VA Nominee Dr. Ronny Jackson under fire. TRANSCRIPT: 04/24/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Anita Kumar, Jack Quinn

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: April 24, 2018

Guest: Anita Kumar, Jack Quinn

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, THE LAST WORD, HOST: "The 11th Hour With Brian Williams" starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: Tonight, disturbing allegations about Donald Trump`s pick for the V.A. as a U.S. Senator charges Dr. Ronny Jackson, the President`s physician, has been drunk on the job and is nicknamed the "Candy Man" for handing out drugs like candy to the White House staff.

Plus, is the President considering a pardon for Michael Cohen? Trump called that a stupid question today. We`ll ask a former Clinton White House counsel.

Also brand-new election results just in to us this hour from Arizona. Steve Kornacki is at the big board.

And as Ashley Parker of "The Washington Post" put it tonight, there was simply so much touching. "The 11th Hour" on a Tuesday night begins now.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 460 of Trump administration and a new crisis is tonight engulfing this White House. This one involves the President`s nominee to be the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Dr. Ronny Jackson. He`s a Navy admiral. He is currently the physician to the President.

Jackson came to public prominence for his extremely positive assessment of President Trump`s health. Members of both parties have expressed concerns about Jackson`s readiness to run the federal government`s second largest bureaucracy with 370,000 employees.

Now much more serious allegations have emerged which have led to an investigation and put his confirmation hearings on hold. Tonight, his nomination is officially in trouble.

Senator Jon Tester of Montana, the top Democrat on Veterans Affairs, detailed some of these allegations earlier tonight in an interview with NPR.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN TESTER (D), MONTANA: They fall in three different areas, improper dispensing of prescription drugs, repeatedly drunk while on duty while traveling, and creating a toxic work environment. He is the physician for the President and in the previous administration, we were told stories where he was repeatedly drunk while on duty where his main job was to take care of the most powerful man in the world. That`s not acceptable.

We didn`t initiate this discussion. This discussion came when we were notified by folks that work with Admiral Jackson, folks in the military, about behaviors that had happened.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Well, it gets worse from there. A short time ago tonight, Senator Tester appeared on CNN and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TESTER: The word is, in overseas trips, in particular, that the admiral would go down the aisle way of the airplane and say, "All right, who wants to go to sleep? Twenty-some people, who got a hold of us and said, "We`ve got problem. This doctor has a problem because he hands out prescriptions like candy." In fact, in the White House, they call him the candy man.

The people below him, he belittled, screamed at them, really created a very toxic environment to the point where the people who worked around him felt like they had to walk on eggshells.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Administration sources tell NBC News that Dr. Jackson says the allegations against him are false and that prior internal White House reviews did not turn up anything out of the ordinary.

Well, today our colleague Garrett Haake caught up with Dr. Jackson on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GARRETT HAAKE, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You`ve seen the allegations, a hostile work environment, the allegations about potentially drinking on the job, over-prescribing medications. Are you saying those are categorically untrue?

DR. RONNY JACKSON, SECRETARY NOMINEE, VETERAN AFFAIRS: I`m saying I`m looking forward to the hearing, so we can sit down and I can explain everything to everyone and answer all the senators` questions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Was there an I.G. report about the allegations?

JACKSON: No, there was not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much vetting did the White House do before you were formally announced as the nominee?

JACKSON: Thanks, guys. I appreciate it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: In 2012, a watchdog report ordered up by Jackson noted there was low morale at the White House medical unit caused by the relationship between Jackson and another doctor in that unit. But, again, there were no indications then of misconduct.

The White House appears to be still rallying behind the doctor to defend him. He met with Trump in the Oval Office today, and one senior White House official told NBC News he has "improved unit morale, received glowing reviews and promotions under Republican and Democratic Presidents, and has been given a clean vet from the FBI."

Well, the administration has also released handwritten reports from Presidents Obama and Trump. Remember, he was Obama`s White House physician as well. They praised Jackson`s leadership and medical care, recommend him for promotions and the like. All of that makes what Trump`s comments today rather curious. He seemed to back Jackson while also leaving the door open for Jackson to drop out.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I said to Dr. Jackson, "What do you need it for?" So we`ll see what happens. I don`t want to put a man through who`s not a political person. I don`t want to put a man through a process like this. It`s too ugly and too disgusting. So we`ll see what happens. He`ll make a decision.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, are you saying, Mr. President, that you will stand behind him --

TRUM: Oh, I would definitely stand behind him. He`s a fine man. I`ll always stand behind him. I`d let it be his choice.

I wouldn`t, if I were him. Actually, in many ways, I`d love to be him. But the fact is, I wouldn`t do it. I wouldn`t do it. What does he need it for?

I really don`t think, personally, he should do it. But it`s totally his, I would stand behind him, totally his decision.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Well, for more on this we turn to our lead-off panel tonight. Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC Political Analyst, and Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers. Good evening to you both.

And, Peter, Senator Tester tonight said 20 people have come forward. What do they all have in common? They are all active duty military. They have all taken this extraordinary step.

Some of them have tried to go via chain of command, and it didn`t work. Nothing came of it. They`ve come forward to this Senate Committee. In addition to other reporting tonight, where do you put this right now?

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, apparently there has been a power struggle several years back over the White House medical unit. Dr. Jackson evidently was in sort of a struggle with his superior at the time. That has left a lot of bruised feelings and a lot of, you know, damaged relationships that are now sort of coming back to haunt him.

Now, you know, whether this is significant enough for the Senate, they`ll have to decide. Some of these other allegations are obviously serious that he was -- you know, not that he was drinking at the White House but then on official travel when they tried to come find him, they said at least on one occasion, he was passed out. They couldn`t get him for a medical situation.

Having said that, if you talk to some of the Obama White House staffers as we did today, they said, no, they never saw him in any condition like that. He was always a thorough professional. So you get multiple reports.

I`d also add, by the way, on this question of the sleeping pills on these long trips, you know, in the interest of transparency, I would say having covers the White House for, you know, most of the last 22 years, that`s been a practice of White House physicians for a while to help people who are on these long, arduous trips get some sleep during the plane rides and then be able to perform when they land, including reporters. So he would not be the first to do that if that`s what happened. But obviously the Senate is taking it pretty serious look at this, and it does look like the nomination is probably in trouble.

WILLIAMS: Yes, it`s a point I actually made at our editorial meeting this afternoon. Having covered the White House, the physician for the President ends up being the traveling team doctor for secret service, military aides, members of the news media. You`re usually all staying in a hub on the road, especially in a foreign country. And if somebody gets sick, there`s only one option to get treated, and that`s the traveling White House physician. Again, in the interest of fairness and transparency.

So, Anita, I want to read you a quote from "The New York Times" tonight. "On one trip during Barack Obama`s presidency, White House staff needed to reach Dr. Jackson for medical reasons and found him passed out in his hotel room after a night of drinking, Tester aides said. The staff members took the medical supplies they were looking for without waking Dr. Jackson."

Also, Anita, CNN out with a report that we have not matched as of tonight, citing four sources. It`s about an incident where Dr. Jackson apparently was banging on the door of a female White House staffer in 2015. Secret service intervened lest Dr. Jackson wake up the sleeping President Obama. Having said all that, where do you put this nomination as of tonight?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Well, people that I`m talking to do not think that he is going to last very long. So whether President Trump tells him or he decides for himself that he doesn`t want to go through with it depends, you know, how long it lasts. But, you know, obviously the couple graphs that you mentioned are probably the most serious.

I mean, Peter mentioned there was kind of a power struggle there. You might chuck up some of the work environment issues to that. I`m just not sure. But the drinking and the drugs are clearly going to be the most difficult part for him.

Now, it depends on whether, you know, giving out the drugs goes beyond what people have mentioned, which what you both have mentioned, and I could also mention being on those trips that just giving out, you know, sleeping aides and things like that. So, you know, candy man seems to make -- the name seems to say that it goes beyond that. So I mean I think he`s in real trouble.

Clearly the President was giving him an out today, and then maybe both men sort of changed their mind and decided to stick it out, but I don`t think it`s going to last very long.

WILLIAMS: Peter, in hockey and journalism, this next thing is what`s called an open net shot, and that is this. That all during the campaign, what did Donald Trump pledge to do? Bring in the best people and help our veterans, fix the V.A. And I think by any standard, this is neither.

BAKER: Yes. Look, this is symptomatic of a larger issue in terms of personnel in this White House, one that brings into question what John Kelly has been able to accomplish or not accomplish at this point as Chief of Staff, which is to say that when they have openings, and they have a lot of them. Remember, this White House now has seen almost 50% of its top staff turn over in just 15 months, far more than any modern White House.

So when they have these positions to fill, the President increasingly is turning into some of the people he already knows and likes and trusts like he does Dr. Jackson rather than necessarily having sort of a larger process that would seek out somebody with the kind of experience that might seem to match the task. Dr. Jackson, of course, had not run a department anywhere near as large as the V.A., which is the second largest department in the Cabinet. But the President liked him, and we hadn`t seen a President put his own personal physician up before a Cabinet position like this before.

It may not be surprising, then, that there would be surprises that would come along that might hobble this nomination. Not the first time this has happened. Maybe not the last time as long as the process continues the way it is.

WILLIAMS: Anita, let`s talk about the clock because we had the President`s let`s call them interesting remarks in realtime this afternoon. Then tonight, the reporting took a turn for the worse, but also the White House released these documents, signed statements by President Obama, who I`m sure did not realize at the time he was reviewing Dr. Jackson, it was going to make it into the public domain. President Trump`s review of Dr. Jackson.

And let`s face it, the White House was taken up today by the visiting French delegation and preparing for a first ever state dinner tonight, which can be an enormous distraction and a drag on resources. Could it be that the press shop is behind the story as of the time of this conversation right now?

KUMAR: Sure. I mean we`ve -- you know, people talk a lot about the vetting and the problem with the vetting in the Trump White House. That is an issue. But there`s other issues, too, and you`ve mentioned one, which is why didn`t we see President Obama`s glowing, you know, remarks before?

You know, this is a person that they nominated some weeks ago, that the President nominated some weeks ago. Then we just really didn`t hear much about it. They knew immediately that there were going to be concerns, not the concerns that came out today, but that he wasn`t qualified for the job.

It`s tonight late, 6:00. It didn`t even go to the entire press corps, just to people that had asked about Dr. Jackson, that they delivered these documents. And they were -- you know, there was a statement. They pushed back on this I.G. report that you mentioned.

Why are we just now hearing about that tonight? If you look at a lot of stories that came out, a lot of them had already come out by the time this information came out. So they really were behind on this, and they should have been up fronts weeks ago right when the nomination happened.

WILLIAMS: Peter, somewhat unbelievably, Senator Tester was already bemoaning the fact that if this domination doesn`t go through for the doctor, he goes back to a White House military office, which is now more of a toxic working environment than perhaps it ever was.

BAKER: Yes, it`s hard to imagine what that would be like on the day after. Certainly, it wouldn`t be very pleasant for any number of people. But, you know, we don`t know for a fact that this will go away.

I think Anita is right that the reporting at this point suggests there`s some real trouble. The President`s comments today certainly seemed to be like a hint, if not to suggest, you know, an alternative course for the doctor. The doctor clearly didn`t want to take it, at least as of now. But tomorrow`s another day.

It`s not just Democrats like Jon Tester who`ve expressed concern. The Republican chairman on the committee joined with Senator Tester in agreeing to postpone the confirmation hearing, and other Republicans have said that they take these issues seriously and want to take a look at them. This is a Senate right now which is controlled by Republicans. Only 51-49. You lose a couple Republican senators and if Democrats hold together, that means there`s not a confirmation.

WILLIAMS: You`re so right to make that point about Senator Johnny Isakson. This is as bipartisan as things get these days. Two of the best friends of our broadcast, Peter Baker, Anita Kumar, thank you both for starting off our conversation tonight.

And to our viewers, we just wanted to take a moment to get some political news tonight out of Arizona, where there was a special congressional election today and where polls closed about an hour ago. The race is in Arizona`s 8th Congressional District, leans heavily Republican. The race is for the seat that belonged to Congressman Trent Franks before he resigned amid allegations of sexual misconduct.

President Trump won this suburban Phoenix District by 21 points back in 2016. Where is this all leading to? Well, veteran viewers know. We`re going to go to Steve Kornacki at the big board for a rundown on this race. Hey, Steve.

STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brian. Yes, so, look, there was pretty much chaos about five minutes ago out here in this district because they dumped a huge chunk of the vote. They closed the polls, as you said, an hour ago at 11:00. The state law says, "Go ahead, release all the early vote."

And I got to tell you, a couple things about what you`re looking at right here. You said it up. Trump won this district by 21 points. You see the Republican in the early vote, which we think probably about three quarters of all the votes that are going to be cast out here.

The Republican leading by six points. You do not, in Arizona 8, see a Republican leading by only six points when they count the early vote. This is much closer than we would normally see in this district.

Now, the question for the Democrats here is can they actually get over the top? I`ll take you through the math they`re looking at right now because, I got to tell you, it is very steep math. But I`ll show you what it is.

There`s two types of vote that are still going to come in in this district. Number one, the old-fashioned way. People who went to the polls today and they actually voted. The same-day vote. What`s that going to be? The hints coming out of the Secretary of State`s office, they think maybe around 15,000 voters actually went to the polls today, got the ballot, went to the booth, put it in that way.

The other one, though, is this. It`s the uncounted early vote. What we`re talking about here is this is a mail-in state. Why do we have all this vote? They mailed out ballots weeks ago. People returned them when they wanted to.

A lot of people wait until Election Day to bring their ballot down. How many? Usually about 10% to 12% of the total number of counted early votes. What does that mean? That could mean 15,000 or so votes there too.

So there`s probably about 25,000, 30,000 uncounted votes right now in this district. If Hiral Tipirneni is going to catch Debbie Lesko, I said it`s very steep. She`d probably need about 70% of what`s to come. The Democrat would say, "Hey, maybe our voters, the energy was there to go out and vote today. Maybe they were the late," some argument like that, 70%. That`s an awful steep hill to climb.

But I can tell you this. First of all, this is much closer than we are accustomed to seeing in this district. Second of all, "The Associated Press," they have called this race for Lesko, but I can tell you that NBC News is not prepared to call this race for Debbie Lesko because we want to see when they start counting the vote today, how many people showed up? Was there an energy difference?

Did Democrats somehow suddenly swamp it on Election Day? Are there more uncounted votes than we think from the early ballots? So we want to see those variables to get a sense of it.

In terms of winning the race outright, Debbie Lesko in a much better position right now than Hiral Tipirneni. But remember, this is a Trump plus 21 district. This was a Romney plus 25 district.

A lot of people have been looking at these special elections we`ve had around the country for the last year and sometimes you could look at Alabama and say, "Hey, Roy Moore, you know, there was the whole issue with sexual assault." It catches for all these Republicans. This is as red a Republican district as we have seen a special election in, and we`re looking at a six-point race here that might even close further. So we`re going to keep an eye on these other votes.

Debbie Lesko leading right now in this thing. It would be sort of the Hail Mary pass, but it`s six, and it may get closer than that, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And before any viewers complain, Steve has drawn on the faces of both Democrats and Republicans over the years.

KORNACKI: Oh, no offense, yes. Sorry.

WILLIAMS: It just happened to be the Democrat got it tonight. This is why we love having you at the big board, Steve, and we`ll check back in with you as this hour goes on. Steve Kornacki.

Coming up for us, what Donald Trump today called a stupid question very much an issue tonight. We have a former White House counsel to Bill Clinton standing by with legal advice for this President.

And later, there was grooming. There was petting. There was kissing. And that was just today between the leaders of France and the U.S. We`re told there was talking as well. We`ll talk about all of it when we continue along the way.

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

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, what about Michael Cohen? Are you considering a pardon for Michael Cohen?

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Stupid. Stupid question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: President Trump did not like the question about a possible pardon for his longtime lawyer Michael Cohen. And late today, someone familiar with Cohen`s thinking, as they say, told "Vanity Fair" "he wants to fight this." The magazine also reports Cohen`s mood changes often. "The President`s former personal attorney oscillates between moments of dark brooding and optimistic survivalism."

Meanwhile, we`re also following new developments tonight in the larger Mueller investigation. New court documents filed by Mueller confirm that when the FBI raided Paul Manafort`s property last summer, they were searching for documents related to that Trump Tower meeting, June 2016, between Don Jr. and the visiting Russians. We also learned that Manafort was interviewed by the FBI before the Trump campaign even started, March of 2013, July of 2014.

"The Washington Post" tells it this way. "In a previous court document, Manafort said he met voluntarily with the FBI and prosecutors with the Justice Department in July 2014 to discuss his offshore consulting activities."

Well, with us tonight, we`re happy to have Jack Quinn, Veteran Washington Lawyer, Former Chief of Staff to Vice President Al Gore, and importantly, Former White House Counsel for President Bill Clinton. Counselor, it`s great to see you. Thanks very much for coming on.

JACK QUINN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL FOR PRES. BILL CLINTON: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

WILLIAMS: So let me start you this way with a dual question. Number one, is it possible this President is sending pardon signals over Twitter? And, number two, let`s play a hypothetical. He pardons Cohen. That clears Cohen of doing time, but it also takes away Cohen`s right to invoke the Fifth, correct? So can Mueller or the Southern District of New York bring him right in and ask him anything they want in front of a grand jury?

QUINN: Well, let me answer that second question. Yes, absolutely. Once he`s pardoned, there`s no threat of jail time. So, yes, he`s not protecting himself by invoking the Fifth Amendment. Therefore, it`s not available to him.

WILLIAMS: And back to the first part of the question, do you really think a sitting President is using social media in what I keep saying is a case that gets more Scorsesian every day, to send signals to people around him that I`ve got your back?

QUINN: Look, with every passing day, the inference that he is signaling is stronger and stronger, and it`s very dangerous for the President. I mean we have a litany now of instances that are troubling. Obviously, you know, the pardon of Scooter Libby most recently, somebody who had been convicted of perjury and obstruction. Then, you know, the President`s refusal to rule out a pardon for his national security adviser, Michael Flynn, who was convicted of lying to the FBI. This is troubling.

John Dowd, until recently his lead lawyer, actually raised the issue of pardons with Paul Manafort`s lawyer. The President`s repeated characterization of both investigations with the word "hoax." you know, he`s doing things to delegitimize these investigations and, of course, hanging over all of this is the constant threat of firing some of the principals involved in the investigations themselves, including Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller himself.

There`s a particularly toxic relationship between, on the one hand, discussion of pardons and, on the other hand, the threat of possible firings. You can think about it this way. If someone like the President, who is a subject of the investigation, could take away all the witnesses with pardons and then take away the prosecutors with firings, we`d have no case, would we? Well, I think that combination would really expose the President obviously to concerns about obstruction of justice, but it also would really represent a very fundamental violation on the part of the President of the oath he took -- he singly took as the President alone does in this country, to, you know, ensure that the laws are faithfully executed and to fulfill his commitment to preserve and protect the constitution of the United States in his service in that office.

WILLIAMS: And, Jack, final question. You`re the second guest to come on this broadcast who sees another shoe that may be about to fall, and this deals with the leaking of the e-mails, and people forget how much criminality this may find.

QUINN: Yes. I`ve been frankly wondering when are we going to see that because this goes to the heart of the investigation. The very heart of Robert Mueller`s investigation is whether there was, of course, any relationship between Russia or Russian agents on the one hand and the Trump campaign on the other. The e-mails are right at the center of that.

We know that Russia interfered with our elections. We know that Russia and WikiLeaks were behind the hacking of Democratic e-mails. The $64,000 question is were there any American citizens involved in that?

And let me remind you that these things are conspiracies, and a conspiracy, you can join before it`s hatched. You can join as it`s being hatched, or you can join much later. As an example, you know, in a stolen car ring, you can lay the plans to do it, or you can join later and help steal cars, or you can come along later and bribe public officials to cover it up or commit perjury to protect the perpetrators. So in the case of the e-mail situation, the question here is were any people associated with the campaign complicit at any stage from hatching the hacking to facilitating it to covering it up?

WILLIAMS: That`s a broad --

QUINN: And that is the question that Robert Mueller has to answer, whether in that way or any other, Russia facilitated interference with the 2016 election.

WILLIAMS: -- that covers a broad spectrum. Thank you for laying that out for us. Former White House Counsel Jack Quinn, great to have you here with us on the broadcast.

QUINN: Thank you so much.

WILLIAMS: A big thank you.

And coming up for us, the President has undergone a huge change toward the leader of North Korea, and it`s the word he used today to describe Kim Jong-un that is getting attention worldwide. "The 11th Hour" is back with that after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATE: Mr. President, they`re all saying what a great relationship we have, and they`re actually correct. It`s not fake news. Finally, it`s not fake news. So, it`s a great honor, great honor that you`re here. But we do have a very special relationship. In fact, I`ll get that little piece of dandruff off, you have a little piece. We have to make him perfect. He is perfect.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: That awkward moment was just one of many public displays of, shall we call it, affection between President Trump and French President a. Later, we`ll have more on that. The two held a series of diplomatic meetings ahead of this evening`s state dinner. In private, the most contentious topic was expected to be the Iran nuclear deal. Trump wants out as you may have heard. Macron is trying to convince the U.S. to stay in. The president didn`t make any commitments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you willing to consider staying in the Iran deal?

TRUMP: So we`re going to be talking about it, and we`ll see. I mean, people know my views on the Iran deal. It was a terrible deal. It should have never, ever been made. We could have made a good deal or a reasonable deal. The Iran deal is a terrible deal. If they restart their nuclear program, they will have bigger problems than they have ever had before.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Trump also signaled optimism about a potential meeting with North Korea, but drew criticism for these comments about that nation`s authoritarian leader. And as you listen to this, remember fire and fury.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Kim Jong-un was -- he really has been very open and I think very honorable from everything we`re seeing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Open and honorable. With us tonight, Christopher Dickey, a veteran foreign correspondent, the Paris-based worlds news editor for "The Daily Beast," and a long-time MSNBC contributor, and Eugene Robinson, long- time foreign correspondent himself and now these days, a columnist for "The Washington Post" who happens to own a Pulitzer and is also an MSNBC contributor.

Eugene, I`m going to start with one of your newly minted Pulitzer Prize winners at your newspaper, Ms. Ashley Parker, who has done it again tonight. About the body language between these two guys, let`s call it dandruff-gate. She writes, "The interactions throughout the visit said Patti Wood, a body language expert and author of, "SNAP: Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language, and Charisma," largely fall under a category known as gamesmanship. In calling out Macron`s alleged dandruff", this is a first for this broadcast as I know it is you, Eugene, "she said, Trump, "did something called primate grooming". "It said, "We have an intimate relationship but I`m dominant. I`m the alpha gorilla, I`m going to groom you", Wood said. But I`m going to criticize you by saying you have dandruff, and I`m going to do that on the world stage and see how you handle that."

Eugene, take it away.

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I`m so confused, Brian. Does the alpha gorilla really groom the beta gorilla, or is it the other way around? I thought it was a form of flattery to the big guy. But anyhow, it did seem to me to be some sort of primeval, shall we say, display of dominance, the touching, the suggestion that the beautifully groomed Macron was -- had dandruff.

There was, as Ashley also pointed out, really so much touching involved, not just the brushing of the dandruff but the hand holding and everything else that went on today. This is clearly -- you know, when I was covering Europe, we always said the U.S. and Britain, that was a special relationship. I think this is clearly the special relationship of the moment between Macron and Trump.

WILLIAMS: I urge you and all our viewers to stay tuned for our final segment tonight, which just might catalog the tactile relationship between these two guys.

So, Chris Dickey, longtime friend of ours, literally an American in Paris here on home leave for a brief time. Serious us up here. What -- how is Macron viewed right now at home, and what are the deliverables he`s going to be able to bring back to France from this trip?

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, WORLD NEWS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, you know, I think he has to bring something back from this trip. He has to bring some kind of concession back. Otherwise, even the French will be embarrassed by all this kissing and hand holding and everything else. He can`t look like Trump`s pawn.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

DICKEY: He has to look like the smart, manipulative man that, in fact, he has always been, who actually is trying to steer Trump toward what the French would regard to be a more sane policy vis-a-vis Iran, vis-a-vis Syria. And I think he`s showing some success. You know, it`s true that Trump came out and said, yes, it`s a terrible deal with Iran. But then Macron came out and said, look, OK, it`s a terrible deal with Iran, but let`s keep that -- let`s keep the gains we have, and then let`s do new deals about Iran`s missile tests. Let`s do a new deal about what happens when the current one expires.

And all of that is creating a framework that could allow Trump to say he`ll keep the Iran deal in place, but he`s going to push for these other things with his good buddy, Emmanuel Macron.

WILLIAMS: Eugene, on North Korea, it strikes me that calling Kim honorable is plainly and cleanly one of two things. It`s either gamesmanship and the State Department and the CIA are up to something, or it`s just a mistake.

ROBINSON: It strikes me as a mistake. I suppose it could be gamesmanship. Donald Trump, his style generally has not been to take advice from the intelligence community and this and that and then, you know, come out with a word that everyone had decided on that`s designed to have a certain impact. It`s unimaginable. This is a butcher. This is the leader of one of the most brutal regimes in modern history, and the word honorable is crazy. This is an interesting series of experiments that`s really being carried out.

You look at macron. You look at Kim Jong-un. They seem to be trying to figure out how do you play Donald Trump? How do you get Donald Trump to do what you want him to do? In the case of Macron, how do you bring him back to multilateralism and more in concert with the world community on these big issues?

Macron thinks he might have a winning method. I`m not sure. I mean, we`ll see if it brings results. We`ll see if it brings only temporary results and then Trump goes back to being Trump. Likewise, Kim Jong-un seems to have found a way to soften Trump`s rhetoric at least. He may have found a way to sort of get one over on him at the summit, and I think that`s what a lot of people who know a lot about North Korea are concerned about, that Kim could sort of sweet talk Trump into a deal that`s really not a very good deal at all.

WILLIAMS: Chris, do more French people walk around France more engaged and involved in issues like the Paris accord, the Iran deal, than Americans are engaged and involved walking around the streets of New York tonight?

DICKEY: Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean, I think almost everywhere else in the world, people are more politicized, more engaged in foreign policy questions, in global questions than most Americans are. Certainly than most of Trump`s core supporters are. France is not an isolationist power notwithstanding the rise of people like Marine Le Pen in the past. They all feel engaged, sometimes too engaged but engaged with the rest of Europe and the rest of the world, absolutely. And they care about what America does even if they periodically go through spasms of America hatred.

WILLIAMS: By the way, long delayed thanks to you. Too often it`s a tragedy like the Bataclan, but we turn to you immediately in Paris as a huge part of our reporting. We don`t see you in New York often enough, but it`s a pleasure.

DICKEY: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Christopher Dickey and our long friend, Eugene Robinson, thank you, gentlemen, both.

Coming up for us, we go back to Steve Kornacki with the latest on tonight`s special election in the State of Arizona. We`re back with that after this.

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WILLIAMS: As promised, we`ve been keeping an eye on Arizona as the results come in from that special election, the 8th congressional district tonight. Back to Steve Kornacki at the big board for more. Hey, Steve.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Hey, Brian. Yes, so we can fill in some more of the blanks from earlier. The bottom line before I get into it, some of the other outlets, some of the outlets out there, are calling this race. NBC News is not calling this race. We`re in a bit of a holding pattern. Let me explain to you exactly why that is and what`s going on.

So this is the early vote. Folks were mailed ballots all around this district. They returned them sometimes weeks ago. That`s what we`ve got. That`s all we`ve got right now. That adds up to about 155,000 total votes. Now, what is left besides that 155,000? We now believe there are 19,000, give or take, but about 19,000 ballots that folks walked down to polling stations today, they requested the ballot, they filled it out in the booth. Same-day votes, about 19,000 of those. Then there are the folks who got the early ballots, and they returned them in person day. Same-day, early voting, if you want to call it that.

We don`t know how many, and we`re not going to for a while. But usually, it`s a little more than 10% of the total number of these ballots. In other words, about 16,000 if past holds tonight. What would that mean? That would mean a total turnout of about 190,000 in this district, when you add everything together. If that`s what we`re looking at, then when we count these other ballots, Tipirneni, the Democrat, is going to need to get 63%.

Now, look, that is a huge -- that is a very tall order. If you`re a Democrat, you`re hoping to win this. You are facing the Hail Mary from your own 20 yard line. You see it once in your lifetime, but it happens once in your lifetime. So she would need to just clean up in all this other vote. What would the theory be behind that? It would probably be, hey, same-day voters, they`re really motivated. They weren`t plugged in today with the early ballot, but they realized it was the election, they`re Democrats, you know, something like that.

We had not seen that kind of disparity in the past. But this is the bottom line. What we`re waiting for, after midnight Eastern Time, they are going to begin releasing the same-day vote in the 8th district in Arizona, and we are going to be looking is Tipirneni in any of those same-day reports that we get. Is she trending near that 63% or is she nowhere near it? And I think then we`ll have a better sense where this is going.

So Lesko leading, but we are not, we are not prepared to call this yet. And I just want to put this in perspective no matter what happens. We`re looking at a single-digit race here in a district Trump won by 21 points, in a district Romney took by 25, in a district with no modern Democratic voting tradition, in a district where there was no scandal involving the Republican nominee. We have seen Democrats outperform Trump in some very Republican districts and always there`s been an excuse. When it happened in Kansas 4, we were told the Kansas governor, Brownback, so unpopular. That`s why the Republicans lost 20 points off Trump`s margin.

When it happened in Montana, they said, well, it was because the reporter got body slammed by the Republican candidate. That`s what happened there. When it happened in P.A. 18, we heard all about this is ancestrally Democratic. They used to vote Democratic, they`re coming home. When it happened in South Carolina 5, we heard a turnout was low. None of those factors that we`ve seen where Democrats have made these gains before were operative here. This is as red or Republican district as we have had a special election and Trump won by 21. It`s six now. It may get closer.

We`re looking at a 15-plus point swing. Those things don`t just happen, right? If you are a Republican looking to hold the house and you were nervous about all of these, what you`re seeing tonight, I think, makes you more nervous than anything on this screen in Arizona 8.

WILLIAMS: That is why Steve Kornacki is the enemy of so many established sleep patterns on the part of our viewers. That is why he is the very best at the business of the big board. Steve, thank you. Fascinating numbers tonight.

And on a night with so many headlines, we are so happy vis-a-vis that discussion to welcome back to our studio, Bill Kristol, veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, editor at large at The Weekly Standard. Let`s talk about that right there. What -- this is what you`ve been sadly predicting for quite a while. What is it we`re seeing in the capable hands of Steve Kornacki?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: I mean, assuming the Republican wins the seat by about 4%, which seems the likeliest outcome, this will be objectively a slightly bigger swing than we`ve seen in some of these other seats. It`s a more Republican district. It`s -- I think there are only 93 districts in the House that are more Republican than Arizona 8. The majority of the House Republican districts are -- there`s a less lopsided in Arizona 8. And it looks like the Democrats going to get 47%, 48% of the vote, and as Steve says, NBC is not calling it yet because it is possible the same-day vote could be even -- could be lopsidedly Democratic, and it could become very, very close.

So this is a very -- there`s no scandal. There`s no special circumstances, no Roy Moore. There`s no whatever. Very attractive Democratic candidates. Two pretty normal candidates. So this says if you are -- this combined with Paul Ryan`s announcing that he was retiring, not running for re- election, I think it`s going to be close to sort of signaling that the House is gone for Republicans. It`s early so you can`t really say that but I think big Republican donors are going to start looking at the Senate to try to save that. Some people who were thinking of, you know, candidates who were thinking this is getting a little late but there`s still some places you could -- it`s -- the filing deadline is not there yet. You`ll see more Republican members maybe resign. It`s a pretty bad result for the Republicans.

WILLIAMS: Our friend Steve Schmidt, intellectually gifted as you are, bemoans the loss, the absence of rigor in this administration. It`s a word he uses all the time, and it really is perfect, and it`s rigor that speaks to the problems of Dr. Ronny Jackson, the lack of vetting. It`s rigor that speaks to the problems of the EPA director. Would that help if this were a rigorous administration?

KRISTOL: I mean, the problem starts at the top, so -- but it wouldn`t hurt. I mean, the Ronny Jackson thing, I`ve been watching your coverage of it. And it`s -- I mean, it`s not going to be --

WILLIAMS: Wow.

KRISTOL: -- good, obviously. But, you know, he seems to have been a popular White House doctor. President Obama didn`t say anything negative about him when they passed him on to, so to speak, to President Trump. So, in that respect, whatever he might -- his flaws might have been, they were presumably manageable within that system, so that`s one thing. And it would be fair for the Trump people to say if suddenly there was a huge assault on him as White House doctor, hey, wait a second, you know, we inherited him from the Obama White House, and they said nice thins about him.

But to promote him to head of the Veterans Administration, it was $180 billion budget, it`s huge and flawed, problematic agency of the U.S. government? It`s literally almost nuts. I mean, you know, where did that idea came from? That idea came from the fact that Trump had a good experience with him personally and then he praised Trump to the skies, in a way, certainly (ph) that shows that he`s not appropriate to be a serious person running a huge agency as opposed to helping out, you know, White House staff on, you know, long, international flights by giving them some sleep -- you know, sleep medicine.

So, it`s one example. I mean, the combination of Trump`s personal erraticness and his actual views and then the failure to be able to fix that in some of the -- a lot of these appointments is really a very damaging combination. And you know what? I mean, so many of my friends who were, you know, Bill, you`re too anti-Trump. And let`s give him time, he`s new to Washington, remember how we used to hear that all --

WILLIAMS: Yes.

KRISTOL: -- in the first, you know? He`ll get his sea legs and the first chief of staff didn`t work out and the first national security adviser didn`t work out, but be able to get some good people in there. Now, we`re going on to our third national security adviser, there`s still not -- doesn`t -- new secretary of state, and I`ve got to say, just the actual management of the administration is not getting better.

The new appointments aren`t really better than the old ones. The National Security Council, I`ve known John Bolton a long time and I think there`s a bit of a caricature of him in some of the attacks on him. But I got to say that the replacement of McMaster by Bolton makes me nervous actually about our foreign policy. I think McMaster and I think his team did more good in keeping things in a relatively even keel than people might realize. So, the bad news is not just that -- now, the bad news is I -- it`s not clear to me it`s getting better.

WILLIAMS: Some night.

KRISTOL: Not to be too down beat here.

WILLIAMS: I promise to have Bill Kristol on here and we`re going to talk about puppies or something positive. In the meantime, it`s a joy to be able to have you on our broadcast.

KRISTOL: Great to see you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Bill Kristol, our thanks.

Coming up, why a lot of people watching the coverage of Trump and Macron today felt like they needed a cigarette afterwards, even those who don`t condone smoking at all. More on that after this.

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WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go tonight, the tactile and at times aerobically affectionate relationship between Macron of France and Trump of the U.S., at times during this visit, it looked like the two men could not keep their hands off of each other. As a guy, Trump has for years used his size and his handshake to pull people in close and off balance, so it`s been theorized Macron is using the kissing and the stroking and the hand holding as a kind of double-reverse body trolling attempt to keep Trump off balance.

Either way, tuning into the coverage today, we saw a bilateral rom com.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Woke up this morning feeling fine, there`s something special on my mind. Last night, I met a new girl in the neighborhood. Oh yes. Something tells me I`m into something good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something tells me I`m into something good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s the kind of girl who`s not too shy, and I can tell I`m her kind of guy. She danced close to me like I hoped she would.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She danced with me like I hoped she would.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something tells me I`m into something good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something tells me I`m into something good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We only danced for a minute or two but then she stuck close to me the whole night through. Can I be falling in love?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She`s everything I`ve been dreaming of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I walked her home and she held my hand. I knew it couldn`t be just a one-night stand. So I asked to see her next week and she told me I could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked to see her and she told me I could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something tells me I`m into something good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something tells me I`m into something. Something tells me I`m into something good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I walked her home and she held my hand. I knew it couldn`t be just a one-night stand. So I asked to see her next week and she told me I could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I asked to see her and she told me I could.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something tells me I`m into something good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something tells me I`m into something good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something tells me I`m into something good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something tells me I`m into something good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Something good. Oh, yes. Something good --

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