Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: February 27, 2018 Guest: Frank Montoya, Ken Vogel
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, THE LAST WORD, HOST: "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: Tonight, Jared Kushner loses his top- secret security clearance. As "The Washington Post" reveals, four countries have talked about how to manipulate the President`s son-in-law. And Robert Mueller is looking into Kushner`s contacts with foreign leaders.
Also one of the nation`s top intelligence chiefs tells Congress he has not received a direct order from the President to stop the Russian meddling.
Plus, Hope Hicks spends over nine hours before a House committee. Charges for Rick Gates dropped after he flipped on Mueller. And Paul Manafort due for arraignment just hours from now as "The 11th Hour" gets underway on a Tuesday night.
Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 404 of the Trump administration brings a major shakeup again to the West Wing and a big shake change in status for one of the President`s most senior, most trusted aides. Jared Kushner, President Trump`s son-in-law and senior advisor has been stripped of his high level security clearance cutting off his access to highly classified information like the Presidential Daily Brief.
NBC News has learned that Kushner who has been working under the highest level interim clearance for all this while, more than a year, learned about the downgrade in a memo on Friday. The decision comes as White House chief of staff, John Kelly moved to overhaul the White House security clearance process after the resignation of Staff Security Rob Porter amid allegations of spousal abuse on his part.
Well, tonight, a senior administration official told our NBC News colleague, Kristen Welker, that the President, "has faith in his son-in-law and his senior advisor to continue to work at the level that he has from the beginning in terms of making progress of major pieces of his portfolio," a sentiment the President also emphasized just days ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Jared`s done an outstanding job. I think he`s been treated very unfair. He`s a high quality person. He works for nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: When it came to the issue of allowing his son-in-law to keep his access to the nation`s deepest secrets, Trump seemed happy to let his chief lieutenant make that call.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: That`ll be up to General Kelly. General Kelly respects Jared a lot, and General Kelly will make that call.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The White House had do official responds to today`s development but a spokesman for Jared Kushner issued a statement that reads in part. "As to his security clearance Mr. Kushner has done more than what is expected of him in this process. No concerns were raised about Mr. Kushner`s application. As General Kelly himself said, the new clearance policy will not affect Mr. Kushner`s ability to continue to do the very important work that he be been assigned by the President."
That work has meant a broad portfolio. Shall we call it for the 37-year- old Jared Kushner, a veteran of a family real state business in New York has no government experience prior to this? His portfolio has included dealing with the peace process in the Middle East, handling relations with China, Japan and Mexico as well as domestic issues including but not limited to opioids, infrastructure, government efficiency, the economy and trade.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JARED KUSHNER, SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Serving the President and the people of United States has been the honor and privilege of a lifetime. I am so grateful for the opportunity to work on important matters such as Middle East peace and reinvigorating America`s innovative spirit. Every day I come to work with enthusiasm and excitement for what can be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: But his involvement in some of the President`s key domestic and foreign policy decisions, his work on the Trump campaign and his one-time involvement in that family real estate business may have made him something of a liability in this administration. "The Washington Post" as we mentioned earlier, reports tonight that he was targeted by foreign governments and that, "officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate Jared Kushner, the President`s son-in- law and senior advisor, by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter. Among those nations discussing ways to influence Kushner to their advantage were the United Arab Emirates, China, Israel and Mexico."
"The Post" goes onto say White House officials were, "concerned that Kushner was naive and being tricked in conversations with foreign officials, some of whom said they wanted to deal only with Kushner directly and not more experienced personnel."
Let`s bring in our leadoff panel for a Tuesday night broadcast, Jeremy Bash, former chief of staff at the CIA and Pentagon. Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The Washington Post" and moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS, and Kimberley Atkins, chief Washington reporter for The Boston Herald. All three are MSNBC analyst.
Mr. Costa, I understand you are just off the phone with some folks and can speak to just how bad a day this was for Jared Kushner.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLTICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": A very rough day for Jared Kushner. Talking to officials inside of the White House tonight, Brian, they say that he has lost not only his security clearance, at least that high level access to classified information downgraded to a secret status. He is losing his top aide inside of the White House.
Josh Raffel announced today that he`s living the White House, not a well- known presence nationally, but inside the West Wing, inside of Washington, known as a real keen operator. He`s leaving the West Wing. And you also have Kushner struggling with General Kelly, the chief of staff. These tensions about the scope of his role, all of it culminating today with this new clearance announcement.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, if Hollywood or Homeland or any number of broadcasts were doing this, they would establish a meeting in the situation room where they would have to pause and say I`m afraid to continue, we`ll need to ask you to leave. But in the real world, in a practical sense what does this mean Jared Kushner will no longer be able to see or hear or handle and who`s the enforcer?
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: He won`t be able to read the President`s Daily Brief. He won`t be able to get access to intelligence about some of the things in his portfolio, like the Israeli-Palestinian peace process or relations with China. That computer under his desk that gives him access to top secret classified information will have to be ripped out from under his desk.
Brian, I`ve talked to White House officials current and former all throughout the evening and none of us can remember a single West Wing staffer who was able to remain in his or her job with merely a secret clearance, with the exception of the people who deliver the mail or the unlisted sailors who work in the White mess. Brian, this is professionally fatal for Jared Kushner. He cannot do the job that the President has asked him to do with merely a secret clearance.
WILLIAMS: Kim, let`s agree as a baseline for this conversation that if an organic talent search had been launched to find a senior advisor to the President of the United States no one would come back and say there`s this guy named Kushner, he`s 37, he`s in real estate in New York, he`d be perfect. But presidency and elections have their perks and consequences. The President wanted him there.
Do you think what we`ve witnessed today is the revenge of two generals named Kelly and McMaster perhaps wanting to exert a little bit more control over the West Wing?
KIMBERLY ATKINS, CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER, "THE BOSTON HERALD": I think that`s absolutely that. I mean, I think there is this struggle that is going on. You have people who are there who want this to work properly.
Look, this is a textbook example of why we have security clearance requirements for people in high ranking positions in the White House. This isn`t just a story of White House intrigue. It`s a matter of national security when we`re dealing with friends and foes who are both trying to manipulate a top White House official in order to gain some sort of leverage. That`s a major problem.
This would be disqualifying for anyone who is not related to the President. And I think that is the tension here. You have someone who you can`t -- John Kelly even if you wanted to fire him, how can you fire the President`s son-in-law? But it`s presenting a major problem, ongoing problem that doesn`t seem to have any sort of solution so long as he`s in there.
Now Jared Kushner can`t fully do the job as Jeremy pointed out. And in doing the job he`s a liability to the White House.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Robert, I want to know if you`ll go as far as two people you and I both know, the Associated Press report tonight on Kushner`s security status being reduced. Zeke Miller and Jonathan Lemire write, "The news set off rampant speculation among Trump allies that Kushner`s days in the White House might be numbered." This dove tails with certainly the spirit of what Jeremy just said.
COSTA: The clock has been ticking for two week, Brian. If you think back to when General Kelly two weeks ago, we reported at "The Post" that he has this memo, that if you have an interim clearance you will not be able to continue to work in the West Wing. That was widely seen inside of the White House as a direct message to Jared Kushner working for 13 months under an interim clearance.
Those days were over. It was put out in a memo that`s basically policy inside of the White House. And then you had Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general call the White House counsel, Don McGahn and say there are ongoing concerns with his background investigation, didn`t give any details as far as we know. But you have the head of the Mueller investigation, the number two justice telling the White House that this latest development is just the tip of the spear in the sense of all these things that have been happening.
And if the Kushner wing in the White House faces a tough question tonight, how does he move on if he does stay? What is that portfolio? Are they willing to accept a narrow scope in that portfolio?
WILLIAMS: Jeremy, let`s talk about the Mueller team interest in all of this and I`ll ask two hypotheticals. Was Kushner really naive enough when another government would say to him we want to deal with you personally to accept that at face value, be flattered by that? And was he naive enough to ever raise business, the Kushner family business with these foreign relations that he came into by dint of his West Wing job and marriage?
BASH: Look, no doubt he was hamstring by the fact that he was fundamentally unqualified and inexperienced for this role. So, if you take the President at his word that this young fellow has good judgment and so you would think he`d know better. I actually think, Brian, from the "The Washington Post" reporting that probably what concerned the FBI in looking this clearance wasn`t so much that foreign countries wanting to try to manipulate him. I think that`s far for the course as expected but probably many more than four countries that wanted to do that.
I think there must be something much more significant because the bar for denying a security clearance for a senior advisor, the son-in-law of the President is pretty high. And if the FBI is going to go after that issue and if they`re going to dig in it better be for a darn good reason. I don`t think it`s merely because foreign officials thought that they could work Jared Kushner.
WILLIAMS: And Kim, let`s talk about real life and the way people live. The President has the authority behind closed doors, family dinners to repeat or pass on whatever he wishes to his son-in-law. Isn`t that correct?
ATKINS: That`s absolutely true. And as "The Washington Post" reported there hasn`t been a lot of enforcement in how this information has been disseminated and shared.
ATKINS: That`s something that General Kelly is trying to get a hold of right now. So there`s nothing to really stop the President from giving or telling Jared Kushner what he wants him to have or wants him to know.
And also, keep in mind, we`ve said before, the President can put an end to all of this by granting Jared Kushner a full security clearance. He has the ability to do so. But so far right now he`s letting General Kelly take the lead on this. Is that an indication that he might be willing to let Jared Kushner go despite the close family ties? I think it`s possible.
WILLIAMS: So Robert Costa, another enormous distraction to our knowledge, the Trump agenda did not advance a wit today. Any other bold faced names going to have security clearances pulled that we may be reading about in the next 24 hours?
COSTA: Not so much about the security clearances right now, Brian. Jared Kushner is the most prominent in the White House that has had problems with interim security clearances. It`s the constant cloud of the Russia investigation, the questions about what happened during this presidential transition.
Hope Hicks, one of the other President`s confidants questioned today on Capitol Hill, all of Jared Kushner deals with security clearance issues. The Mueller investigation seems come out with indictments every week. For a White House that`s trying to maybe look at gun control, think about the midterm elections, it continues to be Russia, Russia, Russia, security clearance and Russia every day.
WILLIAMS: And Jeremy, when you remember the fact that this is a subject because of the Porter matter, because of allegations of spousal abuse, ball it all up for me. What have we learned or what have we have reinforced about this administration?
BASH: Well, we learned the team that came in with the President in January 2017 was inexperienced, many unqualified and did not have the proper credentials and the ability to get the credentials. But I think Robert is pointing up to the larger issue, which is that two weeks ago Republicans on Capitol Hill and now realizing the White House were trying to go after Bob Mueller and undermine the investigation. I think the indictments of the Russians, the Gates plea, the plea deal from the Skadden, Arps lawyer, the superseding indictments of Manafort have basically washed all of that away.
Mueller is in a very strong position as he prepares to interview the President of United States.
WILLIAMS: Yes, around these parts, if you want things to look dramatically different wait a week. We`re much obliged to Jeremy Bash, to Robert Costa, to Kimberly Atkins. Our thanks for starting us off on a Tuesday night.
And coming up, the warning from one of America`s top intelligence chiefs about Russian meddling in our elections and how he`s proceeding without a direct order to stop it.
And later we mentioned this earlier, what Hope Hicks has admitted to doing for her boss, the President, according to "The New York Times" account of her testimony just out tonight. "The 11th Hour" just getting started tonight.
WILLIAMS: It was quite the scene inside today`s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the U.S. cyber command. There was Mike Rogers, the U.S. Navy admiral who runs the NSA, the National Security Agency. And he made a number of stunning admissions about the U.S. response or the lack of it following the Russian interference in our elections.
While Admiral Rogers revealed he hasn`t requested additional authority to stop Russian cyber attacks, he also said President Trump has not ordered him to do so.
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SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D), NEW HAMPSHIRE: You said that President Trump has never ordered Cyber Command to take any action to defend or thwart Russian attempts to meddle in the elections this fall, is that correct?
ADM. MIKE ROGERS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: So I said I`ve never given any specific direction to take additional steps outside my authority. And I have taken the steps within my authority, you know, trying to be a good, proactive commander. And it is my view --
SHAHEEN: But no one from the administration has asked you to take any additional steps?
ROGERS: -- I haven`t been granted any, you know, additional authorities, capacity and capability and -- no, that`s certainly true.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, from there, things got heated. Democrats on the committee became increasingly angry with what they were hearing from Admiral Rogers.
SEN. CLAIRE MCCASKILL (D), MISSOURI: I`m going to try to channel a woman who came up to me at the grocery store not too long ago. She asked me, are we strong enough and smart enough that we can keep them from doing this again?
MCCASKILL: OK. So then the next question, she asked me and I said the same thing. The next question she asked me, are we doing that right now?
ROGERS: We`re taking steps but we`re probably not doing enough.
MCCASKILL: OK. So she wants to know and I want to know why the hell not? What`s it going to take?
ROGERS: I`m an operational commander, ma`am. You`re asking me a question that`s so much bigger than me.
MCCASKILL: The notion that you have not given this mission to stop this from happening this year is outrageous.
ROGERS: I believe that the President and Putin have clearly come to the conclusion there`s little price to pay here.
SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Bingo.
ROGERS: And that therefore I can continue this activity.
ROGERS: Everything, both as a director of NSA and what I see on the cyber command side leads me to believe that if we don`t change the dynamic here, this is going to continue and 2016 won`t be viewed as something isolated.
WILLIAMS: That gets your attention. And this marks the second time this month we`ve heard as much from our intelligence officials. You may recall February 13th, we got a stark warning from U.S. Intel chief that Moscow would be back to meddle in this year`s upcoming mid-terms. And during that Senate Intel Committee hearing, FBI director, Chris Wray was asked directly if the President had instructed him confront Russia over election interference.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Has the President directed you and your agency to take specific actions to confront and blunt Russian influence activities that are ongoing?
CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: We`re taking a lot of specific efforts to blunt Russian efforts.
REED: As directed by the President?
WRAY: Not specifically directed by the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, with us to talk about all of it tonight Frank Montoya, a veteran at the FBI, former unit chief in the Counterintelligence Division. He played a role in establishing the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force. And Philip Rucker is back with us, a White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst.
Frank, how did it make you feel to hear that? Are you buoyed by the number of your fellow professionals inside the system putting their heads down, continuing to do their jobs and considering for the first time in your adult life, your life`s work is under attack by the President?
FRANK MONTOYA, JR., FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Well, I definitely felt Mike`s pain. You know, this job is hard enough when there is a plan, when there is a policy. When there isn`t one, it`s near impossibility. You know, the challenges are many.
I think that what you saw there in his testimony it was a reflection of the frustration that he feels in terms of what he can do and what he can`t do. The fact that, you know, some of it is probably having some good impact, but there are more things that can be done but there`s got to be a whole government approach to this and that`s not happening yet.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, I read this in on the air the night you wrote it, February 16.
PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes.
WILLIAMS: I`m going to read it again. It`s been so long after all. "Trump has never convened a Cabinet-level meeting on Russian interference and has resisted or attempted to do undo efforts to hold Moscow to account, such as additional penalties imposed last August by Congress. On the National Security Council, there has been an unspoken understanding that the President would see raising the Russia matter a personal affront."
Philip, in your view is it getting harder and harder to say look away, nothing to see here?
RUCKER: Absolutely. This is one of the reasons why you saw Admiral Rogers today at the Capitol testifying that Putin has concluded that there`s little price to pay here for the interference and he`s very likely to do it again because the President of the United States, Donald Trump, is unwilling to engage in this topic. He`s unwilling to sort of fully and forcefully acknowledge that Russia did in fact interfere in our elections and he`s unwilling to direct his administration to take forceful actions.
Remember, Congress passed those sanctions last year, additional sanctions against Russia which Trump had opposed. He spoke out against them in a notice after those passed the Congress, and then he`s done very little to enforce them. He`s tried to block them within his administration. So this is not an issue where the President is willing to show leadership.
WILLIAMS: Frank, this may call for a judgment on your part, but from where we sit you have more judgment than some of the people we`ve seen in Washington these days. Why doesn`t Trump act?
MONTOYA: You know, that`s the million dollar question, you know. And it`s a range of possibilities. I mean, one, if it`s just ego that`s a great shame. If it`s because there are concerns about, you know, his relationships or possible relationships with the Russians, you know, in the overview or in the shadow of this Russia investigation that may be part of the problem, too.
I do know that, you know, inside the community there`s a ton of frustration because there are things that we can do. There are things that we should do because the interference was indisputable. The fact is the Russians, you know, they ate our lunch in the course of this intelligence operation. And we`re itching to do something to fight back, you know.
The question is where is the policy, where is the directives that will give us the opportunity to unleash some of the technology we have to counter this?
WILLIAMS: So, Philip, you know where this leaves us and that is in November election night for the midterms. I imagine you`re going to be part of our coverage. What if we`re sitting, it`ll happen in this very studio and we get weird numbers, a ground swell in Colorado`s second district, in Virginia`s third, New York`s fourth and whatever it is. And the numbers look weird to us as they can on election nights. Is there always going to be that cloud?
RUCKER: I think there will be. And Brian, it`s important to point out that some of the states are actually taking action to try to shore up and fortify their election systems. We`ve seen state legislators, governors, board of elections trying to see what they can do to make their systems stronger and protect against this. But it`s been in the absence of national leadership from the President to try to direct the full force of the federal government to protect our democracy. That`s really what thus is about.
And so potentially this cloud could hang over the midterms. You know, you hope just as American citizen that it doesn`t that we don`t have a foreign government meddling in our elections. But who knows, we may be talking about that.
WILLIAMS: Remember those words, to protect our democracy. Philip Rucker, as he often does, gets the quote of the night. And our thanks to Frank Montoya and Philip Rucker. Gentlemen, we really appreciate you taking part in our coverage.
Coming up for us, two former assistant U.S. attorneys are coming her with us to break down tonight`s headlines on Hope Hicks, on Rick Gates, on Paul Manafort and Robert Mueller. There are developments on all fronts. That is ahead after this break.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, 11TH HOUR HOST: White House Communications Director Hope Hicks spent over nine hours on Capitol Hill today being questioned by the House Intelligence Committee. They want to know what she knows about Trump campaign ties with Russia.
Hicks answered some questions about her time on the campaign and during the transition, but notably here she refused to talk about anything that happened after Trump took office as president. The New York Times tonight has some details about what Hope Hicks did have to say. Citing three people familiar with her testimony the paper reports, quote, "Hope Hicks told House investigators on Tuesday that her work for President Trump who has a reputation for exaggerations and outright falsehoods had occasionally required her to tell white lies. But after extended consultation with her lawyer she insisted that she had not lied about matters materials to the investigations into Russia`s interference in the 2016 elections presidential election and possible links to Trump associates."
Make no mistake. Hope Hicks is a valuable and critical witness. To paraphrase the folks at Farmers Insurance, she knows a thing or two because she`s seen a thing or two. The former model from Greenwich, Connecticut has many potential stories to tell. She has been at Donald Trump side going back to the beginning of the campaign. She has enjoyed a meteoric rise within the west wing as communications directors.
Her boss, the President, did some communicating of his own today. And it was this, "WITCH HUNT", in all caps. That`s how he put it on Twitter. A go-to phrase of his as he contends the Russia matter is a hoax.
With us to talk about all of it tonight, we are so fortunate to be joined by two veterans both Former Assistant U.S Attorneys for the Southern District of New York. Those needing a lawyer should wait outside our studio this evening. Jennifer Rogers, now executive director of the Columbia Law School Center for the advancement of public integrity, and Mimi Rocah, Distinguish Fellow in Criminal Justice at the Pace University School of Law.
Jennifer, I`ll begin with you, just the tweet, two words, witch hunt. From the view of a fed, if you`re on Mueller`s staff and see you that again this morning what does it do?
JENNIFER ROGERS, FRMR. ASSISTANT U.S ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, look, I think that this has been the refrain coming from the White House the entire time, this whole thing as a hoax, it`s a witch hunt. You know, some of that perspective died down after the indictment after the 13 of Russians and the Russians organization showing that, in fact, it`s not a witch hunt, it`s a very productive investigation.
But, you know, here he is, again, I think, he is just biting the drum just trying to stir things up again. The other thing that happened since that indictment was the Democratic response to the Nunes memo, which also was a big hit for Trump and his surrogates in creating this witch hunt narrative.
So, you know, I think he`s just trying to get back to, you know, drumming up the support from his base on this because he`s not finding a lot of support in the actual facts here.
WILLIAMS: And Mimi, when Hope Hicks admits to white lies, she`s already been before Mueller who I presume reserves the right to recall her if something else comes up. What is the practical legal effect of that when she admits to having told white lies?
MIRIAM ROCAH, FRMR. ASSISTANT U.S ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, I mean, there are no white lies when you`re talking about a grand jury investigation. What I thought was most interesting actually about what came out about what she said in her testimony is she said, white lies, but they weren`t material to anything in the investigation. Well, she doesn`t get to decide that. Her lawyers don`t get to decide that. Mueller gets to decide that.
So, you know, to the extent that she is saying things that aren`t true, Mueller and his team are going to be the ones -- but first of all, she doesn`t know all the facts that she can`t possibly decide what`s material and what`s not. But that is one of the key jobs of a prosecutor and of investigators, is to look at all the facts in the context and look at things that people -- individual witnesses are saying, and decide whether, you know, they telling the truth and if they`re not, whether they`re immaterial. I mean, this broad of an investigation, it`s kind of hard to believe that these "white lies", you know, would be as immaterial as they`re trying to make it sound.
WILLIAMS: And Jennifer, let`s live in the real world. She works for Donald Trump. She has already been interviewed by Mueller. He`s not going to ask what did they want to know and what did you want to tell them, and is she under any obligation to hold that back?
ROGERS: Well, she`s not really under any obligation. She spoke with Mueller`s team voluntarily. She wasn`t in the grand jury. She spoke with the committee today voluntarily. So she doesn`t have any, really --you know, there`s nothing that she can`t tell the president. And as we know, he is very want to demand things from people. I mean he wanted to know from Andrew McCabe, who he voted for, I mean, things that are supposed to be secret he likes to asked about.
So, I`m sure he asking about, you know, what they wanted to know. And in fact, gave direction, right. I mean, we know today that she refused to answer a lot of questions at the White House resurrection.
So, there`s no question that Trump and the lawyers are in there basically instructing her what to do. So to me, you know, what happened today is almost immaterial to me. I mean, what really matters is what the Mueller team is getting from her. And, you know, that`s where we`re really going to see progress on this, not really from the House committee.
WILLIAMS: We`ll take a brief pause here. Our guests are going to stay with us while we have to take a break. When we come back, what led Robert Mueller to the rare move of dismissing some charges today against an important person in this investigation?
WILLIAMS: Special Counsel Robert Mueller moved to dismiss several charges. You don`t hear that often. Including tax and bank fraud against Former Trump Campaign Deputy Rick Gates today.
Charges are being dismissed because Mr. Gates has flipped. He has agreed to cooperate with the Mueller investigation regarding quote, any and all matters. And they mean it. The special counsel deems relevant. He is instead being tagged with two lesser charges. Gates also got more good news Tuesday when a different judge accepted his request to take his children to Boston next week.
Politico reminds us just how significant Gates` cooperation could be here. They write it this way, "`He saw everything,` said a former Trump campaign consultant who worked with Gates and Paul Manafort and called him one of the top five Trump insiders who Mueller could tap as witnesses."
Manafort for his part scheduled to be arraigned on the newest charges against him tomorrow morning, his first of two court appearances this week.
Our two former feds are back with us, Jennifer Rogers and Mimi Rocah.
Miriam, please explain what it`s like to be under the influence of a federal investigation. What has Gates` life been like in the period where they`re trying to getting him to flip, and now, by what degree do they own his life now that he`s signed this deal?
ROCAH: Well, I`m sure it`s been very intense for him. And, you know, we saw reflection of that just in the media. And recently when the document was unsealed, it looks like he is guilty plea pursuing to the collaboration, are very much less scheduled and then taken off, and then scheduled again. So, he was having some trouble deciding.
And, you know, we know from Manafort`s statement that it almost seemed like they had kind of agreement spoken or unspoken, that they weren`t going to cooperate. So this is a big, big deal what he did here, going, you know, cooperating not just against the President but against Manafort, assuming he has information about the President.
But against Manafort who clearly, you know, they`ve been together for a long time through some interesting activities. So for him to do this is a really big deal and it`s obviously been kind of a roller coaster.
My guess is, he feels some degree of release now, now that he has sort of gotten over this hump. Once someone goes in court and actually pleads guilty in front of a judge under oath and says those words, there really is usually a shift in that they -- psychologically almost, it`s a psychological evolution almost where they sort of come on team America in a more definitive way.
So, I think that he might even be feeling a slight sense of relief, a change. And my guess is that, you know, the government will notice -- the people working with him will notice a different in his attitude now and over time where he`s going to be more cooperative, frankly.
WILLIAMS: Fascinating. And, Jennifer, let`s talk about the recruitment effort to get Mr. Manafort to sign-up with team America.
Two court appearances this week, superseding indictment, more charges added. What other screws, what other tools of the trade does Mueller and those first-trade attorneys on his team, do they have to get Paul Manafort to see the light?
ROGERS: Well, I think, we`re seeing the tools, right. It`s the bringing of more charges. It`s the fact that Gates is now onboard. It`s to seeing what Gates is getting for being onboard. He now faces 10 years maximum instead of, you know, dozens and dozens of years. He gets to go to a spring break with his kids now. So things get easier for you when you do come onboard and Manafort is seeing that through what`s happening with Rick Gates.
You now, I think also just more generally, he`s seeing this investigation speed up. He`s seeing the indictment against the Russians. We think more are coming on the other aspects of what the Russians have done interfering with the state electoral processes and the e-mail hacking. You know, so he`s seeing all of that happening. He`s also seeing some action on the state side. He`s seeing the New York Attorney General and some other attorney general look at the state charges against him to try to war off a possible potential presidential pardon here.
So, I think, he`s seeing a lot of things in the works that all are adding pressure on him to cooperate. And, you know, we`ll just have to wait and see whether they work.
WILLIAMS: And Mimi, complete this sentence in 15 seconds or less. Jared Kushner should be especially worried tonight because, blank.
ROCAH: Well, I think, because a lot of this information is coming out now, first of all, about his foreign entanglements which, you know, are certainly unethical problem at a minimum and could be a criminal problem. I mean that`s what this whole investigation is about. It`s really a lot of ways, it`s about foreign influence on American politics. And he is at the center of that. And clearly his entanglements are much more complicated than anyone thought.
WILLIAMS: Counselor, counselor, we are deeply indebted to our two former feds, two veterans of the U.S Attorney`s Office for the Southern District of New York. Jennifer Rogers, Mimi Rocah, thank you both. Thank you very much.
ROCAH: Thank you, Brian.
WILLAIMS: Coming up, mired in the Russia investigation, Trump has just named his campaign manager for the re-election campaign. When THE 11TH HOUR continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRAD PARSCALE, AMERICAN DIGITAL MEDIA AND POLITICAL STRATEGIST: I understood early that Facebook was how Donald Trump was going to win. Twitter is how he talked to the people. Facebook was going to be how he won. I mean I think Donald Trump won, but I think Facebook was the method. It was the highway in which his car drove on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Amid all of the news today, Donald Trump announced his 2020 campaign for re-election manager Brad Parscale. Parscale was Digital Director for Trump`s 2016 Election and droves the campaign`s presence on Facebook and Twitter. You may have heard something about that. Of course, we are still discussing all these months later given the fact that Russia interfered in our election and given the fact he was asked to appear before the House Intelligence Committee last October, it makes Parscale an interesting choice to be named as campaign manager for the next election while the last election is still under investigation.
Our friend Ken Vogel is with us tonight, political reporter for The New York Times. So, Ken, for all of us, as someone who has studied this and him, why is this guy important? Why is today`s -- timing today`s announcement important?
KEN VOGEL, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, the timing of today`s announcement, I think there are couple of reasons it`s important. Number one, I think it`s a little bit of show of support for Jared Kushner or maybe even a power play for Jared Kushner who is extremely close to Brad Parscale yet is embroiled in scrutiny from Mueller. He is facing scrutiny from even within the White House where his security clearance was downgraded.
And this moved putting one of his close associates at the head of the re- election campaign shows that Jared Kushner still has juice and will continue to having juice through the re-election. I also think this timing is interesting because there were increasing rumblings from the Republican donor class, from Republican operatives that maybe Trump would step aside, that all this pressure from Mueller, from the House and Senate Intelligence Committees and their investigations would finally get to him. This is a sign that, no, he is planning to run for re-election and he is well on the road to establishing his campaign infrastructure.
WILLIAMS: And remind us, prior to being assigned Middle East peace, Kushner had a broad portfolio during the campaign which included this huge data operation. I remember reading a story about some facility in the desert southwest.
VOGEL: Yes, that`s right. That was actually in the southwest because Brad Parscale`s company was based in San Antonio, Texas. And that`s where much of the campaign digital and data operation was based. Brad Parscale, of course, didn`t really have a whole lot of experience in this world before this campaign. He came into the Trump orbit because he was essentially a website designer. He designed the website for the Trump Golf courses, but he had the one thing that is the most important bit of currency in Trump world and that is loyalty. And you see the willingness of Trump and Trump`s campaign team to put that loyalty ahead of more traditional political considerations, including a long resume.
I mean, Donald Trump is now is the President. He could get anyone he wants, including people who have vast experience in Republican presidential campaigns to run his campaign. Instead he chose a guy who is loyal to the family first and foremost and maybe secondarily has some experience running his last campaign, which of course was successful. I`m not doing anything to minimize anything that Brad Parscale did on that campaign.
The other thing that -- the other way in which he sort of put loyalty at a more traditional political considerations here is Brad Parscale, as you suggested, is very much a target of our attracting scrutiny from investigators looking into Russian meddling in the election including through social media. President Trump could have found someone who was sort of a fresh face, who wasn`t tainted in any way by these investigations. Instead again, he went with someone who is a loyal member of the inner circle.
WILLIAMS: Of all the headlines today on this front in this story, we have about 45 seconds left. Which one stood out to you? Which one did you find yourself personally doing a deep dive on?
VOGEL: Well, I do think it`s interesting that Jared Kushner`s security clearance was downgraded. Because as we look at the sort of palace intrigue and who`s up and who`s down. Jared Kushner had successfully staved off prior efforts to marginalize him by other players in the White House. This was something that maybe wasn`t necessarily from a rival in the White House but from the Intelligence Community or the FBI that was in charge of the background checks. Nonetheless, it shows that Jared Kushner is maybe not as much of an untouchable insider as we had initially thought.
WILLIAMS: Always one of the bylines readers should scan for, one of the best reporters on the beat today, Ken Vogel, always a pleasure to have you here. Thank you very much.
VOGEL: Thank you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Coming up, 50 years ago tonight, the night that changed the history of our business certainly and made a history of its own and millions of homes across the country, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
WILLIAMS: Here he is. Last thing before we go tonight is about something that happened 50 years ago tonight. It involved the best there ever was at this trade during a very different time in our country and in our business. For starters, and while this may be hard to believe, there was a time when not everyone in the television news business expressed their opinion on a given story. In fact, aside from some quaint and clearly labeled commentaries by a few grizzled veterans, television newspeople would never dream of expressing a personal opinion, nor could any of them envision a day when you could select a cable network based on the degree to which it agreed with your views.
Walter Cronkite, the celebrated anchor of the CBS -- the most trusted man - - he was an island of stability and credibility during the turbulent year of 1968. Cronkite didn`t scare easily. He`d been on bombing raids over Germany and World War II and witnessed the battle of the Bulge. So he jumped at the chance to cover the U.S. combat effort in Vietnam just after the Tet Offensive. Cronkite came home from covering that on unpopular war and shared his findings in a special broadcast. At the end of which, he delivered a rare editorial that contained this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALTER CRONKITE, CBS, THE MOST TRUSTED MAN IN AMERICA: To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory conclusion.
On the off chance, the military and political analysts are right. In the next few months, we must test the enemy`s intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victims, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could. This is Walter Cronkite. Good night.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Remember that Lyndon Johnson is President of the United States in 1968, and no president until Donald Trump has ever consumed as much news as Lyndon Johnson did.
In what some considered a sacrilege, he had three TVs installed in the Oval Office along with two teletype machines from the AP and UP wire services. Both of them clanked away inside a soundproof box in the Oval Office.
And in a story that may combine folklore and exact quotes, after hearing Cronkite`s remarks from that night, the President said some version of, "If I`ve lost Cronkite, I`ve lost middle America." Of course 50 years ago tonight, 1968 was just getting started. Both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated in a matter of months. Lyndon Johnson decided not to run for reelection, and the war in Vietnam dragged on for another seven years.
That is our broadcast for this Tuesday evening. Thank you so very much for being here with us and good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
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