Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: March 15, 2018 Guest: Peter Baker, Anita Kumar, Gillian Tett
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The breaking news tonight, "The Washington Post" reporting the President`s now ready to replace H.R. McMaster as his national security advisor and mulling over candidates for the job. One of the reporters who broke the story standing by to talk with us.
Other moving parts tonight, the Trump Organization subpoenaed by Robert Mueller. The U.S. announces sanctions on Russian for interfering in the 2016 election and for hacking into our power plans. But when asked whether Putin is a friend or foe the White House says, it`s up to Russia to decide. That and more as the "11th Hour" gets underway.
Another busy Thursday. Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 420 of the Trump administration.
And Special Counsel Robert Mueller seems to be getting closer to President Trump, more on that aspect in just a moment. But we want to begin with the breaking news we`ve been covering tonight the latest shakeup in the White House. "The Washington Post" reports tonight, the President has decided to remove National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and that other staff removals could follow. This has been expected for some time.
You may recall, our colleague, Nicole Wallace, reported earlier this month that the President was preparing to replace McMaster as early as the end of this month. There have been multiple reports the National Security Adviser and the President have not seen eye to eye.
Tonight, "The Washington Post" writes it this way, "Trump is now comfortable with ousting McMaster, with whom he never personally gelled, but is willing to take time executing the move because he wants to make ensure both that the three-star Army general is not humiliated and that there is a strong successor lined up. The turbulence is part of a broader potential shake-up under consideration that is likely to include senior officials at the White House."
This news comes just two days after the President fired Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. Tonight, White House Adviser Kellyanne Conway addressed the shake-ups in the administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE ADVISER: People say I see chaos in churn. A lot of us see streamlining of some parts and sophistication because we had too many people over time. And we had too many of the wrong people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Just a short time ago, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders pushed back on "The Washington Post" reporting sending this out via Twitter. Just spoke to Potus and General H.R. McMaster, contrary to reports, they have a good working relationship and there are no changes at the NSC.
Look at that wording, are present tense," no changes at the NSC." We should quickly add "The Washington Post" has joined the reporting of the -- "Wall Street Journal" has joined the reporting of "The Washington Post" that McMaster is likely out. This week, President Trump has been down playing the chaos inside the White House.
There are reports Veterans Affair Secretary David Shulkin could be next. His job has been in question since it came to light that he used the taxpayer dollars for a trip to Europe with his wife. Among the names being mentioned as possible replacements, Pete Hegseth, Fox & Friends weekend host who, according to "The Washington Post" is a Trump confidant and sounding board on veteran`s policy from time to time.
Trump reportedly called Hegseth last week on speakerphone for policy advice while the sitting veteran affair secretary was in the room. Hegseth is a veteran but has no prior government experience and of course the V.A. is a massive bureaucracy.
One more quote from "The Washington Post" story tonight before we bring one of the authors on. This is base on 19 sources. "The mood inside the White House in recent days has verged on mania, as Trump increasingly keeps his own counsel and senior aides struggle to determine the gradations between rumor and truth. At times, they say, they are anxious and nervous, wondering what each new headline may mean for them personally."
Good time to bring in our lead-off panel on a Thursday night, Philip Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post" who was co- author of that Washington Post report, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," and Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent for "McClatchy Newspapers."
All right. Philip, we owe it to you. Having just heard and I highlighted the active tense wording in Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweets that is the White House push-back tonight against your reporting. It`s 11:04 and change Eastern Time.
PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes.
WILLIAMS: And we have to say this because things change very quickly around here. What`s your reporting at this hour?
RUCKER: Well, they do change very quickly, Brian. But we standby our reporting, which is that the President has made a decision that he wants to remove the National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. That does not mean that H.R. McMaster was fired today.
In fact, the President is comfortable taking some time as he figures out how to execute this decision for the two reasons that you alluded to at the top of the show, which is to try to preserve some integrity for McMaster avoid humiliating him and also to line up a successor. He wants to make sure that there`s somebody in place to take his seat when he vacates it
But we were told by several senior officials inside the White House, people who`ve spoken directly with the President about this that he has decided to make this move on McMaster. And the senior White House officials, including Chief of Staff John Kelly have been talking about this decision as being final in their conversations inside the West Wing. And so, that`s our reporting at this hour. And we standby it.
WILLIAMS: Phil, how is dangling a departure for this long -- this is a rhetorical question I guess not --
WILLIAMS: -- humiliating and you do raise in the piece that this is unique. He`s an active duty three-star. The job of many three-stars is to add a forth. And so he --
WILLIAMS: -- his next assignment, his next posting, his next deployment is critical. And they would like to give him a voice in that, I`m sure.
RUCKER: That`s exactly right. There`s a desire inside the White House by the President but also by Kelly and others in the administration to try to find a safe, comfortable landing spot for McMaster, perhaps a promotion to a fourth-star and a post somewhere outside of Washington. It`s unclear what that job exactly would be or what that vacancy is at this time. But there`s an effort to really try to carve out a path for him so he won`t be summarily dismissed the way, say, Rex Tillerson was as the secretary of state with that tweet.
So certainly, an effort to try preserves some level of decorums that were surrounding McMaster. But there has been a deathwatch for McMaster ever since Nicole Wallace broke that story on March 1st. It`s been several weeks now just a stream of reporting about his fate and he`s likely demise.
And what seems to be different in our reporting over the last 24 hours or so is that the President has arrived at a decision to remove him. It`s just now a matter of when and how that becomes executed.
WILLIAMS: To Peter Baker who`s another great part of this terrific newspaper war we`re living through. Does anyone but the President is at your sense? Is there anyone but the President who knows what`s going to happen next?
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": That`s the real question, right? That`s the parallel of reporting on this White House is because nothing is really final until it`s final. And we`ve all been there, we`ve all written stories like this. We`ve written story about McMaster being on the layout before.
I think there is obviously a real reporting and going on right now that Phil and the others have done. My own colleagues are doing tonight. That shows the President is, you know, reach the point where he is at least willing to remove General McMaster.
But until it happens, I think we got to be careful. I wrote a story in December saying that he would, you know, that Rex Tillerson was on the way out and Mike Pompeo would take his place. I was wrong for four months. It happened to be right this week. So you never really know.
And I think that`s the trick. That one thing is -- it may have happened and I still -- and his colleagues may have brought General McMaster a little more time. Like that Sarah Sanders tweet was seemed indicate that perhaps the President saw the story and he bristled and got mad about it. That`s, you know, that happens, right?
The President doesn`t like to be backed into a corner. He doesn`t like anybody to say what he`s going to do. He likes to be unpredictable. So when we write stories saying, he`s on the verge of doing this or doing that, he`ll often buying way to trying to undercut, even if it was, in fact, the thing he was ready to do.
I think what`s going on right now, our reporting show is, you know, John Kelly`s hand in this. He seems to be the one who`s agitating about General McMaster. He`s upset to General McMaster, we`re told, because he blames the national security adviser for undercutting Rex Tillerson.
He blames him for Tillerson`s ouster in affect. And therefore, you know, John Kelly may be trying to back to undercut General McMaster. Of course, John Kelly himself is on thin ice and could be out any single day, depending on what reports and who he listen to.
WILLIAMS: So, Anita, H.R. McMaster, in addition to having given his adult life in service to this country, including combat zones in addition to his genuine scholarship his book, "Dereliction of Duty" about U.S. policy in the Vietnam Era is among the best written on the subject. I suppose to my question to Phil, there`s really not going to be any elegance in his departure at this point.
ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS": No. I mean that`s one of the things about this. You know, Peter has mentioned that they reported that Tillerson was on his way out in December. So people have been questioning Tillerson what would happen with him, should anyone trust him? Is he really speaking for the President for months? You know, that undercuts anything that he`s doing.
So now, the same thing is going to happen with him McMaster. It`s already happening, right? I mean we`ve known for weeks, you mentioned Nicole Wallace`s reporting. But also we`ve known for a long time that they have, as "The Washington Post" reported that two of them did not gel. I mean, they`d didn`t get along. He wasn`t one of his favorites.
So, you know, you`re constantly questioning, is he really speaking for the President, you know, are they on the same page about policy? And that`s just -- it`s just a problem.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, I have to question your shaky reporting based only on 19 sources but here we go. I`m going to quote from another portion of your piece. "Trump has sometimes expressed confusion about what agencies and secretaries are in charge of what duties, a senior administration official said. For example, this official said, he`s complained to Pruitt about regulatory processes is for construction projects, although the EPA is not in charge of the regulations."
As no one need to tell you, Phil, this is germane because so much of the under pending, what we`re being told about this further staffer churn, why this much hubbub and why now. Is the President was unfamiliar with the job when he first arrived having no prior experience?
WILLIAMS: And he is now kind of learning the contours of the job of presidency, this reporting not withstanding.
RUCKER: That`s right, Brian. He`s very comfortable in the job now. He feels like he doesn`t need to be managed the way he was in those early months when, you know, there was such a heavy hand from his generals, as he likes to call it, and others in the Cabinet.
Now, he feels like he can make some of his own decisions. He did that on the tariffs that we saw last week or maybe it was a week before, with aluminum and steel. He did that with the decision to agree to meet with Kim Jong-un of North Korea for those talks.
And as he looks at his Cabinet, he`s trying to figure out who am I comfortable with, who do I like having around and who does he think gets him? That is, if it`s somebody like Linda McMahon that he has a real sort of comfort level with for many years and fellow billionaire who really sort of understands how Trump operates?
And you compare that with somebody like Betsy DeVos, the Education Secretary, who`s had a bit of a more standoffs relationship with the President. So much about his decisions about these Cabinet members is based on that personal rapport that he has and whether he can connect with the secretary.
He`s also paying attention, by the way, to bad headlines and political updates. He`s been infuriated by some of these stories about just poor spending decisions by his Cabinet secretary, especially the Veteran Affair Secretary, David Shulkin, but also Ben Carson at HUD had and even Scott Pruitt at the EPA.
WILLIAMS: Peter, a question I always ask you for good reason and I never mean it in a joking way. How did the Trump agenda advance today any where in Washington?
BAKER: That`s a great question. You know, it`s hard to find something to put your finger on. And they`re so consumed with their own structure, their own personnel issues, their own policy entry. It`s hard to imagine there being a chance to really advance policy in a meaningful.
Now, the President did, and you`ll talk about this later, the President`s administration did put some sanctions on Russia today for the election meddling. That`s the first time they`ve done that since taking office. That`s a significant, if relatively symbolic act. But otherwise, it`s hard to imagine people sitting down in the staff meetings, wondering who`s going to be there, who`s not going to be there 24 hours now being able to put together a coherent plan for action.
You know Phil`s story tonight has a great job of capturing that sort of, you know, instability and uncertainty and confusion and may -- and really within the White House. And I think Anita`s point is exactly right, too. Whether you stay or go if you`ve been undercut in a public way like this, your effectiveness, your ability to do the job diminishes substantially.
So, you know, Tillerson was for many months, you know, not viewed as the chief diplomat of the United States, even though he still held that title. And General McMaster has, for any number of weeks or months, and certainly now going forward even more so, will be questioned about whether he`s really representing the President.
WILLIAMS: And, Anita, the business of predictability is shut. I mean, Jeff Sessions remains the Attorney General of the United States. And we all paid attention in civics class, I hope, presidents have the right to surround themselves, one of the consequences of elections, with the people they want.
On big jobs, the lawmakers in Washington have an advice and consent ability right to that. Also, the American people have a right to be able to see some stability in their government. So, Anita, it`s another place where there`s no viewer`s guide for what lays ahead.
KUMAR: No. I mean, they`re definitely isn`t. I have seen many people in the last, you know, day or two or week say that this feels like the transition, the presidential transition. So this is what we went through for 14, 15 months ago where, you know, he sort of picking -- the President`s picking who he wants to be surrounded with.
Now, you would expect that during transition, right, that`s when he`s picking Cabinet secretaries. What you wouldn`t expect is, you know, for us to be in this point now where he is trying to, you know, take trips around the world, go through, you know, push out policy and do all sorts of other things. And so it`s almost like 14 months in is when he`s really surrounding himself by the people that he wanted to be, you know, after, you know, after all this time.
I think the President said the other day, he`s learned a lot in last year, he`s learned a lot about people. And it`s sort of a shame that it`s taken that this long because he needs to be getting on with his agenda.
WILLIAMS: You know, we`ll close on this quote. This was the President on Tuesday. I`ve gotten to know a lot of people very well over the last year. And I`m really at a point where we`re getting close to having the Cabinets and other things that I want.
We`ll let him speak for himself on that quote. Much obliged to Philip Rucker, to Peter Baker, to Anita Kumar. Thanks for a terrific conversation all surrounding the breaking news at this hour.
And coming up as we continue, Robert Mueller moves closer to the President himself in this special counsel investigation delivering a subpoena to the larger Trump Organization.
And later, a look at Donald Trump`s toughest move against Russia to date as he sanctioned some of the same people indicted by said special counsel. The "11th Hour" on a Thursday night continues after this.
WILLIAMS: Special Counsel Robert Mueller zeroing in on President Trump`s business interest. In this newspaper we are going back and forth like a pendulum, "The New York Times" reporters, Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt, report, Mueller is using his subpoena power to demand documents, including some related to Russia from the Trump Organization.
They write in part, "The order is the first know instance of the special counsel demanding records directly related to President Trump`s businesses. The breadth of the subpoena was not clear, nor wasn`t clear why Mr. Mueller issued it instead of simply asking for the documents. The subpoena is the latest indication that the investigation, which Mr. Trump`s lawyers once regularly assured him would be completed by now, will drag on for at least several more months."
Back in July, the President spoke with Maggie Haberman and Michael Schmidt about this exact legal scenario. Listen.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": If Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances unrelated to Russia, is that a red line?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would say yes. I would say yes.
SCHMIDT: What would you do?
Trump: I can`t, I can`t answer that question because I don`t think it` going to happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: In today`s White House briefing, the White House was asked about "The New York Times" report and if the President still considered this investigation of his finances crossing a kind of red line.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: As we`ve maintained all along, and as the President have said that numerous times, there was no collusion between the campaign and Russia. For specific questions regarding the Trump organization, I would refer you to them.
We`re going to continue to fully cooperate, out of respect for the special counsel. We are not going to comment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The Trump Organization did weigh in the companies lawyer issued the following statement. It reads, since July 2017, we have advised the public that the Trump Organization is fully cooperative with all investigations, including the special counsel and is responding to their requests. "This is old news and our assistance and cooperation with the various operations remains the same today."
Here to talk more about it tonight. We welcome Katty Kay back to our broadcast, the Veteran Journalist and Anchor for BBC World News America. Frank Figliuzzi is back with us, Former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, who in the past has worked for Robert Mueller among others.
Rick Stengel, returns, Former Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Public Affairs, as well as the Former Managing Editor of Time Magazine. Also happens to be Nelson Mandela`s Biographer, but more on that at a later date. All three are also MSNBC analyst. Welcome to you all, it goes without saying.
Frank, they didn`t ask they subpoenaed these documents. A distinction of great interest to you I know.
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER ASSISANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Well, Brian, many experts have already said that there is a strong obstruction case already involving the President. So if you`ve got that, why would you then ask pretty please for the Trump Organization to turn over what they can if you suspect they might not be cooperating? So, you want to lock them in, lock them down, do it with a subpoena that commands their cooperation.
WILLIAMS: Another distinction I`m going to ask that you explain for me and our audience the documents, some of them are about Russia, not all. What could that mean for the other requested documents?
FIGLIUZZI: So, there are couples of reasons why this is a significant subpoena. First, clearly it could show past dealings, business dealings with Russia that clearly would go towards possible masking of moneys. Money laundering that might have gone to the campaign from Russia. Maybe a violation of the emoluments cost to the Constitution, maybe evidence of obstruction. Maybe finally shedding light on why the President wants the special counsel inquiry to go away, because it might show shady business dealings or debt problems with Russia.
But going beyond that, going beyond Russia, it could be showing evidence of other compromise, other foreign entities involved in this picture. So, the bottom line is the special counsel is a prosecutor. He`s going to keep going if he sees violations of law. And he`s not going to restrain himself to one country only if he sees other influences and compromise as possible.
WILLIAMS: To Katty Kay who has the unenviable job of describing our country to the world on a daily basis. Katty, we`ve thrown together a collection of comments Donald Trump has made about business interest or lack thereof with Russia. We`ll watch it together and talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Yes, I`m all over the world but we`re not involved in Russia.
I have nothing to do with Russia folks, OK? I promise you, I never made, I don`t have any deals with Russia.
I have no dealings with Russia. I have no deals in Russia. I have no deals that could happen in Russia because we`ve stayed away. And I have no loans with Russia.
I have nothing to do with the Russia. I have no investments in Russia. None whatsoever. I don`t have property in Russia.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Katty, it sounds like he has nothing to do with Russia. Those are his comments based on his own underpinnings, perhaps all the more reason why these documents subpoena maybe a scary thought.
KATTY KAY, ANCHOR, BBC WORLD NEWS AMERICA: Right. I guess if the President has no dealings with Russia, really has no dealings with Russia, the stash of papers that Mueller is going to get from the Trump Organization is going to be extremely small, right? And that was what you`d expect. None of us think that is the case.
It does seem that over the years, the Russians have dangled the prospect, at least, of business deals or loans in front of Donald Trump. We know that he has traveled there. And he`s interested in having a Trump Tower built in Moscow.
And the question, I guess, for the special prosecutor in the context of this investigation surrounding the 2016 election campaign is, was there some financial misdealing between the Trump Organization and Moscow that would have given Moscow some kind of leverage over the Trump administration where President -- where Trump become President? There could have gotten some kind of a quid pro quo when it came to policy dealings. That is one of the areas that it seems the Mueller investigation is looking into.
WILLIAMS: Rick, I wasn`t getting when I talked about the difficulty of Katty`s job explaining our country, especially these days to the rest of the world. Much as you at the State Department for awhile where our public face around the world, the expression of the whole world is watching from the Chicago riots comes to mind as. We have a story later tonight about the President allegedly making stuff up when talking to the Canadian prime minister.
RICK STENGEL, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Yes.
WILLIAMS: All of these matters. People can hear it and see it.
STENGEL: You know, that story about when he said that, you know, where he actually confessed to lying to a world leader. I mean, we used to wonder, did he know he was lying even when he was lying? Well, today, he confessed that he actually knew he was lying.
But, you know, to go back to the rest of the story, I have to say with Mueller`s subpoena today, I began to think, you know, maybe he actually ran for President so he could finally build that hotel in Moscow.
He has, basically, that`s going to white whale for him for 15 or 20 year to have a hotel in Moscow.
STENGEL: And for a man who is very imprecise with his language, he is very precise when he is talking about Russia. He is always talking in the present tense. I have no investments in Russia. But he has had cascades of Russian money over the years.
There`s Russian development deals that he has been involved in. And he has always wanted to have that hotel there. So, I agree with both, with what Frank and Katty said.
I mean, Mueller is looking at are there connections. This is the collusion case that is forcing Donald Trump`s hand as President. So, they have complement on him? Do they have leverage over him? And something that`s disturbing, to go back to your original question, to the whole world if Russia has leverage over the President of the United States.
WILLIAMS: There has something behind the normalization of all things in Russia. All of our guests have agreed to stick around. We`re going to take a break.
When we come back, we`re going to look at today`s rare action against Russia that the United States was a part of. But will it be enough to silence the critics we hear on this broadcast every night? More when the "11th Hour" continues.
WILLIAMS: We`re back. We`ve mentioned this earlier. In a significant move, the Trump administration imposed long awaited sanctions on Russian individuals and organizations as a response to interference in our 2016 election, and other cyberattacks into the U.S. power grid. More on that in a moment.
Overall, they represent the administration`s most aggressive actions yet against Moscow since this president took action. We should note these sanctions are actually target the same organizations and operatives that Mueller indicted last month. Today`s news came at the same time the U.S. along with European allies, the U.K., France and Germany denounced Russia for the poison attack in the U.K. saying it was highly likely Russia was responsible.
During a meeting with the Irish prime minister today which accounts for the fact that it look like a plant was growing out of the president`s pocket, the president said it looked like Russia was behind the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think Putin was behind this, Mr. President?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: It looks like it. I spoke with the prime minister and we are in deep discussions, a very sad situation. It certainly looks like the Russians were behind it. Something that should never ever happen and we`re taking it very seriously as I think are many others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: It does happen to be shamrock season.
Now, about those remarks, we just heard Peter Baker pointed out in the Times, "In keeping with his reluctance to blame Moscow for meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign, Mr. Trump did not mention the sanctions or election interference." And then during today`s White House press briefing, our own Peter Alexander asked this simple question to Sarah Huckabee Sanders.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is Putin a friend or foe of the United States?
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that`s something that Russia is going to have to make that determination. They`re going to have to decide whether or not they want to be a good actor or bad actor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So I`ll just talk about acting. Our panelists are Katty Kay, Frank Figliuzzi, Rick Stengel.
Ricky, when we`re talking in the break, you feel these sanctions are real and have teeth, and were a positive thing?
RICK STENGEL, FORMER UNDERSECRETARY OF STATE, PUBLIC DIPLOMACY & PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Yes. I definitely think they are a positive thing. Secretary Mnuchin`s statement was very strong. It was about the line cyber activity including election interference. I mean, you couldn`t be more straight about it than he was. It`s hard to be rhetorically stronger.
The actual sanctions themselves, you can actually go online at the Treasury site and see them. I mean, they are mainly focused on the Internet Research Agency which is this place that did all of the propaganda and disinformation, the GRU and the FSU that you -- Russian intelligence agencies. So, I mean, are they strong at sectoral sanctions that the Obama administration did when they sanction the whole sectoral -- like the financial sector. No.
But they get at some people who are close to Putin. And the sanctions that move (ph) Putin the most, go for his inner circle. That`s what he is most sensitive about.
WILLIAMS: Frank, the part of the story that was reported in an "oh, by the way" fashion today, is this. "The administration also took the unusual step", Peter Baker writes, "of naming the Russian government as the force behind the series of intrusions into American power plants and the computer networks that control power grids. The attacks known as dragon flies pierced many layers of security, and would have allow the intruders to sabotage systems expert say. But there is no evidence that any sabotage took place."
Considering we`ve had three Nor`easters and the lights are still out in places in New England. Imagine what a bad actor could do with their hands on the switch. Frank, your view of the sanctions announced today?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY CONTRIBUTOR: So the sanctions today, Brian, are start but they are not yet enough. We`re talking about trying to punish a country for meddling with our democracy. And we`re not hearing strong condemnation from the president.
We`re hearing about the sanctions from the Treasury secretary, from White House spokesperson. But we need to hear that president come out strongly and condemn the activity. We need to hear the president come out and say I want extradition, even symbolically, if it will never happen. I want extradition of those 13 people indicted by Robert Mueller. And I don`t want this to happen again.
We`re not hearing that. I agree that, this is a good start. We`re trying to bring pain to those people around Putin, that associate with him, that do his bidding. And try to get that circle tightened up around Putin so people think twice before cooperating.
And I love the fact that we`re naming and shaming the entities that are nothing more than cutouts for the Russian intelligence service, but we have ways to go here. And Russia is a sophisticated strong player in the cyberattack world. They could hurt us. They`ve let us know that. And cyber professionals for about six months have known a dragon fly, have known what Russia is capable of doing in the utility sector.
WILLIAMS: Well, I hope we`re allowed to say out loud that we hope the home team has similar tentacles into the systems over there, just because that`s the nature of this kind of warfare.
Katty, I think you`ll agree with me that today`s joint announcement by the allies felt so two years ago. It`s the kind of things allies used to do. It is the kind of thing the U.S. used to sign onto all of the time. An attack on one is an attack on all.
KATTY KAY, ANCHOR, BBC WORLD NEWS AMERICA: Yes. It does seem that in his conversation Theresa May, the British prime minister, he has managed to nudge Donald Trump into a position he has not been in so far, where he dropped ambiguity about his criticism of Russia. There was no whomever or whoever it was attached to that comment he made in the Oval Office today.
He fingered Russia. He said we believe they are behind it. And that he was standing by the Brits in that assessment.
So that`s new. The question now is going to be whether it`s on the other side of the Atlantic or this side of the Atlantic, is the West prepared to take the kind of action that is commensurate with the kind of words we`re heard over the last couple of days. And so far, we haven`t seen that.
If the West has really come to the conclusion that Russia has gone far enough and they need to draw a red line and stop the kind of meddling that we`ve seen in the American election here, that we`ve seen in elections in the U.K., and that we`ve seen with the poisoning of this former Russian spy in Salisbury, England. Then, they need to do something that is much tougher than what they`ve done so far.
We`ve impose sanctions before on Russia over Crimea, over Ukraine. The Russians are still in Crimea and they are still meddling in Ukraine. It hasn`t stopped them yet.
They`ve got to go off to Russian money. They`ve got to tight room with oligarchs. From the U.K.`s point of view, that probably means hitting, you know, the Russian hold on the London property market. So far we haven`t seen the West prepare to do.
We`re seeing the language. We`re hearing the language this week and it`s new. But what we need to see is the action.
WILLIAMS: I think Stengel and I were the only ones who actually went on the website to read them. But thank you all, great perspective tonight from three of our favorite guests, Katty Kay, Frank Figliuzzi and Rick Stengel.
Coming up for us, the only thing the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany`s leaders could all agree on today. We`re going to go live to Paris for more on that when we come back.
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THERESA MAY, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Allies are standing alongside us and saying this is a part of a pattern of activity that we have seen from Russia in their interference, their disruption that they have perpetrated across a number of countries in Europe. It`s happened in the U.K. but it could have happened anywhere. And we take a united stance against it.
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WILLIAMS: That was the British prime minister responding to international support for England`s stance against Russia following this chemical weapon attack on British soil. On March 4th, if you know the story, you know a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned with a nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, so potent it`s not allowed in warfare.
The move prompted the prime minister to kick 23 Russian diplomats out of the U.K. Today, just prior to the White House sanctions announcement, the leaders of the U.S., France and Germany joined the U.K. in a formal condemnation of Moscow. As we said, the kind of thing we used to see.
The joint statement reads in part and we quote, "We share the United Kingdom`s assessment that there is no plausible alternative explanation, and note that Russia`s failure to address the legitimate request by the government of the United Kingdom further underlines Russia`s responsibility. We call on Russia to address all questions related to the attack in Salisbury."
We are so fortunate to have these guests with us tonight. Christopher Dicky, a Foreign Correspondent, currently Paris-based world news editor for Daily Beast and MSNBC Contributor. And we note willing to wake up at 4:40 in the morning to talk to us. Gillian Tett is here with us in New York, U.S. Managing Editor of the Financial Times.
I`m told there`s a delay of a couple seconds to Paris. So, Christopher, I`ll start with you. Your view of the reaction to today`s statement and the U.S. action overseas?
CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think today`s statement is essentially condemnation without consequences as far as Russia is concerned. And I think that in fact people are missing it if they don`t understand that Putin is benefitting from this entire controversy.
You know, Putin has a whole discourse in which Russia is the victim of these foreign powers. It doesn`t really do anything to anybody else. They are constantly attacking it. And right now, he is running for reelection. The election will be on Sunday. And he`s going to win a huge majority, everybody expects that.
But one reason he will get that is because he has convinced the Russian people that he is standing up to defend them against all of this international pressure which he claims is totally unjustified.
WILLIAMS: Gillian, I`m not just asking this question because of your accent and upbringing, but we did just hear Katty Kay theorize that maybe, just maybe, the British prime minister is what it took to fraud the American president into a position that sounds much more like American presidents used to sound.
GILLIAN TETT, U.S, MANAGING DIRECTOR, FINANCIAL TIMES: Well, what we have seen unfold is a rare but a good news for Theresa May, who`s had terrible time recently. And that we do actually have this coalition forming between the U.K., U.S., French and German governments at least to make a statement of criticism.
Now, I think it`s a bit premature to say that the U.S. entirely on board with the U.K. right now, and there`s going to be a crucial meeting with the French and Germans, and the rest of the European Unions on Monday. So we`ll see whether there really is a strong coalition here or not. But there is a sign that for the first time for long time, you`ve actually got something of an agreement.
As you say, we need to see this a lot. It`s been pretty rare recently.
WILLIAMS: Christopher, we devote as you may know, a whole lot of talk about this new kind of odd Russia normalization with this new administration, in the country of your birth here in the United States. What`s your view of Europe? Has there been a new wave of thinking on Russia or has Europe stayed closer to what the way we used to think say two years ago in ancient history?
DICKEY: Well, I think that Europe is tied to Russia in ways that are becoming increasingly uncomfortable. There`s a lot of energy dependence in Western Europe on Russia for Russian gas. So there`s always a reluctance to come down too hard on it.
And even Great Britain, I mean, Gillian may have some thoughts on this, what measures are they going to take against Russia for this horrendous offense? One thing that obviously would hurt Putin, would hit him where it counts in his prestige, would be if there were an international boycott of the World Cup that`s coming up this summer, which he has worked very hard to get and which is the kind of sports event that he thinks brings enormous prestige to Russia. If there were a boycott of that by Great Britain, Germany, France and the United States, that would be important but it`s not happening.
So I think that there`s a sense in which the Europeans are reluctant to take strong measures and in fact, the U.S. is reluctant to take strong measures, and he knows that. He knows he can get away with this stuff. He has gotten away with it and he`s going to continue getting away with it.
TETT: Yes. I mean, that story is basically being symbolic measures primarily. I mean, we`ve had some muttering about the members of the Royal family and Britain not going to the World Cup. But the idea of a mass boycott actually isn`t on the table yet. So really the question, though, is London has benefitted hugely by essentially dealing with Russian money. It`s not just banks. It`s the population, groups, the lawyers, a whole group of people that benefitted.
If London was to really seriously clamp down on Russians, clamp down on their holdings, seize assets, essentially prevent them from coming and enjoying London and the U.K. that would really hit Putin`s group -- were hurt. It will also of course hurt the U.K. economy at a time when Theresa May is desperate to get some growths, because she`s dealing with this little called Brexit at the same time.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to our two guests tonight. As we say, Christopher Dickey gets the trophy for being willing to get up at 4:40 a.m. in Paris, even though anytime in Paris is pretty great. Christopher, Gillian, thank you both so much. It`s a conversation I`d like to continue and repeat with both of you.
Coming up, separating fact and fiction when it comes to the president`s remarks on trade and why it all matters. As we said, the whole world is watching when we continue.
WILLIAMS: On this day, when President Trump issued that joint statement with allies in Europe, he found himself in trouble with another ally closer to home, directly to our north in fact. "The Washington Post" reported late Wednesday that Trump boasted in a fund-raising speech earlier in the day that he made up information in a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, incorrectly stating the U.S. runs a trade deficit with Canada. NBC News has since obtained the audio.
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TRUMP: Nice guy, good looking guy, comes in. "Donald, we have no trade deficit." He`s very proud because everybody else, you know, we`re getting killed. So he`s proud. I said. "Wrong, Justin, you do." I didn`t even know. Josh, I had no idea.
I sent one of our guys out, his guy, my guy, they went out. I said, "Check because I can`t believe it." "Well, sir, you`re actually right. We have no deficit but that doesn`t include energy and timber. And when you do lose $17 billion a year, it`s incredible."
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WILLIAMS: The Post writes this, "The Office of the United States Trade representative says the United States has a trade surplus with Canada. It reports that in 2016, the U.S. exported 12.5 billion more dollars in goods and services than it imported from Canada, leading to a trade surplus, not a deficit." President Trump fired back on Twitter, "We do have a trade deficit with Canada, as we do with almost all countries, some of them massive. P.m. Justin Trudeau of Canada, a very good guy, doesn`t like saying that Canada has a surplus versus the U.S. negotiating, but they do. They almost all do and that`s how I know."
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the president`s claims today echoing his false assertion that the U.S. runs a trade deficit with it`s neighbor to the north.
Our own resident expert on Canada and trade, Ali Velshi, reduced to using Trump in all caps responded to Sanders on Twitter today. "This isn`t hard even for you in the White House. Canada buys more from America than America buys from Canada. America has a trade surplus with Canada", said Ali Velshi, who we know was born in Canada.
But wait, there`s more. Tonight the Canadian press reports there is confusion over whether Trump`s comments ever actually happened. They write, "For starters, the Canadian government is unsure what meeting he`s referring to."
A quick break for us, "The 11th Hour" continues right after this.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, South Florida dealing with yet another tragedy, this one stemming from a catastrophic structural and engineering failure, a pedestrian bridge. A new overpass walkway still under construction collapsed onto a busy highway in Miami. The death toll thus far standing at four. Many others were injured and have been hospitalized, some critical.
There were workers on the bridge at that time and cars were underneath it at that time. Eight vehicles that rescuers could at least see sticking out from under the wreckage. Urban search and rescue teams responded along with heavy equipment. The NTSB is sending a team as well.
The bridge wasn`t scheduled to be fully open until next year. It was built to connect the campus of Florida International University with the town of Sweetwater where about 4,000 of the students live. The bridge structure was just lifted into position this past Saturday. As night fell in Southern Florida, rescuers were using listening devices to try to detect signs of life from beneath that wreckage, but an awful scene this evening in Miami.
That is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.
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