Russia probe casts shadow over Trump WH. TRANSCRIPT: 04/04/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams.

Guests: Peter Baker, Anita Kumar, Mazie Hirono

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: April 4, 2018 Guest: Peter Baker, Anita Kumar, Mazie Hirono

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Up next, there`s new reporting tonight that White House Chief of Staff John Kelly warned EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that the scandals had to end. That`s on "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" and that starts now.

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, the President may feel relief, but he`s not off the hook in the Russia investigation as new questions emerge about him being a subject. And legal advice for Donald Trump is offered up this evening on Fox News.

Plus, what happens when Robert Mueller delivers his report? We`ll ask a powerful member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And reality check, Donald Trump on day 440 learning that enacting policy as President is a lot harder than delivering an applause line on the stump. THE 11TH HOUR on a Wednesday night begins now.

Good evening, once again, from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. I`m Nicole Wallace in for Brian tonight. It`s day 440 of the Trump administration.

The President is spending tonight in friendly territory with one of his key allies on Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy. They attended a dinner with Trump supporters hosted by the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action.

The President made no public appearances today and the bombshell "Washington Post" report confirming that he has been told that he`s a subject of Robert Mueller`s investigation may have something to do with that. That report said the special prosecutor did not consider the President a criminal target at this point, but that does not mean that his status as a subject is permanent or that it`s reason for relief.

Today, the White House was asked about that report.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JONATHAN KARL, NBC NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What was his reaction to learning he is not a subject, or that he is not a target of the special counsel investigation, although he is a subject?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There was no collusion between the President and Russia, so nothing has changed. We know what we did and what we didn`t do so none of this comes as much of a surprise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: "The Washington Post" says the revelation about the President being a subject of the investigation came in early March during negotiations over a possible interview between Donald Trump and Bob Mueller. And it was in early March that we learned about the first signs of problems on Trump`s legal team.

On March 10th, "The New York Times" reported that Trump had approached Bill Clinton`s impeachment lawyer, Emmet Flood. The President responded to that news account with a tweet slamming the paper and praising his own attorneys, John Dowd, Ty Cobb and Jay Sekulow. But Dowd, the main counsel handling the Mueller investigation, left the legal team later in March.

A friend of Donald Trump told "The Washington Post" that Dowd was frustrated when the President ignored his advice to refuse an interview with the special counsel. The President has repeatedly expressed his willingness to talk to Mueller.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, would you still like to testify to special counsel, Robert Mueller, sir?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Sure, I would like to. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you going to talk to Mueller?

TRUMP: I`m looking forward to it, actually.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you be willing to speak under oath to give your version of events?

TRUMP: One hundred percent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And tonight, former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova, who agreed to join Trump`s team and then had to drop out due to conflicts, had this to say about Mueller`s efforts to interview the President and about the Deputy Attorney General supervising the investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH DIGENOVA, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Let`s say this, first of all, about Rod Rosenstein. His conduct from the beginning of this has been a disgrace, legally and every other way. He is an embarrassment to the administration. It is truly too bad that he cannot be fired.

Now, we are told that Mueller wants to interview the President of the United States, who knows nothing, who has been a witness to nothing, who is not a target of the investigation. The President should not agree to an interview. The President should at the most answer written questions in a very limited area, and he should never, ever be interviewed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Too bad about those conflicts, those two seem like a match made in heaven.

With us tonight, Carol Leonnig, Political Investigations Reporter for "The Washington Post." Jeremy Bash, Former Chief of Staff at the CIA and Pentagon, also Former Counsel to the House Intelligence Committee. And Chuck Rosenberg, Former U.S. Attorney and Former Senior FBI Official. All three, lucky for us, are MSNBC Contributors.

Let me start with you, Chuck, because you and I haven`t spoken since Carol`s bombshell report with her colleague, Robert Costa, dropped a little more than 24 hours ago. But I want to ask you about this notion that people aligned with the President are saying publicly and privately, John Dowd, who was the President`s lawyer reportedly left in part over a disagreement about this, that no one even on the President`s side thinks that the President can be trusted to survive an interview with Bob Mueller.

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, Nicole, he can be -- he can survive it if he tells the truth. I mean, at least --

WALLACE: I guess the point is nobody thinks he`s capable of telling the truth.

ROSENBERG: -- well, he seems to have struggled with that in the past. This is not a place where you walk in and make stuff up. For a whole bunch of reasons, including the fact that if you happen to be under oath, it can be perjury. And even if you`re not under oath, Nicolle, you could be guilty of a different felony, making false statements to the FBI in the course of their investigation.

So, I could understand why some people wouldn`t want their client going in under those circumstances, and frankly, this is a hard call for good attorneys when they have clients who are cooperative and listening. And that does not seem to be the case here.

WALLACE: Chuck, let me ask you about something you and I have talked about off of television. Let me put you on the spot on television. Just because somebody is a subject at one hour doesn`t mean that their status couldn`t change and that they couldn`t become a target at another hour. Is there some concern that there`s something that could transpire in the course of an interview that could change the President`s status?

ROSENBERG: Well, sure. So he could admit truthfully, which seems unlikely, his role in certain events, including an obstruction of justice. Or you can just become a target having been a subject because the prosecutors and investigators learn more about you as time rolls on. These are all categories in which -- and in which people do and can shift, right.

The fact that you`re a subject one day, Nicolle, certainly doesn`t mean you can`t be a target the next. That can come out of your own mouth or it can come out of the mouth of other witnesses.

WALLACE: Jeremy Bash, let me read you something a former federal prosecutor told me today. He said, Mueller`s report, which in legal circles seemed to be, in Carol`s piece which was chock full of bombshells, seemed to be the one that more former DOJ officials, former prosecutors, were talking about today. The revolution that Bob Mueller will deliver a report about the President`s conduct in office, potentially about obstruction of justice.

This former federal prosecutor said to me, "Mueller`s report doesn`t preclude Mueller from indicting literally everyone else around the President, but Trump will be dealt with just like Ken Starr dealt with President Clinton. The report puts the impeachment process in motion." Do you agree with that assessment?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Absolutely, Nicolle. I think a report from a special counsel is, in effect, a roadmap for impeachment and removal from office. And that does not in any way prohibit the special counsel from bringing criminal charges against an array of other individuals close to the President.

I think, you know, for several months now we`ve sort of been thinking about a report as potentially a private report, that maybe only Rod Rosenstein would see. But I think the reality is if the President is a subject of a criminal investigation, if his conduct is being investigated by Bob Mueller and Bob Mueller comes out with a comprehensive, narrative report, then I think Rod Rosenstein is going to come under a tremendous amount of pressure to not only share it with Congress but share it with the American people.

WALLACE: Carol Leonnig, first, congratulations on this report. I watch you on this program last night and spoke to your colleague, Robert Costa on our program at 4:00 today. But I want to ask you about -- you had very detailed analysis from what seemed like people in the know. Former U.S. attorneys with very nuanced analysis of what the decision to interview witnesses, not in front of the grand jury, might mean and about whether or not it was Bob Mueller`s intention to present the obstruction of justice case in the form of a report where it pertained to the President all along. Can you flesh out that legal theory for us a little bit tonight?

CAROL LEONNIG, POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST." So we`ve talked to a lot of people over the last several months, really, about the issue of a report. And I have to say, Nicolle, it`s been one of these vexing qualities of reporting where you have not enough to report, you think you`re on to something, you keep hearing the word "report," and you just don`t know whether or not it`s real or not, or if it`s gossip or scattershot. In this instance, we felt that we had enough people who were hearing it from Mueller`s own lips or from the lips of people on his team that there was a plan to write a report about specifically the President`s actions and alleged obstruction of justice.

And back to your question about the legal sort of standards here, most of the legal experts we`ve spoken to, including U.S. attorneys, strongly doubt that Mueller will charge a sitting President with a crime, if he ever were to have evidence of such a crime. That he will be guided instead by Justice Department Office of Legal Counsel Opinions, both in 1973 and in 2000, which say that a sitting President is immune from prosecution, criminal prosecution. And that Mueller, if he finds evidence that rises to the level of criminal prosecution, or even is just incredibly worrisome, will put all of that in a report and will ultimately kick this to the political process. The other branch of government to handle because the Justice Department, again, under this legal finding, is not able to prosecute a sitting President.

WALLACE: Chuck Rosenberg, let me ask you about that sound that we played at the top of the show. That was Joe diGenova. He was a candidate to be added to the President`s legal team about the time that if he sort of wind back the clock based on Carol and Robert Costa`s reporting, it would be about the time John Dowd would have informed the President that he`d learned from the special counsel that he was a subject, not simply a witness, in the investigation.

Could we unpack some of the reasons that we now -- become pretty clear why Mr. DiGenova, and his wife, who represents Mark Corallo, who was a one-time spokesperson for the President`s legal team, who walked out the door, said he would have nothing to do with the team after he thought there was a directive from Hope Hicks and perhaps higher up to lie, to craft a statement aboard Air Force One that amounted to a lie about Don Jr.`s meetings with Russians? And I ask you this because Carol`s reporting brings the obstruction of justice case back into the spotlight. We talk alternatively about the collusion case and the obstruction of justice case.

Watching that clip of Joe diGenova would, we know what kind of approach he would have taken. But if you could just speak to the President being a subject and the President not able to be represented by someone who represents potentially a witness in the investigation of the President perhaps is obstructing justice.

ROSENBERG: Right, it seems to be a classic conflict, Nicolle. A single lawyer can`t represent two people who might have opposing interests or opposing views in the same matter. If they`re representing Mark Corallo, and they appear to be, Joe diGenova and his wife and Mark turns out to be a witness against the President, then diGenova should not also be representing the President.

He`s getting information from two people that would be contradictory and conflicting. And so clear conflict. I think it makes good sense that Mr. diGenova is not in the case anymore based on what I heard him say in that clip.

It seems like the type of attorney that the President might like to have on his side. That said, he can`t. It`s a conflict, and he has to just represent one person.

WALLACE: And, Jeremy, it seems he`s been working his own way around those conflicts by just giving the President advice where he knows he`ll have the President`s undivided attention, on Fox News. But I traveled back in time because another thing that happened during this period where we know, thanks to Carol`s reporting, he was learning that he was a subject of the investigation was that they reached out to Ted Olson. Ted Olson, a highly regarded figure not just in conservative legal circles but across the ideological spectrum.

Ted Olson, it`s my understanding, said that he would have nothing to do with representing Donald Trump. He`s since appeared on this network saying there`s too much chaos for this to be good for anyone. But it just illustrates the schizophrenia to have talked to Joe diGenova one day, who had the approached we just illustrated for all of our viewers, and Ted Olson the next, and to be incapable of recruiting either man onto his team, speaks to the ongoing problem of the President really having a one-man legal operation.

BASH: Yes. And the President`s going to need some legal heft here because if he tries to oppose Bob Mueller`s request for an interview, Bob Mueller could go to the grand jury and get a subpoena for the President to testify. I think what would ensue would be essentially a legal battle between the Department of Justice and the Special Counsel and the President`s legal team over when and where the President will be required to give testimony. Of course in the Clinton Ken Starr investigation they ended up doing it in the White House and there was closed circuit television.

You know, I think this would be a running gun battle, a legal battle between the Jay Sekulows of the world and Bob Mueller. I put my money on Bob Mueller here and I think, you know, the Trump team may have thought that they might have had to take this all the way to the Supreme Court, which is why they might need to find an appellate lawyer like Ted Olson, but of course Ted Olson said no.

WALLACE: Carol Leonnig, we heard from Sally Yates tonight, it was interviewed by our friend, Matt Apuzzo, at Georgetown Law School.

Let`s listen to that and talk about this on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SALLY YATES, FORMER ACTING ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think it would be a huge problem for our country if he fired Director Mueller. We`re not talking about some, you know, tangential issue here. We`re talking about the issue as to a foreign adversary`s attack on our democracy. And who was involved in that, if anyone, in the Trump campaign or the President himself. You know, those are issues we need to get to the bottom of.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Do you have any sense, Carol Leonnig, from your reporting and really taking our knowledge as a viewing public to the next level and understanding that the President is not merely a witness in the Russia investigation, or the obstruction of justice probe, he is a subject, which is not as bad as being a target, but he is a subject. Do you have any sense of the President`s state of mind or the people closest to him when it comes to Bob Mueller`s status?

We heard Joe diGenova say tonight that they basically are stuck with Rosenstein, they can`t fire him, but they do call him a disgrace. And the President himself has attacked Bob Mueller on Twitter, an uptick of outcries since your reporting or perhaps since they became aware of it. What`s your sense of sort of the state of mind of the President and his legal team vis-a-vis Rosenstein and Mueller?

LEONNIG: So the President`s frustration level has been, you know, kind of like a roller coaster for the last 14 months. Up very high, spiking, taking a break, spiking again. And his frustration, according to the people that are close to him and even some of his advisers, legal advisers, is that, "How can I be President when every single headline every week is about whether or not I am legitimately the President? Whether or not the Russians essentially inserted me into the White House because of their efforts to interfere in this election?"

I don`t think I`m overstating his level of anger at the idea that he`s an illegitimate candidate. He hates that notion and finds it infuriating, because he doesn`t believe he did collude with the Russians. Whether or not any of his campaign allies did, they clearly had a lot of contact with some interesting Russians. Whether or not they were engaged in a conspiracy to defraud our government, we`ll see.

But what we have reported over the last several months makes clear that the President still views this investigation itself as illegitimate and has said privately to his aides that he wishes he could fire Rosenstein, that he wishes he could fire Mueller, he wishes this would end. I think it was in February, you must forgive me on my memory of the dates, last night feels like last year.

WALLACE: It`s been a blur for you, I`m sure.

LEONNIG: But if my memory serves, in February the President was speaking about -- maybe it was January, the Nunes memo. Again, if anyone remembers that, he was discussing the Nunes memo as something that would soften the ground and make it possible to have people realize that Rosenstein was doing a terrible job managing the Justice Department and the FBI and probably needed to go. So again, is he obstructing justice? Or has he just lost his composure about an investigation he thinks is unfair?

WALLACE: We`re over time. And I`m going to break some rules just to fill in, and let Chuck Rosenberg try to answer that question real question. You`ve got 60 seconds.

ROSENBERG: Well, hard question to answer, Nicolle, I`m not sure I`m going to need all of that time. Look, Carol`s reporting has been great. I think we`re seeing the President`s concerns bubbling to the surface. Whether or not that constitutes obstruction, gives us some evidence of his state of mind, perhaps, but I think it really remains to be determined.

I`m as curious as anyone else to see where it goes from here, Nicolle.

WALLACE: Thank you for that. I`m going to give Jeremy Bash your last 30 seconds, go.

BASH: Well, I think there is a conspiracy to meet with Russians, to talk to them, and to plan to get dirt on Hillary Clinton. That`s been established in multiple ways. I think the only real question is, did the President know about it? And I think the idea that Don Jr. held this meeting and didn`t tell his father about it, I think really strains credulity.

WALLACE: You`re all so amazing, you got me in trouble. Carol Leonnig, Jeremy Bash, and Chuck Rosenberg, thank you so much for starting us off like that.

Coming up, Donald Trump unleashed, now delivering on his iconic go-to stump lines from the campaign trail but finding it`s not as easy as he thinks.

Speaking of which, here comes his next-best option to the wall, troops on the southern border, as soon as tonight. "The 11th Hour" just getting started on a Wednesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: As far as Syria is concerned, our primary mission in terms of that was getting rid of ISIS. We`ve almost completed that task. And we`ll be making a decision very quickly, in coordination with others in the area, as to what we`ll do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re inclined to pull the troops out?

TRUMP: I want to get out. I want to bring our troops back home. I want to start rebuilding our nation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: That was President Trump on Tuesday saying he wants U.S. troops out of Syria. But today, the White House said the United States would remain in Syria despite those remarks.

And NBC News reports President Trump "reluctantly agreed in a meeting with his national security team Tuesday to keep U.S. troops in Syria for an undetermined period of time to defeat is."

One senior administration official said, "He wasn`t thrilled about it to say the least."

This, as "The Washington Post" tonight has a new report on Trump`s campaign promises running into difficulties. The report says Trump is returning to gut-level basics that got him elected, but "at every front he has faced resistance from within his own coalition. Immigration hawks have been infuriated by his inability to build the border wall. Many military leaders and foreign policy strategists have been alarmed by his promise to remove troops from Syria. And Republicans on Capitol Hill have protested the rising signs of a trade war with China."

Joining us now, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," Peter Baker and Anita Kumar, White House correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers.

Peter, let`s start first with this news today that there was a real struggle with the President, that the national security team -- usually what reporters like yourself who cover White Houses like the one in which I worked unearth is that there`s a divide within a President`s national security team. What was reported today by NBC News and others is that the struggle was between the national security team and the President. And they had to convince him about the strategic importance and the national security imperatives of leaving troops in Syria. So, pretty stunning turn of events.

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it is, you`re right. It is striking, absolutely. And it`s been keeping with things we`ve seen now for almost 14, 15 months in which the President has tried to reconcile his campaign promises with the advice he`s getting from the national security team he`s put around him.

Look back at the Afghanistan decision, whether to put troops -- to keep troops there or not, whether to put more troops there. Look at the decision as to whether or not to cancel the Iran nuclear deal. His staff tried to find ways to push that off. That still may happen. But for the moment they`ve kept him from making what they thought would be a precipitous decision.

Look at his promise to cancel NAFTA. They convinced him to negotiate instead. They have moderated some of the tariff threats that he made on steel and aluminum, for instance.

So the Syria thing you`re seeing is part of a larger duality we have detected. We talked about that on your earlier program today, between the President and his national security staff. Russia being the obvious other example.

And it`s a question of how long that can continue. Whether John Bolton now coming in as his National Security Adviser will be more in touch with the President and more able to execute the vision that the President has articulated, even if his own national security staff doesn`t agree with it.

WALLACE: And, Anita, I guess the contradiction between Donald Trump, who`s so attracted to the alpha aspects of the job being undermined, what he wants to do as commander-in-chief was overruled, he was backed down from his public statement, I guess, it was a Quad-Lat (ph), he made those comments in the east room in response to a question from Steve Holland from Reuters about Syria. And that 24 hours later, his national security team had backed him down from something he`d already announced publicly. How sustainable is it for the President to be undermined by the reality and the impossibility of that which he states publicly?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPER: Right. I mean, I think we`re going to see this continuing to happen. You`re talking about -- you know, "The Washington Post" was talking about him unleashed. I mean, the more he`s confident and emboldened to just kind of say what he wants to do and just talk about it without consulting people, without having a real discussion about it, we`re going to see this happen over and over again.

You know, we saw that a lot this week with immigration. He`s been tweeting about it for three days. And it`s clear that the staff was not ready for whatever plan he had, if he had a plan.

Now, suddenly here we are talking about sending the National Guard to the border. And, clearly, they were not ready for that and they didn`t have that in place. So, you know, I mean, it`s only hurting him, his own, you know, staff, and undermining exactly what he does want to do. So I don`t know how sustainable it is but I think we`re going to continue to see it happen.

WALLACE: And, Peter, just another example I think today. We know the President likes to watch cable news. When the President launches a -- what sounds like and looks like to the markets a trade war, even Fox News watches the market tumble.

Larry Kudlow went out and spoke to our own Kristen Welker and tried to clean up the President`s remarks on that. Let`s watch and talk about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is it possible that these stiff new tariffs against China are, in fact, a negotiating tactic and won`t go into effect?

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR OF THE ECONOMIC COUNCIL: Yes, it`s possible. It`s part of the process. I mean, I would take the President seriously on this tariff issue.

You know, there are carrots and sticks in life. But he is ultimately a free trader. He said that to me, he said it publicly. So he wants to solve this with the least amount of pain.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Peter Baker, I`m sure someone on Twitter will fact check me but I have never heard Donald Trump say "I am a free trader," have you?

BAKER: Well, he says from time to time, I believe in free trade. But it has to be reciprocal trade. He always qualifies it. You know, free trade --

WALLACE: That`s not what Larry Kudlow said. Larry Kudlow said, he is a free trader. And the Republican Party used to be for free trade but Donald Trump isn`t.

BAKER: -- look, the truth is with Donald Trump you can probably find him saying a lot of different things on almost any different issue and, you know, point to that particular moment. The most consistent thing he has said, of course, is that the free trade agreements of the last quarter century or so have been bad for the country, have been poorly negotiated, and that he plans to rip them up or change them to the benefit of the United States. Not exactly the message that Larry Kudlow was sending today.

Larry Kudlow was trying to reassure our trading partners, trying to kind of tamp down the idea that this is going to be kind of a global conflict over trade. And there`s something to Kristen`s question which goes back to what we were just saying a minute ago. Is his talk about, you know, ripping up the Iran deal, ripping up NAFTA, pulling out of Syria, how much of this is intentionally maximized in order to, you know, gain advantage in negotiation in which his, you know, good cop/bad cop staff pulls him back from some seemingly extreme version of events to something more tenable that the allies and other partners have to meet him more in the middle? That`s an interesting question that I don`t know that we really have a good answer to.

WALLACE: Anita, I`m going to give you the last word and ask you to answer this. How much of this is a throw out a Bush-era word, strategery? Donald Trump sees the base suiting message of I`m for protectionism. I`m against trade, which is exactly what a lot of his working-class base wants to hear. But when the Republicans on Capitol Hill lose their mind, Larry Kudlow comes out, when the markets lose their minds, comes out, tries to soothe the waters.

Who`s Donald Trump in the end going to side with?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY COMPANY: I mean, yes. I mean, he is trying to soothe the waters but Donald Trump hasn`t backed down on the tariffs at all. I mean, we just haven`t heard that from him.

I don`t know. I mean, I really do believe he believes some of these things. He, you know, made these promises and, you know, talking to people that are close to him, talking to people in the White House. There`s nothing more important to him than keeping those promises, or at least looking like he`s keeping those promises.

So he said he`d do these things. He wants to do them. And so, yes, he is appealing to his base and he wants to do that. And, you know, it`s more I think just -- saying that he can do these things. I mean, the DHS secretary was at the White House today and said something so interesting which we`ve talking about this situation at the border. She said, if we knocked down a piece of the wall or the security, border security that`s already there and we build something new there, then that`s Donald Trump`s wall. And he delivered on his campaign promise.

So, I mean, they`re doing what they need to do to fulfill some of those promises.

WALLACE: Just making things true, one day at a time. Peter Baker and Anita Kumar keeping track of all of it for us. Thank you so much.

Up next, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee joins us next to discuss what that Mueller report on the President`s conduct in office could mean for President Trump and whether it might represent the early phase of a potential impeachment process. "THE 11TH HOUR" back after this.

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WALLACE: More now on what we`re learning about a pending report from the Special Counsel`s Office. An opinion piece in today`s Washington Post by Greg Sargent highlights its importance writing, "Mueller is planning a report on Trump`s conduct, particularly as it relates to actions on his part that could constitute obstruction of justice." The piece then poses this question, "Will Mueller`s findings ever get released in some form? Most likely yes, but there are some very unpleasant scenarios that could intervene, including the very real possibility that Congressional Republicans will do all they can to keep Mueller`s report under wraps. In the end, the information will land in the House and Senate Judiciary Committees."

Joining us now is Senator Mazie Hirono, a Democrat from Hawaii. She is a member of the Senate Judiciary Committees as well as the Armed Services Committee. Thank you so much. I was going to say for staying up with us that it`s not that late for you. Thank you for being here with us.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D), HAWAII: It`s good to be here with you, Nicolle.

WALLACE: Let me ask you first about this Washington Post report and about the revolution in that report that Bob Mueller does plan on producing and delivering a report on the President`s conduct in office. How concerned are you that that could contain details of the President obstructing justice?

HIRONO: Well, I`d like to know whether the President obstructed justice. I`d like to know what the Russians did and continue to do to interfere with our elections. I`d like to know what the -- President Trump and his team had to do with the Russian efforts. So I would like to know all these things and I think the public deserves to know what`s in the Mueller report once he issues it and once his investigation is completed.

WALLACE: If you look at the recent history of at least one committee, I`m thinking of the House Intel Committee. They`ve essentially functioned as a political arm for the President, releasing their memo on the Russia investigation over the grave concerns of the President`s own appointee, the director of the FBI, Christopher Wray. What is your degree of concern about whether or not you`ll be able to see the report and whether or not you`ll be able to share Bob Mueller`s findings with the public?

HIRONO: Well, I certainly will be among those who call for the public to know exactly what happened and to see the substance of the report. So my hope is that, in the Judiciary Committee that Chuck Grassley, our chairman, would be just as concerned and would support the release of the report so that the public can know what the heck happened.

WALLACE: H.R. McMaster, the President`s fired national security adviser, becomes the latest outgoing Trump official to ingest some truth serum and sound a far more frightening alarm bell about Russia and the fact that the Russians have not paid enough of a price for their role in meddling in 2016. Do you have confidence that the President has permitted his national security team to do the things they need to do to protect our elections? Or do you worry that testimony from the FBI director, from the head of the NSA, the remarks from H.R. McMaster are sort of cries for help and signals to people like yourself that we are not getting ourselves on a war footing for Russia`s potential intervention in 2018?

HIRONO: I don`t think we have a coherent strategy that involves the various departments that have something to do with responsibility for getting to the bottom of what the Russians are doing. So that would include Homeland Security, the Secretary of State, the Department of Defense.

And so, some of these people have come before both my Judiciary Committee as well as the Armed Services Committee. And I and others have asked, so, you know, what is your role in making sure that we have a way to prevent Russia continuing to interfere with our elections? And there are all kinds of, well, that`s really not our piece. But they each have a piece and there`s no coherent strategy to counter what the Russians are doing. And this is why the Mueller investigation is so critical to get into the bottom of what the Russians did and what the President and his team did.

WALLACE: Of course. And Bob Mueller has already indicted 13 Russians, ending the debate about whether or not they committed crimes in 2016.

HIRONO: Yes. Although I think the President is still in denial on that score.

WALLACE: I agree with you. Senator Mazie Hirono, thank you for spending time with us, we`re grateful.

HIRONO: Thank you.

WALLACE: Coming up, EPA boss Scott Pruitt survived the growing number of scandals around him. You`ll hear what the White House said about that today when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The President promised to drain the swamp. His behavior has actually seemed very swamp-like. Why is the President OK with this?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: the President now were reviewing the situation. When we have had the chance of a deeper dive on it, we`ll let you know the outcomes of that. But we`re currently reviewing that here at the White House.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: White House says President Trump is not OK with the growing list of controversies surrounding EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. He`s come under fire for renting a D.C. apartment at a steeply discounted rate from the wife of an energy lobbyist.

Pruitt said it was temporary until he found a permanent residence but the Washington Post reports tonight Pruitt didn`t have a fixed address for a month after he left, and spent many of the following weeks traveling with his round the clock security detail. He also faces backlash after two close aides received big pay raises. Pruitt claims he had no idea. Here he was on FOX NEWS.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED HENRY, FOX NEWS NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, if you`re committed to the Trump agenda, why did you go around the President and the White House and give pay raises to two staffers --

SCOTT PRUITT, ADMINISTRATOR, EPA: I did not. My staff did and I found out about that yesterday and I changed it.

HENRY: Both these staffers who got large pay raises are friends of yours, I believe from Oklahoma, right?

PRUITT: They are staffers here in the agency.

HENRY: Then they are -- they are friends of yours?

PRUITT: Well, they serve a very important person.

HENRY: And you didn`t know that they got these large pay raises?

PRUITT: I did not know that they get the pay raises until yesterday.

HENRY: OK. One of them got a pay raise of, let`s see, $28,000, the other $56,000. Do you know what the medium income in this country is?

PRUITT: No. What is it?

HENRY: $57,000 a year.

PRUITT: OK.

HENRY: So one of your friends from Oklahoma got a pay raise that`s the medium income --

PRUITT: They did not get a pay raise.

HENRY: They did.

PRUITT: No, they did not. I stopped that yesterday.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Joining us now Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post and an MSNBC Political Analyst and Charlie Sykes, long-time Conservative Radio Host, Author, and MSNBC Contributor, and a man like myself without a country.

Let me start with you, Charlie Sykes, I`m going to resist the temptation to say swamp, swampy, swampier, swampiest. But get in here on this Scott Pruitt scandal.

CHARLIE SYKES, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you know, I won`t resist the temptation because the swamp keeps getting swampier. You know, this is a president who surrounds himself with a lot of grifters. So, you know, there`s a pattern here.

Look, there`s no question that, you know, this is the kind of behavior that we`ve seen so common within this administration. But I suspect that Pruitt might survive because, number one, what he`s doing is so central to the Trump agenda. The President sees him as effective. He`s popular with the conservative base. He`s getting air cover from conservative media.

You know, and in what alternative universe do we think that Donald Trump is going to hold members of his cabinet to a strict standard of ethical probity. You know, I`ve often thought that if it wasn`t for the Russia investigation, we would be talking about the kleptocracy, the self-dealing, the nepotism, the use of government power to enrich themselves. But, you know, this is the new normal here in the Trump swamp.

WALLACE: Eugene, and-but, you could say all those things about Jeff Sessions, the base loves him. He`s enacting big chunks of the President`s agenda, all those immigration policies are popular with the base. I wonder if you think that tonight`s interview on FOX NEWS where we`re sure that the President saw it, was sort of a dance for your life moment for EPA, for Pruitt?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it was kind of a dance for your life move. And, you know, that interview I think was not good for Pruitt. Look, Ed Henry was really, really pressing him. And I think Trump doesn`t like to be embarrassed that way and have cabinet members embarrass him.

Now, you know, on the one hand. He`s torn, obviously, because on the one hand, Scott Pruitt is the creature from the black lagoon. So I`ll go to the swamp thing too. But on the other hand, he is one of the most effective members of the trump cabinet. He`s just -- left and right, he`s gotten the EPA out of the business of fighting climate change, which many people believe as an existential threat to the planet. He is working on clean water rules now, getting rid of fuel economy standards.

All of this is stuff that I, you know, I think is just awful and horrible, in my opinion, but it is part of the Trump agenda and it`s what the President wants him to do and he`s doing it very effectively. So I think the president will be torn, nut he`s not going to stand much more of that sort of thing on FOX NEWS.

WALLACE: All right. With all those swamp references, these guys are stuck with me now till the end. Coming up, if he can`t get the wall, why not send troops? "THE 11TH HOUR" back after this.

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WALLACE: President Trump signed a proclamation tonight directing the National Guard to be deployed to the southern border. This action came a day after Trump surprise reporters of the seemingly off-the-cuff announcement about military involvement. And today, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said "members of the National Guard could arrive as soon as tonight."

Eugene and Charlie are back with me to talk about it. Now, the most interesting thing to me about today`s briefing was that neither Sarah Huckabee Sanders nor Secretary Nielsen would deny that the President was inspired to do this after watching FOX NEWS. Charlie, surprise or should I stop being surprised by that?

SYKES: I think we should stop being surprised by that. Look, he`s definitely afraid by the way of also making Ann Coulter mad at him. And so, you know, for about five minutes he was trying to pretend he didn`t get rolled on the wall. Then he spends the weekend with people like Steven Miller, and Lou Dobbs, and Sean Hannity, and then Ann Coulter gets mad at him. And he realizes he has to do something.

Look, it`s the one constant in this erratic shambolic presidency which is that, he does not get crosswise with his base. And they`re telling him, look, you know, even in that presidency would nothing matters, this matters. You have to look tough.

If you go all squishy on this, you will disillusion your base. There will be these former Trumpers. And I think that you see that playing out. But I think there`s no question with the timeline. He is sitting there, you know, in the White House, watching Fox News, hears about these caravans, thinks he`s got to look tough, he`s got to look strong. He knows he doesn`t have a wall so now we`re going to have national guardsmen down on the border.

WALLACE: Eugene, I know this will ruin your night, but it might ruin the President`s. Let me confront you with some facts from the New York Times report on the topic. While the President couched his ideas and urgent response to an onslaught on the nation`s southern borders, the numbers do not point a crisis. Last year, the number of illegal immigrants caught at the border was the lowest since 1971" said the United States Border Patrol, not exactly part of the resistance.

What do you make of the collision between, I don`t know, the mirage or the propaganda that he sees on FOX NEWS and the reality of one of the -- what you would presume would be one of the most important agencies in a Donald Trump presidency?

ROBINSON: Well, those two things have never been on the same planet, have they, Nicolle? I mean, they`re just not in the same reality.

Look, you know, Barack Obama had mobilized the National Guard to go to the border. George W. Bush did the same thing. They did it at moments when there was particular pressure on border. There is no such particular pressure on the border now. It`s all about the wall or the lack of a wall to tell you the truth.

In fact, the lack of a single foot of wall having been built other than those demonstration walls that he built in California. And he`s -- and Ann Coulter has just been picking on him and he had to do something.

WALLACE: Who`s afraid of the big bad Ann Coulter? Charlie, let me get you on the record on the big story of the day, this news that Bob Mueller is preparing a report specifically on the President`s conduct. It syncs up with reporting that I`ve heard and other news organizations have heard, that current and former White House staffers in their interview with Bob Mueller`s investigators have been pressed specifically about the President`s conduct.

Do you see these efforts to shore up the base by sending troops to the border when he couldn`t build a wall at the border all as an effort to sort of gird them for what he fears may be coming down in the near future from Bob Mueller?

SYKES: Well, that`s certainly part of it. And, look, you know, I know that some people are imagining this is good news, you know, the president is not a target. But there are three things you can be. You can either be a target, a subject or a witness. What we found out is that he`s not a witness. He is a subject, which is pretty close to being a suspect. He`s under investigation.

We know that the special prosecutor is now going to issue a series of reports. That takes you back to the Ken Starr era. Remember, Ken Starr did not indict Bill Clinton. He came up with a report that led to impeachment. You know, all of this, you know, continues to this pattern of getting closer and closer, and now the big question is, you`ve been talking about this all day, will the President will be so arrogant that he will sit down, you know, with Bob Mueller? Will he actually ignore his smarter lawyers and go into that situation because what can possibly go wrong?

WALLACE: Let me ask you to try to answer that, Eugene.

ROBINSON: You know, well, you know, it`s unclear to me that he will actually have a choice. I mean, he is the president so he can say no. Ultimately, Bob Mueller, if he won`t agree to sit down with Bob Mueller and Mueller really wants him, he can get a grand jury subpoena and seek to compel the President to appear.

And then, you know, there could be a court battle over that, whether the President has to speak. You know, I hope it doesn`t go all the way there. But Mueller has a lot of cards in this fight, and so it`s not clear to me that the President absolutely could avoid sitting down with Mueller if he really wand to.

WALLACE: There`s a whole lot of cards, that`s the understatement of the hour, thank you Eugene, thank you Charlie. A quick break for us, THE 11TH HOUR back right after this.

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WALLACE: That`s our broadcast for tonight. We hope to see you at 4:00 p.m. Eastern tomorrow right here on MSNBC. And then back again at 11:00, thank you for being with us and goodnight from NBC News headquarters in New York.

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

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