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Mixed messages from ex-Trump aide. TRANSCRIPT: 03/05/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Jill Colvin, Joyce Vance, Bob Bennett, A.B. Stoddard, Jim Warren

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: March 5, 2018 Guest: Jill Colvin, Joyce Vance, Bob Bennett, A.B. Stoddard, Jim Warren

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, THE LAST WORD, HOST: John Heilemann who knows Sam Nunberg is going to join Brian Williams in the next hour. "The 11th Hour with Brian Williams" starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: The breaking news we are covering tonight, Former Trump aide, Sam Nunberg, defiant and holding nothing back, ignoring a subpoena from Robert Mueller, attacking the White House and Trump and the people around him. And on Russia saying Mueller may have something on the President. Then he seemed to change his story again tonight. So how will the special counsel react and what does the subpoena tell us about where Mueller is headed?

And amid a darkening West Wing, the President once again attacks Obama over the Russia investigation. All of it as "The 11th Hour" gets under way.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. As we start off a new week, this was day 410 of the Trump administration. And today, another chapter of this administration played out as we watched live on cable television in fact, into the night.

A former Trump campaign aide, as we`ve been saying, Sam Nunberg, today announced very publicly and repeatedly that he plans to defy a grand jury subpoena from Russia Investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller at all. And only in the past hour or so have we learned that may change.

NBC`s Katy Tur and the "Associated Press" reporter, Jill Colvin report tonight that Sam Nunberg now says he`ll probably cooperate with Mueller in the end. But the day played out this way, without first informing his lawyer, Nunberg launched a media campaign giving print interviews, calling into local news here New York, appearing on cable news networks, including this one, repeatedly. And in a matter of hours, it all started this afternoon as Katy Tur conducted a live telephone interview.



SAM NUNBERG, FORMER AIDE TO DONALD TRUMP (via telephone): Because what they said to me was absolutely ridiculous. They wanted every e-mail I had with Roger Stone and with Steve Bannon. Why should I hand them e-mails from November 1st, 2015?

I was thinking about this today, Katy. I was preparing it. Should I spend 50 hours going over all my e-mails with Roger and with Steve Bannon? And then they wanted e-mails that I had with Hope Hicks, with Corey Lewandowski, are you giving me a break? It`s ridiculous.


WILLIAMS: What Sam Nunberg was talking about was a request within that subpoena seeking all documents involving the President and a host of his closest advisers. NBC News has obtained a copy of the subpoena and it does ask for all e-mails, text messages, phone logs that pertain to ten key figures in the Trump campaign and the White House. From the President and aides like Hope Hicks, Paul Manafort to long time GOP operative and Trump friend, Roger Stone, who Nunberg describes as a mentor.

Just a few hours ago, Nunberg appeared again on this network and explained to Ari Melber his objections to the subpoena and his real reasons for defying the command to appear before a grand jury.


NUNBERG: I`ve talked to them, I`ve spent money on an attorney and I cooperated with them. And when I got something like this and then they wanted me to go to the grand jury next Friday and I believe they`re trying to start a case against Roger. They`re trying to set up a perjury case against Roger Stone, and I`m not going to have them.

Roger is my mentor. Roger is like family to me. And I`m not going to do it. I`m not going to testify against Roger. Roger did not do anything. Roger was treated terribly by Donald Trump.


WILLIAMS: Nunberg`s loyalty to Roger Stone wasn`t the only thing he told Ari Melber. He went further about the Mueller team`s process and about Donald Trump.


NUNBERG: I know Bob Mueller. I know the whole team, and they`re right. And they probably have something on Trump. Trump did something pretty bad. I find -- I think they were interested with something with his business.



MELBER: Did they ask you about the way he ran his business?

NUNBERG: Yes, they asked me about his business and I have no -- by the way, I have no idea what he did.


WILLIAMS: Nunberg then went even further during a later appearance tonight on CNN to the point of suggesting that whatever it is the President might have done could have an impact on to President`s preferred news network.


NUNBERG: I just got a feeling he did something. And by the way, you`re going to be fine when it comes out what he did but people like Sean Hannity, Lou Dobbs, Jeanine Pirro, they`re going to be very embarrassed when it comes out.




WILLIAMS: The White House, however, is dismissing Nunberg`s claims about any potential case against this President.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I definitely think he doesn`t know that for sure because he`s incorrect. As we`ve said many times before, there was no collusion with the Trump campaign. Anything further on what his actions are, he hasn`t worked at the White House, so I certainly can`t speak to him or the lack of knowledge that he clearly has.


WILLIAMS: And as the man says on T.V., but wait, there`s more. As we mentioned just before air time tonight, his story appears to have changed again, and we`ll talk about that change with one of our guest who`s standing by to talk with us. Let`s bring in with that cue our leadoff panel on a busy Monday night. Philip Rucker, White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC political analyst, Jill Coven, White House reporter for "The Associated Press" who spoke to Sam Nunberg tonight, former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a Federal prosecutor and John Heilemann, a veteran journalist and our MSNBC national affairs analyst.

All right. Jill, of the bunch of us, you spoke to him last. What can you report about what may or may not happen on Friday?

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": What was really extraordinary, you had Sam giving interview after interview after interview where he was really just charging, threatening not to participate in any of the Mueller subpoena requests, saying he wasn`t going to show up on Friday, threatening that they could arrest him if they wanted to. He says he`s not going to do it.

But in my conversation with him at the end of evening, after he finished all his cable news shows, he was in a much more somber mood. And he said, you know what, I`m really frustrated, they`ve asked me for all of these e- mails. Look, I spoke to -- I`ve e-mailed Steve Bannon, I`ve e-mailed Roger Stone so many times every day, it`s so many hours of work that they`re putting me through. I don`t understand why I need to this. I haven`t done anything wrong but, you know what, in the end I guess going to windup cooperating with them anyway, he said.

You know, he`s not sure whether he`s going to windup -- how he`s going to windup turning over these e-mails. He said ideally what he`d like is for Mueller to come back with a revised subpoena that would include turning over e-mails from fewer people. But what`s interestingly he actually singled out Carter Page to me saying that he don`t want to have to -- if he only got a new subpoena that didn`t have Page`s name on it, then he`d be happy to comply with it. And he also said that he`d never spoken to Carter Page.

So, if his argument is this is so much work, having to go through all of this, I`m not sure why Page is significant here. But overall, it was a very different tone from him saying, you know, what, I know, I`m going to do this. I have to do this but I wanted to put up a fight.

WILLIAMS: Unbelievable. To our former Fed we go. Joyce, I have so many questions for you. Can you say no to a subpoena like this? Can you narrow your own scope and get a bigger deal when you have been commanded to show up on Friday?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY: You can`t say no. The grand jury has the power to issue a subpoena to you and as long as it`s a proper subpoena, which this one is, you can`t just flat out reject it. But you can ask your lawyer to work with prosecutors, perhaps to give you a little bit more time to comply if you`re being asked to go through a lot of documents, perhaps to narrow the scope if there are legitimate reasons for it.

But having thrown down the gauntlet like this to Mueller and saying that he wouldn`t show up and he thought it would be funny if they put him in jail, I think that Sam Nunberg, who is of course himself a lawyer and understands all of the concepts or should, has not put himself in a good bargaining position with Mueller in terms of getting any type of favorable treatment.

WILLIAMS: Yes, from all reviews, Mueller is not a petty man, but Mr. Nunberg said a lot of things about a lot of people today, including Mueller and the process and kind of scoffed at the process. To your last point there, will that come around to haunt him in any substantive way?

VANCE: I think that you`re right that Mueller is not petty. He`s by the book but he is concerned about the institution. So one way this could boomerang on Mr. Nunberg is because there will be need to uphold the integrity of the institution and to ensure that grand juries in the process are respected.

I suspect Mr. Nunberg will find himself very thoroughly interviewed in front of the grand jury to the prosecutors satisfaction with the production of any documents that they deem necessary to the investigation. Whether or not he`ll be charged down the road, he indicated today that he had received immunity. And so that would indicate if it`s true, if he`s accurately reflecting that, that he would not be subject to substantive action against himself personally.

WILLIAMS: So Phil Rucker, this was one of those cable eras, are you watching these days and all of our phones lit up? I assume the same happened to you, friends, family saying some version of the question who is this guy. Mr. Rucker, who is this guy?

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST": So, that`s a great question, Brian. Sam Nunberg was sort of the keeper of Trump`s political operation that if to the extent he had a political manager in those years in the run up to the campaign, it was Sam Nunberg. He worked very closely with Roger Stone, who, as you said earlier, was his mentor.

And Sam would arrange the -- Mr. Trump`s schedule, his campaign appearances and so forth around the country before he launched his campaign. Then when he launched his campaign in 2015, Nunberg very soon thereafter had a falling out. He was forced out by Corey Lewandowski, the campaign manager at the time, in part because of racially charged Facebook posts that were found on Nunberg`s Facebook account.

It was a pretty clean break from the Trump operation and Nunberg has not been in the President`s good graces since then. He`s had a couple conversations with Trump, but there was a lawsuit at one point and that the White House staffs really have attacked his credibility and see him as very much a fringe figure in the Trump orbit today.

WILLIAMS: John Heilemann, a friend of mine says there`s been a market reduction in graffiti in public because it`s all gone to Twitter. Something just north of 20% of Americans are on it. There`s no barrier to entry. There`s no filter on what you can say about people.

I`m going to show you something that happened with Erin Burnett on CNN tonight because of what people were saying all day on social media about Mr. Nunberg and what Trump forces were kind of calling around and texting around. Here`s the exchange. It came to this.


BURNETT: Talking to you, I have smelled alcohol on your breath.

NUNBERG: Well, I have not had a drink.

BURNETT: You haven`t had a drink today?


BURNETT: Anything else?



NUNBERG: No, besides my meds.


NUNBERG: Anti-depressants, is that OK?


WILLIAMS: That was kind of an incredible exchange. And for anyone who might have found today entertaining, it was equal parts troubling as well.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. Look, it came up as soon as Sam got air with Katy. I don`t know if you`re watching Katy Tur, it was the beginning of this, people started raising the questions about whether or not he`d been drinking and I jokingly said today, although not fully jokingly said today, that I`m --

WILLIAMS: I heard you.

HEILEMANN: -- familiar with people who drink during the afternoon and he didn`t seem drunk to me. I`ve talked to Sam a lot over a number years. So, he did not come off today as much as people wanted to say he seemed unhinged or crazy or drunk or in some way altered, that`s not very different from the way Sam Nunberg has conducted himself in hundreds of conversations with reporters over the course of the last four or five years. That`s not to say it`s praiseworthy, but just to say that`s Sam Nunberg right there.

I think that there`s no question that he having done his time, having gone and sat with Mueller and his people a week ago, to get the subpoena and then be told he`s had going to -- to go to the grand jury, he was clearly freaked out today. And this is a person again, I say neither with sympathy nor with criticism, he was a little -- he was not -- did not seem altered to me but he seemed under enormous emotional duress.

I think seeing that list of names, and particular I want to go here at Occam`s razor, he focused a lot on Roger Stone and a lot of these conversations. He`s not kidding that he and Roger Stone were incredibly close. He`s not kidding that Roger Stone is his political mentor. And he`s not kidding that he had, I`m sure, dozens, if not hundreds, of communications on a weekly days of Roger Stone from, going back as far as 2011 when he came into Donald Trump`s orbit all the way through to election day, which is the relevant period.

It`s interesting that the subpoena is asking for his electronic communications after he had officially left the campaign.


HEILEMANN: And that again points you in the direction of Roger Stone and Steve Bannon. These are people with whom he had a lot of conversations. And as the special prosecutor starts to look more at people like Roger Stone, you can understand why you might want to know what is in the communication with Sam Nunberg.

WILLIAMS: And, Joyce, I`m no lawyer and Lord knows I`m no former Fed but when you keep saying in effect you`d go to jail to protect Roger Stone, you sure have unleashed an idea in the cable court of public opinion that maybe Roger Stone, your buddy, has something to hide.

VANCE: If he was trying to protect Stone, I think he had precisely the opposite effect today. His conversation with Ari Melber was meandering. He was all over the place. He seemed to contradict himself at times.

But one focus that was clear was that he was concerned about Stone and some sort of a risk of committing perjury or other sorts of charges and that his goal was to protect his friend and mentor from that. If the court of public opinion was voting on Roger Stone tonight, it probably would be a bad outcome.

WILLIAMS: Jill Colvin, you and Philip don`t do analysis but please come close. What does this say about the people drawn to the orbit of Donald Trump?

COLVIN: I mean, yes. Look, Sam is one of the people who was there in the very early days, Roger Stone, too. And what really struck me today, though, was when you watch Sam doing his whole cable news show after show, how much it felt like Roger Stone and how much it felt like Donald Trump, who used to call in from one cable show to the next. You weren`t sure as a reporter where you`re going to find them on television.

And talking to him tonight, Roger -- Sam really kind of seemed proud of himself saying, look at me, look what I did tonight, nobody has ever seen anything like this, have they?

WILLIAMS: And Phil Rucker, what can we surmised now that we`ve seen the wording from at least one of the subpoenas?

RUCKER: Well, we know that Mueller is digging pretty deep. He`s looking at a lot of players who we didn`t think of as the key architects of the campaign or the people who have been close to the President as he is contemplated things like firing Comey. Sam Nunberg is about as far away from Donald Trump in those key moments as he can be and yet he`s a key player in this investigation, I think because of how far Mueller and his team are going to try to figure out whether somebody like Roger Stone, whether somebody like Steve Bannon had any improper contacts.

WILLIAMS: John, I`ve also seen some folks who probably should have been nominated last night. There are Trump surrogates on cable tonight saying things like, I hope he is with his family and I hope this cry for help is answered, expressing crocodile concerns about his health, mental and otherwise.

HEILEMANN: There`s not a lot of love loss between many of the people as some I`ve suggest on this panel, between Donald Trump and Sam Nunberg at this point, nor between most of the people around Donald Trump and Sam Nunberg at this point. So some of the -- so, you know, there`s obviously a crocodile concern as you put it. Also I think it`s setting up something for the future for them to try to discredit him if he becomes, in his testimony becomes or any way becomes damaging to people who are close to Donald Trump. They`re going to want to look and say, well, there was crazy Sam Nunberg having some kind of a breakdown.

I will say the most -- single most irrational thing he did say, though, was to doubt in some way that Robert Mueller would put him in jail. I think, if you look at the way Mueller has conducted this campaign, this prosecution, so far this investigation, the no-knock warrants to Paul Manafort, he wants to set precedence and he wants just let and layout down deterrence to people behaving badly. Not just because he cares about the institution, which I agree with Joyce, he does, but he wants to let people know you cannot defy me. So I think he would love to put Sam Nunberg in jail just to send a message to everybody else and you remember well it happened before back in the Clinton years --

WILLIAMS: It sure did.

HEILEMANN: -- when not complying with the special prosecutor, landed Susan McDougal in jail for 14 months.

WILLIAMS: Yes. I`m also just been reminded the Academy Awards, I think are still continuing in at least one time, so perhaps there`s still time. Philip Rucker, Jill Colvin, Joyce Vance, John Heilemann, our terrific thanks to all of you for starting off this busy night of news.

And coming up for us, yesterday the President went back to blaming Obama for the Russia investigation. And what today`s round of staggering interviews from Sam Nunberg will mean for the Mueller investigation end for him. That and much more. We`re just getting started.


WILLIAMS: There is other news tonight on the Russia investigation. This morning, the President was on Twitter, lo that many hours ago to weigh in on the Mueller investigation, "Why did the Obama administration start an investigation into the Trump campaign with zero proof of wrong doing long before the election in November? Wanted to discredit so crooked Hillary would win. Unprecedented, bigger than Watergate! Plus, Obama did nothing about Russian meddling."

Also, NBC News has confirmed the "New York Times" reporting that the State Department has still not spent any of the $120 million set aside to counter Russian election interference. Plus, there is this, a piece in "The New Yorker" book length we might add about Christopher Steele, author of the Trump-Russia Dossier has this detail alleging that the Kremlin was involved in more than just our elections. "The New Yorker" reports Steele is believed to have discussed a memo he wrote after the 2016 election with Special Counsel Mueller.

That memo was based on one source described as a senior Russian official and we quote from the journalist, Jane Mayer, "The official said that he was merely relaying talk circulating in the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but what he`d heard was astonishing. People were saying that the Kremlin had intervened to block Trump`s initial choice for Secretary of State, Mitt Romney. If what the source heard was true, then a foreign power was exercising pivotal influence over U.S. foreign policy and an incoming President."

We have a surprise, because we`ve talk to our three journalists in this into sticking around, Phil Rucker, Jill Colvin, John Heilemann.

John, this alleging, you have to kind of gather yourself and reset --


WILLIAMS: -- that Russia, the Kremlin had some form of veto power over who our secretary of the state.

HEILEMANN: Well, Jane Mayer was very careful on the way she catch it, as it was Christopher Steele apparently in this memo. One source, single source, not clear, you know, again, it`s raw intelligence, like all the rest of the things in the Steele dossier.

But look, if you think about Donald Trump`s candidacy and his presidency, the things he says, the policies he`s pursued, the policies he hasn`t pursued, the appointments he`s made. Who is secretary of state? Who isn`t spending the money that`s design to combat Russia meddling? All of those things, each one of them would be the choice that Vladimir Putin would make.

In every instance, if you look at the entirety of it and if you think about that and you think about the fact that we`re still concerned about the Russians meddling in the 2018 elections, there`s none of this that is actually terribly surprising, including the detail if true that Jane Mayer authors up from this unpublished Steele memo.

WILLIAMS: Philip, how is this likely all of it going over in the Oval Office and by this hour I guess, in the residence? And remember this, in so many of his appearances today, Nunberg has casually tossed into the conversation, you know, I came up with the wall. And what does Donald Trump hate into a remark like that from someone he sees as an underling.

RUCKER: That`s exactly right. Remember, Trump fumed over Steve Bannon taking credit for aspects of the campaign and for being the so-called mastermind that help to get him elected in the general election. Trump wants credit for all of it. But the more and more headlines about Russia, the more frustrated and angry the President gets.

We had a story over the weekend about how for much of last week, he was raging in the residence, staying up late at night watching television, up early the next morning watching television, calling his friends, calling his kitchen Cabinet of advisers in fits of rage over aspects of the Russia probe. Whether it`s the conduct of Attorney General Jeff Sessions or the scrutiny every day, there was a new drip about Jared Kushner, his son-in- law and White House senior adviser. So it bothers him. And I can`t imagine that he`s pleased to see this Jane Mayer piece, which by way is an extraordinary piece of reporting.

WILLIAMS: It really is some 40 pages in length. And Jill Colvin, same question. To your reporting as well, how much more will this darken the atmosphere?

COLVIN: Yes, I mean very similar to what Phil said, what we`ve heard is that the White House right now is in very dire times. People are comparing this to the lowest moments during -- the White House during the campaign comparing it, for instance, to the Charlottesville back and forth that got so much criticism.

And the President is increasingly isolated here. You`ve got Hope Hicks who is departing. You`ve got all of this tension on Jared Kushner and now, you`ve got questions about John Kelly. He just doesn`t really have anybody around him to turn to, which is why you`re seeing him calling more and more these outside advisers, who then windup leaking and just kind of creating the cycle of more stories about the turmoil and the chaos.

WILLIAMS: All right. Now you, guys, when I say thank you for joining us, I really meant it. Philip Rucker, Jill Colvin, John Heilemann, three superb journalists helping to start us off tonight.

Coming up for us, how does the Trump legal team now react to these allegations made all day on live television? We`ll ask the man who once represented Bill Clinton when "The 11 Hour" continues.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Welcome back. We have learned tonight that former Trump campaign aide Sam Nunberg will likely cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s subpoena in the Russia investigation.

He`s told several people different things. He told the Associated Press in the form of Jill Colvin, "I`m going to end up cooperating with them. He told our own Katy Tur he will probably cooperate with Mueller in the end but doesn`t want to make it easy. He wasn`t so certain when Ari Melber talked to him at 9:51 p.m. tonight.

At any rate, before Nunberg`s possible change of heart, he told multiple news outlets he would not be complying with Mueller`s subpoena and at one point he even told our own Ari Melber he isn`t worried about going to prison.


SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: They`re not going to send me to jail. You know what, Mr. Mueller, if he wants to send me to jail, he can send me to jail and I`ll laugh about it. And I`ll make a bigger spectacle than I am on your TV show right now.


WILLIAMS: Here to talk about all it, Bob Bennett, veteran Washington lawyer who was Clark Clifford and Caspar Weinberger among others, and notably was President Clinton`s personal lawyer in the Paula Jones case.

Counselor, thank you so much for coming on with us again tonight, what does this gentleman need to understand about a federal subpoena in your view?

BOB BENNETT, VETERAN WASHINGTON LAWYER: Well, it`s not an invitation to a garden party where he can say, yes, I`ll come or no, I won`t come. He`s commanded to come. He has no choice.

WILLIAMS: We were harkening back today to the case of Susan McDougal and the Whitewater matter. She declined the invitation and she paid for that decision with jail time. Have you any reason to think that would not be the outcome in a case like this?

BENNETT: No, I think it will be, particularly since the gentleman made such a spectacle of saying he would defy the subpoena. Mueller cannot permit that to happen because it could have an impact on other witnesses. He gave Mueller a terrific opportunity to show how tough and determined he is.

WILLIAMS: He seems offended, if that`s the correct word, to share this document with people like Carter Page and Corey Lewandowski, two people he is not fond of. He keeps saying he wants to narrow the scope and, of course, he wouldn`t have any communication with those two guys, he doesn`t get along with them.

Can -- after everything he has said today about the special counsel, is he likely to get any sweetening of the scope of what they plan to ask him?

BENNETT: Well, I doubt it. I read the subpoena, and it`s actually quite narrow. The period of time is relatively short, a few years, and there`s only, you know, nine or ten people who are mentioned. So as subpoenas go, this is pretty narrow.

Now, I know Bob Mueller quite well, and I don`t think he will be so outraged about what he said that he`s determined to put him in jail. But he will give him an opportunity with his lawyers to come in and express any objections. And if they can reasonably be worked out like narrowing the subpoena or shortening the period of time, Mueller will do that. But he`s not going to bend very far. And he`s going to press this and I -- and if he sticks to what he said earlier today, he`s going to be wearing an orange jumpsuit.

WILLIAMS: You say you do know Bob Mueller and you`ve both been around Washington legal circles for a long time. We do know he has, what, 16 co- counsels or sub-counsels kind of 16 different prongs or trenches in the investigation. We`ve seen a couple of them. We keep hearing that maybe the hackers and leakers will be next. I know you get asked this on a daily basis. How far along do you believe we are in this process?

BENNETT: It`s very difficult to answer that because it`s like -- the investigation is like a glacier where, you know, what you see on top but you don`t know what`s underneath. I suspect that Mueller has a lot more evidence and information than has been reported. So I think he`s pretty far down the line on a lot of issues. That`s not to say I think this is coming to a quick close.

WILLIAMS: Well, let me ask you to speculate on another front and that is what form this will take. Do you think the special counsel will emerge and lay his findings at the feet of Americans and Congress and say here it all is, deal with it?

BENNETT: Well, I don`t think he has the authority to do that. But I think he will put together a document which covers all those things, and then it will be, I believe, the decision of the deputy attorney general, Mr. Rosenstein, because the attorney general recused himself, to decide who gets it.

Certainly, I`m confident it will be sent to at least the leaders of Congress and I`m quite confident that it someday will be released to the public.

WILLIAMS: Bob Bennett, whose clients include a former president of the United States. Counselor, thanks very much for coming on the broadcast with us tonight.

BENNETT: Thank you for having me, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, why the president is again at odds with his own party, that and more when we continue.


WILLIAMS: President Trump is standing by his plan to impose tariffs on aluminum and steel imports. His announcement last week came as a stunner to just about everyone and it`s sowing discord among other places his own party.

It prompted a rare public split with House Speaker Paul Ryan, his spokesperson told NBC News today, "We are extremely worried about the consequences of a trade war and are urging the White House to not advance with this plan. The next tax reform law has boasted the economy and we certainly don`t want to jeopardize those gains. This tariff notion has angered U.S. allies including our very closest neighbors Mexico and Canada, but so far the president has not been swayed."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Paul Ryan wanted to back down on trade. Paul Ryan says he worried about a trade war. Are you going to back down on the tariffs?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: No, we`re not going to back down. Mexico is -- we`ve had a very bad deal with Mexico, a very bad deal with Canada. It`s called NAFTA. For many years, NAFTA`s been a disaster. We are renegotiating NAFTA as I said I would. And if we don`t make a deal, I`ll terminate NAFTA.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re not worried about trade war?

TRUMP: Thank you. I don`t think we have a trade war.


TRUMP: I don`t think so. I don`t think we`re going to have a trade war, no.


WILLIAMS: That`s Jermaine (ph). You may recall just days ago, the president said "Trade wars are good and easy to win."

For more on all of this, we welcome to our broadcasting A.B. Stoddard, a veteran Washington Journalist, a Columnist and Associate Editor at RealClearPolitics.

A.B., one of the most, I don`t know, it`s put down of a phrase to say someone finds their voice. But I heard it said today that since when did the speaker find his voice on this topic, vis-a-vis this president? He has taken so much.

A.B. STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS: Well, that`s true but not only does this differ from when he has these meetings and goes wild about meeting the Democrats in the middle on immigration, or cutting three- month spending deal with Chuck and Nancy, or talking about coming to the middle on guns.

Those are legislative deals that Congress knows that, A, he`s going to change his mind about in a few minutes but they have the power to shape. This is an executive power. They`re very worried he`s going to wield it that. They`re very worried he`s a true protectionist.

This goes against, you know, what their and their donors who are very concerned about this policy, and are very important to them for their midterm election prospects, hold most dear. The business community is horrified.

And this is not, I mean, they have been working this, Brian, for months and months. I mean, since he got into office. This was -- this is always been a goal of his, and they have been trying to stop it and have successfully until now.

WILLIAMS: I heard someone report tonight that Gary Cohn has put together a bunch of visiting executives from the industries on Thursday to have some dialogue?

STODDARD: So when Peter Navarro says there`s no downstream effects and basically, the people who opposed like Gary Cohn, National Economic adviser to these tariffs, are trying as they`ve told him privately for all these months to explain the downstream effects, that they say will occur. They`re going to bring in these stakeholders to say, we are end users of aluminium and steel. This is a major threat to our jobs and to consumer prices.

We`ll impose a new tax and they`re hoping that those voices of those people, at this sort of high level drama with an impending announcement we`ll get through to the president.

WILLIAMS: And intentionally, snug question, I asked many of guests, how did the Trump agenda advance today?

STODDARD: I mean, look, I think he is not looking for an out. I think he loves this. He`s defiant. But I think people around him think they bought a little more time, that the speaker and influential voices in the party have raised enough volume on this, that they might get a few exemptions for some. I`m not going to be surprised at all if we see exemptions a week from now, for even the Canadians or Mexicans.

But right now, he`s enjoying the defiance. He`s leaving room for some slippage. We`ll see where this lands. But we can`t say today where we know this tariff situation is going to will go.

WILLIAMS: And if you`re Ryan and McConnell, what are you doing these days? What do you thinking these days?

STODDARD: It`s always about stopping the bleeding because they`ve done tax reform by Christmas. That was the threat from the donor community, there will be no more checks. There will be no nothing if you don`t get this done.

That was the deadline imposed by the president. They got through it. They finally have something for filling -- to repeal and replace Obamacare, that they can say they did. That they govern. They are on the hot seat -- they were on the hot seat on immigration, not anymore. The courts have given them a buffer.

There is no agenda for 2018. They are talking about some kind of food stamp perform, we know we`re not going to see a big fight over that kind of thing in election year. Certainly, they`re trying to avoid something on guns. They really are -- they`re just trying to get month to month through without more damage and they`re very worried.

After all they have to talk about is the tax bill, this idea of tariffs producing a new tax and really sending the economist south, in some important locations for their voters before November.

WILLIAMS: What a business week cover. What a treat having you hear to talk about it. A.B. Stoddard, thank you so much for being here.

STODDARD: Thank you.

Coming up, how to fight fake news, someone has a new idea on that front. We`ll have it when we continue.



TRUMP: The leaks are absolutely real, but the news is fake.

Fake news. It`s fake news. This is going to be great for people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you speak to fire Mueller?

TRUMP: Fake news, folks. Fake news.

One of the fake news networks, CNN last night were saying I want teachers to have guns. I don`t want teachers to have guns.


WILLIAMS: The very real news coming out of the White House based on real sources has painted a dark picture of late. As reported in the "Washington Post" over this past weekend, "These are the darkest days in at least half a year", aides say, "and they worry just how much farther President Trump and his administration may plunge into unrest and malaise before they start to recover." Before today the White House pushed back claiming everything is fine.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you speak to the morale, Sarah, after Scaramucci said on Friday that morale has never been lowered?

SARAH ELIZABETH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I definitely would not agree. I think we`re in a great place. But we have an incredible story to tell.

It`s been an historic first year. And we`re continuing to focus on the things that President Trump campaigned on. We`re excited about what we`ve done and where we`re going and we`re going to continue working hard for the American people.


WILLIAMS: With that, we welcome back to our broadcast Jim Warren, a veteran Journalist and Author, former Managing Editor and D.C. Bureau Chief for the Chicago Tribune, who is now Executive Editor of NewsGuard Technologies, a media startup that aims to identify and verify real news from fake news.

Jim, what`s more pernicious, having a president who tosses off the label fake news to known name brands, or learning as we have that some of the stories we saw in social media, some of the that had mangled syntax were in fact fake news being generated by bots? They`ve kind of merged, don`t they?

JIM WARREN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, NEWSGUARD TECHNOLOGIES: Yes. Well, first of all, my apologies for not coming bearing a subpoena from Robert.

WILLIAMS: Yes, how about that?

WARREN: I apologize. They are not coming both pernicious. You know, I got in from Chicago this morning, and I always feel nostalgic, grew up in the upper west side in a time when, you know, being engage in new, reading a paper. I was sort of part of you civic duty. Dad brought papers home every afternoon from work.

Fast forward, internet comes and everybody, whether it`s somebody in your hometown in Jersey or someone in a basement in Romania is now a publisher. Very democratic, but that`s a pronged. Anybody can be a publisher and say what they want. So now, you have a president who has, you know, they essentially coined a phrase, tapped into a bloodstream, has political bloodstream.

It has worked very effectively, clearly for his base. And remember that, everything you`re talking about talked with A.B. Stoddard about trade, this is all about playing to the base and make no mistake, there has absolutely worked. Two years ago, the pew group asked Americans about whether they saw the media as having an oversight function, a watch dog function. Democrats and Republicans were about the same, mid-70s, yes, they agreed.

Two years later, the Republican number, the Democratic number has gone up a little bit. The Republican number is in the 40s. That`s how it`s plummeted. So with this democratization, you also have the opposite of what we knew growing up on the East Coast, which was certainly, was a reflect of trust in folks like us.


WARREN: Now, it`s almost the opposite. And Trump, as his White House guest, Benjamin Netanyahu is doing fairly effectively in Israel, playing the same bash the media card because it`s working, even though certainly, in this case, I don`t know about Israel, but in this case, in this country it is socially destructive.

WILLIAMS: So you`re now going to, for lack of a better word, curate web sites in realtime and you`re going to give them stamp of approval or not. How do you do that for more than a blue audience? In a divided country, how do you tell all people this has been verified, you can believe these folks?

WARREN: You do what you can. I read tonight, each day on Facebook, there are links to -- there are There`s something like a million new links every day. There are something like 300,000 videos uploaded from YouTube and on the Facebook. Say you just had 1 percent of that hundred million are baloney. There are not enough reporters in the world to ferret all those out.

So we`re looking at separate stories. We`re looking at new sites and trying to be bloodlessly neutral with real reporters, not algorithms, trying to be fair-minded, understated, no loaded adjectives but making a conclusion as to whether something that even given this ideology, produces actual news or something is slightly suspicious or something is outright bogus.

And hope maybe in the same way, I haven`t thought of it in these terms, that consumer reports over years became a trusted source. So you went there before you bought the new refrigerator and said, "Yes, I kind of believe those guys." That`s our hope and that we can ultimately convince the bigger digital platform like Google and Facebook that`s -- and it`s in there interest. And also say like advertisement firms who haven`t decided self interest because their client`s brands are being tarnish by programatic advertising which automatically hots their advertisements on sites that are simply bogus.

WILLIAMS: Thirty second left, just like underwriters laboratories, good housekeeping seal, will we come to know your seal on what we consumers see in the media?

WARREN: Well, I hope a year from now I can say that. I hope that people like Facebook and Google will agree to do that because ultimately as I found out this morning in the dark driving to O`Hare Airport from Chicago, and I saw this white Sedan with a couple of Mexican immigrants passing -- bringing the papers to our block, there are fewer and fewer people reading house newspapers, reading real, smart, curated news and civil engagement is being periled. So I hope we can do a little something starting today.

WILLIAMS: Good luck, my friend, great to see you, my friend. We`ll have you back of course. We`ll talk about it of course. Jim Warren, out thanks tonight.

And coming up, the collision that is playing out in realtime between the business of the presidency and a president with a business, that and more right after this.


WILLIAMS: Few final items before we go tonight. All three are about the presidency. Two out of three concern this presidency. You might have seen that photo, bad day for bad Trump name in Panama. The family name has been chiseled off of a hotel in Panama City, the majority owner there believes that it`s actually cost business.

The Trump Organization has a deal to manage the place until 2031. But after 12 days of confrontations the owners says, he won a judgment and has ordered the name taken off. Trump Organization may take another hit for ordering golf tee markers with the presidential seal. This is according to an investigative report by ProPublica.

That`s because the seal is not suppose to be used for private business, only government business and only having to do with the president and not in this case Trump International. Ethics watchdogs make it their business to look out for exactly this kind of thing where the seal is concerned.

And we end tonight with our first president. In 1791, George Washington received a gift from the governor of New York. It was a whiskey barrel cut in half and filled with dirt. In it was a seedling, a small Canadian hemlock tree. It`s believed Washington planted it on the grounds of Mount Vernon and was later buried there beneath it. It became one of the most chronica and cared for trees in all the land. It stood there for 237 years.