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Manafort to be arraigned this week. TRANSCRIPT: 02/26/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Ashley Parker, Chuck Rosenberg, David Voreacos, Chris Megerian

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: February 26, 2018 Guest: Ashley Parker, Chuck Rosenberg, David Voreacos, Chris Megerian

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, THE LAST WORD, HOST: -- talk about Donald Trump`s plan to arm teachers. He has called it the height of lunacy. "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: Tonight on the Russia front, Hope Hicks just hours away from testimony before House Intel, as former Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort faces two arraignments this week and as Robert Mueller plows ahead.

Plus, what`s the status of Jared Kushner`s security clearance and did he lose access to classified Intel? The White House isn`t saying and he was out of public view today. And the President says he would have summoned the courage to run into gunfire at that Florida high school, as he calls out the cops who did not. "The 11th Hour" on a Monday night begins now.

As we begin a new week together, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York, day 403 of the Trump administration and we`re just hours away now from one of this President`s closest aids testifying in the Russia investigation. A source tells NBC News that Hope Hicks, the former Ralph Lauren model, who is now the White House communications director, is slated to appear before the House Intelligence Committee tomorrow 10 a.m.

Hope Hicks was, to coin a phrase, present at the creation. She traveled with Donald Trump from the very start of the campaign. She has seen and heard and participated in a lot, including that Air Force I flight home from Europe, the meeting on board that resulted in the drafting of a cover story for the meeting Don Jr. had with the Russians in Trump tower. And she plays a critical role for this President on a daily basis still.

The "New York Times" reporting that`s her handwriting on those so-called empathy cards the President brought into the room with him to the listening session on gun violence last week. It is unknown if the White House has put any kind of restrictions on the questions that Hope Hicks can and cannot be asked.

Tonight on this network, California Democratic congressman, Adam Schiff, top Democrat on House Intel gave this warning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: It should be made owe abundantly clear that if Hope Hicks or anyone else comes in and they improperly claim executive privilege or just refuse to answer questions without a privilege that they`ll get a subpoena and that were prepared to go to court and insist on getting answers.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: There is also news about another key Trump associate, the President`s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort. The 64-year-old veteran lobbyist facing several federal charges alleging that he laundered tens of millions of dollars, committed tax fraud and -- fraud and tax evasion, rather and made false statements, all filed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Manafort would be arraigned in federal court on Wednesday in Washington and then notably will go through the same arraignment process on Friday in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Before he worked for Trump`s campaign, Manafort managed political conventions for Republican presidential candidates as far back as Gerald Ford. He took on political clients around the globe, including some of Vladimir Putin`s allies in Ukraine.

A profile of Manafort in the current "Atlantic" refers to his work this way, "over the decades, Manafort has cut a trail of foreign money and influence into Washington then built that trail into a superhighway." That superhighway help led him to Donald Trump and the Trump campaign.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We have great people, Paul Manafort. And Paul`s had some really, really -- and Paul`s had great success with Reagan and with Bush and with Ford and, you know, great success. He doesn`t have to do this, like I don`t have to.

He didn`t need to do this but he wanted to because he saw something. And he called me. He said this is something special. One of the biggest people in the country called me. They said Paul saw something special.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Paul Manafort stage managed the GOP convention then helped secure the Republican presidential nomination for Donald Trump but left the campaign shortly after that. And as Mueller`s team expanded its investigation and began focusing on Manafort, Trump`s remarks changed. And he is describing Manafort as, "with the campaign for a very short period of time."

Mueller has been ranching up the pressure on Manafort. And last week, he obtained the guilty plea from his former close associate, Rick Gates, who is also Manafort`s deputy on the Trump campaign. The two men both face charges in relation to their lobbying work with pro-Kremlin political figures in Ukraine. It`s a lot we know.

Gates has flipped and is cooperating with Mueller and expected to provide valuable information in the case against Paul Manafort, who we know was in that 2016 Trump Tower meeting and who might be able to offer details about possible collusion between campaign associates and Moscow.

Former FBI assistant director for Counterintelligence, Frank Figliuzzi, who has worked for Robert Mueller appeared on this broadcast Friday night and said this about Paul Manafort.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: When you look at the profile of Manafort and look how far back Mueller is going in these charges, we`ve seen reference to 2006. So this is somebody in Manafort who has been joined at the hip with Russian and Ukrainian and pro-Russian and Ukrainian interests for years and years and you don`t lie down with these people without getting bitten and without being guilty of association with thugs. It could be that Trump is the least of his worries and the folks he`s been joined at the hip with, thug- type people, intelligence-type people back in Russia and Ukraine are actually a greater threat to him and he`s afraid of giving them up and giving up their relationship with the President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLLIAMS: That`s saying something. And with that and without delay, let`s bring in our leadoff panel on a Monday night, Ashley Parker, White House reporter for "The Washington Post," Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney and veteran of the FBI who wield a number of senior roles at the Bureau, and David Voreacos, legal reporter for Bloomberg News. Welcome to you all.

Ashley, I`d like to begin with you and go back up to where we started the broadcast below this many six minutes ago and that`s Hope Hicks. Let`s assume for the sake of this conversation that House Intel has so thoroughly screwed up this effort and has so badly colored everything that comes out of House Intel. Is it House Intel that she has to worry about or Robert Mueller?

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You know, I think you have to be worried about any moment where you`re testifying under oath but do I think Robert Mueller is probably a bigger concern for her. And so far, House Intel in some ways has sort of been functioning as precursor to the same sorts of questions but in a less obviously partisan way, that these same people then face from Robert Mueller. So, I think that`s probably her main area of concern, but I will I`ve heard that she has prepped very thoroughly for tomorrow`s testimony and it`s certainly not something she`s taking lightly.

WILLIAMS: Chuck, we know there`s prep and there`s prepping to sit down with Mueller and any member of his team. Talk about the potential legal peril or exposure, as you guys call it, for her before House Intel and again with Mueller.

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY: Well, first of all, I think Ashley is right. I mean, there is some peril in both places. But if I were Hope Hicks or her attorneys, I would be more keenly focussed on Bob Mueller and his team.

That said, when you testify under oath regardless of where you testify under oath, you can be sure that the Mueller folks are going to be hanging on her every word. By that I mean, watching, listening, picking up cues for their own investigation. I don`t know if they`ve already interviewed her. If they have, they may well end up interviewing her again.

So, she needs to be well-prepared. She needs to be very careful and she needs to be cognizant that a whole bunch of people are interested in what she has to say.

WILLIAMS: David, Paul Manafort, you`ve done a lot of reporting on him. Talk about his personal financial situation and how that is already germane to what we`re seeing.

DAVID VOREACOS, LEGAL REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS. Well, he made tens of millions of dollar as an international political consultant. And in the last couple of years, particularly right before he started in the Trump campaign, he grew increasingly desperate for cash. And so in the latest indictment in Virginia, Mueller describes a pattern of bank fraud where Manafort and Gates, his co-defendant repeatedly lied to banks so they could get loans. And you could see the pace that which they were telling these lies to get loans quickened and it was clear that Manafort really needed cash badly and he took the job for free. So it raises some interesting questions about what he was doing when he was, you know, in apparently desperate financial straits and working for free in the Trump campaign.

WILLIAM: Ashley, some of these indictment documents I don`t feel smart enough to read. They`re so complex, especially the allegations surrounding Manafort`s operation. Could you make a case that absent Donald Trump entering his life Paul Manafort would just be off somewhere running his international business and lobbying, registered or unregistered in Washington for various entities?

PARKER: I think you can absolutely make that case and this is something that applies to a number of President Trump`s associates. You can almost sort of think of it as at anti-Midas touch. There are people who have come into contact with this President or his campaign and they`ve emerged the worse for, it battered and bruised.

For some of the people, it means that they had to compromise their conservative principles or it was revealed they didn`t quite have the principles we all thought they did, or they have to be endure being publicly humiliated by this President. In Paul Manafort`s case, it`s the fact that according to these allegations, he had been running a quite complex criminal enterprise for years, if not decades. And what brought that security on to him was joining President Trump`s campaign for free, which again is sort of a central irony that someone who is desperate for cash and engaged in alleged bank fraud then offers to work for free in this final move that attracts the attention of ultimately Bob Mueller.

WILLIAMS: So, Chuck, we`re watching Manafort. All this video shows Manafort walking. You`d think he walked several miles with cameras every day because we run the same video of him all the time?

This scene is going to be repeated now twice this week with kind of a scrum of photographers of him walking into a federal courthouse and out again. Is this mandatory for a superseding indictment that is -- or is there prosecutorial discretion at work here? That`s question number one. Question two, is this all a part to get him to flip?

ROSENBERG: Let me take question number one first, Brian. So it is mandatory anytime you`re charged, either initially or with the superseding indictment that you are arraigned on those charges. In other words, you go in front of a federal judge. She asks you if you understand that you have been charged, makes the formal presentation of the charges to you, sets a trial date. There are some other sort of perfunctory, you know, stuff that goes on but has to happen.

Question number two, is this an effort to get him to flip? Well, let me take a step back. Virtually all defendants who are charged in federal district court end up being convicted. The overwhelming percentage of those by guilty plea.

So it`s very rational, very sensible for a defendant, particularly one like Manafort to end up pleading guilty. And the case against him, just based on my reading of the indictments, is overwhelming. So, I imagine one way or another, he`s going to end up as a convicted felon. With Gates pleading and flipping, it puts more pressure on Manafort.

Will Manafort plead? I don`t know. He may be stubborn, he may insist on his trial. One way or the other, though, Brian, he`s going to end up a convicted felon.

WILLIAMS: David, Chuck is actually a warm lovely person but that just -- that has the ability listening to it to chill your blood on your bones. And the expression, you know, indicted and arraigned in federal court is something you want to keep off your resume. Do you think that inside Manafort, this is a day-by-day decision to cooperate or not?

VOREACOS: I think to elaborate what Chuck said, aside from the fact that a vast majority of federal defendants end up being convicted, is that he`s facing a great deal of time in prison if he is convicted because of the amount of money at stake here. And he`s 68 years old. He has to make the decision whether he wants to go to trial.

He has a very good trial lawyer and they believe they have a defense. But a rational call could be that he would want to plead guilty, which raises the question of whether President Trump would consider pardoning him and whether that might figure into the defense.

WILLIAMS: Ashley, before we go, update us on security clearances, please, inside the West Wing, which for all I know is this titanic struggle, a staredown between monoliths with Jared Kushner at the center of it. I do know there was a seat for him at an event today that went unfilled. So we haven`t seen him for a while.

Do you know if there has been a decision or a resolution on his temporary clearance? Did he see the Presidential Daily Brief? Did he deal with our government secrets today, for example?

PARKER: So, my understanding is that nothing has been finalized but the White House is sort of working for a carve out or some sort of grace period, which would allow them, obviously as you mentioned, this Friday deadline where everyone either had to have a real clearance or not see any of that material at all came and went and there was no sort of at least public decision reached for Jared. So, there was a sense that the White House is sort of trying to find a way to kind of punt this down the road. You saw President Trump last week sort of punt it to General Kelly saying it`s not my call, it`s his call.

And the interesting thing about the security clearance issue is that it`s the key issue right now but it`s really merely a proxy issue for a broader tension between Jared and General Kelly in general, which is one over General Kelly sort of recent the fact that Jared and Ivanka to some extent, his attitude is you are either family or you are a staff and you can choose one or the other but you cannot be both. And he`s grown frustrated believing that they will play the family card that when it suits him and the staff card in other moments. And if Jared does get some sort of special treatment, that will be an example of him being a staffer who`s perhaps being treated differently because he`s in fact the President`s son- in-law.

WILLIAMS: Wow, a lot to think about tonight. Much obliged to our guests who lead us off in the conversation this evening, Ashley Parker, Chuck Rosenberg, and David Voreacos. Thank you so much.

Coming up for us, a look inside the newly released Democratic memo and what it reveals or not about the Trump campaign.

And later, the man who has run Police Departments in New York, Los Angeles and his native Boston weighs in on the idea of arming teachers and the cops being accused by the President of the United States of cowardice. "The 11th Hour" just getting started on a Monday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: This past weekend we finally got a look at the Democratic rebuttal to that memo from Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee that accused law enforcement officials of abusing their powers in surveilling former Trump campaign aide, Carter Page. That was easy. The ten-page partially redacted memo was approved for release by the White House on Saturday, over three weeks after the GOP memo was made public, if you may recall.

Among the memo`s main arguments, I will quote from it "FBI and DOJ officials did not abuse the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act process, the FISA court, omit material information or subvert this vital tool to spy on the Trump campaign." The original Nunes memo alleged officials mislead the court by declining to identify the political nature of the now infamous Steele dossier. And without that dossier, the warrant would never have been approved.

Our national political reporters, Mike Memoli and Jonathan Allen, point out that the rebuttal from Democrats, "offers insight into one of the most secretive processes in government, directly quoting from the text of a secret surveillance warrant application to show that the Justice Department had disclosed that some evidence sprang from political opposition research intended to discredit a political campaign contradicting a key GOP claim." The Democrats write that federal officials told the FISA court that the FBI suspected Steele was hired by an American, looking for information that could be used to discredit candidate number one`s campaign. And that`s where hey left it in front.

Earlier tonight, Carter Page sat down with Sean Hannity at Fox News and was asked about his contacts with Russians.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: In all your time on the campaign or not on the campaign, did anybody in Russia ever suggest to you they had negative information on Hillary?

CARTER PAGE, FORMER FOREIGN-POLICY ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: Not one word. Nothing whatsoever. Not even a glimpse of an offer.

HANNITY: Anyone ever suggest to you in any way that there was a hacking that they were aware of?

PAGE: Absolutely not. And, you know, I heard about it in the news eventually.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: For more, we turned to the aforementioned, Mike Memoli, NBC News national national political reporter and Chris Megerian is back with us, reporter for The Los Angeles Times who is exclusively covering Russia special counsel -- he`s not a Russian, Robert Mueller, but he is the special counsel. We apologize to the non-Russian special counsel.

So, Mike, start us off. For folks who perhaps looked away from the news for this two-day period we`re just coming off of called the weekend, which exists for some people apparently. What have we just learned in the release of this second memo?

MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brian, one of the few areas where both the Republicans and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee agree, as we see in these two memos, are the fact that the Counterintelligence investigation that was launched by the FBI on Russia and potential interference in the 2016 election began in July of 2016. That`s three months before this Carter Page surveillance warrant application process went under way. The Republicans only refer to that sort of in passing when making a different point about one of the agents involved in that investigation. But the Democrats spend a lot of time, they refer to it early and often --

WILLIAMS: And why is that important, Mike?

MEMOLI: -- it`s part of an effort to really take what the Nunes memo offered and put it into a much fuller context. You addressed one of the points that Democrats were most easily able to refute in their memo, and that has to do with the ways in which the court was informed about the work of Christopher Steele. He obviously was being paid for. His work was being paid for by Fusion GPS through the Clinton campaign -- the Clinton campaign through Fusion GPS.

And what the Republicans have said is that the court was not informed at all that there was a political motive here. The Democrats quote verbatim from the application itself, which is something we rarely see, to show not necessarily that Clinton or the DNC was mentioned but that a political campaign was mentioned. And so this is all having to do with the so-called masking procedures, which Devin Nunes has complained about in the past, but in this case, he hangs his hat on the fact that they weren`t mentioned specifically.

WILLIAMS: Chris, in the real world, does this do anything to help the White House/Republican case?

CHRIS MEGERIAN, COVERING SPECIAL COUNSEL ROBERT MUELLER, THE LOST ANGELES TIMES: Well, I think what you`re going to see is the President is going to use whatever he can find, whether or not it`s grounded in fact to try to undermine the Russian investigation. In this case, he`s used the Republican memo to say that the investigation had been biased against him from the start, that it`s based on phony information. But, you know, the Democratic memo is trying to make the point that the investigation is much broader than just one dossier, that it has multiple sources of information and it didn`t start with partisan opposition research from the Clinton campaign.

WILLIAMS: Well, Chris, a follow-up. Why should anything that comes out of this committee be followed this closely? Some people just look at this gang and see it as a partisan circus, which affects the credibility of their work product on both sides.

MEGERIAN: Well, there is very intense partisanship on the committee. I think that`s one of the reasons why to pay such close attention to it, to see kind of what the Russia investigation is doing to Congress, what is it doing to Washington, and how it`s kind of, you know, tearing these two sides apart so deeply. So I think that`s one reason to pay attention to it.

The other is it`s one of three committees that`s really responsible for doing this. We kind of have to keep tabs on them and see if they`re doing as good of a job as they say they are.

WILLIAMS: As people keep saying, Mueller`s not the only game in town, he just feels like the only game in town. Hey, Mike, one last question, and that is what`s left unsettled to you now that this whole memo chapter is for now over?

MEMOLI: Well, as far as the memo itself, there are some cases here where while the Democrats were very thorough in citing a lot of specific materials that undergirded their work, there are some cases with this memo where we have to take each side for its word. One of them had to do with what Andrew McCabe told the committee when he testified before them last December. The Republicans say he said that without the Steele dossier, there would have been no application.

The Democrats say that`s not exactly what he said to the memo. And I think this is Exhibit A for why a lot of people feel that there should not be a political debate involving classified material. Not only can`t the American people see the original source materials that both of these memos were based on, but a lot of members of the committee itself haven`t even seen them. There were only two members, the Ranking Member, Adam Schiff and Trey Gowdy, one of the top Republicans on the committee.

Where do we go from here? Well, this is -- the committee has been doing the Russia investigation of its own for year. The Democrats are saying now that this memo episode is over, we want to go back to our work. And of course, they`re going to be doing some of that tomorrow when Hope Hick appears before the committee.

WILLIAMS: As we always say and as the science says, in every highway road construction project, your tax dollars at work. Hey, Mike and Chris, Mike Memoli, Chris Megerian, thank you both gentlemen for coming on with us. We will have you back when we need something explained.

Coming up, how do you think the President reacted when he was criticized face-to-face by a visiting Democratic governor in the White House today? That photo kind of sums it up but there`s more you`ll want to see when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They had lunch with Wayne LaPierre, Chris Cox and David Lehman of the NRA. And I want to tell you, they want to do something and I said, fellas, we got to do something.

Don`t worry about the NRA, they`re on our side. You guys -- half of you are so afraid of the NRA. There`s nothing to be afraid of. And you know what? If they`re not with you, we have to fight them every once and a while, that`s OK. So we have to confront the issue, and we have to discus mental health and we have to do something about it.

You know, in the old days, we had mental institutions. You know, I really believe, you don`t know until you test it, but I think I really believe I`d run in there, even if I didn`t have a weapon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Trump hosted a meeting on gun safety with governors from across the country at the White House today. He repeated his support for stricter background checks, banning bump stock attachments and arming teachers in schools. That proposal is among the most controversial and prompted this challenge from one of the visiting democratic governors, Jay Inslee, of the State of Washington.

And please note while you watch this split screen, you don`t have to be a dues-paying member of the American College of Psychiatrists to read the president`s facial and body language while he is being criticized.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: I`ve listened to the biology teachers and they don`t want to do that, at any percentage. I`ve listened to the first- grade teachers who don`t want to be pistol-packing first-grade teachers. I`ve listened to law enforcement who said they don`t want to have to train teachers as law enforcement agents, this takes about six months.

Now, I just think this is a circumstance where we need to listen, that educators should educate, and they should not be foisted upon this responsibility of packing heat in first-grade classes. So I just suggest we need a little less tweeting here and a little more listening. And let`s just take that off the table and move forward.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The White House hasn`t yet sent a proposal to Congress. With us to talk about all of it tonight, Anita Kumar, White House correspondent from McClatchy Newspapers and Jeremy Peters, political reporter for the New York Times and an MSNBC contributor.

Anita, interesting to learn that the president had lunch with those three gentlemen from the NRA, who he finds to be very nice people. We are, all of us, distracted by the notion of an English teacher with a GLOCK or a SIG Sauer concealed while most people agree that is never going to happen and is a giant distraction.

ANITA KUMAR, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right. What was interesting about what he said, well, he actually said -- President Trump actually said two things. He said the NRA are patriots, they`re great people, they`re doing the -- you know, they`re trying to do the right thing but he also said it`s OK to fight with them. So he kind of said a little bit -- he said two different things. But what was striking is all the things he`s talked about so far, the things he talked about today, having educators have guns are things that the NRA does support.

He didn`t talk about one particular thing he talked about last week pretty strongly, which is raising the age for when you can get a rifle from 18 to 21. Didn`t mention that today and that`s something the NRA does not support. So, later on during the day when Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked is this because he had, you know, lunch with the NRA, she really pushed back and said, well, we`re still considering it. But it really seemed like a step back from where he was last week.

WILLIAMS: Anita, I`m glad you mentioned that. We have a videotape review of the changing position here. We`ll play that -- Jeremy, we`ll talk to you on the other side of it.

(BEGIN VIDE CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re going to do strong background checks. We`re going to work on getting the age up to 21 instead of 18.

(OFF-MIC)

TRUMP: Thank you very much. I don`t think I`ll be going up against them. I really think the NRA wants to do what`s right. I mean, they`re very close to me, I`m very close to them. They`re very, very great people. They love this country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) the president did not mention whether he actually wants the age limit still lifted to 21 and you`ve previously spoken about. Can you clarify if that`s still his position?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: In terms of -- I think the last question you had was the age limit, something is still being discussed but a final determination and legislative piece has not been determined on that front yet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that why he didn`t mention it today but he had mentioned in the past, is he reconsidering how that should be implemented?

SANDERS: I -- in terms of the concept, there`s still support for that but how it would be implemented and what that might look like is so very much part of the discussion.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So Jeremy, a couple of points, if we are to believe press accounts, the age limit 18 to 21 was initially proffered by among others Geraldo Rivera at Mar-a-Lago. And number two, if this is migrating, if the president is changing his position on this, doesn`t it fit that pattern of speaking off the cuff, then learning the position of his party and then it just ends up going away?

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I`ve always had a hard time believing, Brian, that the president would do anything that breaks with the NRA in a substantial way. The NRA came out bigger and earlier for President Trump than it did for any presidential candidate, I believe, in its history. It is responsible for a significant part of his victory. I think that without the backing of communities like evangelical Christians, social conservatives, gun owners, Donald Trump would not have been able to carry states like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

So, President Trump, we know, values loyalty above almost everything else. The NRA was loyal to him, it stood by him in a time when many others were walking away from him and he`s not going to forget that.

WILLIAMS: Well, Anita, the other problem, of course, are the millions of Americans who are not going to watch this happen again, watch an opportunity go by. Do you view the window as closing at all on this debate and the time to get a vote going?

KUMAR: Well, I mean, you know, we`ve been there so many times before. I went and looked back at all the stories I wrote after Sandy Hook.

WILLIAMS: I know.

KUMAR: I mean, you could run the same stories now four years later. I don`t know, it does feel they`re different this time, in part, because the kids, the students from the high school are being so vocal and you`re hearing Republicans talk about doing something. But, you know, you`re hearing Republican governors, you`re hearing the Republican president, we haven`t heard that much from the speaker of the house and the Senate majority leader. I mean, they say it`s awful what happened. They don`t -- they`re not really talking too much about a lot of proposals.

I just don`t even know if it`s there right now. They are talking about modest measures, the one the president supports on background checks is something that everybody, you know, most people support but it`s very narrow. It`s a very modest proposal. So I just don`t know.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, with background checks polling at 97%, which is given the margin of error, 100% in today`s United States, is there no appetite for this, is this going to take, again, profiles encouraged from the 535 members of the House and Senate?

PETERS: I think that Anita`s exactly right. You could run a lot of the same stories that we both wrote in 2013 after Sandy Hook. The background check bill, Brian, is running into trouble in the Senate tonight as we speak. There was supposed to be unanimous consent to allow this to go forward but there`s a Republican senator, Mike Lee, who`s holding this up because indeed, believe it or not, there is criticism from the right that fixing the background check system is the way the Congress is currently contemplating it is unfair to certain gun owners.

So, you are always going to hit these snags. Perpetually, it`s a problem. Congress has screwed up far easier things than this. And I just don`t know even though there is the swell of bipartisan agreement that they need to do something, that they will ever be able to agree on something as complicated as gun legislation.

WILLIAMS: Well, I`ve never seen people, I`ll put it this way, pay attention quite this closely. There is an energized public out there right now for all the wrong reasons, those 17 souls.

Anita Kumar, Jeremy Peters, we`ll have you both back, of course. Thank you so very much for being with us tonight.

And coming up, the president says he would have summoned more courage, he thinks that the Florida high school than the armed sheriffs deputies who responded to that call, and he calls them out for cowardice. We`ll talk to a former NYPD police commissioner, Bill Bratton, about that and more when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: A big, big school. You`d have to have 150 real guards. Look, you had one guard. He didn`t turn out to be too good, I will tell you that. He turned out to be not good. He was not a credit to law enforcement.

What he did, he`s trained his whole life. There`s an example. But when it came time to get in there and do something, he didn`t have the courage or something happened. But he certainly did a poor job.

I got to watch some deputy sheriffs performing this weekend. They weren`t exactly Medal of Honor winners, all right. The way they performed was frankly disgusting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: President Trump has been vocally critical of a sheriff`s deputy who stayed outside the building while a gunman shot and killed 17 people inside Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida. The lawyer for that officer, by the way, Scot Peterson, defended his client today saying Peterson believed the gunfire was coming from outside the school when responding.

This weekend NBC News reported three more deputies from Broward County sheriff`s office also stayed outside during the shooting. I want to bring in for our conversation Bill Bratton, former commissioner of the NYPD, the Boston Police Department, former chief of police in Los Angeles. He is these days an MSNBC senior law enforcement and counterterrorism analyst and we are lucky to have him.

Commissioner, when you hear the president speaking that way, how do you balance it out against these stories we`re hearing from the crime scene? What comes to mind?

BILL BRATTON, FORMER NYPD COMMISSIONER: There`s an old adage in the police profession, the first story is never the last story. And we`re seeing how the multiple story lines that are now coming out of this incident are changing day to day. We now have a lawyer defending the actions of the police officer, who`s been very significantly castigated from the president on down. I think all of us need to take a deep breath, take a step back and let the investigations go forward and try to determine exactly what happened.

In terms of the issue of who`s going to do what when confronted with a horrific situation like this, nobody really knows until they have to confront it. But in my profession that I was so proud to be part of, on a number of occasions, I had to confront situations that fortunately I acquitted myself, well, as the vast majority of police officers and firefighters do, they run toward the danger. That`s what we expect. But, until we`re tested, until all of us are tested, you never really know.

WILLIAMS: So can you follow a young recruit all the way through the NYPD academy and until they get to the business end of a weapon on the job for a couple of years in New York City, there`s really no way to know. And, what about the imbalance of power? You know someone is there with an A.R. shooting a 223 round, which is designed to rip human life apart and you have your service weapon, a 9 millimeter and your kevlar vest.

BRATTON: Since Columbine, we have trained officers to go toward the danger, go to that individual life with that type of weapon.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

BRATTON: Usually equipped on their own with a semiautomatic handgun. In New York during my time `14, `15, 2014 and `15, fortunately we had the funds, the mail (ph) support to buy for every police officer, very police vehicle tactical gear and helmets so they kept in their cars. So, the average officer responding to an active shooter situation has the ability to put on the extra armor, helmet but still with the handgun to move toward the danger.

WILLIAMS: What do you think of this new notion that an English teacher would have a 9 millimeter concealed behind their sweater?

BRATTON: Myself, personally, and most of my colleagues, former colleagues in the policing profession we`ll talk to, don`t support the idea of arming teachers in the schools. But ultimately, Brian, this is going to be up to each community.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

BRATTON: Each state, it`s not going to be a federal decision. And some states, some communities already authorize it, some teachers are carrying weapons. But by and large, I think police leaders understand how difficult it is even for a trained officer who is continually being trained to actually hit something that they`re shooting at. And the confusion of going into a situation with additional people with firearms, not knowing who`s who, it just raises the tension level for responding officers and ranges -- basically raises also the potential for unfortunate crossfire between basically the good guys.

WILLIAMS: Yes. From 200 yards to a first responder, an English teacher with a nine millimeter could look like a gunman inside a school. Always a pleasure. Thank you, Commissioner Bill Bratton, here with us in the studio tonight.

Coming up, just how bad, how consequential is this Russia investigation just over a year into this new presidency? Some perspective from our next guest when the conversation continues.

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WILLIAMS: Many of our presidents have dealt with scandal at some point in their presidencies and after a first year overshadowed by the Mueller investigation, Donald Trump is now on that list. So far, 19 people have been charged, five have pleaded guilty, including former national security adviser Michael Flynn, former deputy campaign manager, Rick Gates, and campaign adviser George Papadopoulos.

Without knowing what other charges might still come, the folks who compile our morning political summary around here, first read at NBC News wrote this today. "Whether or not Mueller ever finds a smoking gun that Trump and his campaign colluded with Russia, this is already the biggest political scandal in decades. And we are just more than a year into Trump`s presidency and nine months into Mueller`s probe."

They go under reference comments made by political scientist Jonathan Bernstein who said it`s "clearly the worst presidential scandal since at least Iran-Contra, but probably since Watergate. Jonathan Bernstein is here with us tonight. He`s a long-time political science professor who is now a columnist for "Bloomberg View".

Well, Jonathan, let me have you put in the way you`d like. How big is this thus far based on what we know and why?

JONATHAN BERNSTEIN, FORMER POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR: Well, you`ve got - - you know, to begin with, Russia, you know, interfering the United States election, trying to influence the election. You`ve got the Trump campaign at the very least welcoming that interference. We don`t know if there was whatever counts as collusion, but they certainly welcomed it both publicly, the president -- the now president on the stump invited Russia to interfere in the campaign essentially. And we know that covertly that was also going on, that there was meeting in Trump Tower and et cetera and et cetera.

So, you know, we got. And then we`ve got a cover-up. You know, we`ve got obstruction of juctice from the president, which he talked about, admitted to, brags about on television that he fired the director of the FBI because of the Russian investigation. So if you put all that together, you`ve got -- you know, you just went through the list of how many indictments, guilty pleas already, it`s a major, major story.

WILLIAMS: As he was coming down the aisle to deliver State of the Union, I remember remarking that I couldn`t remember another president at the end of his first year with his presidency as imperiled as Donald Trump. As you go through the reasoning, you started with, of course, Russia interfered in our election. But we`re so divided, we can`t get agreement on that one.

BERNSTEIN: Well, you know, that`s -- the intelligence agencies agree on it, the investigations agree on it. There really isn`t very much question about that. You know, it`s not, you know, Trump`s 400-pound guy sitting in his basement. We know pretty much what -- we don`t -- we may not know everything that happened but just from what we know so far, it`s enough to say, well, yes, this is, as you say, imperils the presidency.

WILLIAMS: Where is the usual American urgency? This is a war unlike any other. This one, of course, is electronic, an enemy we can`t see but we can imagine. Where`s the urgency to fight it?

BERNSTEIN: Well, as you said, there`s partisan polarization these days. You know, it`s not the kind of tangible kind of damage that you might see, you know, from previous -- from, you know, fighting with bullets war. But, you know, you can also go back to previous scandals. If you take Watergate, for example, over several months of Watergate, it was, you know, the president successfully spun the thing as a third-rate burglary, right, and people didn`t take it seriously for a long time until the indictments started coming out and evidence started coming out of exactly what Nixon`s men had done and what Richard Nixon himself had done.

So, we have some of that. It certainly is a continuing story. A story that, you know, has legs and, you know, journalism wise. If there`s urgency about it, I don`t know, it`s hard to judge exactly what counts as urgency.

WILLIAMS: How about we agree to have you back the next major development that moves us down the road. Then we`ll take stock again at how far we`ve come. Jonathan Bernstein, thank you so much for being with us on a Monday night.

Coming up for us, from time to time, even our institutions hear footsteps on occasion that noise you might have heard this past weekend likely came from California. We`ll explain when we continue.

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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Both Mayor Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk have been shot and killed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, Jesus Christ.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, that right there was the moment that Dianne Feinstein entered the consciousness of Americans outside the Bay Area, after announcing the assassination of the San Francisco mayor and city supervisor, she later assumed the office of mayor.

Now, Senator Dianne Feinstein does not like to talk about those awful murders and does not like to be asked about it. Her history with gun violence did lead her to champion the assault weapons ban back in the 1990s.

But now here we are 40 years after that incident, Senator Diane Feinstein, Democrat of California, is set to run for her sixth term. Out of 100 U.S. senators, only seven of them have more seniority than Feinstein. She`s the lead Democrat on the Judiciary Committee and has a big voice on intelligence and national security, and recently DACA.

But this weekend back home in California, she was drowned out by louder voices, one in particular. Senator Feinstein failed to receive the endorsement of the California Democratic Party and while no one received that necessary 60%, Feinstein lost 54% to 37% to Kevin de Leon, the Democratic leader in the State Senate. He is a liberal who has criticized Feinstein`s moderation on some issues.

There`s a primary in June and Feinstein, who is 84 years old, and a Senate institution, has raised a whole lot of money and has a big lead in the polls but as the senator herself would admit, nothing about the politics of 2018 is predictable, including the fact that she could hear loud footsteps from California all the way to Washington.

That is our broadcast for this Monday evening as we start off a new week. Thank you so much for being here with us. Good night from NCB News headquarters in New York.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END