Trump decries Mueller investigation. TRANSCRIPT: 03/08/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Jeremy Peters, Jennifer Rodgers, Bill Richardson, Anita Kumar

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: March 8, 2018 Guest: Jeremy Peters, Jennifer Rodgers, Bill Richardson, Anita Kumar

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Coming up, you`re going to hear more about what`s happening on tariffs, what the President decided to do today after threatening to put on a worldwide tariff on steel and aluminum, he changed that somewhat. "The 11th Hour With Brian Williams" starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight with the news dominated by a porn star, a potential trade war, and an ongoing investigation, the President agrees to meet with the North Korean dictator, the surprise announcement in the White House driveway by the delegation of South Koreans. We`ll speak with one of the few Americans who have negotiated with the North.

Plus, former Trump campaign chair, Paul Manafort now wearing a second ankle bracelet after pleading not guilty and yet another court appearance today. We`ve got new developments on the Mueller front and the President`s contacts with his witnesses.

And by moving on tariffs, Trump goes against his own party, some on his own staff and it`s still just Thursday as "The 11th Hour" begins now.

And good evening, once again, from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 413 of the Trump administration. And just a few hours ago, we learned that North Korea`s leader, Kim Jong-un, has invited President Trump to meet about its nuclear program and the President has accepted. This is a giant gamble that takes both countries and their leaders into uncharted diplomatic territory, and that`s an understatement.

Andrea Mitchell and Bill Richardson both standing by to talk with us a bit later on in the broadcast. But we begin with new insight into President Trump`s thinking about the Russia investigation and special Counsel Robert Mueller. The two men have yet to come face-to-face, as you know. And while we have no idea of Mueller`s views on the investigation, there`s no mystery about Mr. Trump`s opinion.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Collusion now is dead because everyone found out after a year of study there`s been absolutely no collusion.

I will say this. There is collusion, but it`s really with the Democrats and the Russians far more than it is with the Republicans and the Russians. So the witch hunt continues.

I had no phone calls. I`ve no meetings. No nothing.

The Russians had no impact on our votes whatsoever, but certainly, there was meddling and probably there was meddling from other countries and maybe other individuals.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: In just a moment in this very studio, we`ll be joined by Jeremy Peters of "The New York Times" who has new reporting on the President`s mindset these days about this investigation, which he luckily has promised to share with all of us. And there were other related developments in the case today. Trump`s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort was arraigned in federal court in Virginia where he pleaded not guilty to tax and bank fraud charges. That`s a separate case from the one in Washington, D.C., across the river where he`s already pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, money laundering and other charges related to his work for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

He is under House arrest and both jurisdictions require that he be monitored electronically. And that means he will now be sporting dual ankle bracelets, an accessory not lost on a protester today outside court.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show us your bracelet. Hey, traitor. Here`s your flag, Russian`s flag.

Traitor. Traitor. You`re selling out America to the Russians.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Paul Manafort will face two separate criminal trials later this year. Rick Gates, his former business partner and deputy on the Trump campaign, he has pleaded guilty. He`s now cooperating with team Mueller.

Tomorrow, the special prosecutor is scheduled to hear from another witness, Sam Nunberg, the one-time Trump campaign adviser who launched that notable one-day media blitz this week to say he would defy his subpoena. That Sam Nunberg has since thought better of it and will now testify before a grand jury in Washington tomorrow. He has already been questioned by Mueller`s team, remember. Here`s what he said about that on this very network.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SAM NUNBERG, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISER: I know Bob Mueller. I know that whole team, and they`re right. And they probably have something on Trump, Trump did something pretty bad, if I understood them.

ARI MELBER, "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" HOST: What do they have?

NUNBERG: I think they were interested in something with his business.

MELBER: With his business?

NUNBERG: Yes.

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

NUNBERG: Yes, they asked me about his business.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: To a leadoff panel on a Thursday night, Julia Ainsley, NBC News National Security and Justice Reporter, Jeremy Peters, Political Reporter for "The New York Times" and Jennifer Rodgers, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now Executive Director of the Columbia Law School Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity. Welcome to you all.

Jeremy, we bumped up your advanced billing tonight. You have new reporting on the President`s mindset given all we just ran through.

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Talking to people close to the President and close to his inner circle, you really get a sense for the emotions that Trump is going through right now. One is that he`s incredibly arrogant and dismissive of this inquiry. And that`s because he has people like Sean Hannity whispering in his ear constantly saying, this is a hoax, this is a witch hunt. You`re not going to have to testify in front of Mueller, you`re not going to have to sit down with him. Furthermore, they can`t indict a sitting President.

And this is not confined, Brian, just to people like Sean Hannity. The President is talking to a lot of people, sounding a lot of them out, getting their read on the situation. And they are, frankly, feeding some of his worst impulses in this matter. That he doesn`t have to take this investigation seriously. So that partially explains why he would be going to witnesses and asking them, like my colleagues, Michael Schmidt and Maggie Haberman reported today, how did it go?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

PETERS: What kind of questions were they asking you? Were they nice to you? You know, so that suggests on one hand that he`s not quite taking this seriously. However, it also suggests -- you talk to more people in the administration, around the administration, they will say he`s spooked. He is worried that they might have something on him.

Sam Nunberg, you know, whatever his flaws, whatever, you know, however unfortunate the series of events for the last 48 hours were when he went on T.V. and did those interviews, he has echoed something I`ve heard from other people who have spoken to the Mueller team in recent weeks, which is they`re zeroing in on something. I don`t know what that something is. I don`t think Sam Nunberg did, I don`t think anybody, but Bob Mueller and his team know what it is, but it`s serious.

WILLIAMS: Let`s ask a former Fed counselor, how legally dangerous is the President`s mindset as you hear Jeremy explain it?

JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, SOUTH DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, it`s dangerous in that he can get himself into a lot of trouble. I mean, these impulses of his are already, you know, getting him into hot water with obstruction. So the reporting from the conversations that he had with Reince Priebus and with Don McGahn don`t go as for as to suggest a new obstruction case to me. You know, he would have had to say something new to McGahn, instead of just saying, what did you say, oh, I don`t agree with that, you know, kind of go back and forth. He would have to say, you know, go back to Bob Mueller and correct the record, tell him that, in fact, I did not order the firing of the special counsel and so on.

So, I don`t think it`s kind of new hot water. But this whole idea of him interfering with this investigation, talking to people about it, continuing to delve into it, you know, again, it`s evidence of the obstruction case that we already have that Mueller`s looking into. It`s another kind of piece of that puzzle. You know, here is someone who`s so obsessed with this investigation, he just can`t stay out of it. It makes it more likely the time he fired Jim Comey and tried to fire Mueller that he was thinking along those lines, too.

And secondly, again, it`s just part of this attack on the independence of the Justice Department, the Special Counsel and the FBI, it`s that same drum beat that has been going on for a while, his, you know, continually trying to undermine those institutions.

WILLIAMS: So, Julia, as a matter of fact and not opinion, given what you`ve learned about the lines of inquiry, and they are multiples under way in the Mueller effort, the President, it would seem, would have a lot to worry about?

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right, Brian. I mean, I think he`s definitely spooked. He`s rattled is a word we`ve been throwing around a lot today. And this reporting from "The New York Times," both Jeremy`s reporting and the reporting with colleagues, last night shows a President who is very concerned. It also shows a President who is just shrugging off the advice of his counsel, of his attorneys who are representing him in this probe.

And if you think about the advice that they`ve given him, we know that they are trying to work out a way, a scenario in which he would not have to go before the special counsel to speak. They`re very much trying to insulate him, keep him calm, keep him from incriminating himself. And he just keeps shrugging that off at every turn.

And so this could be a President that would also shrug off the advice that he shouldn`t go speak to Robert Mueller. He may insist on doing it because he has this kind of -- he has this ego where he believes that he could just set the record straight and win on his own. And a lot of these moves that he`s making along the way, could get him in that trouble that Jennifer`s talking about now.

WILLIAMS: And, Jennifer, back to you. How do you deal with a client like that who has admitted impulse control issues and, candidly, needs to get good news kind of every day on multiple fronts.

RODGERS: Well, it`s very difficult. And this is one of the reasons he had such a hard time finding a criminal lawyer back when he was shopping around and he was asking kind of all the big names in the white collar defense bar and, you know, lots of people were saying no for just those reasons and also that apparently he doesn`t pay his bills. But it`s very challenging, I mean, you have to keep working at it, keep working at it. You know, eventually, some give up and move on and stop representing the client. But you just have to kind of stick with it and try to explain to him in terms that he will understand what the consequences are of his actions.

Some of that, you know, they`ve already, I`m sure, has been able to show him. You know, look, you fired Comey. Look what happened. You`ve got Bob Mueller and they can kind of show these consequences and hopefully get him under control.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, we do know that if you leave the employ of the White House you never leave the President`s cellphone. So, you and I both know some of the folks in his circle. Who can you speak to that he`s getting advice from? Is it a shrinking circle of people just by choice or by happenstance?

PETERS: I mean, I think it`s the usual suspects. It`s Corey Lewandowski, it`s Sean Hannity. You know, I don`t know that he`s still talking to Paul Manafort these days, but it`s the people who were around him from the beginning. Hope Hicks is certainly not out of the picture. I mean, the President has surrounded himself with a security blanket of familiar people. And that`s not going to change, Brian.

He is going to continue to seek out their advice, and in situations like this, that worries some of his lawyers because the people he has surrounded himself with from the beginning tended to be enablers. There`s been a lot of, you know, revisionist history, I would say, about the role of people like Hope Hicks in President Trump`s inner circle. You know, she was his Trump whisperer, she`s leaving and that somehow Trump is going to be unhinged or off the rails when she goes. Not really.

The people like Hope were there feeding some of the President`s most self- destructive impulses. And he`s not going to change. That`s not going to change. So I think that`s what worries some of his lawyers, that if he were, to Julia`s point, put him in front of Bob Mueller, what might he say?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

PETERS: How might he contradict himself? And that`s something I`ve heard with increasing frequency from people close to Trump, is that those who have spoken with Mueller`s team or those who have gotten feedback from how the investigation is going, what the lines of inquiry are, they`re very worried that if Trump faces those kinds of questions that he would contradict himself and put himself in real legal jeopardy.

WILLIAMS: And even more dangerous not know what others have already testified to, like a Michael Flynn and others. So, Julia, we`ve established two of the moving parts this week, Nunberg, Manafort. Anything else that you`re aware of that we`re forgetting?

AINSLEY: Gosh. I think the big thing here is all of the foreign contacts. We started reporting on this last week, Brian, as you know, reporting on Mueller looking into whether or not Jared Kushner`s business dealings with foreign individuals during the transition had an impact on foreign policy. And now with this reporting about what happened in the Seychelles with Erik Prince whose story now seems to be turning on its head, that he met with the Emiratis and could use that as a back-channel to the Russians.

All of this is sort of coming to a point where we`re beginning to see strings connect on a board, and it could be strings that Robert Mueller has connected for a long time. But we know now that he`s really interested in this meeting and he`s interested in not just the campaign at this point. That Seychelles meeting was in January 2017 as the administration was coming in.

So, I don`t think it`s getting ahead of ourselves to start to think that Robert Mueller isn`t just looking at a campaign and a foreign government. He`s looking at an administration that may have had something to repay to that foreign government once they were inside the White House.

WILLIAMS: It`ll be interesting to see the passports of the Mueller investigators because, while headquartered in Washington, this investigation is absolutely a global enterprise.

Our thanks on a busier than average Thursday night to Julia Ainsley, to Jeremy Peters, and Jennifer Rodgers. Appreciate it very much.

Coming up for us, that stunning news tonight that took the Pentagon, some in the West Wing by surprise, State Department as well, talks between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un. We`ve got one of the few Americans who has negotiated with the North standing by live to talk to us.

And later, Trump goes rogue on tariffs to the chagrin of his own party. We`re just getting under way on a Thursday evening.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Welcome back. As we mentioned, there were a number of firsts at the White House tonight. It was the first time anyone can remember the President walking into the Press Briefing Room unannounced. It was the first time anyone can remember South Korean diplomats appearing at microphones in the White House driveway in the dark.

And for the first time a sitting U.S. President has accepted an invitation to meet with the dictator of North Korea. The Pentagon didn`t know it was coming. State Department was saying just the opposite just today. But here was the news from the South Koreans tonight outside the West Wing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHUNG EUI-YONG, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR, SOUTH KOREA: I told President Trump that, in our meeting, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said he is committed to denuclearization. And he expressed his eagerness to meet President Trump as soon as possible.

President Trump appreciated the briefing and said he would meet Kim Jong-un by May to achieve permanent denuclearization.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders later put out a statement confirming the two leaders would meet saying in part, "He will accept the invitation to meet with Kim Jong-un at a place and time to be determined. We look forward to the denuclearization of North Korea. In the meantime, all sanctions and maximum pressure must remain."

With us tonight to talk about it, Andrea Mitchell, our NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, of course, the anchor of "Andrea Mitchell Reports" noon Eastern Time on this network, and Bill Richardson, one of the few Americans to ever successfully negotiate with North Korea. He also served as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. and he joins us from New Mexico where he served, of course, as Governor.

Andrea, so many questions. First of all, the optics, the South Korean delegation in the West Wing driveway, the fact that this admittedly comes up with so many other things that are vying for this President`s attention. And finally, the fact that we`ve been here before, maybe not quite this far, but we`ve been close to here before.

ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, first of all, this is the President who was talking about fire and fury and threatening military action, who on the January 2nd was saying that his nuclear button was bigger than Kim`s after a very threatening message from Kim Jong-un to the United States. You know, calling him "rocket man" and Kim calling the President "dotard" and other insults being lobbed back and forth at the U.N. speech.

So, the chang here dramatic, we first heard it at the Gridiron on Saturday night when he said that there had been some progress, there had been some positive messages. And then as the week proceeded, we saw those very good talks between North and South emerging from, you know, mixed in probably because of a number of things. We don`t really know, but certainly, the sanctions have been hurting. And we can assess that there has to be some concern about the threats of military action.

You have a very aggressive threat coming out of the NSC and the White House. At the same time, Madison -- Tillerson urging diplomacy, but Tillerson completely undercut on the way back from Asia as the President, you`ll recall last fall, tweeted out, don`t waste your time on diplomacy, Rex.

The other big question I would have and Bill Richardson would be a really good witness on this, is there are no diplomats, no senior diplomats. Just last week, Joe Young, the most experienced diplomat we had in this whole region, quit, and I`m told quit in frustration because he wasn`t even being brought to White House meetings. He was being completely shut out by Tillerson. And Tillerson himself has been marginalized by the White House in great regard.

Just today, Tillerson saying that it`s going to be a long time before there could be talks.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

MITCHELL: Now his aides say he`s just being careful to let the President making announcements, but by all indications this was an inaudible call by the President when he saw that there was the prospect of a meeting. He thinks he`s the best deal maker. Abe was apparently called by Tillerson just before but the President was on the phone with Japan, which is very nervous about this. Not at all happy about, in fact, about South Korea being so forward leaning towards North Korea -- this President Moon, the new South Korean President.

So, there are a lot of questions about these. This is a very big gamble. And while denuclearization is now being discussed and a freeze on tests right now, that doesn`t mean that Kim Jong-un will not be building his weapons at the same time that these talks are taking place. We`ve never even had a U.S. President, a sitting President talk to a North Korean leader, no less give him a meeting when we have three prisoners, three Americans still being held prisoner there. It doesn`t seem as though we got anything on the table in exchange for the prestige of a meeting.

WILLIAMS: So, governor, without taking a thing away from this achievement, I guess the polite diplomatic way of asking my favorite question, what could go wrong, is talk to us about risk versus reward.

BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER UNITED STATES AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, the risks are that when you negotiate with the North Koreans, and Andrea knows this, too, you`ve got to put your hand on your wallet. They`re very wily. They are strategic.

I think Kim Jong-un is evolving from a bomb thrower into a strategic thinker with an endgame. I mean, the Olympics, what he did there, the invitation to the South Korean President, the invitation to President Trump. He`s up to something. So we can`t be trapped. Those are the risks. The rewards.

Look, there`s enormous tension in the Koreas right now. Vitally strategic part for the United States. Enormous problems there.

U.S.-North Korean relations couldn`t be worse at this time. But now with this potential breakthrough, although potentially dangerous, tensions will ease. South Koreans, Japanese, citizens will breathe a little more easier because, you know, at least nothing is going to happen, no missile test, nuclear test until the summit in May. So, I think the President has gambled.

You know, I don`t support 95% of his foreign policy but I`m going to give him a positive pass on this one because I think it`s a bold stroke that might yield something. The alternative is things couldn`t be worse right now on the peninsula.

WILLIAMS: That`s true.

RICHARDSON: So, that`s what I would say.

WILLIAMS: And it`s good to hear you say that. Andrea, back to a point you first raised. This word "denuclearization" in the statement really jumps out at you, and a freeze in testing, though, I heard some people on cable already tonight say, well, of course, they`re going to freeze testing. We`ve just watched them test everything and everything seems to be working pretty well.

MITCHELL: Well, just this week the head of Defense Intelligence had a threat assessment that they have three long range missiles, two of which can reach the Homeland, the continent of United States. We don`t know whether they have solved the re-entry problems. We don`t know about miniaturization, but they`ve surprised American intelligence in the last year and a half with the progress they`ve made. And they have had 16 missile tests, 16 separate missiles have gone up on -- 23 missiles, I guess, is the total on 16 tests. So they`ve had a lot of tests in the last 18 months.

Look, Barack Obama told President Trump when he was still the President in waiting in that one meeting they had in the Oval Office that North Korea was going to be his biggest challenge. And we`ve seen how rocky it has been.

I don`t take anything away from the fact that this is a big gamble and that the reward is huge. I`m just saying one would wish that we had the diplomats in place to handle what is going to be the most complex nuclear negotiation since the end the Cold War. We don`t have people who used to be, you know, the really experienced diplomats from secretary of state on down.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

MITCHELL: And now this is rewarding Kim with a meeting at a very high level. And we don`t know, you know, who is the better negotiator here?

WILLIAMS: Just having an ambassador in South Korea would help. So, Governor, here`s the equation and we won`t be polite. You have one leader, Kim Jong-un, who craves relevance, craves being a part of the conversation, craves recognition. You`ve got another leader, I`ll leave it to you to decide who it is, who craves flattery. How would you counsel the home team going into this?

RICHARDSON: Well, I would say to the President, have a strategy. Don`t just go for a photo op, although, you know, just them getting together I think is a positive step. Get your diplomatic team. It should be a combination of state department people and military people.

I would also say to the President, I think the military in North Korea, and Andrea was with me when we got the remains of some of our soldiers, the North Koreans handed them to us. I think they`re to the left of Kim Jong- un. They don`t want a war against the United States. I think sanctions have been biting them.

So, I would say to the President, get ready, be prepared. No tweeting. Get your team in order. Don`t go calling him "rocket man." Just take it easy.

Thank the South Koreans. They have been very crucial here. Bring Japan along. They`re -- Andrea is right, they`re very nervous.

China, I think deserves some credit, too, because they have increased the sanctions. They could be doing more, but I think those sanctions have been biting. But don`t underestimate Kim Jong-un just because he`s 34 and unpredictable and does wacky things. He has an endgame.

And if we`re going to reach some kind of a deal, it may not be total denuclearization, but it`s going to cost us. It`s going to take a long time. They`re going to want a relief from sanctions, an end to the armistice. They`re going to want probably energy assistance. They`re going to want quite a bit. But I think this is where diplomacy, instead of talking about preemptive strikes, is going to be the rule of the day.

But I agree with Andrea, get a team together, don`t just do it yourself. By the way, tell your secretary of state what you`re doing. That would be helpful.

WILLIAMS: That might help. And we repeat to our audience something we can`t repeat often enough. Korean War never ended. It`s just in a cease- fire.

Our thanks to the two guests we were hoping could come on our broadcast to talk about this tonight. Andrea Mitchell, Governor, Ambassador Bill Richardson, thank you both so much. Fascinating conversation. We`ll continue to talk about it as the date approaches.

And coming up for us, the sound and fury among Republicans over what the President did today, what he signed today. And the question, will it correspondent into any action at all? When the "11th Hour" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Today I`m defending America`s national security by placing tariffs on foreign imports of steel and aluminum. And we want a lot of steel coming into our country, but we want it to be fair and we want our workers to be protected. And we want, frankly, our companies to be protected.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: President Trump announcing new tariffs on imported steel and aluminum amid fierce opposition, a lot from his own party.

Starting March 23rd, steel will be taxed at 25 percent, aluminum will be taxed at 10 percent. Mexico and Canada will receive exceptions. Today`s move defied Republicans who are worried about the economic impact and a possible trade war.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he`s happy with exemptions for allies but he`s "concerned about the scope of the proposed tariffs on steel and aluminum and their impact on American citizens and businesses." Speaker Paul Ryan who has been forced to take a pass on so much from this president, came out with a statement that, for him, is positively Churchillian, "I disagree with this action and fear its unintended consequences."

And there were Republicans in the Senate willing to be equally tough. Ben Sasse released a statement that read in part, "We`re on the verge of a painful and stupid trade war and that`s bad." And a statement from Jeff Flake read in part, "These so-called flexible tariffs are marriage of two lethal poisons to economic growth, protectionism and uncertainty. I will immediately draft and introduce legislation to nullify these tariffs."

Well, here to talk about it our own Ali Velshi, he co-cost the "Velshi and Ruhle" at 11:00 a.m. Eastern on weekdays, also happens to be host of our 3:00 p.m. hour Eastern Time every day. And Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers

Mr. Velshi, I noticed Grover Norquist, for people who don`t know that name, I mean this in the nicest way, he turned two generations of Republicans politicians into supplicants. I add to sign his pledge not to raise taxes.

ALI VELSHI, VELSHI AND RUHLE HOST: And actually the most powerful not elected man in the Washington possibly.

WILLIAMS: Tariffs are taxes, tariffs are taxes, tariffs are taxes, and one more time for good measure, tariffs or taxes on American consumers. Your reaction, Ali, through the words of Grover.

VELSHI: Well, Grover is an old friend and we agree on nothing. So I find it very strange. I`m on Grover`s side on that and I`m on the same side as the club for growth, because it is true.

There are real advantages to our free trade or our freer trade regimen, and that means that prices haven`t gone up for many, many years. We`ve been able to source things in countries where they`re cheaper for many, many years.

Now, there are problems with the way we do this trade and President Trump has identified them and Bernie Sanders have identified them, and lots of people have identified them, and we haven`t done anything about it. So this was an opportunity for the president to sort of fix some of the things that are wrong with international trade. But again, he didn`t do it the right way.

You`ll remember this started being about China.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

VELSHI: Then it became about Canada and Mexico. And today, during the announcement, it was largely about national security. None of it really makes sense. This is a shot across the wrong bow.

WILLIAMS: He also talked about dumping of steel.

VELSHI: Yes.

WILLIAMS: And dumping of dish washers across our country. I`m on my way to work today saw not one dish washer across the countryside. What does that mean?

VELSHI: So it`s a great old expression that refers to selling something in a country for less money than it would have cost in its country of origin.

WILLIAMS: OK.

VELSHI: Taking control of the market by deeply discounting steel. Now, there are issues. China does do some of this stuff and as the president has rightly pointed out, it does it through transhipments. So while we are not getting China`s dumped or very inexpensive steel directly from China, we`re getting it from countries that don`t actually produce steel.

There`s a lot of good argument to deal with this, but the real problem with China lies somewhere else. And more targeted approaches to dealing with China or any other country make a lot of sense. The danger of this sort of activity is that we buy a lot of stuff from other counties in the world. They buy a lot of our stuff. And they are likely to retaliate because of the impositions of these tariffs.

WILLIAMS: So, Anita, Republicans can stop this. They`ll need help. They need a two-thirds vote to reverse something like this, but it can be done. Will it be done?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: It can be done but it`s very unlikely to be done. You heard and you talked to -- you mentioned Senator Flake introducing that bill to nullify this.

WILLIAMS: He`s on his way out of town.

KUMAR: Yes. It is going to be very tough for Republican majorities to defy their president any year particularly in an election year. I just don`t think it`s going to happen.

WILLIAMS: So because the president did campaign, Anita, on some version of this, have you been forced to go back through to other things that have gone against convention, but when the time comes, he says, "No, this is for my people. I campaigned on this. It`s for my base."

KUMAR: Well, I mean, he did campaign on it. I mean, what he did is what he said he would do. He`s actually been talking about trade in some of this language for a really, really long time.

You know, we`ve been hearing that at the White House even though there was a lot of back and forth on whether he would actually go through with it. They keep telling us, well, he`s been saying this for months, for years, have you not been listening?

So, you know, but there was a back and forth at the White House where a lot of his advisers obviously did not agree with it and didn`t think he would do it and want him to do it. So here it is. He did do it.

You know, I think it resonates with some people, some people in the heart land, the people that he has spoke to the Trump supporters, people, you know, his base. But there are a lot of people facing elections this November. This isn`t going to sit well with in suburban areas and other house Districts.

You know, you mentioned some of the Republicans that were outspoken. We`re used to hearing John McCain. We`re used to hearing Bob Corker.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

KUMAR: We`re used to hearing Jeff Flake. We are not used to hearing Speaker Paul Ryan or Senator Mitch McConnell. I mean, those were tepid responses from them, but they were absolutely scathing that they came out and said those things. I mean, just to see both of their statements were very, very telling.

WILLIAMS: And, Ali, when I read about a carve-out for Mexico and Canada, kind of why don`t they call it, oh, I don`t know, North American free trade, something along those lines?

VELSHI: Right, that`s exactly the issue. If there hasn`t been a carve-out for Mexico and Canada, that would have immediately triggered a trade war. And keep this in mind, we get most of steel as imported, most of the imported steel oil comes from Canada. But you can`t just start a war, a trade war with Canada about steel because most of our imported oil comes from Canada. A lot of our electricity comes from Canada, lots of other things.

And by the way, Canada is one of the few countries with which America has a trade surplus. It`s a country that America sells more goods to, goods and services than it receives. So why you`d want to start a war with Mexico and Canada, trade war, it doesn`t make any sense. And that`s at least the president was convinced of the value of that.

But the European Union is not happy about this. They`ve already said, there all sorts of things that made in America that they`ll consider putting tariffs on. And we`re going to have to face those consequences.

One last thought I`ll leave you with. For every steel and aluminum worker you protect by doing this, there are 50 workers in industries that purchase large quantities of steel and aluminum who maybe hurt by this. So this is a difficult night for people who want to stand up for the American worker, because the president will point out those he`s protected, and those plants he saved, and those are going to be open, but we won`t hear about all the others who lose jobs because of this sort of thing.

WILLIAMS: Our sincere thanks to two of our friends, Anita Kumar and among the great ever Canadian exports, Ali Velshi. Thank you both so much.

Coming up, day 413 of the Trump administration, another day, however, dominated by some degree of chaos inside that West Wing. We`ll have the latest when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Quick review of the last 24 hours. When we left you last night, there was no events scheduled on tariffs, but that happened today.

And then tonight, the rather unusual sight of the South Korean delegation approaching microphones in the dark in the driveway, outside the West Wing to announce a deal with the North, President`s accepted the invitation. As we said to the ambassador earlier, what could go wrong?

Let`s talk about it with our guests, shall we? John Heilemann, MSNBC National Affairs Analyst and Eli Stokols, MSNBC Political Analyst, veteran journalists both.

John, to you, at a time of staff exodus, we have a porn star in the news, we have tariffs in the news. We have Mr. Mueller who went to work today just like any other Thursday.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: But the bottom line here is, above all these things, this North Korea negotiation really matters.

WILLIAMS: It does.

HEILEMANN: It`s an existential threat the North Korea --

WILLIAMS: We got, 28,000 Americans there and --

HEILEMANN: We do, and the possibility of ground war and the North Korea is pursuing a nuclear program that could reach the West Coast of United States. Getting this right really matters, and the way that the announcement was handled today with Rex Tillerson on the phone an hour later saying, "We`re not ready for talks. Maybe on the horizon some time in a few months, we might be able get there. And we don`t have an ambassador to South Korea."

WILLIAMS: There is that.

HEILEMANN: We don`t have an ambassador to the -- a senior diplomat to the Far East. We have chaos at the level of diplomacy where what you need when there are high stakes is to have things buttoned up or buttoned down, one or the other.

WILLIAMS: Because you and I are slightly older than this one, I can ask you a question like this, what`s the chance it`s a Nixon to China moment?

HEILEMANN: You know, not impossible. But, I mean, again we`re hearing discussion about how Trump instead of having negotiator, Trump going to go in and do this on his own. And you`ve got two -- I don`t want to say unstable.

But two volatile characters in Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump with no real staffing around him, with nothing like the kind of preparation that we`ve seen covering summits throughout our long, way too long careers, you know, could it work out? It could but, I mean, you wouldn`t bet on it.

WILLIAMS: Eli Stokols, one name we said repeatedly on last night`s broadcast, that I`ve yet to use though I`m break my streak by using it now, Stormy Daniels.

ELI STOKOLS, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: I thought I was going to talk about -- now, you`re throwing me a curve ball. I thought we were talking about the lack of process at the White House.

WILLIAMS: We could go there.

HEILEMANN: But lack of process backs that too.

STOKOLS: I mean, when you think about this, it does -- that is another thing --

WILLIAMS: All of the pieces.

STOKOLS: -- of a piece with the sort of frenetic nature of working this White House. Sarah Sanders basically going out there, trying to beat the story down, and sort of inadvertently, it seemed like confirming that there had been some sort of legal effort to keep Stormy Daniels silent, begs the question why.

Why is the president so concerned with whatever she has to say especially when he`s already been accused by more than a dozen women of similar infidelities and sexual abuse, and various things that are sort of part of his reputation. What is it that she might have or what is it that she could say that he`s so concerned about?

And I think people working in this White House, they don`t know all the answers. They don`t know the answers to those questions. They don`t know the answer to when reporters call in the morning and say, is there going to be a tariffs event this afternoon? They don`t know right up until he does it.

HEILEMANN: And what`s going to be in it, what`s going to be announced at it. If there`s going to one, what`s the content of it going to be?

WILLIAMS: And what`s tomorrow going to bring? What`s Monday?

STOKOLS: And then, the fact that there`s no process in place now with Rob Porter, it`s not just rob porter. There hasn`t been much of a process in place in this West Wing with this president from the start.

But as John said, the North Korea thing actually matters in a different way than Stormy Daniels, than a lot of these other things because of the national security implications. And to think that the South Koreans brought a verbal invitation from Kim Jung-un, you know, the leader of a country that has been trying to be seen on a level of diplomatic playing field, with the United States, to be seen as equals for 30 years, something that no U.S. leader, no U.S. president has ever granted them.

And tonight, it sounds like President Trump agreed to that in the Oval Office without any process really at all. You talked about Rex Tillerson being in the dark.

HEILEMANN: Just repeat of the sake of -- in a brief way. In doesn`t -- process is often just bureaucracy. Process is often overrated. There are lots of times when you can cut through the clutter. When it comes to things where there are high stakes, in the case of trade, massive global economic stakes. In the case of North Korea, massive global geostrategic nuclear military lives, blooded treasure, all of those things on line, process matters in those cases because if you make a mistake, the costs are so high.

It`s not like you`re just going to lose part of your base, or your approval rating is going to drop 6 points, or you`re going to blow up piece of legislation on Capitol Hill. You could blow stuff up. And this is where, we`re going to look at this and say, hey, this stuff that is kind of funny when they`re flying without radar under domestic circumstances, when you get on this stage, man, I want process. I want premeditation, I want process, I want coloring this inside the lines.

STOKOLS: You want expertise, right?

WILLIAMS: Yes.

STOKOLS: There are people who have studied this for years. Jared Kushner went down to Mexico, didn`t involve the U.S. diplomat yesterday who actually knows something about relations with that country. And it just speaks to the disregard for institutional knowledge and expertise throughout this administration. The president says, and he`s said it many times, I`m the only one that matters, when he talks about his cabinet, when he talk about the Foreign Service, and the State Department. And that`s where we are, the president himself seems like he made this decision tonight on his own.

WILLIAMS: Let the record show we value expertise. That`s why we invited John Heilemann and Eli Stokols tonight. Gentlemen, couldn`t have done better. Thank you.

Coming up, a closer look at today`s tariff event, hastily arranged at the White House. Perhaps, there were some things that took place today. You`ve got to see to believe.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I`m delivering on a promise I made during the campaign, and I`ve been making it for a good part of my life. I ever did this, I never really thought I would. I said, let`s run for president. And look what happened.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: President Trump took a moment to reflect on his unexpected career change during today`s tariff announcement. As we pointed out in the past, the president loves using words like reciprocal. He managed to work in four of those today. There were any number of underrated moments during today`s White House event.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We`re going to be doing a reciprocal tax program at some point.

It`s called reciprocal, it`s a mirror tax.

It`s called the reciprocal tax.

We want everything to be reciprocal.

Your father`s Herman?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Herman, sorry. Yes.

TRUMP: Yes. Well, your father, Herman, is looking down. He`s very proud of you right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, he`s still alive.

TRUMP: Oh he is? Well then, he`s even more proud of you. Then, he is even more proud. Anybody else, please, come on up.

Let`s arm wrestle, come on.

But you are great people, would you like to take a picture of the Oval Office? I assume you`ve all been many times into the Oval Office. Come on, let`s go and do that. Let`s go and do this. Yes, I`m going to do it. We`ll go into the Oval Office. We`re going to sign this up. We`ll go into the Oval Office and we`ll have a picture, OK.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Just one event, an ordinary Thursday in the life of the White House.

Coming up, another break for us, and when we come back, what made this anything but an ordinary Thursday in countries all around this world of ours.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Last thing before we leave you. In about three minutes here on the East Coast, it will be gone. But for now, it is still Thursday, International Women`s Day. This is observed every year on March 8th and its full title is United Nations Day for women`s rights and international peace.

The goal is to highlight, celebrate women`s achievements throughout history and across the globe. There were demonstrations and rallies all over to mark the occasion. Crowds marched, groups assembled across the U.S., in London, in Paris, in Spain and Italy and Turkey, South Korea, the Philippines and India, across South America from Uruguay to Argentina, Brazil and beyond.

This year, more and more companies also got on in on it, McDonald`s as you may have seen, flipped its famed golden arches into a W. Mattel released 17 limited edition Barbies which do not resemble the Barbies of the past among them aviator Amelia Earhart and NASA Mathematician Katherine Johnson.

There`s also this is benchmark on International Women`s Day, a record number of women are running for office in this country. According to POLITICO, at least 575 women have declared their intention to run for the House, the Senate or governor. And there does seem to be more enthusiasm for one party over another. POLITICO continues here "Of the 494 women who have said they`re running for the House and Senate this year, 76 percent are democratic candidates."

Meanwhile, here in New York today, that statue called Fearless Girl on Wall Street was draped with a bouquet of flowers while uptown at the United Nations, some powerful messengers delivered a powerful message.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REESE WITHERSPOON, ACTRESS: With the revelation that so many women had been assaulted, discriminated against, and generally told to be quiet for fear of losing opportunity and their job, we decided we were all going to come together because enough is enough. And time is up.

DANAI GURIRA, ACTRESS: What the women and girls have made it through thus far in the world shows us very clearly women are the more powerful sex, OK? Because I cannot believe the things I`ve heard women say they`ve been through and they still keep going day by day, and handle their business and take care of their children and invest in their communities, and stand up and make things better for people around them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Goodnight from NBC News headquarters in New York.

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