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Trump congratulates Putin on election. TRANSCRIPT: 03/20/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Ashley Parker, Michael McFaul, Clint Watts, Rick Stengel, Jeremy Peters, Barbara McQuaid

11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS March 20, 2018 Guest: Ashley Parker, Michael McFaul, Clint Watts, Rick Stengel, Jeremy Peters, Barbara McQuaid

ARI MELBER, NBC NEWS HOST: Also, I want to tell you, Steve Kornacki and that guest will join Brian Williams with a lot of news. Kornacki on the Illinois primaries tonight.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: Tonight`s lead story from "The Washington Post," the President was told not to congratulate Vladimir Putin on his victory in a rigged election, but he did it, anyway. And even to those around Trump, it`s another measurement of how far we are from normal.

Plus, a big name, D.C. attorney declines to join the Trump legal team while the Republican senators, if the President get rid of Mueller, it`s time for impeachment.

Plus, three women going after Donald Trump in the court, a porn star, a former playmate, and a contestant on the Apprentice, all of it as THE 11th HOUR gets underway on a Tuesday night.

Good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 425 of the Trump administration.

And the breaking news we`re covering tonight has to do with a President`s latest conversation by telephone earlier today with Russian President Vladimir Putin who was just reelected to another six-year term, though no one believes the election was an actual contest.

"The Washington Post" reports tonight, "President Trump`s national security advisers warned him not to congratulate Putin but he did so despite the warning."


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I had a call with President Putin and congratulated him on the victory, his electoral victory. And I suspect that we`ll probably be meeting in the not too distant future to discuss the arms race, which is getting out of control, but we will never allow anybody to have anything even close to what we have.


WILLIAMS: The "Washington Post" says the President`s briefing materials included a section that had, "all-capital letters stating DO NOT CONGRATULATE, according to officials familiar with the call.

The piece goes on to say, "Trump also chose not to heed talking points from aides instructing him to condemn Putin about the recent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the United Kingdom with a powerful nerve agent, a case that both the British and U.S. governments have blamed on Moscow. The White House press office declined to comment on the briefing materials given to Trump. It was not clear whether Trump read the notes, administration officials said."

The Trump congrats to Putin comes five days after the White House imposed sanctions on Russia for its meddling in the 2016 election and other malicious cyberattacks. Let`s also not forget that the Russians are accused of murdering a man in the U.K. and attempting to kill another.

The Trump phone call prompted this sharply worded statement from Senate Armed Services Chairman, John McCain of Arizona. And we quote, "An American President does not lead the free world by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election to determine their country`s future, including the countless Russian patriots who have risked so much to protest and resist Putin`s regime."

Here now is how the White House tried to handle repeated questions about the phone call in today`s briefing.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the President not raise the issue of Russian election meddling in that phone call?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I don`t believe it came up on this specific call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I`m curious, did the recent poisoning in the United Kingdom come up in the call?

SANDERS: I don`t believe that was discussed in today`s call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to follow up on the accusations of fraud in the Russian election. Why doesn`t the President or the White House believe that`s something that they should be discussing with the Russian leader?

SANDERS: I didn`t say we couldn`t discuss it with the Russian leader. I said it didn`t come up on today`s call.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the White House believe that the election in Russian was free and fair?

SANDERS: Look, in terms of the election there, we`re focused on our elections. We don`t get to dictate how other countries operate. What we do know is that Putin has been elected in their country, and that`s not something that we can dictate to them how they operate. We can only focus on the freeness and the fairness of our election, something we 100% fully support and something we`re going to continue to do everything we can to protect to make sure bad actors don`t have the opportunity to impact them in any way.


WILLIAMS: So many interesting points just in that last answer alone, which somehow brings us to our lead-off panel tonight. Michael McFaul, Former U.S. Ambassador to Russia during the Obama Administration, Ashley Parker, White House Reporter for the "Washington Post", Clint Watts, Former FBI Special Agent, and Rick Stengel, Former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs as well as the Former Managing Editor of Time Magazine. Good evening and welcome to you all.

Ashley, I`d like to begin with you, but by doing so, let`s listen to something your colleague, Carol Leonnig, said on this network earlier tonight about what happened in the White House after the phone call. We`ll talk it about on the other side.


CAROL LEONNIG, STAFF WRITER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": After the President`s call with Vladimir Putin, there was quite a kerfuffle in the White House about what had just gone down. A sort of an OMG moment of, what are we going to say about this call? Are we going to say that the President congratulated Putin?

Well, the Russians kind of took that choice out of the hands of the White House by announcing that Trump had congratulated their leader.


WILLIAMS: So, Ashley, with that as the background story, like this one in the "Washington Post," show that there are people at the core of the presidency, perhaps career people, perhaps military people who still care enough to make it known that in their view a wrong has happened, correct?

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That is correct. And this is not the first sort of phone call with foreign leaders that has leaked out. You`ll remember the "Washington Post" broke last year, for instance, that the President had a very contentious call with the prime minister of Australia, one of our strongest allies that basically ended with the President refusing to accept refugees from Australia that had already been agreed to and hanging up on the prime minister.

So, there are times that when stuff happens that`s very outside of the norm, outside of what you would expect, and it does find its way into the media. And, again, without getting into sourcing, someone could reasonably think that it is coming from perhaps a concerned whistle blower.

WILLIAMS: Ambassador, you`ve been in on these calls, you`ve arranged them, you have briefed for them. Talk to me about the process. Are they usually done in the residence where the President took today`s call, or are they done in the Oval? Are people present in the room? How many people are listening in on the call and have you ever had trouble getting a President to study their background briefing prior to a call.

AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, just let me specify, I only worked for on President, Barack Obama for three years at the White House before I moved out to Moscow. But I`ve prepared many of these calls, Brian, you`re right, both with President Medvedev and then Prime Minister Putin.

The normal procedure is you prepare a call package. It gets cleared through the National Security Council, goes up through the National Security Advisor. And in that package, there are lots of talking points with the sole purpose of advancing American national interests, right? These calls are very precious amounts of time for heads of state to interact, so that`s what they`re all about.

In terms of the modalities and the specifics, then there is a time before the call where you do call prep. Very valuable time for me. That was my shot with the President to talk through the talking points and to get ready for what we`re trying to get done in that call.

And then in terms of who`s in the room, again, just in the years that I worked with President Obama, one or two, sometimes three people are in the Oval Office with the President. I would be on the line sitting on the couch listening to the call because I spoke Russian as well as English. And we would be there as he walked through the points to try to advance America`s national interests.

And so, two things here are missing. One, it doesn`t sound like President Trump was in the Oval Office, so that means H.R. McMaster or his Russia Adviser, Fiona Hill is her name, probably wasn`t in the room with him. And two, there`s just no evidence that he was trying to get any business done in this call.

WILLIAMS: Clint Watts, the Ambassador described such a rigorous proper process. And we don`t know that rigor wasn`t employed in various steps leading up to this. Tell me, however, if you`re an investigator looking into Russian meddling and/or collusion, how do you view press accounts of what happened today?

CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: You have to ask why over the last two years he takes Putin`s side before when he was a candidate and now when it comes to bringing up U.S. national interest prepared remarks. I don`t doubt at all that General McMaster probably scoped this extremely well, prepped him for the call. He didn`t follow any of it whatever discussions went on beforehand.

He did not bring up the attack on British soil with a chemical weapon, a nerve agent. We`ve gone to war for chemical weapons. He did not bring up -- instead he congratulated Putin for an election victory after we just had our election messed with.

He owns the President. Putin does -- whether it`s witting or unwitting he owns him. He is doing everything that Vladimir Putin would want to be done, which is undermining U.S. stature around the world and bringing us back to our own country. And he has pushed a red line in the United Kingdom with his attack on their soil. Not only did it target a former Russian spy, it hit 20 other British citizens.

So the question, if you`re looking at this investigatively, is what evidence to the contrary is it that he`s actually pursuing the interests and staying in it? How would an agent of Russia act any differently? And it`s pretty hard to distinguish between the two.

WILLIAMS: Back up just a second because we`ve never had anyone with your formidable resume, say, he owns the President. How do you think he owns Donald Trump?

WATTS: The President will not challenge him. President Trump actually seeks out, and we`ve seen this in 2013, whether it was a Miss Universe pageant or whether now as the President, to come to terms with Putin, to congratulate him, to laud him with attention. He never challenges him personally. That the President did not come out last week, whenever we had this attack in Britain with the nerve agent, and say, this is our longest standing ally, a member of NATO, and we have a chemical weapons attack on the United Kingdom soil.

The U.K. fought with us in Iraq based on the presumption that there were chemical weapons there. That he did not step forward and put a challenge to Putin. It came from who? Rex Tillerson. Rex Tillerson, the next day, no longer the Secretary of State.

WILLIAMS: Do you think it`s flattery based, financial based, a combination thereof?

WATTS: I think it`s a combination of those. I`ve no reason to believe that it is a directed agent, but whether he realizes it or not, he is acting unwittingly as an agent for Russian interest around the world right now.

He has gone after NATO. He`s gone after the European. He has pulled us back across the world internationally. And every place that he`s pulled us back, Russia has moved forward.

WILLIAMS: Rick Stengel, you`ve been on both sides. You have covered government diligently as a journalist. You have been in government. Do you take any solace from what I`ve talked about with Ashley, that these means patriots on the inside are still patriots on the inside?

RICK STENGEL, FORMER UNDER SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY AND PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Well, I take a little solace in that that they are trying to do the kind of preparation that Mike talked about. And I think that`s fair enough.

I mean, Clint made a very, very strong statement, and I`ll join the hallelujah chorus in terms of this criticism, but I`m going to take it one step further because let`s say for the sake of argument there is a strategic reason that Trump is reluctant to criticize Putin and criticize Russia and that it would benefit U.S.-Russian relations. But if you look at what`s happening with Russia around the world, they`re taking advantage of us everywhere. They`re taking advantage of us in Syria.

He made that statement in the room with Mohammad bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince. They were talking critically about Iran. Who is Iran`s ally? Russia.

So, I agree with Clint`s very strong point about him not criticizing Russia. And if there was some possible benefit that we were getting out of it, I would say maybe there`s a strong reason for it. But in fact, the Russians are saying, who`s your daddy? We are, and they are taking of us everywhere around the world.

WILLIAMS: Ashley, how do they pursue a communication strategy that is anywhere connected to a straight face trying to be serious about things like sanctions and indictments, for that matter, while now reports are out that this happened, congratulations on your terrific election victory?

PARKER: Well, I think you saw a little bit of that from Sarah Sanders at the podium today. But you`re right, when you play that clip of Carol, what was interesting was that there was a scramble, sort of, in how do we message this kerfuffle. And then obviously Russia came out and said that the President had congratulated Putin and then President Trump said that himself. But aides were sort of worried and frantic about how to manage the messaging and talking points.

But in terms of the actual fact of what the President had said, no one was particularly surprised. This has been his stance on Russia, basically since before he was elected, if anything, the sanctions last week were more of an unusual blip that were sort of counter to all his past behavior. And it`s also been his behavior not on Russia generally but just sort of floating the advice of his aides and his advisers.

Let`s keep in mind, he was handed note cards that said do not congratulate in all capital letters, and the first thing he did was open up that phone call by congratulating. And at this point, his aides and advisers have become accustomed to a President who sort of does what he wants. He`s increasingly feeling emboldened and confident. We saw that with the tariffs he did. We saw that with him sort of unilaterally agreeing to take a meeting with Kim Jong-un in North Korea.

So this Russian, this latest phone call and this latest news is squarely in line with everything else the President has done both on Russia and just sort of upon acting on his own whims and impulses.

WILLIAMS: So, Ambassador, provided you concur with Clint`s assessment perhaps not the exact wording that our President is owned by Putin, what do you think --

MCFAUL: Yes, I`m a little too diplomatic for that.

WILLIAMS: -- yes, exactly. What do you think the ownership, or whatever you`re favorite term is, is based on? What do you think is at the heart of this?

MCFAUL: Brian, I honestly don`t know. I can hypothesize, we can talk about what it means. I think we all agree in the diagnostics, and I want to underscore one other thing back to Rick`s point. You know, Candidate Trump promised us that we were going to be respected in the world, that Putin was going to respect him, and we were going to be strong.

When you have this kind of disconnect between the President and the rest of the administration, nobody is respecting that and nobody is seeing that as a sign of strength. So if he could point to tangible outcomes of how these statements of appeasement are advancing America`s national interest, it might be easier to take, but it`s exactly the opposite.

To your question that I`m dodging, that, you know, it could be that he just has this very simplistic theory about if we could just get along with these dictators, it will be an accomplishment. Of course, there might be alternative hypotheses about exactly why he`s so reluctant to criticize this particular person. I don`t honestly know the answer to that question yet.

WILLIAMS: I`m just proud of having found a 20th way to ask you the same question, with the same result, I might add.

Hey, Clint, I know you`ve spent so much of your life in the cyber end of things. I`m looking at this "Washington Post" headline tonight, "Bannon oversaw Cambridge Analytica`s collection of Facebook data, according to a former employee." And in the body of the article, it says "Bannon tested and identified the power of anti-establishment messages that would later be central themes in the Trump campaign like drain the swamp and deep state. Where does this end up? Where are we headed here?

WATTS: Yes, we`re going to have to dissect where the lines are ultimately between Russian influence and what we saw from political essentially campaign propaganda that was coming out. What`s going to be really interesting is this mostly seemed started with Cambridge Analytica and with Bannon and Cruz. If you remember, it was Ted Cruz that was more to angle.


WATTS: That was in the miseries were initially backing. That goes back to the primaries. It was later that it came on.

What we`re going to find out though is this sort of data harvest, I think, this were the social media is going to come in to a lot of conflict. It has been going on widespread. And we look at this and we say, oh, my gosh, can we believe that all of this information was taken?

But if you go back to almost every political campaign, somebody was hiring these firms to do microtargeting to really get in because it`s the most effective way to get your message moving forward. So the social media companies are going to have basically an earthquake that goes on in Silicon Valley, which is, how is data being harvested about their users? That`s part of their business model, which is we can help you reach anybody at the right time at the right place to put the message right in there so that it really sinks in, whether it`s advertising or votes. And so it`s going to be really scary, I think, for the American people as this sort of peels back in terms of the union, but what do we want to do as a nation?

We haven`t pushed any legislation for it, so I think, you know, on Capitol Hill, they`re going to point to the social media companies and say, how did you let this happen? And the social media companies are going come back and go, well, you paid me to do it.


STENGEL: And it`s going to be a weird twist that plays out the next.

WATTS: It might be like the banks after the banking crisis.

Hey, Rick, a final question to you about your beloved state department. Do you think things will any better, return of rigor under Mr. Pompeo?

STENGEL: I think one difference is that he will not be trying to disassemble the State Department that way Rex Tillerson was. I mean, he`s not a manager the way Tillerson is. He`s not going to look at it and say, hey, let`s try to do this in a different way.

The differences, though, is that he`s politicized. He has a political point of view. He is trying to sometimes direct the President in the direction in a way that Tillerson was not. So, I think they`ll be happy not to be kind of tossed out on their heels. But they`ll be a little nervous by the fact that he will be tautening a certain direction, probably away from the direction of the Foreign Service officers there.

WILLIAMS: Our sincere thanks to our lead-off panel this Tuesday night, Ambassador Mike McFaul, Ashley Parker, Clint Watts and Rick Stengel. Thank you.

And a special note about Rick Stengel who happens to be Nelson Mandela`s biographer. His book "Mandela`s Way" has just today been reissued to coincide with what would have been Nelson Mandela`s 100th birthday. Congratulations on that, Rick.

STENGEL: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Next up for us when we come back after our first break, a day after one Republican attorney joins the Trump legal team, another big name declines. The reporter who broke that story will joins us next.

And later, if it`s Tuesday, it must be a primary night somewhere. In fact, Steve Kornacki is with us tonight at the big board, and that would be the Illinois results from this evening. "The 11th Hour" just getting started on a Tuesday night.


WILLIAMS: We are back. New warnings today to the President from two Republican senators about what could happen if Trump were to try to fire Mueller. Robert Costa of the "Washington Post" who is standing by to talk to us has reporting, Arizona Republican Senator, Jeff Flake says, he would support impeachment proceedings if Trump tries to end the special counsel investigation. Flake told the "Post," We are begging him, don`t go down this road. Don`t create a constitutional crisis. Don`t force the Congress to take the only remedy that Congress can take."

He continued, "If Trump fires Mueller without cause, how different is that from what Nixon did with the Saturday Night Massacre, Flake asked. He left before impeachment came, but that was the remedy then, and that would be the remedy now."

Republican Senator, Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina voiced a similar sentiment early today.


HUGH HEWITT, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST, SALEM RADIO NETWORK: If the President fired Robert Mueller, do you think that would be an impeachable offense?

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Probably so, if he did it without cause, yes. To stop the investigation without cause, I think, would be a constitutional crisis.


WILLIAMS: Senator Graham talking to Hugh Hewitt earlier today. The President has escalated his attacks on the special counsel. He even mentioned the Mueller investigation by name over the weekend. That was a first.

Some are now saying Congress needs to act to insulate and wall off and protect Mueller, something that Republican Congressional leaders have been reluctant to do. The President`s attacks on this investigation come as he appears to be trying to shake up his legal team. The President currently has Ty Cobb, John Dowd, Jay Sekulow and now Joseph diGeneva advising him in the Russia case.

Robert Costa also reported today, they`ve reached out to high power defense lawyer Ted Olson to join them, but Olson has declined.

For more on all of this, I am joined by the aforementioned Robert Costa, National Political Reporter of the "Washington Post," Moderator on Washington Week on PBS. And Jeremy Peters is back with us, Political Reporter for the "New York Times," both of them MSNBC Analysts.

So, Robert, we`ll start with you. Mr. Olson is a fairly well known attorney in this country. He was part of the legal dream team along with David Boies that argued the landmark gay marriage case. He lost his wife, Barbara Olsen who was a frequent guest on this network during the 9/11 attacks. He is a man of repute in the legal community.

Why Ted Olson and then why did Ted Olson say no?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Such a revealing moment for this President, Brian. He is reaching for the hard- charging personalities, some of them he sees on television, to join his legal team. But he knows he also needs gravitas. He had his legal team reach out to Mr. Olson and say, "Could you maybe come on, could you be the heavyweight here to help us go after the Russian investigation, to counter this flurry of news and legal development that seems to happen by the hour?"

And s you have a President struggling with all these different challenges trying to reach for outside people. But because of conflict, because of a lot of different reasons, I`m told Olson decided to say, no, thanks.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, I`m reminded by the President that you work for a failing organization. He said here on March 11th, "The failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story stating that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case and I`m going to add another lawyer to help out. Wrong. I am very happy with my lawyers, John Dowd, Ty Cobb, and Jay Sekulow. They are doing a great job, and, dot, dot, dot." There was a second frame to that tweet, but you get the gist.

So, Jeremy, it did strike a lot of us that diGeneva was very unlike Cobb and Dowd. What are you hearing is going on to motivate these personal decisions?

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Brian, what you have is a President who is increasingly emboldened and trusting his own instincts rather than the advice of the people around him. And it`s no coincidence that this occurring when you have the departures of a number of staff members who felt that they could keep the President`s more reckless impulses in check and the addition of more advisers, both formal and informal, around the President who will enable some of his more reckless impulses. I mean, it`s coinciding with people like Corey Lewandowski and David Bossie, some of the people from the campaign, having more and more access to the President. And it`s coming at a time when the President is feeling increasingly under siege.

He was told by his lawyers, and this is part of the reason why he`s so unhappy with them, that this would be all wrapped up by now. This Mueller probe would be done. Now, in hindsight, that was a pretty foolish promise for them to make to him, because they had no idea of knowing where this investigation would go and under what stones Mueller might look.

So right now, the President is lashing out because he is sick of this still going on. So as long as he is getting more and more agitated, I think you`re going to see more and more decisions like the decision to hire diGeneva who is a conspiracy theorist. This is a guy who has accused the FBI of fabricating information in order to frame President Trump. You really can`t make this up.

WILLIAMS: It sounds like he`ll be a perfect member of the team.

Hey, Robert, I do note more and more people are comfortable tossing around the "I" word, impeachment. So far, they are mostly a group of Republicans who have announced they are not running again. But there are some exceptions.

Tonight, in a speech in Washington, by way of taking a swing at Maxine Waters, accusing her of having a low I.Q., the President used the word impeachment when quoting Waters, saying he ought to be impeached and then he defended himself saying there`s no evidence. Do you see any more Republicans getting courage?

COSTA: What happened today on Capitol Hill was that Senate Republicans met for their lunch and most of them, Brian, they left that room tight-lipped. Some of them are running for reelection. They don`t want to have a public war with the President.

I said to myself as a reporter, what Senator Flake is saying, he`s retiring, he`s out there against President Trump and sitting down with him tonight, talking with him for an interview. He said, now is the time to talk about impeachment to warn the President about impeachment if he moves on the Mueller investigation without a cause.

And Flake, in some ways, is a mirror to these anxious discussions inside of the Senate GOP. How are they going to handle if the President does move forward and ends this investigation regardless of the excuse he may use if that decision is ever made?

And it`s a delicate time for these Senate Republicans because they know the President is there tonight raising money at the National Building Museum. He owns the party. But they know that the party`s future could also be on the line if this thing unravels. That`s why Flake is out there tonight along with Senator Graham saying, if you do that without cause, you could be impeached.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: And, Jeremy, how about the House? How about Republicans in the house? It appears to be the opposite of whatever a profile encourage is.

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I don`t know many Republicans, Brian, these days who feel like there isn`t at least a 60% to 70% chance that they lose the House. That`s just the reality. If they lose the House, the impeachment of Donald Trump is almost certain. Not removal from office, of course, but impeachment as we saw happen with Bill Clinton.

And so I don`t really see much coming together really on either side. I mean, the parties are such -- at such odds, at such loggerheads right now, and the antipathy for the President Trump is running so high on the left that it has been a motivating factor for these voters. And primary, in special election, after special election across the country right now, Republicans are looking at November right now and they are terrified.

WILLIAMS: Gentlemen, it`s one of the discussions that we have from time to time reminds you of exactly the stakes of what we talk about for an hour each night. Robert Costa, Jeremy Peters, our thanks to both of you, as always.

And coming up for us, this other front. The results of Stormy Daniels` polygraph test on her alleged intimate relationship with the man who went on to be president. As we`ve learned, the former playboy model is fighting to tell her story about an alleged affair with the man who went on to be president. The growing controversy for the Trump White House when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.


WILLIAMS: President Trump`s legal troubles are mounting, and in this matter, at least, having nothing to do with the Russia investigation. The "New York Times" broke the news today that former playboy model and playmate of the year Karen McDougal is suing to break her silence about an alleged `06 affair she had with Trump. That agreement was with the company that owns the National Inquirer to whom she sold her story for $150,000. They reportedly buried it.

Judge also ruled today that a defamation lawsuit filed by a former contestant on "The Apprentice" can move forward, Summer Zervos is her name. Says Trump sexually assaulted her in `07. She`s using his comments on the campaign trail as the basis for her defamation claim. Here`s a reminder of some of the language he used.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: These people are horrible people. They`re horrible, horrible liars. I have no idea who these women are. I have no idea. All of these liars will be sued after the election is over.


WILLIAMS: All of that comes as the attorney for Stormy Daniels is releasing results along with this photograph of a 2011 polygraph test that appear to show the porn star was telling the truth to the satisfaction of the examiner about a sexual encounter she says she had with Trump. Michael Avenatti spoke with our own Ari Melber in just the last hour.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` ATTORNEY: This is another piece of evidence, and it`s another document that`s being presented to the American people. They can go online, they can download it, they can read it for themselves. They don`t have to take your word for it or my word for it or anyone else`s word for it. There`s going to be other pieces of evidence that are going to comes out in this case.

There`s going to be this interview that`s going to be broadcast on Sunday where the American people are going to be able to observe my clients demeanor and hear her answers. And they`re going to be able to judge for themselves as to whether she`s telling the truth or not. And this is always been what we`ve said for weeks now. Don`t take my word for it or someone else`s word for it.


WILLIAMS: A reminder, the White House has denied all of these allegations. And with us tonight to talk about this, we were able to talk Ashley Parker into hanging around, the White House Reporter for the "Washington Post," and Barbara McQuaid is with us, our former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Barbara, is this just an example of kind of crafty lawyering by Ms. Daniels` lawyer? All I know is what I see on the cop shows, and the cop shows they say that polygraph evidence is not admissible. But what he`s done with this is it`s out now and we all know about it.

BARBARA MCQUAID, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes. And, you know, of course there is the court of law and then there`s the court of public opinion. Ordinarily polygraph exams are not admissible in court because they are believed to be a sort of questionable reliability. Although, they are used by investigators, they`re used by the FBI all the time. And so depending on the quality of the examiner, there can be some real value on a polygraph. But nonetheless, in the court of public opinion, now it`s out there, and I think some people see some credence in polygraph exams, so I think it`s likely to influence public opinion.

WILLIAMS: Ashley, I know you`ve been covering this man for a long time, but it is bracing to go back and hear the language he just used to talk about these women as a group. And all of this, of course, adds to the din, the White House that didn`t need to be fighting a battle on a second front other than Russia, and this one doesn`t get any more personal.

ASHLEY PARKER: That`s exactly right. And what`s so striking about this is for those of us who covered him on the campaign, and frankly, the rest of America remembers as well, female accusers coming forward happen during the campaign. There was the "Access Hollywood" video, there was more than a dozen women accusing then-candidate Trump of sexual misconduct and sexual harassment. And so it`s been interesting to watch as how this has finally started to break through now that he`s in the White House.

First you had it was just Stormy Daniels and it wasn`t quite breaking through. It was coming, as you said, on weeks when the President was facing sort of a lot of other crisis and scandals on a number of other fronts. It first started burbling up during the Rob Porter crisis when they were dealing with that. But this has been the one thing that won`t go away.

You saw Sarah Sanders who`s been now asked about it in the briefings, and it seems as though some other women sort of watching what`s happening with Stormy Daniels have now been emboldened to come forward themselves, which was the open question, how many other women maybe signed NDAS or were paid money to stay silent or just didn`t come forward because they didn`t want to be attacked by the President with that language and now feel emboldened.

So you now have these three women and it does feel like something that the White House is increasingly going to be forced to answer and address from the podium, and maybe even the President himself might weigh in, in a tweet at some point.

WILLIAMS: Barbara, what`s the chance of these three cases we just talked about? Is there one that appears to you to be the breakout? And what`s the chance to you that in one of these cases the president can be deposed?

MCQUAID: Well, I think the case involving Summer Zervos, the "The Apprentice" case, is the one that looks like it`s closest on the brink of actual litigation it has been filed. And today we have that ruling that said, the judge denied a motion to dismiss and said this case is going to be allowed to proceed. And so I think this is the one where it`s quite likely we`ll see a deposition of Donald Trump by the plaintiff`s counsel. We could even see depositions of other women.

It could be admissible to show common scheme or plan if he engages in the same kind of behavior with other women. So I think that`s the one that has the potential to be the most explosive and the soonest.

WILLIAMS: As I said, it`s all rather bracing. Two terrific guests, Ashley Parker, Barbara McQuaid, thank you both very much for joining in our conversation tonight.

Coming up, it is primary day, as we said, in the state of Illinois where all eyes are on yet another fight for yet another Congressional seat, Steve Kornacki at the big board when we come back


WILLIAMS: We are getting primary election results tonight from the great state of Illinois where the race for the 3rd Congressional District is being closely watched as just the latest gauge on the future, especially of the Democratic hopes.

For more we turn to the big board, Steve Kornacki, our National Political Correspondent working nights with us tonight. Hey, Steve.


Interesting story here in the 3rd District of Illinois, a lot of people don`t know that number, may not know the name, but there is a very particular type of Democrat who came in tonight endangering Democratic primary.

Talking about the issue here of abortion. Let me put this in some perspective before we get to what happened here. Go back to when the abortion issue first sort of came on the national scene back in the `70s, 43% of Democrats in Congress said they were anti-abortion back then. You go forward to the 1990s, it fell to 34%. You fast forward to today. Look at that It`s all the way down at 1.6%. That means there are three. A grand total of three Democrats in Congress who call themselves anti- abortion and one of them his name is Dan Lipinski from the 3rd District of Illinois.

He was being challenged in the Democratic primary tonight, some woman by the name Newman. She said she was inspired by the women`s marches that Trump was elected. She challenged and there was a lot of energy behind her campaign, and we can show you though what happened tonight if we can get that screen up.

I was doing pretty good with this last week, Brian. Here it is. This looks almost 100% of the vote is in and Lipinski, it looks like, he`s actually going to survive. This is a bit of surprise. Dan Lipinski is a son of a former congressman. Again, it looks like an anti-abortion Democrat is going to survive very well energized primary challenge in the era of Trump. So, a bit of a surprise result there in the 3rd District of Illinois.

And then, if you look over here, there was a near major surprise tonight on the Republican side in the race for governor of Illinois. The incumbent Bruce Rauner, an incumbent first term incumbent running for reelection, he is now going to win this primary tonight but barely. Look at that 48% for Jeanne Ives. Who is Jeanne Ives? She`s a state representative, she`s a very much an outsider candidate, somebody who ran saying that Rauner was not conservative enough. He is pro-choice, saying that he was too ashamed of President Trump, too ashamed to say President Trump`s name in public.

She campaigned yesterday at a Trump international hotel. She nearly won this primary tonight as it is, Rauner will advance now to the general election. He is in big danger there. The polls having very unpopular statewide, and it looks like his opponent is going to be J.B. Pritzker, businessman on the Democratic side who`s won that primary tonight. So that`ll be big race to watch in the fall, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Steve, I note that the night Mr. Lamb won, when you and I last did this, the Pennsylvania race. I was sent to double secret probation by someone on Twitter for calling him a Democrat in title only which was perhaps too harsh, but I was referring mostly to the campaign, but he did with an AR-15. You don`t see that very often. And I think we`re going to see, correct me if I`m wrong, non-liberal, non-progressive Democrats on the conservative side of that party as we get on into the midterms. I think it`s going to take all types in that race.

KORNACKI: And it`s a really interesting result in that congressional race again with Dan Lipinski tonight. Look, it`s a little different situation. He was already the incumbent but boy, there was so much energy, national groups coming in, pro-choice groups, members of Congress. Dan Lipinski`s colleagues coming and saying, no, we`re with Marie Newman.

And yet the voters of that district tonight, they sided with Dan Lipinski again, a bit of a surprise some people say hey, you know, look, is there a lesson that you can take from this to other districts nationally about Democrats voters maybe being a little bit more pragmatic like you`re talking about there in Pennsylvania.

WILLIAMS: All right. The only reason we`re all willing to go into combat this midterm season is the assurance of having Steve Kornacki at the big board for all of it. Steve, always a pleasure, thank you so much.

KORNACKI: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And coming up for us here an update on the serial bombings in Austin, Texas as the feds are now rushing to take advantage of an apparent mistake the bomber made today. We`ll have that story when we come back.


WILLIAMS: First responders in Austin, Texas are on the scene of yet another incident tonight the sixth in 19 days. However, law enforcement officials say this latest incident was not as package bomb per se. And police said tonight it is not related to the previous explosions that left two people dead and several others injured.

NBC News is reporting an employee at a suburban goodwill store received minor injuries to his hand when he was looking through a bag of donations after of what`s being described as an incendiary device went off.

Now, this comes after a package exploded at a FedEx facility late last night after we got off the air injuring one worker there. Then officials at FedEx scrambled and they were able to find a second suspicious package which they removed from a sorting facility without incident.

Law enforcement does confirm the two FedEx parcels are connected to the previous four explosions this month. And that`s where they got a rare break. Now, they have an unexploded device to examine for clues since everyone agrees we are looking for a serial bomber.

Earlier on this network former ATF special agent in charge Jim Cavanaugh who`s a foremost expert on explosives, broke down the evidence that today`s events may have revealed.


JIM CAVANAUGH, FORMER ATF SPECIAL AGENT INCHARGE: Big break today. Who is he addressing the package to? Is there video surveillance? Finger prints, handwriting on the form, they know a lot already. They know how he fuses it and fires it. They know how he charges it. They know how -- what kind of mixture he uses and how he contains it. They know his design, they know his materials.


WILLIAMS: So earlier today, in assign of our times, campus police at the University of Texas sent out via social media a specific warning to college students, and this speaks to the state of alert in the Austin area right now. It says "Right now, it`s so important that you put your phones down while walking, watch where you step, take your ear buds out listen to what is happening around you. Remind your friends to do it, too".

Another break for us and coming up, marking a six month anniversary that has become synonymous with resiliency and for all the wrong reasons. That`s when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, is a reminder to all Americans to remember our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico. We don`t hear this from the president, we barely hear it from the Puerto Rican people who have shown a near endless ability to put up with suffering and go without.

Hurricane Maria, a category four first made land fall six months ago today. While many places in Puerto Rico have returned to something approaching normal and have power and water now restored. There are still towns without power and water. And it certainly doesn`t help that the Army Corps of Engineers recently decided to scale back its resources devoted to Puerto Rico.

It is also very clear that recovery efforts from this past mean season of hurricanes have been faster in the lower 48 than they have been in Puerto Rico. A number of Americans with money to spend who have the ability and means in other words to vacation somewhere warm this time of year, have chosen to visit Puerto Rico and make no mistake. Puerto Rico counts on that and will only get better with time. It`s just that it could be so much better with a little more help from the government here on the mainland.

And that is our broadcast for this Tuesday evening. Thank you so very much for being here with us, goodnight from NBC News headquarters here in New York.