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Trump replaces McMaster with Bolton. TRANSCRIPT: 03/22/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Robert Costa, Michael Crowley

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: March 22, 2018 Guest: Robert Costa, Michael Crowley

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: The breaking news we`re covering tonight, multiple shakeups in the Trump administration. Two men who were in his inner circle yesterday gone today. General H.R. McMaster is out. John Bolton is in as National Security Adviser. Bolton, the man who called for attacks on both Iran and North Korea.

Plus, the President`s lead Russia lawyer suddenly resigns. We`ll look at how that affects the fight with Robert Mueller. And the market down big over what the President did today on China.

"The 11th Hour" on a busy Thursday night begins now.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 427 of the Trump administration, and yet again, here we are tonight covering breaking news out of this White House.

As we said, two men who were members of this President`s inner circle at this time, last night are gone tonight. His lead personal lawyer on Russia is gone, and of greater impact to our country, so is his National Security Adviser. H.R. McMaster, the three-star active duty U.S. Army General and Combat Veteran is out, and will retire from the U.S. Military.

And John Bolton is in. Bolton is a former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., well known as a neocon and a hawk on military matters. He has advocated attacking Iran and North Korea, and then some. John Bolton will be Trump`s 3rd National Security Adviser in 14 months. The President announced this latest move on Twitter, his medium of choice, saying the change would be effective April 9, thanking McMaster for an outstanding job on the way out.

We mentioned John Bolton`s service as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. He was a recess appointee by President George W. Bush, served from August of 2005 to December of 2006. He resigned when his recess appointment ended because he was unlikely to win stand alone confirmation on his own merits from a newly elected Democratic majority in the Senate back then.

The job he`s being appointed to, National Security Adviser, does not require Senate confirmation. As we know, the President heavily favors Fox News. That`s where Bolton has been appearing of late as an analyst. It`s where he appeared on the air just tonight to talk about his latest appointment.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Making sure that the President has the full range of options presented to him to make the decisions that only the President can make. When the President makes a decision, the National Security Adviser is, among others, but certainly one of the leading implementers of the decision, making sure that the bureaucracies out there, get the decision and implement it. And I`ve been in lots of bureaucracies and I`ve seen the way that bureaucracies that don`t like decisions sit on them. So I know my way around the corridors in Washington, and I think that role will also be important.


WILLIAMS: Just so we don`t get ahead of ourselves, the first shakeup of today was the departure of the President`s lead lawyer in the Russia investigation, John Dowd. He is a well-known criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience and high profile cases, and high profile clients. But this particular client, apparently proved too much. Dowd was, until today, the lead counsel on the President`s team and had also been as such the main liaison to Special Counsel Robert Mueller and team for that possible interview with the President.

Now, NBC News has learned that, according to people familiar with the process, Dowd`s decision to exit was part of preparations for such an interview. The future of another member of the legal team, Ty Cobb, also reported to be in some question. Both men advised the President to take a cooperative approach with Mueller, as we covered so extensively here. But that changed somewhat just this past weekend when Trump began attacking the special counsel by name.

"New York Times" also notes, Dowd is leaving because the President was increasingly ignoring his advice. He and Cobb have also been trying to find ways for the President to avoid a sit-down with Mueller, but today Trump reiterated his willingness to do so.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, would you still like to testify with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, sir?



WILLIAMS: Monday, the legal team announced the addition of this man, Former U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova, who insists the Russia investigation is a big conspiracy against Trump. With the addition of diGenova, it`s easy to foresee a more combative legal strategy emerging. The President is also searching for still more legal help in this Russia matter, but seems to be having trouble along those lines.

"The Washington Post" reporting tonight, he`s struggling to find top-notch attorneys willing to represent him. Our NBC News colleagues have more reporting tonight hat may put much of what we`ve just reported into context. According to three people familiar with the discussions going on in the West Wing, the President considered firing Chief of Staff John Kelly this month, and not naming a successor, leaving the job vacant, essentially making himself his own chief of staff, something more akin of his role in the family business back at Trump Tower in New York.

We should note the President`s last three high profile hires, think about it, Larry Kudlow, Joe diGenova, now John Bolton, were all people the President watched on television.

As our television show continues, let`s get to our leadoff panel on, as I said, a busy Thursday night. Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post," moderator of Washington Week on PBS, Vivian Salama, National Political Reporter for NBC News, who has covered Bolton and McMaster closely, and Michael Crowley, National Security Editor and Senior Correspondent for Politico.

Robert, our mutual friend, Maggie Haberman, gets that all of life can be explained in some portion of "The Godfather." She explained what happened today as the conclusion of Part I, settling the family business. To you, the question is, how seismic was this day in all the days of this administration we`ve covered?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST: It was seismic, Brian. I tweeted back at Maggie. It was a little bit close to the ides of March to bring up a literary reference. I mean, "The Godfather," Michael Corleone kills his enemies. The President seems to be going after his own team at this moment. But it`s certainly a volatile time for this President.

He`s trying to take control, personal control of his legal team, sources inside of the West Wing tell me. Take control of his administration, his national security policy. Everyone who works for him is on edge tonight, because they believe he`s settling into this presidency, not driven by ideology, but driven by the idea that he wants to be in power making the decisions.

WILLIAMS: Now, Mr. Crowley, our own Nicolle Wallace we recall was the first to report McMaster`s eventual exit. She initially reported, probably by the end of the month of March. Your publication tonight goes even further. I want to read this quote. This is stunning stuff.

"President Donald Trump`s decision to abruptly fire National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster surprised senior White House aides who had been preparing a single statement announcing the departure of multiple top Trump officials, according to two senior administration officials. Trump, however, upended those plans late Thursday firing McMaster, offering his job to former U.N. Ambassador, John Bolton, in a move that surprised not only his top advisers, but also Bolton himself."

Mr. Crowley, anything you care to add?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR, POLITICO: Well, good report thing by my colleague, Eliana Johnson. And you know, Brian, Donald Trump is going to do what he wants, I think we`ve seen that over and over and over again. And particularly at this moment where I think his staff is relatively weak, his communication staff in particular is in flux, he`s not willing to be scripted.

I also think you -- sometimes if you want to look carefully, you might see possible patterns in the timing of big Trump announcements that come out of the blue like this. I don`t want to be too speculative, but I would note that there is a woman who claims she had an affair with Trump who gave a live television interview tonight that was to some degree was swamped by this news. So you do have to wonder.

I don`t think it`s unreasonable to say this is a guy who`s very savvy about the media, who likes to make a splash and direct the story back in his own direction. That he`s looking at what other stories might be unfolding and might be competing with the news his making. And, of course, there`s the story about a shakeup on his legal team, which I don`t think he finds to be terribly flattering.

He doesn`t like it when people are talking about the Russia investigation generally. He probably does like the idea that he`s, you know, as we`re seeing here, taking control of his foreign policy, pushing out a guy who he`s never particularly happy with, and bringing in John Bolton, who I think he is excited about. So that would be one analysis.

WILLIAMS: One hesitates to guess what could happen Sunday night at 7:00 p.m. in addition to the conflict between KCDC and the 60 Minutes interview with Stormy Daniels. So Viv, help me dig out of this particular hole.

I recall that before you were in the White House briefing room for the Associated Press, before you worked for us, you were around the world, places, garden spots like Baghdad covering the other end of kind of the Bolton era and ethos. So answer me this, in your view, who is Mr. Bolton and how will this matter in U.S. foreign policy?

VIVIAN SALAMA, NBC NEWS NATIOANL POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, Brian, I think a 2015 op-ed that John Bolton wrote in "The New York Times," the headline alone pretty much sums him up. The head line read to stop Iran`s bomb, bomb Iran. And that pretty much is John Bolton in a nutshell. Extremely hawkish, even by the standards of the most hawkish people in the Trump administration.

He has been very skeptical about Iran`s commitment to the Iran nuclear deal. He`s been completely against it. He`s very skeptical about any negotiations with the regime in Pyongyang, with the North Koreans, which is ironic considering President Trump, ten days ago, declared that he would be meeting with Kim Jong-un, the leader of North Korea. And so, that`s going to be a very interesting conversation behind the scenes.

Even dating back to his days in the Trump administration, now folks in the Middle East, you know, as you said, I was in Iraq. They know him as someone who is a part of the Bush administration. He served for a time as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Of course, he failed to gain Senate confirmation and so he didn`t last very long in that position. But he has been a career state department official, and he`s known as someone who is a very outspoken advocate for George W. Bush`s invasion of Iraq.

And he`s come out numerous times to say you know what? Forget about the weapons of mass destruction, which we know now were never found. He says that wasn`t what the Iraq war was about. The Iraq war was about removing Saddam Hussein, and for that purpose we did the greatest thing possible. We made the right decision.

And so, the Middle East, of course, you know, I`ve spoken to people from all over the world, not just in the Middle East, but Europeans and people in East Asia right now. All of whom have so much riding on various negotiations, whether the North Korea crisis or Iran or these other issues and say what will happen next? And with John Bolton coming in, someone who really could push this administration to the far right and President Trump, who isn`t particularly idealogical on a number of things and had all these different camps and moderates and conservatives kind of making up with this administration. Now, more and more we`re seeing these moderate fade away and people like John Bolton, the conservatives, are the ones that are getting a stronger voice in this administration. So it`s going to be very interesting from a foreign policy perspective.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Costa, on that note, help us turn the page into the legal team. There is a certain kind of grab your partner round and round about this era in Washington with everyone lawyering up. The President`s son-in- law, Jared Kushner, has a terrific attorney, Abbe Lowell yet there aren`t any more Abbe Lowells. And your publication has been and our organizations have all been reporting about the President`s troubles in recruiting further counsel. Why is that?

COSTA: The legal reason is conflicts. You talked about the big white shoe firms around Washington. They say some lawyers, some partners are incline to work with the President, they`re Conservative, they`re Republican, but there`s a political risk by associating yourself with President Trump. Someone who`s so controversial, he has all these different conflicts that firms are presented with because of the sprawling investigation, this federal probe and all then all of the different firms around town who already have clients who are involved in some capacity.

And they say that if you have a white shoe reputation, you go in, your shoes get muddy. I mean, John Dowd has a long legal career in major cases. Ty Cobb still there hanging on but fading away.

And so many lawyers like Ted Olson who has the experience that the President is I`m told he really wants. He`s been telling his aides in the last few days, "How can I get Olson? Can I get him on the phone, can I convince him?" But they`re just not coming in. So in that situation, he`s turning to the people he sees on television.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Crowley, I want to show you something Mr. Bannon said today. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: John Dowd`s a good man. And I think that`s why essentially more aggressive attorneys got brought in that are now, you know, I think President Trump is going to war. I think it`s very obvious he`s going to go to war on this.


WILLIAMS: Viewed another way, I second Michael Crowley own reference of the evening. And just think about the first part of what he said there, in effect, John Dowd`s a good man. In effect, that`s why he`s leaving.

CROWLEY: Yes, right. He wasn`t a vicious enough fighter. It`s a little confusing, Brian, because John Dowd did not want Donald Trump to sit down for an extended, open-ended interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, fearing that it could become a perjury trap, feeling there was too much risk. He and Ty Cobb have disagreed over that part of the strategy.

Ty Cobb has been much more open to the idea of Trump talking to Mueller with fewer conditions. And Dowd seemed to feel that Trump was not taking his advice on that front. So as far as the actual interaction with Mueller, Dowd was -- could not get the President to agree with him that you should stiff arm Mueller and keep him at a distance.

However, at the same time, as a political strategy, not a legal one, it does seem that Trump and his allies throughout the conservative media and on Capitol Hill, we`ve been watching this closely in Politico. The rhetoric is really escalating. It does tend to ebb and flow. We`ve been through cycles like this.

People may remember going into the holidays at the end of the year, the rhetoric was really cranking up and there were a lot of predictions that Mueller would be fired, you know, all this sort of Christmas Eve massacre. That didn`t materialize. But it feels like it`s cresting again, and maybe even more intensely than before. And I think that Joseph diGenova joining the legal team adds to that. But there is this kind of confusing question about what is the legal strategy particularly when it comes to an interview with Mueller? I think that`s not been resolved.

But Trump did say today that he wants to talk to Mueller. Ty Cobb may be winning that fight. So that is a kind of parallel track that we need to be watching closely, because, of course, the stakes of an interview like that are just incredibly high.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Vivian, because of your aforementioned front row seat on this administration, for the folks who may settle down at the end of the day and join us, I don`t know, over a martini to kind of get caught up on this day in the administration, on the hubbub scale, what is it like now compare to, say, 14 months ago?

SALAMA: In some ways, it`s really interesting. Things have calmed down. It`s a bit more orderly in terms of the day-to-day sort of organization at the White House. In the old days, we were getting, you know, sort of sporadic calls. You know, everybody gather up right now, and there wasn`t the systematic, you know, scheduling and organization that the White House usually has.

But, obviously, behind the scenes, there`s a lot of people who are feeling a little bit disenfranchised, morale is sort of shaky because of the fact that there`s been so much turnover. And that`s not necessarily unusual for a new administration, which is kind of finding its way. But, of course, given all of these things, and on top of it, there`s cloud of the Russia investigation that seems to be sort of continuing with no end in sight. We don`t really know when the special counsel, Robert Mueller, is going to wrap things up.

It`s obviously weighing very heavily on the morale of a lot of the staffers. And, of course, the journalists, I mean, we could use one of those martinis, frankly.

WILLIAMS: I was waiting for somebody to say that.

SALAMA: Right.

WILLIAMS: Amen chorus now. Hey, Robert, because you`re the type of reporter you are you`ve seen a side of Donald Trump, I think, a lot of members of the public, even the staff hasn`t seen a kind of wistful private side, the leisure side of this guy. The side everyone says he misses about life Trump Tower in New York, his assistant, Rhona, the fact that he didn`t have a crippling schedule, didn`t have a Chief of staff. Are we really to believe he may be the first President in modern history to try to go without a formal doorkeeper, gatekeeper, workflow supervisor, Chief of Staff in the West Wing?

COSTA: It`s unusual and it`s also not unusual. You look back in history, for example, President Jimmy Carter comes to mind, he wanted to have more of a flat operation, people he could trust like Hamilton Jordan inside of the White House, Jody Powell. He wanted to be the decision maker, of course, a totally different style. Carter studied data. He wanted to make decision on a very meticulous process.

President Trump, when you went up to that 26th floor office of Trump Tower, it was phone call after phone call, not a computer. Work in the phone. Aides coming in and out, not really scheduled, making decisions on the fly.

And he thinks when you talk to him, that style, that approach to management is what made him successful in business in his view and it`s what made him President of the United States. That he operated a campaign from his plane campaign plane, not from H.Q., not even really from his office. He wants to bring that to the White House because he feels restricted and he feels besieged.

WILLIAMS: Unbeatable insights tonight. Guys, thank you so much for being with us. Robert Costa, Vivian Salama, Michael Crowley starting us off on a Thursday night.

Coming up for us, the implications of both of today`s big shakeups. Plus, one of our journalists standing by with new reporting tonight on what changes still may come on the Trump legal team.

Then later, a look at what this John Bolton era could mean for the country, how we relate to the wider world. They are still out there, by the way. "The 11th Hour" getting started on a Thursday night.


WILLIAMS: In light of John Dowd`s departure today, as the President`s lead personal lawyer on the Russia matter, here`s how NBC News reports it tonight. "The shake up in President Donald Trump`s legal team is part of preparation for a potential presidential interview with Special Counsel Robert Mueller, according to people familiar with the process"

Adding that it came down to a difference of opinion, "The New York Times" writes this, "Dowd strategy for cooperating with the inquiry grew increasingly at odds with Mr. Trump`s desire for a more aggressive posture. Trump is unmistakably veering toward the combative approach to the investigation that was supported by his longtime personal lawyer, Marc E. Kasowitz, who stepped back last summer but could take on a larger role again, two people close the President`s legal team said"

That gets your attention. Also, in light of John Dowd`s departure today, let`s recall for just a moment, the President said this on Twitter all of 12 days ago. "The failing New York Times purposely wrote a false story saying that I am unhappy with my legal team on the Russia case, and am 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."

Well, for more on all of this, let`s bring in Julia Ainsley, NBC News National Security and Justice Reporter who co-authored the NBC News reporting on Dowd`s departure, and Chuck Rosenberg, Former U.S. Attorney, Former Senior FBI Official and we`re happy to say currently an MSNBC Contributor.

So, Julia, again, for folks catching up with the news at the end of the day, how did Dowd`s departure mean a differing strategy on the interview? Are we right to assume that Dowd and Cobb on the white shoe side of the President`s personal ad hoc law affirm were saying, let`s go slow here, let`s try to push this back as long as we can, and it`s feeding Trump`s instinct that he can charm or get the better of a Mueller session?

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Yes, Brian. It`s not entirely unlike the news you were reporting just moments ago on his decision to get rid of H.R. McMaster. He`s getting rid of people who have been more of the moderate voices, the people who have kind of kept the President in line, and bringing in people who are very pugnacious, who are going to allow him to kind of bring this fight to Mueller.

He wants to have the ability to go testify, something that John Dowd tried to convince him over and over again not to do. Something that John Dowd spent blood, sweat, and tears avoiding, trying to work out some kind of a situation where the Mueller team could provide written questions to the White House, that they could then kind of carefully work out the wording so that the President himself wouldn`t have to testify.

Well, the President said he wants the handcuffs off and he wants to bring in someone not like John Dowd, but like Joe diGenova, who can allow him to go talk to Mueller. This is someone, Joe diGenova, who has said for a long time that he thinks the FBI has based its entire investigation on a conspiracy, and that he should really be able to go testify.

Another piece of this about Marc Kasowitz, NBC was actually the first to report this today, that Marc Kasowitz could be playing a larger role. This is someone who the President has known and trusted for a long time, who wanted that really pugnacious approach from the beginning, but who was eventually phased out over the summer when they tried to go towards the white shoe approach with John Dowd.

Now, there`s talk that he could be playing a larger role those, because of the new approach the President wants to take and also because of the President goes anxious, I`m told. He wants people like Kasowitz who he knows and trust to be around him, kind of feeding what he wants to hear.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Comfort level, which may, of course, not always equal the best representation.

So, Chuck, the reason you`re here is because we don`t have access to Mr. Mueller or his co-counsel. We don`t have a way every evening basis to advertise how formidable and effective they all are. And I`m going to ask you to answer that for us and tell us if you think it is possible that a President of the United States could walk into this interview, somehow charm and/or otherwise get the upper hand in that conversation?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I don`t think so, Brian. Look, as much power as a President of the United States has, the power in this relationship resides with the prosecutor. It`s that simple. Who`s driving the investigative train? The prosecutor, Bob Mueller.

Now, it might be beneficial to Mr. Trump to have lawyers that he likes and trusts around him and might make him feel better. But from Mueller`s perspective, and that`s the way I analyze it as a former prosecutor, it doesn`t make a bit of difference.

Mr. Trump can bring anyone and everyone he wants to represent him. The investigation will proceed on the law and the facts at a pace set by Mr. Mueller. It`s sort of like bringing in a different high school player to guard Lebron James. It`s not going to make a bit of difference.

WILLIAMS: Julia, I read every word you write, and you`re very crafty at it and buried in your work is a little mention that Joe diGenova could bring on co-counsel of his own, which by dint of their appointment are going to look a whole lot like the President`s personal legal team when we`re done here. Are there any names being floated?

AINSLEY: Well, we think, Brian, that he`s bringing on people from his firm, but so far, we don`t know exactly who that is. Of course, the problem would be if he wanted to bring on his wife, because she`s already representing the Mark Corallo, who you know was the spokesman, who left after that Trump Tower statement, the statement that was crafted on Air Force One about the Trump Tower meeting, and Eric Prince, the one who worked in the Seychelles. A lot of people who are already witnesses on the case represented by diGenova`s wife who works with him. So he would have to be picking people from his very small law firm of just about four people to come over with him.

We`re going definitely going to be keeping chose tabs on who that might be. And, yes, he could be building kind of his own empire. It`s also important to realize that diGenova, him coming over means that the President is now going to be beginning preparations for an interview with Bob Mueller. And so, we want to know what that looks like.

Is diGenova going to sit down and go over every question with him or he`s going to try to just pave the way and say, "Go ahead, Mr. President, you know, what you have to say will be fine and sort of try to be that smooth person that just wants to stay in a job?" Which it`s checkpoints out is the last thing the President needs. You don`t want somebody who`s just there to make you feel good. And that could be what he`s getting with this new legal team.

WILLIAMS: Chuck, if ask you to make a case for motivation who want to work as an attorney in private practice for this President to want to take his case, what could that motivation be?

ROSENBERG: It has to be a lawyer who likes challenges. And one of the things that a criminal defense lawyer does, really the first principle, is to have the client, in this case the President, listen to the lawyer. Take my advice, I`ve seen this before, I`ve done this before. I know what investigations look like. I`ve been on both sides of it. That`s how a good white collar criminal defense lawyer will talk to a client.

The challenge here is him getting the client to listen. Not all clients do. This one doesn`t seem to. And so, as challenges go, Brian, it`s a very big one.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Chuck Rosenberg, we listen to your advice very carefully as we follow the reporting of Julia Ainsley. Our thanks to you both for staying up late with us tonight.

Coming up, the foreign policy implications of President Trump`s new election at national security adviser, we`ll bring you some memorable moments as well from John Bolton`s past appearances on the President`s cable news network of choice, all of it when we continue.



JOHN BOLTON, NEW NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The point that I want to leave with you in this very brief presentation is where I started -- there is no united nations. There is an international community that occasionally can be led by the only real power left in the world, and that`s the United States. The building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost ten stories today, it wouldn`t make a bit of difference.


WILLIAMS: Leave off the last 10 for savings. That`s from 1994. This is the new National Security Adviser John Bolton. He`s Donald Trump`s third in 14 months. That was a comment that would come back to haunt him when he was later nominated as U.S. ambassador to the U.N. as you might imagine.

Bolton`s hiring come as the President prepares, let`s not forget for a possible sitdown with Kim Jong-un of North Korea, and is weighing withdraws from the Iran nuclear deal. Bolton has been a dependable hawk on both subjects.


BOLTON: I think with the May date approaching by which everyone thinks the President will make a decision one way or the other whether to get out of the Iran nuclear deal. But I think it`s a strategic debacle for the United States. You can always thinker around the edges. The question is whether putting lipstick on a pig is really going to make a difference here. I think the answer to that is clearly no.

I think the only diplomatic option left is to end the regime in North Korea by effectively having the south to take it over. Question, how do you know that the North Korean regime is lying? Answer, their lips are moving. They`re not going to give up achieving this objective. Why would they agree? Why would they propose talks now? Because they want to buy time three months, six months, 12 months whatever it is they need, to get across the finish line.


WILLIAMS: And we mentioned this earlier. Just last month, Bolton made a case for a preemptive strike on North Korea. The piece he wrote for "The Wall Street Journal," that we were talking about in our first segment.

With us for more tonight, Jeremy Bash, Former Chief of Staff at the CIA and Pentagon, paying us a rare visit here in New York, he also happens to be an MSNBC National Security Analyst. And Retired U.S. Army Colonel Jack Jacobs, a combat veteran from the Vietnam War, one of only 71 living recipient of the Medal of Honor, he is also an MSNBC Military Analyst.

Jeremy, a very simply question to start with, who is John Bolton and what will he mean to the United States?

JEREMY BASH, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, in his mind, Brian, America first means two things. One is, we should not rely on alliances, we should not rely on the U.N., we should not rely on NATO, we should go it alone. Second is that we should use the American military to conduct our foreign policy first, and if necessary, to engage in regime change. He did write this article basically arguing that we should bomb North Korea first preemptively. He`s argued that we should bomb Iran.

And it`s interesting because there was reporting earlier that he made a deal with the President, that the president said you can have this job, John, but I don`t want you to start any wars. And it really depends on the definition of start because, in John Bolton`s mind, if the United States is threatened by Iran or North Korea, and we bomb them, we haven`t started it. We`re just responding.

WILLIAMS: Jack, that`s where you come in. We just heard Mr. Bolton say, end the regime, talking about North Korea. Nothing simpler to say, nothing tougher to pull off, and of course, that`s where he`ll now be writing checks on house money, and that is the young men and women, our very best, the young men and women of the U.S. military. That`s where it starts being all of our business.

COLONEL JACK JACOBS, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, if you rely solely on the military instrument of power as the default instrument, you`re going to get into big-time trouble, because you`ve obviated the other instruments of power.

Second, if you assume that using the military instrument on North Korea is going to solve the North Korean problem, you`re sadly mistaken. If you only have to go back to the Korean War when we saw a threat to China, all it did was bring China into the war, as well. And China is one of the reasons why we have a problem with North Korea.

So using the military instrument alone, or indeed using the military instrument in a preemptive way, is not going to solve the problem of North Korea, it`s just going to compound it, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, since the beginning of the national security adviser being a thing in the West Wing, the job itself, there`s been instant and automatic tension with the secretary of state. Let`s not forget, we`re getting a new secretary of state, Mr. Pompeo from CIA. What does it all say or mean to especially our allies overseas? These two gentlemen in these two positions?

BASH: Well, look, I think the job of the national security adviser is probably the most important foreign policy job in our government, sometimes even more than secretary of state. While the secretary of state is off conducting diplomacy, the national security adviser is seeing 25 seats in the Oval Office. He is the first one there in the morning. He is the last one to leave in the evening. He participates in every single briefing, every diplomatic engagement the President has.

And importantly, Brian, also he has a tremendous role on intelligence. And one of the reasons in 2005 that he was not confirmed for his job as U.N. ambassador was because there was a concern that he had cooked intelligence and that he had actually assailed intelligence and analysts who had come to him with briefings on Cuba and other areas. And it`s not clear that he actually respects and honors the impartiality of our intelligence professionals.

WILLIAMS: And Jack, I want to take another whack at something, this notion of a preemptive strike. I`m asking you to scare to death the people watching tonight, when we just toss off expressions like preemptive strike on North Korea.

JACOBS: Well, you going to think about what is it we`re going to strike? I mean, North Korea looks a really small country, but there are lots and lots of targets. Are we going to expend large numbers of nuclear weapons on North Korea? And what about as you suggest the 27,500 Americans we have in South Korea? 30 million South Koreans near the demilitarized zone, to say nothing of China. It`s entirely possible to start an enormous conflagration, and all we need to do is talk about a pre-strike on anybody anywhere in the world, and not just in Korea, that is enough to scare everybody. The possibility of a mistake is enormous, especially when you use the military instrument as a default instrument, like I said earlier, extremely dangerous.

WILLIAMS: Two of the very best of this conversation, Jeremy Bash and Colonel Jack Jacobs. Gentlemen, thank you both, as always very much.

And coming up for us, what the President did today that sent the markets down, and a hidden truth about this Trump economy right now. Ali Velshi will be with us to talk us through it.



DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re doing things for this country that should have been done for many, many years. We`ve had this abuse by many other countries, and groups of countries, that were put together in order to take advantage of the United States, and we don`t want that to happen. We`re not going to let that happen. It`s probably one of the reasons I was elected, maybe one of the main reasons. But we`re not going to let that happen.


WILLIAMS: President Trump today announcing an estimated $50 billion in new tariffs against Chinese goods, echoing his, shall we say, strong rhetoric from the campaign trail.


TRUMP: It`s the greatest theft in the history of the United States, what China has done to us. We have rebuilt China. Our money has rebuilt China. But you know where I really want to make the deals? I want to stop China and I want to stop all these countries from ripping the hell out of us. Our President has allowed China to continue its economic assault on American jobs and wealth, refusing to enforce trade deals, and apply leverage on China necessary to rein in North Korea. We can`t continue to allow China to rape our country. And that`s what they are doing. It`s the greatest theft in the history of the world.


WILLIAMS: Now to what happened today. Stocks fell sharply on fears of a potential trade war. The Dow dropped more than 700 points, it`s down nearly 10 percent from its all-time high in January.

Here to talk about it, our go to guy in economics, Ali Velshi, co-host of "Velshi & Ruhle" at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time on weekdays. And on for good measure he happens to be the host of "MSNBC Live" at 3:00 p.m. Eastern on MSNBC.

So Ali, this may be the most telegraphed, we can`t say the President didn`t warn us.


WILLIAMS: Why all the (INAUDIBLE) and hubbub today after this?

VELSHI: Well, I tell you, eight hours ago, it was because, you know, the Dow closed down three percent on fears of a trade war, but that was before he announced John Bolton. So now we`re actually worried about a real war, a trade war fells in comparison.

But listen, this is where the President is right and was right during the campaign. The Chinese -- and I say this with great caution, Brian because at the current moment, my passport is at the Chinese consulate waiting for a visa that may or may not approve now. But the Chinese do take a lot of intellectual property from western companies.

If you are a westerner of any import who goes to China on business, your phone is checked. Your files are looked through. Your e-mails are taken. And any device, whether or not you are in China, the Chinese are able to reverse engineer devices. Even genetically modified grains they can organize.

So the idea that the Chinese have not been fair on the trading platform is valid. And it`s something that Democrats understand and Republicans understand. But once again, the approach is a little bit hand fisted. So the Chinese have said we`re imposing duties on $60 billion of their goods and they`re going to impose duties on -- at this point, they`re starting small, about $3 billion of our goods.

One of the things the President did today is he talked about the fact that he says we`ve got a $500 billion trade deficit with China, it`s not, it`s $375 billion. And he says we have an $800 billion trade deficit with the world, it`s not it`s $566 billion. So he is not really handling this. This requires a scalpel and he`s continuing to use a sledge hammer. But he is right in the underlining theme China does need to be dealt with from a trading perspective.

WILLIAMS: I want to ask you about this economy. Just tonight I was made aware of the list of the top 10 single day point drops on the Dow. A bunch of them are from the housing crisis, financial crisis in 2008. Four of the top 10 all-time single day point drops have been in 2018, under Donald Trump. What`s that about?

VELSHI: Part of it is because the Dow is as high as it is, right? This has been going on since 2009. It was march 9th of 2009 that the Dow hit its bottom. It was about 9,000 points. So we have gain sod much that a day like today, 700 points.

Boy, when I was younger and had hair, 700 points, people would be jumping out of windows. It is two percent. So if you look at it from a percentage basis, we`re not hitting those things. And look, you and I have talked about this for awhile, the fact that a market goes up and down frequently is not a bad thing in an adjusted self.

The problem today of course is we`re two points on the Dow higher than correction territory, which means 10 percent off its last peak in the last year. And if you invested $1,000 on January 1st, you would actually be in the red at the moment. So the market which ignored Donald Trump for a very long time is now saying that these policies are actually dangerous.

Now, in fairness, we did start the week off with a negative market led by tech stocks, which are now the biggest stock in the country and that was because of the Facebook stuff. So we started off with some bad sentiment, and then we`re, it looks like we`re ending the week off. And I will tell you Asian markets have opened and it looks like this is going to continue into tomorrow and we`ll going to have another rough market day at least to start with in the morning.

WILLIAMS: Ali Velshi, who was never more than a hours away from his next broadcast. We`ll let go to sleep. Thank you, my friend, very much for joining us.

VELSHI: I`ll see you here tomorrow.

WILLIAMS: All right, coming up, the President`s new trade penalties, all about reciprocity. As he welcomes the CEO of Lockheed Martin to the White House, we`ll show it to you when we come back.



TRUMP: We have some of our great business leaders and leaders period right behind me. I may ask Marillyn Lockheed, the leading woman`s business executive in this country according to many, and we buy billions and billions of dollars worth of that beautiful F-35. It`s stealth. You cannot see it. Is that correct?


TRUMP: Better be correct, right?

HEWSON: Absolutely.

TRUMP: Marillyn, please say a few words.


WILLIAMS: That was President Trump earlier today introducing the CEO of Lockheed Martin, who supports the new trade penalties on China. The problem is her name is Marillyn Hewson not Marillyn Lockheed.

Hewson gracefully shrug off the air and spoke in favor of the President new tariff specially the need to protect the intellectual property of U.S. companies. What Ali Velshi was just talking about.

President Trump spoke about the U.S. trade deficit with China and in doing so he sees on today`s event to lustily deployed a word he loves. Not once but four more times.


TRUMP: The word that I want to use is reciprocal. The word is reciprocal. That`s the word I want everyone to remember. We want reciprocal, mirror. Some people call it a mirror tariff or mirror tax. Just use the word reciprocal. If they charge us, we charge them the same thing.


WILLIAMS: Another break for us. And coming up, the President was asked an unusual question today. What advice he would give his 25-year-old self. His answer and the reasons for it when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, it`s sometimes a question at college reunions or at big landmark round number birthdays and anniversaries, sometimes the answer is something simply written in a personal journal, but from time to time you hear the question after living your life as an adult, what advice would you give your 25-year-old self? Well, the question was put to the President today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What advice would you give to the 25-year-old Donald Trump knowing what you know today?

TRUMP: Don`t run for President.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But we`re glad you did.

TRUMP: You know, I was talking to Mercedes and Sarah walking off, you know, Oval Office is right across the street and I said all my life I`ve gotten really, you know, look, we all get every once in a while a knock but I got the greatest publicity, I was getting such great -- until I ran for office.


WILLIAMS: The President of the United States on the perils of bad publicity in his new job. That is our broadcast for this Thursday night. We`ll see you tomorrow evening from Washington.

Thank you so much for being here with us and good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.