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Trump: "I'd love" a shutdown. TRANSCRIPT: 2/6/2018, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Sol Wisenberg, Miriam Rocah, Bill Richardson, Dan Nowicki

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: February 6, 2018 Guest: Sol Wisenberg, Miriam Rocah, Bill Richardson, Dan Nowicki

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, THE LAST WORD WITH LAWRENCE O`DONNELL HOST: All that and more is in The 11th Hour with Brian Williams and that starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR HOST: Tonight, President Trump says he`d love to see a shutdown after suggesting Democrats are guilty of treason, and his legal team mulls whether to sit down with the special counsel. All this and it`s only Tuesday.

Plus, inspired by his trip to France for Bastille Day, Trump calls for a military parade here in the U.S. The reporter who broke the story standing by with details.

And how does Robert Mueller`s team prepare to sit down with the President unlike any other? The man who interviewed Bill Clinton is here tonight with us to share strategy.

The 11th Hour begins now.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 383 of the Trump administration and these past 48 hours have been something like a Rorschach test for this White House. To begin with, the President today threatened a government showdown, seemed almost to promote a government shutdown if Congress does not crack down on illegal immigration, even as negotiators worked on a deal to keep the government funded past the deadline of midnight Thursday.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: If we don`t get rid of these loopholes where killers are allowed to come into our country and continue to kill, gang members, and we`re just talking about Ms-13, there are many gang members that we don`t even mention. If we don`t change it, let`s have a shutdown, we`ll do a shutdown and it`s worth it for our country. I`d love to see a shutdown if we don`t get this stuff taken care of. And if we have to shut it down because the Democrats don`t want safety, and unrelated but still related, they don`t want to take care of our military, then shut it down. We`ll go with another shutdown.


WILLIAMS: The President`s threats come on the same day White House Chief of Staff and Former General John Kelly also weighed in on immigration policy. Kelly praised Trump for his offer to reinstate DACA. Here`s how he described undocumented immigrants who are eligible for the program but who for whatever reason did not sign up.

JOHN KELLY, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: There are 690,000 official DACA registrants, and the President sent over what amounts to be two and a half that number to 1.8 million. The difference between 690 and 1.8 million were the people that some would say were too afraid to sign up, others would say were too lazy to get off their asses but they didn`t sign up.

WILLIAMS: And just a few hours ago, Kelly repeated his stance, this time on camera.


KELLY: The rest of them who are now claiming, not even claiming, have been granted essentially DACA status by the President of the United States who`s become the champion, I believe, for 1.8 million people who are now considered kind of DACA, I got to say that some of them should probably have gotten off the couch and signed up.


WILLIAMS: These latest comments from the President and his Chief of Staff come just a day after Mr. Trump described Democrats` reaction to his State of the Union Address as, quote, treasonous. This was the White House explanation for that today.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The President was clearly joking with his comments, but what isn`t a joke is that Democrats refused to celebrate the accomplishments of last year that has helped all Americans. Democrats are going to have to make a decision at some point really soon. Do they hate this President more than they love this country?


WILLIAMS: And amid that backdrop, the Russia investigation continues to unfold. We have learned from "The New York Times" that most members of the president`s legal team want him to refuse an interview with Special Counsel Mueller and his team. Also, the White House says the President has met with Mueller`s boss, the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, to discuss this House Democratic memo refuting the republican memo allegations about FBI misconduct.

But this "Washington Post" report about the President`s order to the Pentagon for a military parade gives us another perspective on the administration`s priorities. Written by Greg Jaffe and Philip Rucker who will join us in just a moment, this article says, "President Trump`s vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America`s armed forces. Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a January 18th meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon`s tank, a room reserved for top-secret discussions, marked a tipping point according to two officials briefed on the planning."

So there`s where we begin. Let`s bring in our leadoff panel on a Tuesday night, Philip Rucker., White House Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, Shannon Pettypiece, White House Correspondent for Bloomberg News, and we welcome with a broadcast Todd Gillman, Washington Bureau Chief for the Dallas Morning News, who happened to be pool reporter on duty at the White House today.

And so, Todd, I`d like to begin with you. Talk about the President`s demeanor, the kind of bluster index compared to other days you`ve spent on the beat and the mood around him in the West Wing.

TODD GILLMAN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Well, it was pretty extraordinary to hear him talking with such enthusiasm about the possibility of a shutdown. When we had a 16-day shutdown a few years ago, basically the economy lost about $1 billion a day. The three-day shutdown didn`t seem too damaging just a few weeks ago, but it`s pretty unusual to hear a President or anyone in Washington say that it would be a great thing to have a shutdown and he repeated the word over and over and over. He seemed combative. It did not seem to be something that was just off the cuff. It seemed like something he probably came into that meeting planning to throw on the table.

WILLIAMS: Shannon, to Todd`s point, we are not used to hearing presidents say this kind of thing, though we`ve now said that kind of thing about this president on this broadcast so many times. Ditto, the Chief Of Staff, John Kelly was supposed to be the incoming fixer, not part of the problem, but a moderating force, and especially on immigration, John Kelly turns out to be more of an ideologue than I think anyone banked on.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, he was the Head of Homeland Security appointed by President Trump, the main department that has been charged with cracking down on illegal immigrants in the U.S. and those coming across the border. He has gone out of his way a few times though to wade into issues of race or issues of immigration when he really doesn`t have to.

And I think today was a good example of that where he didn`t have to make this point. He is on the Hill trying to create a bipartisan deal, trying to bring people together and makes a comment that did not seem necessarily off the cuff because as you pointed out, he repeated it again. What is he trying to accomplish by that? All he has to do is not stay anything and go about trying to strike a bipartisan deal. It does not seem to be helpful with getting a bipartisan deal, and here we are, it has just created a dazed distraction.

WILLIAMS: Philip, let me just toss out a few items, immigration, threat of a shutdown, comments about treason, the memos back and forth. As we said at the top of the broadcast, it`s Tuesday. I know there is a policy shop in the West Wing, but what policy movement have you seen other than reaction?

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, WASHINGTON POST: Very little so far. That`s an exhausting list, Brian. And, again, it`s just Tuesday. And we have to remember, it`s been only one week since last Tuesday night when we were watching the State of the Union where among other things the President issued a call to Congress to set aside partisan differences and unify, and work behind his policy agenda of infrastructure reform and other measures. But we haven`t heard a peep about that since then. In fact, most of what we`ve heard from this President have been partisan attacks, whether it`s dealing with these congressional memos pertaining to the Russia investigation, or his comments yesterday about Democrats in Congress who did not stand up and clap for him at the State of the Union.

WILLIAMS: Philip, congrats on a clean kill on the military parade story, you and your co-author tonight.

RUCKER: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: I have to say, I`ve watched a lot of the subsequent coverage of it on cable tonight. I heard one White House correspondent say she was there in Paris and was amazed that the parade on (INAUDIBLE) on Bastille Day kept the President`s attention, she said, for hours. Something that`s very rare.


WILLIAMS: I heard a former general kind of gently asking if the President may not know how and that our military history differs from France. The President may not know that military parades should not be the stuff of a superpower. Did you pick up reaction along the way from the Pentagon? I know you interviewed at least one historian.

RUCKER: Yes. You know, Brian, first of all, the President truly was dazzled by that parade in France, and talked about it to his aides in private on the flight home on Air Force One and in the weeks that followed and, indeed, two months after that parade when he sat down with President Macron of France at the United Nations General Assembly, said he was so struck by that parade. America`s going to have to one-up France and do its own parade.

But to your broader point about the dynamic here, I picked up some concern in the Pentagon, frankly, that the military officials there would like to not see this parade happen. This is not usual activity. There have been some instances rather in history including John F. Kennedy`s inaugural parade in 1961, where military equipment was used. But for the most part throughout the Cold War, America did not display its arsenal on the streets the way Moscow did in the Red Square. And that was deliberate. There was a consensus within the American government that doing so was unnecessary for the leading superpower that we -- everyone knew we had a strong military. We don`t have to waste money and time showing it off.

And there are some legitimate concerns at the Pentagon including about the cost that this would endure. It could be potentially tens of millions of dollars. It`s unclear where that money would come from. It`s not been appropriated in the budget. And then there are very practical concerns like how do you transport these huge tanks from bases around the country to Washington? And then if they`re going to rumble down Pennsylvania Avenue, they`re going to destroy the asphalt and the city is going to have to repave those roads potentially.

WILLIAMS: I heard a former general tonight say you have to decide which tanks to take out of the tank line in Fort Stewart, Georgia and --


WILLIAMS: -- stiff them up and get them parade ready. They`re not built for parades. So, Shannon, I also heard it noted tonight that we`ve got thousands of troops in the field and at least two war zones that have not received a visit from the President. He has an interesting relationship with the military.

PETTYPIECE: He loves his generals. I mean, I guess this parade shouldn`t come as a surprise to any of us. When I was reading Phil`s story, I know, Phil, you were talking about the cost there. That was one of the things that struck me because I was traveling with the President that day when he went to the Pentagon to have this meeting and he got out of the motorcade and, you know, took a few minutes to talk to the reporters about how bad a shutdown would be because we`re on the brink of the shutdown that day, this January 18th day at the Pentagon. He`s talking about support for our troops and our military and how underfunded it is and how a shutdown would hurt the military.

And maybe as a business reporter, I think of too much in dollars and cents. But the first thing that came to my mind when I saw your story, Phil, is wow, that is going to cost a lot of money and that that`s what he was thinking of the day we were on a brink of a shutdown, the day he was talking about how badly we needed funding for our military thinking about a parade and all the costs that would go along with that.

WILLIAMS: Todd, would you hazard a reality check, speaking of shutdowns, on the chance of another one? And how real in your view is this Thursday deadline?

GILLMAN: Well, it`s pretty real. It seems unlikely that there would be a shutdown. There`s very little appetite in congress for that. Even if there`s President -- President Trump seems to have an appetite for it.

He`s talking about a shutdown as a tactic in order to force Congress to address his immigration plan which has a number of planks which are extremely controversial at the Capitol. He wants to dramatically curtail legal immigration, curving the chain migration allowing sponsorship of new visas by immigrants and citizens. It`s really an overhaul of immigration policy which doesn`t go quite well with the budget fight.

So the Democrats have really resisted much of what the President is suggesting. We heard General Kelly talking about the President is a champion of 1.8 million people who are DACA eligible and that part is quite attractive to the Democrats, somewhat less attractive to the Republicans. But the contours of the deal seem to be coming around to where, for instance, Senator McCain is talking about pairing the citizenship and some border security issues but not nearly the overhaul that President Trump is talking about.

The Thursday deadline is a real deadline to fix the budget and keep the government open. But the pressure that the President seems to be bringing to bear to get the big immigration deal that he wants, I don`t think that he has enough allies in Congress for that.

WILLIAMS: We`re much obliged to the three of you for a terrific start to our broadcast tonight. Philip Rucker, Shannon Pettypiece, Todd Gillman, our thanks.

As we approach our first break, still ahead for us tonight, with this Olympics looming, should the U.S. hold talk with North Korea? And if so, just who should do that? Let`s talk to one of the few Americans to have dealt directly with the North Koreans in the modern era.

And up next, new developments on the Russia front including Rosenstein back at the White House. Bannon reportedly on his way to Mueller. We`re just getting started on a Tuesday night.



SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D), CONNECTICUT: I think the American people are asking a common sense question. What is the President trying to hide? What do the Russians have on Donald Trump?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D), MARYLAND: We`ve seen from the White House, from the President, an effort to try to undermine the credibility of the independent investigation being done by the Department of Justice under Mr. Mueller.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: By attacking the Justice Department and the FBI, the President is attempting to discredit the Russia investigation and protect himself and his family.


WILLIAMS: From Connecticut, Maryland, and Hawaii, Democrats in the Senate today expressing concerns over Republican attempts to discredit this Russia investigation. As we mentioned, President Trump met today with the man overseeing the investigation about the controversial House Intelligence Committee dueling memos. Chief of Staff John Kelly addressed the President`s meeting with Rod Rosenstein earlier today.


KELLY: They have a great conversation when Rod came by and helped the President understand the differences between the first memo, second memo.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you leaning toward releasing it?

KELLY: No, I would say, I mean this is a different memo than the first one. It`s lengthier. It`s -- well, it`s different. And so not leaning toward it, it will be done in a responsible way. But at the end of it all, it will be guys like Rod Rosenstein, Chris Wray from FBI, you know, certainly the national security attorneys at the White House given the President`s recommendation on it.


WILLIAMS: Remains to be seen if all that will hold, if those recommendations will affect the outcome. DOJ and FBI, you`ll recall, strongly advised against releasing the first memo, the Republican memo. Trump did so anyway, a decision he appeared to reach before he read it.

Meanwhile, one of President Trump`s former allies is getting ready to testify to the Mueller investigation. NBC News has confirmed Steve Bannon will answer questions next week. You may recall he was supposed to be back on Capitol Hill today to testify in front of House intel, but as was predicted by a member of that committee on this broadcast just last night, that`s now been postponed for a third time. A source tells NBC News, the White House is forbidding Bannon to speak until they agree to the scope of the questioning.

Here to talk about it with us, Jeremy Peters, Political Reporter for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC Contributor and Amber Phillips, Political Reporter for "The Fix" at the "Washington Post."

So, Amber, I keep hearing Republicans say that this Democratic memo has been loaded up with stuff, facts, sources and methods that will need to be edited out, covered up, redacted and make it seem like it`s a tougher job for the White House, make it seem like it faced scrutiny the GOP memo did not.

AMBER PHILLIPS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. I think that`s a fair point to make, Brian. There`s a little bit of irony in the White House and Republicans who champion the first memo, saying that we`re giving deference to the Justice Department and the intelligence community on whether to release the second Democratic memo given they released the first memos you just pointed out, over the extraordinarily public and firm objections from the FBI and the Justice Department saying releasing the first memo would be extremely reckless.

It`s pretty clear that Trump is in a difficult situation right now. Does he release a memo that we can fully expect undermines his argument. And his argument is simple, that the FBI was politically motivated in starting the Russia investigation, this GOP memo proves it, and so the Russia investigation is a hoax. Democrats say, wait, wait, wait, we have 10 pages that show basically none of that is true, and here`s our evidence.

And, you know, it`s arguable that they have a case to make. We`ve been seeing this memo but already the author of the first memo, the Republican memo, has basically conceded that, yes, they got a fact wrong, that the FBI did tell a FISA court that there were political and tensions and money behind a dossier that relied on in part, to spy on a Trump campaign adviser.

WILLIAMS: So, Jeremy, I hear the other night somebody accused Nunes of using "Tail Gunner Joe" language when he said, you know, we`re going to keep going andthere were things he wanted to expose involving the State Department. Where does this kind of Republican report then Democratic rebuttal this circle end?

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You know, I don`t know that it ends with anything conclusive for the American people, Brian, because, again, it`s just a game of he said, she said. If you are predisposed to believe Republicans and President Trump, you`re going to believe what`s in the first report. If you want to believe what the Democrats are saying, you`re going to believe what`s in the report that comes out tomorrow.

And there are going to be some issues with that report that the Democrats are seeking to release or they hope to release. I don`t know that it will be tomorrow. But they are crafty enough to include things in there that they know will have to be redacted.

So, therefore, when the report is released, it will include these redactions and Democrats can point to it and say, see, see, the Republicans and President Trump are hiding things from you. And we know that President Trump is leaning toward redacting some information in there when he allows the release of it because my colleagues have reported that in "The New York Times" today.

Now, the separate issue, of course, is over-redaction and whether or not President Trump will exclude information in there that is politically embarrassing to him. And I think we have every reason to believe that he will do just that.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, you`ve traditionally had some on-point reporting about Mr. Bannon. What`s up with Mr. Bannon in light of both House intel and the Mueller investigation?

PETERS: Brian, what I think is going to end up happening is what happened the last time, Steve Bannon was asked to testify before the House Intelligence Committee. He will stonewall. He will stonewall because his approach to the committee is wholly consistent with the White House`s approach, which is let`s not give them too much information. This investigation is not as serious or as legitimate as the Mueller investigation. So, therefore, we will cooperate fully or at least much -- in a much more cooperative way with the Mueller investigation because they want to appear as if they have nothing to hide.

So Steve Bannon will sit down with Mueller. He will speak to him, he will answer questions, and do so in a more forthright manner, I imagine, than he would with the House Intelligence Committee.

WILLIAMS: Amber, this next question may call for a judgment on your part, but this is about customer service for the American people. What do you think will be the subject of the next signing ceremony at the White House? What will be the next substantive piece of legislation to come out of that Congress and get signed by the president, do you think?

PHILLIPS: I`m going to actually go a positive route and say that there is a law, excuse me, a bill that the House passed today. I`m going to be optimistic, I should say, revamping basically the way Congress handles sexual harassment allegations in light of all, you know, Me Too Movement, and so far eight members of Congress has lost their job or resigned.

That passed to the House today. It was little noticed under all this other controversy by basically broad bipartisan support. My sources in the House tell me the Senate was waiting for the House to act and is considering very seriously taking this piece of legislation up. Trump is always a wild card in any kind of legislation.

But so far, House lawmakers are kind of optimistic that this will actually get to the President`s desk and gets signed and something will change that I think everyone in America can agree needs to be changed. So I`m going to go optimistic on that front, but I also see your point that that wasn`t even noticed today because we are talking about shutdowns and immigration and the Russia investigation. And a lot of that is Trump`s doing.

WILLIAMS: Well, thank you for that answer. As we thank Jeremy Peters and Amber Phillips for coming back on the broadcast with us. Always a pleasure, thank you, both.

And coming up for us, how do you prepare for a special counsel interview with a man who`s bragged about his use of something he calls truthful hyperbole? We`ll ask the man who sat down with President Bill Clinton. That`s ahead when we continue.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m looking forward to it, actually.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have a date set, Mr. President?

TRUMP: I don`t know. No. I guess they`re talking about two or three weeks. But I would love to do it.


TRUMP: You know, again, it`s -- I have to say, subject to my lawyers and all of that. But I would love to do it.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Just about two weeks after President Trump made those comments audio-only to reporters in the doorway in the West wing, we have learned where the President`s lawyers stand courtesy of "The New York Times" and their reporting that all but one member of his legal team is against a Trump sit-down with Mueller for fear of false statements, contradictions and legal jeopardy.

Here with us tonight to talk about all of it, Sol Wisenberg, Deputy Independent Counsel for the Whitewater-Lewinsky investigation. He was chosen by Ken Starr to conduct the grand jury questioning of President Bill Clinton. And we welcome to the broadcast, Mimi Rocah, former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York. She is currently a distinguished fellow and criminal justice at the Pace University School of Law.

Sol, because these are two such different characters and very different men, is there any constant that is transferable, a standard that would apply to the questioning of one, and ergo, to the other?

SOL WISENBERG, FORMER DEPUTY INDEPENDENT COUNSEL WHITEWATER-LEWINSKY INVESTIGATION: Well, for any investigation like this and for any questioning like this, you obviously want to be totally prepared. And Mueller`s got a great experienced, brilliant crew with him.

The most important thing I think that -- assuming that this questioning takes place, either informally or at the grand jury, let`s say it happens informally, most important thing is to not have time constraint on it. To make it clear there`s not going be a time limitation on the questioning. That`s number one. Number two, is to serve notice on the President that he`s going to answer every question unless he claims a privilege.

He will not be allowed to do what President Clinton did and say, there`s certain things I`m not going to answer, even though I`m not -- I am not invoking the privilege. And the message needs to be loud and clear that if you refuse to answer a question and don`t invoke a privilege, you`re going to get a subpoena and you`re going to go down to the grand jury.

WILLIAMS: Sol, I hate to sound cynical, so let`s pretend I`m not talking about the President. But wouldn`t it be a dandy strategy for the principal to say, yes, I can -- I`m very anxious to talk to them, I can`t wait to talk to them and then later at a later date say, you know what, my lawyers say I just can`t, I shouldn`t be doing this.

WISENBERG: Well, look, if you have a -- any normal client, white-collar client in the president`s position, in the sense that the president is either a subject or a target here, you would never let a normal client go in for questioning even if you were with them. And if a normal client in that position was subpoenaed, you would invoke your Fifth Amendment right.

The real question here is, can the president pull it off? Can the president go in front of the American people, if he decides to invoke the Fifth Amendment, and say, look, here`s why I`m doing it. The Supreme Court has said the Fifth Amendment protects the innocent as well as the guilty. I`ve said from the beginning this is an unfair witch-hunt of an investigation. And I`m not going to subject myself to it.


WISENBERG: Anyone can pull that off, Donald Trump can.

WILLIAMS: Well done, Counselor.

Mimi, by way of welcoming you to the broadcast, what I`m going to do is play something that happened in this room on this network today. Nicolle Wallace had a couple journalists with her on the show, asked them all about tips for interviewing Donald Trump. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


MICHAEL SCHMIDT, THE NEW YORK TIMES, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: In terms of talking to the President, he`s a very, very difficult person to interrupt. He likes to talk. He goes on and on. He talks about a lot of different subjects. He jumps from one thing to the other.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: The most obvious thing in the world, and again, this is not really good advice to Bob Mueller, if you want him to be expansive, flattery, you know. And it doesn`t have to be the most egregious flattery. Just say something to him that makes him feel, that plays to his vanity.

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It`s also important to not have the camera on. I found that President Trump is different at times when there`s a camera in the room, versus when you`re just there as a print reporter with a pad. He`s not really playing to the camera because there`s no camera there, when you`re doing a print-only interview. And sometimes he give sharper answers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He plays the room. Once he feels comfortable, he can change his tone and tenor depending who he`s talking to. It`s a different Donald Trump if you`re having a one on one interview in his 26th floor Trump Tower office versus the Donald Trump you see on the stage of a rally.


WILLIAMS: So Counselor, I recognize that no all that advice is transferable to Robert Mueller who can`t walk in and say Mr. President, I love what you`re doing with your hair. So having said that, how do you pin down a subject like Donald Trump?

MIRIAM ROCAH, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Right. Well, look, I think, you know, this goes to a basic point of know your witness. And obviously Mueller and his team know Donald Trump not just in the way that we see him publicly but they know him through sources that we don`t have access to. So they really are going to know him through e-mails, through communications, you know, texts, through documents, going pretty far back.

And so at this point, they may know things about him that he doesn`t even remember and they are going to be meticulous in learning those facts and being so familiar with them and that`s going to be their best tool because that`s going to enable them to really pin him down and not let him just dodge the questions.

I agree that some of these tools, I mean, using flattery, you know, this might be a much more friendly interview in some ways. You know, interviews like this can take a different tone, even if they`re in a formal setting. You know, they can be confrontational or they can be a little more friendly. And I do think that that tone with him might work better and if they bring up Hillary Clinton, you know, that might really get them talking.

WILLIAMS: Well, that`s interesting. And is there, in your view, a nucleus question around which everything else rotates?

ROCAH: Well, I mean, if we`re talking about obstruction, which is really only one area, which I think some people tend to forget, you know, there`s a whole big other piece of this investigation that they`re going to want to talk about and get to the bottom of.

But if we`re talking about obstruction, it`s going to be what did Donald Trump know and when did he know it, and what was he thinking when he fired Jim Comey? What was his intent? And for example, you know, they`re going to want to know, did he know, you know, that Flynn had lied to the FBI? And remember, Flynn`s cooperating now. So they`ve already talked to Flynn about this. And that`s a very important part of how this is going to work when they`re interviewing him or questioning him because they already have a set of answers from Flynn. And so they`re going to compare those answers and, you know, see which ones make the most sense really.

WILLIAMS: What a harrowing business you guys work in. Counselor and Counselor, our thanks. We`d like to continue this very same broadcast by having you back on. Sol Wisenberg, Mimi Rocah, our terrific thanks on a Tuesday night.

Coming up here, the time until the start of the Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea, can now be measured in hours. Question is, what`s North Korea saying about our President these days? More on that when we come back.



MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With regard to any interaction with the North Korean delegation, I have not requested a meeting, but we`ll see what happens.


WILLIAMS: See that door open a little bit? Once again, a member of Donald Trump`s administration has declined to rule out the possibility of meeting with North Korean officials while in South Korea for the Winter Olympics. Both Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and Secretary of State Tillerson have given a we`ll see response when asked about the chance of a sit-down between Pence and anyone from North Korea. But U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert took a much stronger term today from the podium about the possibility of any contact.


HEATHER NAUERT, STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: There are no plans to meet with any North Korean officials during or after the Olympics. I want to be clear about that. There are no plans to do so. There is no shift in U.S. policy regarding this. North Korea must once and for all abandon its desire for nuclear weapons and also for ballistic missiles. Do away with that desire. Stop. And then, perhaps, we`d be willing to come to the table and have a conversation with them about it.


WILLIAMS: Questions about a meeting come as relations between the U.S. and the North are under pressure. Just last week the President hosted North Korean defectors at the White House, to which North Korea`s official party newspaper responded calling Trump, "Dolt-like" in his behavior among other things.

With us to talk about it tonight, we welcome Bill Richardson back to the broadcast, former congressman, Cabinet secretary, New Mexico governor, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. with years of experience dealing with the North, including a hostage release.

Governor, what do you make of the possibility of Mike Pence sitting down with North Koreans across from him?

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, if they did meet, it would be a very positive step. Not going to negotiate denuclearization, but both are very high-level individuals. The Vice President, Kim Yong-Nam, who I`ve met before, he`s basically the Vice President, ceremonial position.

But the fact that he`s leading the delegation from North Korea to the Olympics I think is significant. Even if he doesn`t talk to the Vice President, he might meet with some South Korean officials on human rights issues, on family reunification, on job creation at the border. They`ve shut down a joint facility that employs North Koreans and South Koreans.

So it`s a positive step, but it seems that the administration is in a contradictory foreign policy toward North Korea. On the one hand, they`re floating the idea of a meeting. On the other hand, they`re saying it`s not going to happen. So I think the administration needs to speak with one voice. My hope that voice is the State Department

I like the fact that the Vice President kind of left the door open. I think a meeting would be a good step. Not going to renew a relationship with North Korea, but at least ease the huge tensions that exist today.

WILLIAMS: So, Governor, is that another way of saying that, of course, the underlying theme of the Olympics is supposed to be good will among people and between nations? Take advantage of that during this very special window with the Olympics, what, 60 miles south of the border.

RICHARDSON: Yes. And you recall how we opened the relationship with China. It was ping-pong diplomacy, then secret meetings, Kissinger and the Chinese, and then led to President Nixon meeting with Mt. Satong and Chinese leaders. So it`s a forerunner of soft power leading to serious negotiations.

And I think it was a brilliant move on the part of the North Koreans to bring in their delegation to work with the South Koreans, compete with them, and then the South Korean president, if you recall, he was elected on the premise that he wanted to open a better relationship with North Korea to ease the tension.

So there are some good developments despite all this heated rhetoric and the President`s State of the Union address and a lot of the talk about a preemptive military strike, which I think is not going to work. It`s -- you can just see the Olympics right there. 125 South Koreans, American troops, if there`s a nuclear holocaust, or there`s a missile or artillery, I mean, there`s going to be a lot of destruction.

WILLIAMS: The Koreans love -- the North Koreans love a military parade. I thought of you tonight when this "Washington Post" story came out that the President wants something similar in Washington. You see any danger to that on the American side?

RICHARDSON: Well, yes. I don`t know if -- I know the President`s very pro-military, and, you know, any way we can highlight our own military, I think it makes a lot of sense. But to have a parade similar to the ones that exist in many North Korea and other countries, I don`t know if that makes a lot of sense. But, you know, the President is the head of the military, the head of our Armed forces. He could pretty much tell them whatever he wants.

WILLIAMS: Governor, thanks for always coming on to talk with us. We appreciate it. Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson --

RICHARDSON: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: -- with us tonight from there.

Coming up for us, the President`s comments on Democrats and treason earn him a sharp rebuke from a fellow Republican. We`ll talk about that on the other side of this break.



SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA: Mr. President, words matter. Have we arrived at such a place of numb acceptance that we have nothing to say when a president of the United States casually suggests that those who choose not to stand or applaud his speech are guilty of treason? I certainly hope not.


WILLIAMS: Outgoing Republican incumbent Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona took to the U.S. Senate floor today for a second time in four months to call out this President for what Flake called aberrant destructive behavior.

Flake was not the only member of Congress to voice displeasure with the President`s comments that Democrats who didn`t clap for him were potentially treasonous.

Yesterday, Illinois Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, a retired army lieutenant colonel who lost both of her legs in Iraq wrote on Twitter, "We don`t live in a dictatorship or a monarchy. I swore an oath in the military and in the Senate to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to mindlessly cater to the whims of cadet bone spurs and clap when he demands I clap.

We welcome to our broadcast tonight, Dan Nowicki, national political reporter for "The Arizona Republic".

And, Dan, right out of the box, I may be asking you for an opinion or perhaps your polling. What percentage of Arizonans do you think support the words of Jeff Flake in the Senate chamber today?

DAN NOWICKI, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE ARIZONA REPUBLIC: Well, I think Democrats and probably a lot of independents support his words. He has big problems with his own Republicans, so much so they abandoned his reelection bid this year.

But Flake is kind of a man without a party when it comes to Donald Trump because he`s angered the Republicans by his constant criticism, and he really hasn`t won over too many Democrats. They like his speeches but he votes closely with the Trump agenda so he doesn`t get much credit from the left so he`s kind of in the middle there.

WILLIAMS: You have such an interesting Senate delegation with Flake and McCain. And there you are of course as a border state, front row seat on immigration. Where do you think Arizonans stand right now on the immigration debate we`re witnessing and we cover here every night?

NOWICKI: Well, it`s kind of interesting when you look at Arizona, since we have kind of a sophisticated view of immigration, the border wall is not really popular in Arizona. It`s popular with Trump`s base and the Republicans, but people who live near the border, ranchers, you know, they don`t necessarily agree that a border wall is the best solution.

So, you know, Senator McCain came in with a bipartisan bill yesterday, not really sure where it`s going to go. It seems like it`s dead on arrival and Jeff Flake`s been working with bipartisan group with Lindsey Graham and Dick Durbin. And I`m not so sure they thought that McCain`s bill was very helpful since they`ve been trying to come to an agreement with the Trump administration. It`s probably going to have to include some border wall funding. They don`t necessarily like it in the bipartisan group but I think they`ve come to accept it.

WILLIAMS: And finally because we don`t get a report from the front often, how did the last government shutdown go over in Arizona and how is the idea of potentially another one have to go down in Arizona?

NOWICKI: Well, I think it was pretty quiet, the partial shutdown basically happened over the weekend. There was a lot of finger pointing in the Senate race to replace Jeff Flake. It was the subject of a lot of talk but I don`t think it had much lasting impact. Nobody seems to really be expecting a shutdown to actually happen this week. I know there`ll be -- I think people will be pretty surprised if it happens again.

WILLIAMS: I want to thank you very much for, as I called it, a report from the front and the American southwest tonight. Dan Nowicki, we appreciate you being on our broadcast with us, national political reporter for "The Arizona Republic".

Coming up, a report from space as we wonder who there is to help us with some things here on earth.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight is about what we witnessed in Florida today. An immigrant to this country cemented his status as a leader in science and technology whose name may indeed belong alongside those of Edison and Jobs. Put another way, Elon Musk today showed the world how it`s done.

SpaceX, the company he started launched the biggest rocket ever shut off since the moon missions from NASA`s launch pad 39A where we launched the mission to the moon. Eight minutes after launch both side booster rockets came back down to earth and landed on land in Florida at the same time. A colossal feat of engineering.

And think about the gulf between Elon Musk and all that he can imagine and build and the parts of our lives that doesn`t have an Elon Musk to care for them. Today in Maryland a high-speed Amtrak train came apart at 120 miles an hour. It just came apart. Amtrak prefers the phrase decoupling, like a celebrity divorce. A fatal accident this past weekend killed two workers when a train was on the wrong track. It`s all preventable. The technology is there. High-speed trains around the world are over twice as fast as ours because there`s no Elon Musk to care about our trains.

The New York City Subway system is an assault on the human senses every ride every day, and yet for millions it`s become normal because there is no Elon Musk to care enough to make it any better.

And here`s an American airlines time table from 1961. New York to L.A., faster than it is on today`s schedule with delays factored in. Our jet planes still fly at the same speed as they did in the Eisenhower era because there`s no Elon Musk to care about making them any better or faster.

One final note about Elon Musk, the inventor of Tesla, he sent his own Tesla into space today just for fun. So there`s now a car, his own red Tesla roadster hurtling through space at 18,000 miles an hour with a mannequin astronaut at the wheel named Starman. On the car stereo is "Space Oddity" by Bowie, ground controlled of Major Thomas playing on the loop while the car transitions into an elliptical orbit of the Earth and Mars and there on the dash board it says "Don`t Panic." Elon Musk, ladies and gentlemen.

That`s our broadcast for tonight. Thank you so much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.


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