflation risks. The tax cuts do cost money. We`re going to have to raise money and raise the debt limit. That has the market suddenly waking up because Donald Trump has been saying, stay on the dance floor. Keep partying. Keep dancing and people kept piling in and doing that. Well, somebody realized today and sort of the end of last week, you might need to be sober at the party. The economy is still very, very good, but it got way too frothy. Five straight months of moving up and no corrections? You know, time for a tweak.
WILLIAMS: All right, veteran non-partier Jonathan Lemire, it has been his go-to subject. It`s been what he has touted. You have to listen to him every day for a living. You`ve heard him go there.
JONATHAN LEMIRE, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: My Super Bowl party was a dud last night. That`s right. This has been part of the President`s mantra. Even before -- you know, as soon as he took office, the idea that his election was infusing the market with confidence and that his policies were knocking down some of the barriers to business growing.
WILLIAMS: He was the business guy?
LEMIRE: That`s right. He was the -- the art of the deal, a business guy, he was coming. He would boast at times that he knew the stock market like no one else. But of course, he understood why the markets would boom once he got in the office.
We would hear it at the White House, do that mad tosh (INAUDIBLE) capturing it, where he would tie himself to the fortunes of Wall Street, the fortunes of market unlike any of his predecessors. Jay Carney, in fact, former Press Secretary to Barack Obama tweeted today that they never spoke about the stock market. And that`s a slight exaggeration. They did once in a while, but it was very rare.
Obama and the Presidents that came before him would do this infrequently because they knew of the dangers. They knew they could have an image like this today.
The President in Ohio giving a speech about the economic benefits of their tax cut, and while he`s talking MSNBC and the other cable networks puts the graphic up in the corner that shows the Dow plummeting as the President is speaking. And that`s a nightmare image for any White House particularly for one that has wedded itself to the markets like this one.
WILLIAMS: Stephanie, it seems like --
RUHLE: And Brian --
WILLIAMS: Yes, go ahead.
RUHLE: We should point out that President Trump does have some experience in the markets. His company, his Trump brand did issue debt bonds years ago, and it was an absolute disaster. And while he is flanked by Steve Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, Gary Cohn has said we should look at overall trends. But Steve Mnuchin there in Davos talking down the dollar something you never ever see a treasury secretary doing. You don`t see someone in that position suddenly doing things that would mess with the market.
When you think about Fed chairs, treasury secretaries, they`re so careful with every single word they say because you know the tea leaves are red. This wasn`t about red and tea leaves. This administration has been speaking about the markets like they`re surrogates on a campaign trail cheering things on. That is dangerous territory. Think about all the times in the last few months President Trump has gotten on a podium and said you can thank me for your 401(k). You must love it. Ivanka Trump regularly tweets out touting the market performance. Well, who is going to take the blame for it now?
WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, last note to you. The tax bill has been when they separated out, a winner for this crowd, this administration, especially if you ask them. Correct?
LEMIRE: Yes. I mean, they`re encouraged by some of the polling they`ve seen recently. Let`s remember, during the debate at the end of last year when the Republicans were trying to push this tax bill through Congress, it was wildly unpopular. And it has improved in popularity since then. And this White House certainly believes that it`s popular now and going to grow far more popular going forward which is part of the reason why the President had an event like this today, is to sort of tout that accomplishment, to really sell it to the American people to say look, your paychecks, you`re about to find a little more there, and thinking -- the other thinking is the more you spend, there will be a domino effect, the economy will continue to get better.
There are dangers to it. We saw Paul Ryan have a tweet little bit more --
LEMIRE: -- over the weekend that backfired dramatically where he suggested that the extra $1.50 a week that a secretary in Pennsylvania would get because of this bill would go a long way. And that, of course, people pointed out, that`s only $50 a year and that, you know, Paul Ryan himself attended a $10,000 a head fundraiser in recent days. So he seemed sort of out of touch.
That said, Democrats do run a risk if they belittle the benefits of a tax cut. There are going to be Americans who feel this, who are going to be benefitting from this, and Democrats don`t want to seem like they`re looking down their noses at them.
WILLIAMS: Here in New York, Jonathan Lemire and having just landed at SFO, Stephanie Ruhle, she of the underrated Donald Trump`s invitation. Thank you both very much. Always a pleasure.
Another break for us. And coming up, talk of treason when the 11th Hour continues.
WILLIAMS: President Trump spoke near Cincinnati today at an event intended to be a celebration as we said of tax reform and the economy as he put it America`s open for business, but it quickly took a political turn. The President spending about half of his 47 minute remarks talking taxes. Trump`s attack was aimed squarely at the Democrats. That happens with the November elections clearly on his mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I have a feeling that we`re going to do incredibly well in `18.
And I have to say this, history is not on our side. But it`s not because of that word, "complacency." You win the presidency and you take it easy, and then they come and surprise you in the midterms. They call them the "midterms."
We`ve got to get out there and win or they`re going to take -- and I say it -- a Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer. They want to raise your taxes.
You`ve got half the room going totally crazy, wild -- they loved everything, they want to do something great for our country. And you have the other side, even on positive news -- really positive news, like that -- they were like death and un-American. Un-American.
Somebody said, "treasonous." I mean, yes, I guess, why not?
Can we call that treason? Why not?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So some context there. He was talking about the State of the Union. Treason is a capital offense. It`s punishable by imprisonment or death. No one is arguing that Democrats looked especially thrilled with the President`s State of the Union, but we should also point out, do we need to? I guess we need to, as demonstrated in this video from President Obama`s final address to Congress, it is common for members of the opposite party to sit on their hands or at minimum stay stone faced when they don`t agree with the policies of the current administration.
Here to talk about it, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist for The Washington Post and MSNBC Political Analyst and our friend John Heilemann, Veteran Political Journalist, also an MSNBC National Affairs Analyst.
John, there`s a theory that Donald Trump puts words in the wash, in the bloodstream to normalize them. Treason was out there when "fire and fury" came out. It was Steve Bannon quote about the meeting in Trump Tower. But if we hear our President using the word, here we are talking about it, it takes the spin off of it, the shock, the edge off of it if it`s ever used in serious and earnest?
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes, I think it`s -- look, the President is not -- with respect to his use of language, often he mock him for his vocabulary, for his grammar, for his syntax, but he has a certain kind of logic that governs the way in which he throws out invective.
HEILEMANN: And it goes from the use of the nicknames to try to mock his opponents. Sometimes it`s in psychological astute ways. In this instance, he is been doing the collusion is a good example. He is accused to collusion, there`s a discussion. That word means a lot of different things. He`s tried to take the ill (ph) out of it by saying, over and over and over again. No collusion. No collusion. No collusion. In this case it`s almost prophylactic, it feels like. That we are -- people begin to discuss, you`d hear it mostly in social media but, is there treason? Is there traitorousness that`s directed at him and some of these cohorts? Those accusations are thrown around loosely and I think mostly illegitimately but he`s going there now to try to head off that accusation and to try to take the power away from it when and if it comes.
WILLIAMS: Eugene, sometimes an inoculation carries a little bit of the disease in it.
EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. It does actually and --
WILLIAMS: And this might be a public inoculation.
ROBINSON: Right. It was a (INAUDIBLE) going to recognize it and you just sort of incapsulated and put it to decide and it doesn`t have that impact. You know, the world really is (INAUDIBLE) that would -- in terms of Trump`s use of language, and language sort of defines the way we think. I mean, we think in channels. And the words are the channels in which we speak. And so he`s very good at that. And purposeful, and that`s why we resist -- this is ridiculous thing, right? So why are we sitting here tonight past 11:00, the shank of the evening, talking about this false utterly false ridiculous thing he said? Because it has that impact.
WILLIAMS: John, I don`t ever ask you the next question I`m going to ask you.
HEILEMANN: Oh, boy, here it comes.
WILLIAMS: Where do you think we`re headed? You are a guy who is very thoughtful.
HEILEMANN: On what terms?
WILLIAMS: Where is this all going? What kind of a ride is our country in for in 2018?
HEILEMANN: I grew up in Los Angeles, California. So I spent a lot of time at Disneyland as a kid. And, you know, back in these days there were those kinds of rides, there`s an e ticket ride. The e-ticket ride is the ride that is the scary.
Mr. Toad`s Wild Ride was an e-ticket ride and so as the Matterhorn. We`re going on an e-ticket ride I think over the course next few months where on the legal front, we are going to have confrontations, I think, on a serious level. We`ve been discussing them tonight.
HEILEMANN: We are on the question of whether the President is going to testify or is going to sit for an interview with Robert Mueller. That looks like it`s going to be the kind of thing that could easily be headed to the highest court in the land over the course of the next few months. A fundamental test of some doctrines but have not really ever been tested before.
And is the President going to abide by the ruling of the Supreme Court if it rules against him? I don`t know the answer to that. I don`t think anyone is confident necessarily that Donald Trump will just say, well, the court has ruled I will now do what the court says. We could be in -- pretty much day that Donald Trump took presidency at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue but we are going to do into a part of (INAUDIBLE), those gulfs are going to be some very rough terrain and I think headed toward -- even if we get through that, headed toward a midterm election where the stakes could not be higher and where implicitly -- and I think often explicitly the question is going to be are we going to be -- is the government going to be open to considering the possibility of impeaching Donald Trump or not?
Again, put aside whether it`s right or wrong. It will be, I think so a large extent, a referendum on that question again something we have never seen before, and will be very volatile.
WILLIAMS: And Eugene, John is just the latest smart person I know asking questions like, will this get to the court before it`s over, and will they be a judicious or political party when it does?
ROBINSON: That`s a big question, I mean -- you know, call me naive, pollyannaish? I mean, I tend to depend on the Supreme Court to follow the law. And I guess I still bet that way. But as John said, I mean, we`re going to be on this crazy ride indefinitely. One huge milestone coming up is the midterm election. That really is, we`re going to feel this build throughout the year, because it is going to feel like not just a referendum on Donald Trump. It`s going to feel like a referendum on a vision of the country, perhaps two visions of the country. Very different visions. And you have to choose one. And whatever happens in that election, there are going to be recriminations. You know, so it doesn`t end. It doesn`t really decide anything, but it`s -- one thing it might decide is as you said, whether there`s an openness to the possibility of following the constitution.
HEILEMANN: But I will just say all three of us at this table would say in the end in our guts we`d bet on the Supreme Court. Does Donald Trump have that conviction? I don`t know the answer to that question. Does he have that kind of reverence for the institution or for the norms and traditions and fundamental tenets of our system that we do? I don`t know.
WILLIAMS: This is why you should always invite smart people to your conversation, or if you have a TV show, it`s even better. Eugene Robinson and John Heilemann, gentlemen, thank you. I could do a whole hour with you both without even breaking a sweat.
Another break for us. We`re right back after this.
WILLIAMS: Still to come on the 11th Hour we got our attention today on the subject of Russia but having nothing to do with the Russia investigation. Stay with us.
WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go tonight, it`s one of the services we like to provide whenever possible we like to send you off to bed or however you like to spend the remainder of your evening with something thoughtful, something sometimes light. This is not one of those nights.
Here is what started at the Twitter feed of long time friend of this broadcast, Peter Baker of the New York Times. He writes, "Amid fresh arms race, new Russia nuclear torpedo appears designed to cross the pacific undetected and release deadly cloud of radio activity that would leave much of west coast uninhabitable."
So that gets your attention, especially among our west coast viewers where at least it`s only coming up on 9:00 p.m. and you still have time before bed to unwind, maybe watch or runcom (ph).
Peter links to a New York Times article about how nuclear arms are back in a big way. It does feel much more like our former relationship with Russia, better yet, the Soviet Union before that. All kinds of talk now about reversing the reductions in nuclear arms of the past several decades. This explicitly mentions a new kind of nuclear arms rice.
So we`ll see how that goes. Any kid who grew up during the Cold War, this one included, would say this time argues for cool heads, smart decisions, good communications, and knowledge of the risk. Otherwise as they say, what could go wrong?
That is our broadcast on a Monday night as we start a new week. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END