NYT: Trump tried to fire Mueller in Dec. TRANSCRIPT: 04/10/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Mimi Rocah, Michael Avenatti, Charlie Sykes

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: April 10, 2018 Guest: Mimi Rocah, Michael Avenatti, Charlie Sykes

NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC ANCHOR: Breaking tonight, is the President starting to make his public case to fire Robert Mueller? The White House Press Secretary claims for the very first time today that the President has been advised that he has the authority to do so.

Also breaking tonight, "The New York Times" reveals that Donald Trump wanted Mueller out back in December. It`s the second time that we know of that the President sought to shut down the investigation. One of the reporters who broke that story is here.

Plus, news that Stormy Daniels, the porn star paid off by the President`s lawyer, is now cooperating with the Feds just one day after the FBI raided the office of Trump`s attorney. Michael Avenatti, Stormy Daniels` lawyer, joins us live. THE 11TH HOUR begins right now.

Good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. I`m Nicolle Wallace in for Brian. It`s day 446 of the Trump administration. And "The New York Times" reports tonight that the President wanted Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation shut down in December. The "Times" reporting tonight, "In early December, President Trump, furious over news reports about a new round of subpoenas from the Office of Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller, told advisers in no uncertain terms that Mr. Mueller`s investigation had to be shut down. The President`s anger was fueled by reports that the subpoenas were for obtaining information about his business dealings with Deutsche Bank, according to interviews with eight White House officials, people close to the President and others familiar with the episode."

"The December episode was the second time Mr. Trump is now known to have considered taking that step. The other instance was in June when the White House Counsel, Don McGahn, threatened to quit unless Mr. Trump stopped trying to get him to fire Mr. Mueller."

Also tonight, "The Associated Press" reports that today Trump "privately pondered firing Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and publicly mused about firing Special Counsel Robert Mueller." Those reports come just hours after we heard this in today`s White House press briefing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he believe he has the power to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, does he believe that`s within his power?

SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He certainly believes he has the power to do so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You say the President believes he has the power to fire Robert Mueller because usually most legal experts believe that he would have to order Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein to fire Mueller and Rosenstein could, of course, refuse.

SANDERS: I know a number of individuals in the legal community, and including at the Department of Justice, that he has the power to do so, but I don`t have any further announcements.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And that came just 24 hours after we heard this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why don`t you just fire Mueller?

TRUMP: Why don`t I just fire Mueller?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just fire the guy.

TRUMP: Well, I think it`s a disgrace what`s going on. We`ll see what happens. But I think it`s really a sad situation when you look at what happened. And many people have said you should fire him.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Those remarks were part of Trump`s angry tirade in the wake of FBI raids Monday at the home and office of his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. As far as we know, those raids are not linked to the Russia investigation but part of a separate investigation referred by Robert Mueller to the U.S. attorney`s office in the Southern District of New York.

Adding to Donald Trump`s ire at his Deputy Attorney General, we learned that Rod Rosenstein personally signed off on the search warrants. Multiple news organizations report that agents were looking to seize documents tied to payments to two women, former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who says she had an affair with Trump in 2006 and was paid $150,000, and porn star Stormy Daniels, who received $130,000 in hush money from Michael Cohen.

NBC News has learned that Stormy Daniels is now cooperating with Federal investigators. Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, is standing by to join us in a few minutes.

But first, let`s bring in our lead-off panel for Tuesday night, Mike Schmidt, "New York Times" Washington Correspondent, who co-wrote tonight`s breaking report. He`s also an MSNBC Contributor. Phil Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post" and an MSNBC Political Analyst. And Jeremy Bash, Former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon. He`s also an MSNBC National Security Analyst.

Mike, let`s start with you and your reporting tonight. Take us through this December episode and just how close the President came to firing Robert Mueller in December.

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES": There are reports out there that Mueller had sent a subpoena to Deutsche Bank, a bank that had long been associated with Trump, saying that Mueller wanted documents directly related to Trump and his family. Obviously Trump has sort of obsessed and the media has obsessed about this so-called red line that he tried to create last summer, saying that if Mueller was looking at his finances beyond the question of Russia, that would have passed it.

If you remember, Trump never said what he would do about that. But when he saw this back in December, he got very angry. I know we talk a lot that the President gets angry, but he got very angry and really wanted to get rid of Mueller and openly discussed it and was putting the pieces in motion to do that.

What happened was is that Trump`s lawyers know where his accounts are. They know where his money is, and they said this did not make sense to them. They were able to get in touch with Mueller`s office and ultimately the President backed down.

But what it shows you is what the President was willing or certainly thinking about doing considering strongly when he knew Mueller had gone after the issue of finances. This is something the President has repeatedly said that Mueller should not do. We pressed him about this when we saw him in July, and it was clearly a trigger issue for him in December.

WALLACE: Well, it`s positively chilling on the same day that the White House Press Secretary makes her first public argument that the President of the United States now believes or is in receipt of some sort of legal analysis from somewhere or someone that he has the power to fire Robert Mueller. It certainly is part of a pattern that is eerily similar to what either Bob Mueller`s investigators or the investigators working for the Southern District of New York would now be in possession of when it comes to Mr. Cohen`s records.

What do you -- you know, you were in the room with your colleagues, Peter Baker and Maggie Haberman. You guys pressed him on that red line. Just tie all that together, the President`s own words about where his red line was, the incident in December that brought him to perhaps the verge of firing Mueller, and what we`ve seen in the last 24 hours in terms of what the FBI may be in possession of now after that seize of Michael Cohen`s home and his office.

SCHMIDT: Well, in terms of Mueller and Sessions and Rosenstein, he`s thought about firing them for a year. The thought of firing them is not new. This is something he has talked about openly. He talks to his friends about it. He talks to his advisers about it.

He certainly thinks a lot about it. He`s even sort of broached the subject publicly, even telling us in July he wouldn`t have made Sessions the Attorney General if he knew he was going to recuse himself.

Obviously we don`t know what the President is going to do. He`s an unpredictable person. Will he fire Mueller? You know, everyone in Washington asks that question. Who knows?

But what I do think we will see here is certainly a more adversarial tone towards Mueller. The President is sort of has had kid gloves a bit toward Mueller, saying in December that he thought Mueller would treat him fairly, following his lawyer`s advice not to attack Mueller that much on Twitter, breaking from that only in recent weeks.

But the President, as we have to remember, still has an interview decision to make about Mueller. Will he willingly sit down and talk to him? And given the recent events, will the President now take a more adversarial tone and say, "OK, Mr. Mueller, you want to talk to me, subpoena me. I don`t think I have to sit down with you. Let`s go to a judge and figure out if that really is the case."

And this could be the beginning of a new phase of that, a new phase of contention towards Mueller, instead of the notion coming from Trump organization or from Trump entities saying, yes, we will comply with subpoenas. Maybe now they`ll fight those subpoenas.

WALLACE: So, we went back and looked at your reporting from the President ordering Don McGahn, his White House counsel, to fire Robert Mueller in July. The White House counsel, Don McGahn, it appeared sort of laid his body down on the tracks and said, "If you do that, I`ll resign."

In the account that you report tonight about the incident in December, it sounds like one of the lawyers representing him in the Mueller probe, perhaps someone like John Dowd, was able to open a line of communication to Mueller`s team and get some reassurance that those news accounts weren`t correct.

By your assessment, who remains on Trump`s legal team who could be any sort of guardrail to prevent what happened in July and what happened in December from resulting in the firing of Robert Mueller?

SCHMIDT: Well, there is really no one, and as we know with the President, he thinks he`s his best lawyer. He thinks he`s his best spokesman, his best strategist, and he has sort of cleared out his lawyers. But he seems to be relying on two people, Jay Sekulow, who came on last year as part of the legal team, someone more versed in constitutional issues than regular white collar criminal issues, but someone that the President has grown to trust.

The other person who`s back in the picture is Kasowitz, Marc Kasowitz, his longtime New York lawyer, who had been fired last summer when Dowd came in. Trump at the time going with sort of a more established Washington white collar lawyer. Now Kasowitz is coming in sort of the scrappy New York lawyer that represented the President in different litigation things.

Kasowitz back last summer, wanted to have a much more adversarial tone towards Mueller, was pushing the President in that direction. Dowd came in, went with something more conciliatory. And I think the President thinks that that nicer, lighter tone with Mueller didn`t get him very far.

WALLACE: Phil Rucker, I`ve include your Twitter feed all by -- you`re tweeting about another lawyer perhaps in the model of a Kasowitz, Alan Dershowitz. Tell us what you learned tonight, and I believe you spoke to him after his interaction with the President. Tell us about it.

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF,"THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes. So, Alan Dershowitz, the retired Harvard Law School professor, who`s a frequent commentator on Fox News, offering legal advice through the television to the President, who is watching. He had dinner at the White House tonight with President Trump.

I caught him on the phone after that dinner, and what he told me was that the dinner was mostly about Middle East policy. He was advising on Syria of all issues with Jared Kushner and other advisers around the table. But when I asked whether they talked about the Russia probe, Dershowitz fell silent. He said, "`m not going to disclose what I talk to the President about," but he made clear that he is not acting as the President`s attorney right now. There`s no attorney-client relationship, and that he`s just offering his advice and will continue to offer his advice but through the television set.

WALLACE: Why?

RUCKER: Well, he said he wanted to come down and see the President. The President invited him for this meeting. He`s offered a lot of very pro- Trump commentary on T.V. about this case and actually was saying -- I talked to him Monday as well, and was saying that he thought it was inappropriate for the U.S. attorney in New York to have ordered these raids, for the FBI to have conducted these raids because so much of that correspondence is privileged information between attorney and client. And I think President Trump must have probably seen some of that commentary and felt it resonated.

WALLACE: Let me ask you, Phil Rucker, to take us through your reporting on the mood in the White House. I heard from someone today that even the very senior West Wing staffers were scared. I had your colleague, Ashley Parker, on at 4:00, who painted a very bleak picture of what`s going on inside the West Wing.

You and your colleagues have some reporting out late today about sort of the staff reaction to that tirade yesterday. Just take us inside what it`s like right now in Donald Trump`s West Wing.

WALLACE: Well, it`s a pretty chilling moment inside the White House and, you know, my colleagues Ashley and a few others and myself have been working with phones for the last two days to try to get a sense of the mood there. There`s a great deal of fear and trepidation. I mean, I think staffers were quite stunned to see the President so openly discuss the possibility of firing Robert Mueller as the special counsel last night in front of the reporters.

And by the way, that was at a military meeting. That was a meeting around the table to discuss a possible Syria strike with the military brass. It was an odd setting for that set of remarks.

But it was really chilling for the staff. They feel like they don`t know what`s coming next. They have very little visibility into the Mueller probe. They don`t know what they`re really looking into with Cohen beyond what they see in media reports, and what they have is a President who`s reacting to what he`s hearing from his friends, who`s reacting to the news reports he sees on television, a President who seems afraid and worried about what`s happening. And it`s an unsettling moment for the White House for sure.

WALLACE: Jeremy Bash, let me give you a two-part question. One, I want you to just take us through the rhetoric that came from the White House Briefing Room today. Your reaction to the White House press secretary saying that it`s her belief that the President has the authority to fire Robert Mueller.

And then I want to read you something from Mike`s colleagues, Julie Davis and Maggie Haberman, who report that inside the White House, Mr. Trump, furious after the FBI raided his longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, spent much of the day brooding and fearful and near what two people close to West Wing described as a "meltdown."

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Nicolle, in terms of the President`s fury, I think it`s not principled. It`s not like he`s offended by the notion of somebody looking into his lawyer`s files. He`s scared. He`s scared that they will find evidence of a crime that implicates him.

And I think he`s lashing out because he worries that for the first time, investigators, Federal investigators might have their hands on e-mails, on phone records, on files that show that he worked with Michael Cohen to undertake illegal acts, whether it was bank fraud, lying to the bank about the nature of the payments to Stormy Daniels, or whatever it is, and we know that Michael Cohen has many files on Donald Trump`s business activities. Donald Trump is worried. It`s the same reason he was worried about Bob Mueller looking at his finances, because he doesn`t want anyone looking at them because there`s clearly something inappropriate there.

And, finally, on Sarah Sanders` rhetoric from the podium, Nicolle, you asked. I thought it was interesting because one of the thing she said when she was pressed, what`s her basis for saying that, you know, the President could dismiss Mueller. She said, well, I have many friends in the legal community and I`ve heard they`ve said.

It`s kind of like, remember when she said I`ve many friends in the FBI, and they all think that James Comey is not doing a very good job. There`s no basis for that. Her friends, I think are her imaginary friends, maybe ones that she learned about from the President.

WALLACE: We`ve all had imaginary friends from time to time in our lives. All right. Mike Schmidt, Phil Rucker, thank you so much for starting us off. Jeremy is staying put.

Coming up, another sign that we`re in uncharted legal territory with this White House. Does the President have the authority to fire Mueller, and is he ready for the fallout?

Also ahead, news tonight that Stormy Daniels, the porn star who received $130,000 from Trump fixer Michael Cohen, is now cooperating with the Feds. Her attorney, Michael Avenatti, joins us live. That`s just minutes away.

"The 11th Hour" is just getting started on a Tuesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does he believe he has the power to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller, does he believe that`s within his power?

SANDERS: He certainly believes he has the power to do so.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s Rod Rosenstein oversees the special counsel, and only he has the power to fire special counsel?

SANDERS: Again, we`ve been advised that the President certainly has the power to make that decision. I can`t go anything beyond that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: The Press Secretary saying the White House has been advised that Donald Trump has the power to fire Bob Mueller. And the President is no longer denying that he`s considered doing just that, but the question remains can he? And what would the fallout look like from Republicans who have been reluctant to stand up to the President on anything?

Joining the conversation now is Mimi Rocah, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now with Pace University School of Law. Jeremy Bash is also still with us.

Jeremy, I`m going to start with you because you and I started this conversation at 4:00. You do not think that the regulations permit for the President to fire a special counsel?

BASH: Well, the regulations make clear that the removal of the special counsel can only be accomplished by the attorney general. In this case, the attorney general is Rod Rosenstein acting in the shoes of Jeff Sessions.

However, since 4:00, I`ve been talking with some legal colleagues, Nicolle.

WALLACE: You did some more homework?

BASH: I did.

WALLACE: That`s why I love you.

BASH: And there is some school of thought that says that because it`s a regulation and not a statute, the President could actually overturn a regulation. He could set in motion basically a way to deregulate that regulation, overturning it and issue, using his executive authorities, a new regulation that essentially says that the President and only the President can remove a special counsel. So, this could be litigated, this could be tossed around. Ultimately, I think it could go to the courts and maybe even Congress.

WALLACE: Let me ask you a broader question about the blow that might represent to our understanding of the rule of law and to the norms of the Justice Department. It is no secret to anyone who follows the President on Twitter that he is in a hot war against his own political appointee as the Justice Department, his own political appointees at the FBI, and now, you know, the U.S. attorney`s office in the Southern District where Mimi used to work. At least it`s interim U.S. attorney, the person he selected to be confirmed to run that office is also someone handpicked by this President.

BASH: Thank you, Nicolle. It`s a great point

And we should never lose sight of the fact that this isn`t merely a President trying to test the limits of his power under the constitution to issue regulations. He`s trying to shut down an investigation of his own illegal conduct. He wants to get rid of somebody who he believes is going to call him on the carpet for doing the worst thing a President can do, which is work with an adversary to undermine American democracy.

So this is no mere deregulation effort by a President looking to limit government. This is much, much bigger, probably the biggest thing we`ve seen in our history.

WALLACE: Well, would the second worst thing be obstruction of justice? Could it also be viewed as obstructing justice?

BASH: It could be. And, again, the question is whether it`s within the President`s power to actually fire someone in the Justice Department investigating a matter. But I think there`s no question that if obstruction is part of the thing that Congress ultimately considers on articles of impeachment or removal from office, this whole episode is going to be right at the hot molten core of that inquiry.

WALLACE: So we are talking about the President talking about firing Bob Mueller based on something that Mueller didn`t do. Bob Mueller, in my view, to protect the integrity of his investigation and to, I think, illustrate that its scope is focused on what Jeremy just talked about, collusion with Russia and potential obstruction of justice, simply did what you do with evidence, right? You refer it to a U.S. attorney`s office.

Can you speak to how vast the amount of possible crimes or sort of the legal liabilities are for all of the people in the President`s orbit that you now have not just a special counsel`s investigation that enrages the President, but you now have the U.S. attorney`s office in the Southern District with a completely separate set of issues and potential crimes they`re investigating?

MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes. This is a big deal, Nicolle, as you`re alluding to. You have the Southern District of New York, which is one of the, you know, preeminent, and I`m not saying that just because I worked there, preeminent U.S. attorney`s offices in the country. It`s known for bringing very complicated, complex --

WALLACE: Terrorism cases.

ROCAH: --aggressive cases against, exactly, all sorts of people, whether it be terrorism, drug dealers, organized crime cases, and public corruption cases. And guess what, those public corruption cases have been brought against Democrats, have been brought against Republicans. It`s not about whose party they`re in. It`s about what crimes they`ve committed.

And it`s not just the U.S. attorney`s office. My understanding from the reporting, and this makes sense given what I know about the U.S. attorney`s office, is that the public corruption squad from the FBI in New York is working on this case with the U.S. attorney`s office as they would normally.

WALLACE: What does that mean about what they seized and what they were looking for in Michael Cohen`s home and his offices?

WALLACE: Well, that`s a very perceptive question because, you know, for most lawyers, cases against -- I mean I did several cases against lawyers and worked on investigations of lawyers who were not the President`s lawyer, who were not affiliated with any public officials. And we most often would not have had the public corruption squad working on those cases. It would have been a separate, like, white collar type of squad more generally.

So, you know, is this designated in the public corruption area because this is a lawyer who is part of -- you know, affiliated with a very public figure, namely the President, or is it in the public corruption squad because they think this might ultimately lead to the President? Probably both, could be both. Could be that the answer to your other question about the range of crimes and what this means, I mean, I think we don`t know yet obviously.

What we do know is that to get the search warrant, they would have had to list specific crimes. You can`t just say, I`m looking for evidence of any crime. You have to say, I`m looking for evidence of these specific crimes, these statutes, and here`s why I think there`s evidence of those crimes in these places.

Once you go in and you get the evidence, though, it`s not like you can only look for evidence of those crimes. If it`s right in front of your face, you know, your investigation expands that way kind of naturally. And my guess is that`s what would happen here is whatever the enumerated crimes are, once they start looking, there`s going to be evidence of other crimes. That`s just my hunch.

WALLACE: Let me put you both through a lightning round. Michael Avenatti is up next. He has been making a case for weeks now that his client, Stormy Daniels, has a strong legal case the NDA she was bound to or the contract she had with Michael Cohen was invalid.

Do you think that his case has become stronger, and what does it say about his case that the FBI has now raided and that`s a very high bar that has to be tasked to raid the President`s attorney`s home and office was passed on Monday?

BASH: The President and his lawyer basically sued Michael Avenatti and his client, and so it`s hard for them to disavow any knowledge of this agreement. That`s ridiculous on it`s face.

As for the actual nexus between what the FBI is looking up by raiding Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels, I think we have to wait to see that they see where the evidence leads us.

WALLACE: Do you agree? Yes or no? ROCAH: I agree. But I think that they`re looking beyond just whether the contract is valid, although it will end up going to that question as well, for example, we may find out more evidence about that threat that she finds happened in the parking lot.

WALLACE: Right, in the parking lot.

ROCAH: And they find out more about that.

WALLACE: All right. Mimi Rocah and Jeremy Bash, thank you so much.

Coming up, Stormy Daniels` attorney, Michael Avenatti, joins us here in the studio when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WALLACE: Welcome back. As we mentioned, Stormy Daniels is cooperating with federal investigators in connection with the broader probe into attorney Michael Cohen. Her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, joins us now.

So it strikes me that you`ve been out there slugging away largely as a one- man P.R. operation against the leader of the free world, his lawyer whose offices and homes have now been raided by the FBI, making points that some people have been skeptical of. But it seems that you`ve been proven to be on to something when it comes to Michael Cohen`s conduct and his lawyering.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: Well, you know, we don`t just file a case like this and go out on a speaking tour without any substance behind this. We`re not just making it up as we go along. So, you know, I will tell you that it`s been nice to see some of these things come to fruition over the last seven to ten days, and it`s been nice to hear a lot of the pundits reverse course and have to acknowledge.

WALLACE: I`m not one of them. I was never there.

AVENATTI: You`re not -- that`s correct. But there were a lot of people that call this, you know, a publicity stunts ant hat my client was in it for the wrong reasons. That`s now proven to be, you know, completely false. But let me say this. I`m used to litigating very high-profile cases against some of the best and the brightest in the United States. I mean lawyers at the top of their field, strategists.

The one thing people ask me, well, what have you been surprised about in connection with this process, this case? And I will tell you it`s not surprise. It`s shock. The level of competition on the other side is pathetic.

WALLACE: So Michael Cohen is a bad lawyer?

AVENATTI: I just don`t get it. I don`t understand. I mean, it is shocking that the president of the United States and even before he was the president of United States, you know, a man who trumpets his wealth and talks about, you know, how great he is at the art of the deal and how great he is at negotiation and business. I don`t understand how you get to that place or this place without people that actually really know what they`re doing. Mr. Trump shouldn`t be in this position. He put himself in this position because he surrounded himself with weak players.

WALLACE: Let me go through some of the developments because we haven`t talked since the President went to the back of Air Force 1 at the end of last week and when he was asked about the payment to your client, Stormy Daniels, he said, you`re going to have to ask Michael Cohen. What was the significance of that statement in terms of your legal case?

AVENATTI: Well, in connection with our case, it`s clear, and that is that you can`t enforce an agreement that you claim you didn`t know anything about. And so when the President basically admitted that he did not know anything about the $130,000 payment, that`s a critical material term of the agreement. What follows is --

WALLACE: So he had to know about it for her to be bound by the NDA with him?

AVENATTI: Absolutely. There`s no question.

WALLACE: OK. So that was one of your legal arguments. She is now, in your view, not bound by any sort of non-disclosure agreement that she made the assigned NDA that so -- OK. Let me go through something else that`s developed since we`ve spoken.

I last talked to you the morning after the "60 MINUTES" interview, and it was the first time that the country started talking about potential campaign finance violations. It`s been reported in "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" that one of the things the FBI was looking for in Monday`s raid -- was that yesterday?

AVENATTI: Yes.

WALLACE: I live in dog years -- with potential records to support that investigation. Tell us where you are and where you think that investigation is.

AVENATTI: Well, a couple of things. First of all, I think that proving a campaign finance violation a felony, whether it would be against Michael Cohen or the President, is going to be much, much easier than proving collusion with Russia for a whole variety of reasons.

All the witnesses are here. There`s not going to be as much documentation. There`s not going to be as much obstruction. I just think from a lawyer`s perspective and I`ve been saying this for a while, and people have been skeptical. They`re starting to come across or come along. It`s much, much easier to prove. So that`s first of all.

Second of all, this issue relating to the $130,000 payment, if the President reimbursed either directly or indirectly or had some somebody else reimburse, Michael Cohen for the $130,000 payment, that`s a serious, serious problem, and that`s likely a felony, campaign finance law. That`s A. B, even if he didn`t reimburse him but he knew about it, and he didn`t make sure that it was reported properly or he conspired with Michael Cohen to make sure that it was off the books, if you will, that too is going to pose a serious, serious problem for Mr. Trump and Michael Cohen. And that violation would only take potentially Michael Cohen rolling over on the President if Michael Cohen faced significant criminal exposure.

WALLACE: And someone said to me yesterday that despite Michael Cohen saying he would take a bullet for the President, not a lot of people believe he`d be willing to go to jail for the president. What sort of, you know, take me inside where you were and what you thought when you got news of this raid? It broke right before my 4:00 hour, and it was a stunning development that the President`s longtime personal attorney`s office and home had been raided. What did you think when you saw that news?

AVENATTI: Well, last Thursday I stated that I thought that Michael Cohen was being placed in the crosshairs, and that if events developed, that it could pose a very serious problem because he would be expected to take a lot of heat and have to withstand a lot of pressure. That`s exactly where he is right now. He is going to have to withstand a lot of heat and a lot of pressure.

And let me comment on one thing. You said that, you know, whether he would be willing to take a bullet. It`s one thing to tell somebody you`re going to take a bullet for them. It`s another thing when the bullet`s actually in the chamber.

WALLACE: You think that`s where he is right now with the FBI having raids at his home and offices?

AVENATTI: I think the bullet is in the chamber and I think the safety is off.

WALLACE: Let me ask you two things because you`ve gotten a little bit of heat for two things. One, the DVDs that you`ve posted, what is that a DVD of?

AVENATTI: Well, again, I`m not going to answer. I mean, this is a long- term chess game. We`re not going to disclose everything we have. And look, I like our record so far. I like our record over the last five weeks. I think we`ve made a number of pretty good moves in this case, and I think a lot of things have come to fruition and we`ve got a long road to go.

WALLACE: Let me ask you about the sketch that you committed to releasing.

AVENATTI: Yes.

WALLACE: And this was a sketch of the potential suspect. I think one of the most haunting things for any woman watching your client`s interview on "60 MINUTES" is the idea that a man came up to her while she was with her infant at a gym and threatened her. Where are you in that investigation, and where is that sketch?

AVENATTI: I have the sketch. Stormy Daniels, Ms. Clifford sat down with Lois Gibson, who is a world renowned forensic artist based in Houston. She has the world record for the most identifications from sketches. She`s incredibly talented. She sat down with her for an extended period of time. An accurate sketch has been compiled.

WALLACE: So it`s a creative delay? An artist delay?

AVENATTI: No, it`s not a creative delay. It`s ready to go. We`ve been asked this morning to delay the release of the sketch. We were prepared to release it.

WALLACE: For law enforcement purposes?

AVENATTI: Well, I`m not going to get in. I`m not at liberty to discuss who asked us to delay it, but we were asked to delay it this morning, and that`s what we`re going to do right now.

WALLACE: Based on how the sketch turned out, based on what the artist conjured, have you seen names of who that person might be?

AVENATTI: We have made progress relating to that identification process, and we`re hopeful. At this point, I`ll tell you this. We may not need to release the sketch.

WALLACE: So you think that the process of Stormy Daniels sort of describing the person, of the drawing being made was sufficient to match up with some sort of lineup or some sort of image? You believe you know who the person was who threatened her in the parking lot?

AVENATTI: I think we have some pretty good ideas and here`s what I`ll say. This is a very dynamic, very fast moving case. A lot has happened in the last 36 hours that make it possible that we may never need to release that sketch and we`re going to see what happens.

WALLACE: Let me ask you just one last sort of broader question. Did you ever think you`d find yourself making the rounds on cable news, debating some interesting folks on other shows, never on ours, about the leader of the free world, a sexual encounter with your client, a porn star, and did you ever think you`d have your phone ring and never know if it`s another woman calling to say, hey, me too, I had an encounter with the President and a botched NDA with Michael Cohen, can you help me? And did you think you would find yourself in this line of work?

WALLACE: No, I didn`t. And I think -- I mean, it`s been a very surreal process. And we don`t know how it`s going to end. I mean, look, from a personal perspective, I`ll be frank. This could end really, really well, or it could end really, really badly. But one thing I hope that it does end with, and that is the truth.

WALLACE: Thank you so much for talking to us. When you have that sketch, share it with us. Share it with us first.

AVENATTI: Thank you.

WALLACE: Come back at 4:00, if you`re available tomorrow at 4:00, or if you know who the suspect is. That sounds like a pretty big development, that you think there`s an identity and a name to go with the person who intimidated your client.

AVENATTI: I think we`re close.

WALLACE: You heard here first. Michael Avenatti, thank you.

Coming up, the warning from Republicans to the President about trying to get rid of Robert Mueller. Will it make any difference? That`s when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.

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SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: I have confidence in Mueller. The President ought to have confidence in Mueller, and I think to answer your question, it would be suicide for the President to want to talk about firing Mueller.

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I`m not concerned that he`ll fire Mueller. I don`t think he`ll fire Rosenstein. I can`t think of any reason to do it. I`m confident that would be the beginning of the end of his presidency, and he`s not going to do that.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R), LOUISIANA: I think the President`s too smart to fire Mr. Mueller. If he did, it wouldn`t end the investigation.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: I don`t think he`s going to be removed from this office. He shouldn`t be removed from the office. He should be allowed to finish the job.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: What movie are they watching, though, they stopped short of calling for legislative protection of Mueller, the GOP reaction is growing more urgent for whatever that`s worth.

Joining me now, Charlie Sykes, longtime Conservative Radio Host, Author. I don`t know if you, like me, describe yourself as a recovering or non- practicing Republican, but those are words. Those are just words. Not one of those men has done anything to protect Bob Mueller`s investigation.

CHARLIE SYKES, CONSERVATIVE RADIO HOST & AUTHOR: That`s exactly right. And this is a moment where they have to draw that red line now because you know that Donald Trump thinks this is an existential threat to his presidency, and all the voices in his head are telling him, fire Mueller, fire Rosenstein.

And, you know, all the accounts that we`re getting are -- that he`s thinking about it. He`s moving toward it. There`s no grown-up in the room that I know of who is telling him, you know, laying out what a disaster this would be. So it`s good that they`re speaking out, but it`s not sufficient. Until Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan make it absolutely clear that this is their red line, that they won`t tolerate this.

And by the way that`s also, Nicolle, that`s the smart political move. Yes, it might tick off the President. There might be a tweet storm about all of this, but it`s certainly better from the Republican point of view to do this now than to have to endure the nuclear winter that would result of a firing, of a Saturday night massacre.

WALLACE: And what degree of confidence do you have that any of them are going to get religion on Bob Mueller? Bob Mueller, we did an hour on him. He`s a Purple Heart recipient, combat valor. He is someone who led the FBI. He`s the only person to ever have his term extended because he did such a stellar job leading the FBI. If they don`t go out on a limb for this man, then for whom would they ever do anything?

SYKES: Well, and it`s not just him. I mean we`re talking about the possible firing of, you know, the deputy attorney general, who knows whether they would have to fire the FBI director. There`s the fundamental issue of the rule of law. I know that some principled idealistic Republicans are now beginning a campaign, Republicans for the rule of law, reminding people that this is a fundamental bedrock principle of their party.

So, yes, I mean Robert Mueller needs to be defended because of his personal record, but there`s a larger issue here. The president of the United States actually obstructing an investigation by shutting down people who are looking into possible criminal activity and misconduct in office that`s an extraordinary story and, you know, do Republicans want to be complicit in that by their silence?

WALLACE: Well, I think a lot of people think they already are. Let me ask you one more question. If the Republican Party is at a place now where they have to separate the one who`s are for the rule of law, does that mean the rest of them are against the rule of law?

SYKES: Well, it means the rest of them are invertebrate. They`re unwilling to stand up to this president and we`ve seen this. And I think that that`s what President Trump is probably thinking that, you know, he can ignore the words. He can ignore these press conferences because, you know, how many times has he pushed back and seen the Republicans roll over to him, capitulate to him?

You honestly think he`s worried about Lindsey Graham? You think he`s worried about, you know, some of these other comments were Chuck Grassley. And, again, imagine who he is listening to. Imagine what he`s seeing on Fox on a daily basis. You know, the people who are on the phone, they are all feeding his worst instincts here.

We`re getting the reports that he`s talked about it for months, and months, and months, and now they`re not even making any secret of it. That Sarah Sanders comment this morning was -- I mean this afternoon was rather extraordinary, that she basically claimed that the president has the right to fire the special prosecutor. I don`t know. Had you heard that before, but that`s what they`re hearing, and that`s what they may act upon.

WALLACE: Well, she said she`s hearing it, but we know sometimes the President speaks of friends that we cannot later track down and verify. Charlie Sykes, thank you so much.

SYKES: Thank you.

WALLACE: Coming up, day one done for Mark Zuckerberg on Capitol Hill. What you need to know tonight before he sits down in front of lawmakers again tomorrow. That`s when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.

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SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: Mr. Zuckerberg, would you be comfortable sharing with us the name of the hotel you stayed in last night?

MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: No.

DURBIN: If you`ve messaged anybody this week, would you share with us the names of the people you`ve messaged?

ZUCKERBERG: Senator, no. I would probably not choose to do that publically here.

DURBIN: I think that may be what this is all about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Thank God for Senator Dick Durbin. Mark Zuckerberg who in Capitol Hill today defending his company from questions surrounding its handling of personal data and Russian election interference. Zuckerberg apologized for not doing more to prevent the social network for being used for harm.

Joining me now to break it down is Kara Swisher, Recode Executive Editor and MSNBC Contributor. We`re happy to have you as our colleague every day, but no day more than a day like today. You were unimpressed. We spoke at 4:00, and you thought he had been hit with mostly wet noodles. That they have been the toughest question he got all today, and he seem to stumble whenever they say it for high price media trainer as he get some of the bit of a refund. But take us through what happened today and what you expect tomorrow.

KARA SWISHER, MSNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there were a lot of senators asking questions, not many of them very good ones. I think they were light. You know, I`m changing from wet noodle. It was like batted around by a soft pillow I think. That`s more I like it.

You know, he was asked just generalized broad questions. And then when they try to get the specifics like Pamela Harris did several times. He didn`t really answer. So he got to answer unspecifically and they allowed him to do it for lots of reasons. There was a limited time amount of question time for these senators, each time. And so you couldn`t really get to the point which was what happened with Cambridge Analytica, are there more Cambridge Analyticas and what he going to protect privacy of users.

And the Durbin one was just great because he was making the point, he was making the overall point that Mark Zuckerberg likes his privacy protected so why shouldn`t the rest of us have that privilege?

WALLACE: Will you took a straight to the heart of the matter and that seems to be that Facebook data was used potentially by Cambridge Analytica, that the technology was weaponized against in American election in 2016. It didn`t seem that Mark Zuckerberg had to answer for that today. Do you think he`ll have to do so tomorrow?

SWISHER: You know, I don`t know, they`re -- I guess they mean over in the House apparently. But I don`t know. They seem very out of it and wanted to make broad generalized speeches about the state of the internet. That the internet is important to Americans, which I think we all know by now.

You know, I think most Americans do understand how important this is, this issue around private too. Well, two things, privacy and then the misuse of these platforms in elections and other places, not just elections. But in any format and the power that this guy has is enormous. And I think they just did, you know, I kept trying to think of how they handled a cigarette executive or any other executives, they a lot tougher and a lot, you know, he seemed rather on upset by what has happened on this platform and allowed him to -- and he did a very good job that allow him to say almost nothing to him.

WALLACE: Let me press you on why that might be. I mean, some of this without being politically incorrect, may just be just that technology isn`t something a lot of them are fluid in. That the language of technology, the use of technology and so maybe understanding how the technology was used against this country in 2016 is foreign for them. What is the remedy for that? And again, you`ve started by taking us right to the heart of this, which is the Cambridge Analytica intersection with Facebook data and the potentially collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, where do those questions get asked and answered?

SWISHER: Not really, not at all in fact. And, you know, they talked about Cambridge Analytica and he going to do, and I can hear a very clear answer about it. We`re looking into it as an internal investigation. We should have said something sooner. I thought that was one area that they started going down that road is why didn`t you disclose but they never just followed up on it. And it was fascinating, I don`t think it was Mark`s fault. And what was interesting is right after someone got a picture of his talking points, I don`t how there were left on the table.

The talking points --

WALLACE: Two strikes against that P.R. team.

SWISHER: Yes. You know, the talking points had more information and were more revelatory than anything the senators asked today. And some of it was, you know, there was an attack on Apple in it. There was how we stand. So I think there was even an iCare sentence, say iCare something like that. So that was interesting to me.

But otherwise, I don`t think there was anything said that -- and there was a lot of like, we`d like to have fiber in your -- in our area, which could you bring it here? And as the worst part was, we should do regulation, what do you suggest we do?

And so, asking Mark Zuckerberg what regulation he should be regulated by seems, I`d like that ask to me if I were Mark Zuckerberg.

WALLACE: I like your analogy to tobacco, I think it`s a good thing to keep in mind tomorrow, how would they be treating a tobacco executive in the heat of that crisis. Kara Swisher, thank you so much we`re grateful --

SWISHER: Thank you so much.

WALLACE: -- who has been watching this for us. And let`s have a quick break for us, more 11TH HOUR after this.

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WALLACE: The very last thing before we go tonight as a reminder, if you`re away from your TV, you can catch THE 11TH HOUR on the MSNBC app, on any Apple device. You can also listen to us live on Siriusxm and subscribe to our podcast for free, using your favorite podcast app.

I`ll be back again tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern right here on MSNBC. That`s our broadcast for tonight. Thank you for being with us and goodnight from MSNBC 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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