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No permanent clearance for Kushner. TRANSCRIPT: 2/15/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Mieke Eoyang, Matthew Nussbaum, Tamara Keith, David Jolly, Steve Kornacki, Rick Stengel

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: February 15, 2018 Guest: Mieke Eoyang, Matthew Nussbaum, Tamara Keith, David Jolly, Steve Kornacki, Rick Stengel

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, THE LAST WORD, HOST: -- Chris Whipple gets tonight`s last word. Thank you very much for joining us.

CHRIS WHIPPLE, FILMAKER: Thanks for having me.

O`DONNELL: And next on "The 11th Hour" today`s immigration debate in the United Senate. We don`t have time to cover it in this hour, it will be covered in The 11th Hour With Brain Williams and that starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: Tonight, Steve Bannon in the hot seat spending the day behind close doors with House Intel as NBC learned he spent some 20 hours with Mueller this week.

Plus, while facing a crisis behind the scenes of the White House, President Trump addresses the school shooting tragedy without mentioning the word guns.

And as Florida mourns and Washington fails to act, our students around the country going to be the one to push this issue where others have failed. The 11th Hour on a Thursday night begins now.

And good evening once again from our NBC New headquarters here in New York. Day 392 of the Trump administration. And according to details just revealed today we now know this has been an extremely busy week in the Russia investigation.

NBC News is reporting that Steve Bannon met with Special Counsel Robert Mueller over multiple days this week, according to two sources familiar with the proceedings. In all, Bannon spent a total of some 20 hours in conversation with the team led by Mueller. Then today after an almost month long stand off, Bannon returned to Capitol Hill to continue his interview with the House Intelligence Committee.

He emerged after four hours reportedly answering 25 questions that the White House had negotiated with the House lead counsel on the Republican side. After Bannon`s testimony, Congressman Adam Schiff, the California Democrat, top Democrat on the committee, told reporters Bannon refused to answer questions that had not been scripted in advance.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA: It went so far to refuse to answer questions about conversations he had after he left the administration and with people who played no role in the administration, had never been in the administration. There is no plausible claim of privilege that could apply to those circumstances. What`s more -- the only questions he would answer were questions that had been literally scripted for him by the White House. A set of 25 questions that had been written out for him to which the answer to each must be no.

Whenever we sought to probe anything beyond the four corners of the specific wording of the question he refused to answer. That`s not how executive privilege works.


WILLIAMS: Now, Schiff went on to say the next step would be initiating contempt proceedings against Bannon. We`re about to ask an expert about that. And "The Washington Post" reports tonight, "House Republican leaders are weighing further steps to force Bannon to answer investigators questions in their probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including potentially declaring him in contempt of Congress after a Thursday interview they call frustrating.

All this as CNN is reporting toning, former Trump campaign adviser, Rick Gates is finalizing a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller`s office, they cite their reporting to sources familiar with the case. Gates is not among the better known members of this case. NBC News has not confirmed this report. If this plea deal happens, however, that would make Gates the third person to flip and now cooperate in the investigation joining Michael Flynn and George Papadopoulos.

There are also important developments tonight stemming from our own NBC News reporting that over 130 White House officials did not have permanent security clearances as of November of last year. Today, Oversight Committee chairman, Trey Gowdy sent the White House a request for information on all officials for whom a security clearance was pending or had been adjudicated since January 21st, 2017, the first day of the Trump presidency.

And our own Ken Dilanian has new reporting on the security clearance process at the White House. According to an excerpt of a supplemental questionnaire obtained by NBC News, White House officials are actually asked if they are vulnerable to blackmail. The questionnaire reads in part, "With as much detail as possible, please provide any other information, including information about other members of your family, which would suggest a conflict of interest, be a possible source of embarrassment, or be used to cooers or blackmail you." That`s a change.

Let`s bring in our lead off panel on a busy Thursday night. Mieke Eoyang, an attorney and former staffer for House Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, Matthew Nussbaum, White House reporter for Politico, and Vivian Salama, national political reporter for NBC News.

Mieke, I`d like to begin with you on the question of the law. Based on what we know publically, what do you make of Bannon`s testimony before your old committee, House Intel and what does contempt of Congress mean? I understand there are several versions of that?

MIEKE EOYANG, STAFF, FMR HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: That`s right. Now, it`s very unusual for someone like Bannon to appear before the committee and then refuse to answer questions, except for those that are prescripted. I`ve never seen this happen before where they were only negotiating down to a specific set of questions for a witness that are negotiated, not by the witness and their lawyer but by the White House and the committee. So it`s very unusual here.

Obviously, the committees are very frustrated with this. They`re considering taking further action to hold Bannon in contempt. What that would mean is they would have a vote at the committee to hold him in contempt, and if it`s criminal contempt, they`ll refer it to the full House representatives. But then they make it cotton bind because they would have to refer that back to Attorney General Sessions to see if he would in fact prosecute Bannon for criminal contempt.

WILLIAMS: Is there any standard under which the sergeant-at-arms is compelled to go get the witness, bring them in and compel their testimony?

EOYANG: So, Congress has that power, but they haven`t used it in a very, very long time.

WILLIAMS: All right. We`ll put that on the maybe category. Vivian, remind us, especially when we look more broadly at the story where behind that Bannon has spent 20 hours, give or take, in front of the Mueller team. Remind us of the stories Bannon has to tell.

VIVIAN SALAMA, NBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Bannon obviously was a key player in the transition but also in the administration as a very close adviser to the President during his time at the White House. And so, he was in the room for a lot of those conversations. Of course he also was involved in the campaign very heavily.

And so, the question is, what did he see, who does he -- what meetings does he know about? And a lot of this really came to light in the last couple of weeks, especially with Michael Wolff`s book "Fire and Fury," where Bannon is referred to -- in multiple occasions in the book he`d called Trump Tower meetings with Donald Trump Jr. treasonous and a number of other accusations against members of the campaign and close confidantes to President Trump that are now obviously the subject of great interest, both for the House Intel Committee and also for Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

And so, those are definitely some of the issues that they`re going to want to grill Bannon on to see to what extent, you know, he knew about these issues and whether or not they were treasonous as he alleges them to be. And so, you know, those are the answers they`re trying to get, but from what Adam Schiff said earlier, it doesn`t sound like they got a lot of answers so far.

WILLIAMS: Matthew, as I said earlier, Gates is one of the lesser known names in this, just by sheer dint of lack of exposure. Remind us all -- however if you can, why he`s an important player in all this.

MATTHEW NUSSBAUM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. Well, he was something of a deputy to Paul Manafort, who we know has not yet pleaded out and is facing indictment from Mueller`s team. But unlike Manafort, Gates did not leave during the campaign. He stayed on the campaign and was there during the transition. And we know a lot went down during that transition, including those famous calls between Flynn and Kislyak.

So, Gates certainly had more visibility into the later stages of the campaign than Manafort or Papadopoulos had and into the transition, which definitely makes him a compelling figure. And for him to strike a deal, I think that would be bad news for Paul Manafort more than anyone else. He don`t want to be the one guy who hasn`t struck a deal with the special counsel who`s facing indictment. But it`s certainly not good news for the White House. They`re coming off a terrible week but now they find out that another former campaign official is ready to cut a deal with the special counsel, that`s not a good way for them to finish what has really been one of their worst weeks so far.

WILLIAMS: Yes, counselor, back up to you and the question, Meike, is what does it mean to you as a lawyer to hear that Gates is considering a deal?

EOYANG: I think it means that Mueller is closing in on witnesses, and as Matt said, I think that that`s bad news for Manafort. What that suggests for Manafort is that the only way he can get a deal is by giving up someone bigger than himself in, you know, in the organization and question who that might be. But I think it`s, you know, given the kind of interviews that Gates has already given Mueller knows quite a bit about the Manafort operation.

WILLIAMS: And, Matt, what do you make of this addition of the language on potential blackmail in the kind of standard hiring form? This is separate and apart from the standard federal form people are asked to fill out?

NUSSABAUM: Well, it`s definitely sort of a head scratcher, and it just adds to more of these questions that are swirling around the White House with regards to their security clearance process. This -- Rob Porter may have been the beginning of the story but he`s certainly not the end of it. And the White House doesn`t really know how to grapple with this. I believe it was NBC`s reporting that you have 130 staffers in the White House, as of November --

WILLIAMS: Yes, yes.

NUSSABAUM: -- who didn`t have permanent security clearance and those included really high level officials. And the White House has been caught flat-footed. They have no idea how to explain one how Mr. Porter stayed on for so long, but also why all these other officials are having so much trouble getting clearances. Obviously, with Jared Kushner, we can make some guesses based on his meetings that we know he had during the campaign. But it`s very troubling for a lot of people watching this White House that there are so many officials without a clearance and it`s even more troubling that the White House can`t seem to be able to explain why that`s the case.

WILLIAMS: So, Vivian, what`s it like in the West Wing were off the top of my head here`s my list of what they`re dealing with just this week, security clearance, Kelly, stormy, immigration, Russia, Florida and let`s not forget infrastructure.

SALAMA: Yes, that`s right. I mean, just the fact that, you know, President Trump`s lawyer came out this week and said that he paid $130,000 to an adult entertainment star and that is not the top story to cover up --


SALAMA: -- an affair was not the top story of the week, it goes to show you that this White House is obviously so heavily burdened by all of this influx of news, scandals and controversy. And it`s been a seemingly nonstop flow. And so, obviously, the situation is very tense. A number of us were just talking earlier about, you know, the West Wing has seemed to be on lock down in the last couple of days, especially where a number of officials were really trying to minimize their interactions with White House reporters and others just to minimize any kind of discussions that have taken place.

And we saw it with Chief of Staff John Kelly essentially where stories were contradicting each other because of number of people who were putting out their version of what happened with Rob Porter and the scandal that unfolded in the last 10 days. And so, at this point they`re just trying to minimize that story from blowing up even more and having anymore comments that go out there that may be contradictory to the stories that are out.

WILLIAMS: We so appreciate you guys starting us off on a Thursday night. Meike Eoyang, Matt Nussbaum, Vivian Salama, thank you all very much.

And coming up as we approach our first break, the latest reporting on a West Wing as we said swimming in problems and big issues.

And later, a progress report on the effort to drain the swap, a flurry of bad headlines for this White House brought on by people hired by this White House, all of that and more. The 11th Hour just getting under way.



STACY KAGAN, VICE MAYOR, PARKLAND FLORIDA: We will always remember February 14th, 2018, at 2:35 p.m. what happened at that moment will forever be in our hearts. We will not forget it. We will always remember it. But let me make this clear, our kids are amazing, our eagles will soar and we are Parkland proud.


WILLIAMS: Over 400 people have been shot in 200 school shootings just since Newtown, according to the "New York Times." And so, earlier this evening, the town of Parkland, Florida gathered to honor the 17 people killed in yesterday`s mass shootings on Valentine`s Day at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old accused of carrying out the attack using a semiautomatic rifle, which police say he bought legally appeared before a judge today. He now faces 17 counts of murder. Notably, the way the laws are now, a 19-year-old cannot buy a handgun or a beer but a 19-year-old in Florida can buy an Ar-15. A Broward County sheriff report says Cruz has confessed to the shooting and that he carried extra ammunition in his backpack.

Today, President Trump spoke to the nation about the shooting first on Twitter writing, "So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior. Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. We must always report such instances to authorities again and again." He then he addressed the nation from the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: To every parent, teacher and child who is hurting so badly, we are here for you, whatever you need, whatever we can do to ease your pain. We are all joined together as one American family. And your suffering is our burden also. No child, no teacher should ever be in danger in an American school.

I want to speak now directly to America`s children, especially those who feel lost, alone, confused, or even scared. I want you to know that you are never alone and you never will be. You have people who care about you, who love you, and who will do anything at all to protect you. If you need help, turn to a teacher, a family member, a local police officer or a faith leader.


WILLIAMS: The President did not mention guns in his remarks, but he did say he was committed to making schools safer and to "tackling the difficult issue of mental health." He added that he`s making plans to visit Parkland, Florida about 40 miles south of Mar-a-Lago. So far, no specific date has been announced.

Donald Trump has been forced to deal with this as we mentioned just as a growing number of controversies appeared to consume the rest of his administration. There are still questions of course about Rob Porter, the staff secretary who resigned amid allegations of domestic abuse.

White House chief of staff, John Kelly and Counsel Don McGhan have yet to fully explain what they knew about the allegations, what they knew it and when. And that has raised questions about Kelly and McGhan`s future in the White House.

There are the reports about a payment from the President`s lawyer to Stormy Daniels, the adult film actress who claims to have had an affair with the President over a decade ago. Plus, it is clear Robert Mueller`s investigation is not going away soon. It may perhaps be ramping up.

Here with us tonight to talk about all of this, Phil Rucker, White House bureau chief for the Washington Post, and MSNBC political analyst and Tamara Keith, White House correspondent for NPR.

Tamara, it was said today that speeches containing these words don`t come naturally to this President, certainly the way they came to his predecessor. Politico put it this way, President Donald Trump offered a deliberate but emotionless reading of a carefully written speech that lacked any of the typical flourishes of words he`s written himself. After first tweeting what some took us kind community shaming. For a nation some combination of sad and angry, what`s the net takeaway from the President on a day like this in your view?

TAMARA KEITH, WHTE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: This President has struggled at times to say the words that are supposed to be the right words at the right moment. Going back to early in his administration, there were some attacks on Jewish cemeteries and he struggled to find the right words. And then ultimately, Vice President Pence went to one of the Jewish cemeteries and stood and there and delivered the right words in a manner that where there was ease.

President Trump often doesn`t have ease in these circumstances, but clearly he felt that he needed to come out and say something to the nation that tweets weren`t enough. And he used language that he has used in the past, very similar language, the binding of wounds or the things that bind Americans together. He often sort of evokes this we are one America, and he did so again today.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, all those assurances to school children and others, what happens? What comes out of this White House on guns?

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, WASHINGTON POST: I don`t think anything, Brian. And that`s why I think so many Americans are disappointed right now. We`ve seen on television all day today the mothers of victims, survivors, teenage survivors of the school saying, will the adults in Washington please do something. Please have a discussion, at a minimum, but at least have some consideration of changing the laws so this doesn`t happen in the future.

We not only see no plan for any kind of legal change coming out of the White House, but you don`t even hear the word gun being echoed either by the President or by his staff. I actually talked to some of the White House officials this afternoon to say is the President listening to these pleas today? Is he going to be engaging, showing some leadership on the gun issue? And I was given a response that was really echoing what the President said in his remarks, which has nothing to do with guns. He`s talking about school safety and convening the governors. So, we`ll see if he`ll step up to the plea and sort of be part of this discussion or not.

WILLIAMS: Candlelight vigils used to be a rare sight in this country.


WILLIAMS: Tamara, on another subject, this one personnel-related, what is John Kelly`s immediate or long term further as far as you`ve been able to gather?

KEITH: That one is hard to tell and a little bit hazy. Going back to Vice President Pence he said that he looks forward to working with Kelly for many, many months to come. He didn`t say years. He said many, many months.

You know, it`s often hard to tell with President Trump when he is venting, when, you know, you start hearing from people that he`s talking about looking for replacements, whether that`s a real thing, whether it`s an imminent thing, or whether it`s not. Either way, Kelly is damaged by -- has been damaged by this Porter -- Rob Porter scandal and the fact that he has dragged on for so long that he`s integrally involved in it. And that`s not a place you want to be as chief of staff. You do not want to be the story, in particular in this White House, with the a President of the United States who does not like other people getting attention in his White House, especially if it is casting a negative light on him.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, in the meantime, the folks who work for the American taxpayers and communicate for this White House and this administration have been nowhere to be seen. We`ve had no briefing in two days, tomorrow`s schedule is posted it has the President flying to Florida. An event scheduled for tomorrow has been canceled, an infracture speech in Florida. We don`t know about Parkland, Florida, though, he`s getting briefed on it tomorrow. And still no public to the news media.

RUCKER: That`s exactly right, Brian. There`s been no public press briefing since Tuesday. They`re probably will not be one until next Tuesday because we`re going into a holiday weekend here.

And when you opened this segment, Brian, you ticked through a number of the scandals at the White House who`s dealing with, but you left off a couple. There are a couple others here in Washington, there`s the V.A. secretary, who was the subject of really damning inspector general report detailing his expenditures on a trip to Europe that seemed to be inappropriate to the independent inspector general. There`s also the EPA administrator under fire for all of his first class and luxury travel being build to the taxpayer. Those are additional questions that this White House has not faced at a press briefing and they`re probably trying to avoid it tonight.

WILLIAMS: Now, when we get to those topics later in this hour you`re going to think it`s all in reaction to you --


WILLIAMS: -- Mr. Rucker and you`re not going to believe that we already had that plan but I swear to you.

RUCKER: I know you`re on it.

WILLIAMS: They`re on our list and we`re getting to them later in the hour.


WILLIAMS: Much obliged as we always are to Phil Rucker and Tamara Keith. We really appreciate it. Thanks you guys for coming on tonight.

RUCKER: Thank you.

KEITH: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, our next guest, a Republican, has some advice for what Democrats can do, need to do to make common sense gun control a reality in this country. That`s when we come right back.



SCOTT ISRAEL, SHERIFF, BROWARD COUNTY: As your sheriff, I will implement the full powers office of the Broward Sheriff`s Office. My friends who came with me tonight, elected officials, and they have no choice but we will introduce common sense gun laws that make our street safer.

If you`re an elected official and you want to keep things the way they are and not do things differently, if you want to keep the gun laws as they are now, you will not get re-elected in Broward County.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: That was a powerful moment at tonight`s vigil. That was Scott Israel, the sheriff of Broward County, Florida calling for demanding common sense gun laws and threatening elected officials that they would cease to be elected officials if they didn`t go along. Here was another powerful moment in this aftermath. This happened today on live television over at CNN, this is a mom who lost her 14-year- old daughter.


LORI ALHADEFF, DAUGHTER ALYSSA ALHADEFF KILLED IN MASSACRE: How? How do we allow a gunman to come to our children`s school? How do they get through security? What security is there, there`s no metal detectors? The gunman, a crazy person just walks right into the school, walks down the window of my child`s door and starts shooting, shooting her and killing her! President Trump, you say what can you do? You can stop the guns from getting into these children`s hands!


WILLIAMS: We are bringing on our next guest tonight for a reason. David Jolly, former Republican Congressman from the state of Florida. And Congressman, I wanted to talk to you because I have heard you recommend a way for Democrats especially to proceed on the issue of guns and gun legislation.

DAVID JOLLY, FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN, (R) FLORIDA: Yes. Listen, those two voices define this issue for the American people. And both political parties, Republicans and Democrats, would be wise to listen to them. And in their voices is an opportunity to move the country forward when it comes to responsible gun control issues. We can protect the Second Amendment but still responsibly regulate beyond the current regulatory state we have right now.

And my point has been this. Law enforcement officials -- the law enforcement community is largely a pro-Second Amendment group, most of them are conservatives, many Republicans and they believe in expanded background checks and they believe in additional restrictions on assault weapons. One of the two parties, Republicans are failing to do it, Democrats have an opportunity, should run an end around to the National Rifle Association got to the Major Sheriff`s Associations, go to the International Association of Police Chief and say, let`s fix this together. Let`s leave the American people forward on this and let`s enact the will of the American people in Congress, leave the NRA behind and whatever incumbents don`t want to come along, hopefully they`ll see defeat in the next election.

WILLIAMS: To that end, I want to show you the cover of tomorrow`s "New York Post" Maggie Haberman of the "New York Times" put this out on social media with a little reminder of the night, this is Donald Trump`s favorite newspaper, this is a newspaper owned by Rupert Murdoch it says Mr. President please act we need sensible gun control to help stop the slaughter.

Congressman, I`m going to use a political term of art you will know immediately and that`s Nixon to China. Only the cold warrior Dick Nixon could reach out and make an on-trade to China and not be judged. Well, by that reasoning, isn`t it also true that only Donald Trump could rise up tomorrow and say you know what, I`ve thought about it, this is madness, this could have been Barron Trump or any one of any of our children, it`s time to restrict these AR-15s. Restrict this 223 rounds and how we handle them and -- finish the sentence for me.

JOLLY: Yes. Brian, this is infrastructure week, right? We laugh about that. But earlier this week he reportedly offered to provide political cover to politicians on Capitol Hill for offering a $0.25 gallon tax raise.


JOLLY: Imagine that the President said, I`ll give you political cover on this. Let`s do this and get it done. You know, an encouraging moment happened to me on Capitol Hill and it arose out of a strong contest. I slept in my office. I was one of those members who slept in my office and there was a gun control group that would come around every night and put these posters on my wall suggesting that somehow, I was culpable for the deaths of innocent people across the country.

So I called them and I said why are you targeting me? And they said it`s very simple. You haven`t co-sponsored the universal background checks. And I said, well I support that, come in and meet with me. We had a rather contentious meeting, but at the end of the meeting I said, sure, I`ll co- sponsor that. And what happened there was we removed the tribalism of this issue, the far right and far left. We sat down and we talked and we realize, there`s a common sense way forward.

I would suggest to my former colleagues tonight, take that risk, be willing to lose your job, because if you`re willing to lose your job, you`ve just might find your voice and the American people are going to support you for doing so.

WILLIAMS: I got 30 seconds. Are you comfortable with this generation of students, if what I`m reading on social media and elsewhere, is any guide, they have plainly (ph) had it, or the generation that gave birth to you and me and the generation before us, they cannot understand why things are this way?

JOLLY: Brian, this one feels different. The leadership we`re seeing come out of Parkland is remarkable. My concern is this, from Donald Trump to Rick Scott they`re going to turn the issue into how do we harden and protect the infrastructure of our schools. They ignore the gun issue. And then the thing we`re seeing with these students these heroes, because they`re not going to let people like Donald Trump and Rick Scott get away with that.

WILLIAMS: Former Florida Republican Congressman, David Jolly. Thank you very much for coming up with us tonight.

JOLLY: (INAUDIBLE) appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, an update on how much this swamp drainage program has progressed.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said somebody the other day and even today, drain the swamp, we put in it about two days ago, I said, drain the swamp. I didn`t like it. I didn`t like the expression, drain the swamp in Washington. So I said it three days ago, the place went crazy. I said, you know, what, I`m so don`t like that expression. And now it`s like trending all over the world, drain the swamp in Washington. So we like --we like that expression.


WILLIAMS: Well, we remember that phrase from the campaign, the problem is making good on that claim of late. Today the "New York Times" reports President`s Trump`s Inaugural Committee paid almost $26 million to an event planning firm started by an adviser to the First Lady Melania Trump.

Yesterday, the V.A. and inspector general announced they have found that V.A. Secretary David Shulkin`s chief of staff alerted altered (ph) rather an e-mail and made false statements so that Shulkin`s wife could join him on an official trip to Europe at taxpayer expense. Remember here, Shulkin was an Obama holdover confirmed by the Senate 100 nothing.

Shulkin also reportedly accepted a gift of tickets to a Wimbledon Tennis Match "Valued at thousands of dollars on the secondary commercial market." A day earlier EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt revealed security concerns forced him to fly first class or on military jets at taxpayer expense. Tax payer funded travel for Pruitt and his top aides cost at least $90,000 during a stretch in early June, according to "The Washington Post."

So let`s talk about this. And with us to do that tonight, Steve Kornacki our national political correspondent and Rex Stengel, former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, former managing editor of "Time Magazine" for good measure, he is now a distinguished fellow which we`ve always believe him to be with the Atlantic Councils Digital Forensic Research Lab.

Gentlemen, welcome to you both. Steve, Tom Price Secretary of Health and Human Services lost his job over shall we call it, a transportation issue. Are these people any different?

STEVE KORNACKI, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, you look at -- superficially this is pretty much the same thing. You`re looking in both cases, you`re looking at that issue of, you know, perks of very expensive travel in the case of the Veterans Affairs Secretary, bringing his wife along, with tax payer expense.

So if you believe there was a precedent set with Tom Price and of course, it took a while before the price thing kind of came to ahead then you have to wonder, is there going to be similar example that`s made of Shulkin? Is there going to be a similar example that`s made of Pruitt? There`s not an indication from Donald Trump yet that that`s going to be the case, but of course the thing with Trump I think we`ve learned is he is with you until he is not with you. So that could certainly change at any moment.

And I think it`s interesting, too, you have a Member of Congress Republican Member of Congress Mike Coffman, who`s out there saying, that Shulkin should go. He is saying hey look this is what Trump ran on this, what you just played from the clip there in 2016. This is what he ran on and if it means anything, he has to go.

WILLIAMS: Rick, it`s nice to sit in the pointy end of the plane, the seats are wider, the service is better. It`s great up there. Government travel however, as, you know, having served in government --


WILLIAMS: -- is a fraught business with restrictions.

STENGEL: Yes, it is incredibly detailed driven, but I went and did some old fashioned reporting, Brian.


STENGEL: I went online.

WILLIAMS: I just read, you were the former managing editor of "Time Magazine."

STENGEL: Yes, indeed. And I went to the foreign affairs manual of the State Department and to the travel policy, it is the general policy of the U.S. government that less than premium class accommodations must be used for all modes of passenger transportation. I traveled back and forth on that shuttle which we`ve all been on hundreds of times.


STENGEL: And saw Obama cabinet officers in coach. What Mr. Pruitt doesn`t understand is that the people who may actually be talking to him in coach are voters. And what so many of these people who work for Donald Trump don`t understand -- they don`t understand the meaning of being a public servant. They think that somehow they are coming to sit at the Trump in Washington, they are the swamp creatures that are making it even worse that it`s ever been before.

WILLIAMS: And Pruitt has also cited threats to his security, either real or perceived that have led him to have a security detail which the size and scope of which also put him in the news. This is the kind of nagging thing. We just listed all the issues as White House has. This is the kind of nagging thing that just stays in the news of rolling out.

KORNACKI: Yes, you know, absolutely. And look, again, the fact that you had Price early, you have two more. And now, so you`ve got sort of three instances of this. I think it does raise the question look, it can happen in any administration. I remember you go back to George H.W. Bush in the early `90s, John Sununu, he is the Chief of Staff, there was the issue of government funding. He is going to stamp shows and he was ended up being forced out.

So we`ve seen things like this before, but when you`ve got three and you`ve got regulations or guidelines like, Rick just read there, it does raise the question of, you know, people in the administration and leadership positions are they really emphasizing this to folks? Are they saying this is a point that matters to this administration? Or is this something that certainly you have three cases like this, you get the impressions. This is not something that`s a point of emphasized.

WILLIAMS: That reference to stamp shows, that`s a deep reached for (INAUDIBLE) because staying alone (ph), we`re old enough to remember the first reference.

These guys are just going to remain here for a minute. We`re going to sneak in a break. We`ll continue out conversation on the other side.



TRUMP: I feel having the Democrats in with us is absolutely vital because there should be a bipartisan bill. This should be a bill of love. Truly, it should be a bill of love and we can do that.

What I approve is going to be very much reliant on what the people in this room come to me with. I have great confidence. And if they -- If they come to me with things that I`m not in love with. I`m going to do it because I respect them.


WILLIAMS: That was less than one month ago. And now the U.S. Senate remains incapable of passing a fix to DACA, Republicans, and the White House blame Democrats, that won`t surprise you. In a statement late tonight, Sarah Huckabee-Sanders said that in part, quote, "today the Schumer Democrats and the Senate demonstrated again that they are not serious about DACA, they`re not serious about immigration reform, and they are not serious about homeland security".

Today moments before a vote on bipartisan deal in the senate the president wrote on twitter quote "the Schumer rounds Collins immigration bill would be a total catastrophe." DHS says it would be the end of immigration enforcement in America. That came, we should tell you just minutes after Fox News aired an interview with two of that bill`s co-sponsors.

Still with us to talk about this tonight Steve Kornacki and Rick Stengel. Steve you are the keeper of the numbers. In a country where we can`t agree on this being Thursday, what are the poll numbers on DACA?

KORNACKI: Yes. On DACA look, this cuts across party lines Democrats, Republicans, independence everything in between 81% over all in the most recent poll on this say they think this to permanent status, legal status should be given to the DACA recipients. So the basic core issue there very popular. One note of question I would add and we saw this with the government shutdown a few weeks ago.

When you took a poll and asked people to prioritize during the shutdown, should DACA be done if it means not keeping the government open, the answer to that was no. I said the government -- Keeping the government open was much more important than DACA. And that`s what gave Democrats a little bit of pause and I think it`s a little but unresolved when we ask voters to prioritize it, they like the goal, there`s a question of prioritizing it though and what will shooters shouldn`t be done in combination with it.

WILLAIMS: Rick Stengel, because we have the luxury of a Senate that gives us at least two weeks of funding at the time. Now we can look at DACA in the clear. What happened to the bill of love, what happened to whatever you bring me, even if I have problems with it, I`ll sign it?

STENGEL: I think his instincts on DACA are pretty good, and then -- and pretty bipartisan and moderate. Like let`s do something for these kids. I mean as laughable as it is for him to say bill of love that does show that he understands the sediments of the American people about this.

Something hardened his resolve on this and that I -- that he said I need to get something back for it. But I think also what we saw in the Senate as saw the Senate, the worlds greatest deliberative body working. I mean there were four bills, they voted on them, the bipartisan bill came closes to passing much closer than the bill that Trump supported. I think they will eventually get there, but although they`re not going to do it right away now.

WILLIAMS: Imagine though being one of the DACA families in this country and this is what you watch rolling towards you.

KORNACKI: Yes. And Trump scores at that early March deadline a little. A court now has stepped in so that March deadline may not mean what we thought it means. I thought it was interesting too that statement he have from the White House there from Sarah Huckabee-Sanders saying, hey the Democrat showed they`re not serious about this, I think its worth noting that the Trump proposal those four pillars they were in that Grassley amendment today.

That only got 39 total votes. That means there were 14 Republicans who were not on board with what the president was proposing on this. So if the White House wants to say, hey the Democrats aren`t serious, they missed a big chunk at their own party on the president`s plan today.

WILLIAMS: One point of personal privilege a question among guys was great here out here. And that`s next in the China. They point I raised earlier, Donald Trump on the issue of guns would give all the Republicans in Congress air cover. He`s virtually the only person who could rise up and do it.

STENGEL: I want to see if Steve has any gray hair.

KORNACKI: No, its way too young.

STENGEL: I think he could do it. And he could do it in part because he isn`t a partisan figure. He represents somebody who could take the heat for everybody on it. It shows where his instinct are and you could say to Republicans, look we`re doing something the American people really support, come with me.

WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, it`s always a pleasure. Thank you both. Gray hair, brown hair, it takes a village around here. Really appreciate it. Steve Kornacki and Rick Stengel here with us tonight.

Coming up, the distinction between thoughts and prayers and campaign donations as our elected officials respond to another mass casualty event in our country. That when the 11th hour continues.


WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go here tonight brings us back around this Florida tragedy. As so many people before us have said, this phrase, thoughts and prayers, even if said in all sincerity is falling short as a comfort mechanism after these repeated mass shootings, these mass casualty events. So many of the sentiments posted on social media by our elected officials now read differently in light of the facts provided that we`re about to share with you by the non-partisan center for a responsive politics and put together by our morning team on the broadcast, Velshi and Ruhle.

Now for example, Louisiana Republican Senator Bill Cassidy tweeted his sympathy and prayer saying his heart goes out to the victims in Florida and their families. The NRA spent $2.8 million over his political career including attack ads against his opponents. Ohio Republican Bob Portman -- Rob Portman tweeted about the heartbreaking news and sent prayers while he has received $3 million in support from the NRA.

Joni Ernst Republican of Iowa ask her followers to join and prayer thank the first responders. She receives $3.1 million in support. Florida Republican Marco Rubio tweeted updates and called it a terrible day, you pray never comes. His campaign has benefit from $3.3 million in funding and opposition attacks. Thanks to the NRA.

Colorado Republican Cory Gardner tweeted his heart break, asked for prayers for the first responders as well. He`s benefited from almost $4 million in NRA money for him and do attack his opponents. And Arizona Republican John McCain tweeted his prayers, the NRA has laid out $7.7 million, the most of any lawmaker.

The Florida Governor Rick Scott tweeted out that it was senseless tragedy and his order of the state flags that have staff. He enjoys an A plus NRA rating. Vice President Mike Pence tweeted about heart aches and prayers. He has an A rating from the NRA.

President Trump first tweeted and then today spoke about this tragedy. He said "no child, teacher, or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school." The NRA, we should point out, spent over $21 million supporting Donald Trump in the 2016 election, almost 10 million on ads and other pro-Trump material and 12 million attacking Hillary Clinton.

So you see the distinction there between thoughts and prayers and campaign donations and attack ads. That is our broadcast for you on this Thursday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night for all of us here at NBC News headquarters in New York.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: There is significant breaking news tonight on the Robert Mueller special counsel investigation. We`re going to be getting to that in just a moment here in the show. It`s potentially the biggest advance in Mueller`s case since guilty plea agreements with the two cooperating witnesses were announced in December.

As I mentioned we`re going to be getting to that news in just a moment including some very apt expert advice as to what it might mean.