Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: April 16, 2018 Guest: Jennifer Rodgers, Toluse Olorunnipa, David Jolly
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, a wild day in court and a tangled web for Donald Trump`s fixer, Michael Cohen, as the two men fight to keep their files private. Cohen`s mystery client is revealed to be Sean Hannity. And for good measure, Stormy Daniels showed up at federal court.
Plus, Jim Comey`s book doesn`t even go on sale till tomorrow, yet it`s already ugly and getting worse as the President unleashes a personal and biting counterattack.
And our U.N. Ambassador says new sanctions are coming. Then the President says not so fast. And of course the subject is Russia as "The 11th Hour" gets under way on a Monday night.
And as we start off a new week, good evening once again from our MSNBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 452 of the Trump administration, and we learned today beyond a doubt that the case involving his personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, is indeed shaping up to be a big problem for this President.
Lawyers for Trump and Cohen have been trying to protect records that were swept up and seized in that FBI raid exactly one week ago. Today, a federal judge rejected that request but ruled prosecutors would have to share findings of the raid with Cohen`s and Trump`s lawyers on a "rolling basis" while the judge decides on the next steps here.
The proceedings also brought this unexpected revelation. Fox News Host Sean Hannity was outed as a client of Michael Cohen`s, something Cohen`s lawyers had taken great pains to keep secret. Hannity has been a fierce defender of the President and his policies and a harsh critic of this FBI raid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: It is clear, as I have been warning, Mueller is out to get the President, and it appears at any cost. Here`s what happened. Upon referral from special counselor Robert Mueller, the FBI has raided the office, the home, and the hotel room of Michael Cohen.
Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is now officially an all hands on deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the President of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: On his radio program today, Sean Hannity made a point of denying that Michael Cohen represented him.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
HANNITY: I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. Not one of any issue I ever dealt with Michael Cohen on ever, ever, involved a matter between me and any third party.
I never gave him a retainer, never received an invoice, never paid any fees. I might have handed him ten bucks. "I definitely want attorney- client pilgrimage on this," something like that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And just a few hours ago on his show on Fox News, he added this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter.
My discussions with Michael Cohen never rose to any level that I need to tell anyone.
I never asked Michael Cohen to bring this proceeding on my behalf. I have no personal interest in this legal matter.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Court filings confirm Michael Cohen is under federal criminal investigation and has been for months. He has not been charged with any crime, but agents have been scrutinizing his e-mail accounts, his banking, travel, and business records, his communications with media organizations and with the Trump campaign as well as any information about payments he made to women who alleged relationships with Donald Trump, including but not limited to porn star Stormy Daniels.
Just for good measure, as we said, she and her attorney, Michael Avenatti , were in federal court for today`s hearing on the Cohen case. Both spoke with reporters afterward afterwards.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STORMY DANIELS, ADULT FILM STAR: Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law, he has considered himself and openly referred to himself as Mr. Trump`s fixer. He has played by a different set of rules or should we say no rules at all.
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: I said last Friday and this weekend that Michael Cohen was radioactive, and that anybody was associated with him in the last 20 to 30 years should be very, very concerned. What we witnessed earlier in the hearing with the disclosure relating to Sean Hannity proved my point. Depending on what is contained within those documents, I think there is significant danger to the President.
The president trusted Mr. Cohen as his fixer for years. He trusted him with his inner most secrets, and I think that the chickens are about to come home to roost.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Let`s bring in our lead-off panel for another very busy Monday night. Philip Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post." And as of a few hours ago, he is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist.
Ashley Parker, White House Reporter for "The Washington Post." and as of a few hours ago, she is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. And both, we are pleased to say, are MSNBC Political Analysts.
Also with us tonight, Chuck Rosenberg, Former U.S. Attorney, Former Senior FBI Official, and an MSNBC Contributor. And Jennifer Rodgers, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now Executive Director for Columbia Law School Center for the Advancement of Public Integrity. Good evening to you all. Congratulations to some of you.
And, Jennifer, I`m going to begin with you as you are, for the purposes of our New York studios, our lead counsel here tonight. What did today mean for two men, for Donald Trump and Michael Cohen?
JENNIFER RODGERS, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, what`s interesting is this is the first time that Donald Trump has appeared in any of these court proceedings. He actually had a lawyer show up and argues in one of these cases. So that`s a key thing.
The other important thing, of course, is that they lost their arguments today. Cohen and Trump lost their argument that they should be able to actually sifts through all of these materials and hold back what they think is privileged.
The government made a compelling case that they had appropriate procedures in place, that the crimes that they have suspected that Michael Cohen committed involved dishonesty, that he`s been shown that he can`t be trusted to respond in a comprehensive way to subpoenas. And so a search warrant was the appropriate way to go here, and they need to be able to go through this material without it being basically picked apart by Trump and by Cohen in advance.
WILLIAMS: And isn`t the argument to that in English kind of, "If we thought you guys could be trusted with all you have, we wouldn`t have blown in your doors with search warrants?"
RODGERS: Exactly. And, in fact, it became clear through the papers that they had issued subpoenas to Michael Cohen previously and had reason to believe from the return on those subpoenas that Cohen was holding things back. So, you know, they actually have kind of done this, been there, done that and say, "Listen, you know, we had to do a search warrant this time so we could go through it ourselves."
WILLIAMS: Hey, Chuck, explain to our good viewers how it is that the President`s lawyers were in effect today arguing against the President`s Justice Department and in your lifetime, have we ever seen anything like that?
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, it`s a little bit odd, Brian, you`re right. So Judge Kimba Wood, the federal judge in the Southern District of New York presiding here, permitted the Trump attorneys to appear on behalf of the President to articulate his interests. I don`t think she had to do that because he`s not technically a party. The party was the United States Department of Justice on one side and the person who got searched, Michael Cohen, on the other.
But Judge Wood is -- and Jennifer knows this much better than me -- a very thoughtful judge, a very deliberate judge. And so to make a full record and to hear everybody out, she permitted the President`s attorneys to appear and to articulate his position.
Now, to your point, Brian, it was adverse to the Department of Justice, but I imagine he`s appearing in his personal capacity and not as the chief executive of our land.
WILLIAMS: Speaking of strange bedfellows, next question goes to a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Ashley Parker. Ashley, there were audible gasps apparently in the courtroom today when Sean Hannity`s name came out. Is this just part and parcel of the confusing, spectacular world and orbit of Michael Cohen?
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": I think that`s a good way of viewing it. It`s sort of, you know, his name coming out sort of feels like the bar scene in "Star Wars." It`s sort of a fun quirk and a fun twist and a sort of but of course, but at the same time among the things that, you know, the President`s team and West Wing aides are concerned about, as of now at least, it`s not Sean Hannity being one of Michael Cohen`s three clients in 2017.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winner, did I mention, I want to read you something there our friends at "The Associated Press." This is dual byline Lemire and Lucey.
"President Donald Trump and his allies have hit a new level of anxiety after the raid on his personal attorney`s office. Fearful of deeper exposure for Trump, his inner circle and his adult children, the more than concerned -- and more than concern that they don`t know exactly what is in those records and electronic devices seized last week. There is also some worry that Michael Cohen may strike a deal with prosecutors out of concern about his own prospects."
Phil, as far as your reporting and as far as you`re concerned, does that get it about right?
PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST." That`s exactly right. The story by John and Catherine spot on. There`s been this growing anxiety in the White House among the President`s advisers about this Cohen situation ever since the moment those raids happened on Monday because they just simply don`t know what those records are.
They have very little visibility into anything pertaining to these investigations, but especially with the Cohen matter. They don`t know what sort of documents may have been seized at the house or the office. They don`t know what sort of electronic recordings there might be. That`s important because Cohen, as "The Washington Post" reported a few days ago, has been known to record a lot of his private conversations, including possibly with Donald Trump.
And they also don`t know where the federal investigators are headed with all of this. They sort of vaguely understand that there`s some tax issues and bank fraud involved, but it`s unclear exactly what the investigators are after in terms of sifting through Cohen`s records.
WILLIAMS: Jennifer, I need help deciphering something that happened in our last hour. On Lawrence O`Donnell`s broadcast tonight, Mr. Avenatti, who represents Stormy Daniels, said something about court papers and Sean Hannity`s name, and I`m not being cute. I really don`t know what he`s alluding to. I`m hoping you can take a guess.
We`ll watch it together and talk about on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AVENATTI: There is one or more documents with Sean Hannity`s name on it that Michael Cohen does not want disclosed. There is a reason why they want Sean Hannity`s name as a client, and it has everything to do not with what happened today, but with the next shoe to drop.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: If there were still phone booths in the old days, we`d see people running for phone booths after hearing that. What do you think he`s referring to?
RODGERS: Well, I think what he`s saying is, we have this big mystery, right? We have Trump as client number one. We have Elliott Broidy as client number two and there`s this mystery man, client number three. These are the people about whom Cohen`s lawyers are saying.
These are the privileged people. These are the people that, you know, we don`t want you to see the communications between Michael Cohen and these people because they`re clients. That`s really important. There`s a secrecy there, right?
So, if there`s really nothing there, if there are no communications, if it`s like Hannity described it as kind of like, you know, you run into your neighbor at a barbecue. He happens to be a lawyer and you happen to discuss some things, which was kind of the gist of what Hannity described the relationship to be, then why are Cohen`s lawyers trying so hard to shield those communications whether they`re recordings, or e-mails, or some other kind of document, from the view of the government and even the special master?
WILLIAMS: Chuck, let`s take Jennifer`s barbecue example. It`s often told as a cocktail party. But don`t our finer law schools tell people using, let`s say the cocktail party example, that if someone comes up to you and says, "Hey, I`ve got a legal question," you`re supposed to stop them before you might learn something that you shouldn`t know, that you don`t need to know about that person. And, by the way, does $10 make a difference, and do you have to invoice me for me to consider you my lawyer?
ROSENBERG: I don`t have to invoice you, and you don`t have to pay me, Brian.
WILLIAMS: OK, well.
ROSENBERG: In fact, lots of -- I mean, you`re welcome to, but you don`t have to. Lots of lawyers do work what we call pro bono, for free.
And so, it`s not necessarily about an exchange of money or an exchange of invoices. Really it`s almost, as we learn in contracts, about a meeting of the minds, that you, Brian, want Jennifer to represent you. And she agrees to do it. She makes sure that there are no conflicts. She sends you an engagement letter telling you what the terms of your professional relationship will be. And you both abide by it.
Good lawyers take steps to formalize these relationships, and once formalized, the things that you say to Jennifer seeking her legal advice are privileged. But it`s not just something you throw an invisibility cloak over for the heck of it. There`s a right way to do this. And when, by the way, either the special master or the privilege review team are going through the documents, they`re going to look for indicia of the real attorney-client relationship and real communications between attorney and client.
WILLIAMS: Ashley, while I`m lawyering up here in New York, let`s talk about the stories that came out about Mr. Cohen that were overwhelmed by the news we were covering live here Friday night. We knew it contemporaneously. We kept saying during the coverage this means there`s a whole lot we`re not covering.
There was this from McClatchy. They`re citing evidence that Cohen despite his protest, despite his denials, was in fact in Prague in 2016. There was first by the "Times" and matched by the "Post" this reporting that Trump`s inner circle was more worried about the Southern District of New York case than they were about the Mueller matter, et al. Are we seeing the examples of why that is, like today for example?
PARKER: Well, that`s absolutely right. They`re much more worried about the Cohen raids, first of all because they thought they had a good sense of where the Mueller investigation was headed. They were sort of cooperating.
There was talk of the President sitting down with an interview, and these raids, which were the Southern District but came from a referral by Mueller`s team, caught them totally off guard. So it sort of took away that sense of security that they know where this is headed or they know what to expect.
Secondly, Michael Cohen is someone who, you know, he proudly brags about being the President`s fixer and enforcer and consigliere, and he has his hands in everything. And so right now, the Feds are basically looking at him for a number of things but including basically he was at the center of all of these efforts if you look to sort of pay women who have allegations about the President to stay quiet.
But when you start looking into someone, as you`ve seen with Mueller`s investigation, it`s not just that issue, it often wraps in many other issues. And, Michael Cohen was someone who sort of knows to use the cliche, where all of the bodies are buried, not just on the President, but on the President`s family, on the President`s business.
And a final reason why they`re so concerned is because the President sort of now still has the threat of shaking things up at the Justice Department. But even if he does that, even if he ends Mueller`s probe or tries to end it, which to be clear would be its own very serious set of political headaches to put it mildly, the Southern District now proceeds independently from that. So he has a lot less control of trying to shut that down now that that`s started.
So they`re incredibly concerned and incredibly worried. And as, Phil said, they don`t know what they don`t know.
WILLIAMS: And, Phil, a question about Japan. Suddenly they find themselves living in a very dangerous neighborhood. Their prime minister visiting Mar-a-Lago --
WILLIAMS: -- time with the President starting tomorrow. As we always say, Mar-a-Lago rules are in effect. The President is around friends and paying customers.
How are they possibly briefing up this President for this visit knowing something that we do about his mental state right now?
RUCKER: Well, this visit, Brian, is actually an effort to try to brief President Trump for an even more important visit, which we expect to be later this spring, which is that meeting, that historic meeting with Kim Jong-un of North Korea.
Prime Minister Abe of Japan has so much on the line right now with President Trump. He has cultivated a relationship with Trump from even before Trump took office. And really sees the U.S. alliance with Japan as critical in solving the problems with North Korea and East Asia right now.
So he is coming to Florida. He is hoping to get some time, some focused time from President Trump to help get on the same page really heading into these potential North Korea talks. And the question I think we all have is whether President Trump is going to have that focus, whether he`s going to be distracted by, you know, Jim Comey`s continuing book tour and the legal troubles in New York for his lawyer or whether he`s going to really be thinking about the foreign policy challenges that he as the President and Commander-in-Chief is responsible for managing.
WILLIAMS: To our viewers, our lead-off panel made up entirely of veteran lawyers and Pulitzer Prize winners has agreed to stick around over a break.
And coming up, the man living rent-free in Donald Trump`s mind right now, and that`s James Comey.
Then later, while the phrase mission accomplished crashed and burned for the last Republican president, the current President says he meant to use it.
Also tonight, that sound you`ve just heard might have been a bus rolling over the President`s U.N. ambassador.
THE 11TH HOUR on a busy Monday night just getting under way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: I don`t buy this stuff about him being mentally incompetent or early stages of dementia. He strikes me as a person of above average intelligence who`s tracking conversations and knows what`s going on. I don`t think he is medically unfit to be President. I think he`s morally unfit to be President.
A person who sees moral equivalence in Charlottesville, who talks about and treats women like they`re pieces of meat, who lies constantly about matters big and small and insists the American people believe it, that person`s not fit to be President of the United States on moral grounds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: You don`t hear that often from Former FBI Director James Comey on ABC last night, part of this blitz press tour for his book, which, remember, doesn`t come out until tomorrow. In that interview, Comey also talked about that February 2017 meeting where he says President Trump asked him to drop the FBI investigation into Michael Flynn.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: His words were, though, "I hope you can let it go."
I took the expression of hope as, "This is what I want you to do."
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: The President says he didn`t say that.
COMEY: Yes. Well, what am I going to do? He did.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Was President Trump obstructing justice?
COMEY: Possibly. I mean it`s certainly some evidence of obstruction of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, you know that phrase about payback. Since Saturday, President Trump has slammed Comey a number of times on Twitter, writing in part, "Slippery James Comey will go down as the worst FBI Director in history by far. I never asked Comey for personal loyalty. I hardly even knew this guy. Just another of his many lies. His memos are self-serving and fake."
Back with us, Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, "Washington Post." Chuck Rosenberg and Jennifer Rodgers, of counsel to this conversation.
So, Ashley, what -- among the people you talked to in the West Wing of this White House, what do they fear more? More of the details coming public of this book, which let`s remember comes out tomorrow, or the President`s reaction to the details in the book?
PARKER: Almost certainly the latter. You`re right that the book doesn`t come out until tomorrow, but sort of all of the best details of the book have been thoroughly vetted in the media-sphere already. And to be honest, the book is very juicy, but there`s not that many revelations in the book that weren`t sort of already out in the public discourse.
What West Wing aides and the President`s sort of orbit of friends are worried about is the way, as you put it, you know, Comey is sort of living in a rent-free in the President`s head and driving him crazy. And the book comes out Tuesday, which means basically a huge media and book tour is just starting.
And so, the concern is that James Comey is someone who, like the President, has proven himself quite media savvy. He knows how to tell a narrative. He knows how to tease juicy details, and they never know these White House aides, what the President is going to tweet, what may he certainly upset, he is certainly angry, but they don`t quite know where that leads to. Does it lead to an angry tweet or does it lead to a potential shake-up at the Department of Justice? So those are the things they`re worried about, and those are the things that they can`t control, and this, basically, publicity tour is just starting.
WILLIAMS: Phil, you have written beautifully and often about this President`s need for an enemy, that it sharpens his focus. It is precisely why people say Barack Obama has been all but silent as to not give this President a big, visible enemy.
But tell me -- kind of tease it out for me. How is it going to look like in the long view because what we also learned about this court case today is this is going to take a while? A rollout, as the federal judge put it, is going to be a slow process and more and more people are just going to be buying and reading this book.
RUCKER: Yes. The book rollout is certainly going to take a while, and Comey is going to be out there on a national stage with a huge media spotlight weighing in on news of the day, in addition to sharing his observations about Trump and details from the book. I wouldn`t be surprised if every day he`s asked to chime in or to comment on what President Trump is doing in office. And it just makes him a player in this whole drama we have here that is the presidency.
And you`re absolutely right about Donald Trump, President Trump wanting an enemy. He seems to do his best in a campaign environment where he`s fighting against somebody else. He can give them a nickname. He can punch at them all day long on Twitter. And he hasn`t had somebody since Hillary Clinton to fill that role.
And I think James Comey is getting to be that kind of opponent for him, and we`ve seen it ever since he fired Comey back in May of 2017. There have been periods where Trump has gone after Comey on Twitter, used him as a foil. And we`ve seen a ferocity in the last week in advance of this book rollout, not just from the President, but Sarah Sanders, the Press Secretary at the White House podium the other day, gave a scathing sort of character assassination of James Comey that the President helped her craft.
The Republican National Committee and the political party is attacking Comey left and right. So there`s a real effort here to play hardball politics.
WILLIAMS: Chuck, I ask you as not just an FBI veteran, who got quite a bit of exposure to James Comey, but as a lawyer yourself, when you look at him with George Stephanopoulos in this ABC interview, do you say to yourself, "Well, he can`t answer that fully? Well, he`s holding back on that answer. Mueller will get to hear his actual answer." Is there a lot of that as you watch something like this?
ROSENBERG: Not that much, Brian. I think it`s right that there aren`t a lot of revelations with respect to the investigation that came out of the Stephanopoulos interview. That said, I`ve read the book cover to cover. And I need to give it some context.
Jim is an old and dear friend of mine. He was my boss, he was also my colleague. But like all human beings, he`s flawed. He`s headstrong, he has a big ego, sometimes he rushes to judgment. But in the 25 years I`ve known that man, Brian, he has always told the truth, always, about everything even when it`s painful, even when it makes him look bad.
And so what I ask some people to do is rather than read what the pundits are saying about Jim and the book, actually read the book. It`s well written. It`s a good story. There`s a ton of detail about lots of chapters in his life, not just about President Trump.
And so, I don`t think we`re going to learn anything new about the investigation. But you may see a few things about Jim Comey that surprise you, and it may change your opinion of what he did and why he did it.
WILLIAMS: Jennifer, as a veteran of the storied Southern District, something Comey once ran, if you`re Mueller looking down your witness list, how big a whale is that name, James Comey?
RODGERS: Well, he`s a huge witness. He`s central to all of this, right? I mean, it`s the firing of Jim Comey that brings you the strongest obstruction of justice charge if that`s where this is headed.
He tells about the conversation that he had with Trump about the personal loyalty and the conversation about laying off of Michael Flynn. So he`s clearly one of the key witnesses here, and that`s why Mueller is probably holding his breath a little bit as he sees these interviews going on.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to our lead-off panel tonight. Phil Rucker, Ashley Parker, I don`t know if I mentioned earlier, both of them were awarded the Pulitzer Prize earlier today, and we couldn`t be prouder to know them. Chuck Rosenberg, Jennifer Rodgers, of counsel to us, thank you both.
Coming up, you don`t see it often, but it happened today. Out loud and in public, the President walked back something through the White House, something his U.N ambassador had just announced. The story when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Did our generals do a great job? Did our military do a great job? And, you know, with way over 100 missiles shot in, they didn`t shoot one down. The equipment didn`t work too well, their equipment. They didn`t shoot one. You know, you heard, oh, they shot 40 down. Then they shot 15 down. Then what, then I called, did they -- no, sir, every single one hit its target. Think of that. How do you know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was President Trump today touting what he deemed a successful missile strike in Syria. The attacks, Friday night, targeted three chemical weapons facilities.
On Saturday Trump wrote on Twitter, "A perfectly executed strike last night. Could not have had a better result. Mission accomplished." That of course led people to speculate that he had no idea about this when that same phrase backfired on the last Republican president. Trump later said it`s just a great old military phrase.
By Sunday, the topic was Russia when his UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, made this announcement about new sanctions against Russia.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: You will see that Russian sanctions will be coming down. Secretary Mnuchin will be announcing those on Monday if he has it already. I think everyone is going to feel it at this point. I think everyone knows that we sent a strong message, and our hope is that they listen to it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: But not 24 hours later, the President reversed what his UN ambassador had said. The Washington Post was the first to report, quote, "Trump conferred with his national security advisers later Sunday and told them he was upset the sanctions were being officially rolled out because he was not yet comfortable executing them."
Further, we learned today, the president still wants to meet with Putin. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters quote, "The President would still like to sit down with him, and he feels like it`s better for the world if they have a good relationship."
With us for more tonight, retired four-star US Army General Barry McCaffrey, decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, former Battlefield Commander in the Persian Gulf, now an MSNBC Military Analyst. And Toluse Olorunnipa, White House Reporter for Bloomberg News, he happens to be traveling with the President this week.
And, Toluse, I`d like to begin with you. Are we any closer to knowing what really happened here? White House is will often say, well, he or she got out over their skis. They hadn`t checked back in with the home office. But with this White House to be candid, a lot of those rules go by the boards?
TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Yes, that`s exactly right. And especially on the issue of Russia, we have seen the President and his national security team beyond very different pages. When the national security folks announced sanctions and announced expulsions of 60 Russian diplomats, the President did not speak a word about it. We did not hear the president say anything, even as his administration was announcing these very major sanctions against Russia.
The President has been verbally very soft on Russia, saying he wants to meet with Putin, saying he wants to have a great relationship with Russia, even as his administration has been taking increasing steps to take the punch to Russia. And really punish them for what they`re doing in Syria and what they`re doing on cyber, and what they did meddling in not only the US election but also elections all over the world.
And that`s exactly what we saw here with Nikki Haley as well. The President and Nikki Haley, as UN ambassador, were on very different pages and the President sort of pulled the rug out from under her after she made this announcement about sanctions coming. The White House rolled it back and said, actually, no, there will be no announcement of sanctions today, leaving their UN ambassador out to dry and not really explaining why they did that or why she was led to believe apparently that there were going to be these sanctions.
So it`s another clear example of the President and his national security team being on different pages. One other example was the all caps, do not congratulate when the President ignored the advice of his national security team and congratulated President Putin for his election win just a couple of weeks ago. This is just another example of the President, the White House, the national security team being on very different pages when it comes to Russia and not getting any closer to working out their strategy, in making sure that they`re putting out a firm and united message when it comes to Russia and the Kremlin.
WILLIAMS: Hey, General, I think it`s safe to say Nikki Haley has worked hard in the job. She has made a lot of fans and admirers, and has gained respect at the United Nations. This is not a good look because as they said during the Chicago convention, the whole world is watching. So tell me what this means isn`t happening inside this government that would usually happen.
BARRY MCCAFFREY, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, you know, Brian, I`ve worked directly on national security issues in a Republican president, a Democratic president, in and out of other White House as watching the process at work. The smartest people in government normally are in the National Security Council, and the Foreign Service Officers that work with them and the JCS team and the CIA.
They coordinate all day. We have working group meetings in the White House National Security Room. We have deputies meetings. They have classified top-secret encrypted phones, red phones on every desk where we can talk to each other. So it`s an astonishing incoherence in the process.
But it all, you know, it was interesting listening to the line about essentially warning the President don`t congratulate Putin. Who needs to warn the president of the United States to not congratulate Putin on a sham election in a country where he`s almost running a kleptocracy? You know, the 50 biggest oligarchs hopefully in the last couple months have lost $12 billion. The Russian economy is in shambles. The sanctions are working. So I`ve never seen anything like it.
WILLIAMS: Let me take you all the way back to Friday night, the last time you and i spoke, general. And we were talking about the cruise missile strikes in Syria. The president the next day uses the phrase "mission accomplished". What`s the danger there?
MCCAFFREY: Well, I mean, look, Secretary Mattis is very thoughtful. General Dunford, the chairman of JCS. General Votel the CENTCOM commander, have all been trying to be measured in the way they went about implementing the President`s directives to, I think appropriately, send a strong military punishment to the Syrians. Don`t use chemical weapons, particularly on civilians.
Maybe 80-some-odd instances by the way that Syrians using chemicals on their own people. But at the end of the day, what they I think probably, wisely decided to do is send a very measured, moderate strike on the Syrians. These target sets were not crucial to the chemical warfare capability of the Syrians at all.
I mean, we`re not talking about the need for hundreds of metric tons of sarin gas and artillery shells such as we saw in the Iran/Iraq war. I`m sure they have ample stock still concealed in populated areas. We didn`t go after their aircraft that deliver the weapons. We didn`t go after the command and control. I don`t disagree with that. I`m just saying this in no way crippled the Syrian capability.
WILLIAMS: General Barry McCaffrey, Toluse Olorunnipa, thank you, gentlemen, both of you for engaging in this conversation tonight. It will continue.
And coming up for us, Candidate Trump promised to be the law and order president if elected. But tonight a member of his own party has a problem with what he`s seeing from the President versus what the party promised. "THE 11TH HOUR" back after this.
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TRUMP: Now in business, if you collude, you get thrown in jail, right? Over here, you don`t get thrown. Only in politics can you collude and not get thrown in jail.
Hillary is likely to be under investigation for many years, probably concluding in criminal trial.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): Lock her up. Lock her up.
TRUMP: And if I win, I am going to ask my attorney general to appoint a special prosecutor to look into her crimes because what she did is a disgrace to the United States of America.
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WILLIAMS: Throughout that presidential campaign, then-candidate Donald Trump stressed Hillary Clinton`s legal vulnerabilities, let`s call it, and promised he would be the law and order candidate.
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TRUMP: When I take the oath of office next year, I will restore law and order to our country. In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate.
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WILLIAMS: And, in fact, as former GOP Congressman David Jolly pointed out on twitter, the 2016 Republican Party platform read, quote, "The next president must restore the public`s trust in law enforcement and civil order by first adhering to the rule of law himself."
However, as the November midterms approach, it is President Trump`s legal problems that could weigh on his party`s chances. A new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll is showing his approval rating has fallen to 39%, down 4% since last month.
The aforementioned, David Jolly, former member of Congress with us tonight from his home state in Florida. All right, Congressman, let me just throw four names at you. Tell me what kind of a 24 hours it`s been in the history of the grand old party. Comey, Cohen, Hannity, Trump. Start anywhere you want.
DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER FLORIDA REPRESENTATIVE: Brian, I appreciate that because, look, this is emblematic of the state of the GOP right now. And to be the law and order party and yet govern and presided over by a president who, when it comes to law and order, you could make the case it`s one of the greatest frauds that he committed on the body politic, is why when we`re living through this era right now, we`re looking at November saying the American people by and large really don`t trust this president.
Midterms are often about whether or not we`re going in the right direction and whether or not there`s a favorability or unfavorability gap of the current party or the current president. And otherwise the push goes to the incumbent. But in this case, I think we could be looking at a wave like we saw in 2010 and 1994 and 1974, one that would be historic because of the hypocrisy of Donald Trump.
WILLIAMS: So for Republican incumbents fearful of just what you just laid out, how do they try to run away from the wreckage without running as some kind of Bull Moose subset of the Republican Party?
JOLLY: You know, it`s interesting because this is an election where the cult of personality that is Donald Trump is greater than any policy agenda. You can`t just be a Bull Mooser. The level of distrust of the Republican Party right now is historic. And what it means, it could be not just for 2018 but for 2020.
Look, if you`re a Republican, the only way you get re-elected is frankly in a gerrymandered Republican district clinging to Trump. If you distance yourself, you simply can`t get enough crossover votes from Independents and Democrats. I do think right now, Brian, we`re looking at 237 seats for Republicans, about 190 or so for Democrats. If we see a shift of about 60 seats, Democrats will hold the House not just in 2018 but likely beyond 2020.
WILLIAMS: The speaker has announced his intention to spend more time with his family, quite literally. He`s going back to Janesville, Wisconsin, not standing for re-election. As he prepares to leave Washington, here`s the tough question for you. Do you believe Paul Ryan has genuine heroism within him?
JOLLY: Look, I think -- I would like to think that Paul Ryan does. But the critics are true that he has not done enough to speak up to this president. And Paul Ryan is only leaving for one reason. He knows he would not return as speaker of the House. The bottom has fallen out for Republicans.
The House is likely lost. He would come back as a minority leader, likely unable to hold on to even that post. Brian, we saw in the Conor Lamb race in Pennsylvania seat that Trump had won by 20. That flipped. And Arizona next Tuesday, we`re seeing a seat that Trump won by 21. That could flip. There is little to no hope for Republicans in November, and that was true for Paul Ryan.
Paul Ryan made the right decision for Paul Ryan. But for the rest of Republicans, they stand to likely lose and lose badly in November.
WILLIAMS: A former member of that Republican caucus in the House, former Congressman David Jolly of the great state of Florida, thank you as always for being part of our broadcast.
JOLLY: Good to be with you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: A short break for us. We have a lot more to tell you about when we come right back.
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JENNA BUSH HAGER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Barbara and I talked to her last night. She`s in great spirits and she`s a fighter. She`s an enforcer. She reminded me not to believe everything you read. And so, we`re grateful for her, for everybody`s prayers and thoughts. And just know the world is better because she`s in it.
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WILLIAMS: Tough to watch our friend and colleague Jenna Bush Hager talking about her grandmother today. The Bush family says former first lady Barbara Bush has been in and out of the hospital of late and now has decided not to seek additional medical treatment, instead she`s going to focus on comfort care at her home.
In a statement, the family said, it will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself, thanks to her abiding faith, but for others. She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving.
In all of US history, only Barbara Bush and Abigail Adams have been both the wife and mother of US presidents. Mrs. Bush is 92 years old, she and the former president have been married for 73 years, the longest marriage in US presidential history.
We`re back with more, right after this.
WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go here tonight is about the coming wave of applicants to college journalism programs that you just is going to know happen. Based on the young journalist, we are watching lead the way everyday in the coverage of this still young presidency.
This broadcast that many of you are kind enough to watch every night, is all about journalism and journalists. They are the stars of our show, and our show is about the work journalists do every day.
And if you`re a regular viewer and it feels like we`ve come to know the frequent guest on this broadcast, it`s because we have. Here are the faces and names of the journalist at the Washington Post and the New York Times who won the Pulitzer Prize today.
You`ll see familiar faces and names among them, like our first tow guests tonight, and Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker. Henceforth, they all get to be introduced as Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists, and that`s a great thing.
Importantly, these are newspaper reporters in the midst of a newspaper war. Yes, during a time when most of us experience newspapers on the same device we use to make phone calls. These Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists went back to work this afternoon after learning they have won.
We would forgive them for wanting to go out and enjoy multiple beverages with their friends, and families and colleagues, but Parker and Rucker came on our broadcast tonight at 11:00 p.m. Eastern time on one of the better nights of their lives, because it`s the work and the story that matters most to them. It`s why they matter so greatly to us.
That is our broadcast for this Monday night as we call begin a new week. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News Headquarters here in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END