Trump's EPA head facing bad headlines. TRANSCRIPT: 04/02/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Michael Crowley, Joyce Vance, Sam Stein, Jill Colvin

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: April 2, 2018 Guest: Michael Crowley, Joyce Vance, Sam Stein, Jill Colvin

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: Tonight, we`re just hours away from the first sentencing of the Mueller investigation and what the court proceeding might tell us while Trump friend, Roger Stone, is under new scrutiny about his e-mails on his relationship with Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

Also tonight, new details on President Trump`s congratulatory call to Vladimir Putin and the invitation to visit the White House that we`ve learned about from the Russians.

And if bunnies could talk, deciphering what the President said today at the Easter Egg Roll flank by the First Lady and the bunny with the permanently horrified facial expression. "The 11th Hour" on a Monday night begins now.

Well, good evening once again as we start a new week here at NBC News Headquarters in New York. Day 438 of the Trump administration, a day the President started out by unleashing attacks on his own -- our own Justice Department, the FBI, Amazon, CNN, NBC, Mexico, Democrats and so-called caravans of people traveling through Mexico. More on all of those later.

And it all came down as we learned from the Kremlin that Donald Trump has invited Vladimir Putin to visit the White House. According to one of Putin`s aides, the overture came during that now famous March 20th phone call, the one in which the President ignored the warning not to congratulate Putin on his victory in a rigged election. That call, the President hinted at the visit during a news conference at the White House.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a very good call, and I suspect that we`ll probably be meeting in the not-too-distant future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The problem is much of the President`s foreign policy apparatus, inside and outside the White House, was apparently blind-sided by the news from the Kremlin. The White House Press Secretary issued a statement that said in part, "the two had discussed a bilateral meeting in the not-too- distant future at a number of potential venues, including the White House."

Meantime, in Washington tomorrow, we may learn more about the Mueller investigations, a kind of status report that`s because tomorrow will bring the first real sentencing in the investigation. Alexander van der Zwaan, 33-year-old, London-based lawyer, this gets a little complicated, who worked with President Trump`s campaign officials Paul Manafort and Rick Gates in Ukraine, he has pleaded guilty to lying to investigators.

Last week, prosecutors revealed he knew about communications between Gates and a person with ties to Russian military intelligence and that the contact was indeed relevant to the Russia investigation.

And "The Wall Street Journal" reports tonight that Mueller is now taking a very close a look at one of Trump`s longest friends and allies, Roger Stone. The "Journal" says Mueller is, "looking into longtime adviser Roger Stone`s 2016 claim that he had met with WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, according to a person familiar with the matter."

"In an e-mail dated August 4, 2016, Mr. Stone wrote, I dined with Julian Assange last night, according to a copy of the message reviewed by "The Wall Street Journal." The note to former Trump adviser, Sam Nunberg, adds to a growing number of times Mr. Stone claimed during the campaign to be in contact with WikiLeaks."

"The next day, Mr. Stone publicly praised Mr. Assange via Twitter. Mr. Mueller`s team has asked about Mr. Stone`s e-mail during testimony before a grand jury, according to the person familiar with the matter."

Stone told "The Journal" that the e-mail to former prodigy, Sam Nunberg, was "a joke," but he has frequently claimed some kind of contact with WikiLeaks and then later issued some kind of denial.

President`s legal team has been hunting for additional lawyers to help represent him in the Russia matter. Joe diGenova and his wife and frequent co-counsel, Victoria Toensing, who had agreed to act as counsel then declined because of a conflict of interest, are apparently still very much in contact with Trump and his attorneys.

Here is what diGenova said this morning on WBAL Radio in Baltimore.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH DIGENOVA, STATES ATTORNEY: I can tell you Victoria and I are playing the role of lawyers on television and in real life. We`ve spoken with the President several times since our response, respective statements last week and we continue to chat with his lawyers and with him. He has a complete understanding of the legal battlefield that he is facing.

I believe that he has been victimized by an incompetent Justice Department led temporarily by Rod Rosenstein, who I think is a disgrace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: So there was that. While diGenova declined to reveal exactly what he and the President discussed, one major issue that`s yet to be resolved is whether Trump will sit down with Mueller for an interview.

Former New Jersey Governor, Chris Christie, who for a brief time as you know ran the Trump transition team, himself, a former U.S. attorney, gave his advice to the President over the weekend.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER GOVERNOR, NEW JERSEY: As a former U.S. attorney and somebody who would be sitting on the other side of that table, I said this all along, George has said it here before, he should never walk into that room with Robert Mueller. Because in the end, one of the things that makes the President who he is, is that he`s a salesman, and salesman, at times, tend to be hyperbolic. That`s OK when you`re on the campaign hustle (ph), that`s OK when you`re working on Congress, it is not OK when you`re sitting talking to federal agents because, you know, 18 USC 1001 is false statements to federal agents, that`s a crime, that can send you to jail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: For more, we turn to our lead-off panel on a Monday night. Here in New York with us tonight Former U.S. Attorney, Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a Federal Prosecutor, Michael Crowley is back with us as well, National Security Editor and Senior Correspondent for Politico and with us from Washington tonight, a man who`s usually here in New York, Sam Stein, Politics Editor for "The Daily Beast." Good evening and welcome to you all.

Michael, are we living in a new age when we`re not surprised to learn of the planned meeting with Putin from the other side, from the Russians?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR, POLITICO: No, it shouldn`t be surprising. We`ve learned a lot of things about President Donald Trump from Russian media, Russian spokesmen. When he met with the Russian ambassador and Russian foreign ministers in the Oval Office about a year ago, it was Russian media that published the first photograph to that exchange where everybody having a good laugh.

It was Kremlin readout of that March 20th phone call. It was the first public information we`ve had, public conversation. And then today, the Russians are telling us that, again, for the first time, that Trump had extended an invitation for Putin to come to the White House.

So the first striking thing is that the Kremlin is the source of this information that Trump has invited Putin in the White House. It would be the first trip by Vladimir Putin to the White House since 2005, Brian. So, a pretty consequential event.

And -- but what is really so striking about this is that the White House response in part was saying, OK, he said come to the White House and maybe we`ll talk about some other places, but the White House did not rule out the idea that there would still potentially be a meeting sometimes in the near future, despite the fact the U.S. has taken pretty strong action to punish the Russians for this nerve agent attack against a Russian living in the United Kingdom. In other words, the White House was not saying today, well, this meeting is not off the table courtly because we have concluded that Russia was behind this outrageous use of weapons of mass destruction on the soil of a NATO ally. Basically treated the idea as though what were still in play, which I think is really remarkable.

And finally, Brian, you know, Donald Trump is all over the map on a lots of policy issues, domestic and foreign policy. There is one through line, you know, clear as day he wants to talk to Vladimir Putin, he wants to meet with Vladimir Putin, he wants to befriend Vladimir Putin. And there are a lot of people telling him to slow down, back off, and he doesn`t. And the question is why? There is something a little strange about that.

WILLIAMS: For viewers who may hear a little something, I`m told that while I talk to Joyce, we`re going to get you a new microphone for your lapel. Complementary, please don`t try to be out there.

Hey, Joyce, I need you to answer several questions. Let`s take a turn into the Mueller matter. What`s the chance that in some sort of sentencing statement we`re going to learn more about kind of a status check where they are on the timeline?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I think that that`s pretty unlikely. What we`ll see tomorrow is the first real sentencing in this investigation. It`s van der Zwaan who played a relatively limited role. False statements were made when he was questioned after Mueller`s team approached him.

And so, here`s what will happen at the sentencing. We know from his plea agreement that he doesn`t have a cooperation agreement with Mueller. The reason that we know that is everything that he`s relying on when he plead guilty has to be on writing in the guilty plea.

So, for instance, with Gates, it`s written into the plea agreement. Here we don`t see that. And guilty plea is maintain this sort of routine language that says I`m not relying on anything other than what`s in this document.

But we do know that van der Zwaan has turned over a couple of key pieces of evidence to Mueller. He`s turned over tapes of conversation, he`s turned over e-mails. We`ve heard from sources that Mueller`s team did not have those before.

Van der Zwaan`s value is that even without cooperation, he could be compelled to testify at trial if he was needed since he`ll have no Fifth Amendment privilege, no reason that he would incriminate himself when he testified after he is sentenced tomorrow. So, he`s available as a witness.

Whether we learn anything new at sentencing, I think, is unlikely with this caveat, if there is any sort of quibbling about what his conduct was and what kind of sentence he should get, then we may hear some details from Andrew Weissmann on Mueller`s team who`s handling the sentencing. We may get a little bit more insight into what van der Zwaan did, what he`s involvement was.

WILLIAMS: Sam Stein, talk for a moment about Roger Stone. A lot of people have been so curious that he has not been at the nexus of this entire case because of his unusual life, his unusual career, his unusual public and private persona. He has, as journalists, always called him a colorful figure. Talk about the Roger Stone you have covered over the years.

SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": Well, let me tell one quick story that I think gets at the Roger Stone that people know. One time I was interviewing him outside of Starbucks in Pennsylvania Avenue about a stance there from the White House. In the middle of the interview, he turns and looks over to a building across the street. He points to room, probably at the 6th story up and he says, "You know, that`s where we had the committee to reelect the President and that`s where I took in the bag of money for Richard Nixon."

So, Roger Stone has been around for a long time. Roger Stone has been doing dirty tricks for a long time. Roger Stone went away basically for a little while recently where he was sort of on the periphery. He was latching on to libertarian candidates like Gary Johnson, making causes out of medical marijuana and things like that.

But then he had this history with Donald Trump. And when Trump ran for President, Roger Stone was not just on the periphery anymore, he`s a very active player in the campaign. And so, now that he`s reemerged a little bit more, it`s not totally surprising that when people are digging into what exactly happened in the dark corners of the 2016 election and maybe if there was collusion with the Russians agents, the WikiLeaks, Roger Stone is a key player in that because this is the art that he practices and he`s been practicing it for many, many decades.

WILLIAMS: Joyce, this brings me back to you, because like you, a former fed said to a colleague of ours today, you people have to stop talking about the iceberg theory that only a small tip of the Mueller investigation is feasible at any one time. He said think about an underground colony, like an ant colony, it`s much more vast it, it goes on forever. So when we read a report that there`s Mueller interest in an e-mail of Roger Stone`s, do you think we`re running three months behind reality six months behind reality? Is there any guessing?

VANCE: You know, more like a couple years with Roger Stone, who as Sam says is been around forever. And the most interesting thing about Roger Stone in this investigation is that he has not talked to Mueller.

And you know from our conversations, federal prosecutors look at three categories of people, witnesses, subjects, that someone whose conduct is within the scope of the investigation, and then a target, someone that prosecutors plan on indicting. Typically you don`t interview targets. So draw your own conclusions on Stone.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Crowley, if Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing are casually consulting with the President, I guess that doesn`t violate any laws of the legal profession but the President does have to have -- get to have these two of counsel just in another way.

CROWLEY: Right. You know, Brian, you would think that the President of the United States, at the center of the most sophisticated and most important investigation since Watergate, plus a guy who is a billionaire or many times over, you know, hundred millionaire would have the Navy SEAL team of lawyers representing him, I mean, the absolute elite, best. And instead what we have now is he can`t get top-flight lawyer, he`s basically got Jay Sekulow and Ty Cobb. And then diGenova is saying, well, I play lawyer on T.V.

I mean, it`s almost theatrical. It was like something at the Simpsons (ph), you know, that, you know, your lawyer would say, I`m not really his lawyer, I`m sort of playing it on T.V.

And, again, a guy with essentially unlimited money, President of the United States, national security case, possible impeachment, criminal charges all over the place, it just boggles the mind that this is his legal team. And it also makes you think if and when he finally does sit down with Robert Mueller, how prepared is this guy going to be? I mean, sure, there is this inherent propensity to exaggerate or whatever euphemism Chris Christie used to avoid saying that he`s prone to lying. But the preparation, I mean, you would think that by now you would want to be deep in this some serious legal preparation. I don`t think that`s happening anywhere on the level that you would expect, again, from the President of United States.

WILLIAMS: Hey, Sam, Mr. Crowley mentions a better-than-average lawyer who is currently unemployed in New Jersey who we saw the clip of and that`s former U.S. Attorney, former Governor Chris Christie. Do you think at this level of play Chris Christie took advantage of an appearance on "This Week" this past Sunday to telegraph one more time to the President, this is I know you think you can you ace the interview with Mueller, this couldn`t be a worse idea?

STEIN: I mean, I don`t think it was even that subtle, to be perfectly honest and I don`t think Chris Christie is the only one who`s advising Trump not to do this. For a while, we heard the phrase perjury trap over and over and over again specifically on T.V. because everyone knows that Trump watches on T.V. and specifically on Fox News.

People who are close to the President, people who actually care about the President are warning him not to let his ego get the best of him and not to sit down with Robert Mueller.

Now, does it end up that he doesn`t do the interview? I don`t know. It could be very well that he`s compelled to do so, it could very well be that he thinks he can represent himself best in front of Mueller better that anyone else.

But, you know, Michael is right, the lack of an actual robust legal team here is sort of a profound gamble that`s being made by the White House. And I`m curious maybe Joyce can assist, but with Joe diGenova saying that he`s advising him via television but not actually in the spirit of the law, I mean do you get -- is there any attorney/client privilege there? I mean, are you actually risking more by not being a formal lawyer to the President than just an informal and via the T.V. airways?

WILLIAMS: Counselor, your name has been invoked. You get 30 seconds to rebut.

VANCE: It`s an absolutely bizarre situation. They already have a conflict of interest because his wife, Victoria, represents Mark Corallo who, of course, famously resigned from Trump`s employment because he was concerned that he was about to be lead into some kind of obstruction. So there`s a conflict.

There`s also this issue of whether there`s attorney/client privilege here. The President hasn`t hired diGenova. He`s not really the President`s attorney. Yet he just plays among Television and this is another incredibly squarely aspect of what`s been the most unusual legal representation I`ve ever seen.

WILLIAMS: We need one of those bulletin boards they have on "Homeland" with Carrie at the center of all the activity that`s without saying too much about last night. Joyce Vance, who we don`t get to see in New York often enough, Michael Crowley, who leaves with a complementary microphone and a copy of our home game and Sam Stein, who is in Washington but is usually here with us New York, our thanks to the three of you very much.

STEIN: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And coming for us, the people in places and institutions and branches of government, we got pummeling electronically from our President today. That`s next.

Later, a barrage of tough headlines for one Scott Pruitt, just tonight, just over the past few hours leaving a lot of people to wonder how long the EPA administrator can continue to administrate. "The 11th Hour" starting offing a new week, just getting under way on a Monday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Fresh off a weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, President Trump started the week in Washington by attacking in no particular order Amazon, Mexico, CNN, NBC, the FBI and his own, our own Justice Department. The President wrote on Twitter, "So sad the Department of Justice," note the quotation marks," and the FBI are slow walking, or even not giving, the redacted documents requested by Congress. An embarrassment to our country."

He didn`t mention which document he`s referring to but "Politico`s" Matthew Nussbaum writes, "House Republicans recently subpoenaed the DOJ for its record relating to the probe of Hilary Clinton`s private e-mail server with Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte citing, on going delays in the process."

President Trump also congratulated Egyptian President al Sisi today on his reelection victory that critics had called a sham election. What leads them to say that, "The Associated Press" reports al Sisi won in a squeaker with 97% of the vote.

And as we reported earlier, we learned from the Kremlin, from an adviser there today that President Trump suggested Vladimir Putin visit the White House during that congratulatory phone call with him last month.

Here to go over all of it with us, two friends of ours Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for "The Associated Press" and Jeremy Peters, Political Reporter for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC Contributor.

So, Jill, just today White House invitation for Putin putting the Justice Department in "ala enemy of the people" and a congratulatory phone call to al Sisi of Egypt after his close election victory, this is all part of the new normal, is it not?

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": It definitely is. Look, we`ve been talking for a couple weeks now about the fact that the President is really in this position where he feels empowered, he feels like he`s going to start trusting his gut now. He`s not going to listen to these people around him, these moderating forces. He`s been switching up his staff, getting rid of some of the people who`ve kind of talked him off of away from those positions, and these are his feelings.

The President also just came back from three days in Mar-a-Lago. He was there with a very limited number of staffers and also spent a lot of time there talking to a number of people who really kind of rile him up and kind of bring this stuff out, people like Sean Hannity, whom he had dinner with, folks like that who he`s been spending more time with and talking to more on the phone.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, Chris Ruddy, who runs Newsmax and is a friend of Donald Trump`s and a Palm Beach person for many years, was on CNN tonight and he coined, I think, a pretty nifty phrase. He called Donald Trump a "feedback junkie." Do you think that phrase has legs?

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICS REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES: Absolutely. I mean, we know, Brian, from the way that he spends his time at night watching the television and looking at images of himself and then reaction to those images by various panelists on cable news. Yes, I remember being on his plane once and pictures of the rally where he was about to speak flashed on the screen and people queuing up outside and eh said, "Look at that, look at that. Look how many people are there." So, no, absolutely, he loves the affirmation that television provides.

And I think one of the reasons why you`re seeing some of these more impulsive, you know, reckless behavior lately is that he is surrounded more and more by people who are willing to provide that affirmation. According to my reporting, he`s been spending a lot more time lately with people like Corey Lewandowski and Dave Bossie, people who during the campaign coined of phrase "Let Trump be Trump "and that`s what you`re seeing right now, Trump being his truest self.

WILLIAMS: Jill, I always asks how did the Trump advance today and the subset of that is, is there any strategy that you see employed in the situation that Jeremy just talked about?

COLVIN: You know, it`s really interesting, especially as you talk about that feedback loop idea, you know, the President went really hard over the last couple of days talking about the immigration issue, specifically referring to those caravans of the illegal immigrants that he kind of painted these pictures of just these caravans coming towards the United States ominously trying to cross the border. Well, when did that start? When Fox & Friends did a report on it Sunday morning. So you see that happening.

Then there is something really interesting today, after all of the President`s tweets, the White House and the Department of Homeland Security actually put together a conference call with reporters and revealed that they`re trying to start this new legislative push for some new immigration reform legislation and it very much seemed that that effort was following the President`s tweets and meant to kind of put that policy muscle behind something that the President was talking about basically because he`d seen it on T.V.

WILLIAMS: And, Jeremy, tomorrow Baltic leaders visit the White House. There`s going to be one of those planned press conferences, two questions for both sides of the press corps. In our like a good neighbor state farm is there segment, I should go ahead and mention these visiting leaders will be finely attuned to Vladimir Putin and the moves he`s been making and the words he`s been choosing.

PETERS: Yes, absolutely. And it`s part of the reason why the President`s behavior lately has been so mystifying. I mean, he`s talking about now rewarding a man who the intelligence services have told Trump, apparently to no avail, has directly interfered in our democratic process. Not only has he done that, but he has sanctioned the poisoning of a Russian on the soil of a NATO ally.

So just kind of baffling behavior from the President over Russia, I think, is only destained to continue because the more that people tell President Trump, you are flouting convention, you`re not doing what Presidents should do, you`re not behaving toward our allies, you know, the way that you should and you`re not treating our enemies like enemies, the more he`s going to get his back up, Brian, and the more he is going to dig in.

WILLIAMS: Two of the great writers we lean on from time to time around here, Jill Colvin and Jeremy Peters, thank you both so much.

And coming up for us, we talked about this briefly, the President`s comments on DACA what they might date back to on his favorite television network. "The 11th Hour" back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what about the DACA case? Should they worry about what`s going to happen to them, sir?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Democrats have really let them down. They`ve really let them down. They had this great opportunity. The Democrats have really let them down, it`s a shame. And now people are taking advantage of DACA and that`s a shame.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: That was President Trump today responding to a shouted question you might have seen by the faces of the children there in today`s White House Easter Egg Roll about the future of immigrants who were brought to this country illegally as children. More on that bunny in a moment.

His comments came after an Easter Sunday flurry of immigration tweets which carried on into this evening, one declaring that DACA is dead and another reading, "Border patrol agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the border because of ridiculous liberal Democrat laws like catch and release. Getting more dangerous. Caravans coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws now. No more DACA deal."

As mentioned in our last segment, that tweet, the notion of -- the mention of caravans there, came about an hour after this report aired on FOX & FRIENDS Sunday morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: An army of migrants marching to America and a BuzzFeed reporter is in that march with them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Again, this is what we have coming to our borders. And that`s why it`s more important than ever that we build a wall and we get serious about border security and border enforcement. I think it speaks also not just to the Democratic Party and the leftists, this also speaks to the liberal mainstream media who was cheering these people on. They`re excited about this, they`re excited about what`s coming to our doorstep.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: We should note the president spent his holiday in the company of some immigration hardliners, rather. The Associated Press reporting, "Trump spent much of the weekend at his Mar-a-Lago club, having meals with his family, watching cable news shows and rubbing elbows with conservative commentators including Fox News host Sean Hannity."

We should tell you, others reported to be on the president`s company this weekend were Jeanine Pirro and Bill Shine of Fox News, and White House immigration hardliner Stephen Miller. Now, the White House is putting forward its own immigration proposal as we mentioned earlier.

Back with us to talk about it, Jill Colvin, who was the author of the A.P. piece we just mentioned, joining our conversation, Franco Ordonez, White House correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers.

So Franco, I need you to fact check what we heard there from the president. As I understand it, he did the killing of DACA and DACA can`t be taken advantage of by newly arrived people because the whole point of it is being born into it by none of your choosing.

FRANCO ORDONEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Yes, that`s true. No new arrivals of young immigrants are going to be able to get DACA. DACA is for people that have already been here, who had arrived by 2014. And as you had pointed out, Trump killed DACA. He ended it last year when he ended the program.

So, there is certainly some fact checking needed for Trump to be saying that this is attracting people, technically that can`t happen. The administration is trying to now say what he meant or what they`re trying to explain is that the idea of DACA is giving human smugglers kind of ammunition to claim some type of permission or permiso that they say that might attract more immigrants. But, there`s no legal way or any way that people are going to come and get DACA now.

WILLIAMS: Jill, you report he is seething on the subject of immigration. When last we heard in the cabinet room, that now famous session where he called for a bill of love, he said whatever these folks from the Senate and the House send over here, I`m going to sign it. What happened between now and then, and is it as simple as getting frothed up by the right?

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Part it, I think, actually is that you`ve seen, you know, issues from immigration to gun control, for instance, where, when the president sees some type of backlash from the conservative community, he very quickly kind of moves himself back to the right.

With this, what we`ve also seen is a steady development where Democrats have put forward ideas, he`s put forward ideas nobody`s been able to reach a solution. The president was very frustrated about the omnibus budget deal that he had to sign at the end of last month. Really angry that it didn`t include money for the border wall. And the president really feel, especially going into the midterms that this is an issue that is one that really makes his base -- you know, riles his base up, it makes them very enthusiastic. And he feels, you can see here, he`s saying that DACA is off the table and he`s no longer going to try to come up with a deal to protect, you know, these so-called Dreamer immigrants, but nonetheless, he wants to still be able to hammer the immigration issue in the next couple of months.

There is very little belief on the Hill right now that any type of immigration package like he is proposing now would actually be passed. But, he`s now able -- if the White House puts forward a formal proposal, you know, things like making it easier to deport unaccompanied minors to cross the border, families that cross the border, he`s able to hammer those points over the next coming months. He feels like that`s helpful to him.

WILLIAMS: Franco, there are single issue voters in both parties. Ann Coulter`s gotten a lot of attention on the Republican Party for being close to a single, obsessive border wall person. You can`t blame people who are Trump supporters for being single-issue voters because it was so central to every public utterance he made. Do you think that is a large part of what`s at play here?

ORDONEZ: I think it absolutely is. I mean, you just hit it on the head. This was a central part of his campaign. Not only was it a central part of his campaign, it continues to be a central part of his campaign-like rallies that he continues to have, whether it`s Iowa or wherever.

In the -- when we`re there in the press area, when Trump talks about immigration, it`s often the biggest applause line. So now, as there`s a new reports of -- a little more of a peak coming on in immigration and Fox is talking about it in the language that you showed in those clips, that`s not -- that doesn`t sound good for Trump. I mean, Trump came into office promising to knock down immigration, to get control of it. The first few months, he was praised and he was praising DHS for lowering numbers calling 60%. Well, there is a big difference from then to now where numbers are going back up. Fox is criticizing the fact that more immigrants are coming and in a way, that makes him look weak and it`s not something that he is necessarily going to want to see.

Now, he`s going to say that, I`m the one who can fix this again. But if he does not, I think it could be a cause of big problem for him.

WILLIAMS: Yes, what tells me we`re going to hear a lot more about those northbound caravans on their way here. Jill Colvin, Franco Ordonez, thank you both so much for participating in our conversation.

Coming up, a conversation about news in the age of Trump when we continue.

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WILLIAMS: Sinclair Broadcast Group, the largest group station owner in television, thus the largest broadcaster of its kind in the U.S., has been forced to react tonight after a devastating collection of video from their stations around the country. It shows their anchors forced to read word for word a promotional script criticizing fake news, in this case, the folks at Deadspin connected the dots and all the sound.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JESSICA HEADLEY, FOX SAN ANTONIO ANCHOR: Hi, I`m Fox San Antonio`s Jessica Headley.

RYAN WOLF, FOX SAN ANTONIO ANCHOR: And I`m Ryan Wolf. Our greatest responsibility is to serve --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our treasure value communities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The El Paso-Las Cruces communities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Eastern Iowa communities.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mid-Michigan communities.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are extremely proud of the quality, balanced journalism that CBS 4 News produces.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, we are concerned about the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Plaguing our country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: To a lot of folks, it looked and sounded like propaganda but Sinclair is defending themselves today saying they "find it curious that we would be attacked for asking our news people to remind their audiences that unsubstantiated exist on social media".

Sinclair owns over 190 local stations including 15 NBC affiliates and two- thirds of the stations are in states that went for Trump. Put another way, depending on where you`re watching us tonight, your favorite local news station may indeed be owned by the Sinclair Group. They`ve been criticized in the past, including by the occasional former employee for the segments mandated by corporate that must be aired on their local stations during local news time. That includes a regular segment by former Trump White House official, Boris Epshteyn, at least nine times a week, according to POLITICO.

Trump, this morning, simultaneously defended Sinclair and attacked other networks saying, "So funny to watch fake news networks, among the most dishonest groups of people I have ever dealt with, criticize Sinclair Broadcasting for being biased. Sinclair is far superior to CNN and even more fake NBC, which is a total joke."

For more, we welcome back to our broadcast, Jim Warren, veteran print (ph) journalist, now executive editor of a news startup called NewsGuard, that will rate the veracity of news and information sites. Jim, we should also tell you a scene in Chicago on WGN-TV, one of the key stations that is part of the Sinclair purchase of Tribune Media, which is still getting held up and has not gone through.

So Jim, my bias is big fan of local news, I work in it for 12 years, I watch it religiously every day. When I watch, I`m a consumer. These are my friends telling me the news. What, in your view, is wrong with these instructions coming down from corporate to local anchors?

JIM WARREN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT COLUMNIST: Well, it looks like a coordinated effort to proffer a pro-Trump point of view at the same time that Sinclair is enmeshed in very, very high stakes discussions with the Justice Department to let this deal go through, which includes WGN in Chicago, independent station, meaning it`s not owned by CBS, NBC, ABC or Fox. And it`s the reason that many of these rank-and-file reporters and anchors and producers in all these stations are very, very unhappy.

And we`re not talking about a bunch of reflexive lefties, but we`re talking about people who are part of an important reality that a lot of us folks in the media forget because like Donald Trump, we tend to look at cable news and we forget that these stations are still enormously powerful, huge audiences and are very much trusted. WGN, where I show up on the mornings news sometimes as political pundit, tomorrow morning in the Chicago Market, the third largest, they will have a larger audience between 5:00 and 8:00 a.m. than CNN, MSNBC, Fox, HLN, and CNBC combined. And when the famous network shows like today come on on one-hour tape delays, you know, on the Central Time zone, they will have a larger audience than any of them, too.

So, these are important players in the media landscape.

WILLIAMS: Devil`s advocate, what about the argument that you could hear from the Sinclairs of the world, look, mainstream media and your local affiliated stations, you have casually been tossing off and coloring all your copy over the years with unchecked liberal pablum that`s gotten into your bloodstream to such an extent you can`t hear it in your own voices anymore. You`re just uncomfortable to hear the other side on occasion from our network of stations.

WARREN: Yes, you can make that point of view, and I think in some cases, there might be some truth to it. But boy, when you look at most local stations as you know day to day, the CBS, the NBC, the ABC affiliate, there`s really not much politics at all. It`s pretty much bread and butter, sports, traffic, news and I just don`t think you have that sort of bias.

Now, there were some good points made in a lengthy comment by Scott Livingston, the key (ph) Sinclair executive. But he also failed to address some of the qualms of his own perspective employees and some of his current employees, especially -- including, is should say, anchors who are wondering, why was I forced to make this commentary? Why now? Why in the midst of this wrangling with the Justice Department and they`re certainly not helped in the slightest by the coincidence of the president`s intrusion into this and his sort of intermingling his visceral, politically effective perhaps bashing of the fake news media with his support of Sinclair.

And I suspect if you asked him tonight, name five Sinclair stations, he couldn`t, because Mr. -- as you put it, or his friend, Mr. Rady (ph) put it, the feedback junkie is undoubtedly affixed to the main cable news stations. And I just like to ask him, name one Sinclair station that you love. Name them.

WILLIAMS: On that riddle, our thanks as always to Jim Warren for joining us from Chicago tonight. Jim, it`s always a pleasure.

WARREN: Yes, a pleasure.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. Coming up for us, just what was said today between the bunny and the first lady. We`ll have a look when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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WILLIAMS: Today was the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, but it was so much more. There was the president flanked by the first lady and the aforementioned bunny and the permanently affixed bunny mouth appeared to give the bunny a kind of permanent look of horror, shock, revulsion and surprise all at the same time. Then the president said this, which had some folks wondering if he`d forgotten what the place was called.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want to thank the White House Historical Association and all of the people that worked so hard with Melania, with everybody to keep this incredible house or building or whatever you want to call it because there really is no name for it, it is special. And we keep it in tiptop shape. We call it sometimes tippy-top shape. And it`s a great, great place.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: You know, that feeling you get when you hear someone say something for the first time and you just know in that instant we`ll be hearing about that again? Today`s occasion at the 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue building had that ring to it. Then the president launched into the body of his remarks, remember -- as he speaks, remember as you listen to this, this is for an audience of children who are there with their parents.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Our country is doing great. You look at the economy, you look at what`s happening. Nothing`s ever easy but we have never had an economy like we have right now and we`re going to make it bigger and better and stronger. Our military is now at a level, will soon be at a level that it`s never been before. It`s -- you see what`s happening and you see what`s happening with funding. The funding of our military was so important and so many military people are with us today. So, just think of $700 billion because that`s all going into our military this year.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The bunny in that moment spoke for so many people. The annual Easter Egg Roll is organized and coordinated by the first lady`s office. Melania Trump did not speak to the group at today`s event. She and Kellyanne Conway later did read books to a group of children. President signed some autographs. The children seemed to thoroughly enjoy a spring day on the south lawn of the People`s House, the building where our presidents get to live.

Coming up for us, another Trump cabinet conundrum. What to do about a guy who is getting a ton of bad press but at the same time is a guy who`s doing what the president wants done in the job. More on that when we come back.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, it`s like an F7 keyboard key on compute that`s we, journalists, use. We like to use a shorthand way of describing people to the point when it almost becomes part of their name and official title. If you don`t believe us, ask the embattled EPA administrator, Scott Pruitt. The bad press for him just coming -- kept coming tonight.

For starters, here`s POLITICO, "White house chief of staff John Kelly has considered the firing of, here it is, embattled Environmental Protection Agency chief Scott Pruitt in the coming months as part of a wave of ousters of top officials causing headaches for the president, a senior administration official told POLITICO. Here`s "The Washington Post" also tonight, "Aides to Scott Pruitt last year considered leasing a private jet on a month-to-month basis to accommodate his travel needs, according to current and former agency officials." Post goes on to say, they estimate - - the estimate they got from net jets of $100,000 a month proved prohibitively expensive.

And then there`s this story of the in-effect (ph) high class roaming house condo, where Pruitt had a range to spend the night he`s in Washington for the low, low lodging price of $50 a night. There`s a bad headline and an accompanying bad story on this in the "New York Times" today, "Pruitt had a $50-a-day condo linked to lobbyist. Their client`s project got approved." It`s apparently a plan to expand a pipeline bringing Canadian tar sand oil to the U.S. It looks bad but the EPA says any attempt to draw a link to the two is patently false.

Pruitt has also been criticized for too openly lobbying for Jeff Sessions` job as attorney general. The last word on this goes to the EPA in a statement tonight defending the boss, they point out, "From advocating to leave the Paris accord, working to repel Obama`s Clean Power Plan and cleaning up toxic superfund sites that have been languishing for decades, Administrator Pruitt is focused on advancing President Trump`s agenda of regulatory certainty and environmental stewardship.

And as of just minutes before midnight Eastern Time here, Scott Pruitt is the administrator of the EPA. That`s our broadcast on a Monday evening as we start off a new week here. Thank you so very much for being here with us, and good night from NBC NEWS headquarters here in New York.

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

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