Reports: Trump angry with Kushner. TRANSRIPT: 03/02/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: David Jolly, Peter Baker, Sahil Kapur, Indira Lakshmanan, Mike Pesca, Andrew Restuccia

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: March 2, 2018 Guest: David Jolly, Peter Baker, Sahil Kapur, Indira Lakshmanan, Mike Pesca, Andrew Restuccia

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: --reversals on policy and a description of his state of mind as unglued. Plus, the slow motion takedown of Jared Kushner, the questions about how he does his job without the right security clearance, the reports his own father-in-law may want him out. And now, new NBC News reporting on what Mueller`s looking into.

And Vladimir Putin challenge tonight on Russian interference in our elections. "The 11th Hour" on a Friday night begins now.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York, Day 407 of the Trump administration. President Trump is at his Florida resort after a week of extraordinary turbulence that seems to signify a deepening crisis than some of the previous rocky weeks in this White House. To begin, the Russia investigation appears to have taken on a new kind of momentum.

Today NBC News wants learned Robert Mueller want`s to know if Jared Kushner`s business dealings with foreign nationals during the transition ended up influencing the administration`s policies. That comes amid other NBC News reports this week that the special counsel also wants to know what Donald Trump knew about the release of stolen DNC e-mails and that Mueller is looking at criminal charges for Russians who carried out hacking and leaking of information to hurt the Democrats back in 2016.

News that the Mueller investigation may include a determined focus on the President and the senior adviser who happens to be his son-in-law comes during what appears to be an implosion of the West Wing power center of Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and White House communications director, Hope Hicks, who of course resigned suddenly on Wednesday.

Earlier today, our colleague, Nicole Wallace, detailed the cascade of events involving Jared Kushner that set in motion his downfall.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLE WALLACE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Witnessing Jared Kushner`s two-week collapse is been like watching play at least that`s how Jim VandeHei from Axios sees it. And the whole ordeal breaks it down into five acts. First Act 1, the knee-capping. It all started when Kushner lost his top-secret security clearance, a critical blow to someone with so many responsibilities.

Act 2, the humiliation. On Tuesday the "Washington Post" reported foreign governments discussed ways to manipulate Kushner. Then Act 3, the godfather turns. Kushner`s mentor, Rupert Murdoch`s owns the "Wall Street Journal". And on Wednesday, their editorial board suggested the nights were out and that Kushner should step down.

Act 4 is called the plot. That same day, the "New York Times" reported Kushner`s family businesses received loans after White House meetings. Then Act 5, and this might be the most consequential when it comes to the job security, tortured Trump. The "Times" reporting Trump is frustrated with Kushner who he now sees as a liability.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Well, further, according to the "Washington Post", the President isn`t happy about all the attention his son-in-law is getting and has raised questions about Jared and Ivanka`s future. The "Post" tells it this way, the President "also mused this week that everything might be better for them if they simply gave up their government jobs and returned to New York, according to a White House official who has discussed it with them.

"New York Times," of course, goes further reporting, Trump has discussed their departure from the White House with the White House chief of staff. As the President tries to navigate family issues, he is also attempting to deal with policy issues, of course at the same time. Among the more pressing, what to do about gun violence in our country. It`s been more than two weeks now since the Parkland shootings. Not only is the White House no closure to any new legislation on guns, the President nearly sent his party into shock when he made these remarks earlier this week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Take the firearms first and then to go to court. It takes so long to go to court to get the due process procedures. I like taking the guns early. Take the guns first. Go through due process second.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: He didn`t stop there. The very next day, Mr. Trump seemed to go against everything the Republican Party had preached about trade when he threatened sweeping tariffs on steel and aluminum. That`s not the kind of thing you want to spring on the chairman of, let`s say, the Senate Finance Committee, especially when it happens to be Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: The people are going to have to pay these tariffs, are going to be the American citizens. And frankly, we don`t win by assessing tariffs that I don`t who is advising in, but I have a pretty good idea. But the fact in that reasoning is the wrong advice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So you see how that went. It is almost impossible to know what next week we`ll bring from this White House. But earlier today in this very same studio, on this network, former CIA chief John Brennan shared this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: It`s no secret to anybody that Donald Trump was very ill prepared and inexperienced in terms of dealing with matters as a head of state, and he has to do it for the government. And I think this is now coming to roost. If we have somebody in the Oval Office who is unstable, inept, inexperienced, and also unethical, we really have rough waters ahead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That gets your attention. And for more, let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Friday night, Peter Baker, chief White House correspondent for the "New York Times", and an MSNBC political analyst, Julia Ainsley, NBC News national security and justice reporter, and David Jolly, a former GOP member of Congress from the great State of Florida.

Peter, I`d like to begin with you. While stating clearly, Mar-a-Lago rules are now in affect, and by that of course, we mean the President enters the warm bath of family, friends and paying guests who form the kind of tableau, the backdrop and can sometimes inform his thinking and his Twitter habits.

PETER BAKER, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "NEW YORK TIMES": That`s exactly right. He`s there tonight for one night only. He`s not staying the whole weekend. He`s coming back to Washington tomorrow for a different kind of dinner. That dinner will be with the enemy of the American people, the media, the Gridiron this year.

He skipped it last year. This year, he`s going to go and that`s going to be interesting affair where the President of United States is roasted by some of the members of the media that he has engaged with in such an interesting way in the last year. So, it`ll be fun, well, fun is not the right, it will be interesting to see how that goes.

WILLIAMS: Having attended and escaped that dinner, I can report their motto is to singe and never burn. So we`ll see if they remain true to that when the President attends.

Hey, Julia, can you run us through the kind of cheat sheet version of what we learned today along the lines of Mueller and Kushner?

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, that`s right. Really, what we`re doing is we`re connecting two things or saying that Mueller is now looking into this. We`ve known for some time that Jared Kushner had some questionable overseas business dealings. We`ve also known for some time that there was concern about how he was running business in the White House.

What we`re seeing today is that Mueller is looking into whether or not those business dealings with people from, for example, Turkey and Qatar, influence his decision making in the White House. And a chief example of that, Brian, to just kind of clear it all up and brings it home is the idea that he met with a man named -- known as HBJ. They met in December of 2016 during the presidential transition when Kushner was trying to secure financing for the very over leveraged, in debt, 666 Fifth Avenue, real estate development that he had in New York. And that deal went south.

SBJ pulled out the financing and as a result, the Qataris believe, Kushner then retaliated. And he was behind, they believe, the decision of President Trump to then endorse the blockade against Qatar by its Gulf coast neighbors. Now, of course, Kushner would say that that is not why that policy went to place at all. But there`s obviously a belief that there`s some sort of retaliation or favoritism going on from Jared Kushner, influencing White House policy as a result of these business dealings, and that`s something that Mueller wants to look into.

WILLIAMS: Yes, John Heilmaann was on this broadcast and with Nicole Wallace yesterday, repeating that so much of this is going to, in his view, come down to this one address, 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. You could throw a stone at it from here but let`s not.

Congressman, looking back over the scope of this week, which is not insignificant, we`re going to go into the some detail later in the hour. What was the most notable event to you?

REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESMAN: The national security implications. You know, Brian, it`s easy to equate so many of these controversies but we have to look at the developments in the Kushner investigation. And we can`t overlook the statements by Vladimir Putin that just during this week, the head of Russia suggested that he has been able to undermine nearly 30 years of American National Security Strategy.

And what did we hear from Donald Trump? We saw him not respond to Russia but instead criticize Saturday Night Live in Alec Baldwin. We saw him launch the initial valleys of a trade war. We saw him meet privately with the NRA to walk back public statements. He is increasingly surrounding himself by staff under investigation or perhaps indictment, including his own family.

His chief of staff has suggested he made a deal with the devil. His economic adviser isn`t sure how much longer he can last. His attorney general has had to pledge his loyalty to the constitution over the President.

You have a V.A. secretary and a HUD secretary who are under investigation for financial impropriety. And it affirms Brennan`s comments earlier today that has -- there probably has not ever been in modern presidential history someone so unprepared to take the reins of the office of the presidency. And it matters because it has national security consequences and perhaps already has.

WILLIAMS: All right. As we said, that gets our attention. And Peter, the view from the staff, the West Wing, as I know many of them talked to you and talked to you often. What`s the split on fear and loathing and how do they now recruit folks to fill some of these jobs?

BAKER: It`s a great question. I think fear and loathing are heading down the track toward a photo finish. They`re both, you know, predominant emotions right now inside the White House. There`s a real sense of dispirited staff there who are upset about various aspects.

Congressman Jolly sort of ran through a whole series of you need to understand why it must be difficult to work in the White House when you feel besiege by these things, especially because, you know, a lot of people who came to work in the White House came to do things that they thought were important for the country. They wanted to cut taxes or reduce regulation and so forth. They`re not able to focus on these priorities because they`re constantly dealing with incoming. So, it`s a difficult time for the White House right now.

You see people heading for the doors. You see people looking to figure out how they can get out the doors. You don`t see a whole lot of people coming in the doors who are, you know, top White people. There are a lot of the people around Washington, Republicans, loyalist, people who`ve been in the party their whole lives, are not eager to come in to work there because they see what happened to the people who were there right now.

WILLIAMS: And Peter, David Jolly just reminded us. This is after all at the end of the day about governing and things like national security. This President is so kind of comfort level oriented compared to all those who have gone before him.

You take two people out of this equation. Keith Schiller, the head of the security detail from New York one of his closest friends. Hope hicks, ditto, someone he would talk to many, many times a day. They`re gone. They`re gone from the equation. So there are informed concerns about the boss.

BAKER: You know, I think that`s exactly right. You`re very, very smart to mention Keith Schiller. I think people underestimate how important his departure is for the President. He`s somebody the President really leaned on, he felt he could trust and rely on. Hope Hicks is in that same category.

You know, they saw -- a study by the Brookings Institution found that 34% turnover in the first year alone is already now -- it`s just two months into the second year that number would go up. And there are people who, as you say, are some of the people who have been around the President the longest, the ones that he can, you know, he has known and trusted and put a lot of investment in. People coming in, he doesn`t know as well. And he is not is likely to build the comfort level with them for quite a while. So it`s a difficult thing, not just for the staff but for the President who is not -- who is doing I think increasingly isolated inside his own home and building.

WILLIAMS: So Julia, take what we`ve seen happen this week. How does it inform your thinking as you to look to next week? What do you believe could be next? And yes, do I try to get to you to answer this question every week.

AINSLEY: You do. So, you know, and that is saying that we reported this week. I referred along with my colleague, Ken Dilanian, is the fact that Mueller now has enough or is preparing in gathering information that could lead to an indictment on the Russian hacking. That`s really the heart of the investigation. It`s how Russia was able to gain access to John Podesta`s e-mails and the Democratic National Committee`s e-mails.

And the key here is, Brian, and if we`re looking ahead is wondering, are there going to be Americans, whether they`re named or not, whether they`re unwitting or witting, who were named in that indictment. I think that will really kind of get to the heart of all this. Everything going on with Jared Kushner and his role in the Mueller investigation is also really interesting, though, especially if we think about the original mandate that Mueller had, which was to look into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russia and anything else that may arise.

So what that tells us is that these business dealings with Kushner is something that arose during that investigation. And so, it also begs a question, what else has arisen, what other names do we not know that Mueller has already cooperating? There`s so much beneath the surface here that it`s hard to predict. But if I`m looking at the one next thing, it would be something on the hacking that the Russians played into.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Congressman, an intentionally loaded question. How did the GOP agenda advance today?

JOLLY: Listen, what did not happen was oversight, and that`s where the GOP has been most careless. Look, you dance with the devil. You`re going to get burned. I would say that Julia`s comment is something we should look forth coming.

What we are seeing in the investigation of Kushner is a model of what Mueller is looking at for Donald Trump. And I think Donald Trump is unraveling because he has a front row seat to seeing the vulnerability of Jared Kushner and he knows that soon could be him.

WILLIAMS: Wow. Put that it way, this sounds serious. Peter Baker, Julia Ainsley, David Jolly, I can`t thank you, guys, enough for showing up and starting off our conversation on a Friday night.

Coming up for us, our colleague Stephanie Ruhle is coming out here with her exclusive reporting about Trump`s eagerness for a fight this week that left one of his aides describing him as unglued. And later, with the sheer volume of headlines just this week alone, you may not believe what broke just three days ago. All that and more as we get underway on a Friday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: We have some exclusive new reporting on the circumstances surrounding President Trump`s decision to announce those tariffs on steel and aluminum imports that could start a trade war. Our colleagues, Stephanie Ruhle and Peter Alexander report together this move came without any internal review by government lawyers or Trump`s staff. Meaning it was what it seemed to be in the moment.

"According to two officials, Trump`s decision to launch a potential trade war was born out of anger at other simmering issues and the result of a broken internal process that has failed to deliver him consensus views that represent the best advice of his team. On Wednesday evening, the President became "unglued", in the words of one official familiar with the President`s state of mind. A trifecta of events has set him off in a way that two officials said they had not seen before, Hope Hicks` testimony to lawmakers investigating Russia`s interference in the 2016 election, conduct by his embattled attorney general and the treatment of his son-in-law by his chief of staff. Trump, the two officials said, was angry and gunning for a fight, and he chose a trade war."

The President`s announcement on Thursday has caused even more volatility in the markets. But at this point President Trump does not seem to mind. He wrote on Twitter today, "When a country, USA is losing many billions of dollars on trade with virtually every country it does business with, trade wars are good and easy to win. Example. When we are down 100 billion with a certain country and they get cute, don`t trade anymore. We win big. It`s easy."

Here to take about it and perhaps take exception with that reasoning, Stephanie Ruhle, she`s the host, of course, the 9:00 a.m. Hour here on MSNBC. She`s back at 11:00 a.m. for good measure every day as co-host Velshi and Ruhle. And before T.V., she came from the investment banking world. Sahil Kapur is back with us tonight. He is national political reporter for "Bloomberg".

Stephanie, what is wrong the President`s reasoning? And why are you smiling?

STEPHANIE RUHLE, CO-ANCHOR, MSNBC VELSHI AND RUHLE: Well, I mean, first of all, there`s a huge difference between a trade deficit and a budget deficit. So when he gives you, this is easy, let me break it down. He`s breaking nothing down. But what`s stunning here truly is how all of this even happened. I mean, you really laid it out.

On Wednesday he was unhinged, he was unglued. So angry. Hope`s living, Jared Kushner`s offside with John Kelly, the Russia investigation coming down hard in Jeff Sessions. And remember, he doesn`t have Rob Porter anymore to block a lot of the nonsense from coming in. And that`s when will Wilbur Ross find his way to the President and says, we`re in the mode for a fight, I`ve got this trade war.

WILLIAMS: You`re saying, do I note that you think that`s the derivation as his commerce secretary?

RUHLE: I don`t think it, I firmly believe it. I`ve seen internal White House documents in the last -- from the last 48 hours where Wilbur comes in and says we`re going to have a meeting tomorrow at 11:00 a.m. with steel CEOs. He doesn`t list who any of them are. John Kelly does know their names. They haven`t had security clearance. None of it.

And, yes, maybe these people had been there in the past. But you mentioned it earlier, there was no process. The Defense Department didn`t know. The Treasury Department didn`t know. The State Department didn`t know.

So, just think about this. There`s no prepared remarks form the President. There`s no diplomatic plan to figure out how do we`re going to tell other countries and there`s no legislative plan to tell Congress. But you know what, the President wants to have a fight. He wants to change the narrative. Well, he`s got Wilbur Ross next to him saying, let`s do it. And, alas, the market fell out of bed and chaos ensued.

WILLIAMS: Sahil, what are the consequences of words like this?

SAHIL KAPUR, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER,"BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, it wouldn`t be the first time the President has tried to lay over one controversy or a series of controversies but he had another controversy on this front. I think it`s certainly abrupt the way this is coming by and some of the extraordinary details. In Stephanie`s piece about, you know, including the fact that there are no background checks done to clear the executives who came, and that`s the staggering stuff.

It should not be surprise to anybody however that the President has done this because he`s talked about trade protectionism and closed borders for a long time. It is perhaps the only consistent piece of his world view and his, you know, ideological philosophy going back years before he became president, before he even became a candidate.

One thing that strikes me is very interesting. Trade wars, there`s always retaliation. The retaliation threat right now from the E.U. is to slap tariffs on three companies.

WILLIAMS: I love this.

KAPUR: And I just want to say Kentucky Bourbon, Harley-Davidson, Levi`s stores.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

KAPUR: Where they have quartered in the home state of the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who are Republicans and the House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi. This is not an accident. The know if anybody is going to talk them out of it, it`s going to be the members of Congress, it`s going to be people who live and breathe this issue, who know the direct consequences and some negative consequences. And the consumers are going to pay higher prices.

There`s still time to talk them out of it or at least water down the decision by, you know, limiting the certain types of perhaps certain types of steels that it applies to accepting certain countries, like Germany, Canada, Japan, that our allies. A lot of questions.

RUHLE: Remember, his plan was to go after China. If you`re going to go after China, who you can make very argument, they are launching an economic war against us. But still this is a fight to have 25 or 30 years ago.

Gordon Gekko called and he wants his controversy back. Artificial intelligence, that`s what China is focused on. Vladimir Putin said whoever owns A.I. owns the future. When was the last time you heard President Trump, the business guy, talk about artificial intelligence?

WILLIAMS: A great question. Sahil, you mentioned Canada. We have managed somehow to get sideways with some of our greatest friends on the planet, the Brits, the Aussies, the Mexicans. This would really put a sideways with Canada.

KAPUR: Yes, it certainly would. I mean, I think a lot of the President`s decision have inflamed tensions in this continent in ways that prior president have actively tried to avoid doing. We have all sorts of tensions with Mexico over the issue of immigration and the wall. I think Canada has been worried about the President`s rhetoric on NAFTA for a long time. And I think this pours some fuel on the fire.

If I may, I would like the fact check one thing President tweeted, which was that we have a trade deficit with virtually every country. Here are some countries that we don`t have a trade deficit with, that we have a surplus with Australia, Singapore, Belgium, U.K. and Hong Kong. There are many others on that list.

WILLIAMS: All right. Thank you for that.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: You have 15 seconds.

RUHLE: It has gone up since President Trump has been in office. Gotten bigger.

WILLIAMS: Stephanie Ruhle, Sahil Kapur, fantastic conversation tonight. Thank you both. And it`s Friday night. Can you believe it?

Coming up for us, Vladimir Putin gets testy when NBC News asked about the indictments of 13 Russians in this country. We`ll show you the exchange when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Let`s recall that it was two weeks ago today, a federal grand jury indicted 13 Russians on a slew of charges related to interference in our 2016 election. Russian President Vladimir Putin has denied any Russian government involvement. But what about Russian citizens who have been indicted, whose names we can read in the document? Our own Megyn Kelly asked him about that today in an NBC News exclusive interview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VLADIMIR PUTIN, PRESIDENT OF RUSSIAN FEDERATION (through translator): We cannot respond to that if they do not violate Russian laws.

MEGYN KELLY, NBC ANCHOR: Would this violate Russian law?

PUTIN: I have to see first what they`ve done. Give us materials, give us information.

KELLY: Hacking into the Democratic National Committee, creating interference in our election by creating bots that spread false information on Twitter, on Facebook, spreading misinformation when it comes to black lives matter, when it comes to our presidential election. That`s what I`m talking about.

PUTIN: With all due respect for you personally, with all due respect for Congress, you must have people with legal degrees, 100 percent you do, and people who are well-educated who must understand that we, Russia, cannot prosecute anyone if they have not violated Russian law. If you don`t have a legal degree, I can explain to you.

KELLY: I do.

PUTIN: Then you have to understand what it takes is an official request to the general prosecutor of Russian Federation. Give us a documents, give us an official request.

KELLY: You said that last time and now I`m back with an indictment.

PUTIN: And this has to go through official channels. Not through the press, yelling in hollering in the United States Congress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: We`ll have much more on Megyn Kelly`s reporting from Russia in the coming days. Earlier on this network, former CIA Director John Brennan told Nicolle Wallace he does not expect this Russian attack to stop any time soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA: Well, I do think all Americans should be concerned and worried. And Donald Trump should be concerned and worried about what the Russians going to do in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Our country needs to have confidence that we`re going to be able to deal with Mr. Putin who is flexing his muscles once again on the military front. That we can deal with North Korea. That we can deal with these issues.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: This comes just a day after Putin announced the new class of nuclear weapons that he says renders defense systems useless. It was an event squarely out of the Soviet era. We`ll show you the marketing campaign in a moment.

With us, retired Four Star U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey, decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, former Battlefield Commander in the Persian Gulf, these days an MSNBC Military Analyst. And Indira Lakshmanan, Columnist for the "Boston Globe" and Chair of Journalism Ethics at Poynter Institute.

General, before we go doubling the Pentagon budget to catch up with what Putin unveiled, and their computer graphics were incredible. Some people have pointed out they were borrowed from the deepest regions of YouTube a few years back. They show the reach of their missiles, the show the incredible strength of their missiles. They trolled the U.S. by using part of Florida as one of the targets. They show their terrain following capabilities. You`ve seen it all.

Before we double the Pentagon budget, what should we know about them?

GENERAL BARRY MCCAFFREY, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it was shocking kind of bellicose reaction by Putin. A great interview by Megyn Kelly. These nuclear weapons which we don`t actually think are combat ready and deployed yet. Do not, in any way, change the game.

They`ve got a massive amount of nuclear weapons so with the United States. There is no rationale first strike capability of Nuclear Weapons.

When you look at Russia in terms of national security, their population is less than half of the United States. Their economy is smaller than California. Their active ground combat forces are actually not at all that much bigger than United States Marine Corps. And they have a very poor naval and air strategic capability. They are trying to modernize.

These guys are clever thug trying to intimidate the eastern European to some success, is batting way above his weight category in Syria. He is getting Russia into terrible trouble. The only thing he has going for him is President Trump`s shocking inaction and confront him over attacks on U.S. -- principally, through crypto warfare.

WILLIAMS: Yes. I was going to say that the other thing they have going for them is a tremendous bang from a limited buck. They did a bang-up job with our presidential election.

MCCAFFREY: Yes, sure. You know, there`s no question about it. They are a hostile power to us and the Europeans. But the way, I would add. I think they`re on the wrong side of the Shia-Sunni war. So now, they`re stuck with the Iranians. And, you know, the Shia minority regime of Assad in Syria, this is not good long term strategy for the Russian people.

Their healthcare system is in chaos. They`re basically a developing country with very limited freedoms surrounded by frightened neighbors who are applying economic sanctions to them. So it`s just hard to imagine what is President Trump doing not recognizing this hostility?

WILLIAMS: Good question. Indira, your friends up here could not help but notice that about half of those warheads seem to be headed to your home in the Tampa Bay Area of Florida. Serious question, though, we heard Putin talk about respect. He talked about being listened to now, which is, as you know, what the Russians have craved.

INDIRA LAKSHMANAN, COLUMNIST, BOSTON GLOBE: Right. You`re absolutely right, Brian. And this dates back to really the 1990s, after the end of the cold war, to NATO expansion, to the fact that I think Russia at that point was hoping that there could have been more outreach on the part of the west.

I`m not justifying the behaviors of Russia since. I`m simply saying that NATO expansion under Bill Clinton, then George W. Bush`s decision in 2002 to lead the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. These were all decisions that have shaped the decision that Putin has taken since.

And again, absolutely, no justification for it, but that`s just giving you some back story into the Russian thinking. And that includes, first of all, the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine. It includes this, you know, muscle flexing and claiming of having five new weapons including this supposedly nuclear ICBM.

Although, you will notice in his interview with Megyn Kelly, where she repeatedly presses him on are these weapons ready for prime time. He doesn`t directly answer her question. And part of that is for us to remember that, of course, the speech, his annual state of the nation speech, is in a way a campaign speech for him, that for domestic consumption.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

LAKSHMANAN: He is trying to standup and say, America took advantage of us. The West took advantage of us in `90s when we were weak and we will be weak no longer. We will stand up.

WILLIAMS: And I`m going to --

LAKSHMANAN: You know, that`s part of the message.

WILLIAMS: I`m going to ahead and predict he does very well on election night.

General, to the last point you made, you people coming up and getting their first glimpse of Russia, would be forgiven for seeing this all powerful country because of how the influence they`ve had because of how have seeped into every aspect of their culture. It kind of gives their image of boost and a more grandiose image than the nation you just talked about.

MCCAFFREY: Yes, that`s true. You know, I think it`s a, again, it`s unfortunate Russian people. These are world class people in physics, in ballet, in literature, and they`re soldiers are legendary in their courage defending the Russian Federation during World War II. And yet, poverty is widespread.

These people are surrounded by hostile neighbors who are fearful of it, particularly Eastern Europe. It doesn`t make much sense from a political or economic view point for Putin to take on the world at large. But again, I think the Russian people in there had got entirely correct.

I think the expansion of NATO, the humiliation of Russia, the dissolution of the soviet federation where they came apart and were stumbling around, disorganize, all of this was a huge problem to their self pride. If Putin is appealing to that, saying, look, you know, keep your mouth shut. Stay out of political power. I`ll let you go vacation in France. And you can keep some money if you share it with us, the former KGB.

WILLIAMS: Indira, I owe you a couple minutes of air time, our apologies, we`re getting long enough. General Barry McCaffrey, Indira Lakshmanan on, thank you both very much.

When we come back from this break, we`ll take on the question that has become immoralitized in a commercial that will not stop airing, how far is this from normal, when the "The 11th Hour" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: You know, coming from a different world, only being a politician for a short time, how I am a doing? Am I doing OK? I`m president. Hey, I`m president. Can you believe it, right?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: If you think even when graded on the Trump West Wing sliding scale of chaos. This week seemed a little wilder than normal. There`s a writer at POLITICO who agrees with you saying there was "something different about this week`s spasm of sudden policy lurches. Graceless personal insults, oozing scandal news, and sizzles West Wing knife fights."

It`s the starkest example today, the President Donald Trump`s executive style, looking untenable not merely from the outside but from the inside too. In light of everything we have seen and at times become accustomed to, our friend, the Pulitzer Prize winner Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post says this. "None of what`s happening is normal, and none of it should be acceptable. Life is imitating art made. What we have is less of presidency than a cheesy reality show. Set in a great stately house, was made for television histrionics, constant back stabbing and major characters periodically getting booted out."

We welcome to our broadcast tonight two perfectly normal guests. Mike Pesca, he is host of Slate`s podcast called "The Gist". He is an award winning veteran of MPR and a long suffering fan of the New York Jets. We also welcome Andrew Restuccia, White House Reporter for POLITICO who co- authored the piece we just quoted from on how far we are from normal. Welcome to you two, normal gentlemen.

Mike, I got to begin with the tweet this morning. This is an uncorrected version of what the president of the United States set at 5:42 this morning. Alex Baldwin whose dying mediocre -- this reminds me of the progressive education movement 30 years ago that said, if our kids are trying to spell, however they spell is it just fine. Whose dying mediocre career was saved by the impersonation of me on "SNL" now says playing Donald J. Trump was agony for him. Alex or Alec, it was agony for those forced to watch you were terrible. Bring back Darrell Hammond, much funnier and a far greater talent.

How far is this from normal?

MIKE PESCA, HOST, SLATE`S "THE GIST" PODCAST: Well, at this point, I even take some solace in this celebrity and pop culture frippery, because that`s the thing that`s not going to get us killed or plunge us into economic chaos, really far from normal.

I mean, can you -- I don`t love playing it, can you imagine if another president did it.

WILLIAMS: Go ahead.

PESCA: I can`t remember when during say the BP oil spill, Barack Obama, was opining about Fred Armisen versus Jay Pharoah. I mean, I understand the extend of executive privilege but calling on the specific person to do your impersonation on Saturday Night Live, that should not rise to the level of the oval office.

WILLIAMS: Andrew, I hasten to add, we did some checking. The tweet was at 5:42, at 4:23 this morning, for the few, the proud, the brave who are up to watch, Fox News did a segment that featured Alec Baldwin as the president. So from 4:23 a.m. to 5:42.

Andrew, same question to you, how bad is it?

ANDREW RESTUCCIA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: And it`s getting bad. I mean, you see time and time again, these sort of mini scandals that happen week to week. But this week seemed a little bit different, I think in part because even people inside the White House are beginning to acknowledge that things are getting a little bit crazy.

I mean, the president is angry. He is talking around the West Wing. He is frustrated with his own staff. You have at least four senior staff members in the White House where it`s unclear that their future is going to be, day to day, let alone week to week.

And I spoke with the number of people in from previous White Houses, both Democratic and Republican administration, and there is a gaps to what their seeing. And they`re beginning to wonder what would happen if there was actually a huge global crisis, right? If there was a terrorist attack, if there was market downturn like President Obama lived through, how would you react to something like that if you can`t handle a parody on Saturday Night Live?

WILLIAMS: Mike, that`s a great point. We are -- people can see this, people can hear him. We`re getting graded on this. We have allies who are critical to us and that`s why to some people, I guess this week did seem different.

PESCA: Well, I don`t -- I would push back a little bit. To some extent we`ve become habituated to it, so I think it`s worthwhile to take a step outside and say, this is not normal. But if you look back to some of the other disastrous weeks, was week 17, I think, was the week right after he fired Comey, did an interview with Lester Holt, essentially admitting his motivation.

WILLIAMS: He got that guy out of here.

PESCA: Got into a fight with H.R. McMaster whose job was to go on TV and cover up the fact that he leaked or divulged secrets to the Russians, that was not a good week.

WILLIAMS: No.

PESCA: And then, there was the week which really went to the core of the American character, the week of Charlottesville. This was -- this is damaging to Trump and this was an own goal. But that I think shook the country.

So this week, I think maybe more indicative of the explanation that he thrives in chaos. Which I just really think is an excuse to make up for the fact that his incompetence often creates chaos. And as you say, internationally, that`s only a recipe for disaster.

WILLIAMS: Andrew, I need 30 seconds of brilliance. We also keep mentioning his comfort level people are leaving him.

RESTUCCIA: Exactly, like Hope Hicks, Keith Schiller as you mentioned earlier, they`re all heading out the door. I think we`ve had a lot of bad weeks but this one feels a little different because his staff is done. They`re frustrated. And they`ve had it with the president frankly.

WILLIAMS: At the end of a long week. Mike Pesca, Andrew Restuccia, thank you, gentlemen, so much for coming on.

Coming up for us, while every week these days seems more like year in terms of time, we`ll take you back through it all, headline by headline when we come back.

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WILLIAMS: From time to time and with the tempo we`re living with in covering this administration, we like to reach way back, a whole week sometimes to remember the stories of old from several days ago.

Tonight, a look back at just some of the headlines we have witnessed, just this week. On Tuesday, we learned White House Senior Adviser Jared Kushner lost his top secret level security clearance. NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers admitted the president has not directed him to disrupt election meddling by the Russians. Robert Mueller dropped some cases against Richard Gates after he pleaded guilty last week, the conspiracy in lying. White House Communications Director Hope Hicks told lawmakers she tells white law lies for the president. And while we`re at it, on Wednesday, hope hicks resigned as communications director for the president.

Paul Manafort pleaded not guilty to Mueller`s superseding indictment in Washington, D.C. President Trump called his attorneys general handling of FISA abuse allegations disgraceful, then Jeff Sessions himself pushed back in a rare statement. That same day "The Washington Post" reported Robert Mueller was examining Trump`s apparent efforts to oust Sessions in July.

Then, a few hours later, Axios obtained this photo of Sessions having a very public dinner with, among others, Robert Mueller supervisor, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. NBC News reported Mueller is asking witnesses if Trump knew about the hacked Democratic e-mails before they were released. And if Wednesday wasn`t busy enough, the "New York Times" reported Jared Kushner`s business got loans from companies after they had met at the White House.

Then there was Thursday, that would be yesterday. Our own Nicolle Wallace reported the White House is preparing to replace H.R. McMaster as National Security Adviser as early as the end of this month. Another NBC News report says Robert Mueller looking at charges against Russians for the hacking and leaking of those Democratic e-mails during the campaign. "The New York Times" reported President Trump is privately asking John Kelly`s help in removing Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump from their White House roles. And the president abruptly announced steel and aluminum tariffs that could potentially start a trade war.

Then today, we found out from officials, Trump was angry and, "unplugged over some of the events we just detailed when he made that trade, when he made that trade announcement. And, finally, NBC News reporting tonight that Robert Mueller`s team is investigating if Jared Kushner`s foreign business ties influenced any Trump administration policy. We didn`t even get to the fact that the federal government was closed today due to high winds and Paul Manafort didn`t make his court appearance.

That is our week in a flash and, please note, we also didn`t include the seizure of guns without due process, Ben Carson`s fabulous dining room adventure and the hiring of the president`s campaign manager for the 20 presidential election, everything in due time.

Another break and coming up like a lot of things in life, it sure looks different from the cheap seats. More on that when "The 11th Hour" continues.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we leave you tonight is this -- having started his day attacking a misspelled Alec Baldwin, tonight at his Mar-a-Lago Resort in Florida, surrounded by the trappings of the presidency, including the mechanism to launch a nuclear attack that travels wherever he goes, Donald Trump will turn in at some point and while not given to bouts of self-reflection, it is possible he will pause to Marvel at what a week it`s been and the shape perhaps that his presidency is in.

The truth is, we were all told it wasn`t going to be this way. In fact, this was supposed to be easy. It was Donald Trump who told us that. And he did it more than once.

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TRUMP: I`m not even worried about 60 votes. I really believe that 60 votes, 60 percent meaning, it should be so easy.

It`s very easy to be presidential.

So many of these things are so easy to fix.

We will get our jobs back and we`re going to stop companies from leaving. It`s so easy.

A lot of politicians said you can`t get Mexico to pay for the wall. I said it`s going to be so easy.

You`re going to have such great healthcare at a tiny fraction of the cost and it`s going to be so easy.

I do it does. I`ve worked with politicians all my life. They`re easy.

I`m so good at this stuff. I`m so good. It`s so easy.

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WILLIAMS: Our thanks to our friends at "Hardball" for compiling that collection. This was day 407 of the trump presidency. Tomorrow will mark the president`s 133rd day as president at a Trump branded property.

And that is our broadcast on a Friday night and for this week. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Have a good weekend and good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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