Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: April 27, 2018 Guest: Katie Rogers, Catherine Lucey, Mike Murphy
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, Stormy Daniels` lawsuit delayed 90 days but here`s why. A federal judge says it`s likely Michael Cohen gets indicted following those raids on his home and office.
Plus, the House Intel committee releases its Russia report. Republicans find no collusion. Democrats say there wasn`t serious investigation. President Trump calls the findings totally conclusive and powerful.
All of it as the President hosts the head of Germany, as peace appears to be breaking out on the Korean peninsula, and Dr. Ronnie Jackson goes back to work at the White House.
THE 11TH HOUR on a Friday night begins now.
And good evening, once again, from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 463 of the Trump administration brought an end to another week of this President trying to balance his own legal battles with the running of the White House and while conducting foreign affairs. And what at first sounded like something of a break from a federal judge today wound up more like a good news-bad news proposition.
A few hours ago, a federal judge agreed to a 90-day delay in the Stormy Daniels suit against the President and notably his attorney, Michael Cohen. But in doing that, the judge agreed it appeared likely Cohen will face charges linked to that separate criminal investigation. This week, the President`s ties to Cohen were back in the spotlight amid speculation about a possible pardon.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KARL, ABC NEWS REPORTER: Mr. President, what about Michael Cohen? Are you considering a pardon for Michael Cohen?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Stupid question.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Mr. Trump was also asked for details about his relationship to Cohen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: Mr. President, how much of your legal work was handled by Michael Cohen?
TRUMP: Well, as a percentage of my overall legal work, a tiny, tiny little fraction. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal. He represented me and, you know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Crucial comment right there, it turned out. Meanwhile, it`s been reported that the newest member of the President`s legal team, one Rudolph Giuliani of New York, is trying to work out an interview between Trump and special counsel Robert Mueller.
Today, the President welcomed the House Intel Committee`s finding, authored only by the Republicans on that committee. They`re in the majority, that there was no cooperation with Russia by the Trump campaign.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s a witch hunt. That`s all it is.
I`ve always said there was no collusion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The constant churn in the President`s Cabinet was also a theme this past week as we witnessed the precipitous collapse of White House Dr. Ronny Jackson`s bid to run the V.A. According to reports tonight, Jackson has gone back to work in the White House medical office. His nomination came under intense scrutiny amid allegations of drinking on duty, misuse of medications, and at one point this week, the President seemed to suggest Jackson should end his quest for the job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I wouldn`t -- if I were him? I really don`t think personally he should do it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So after Jackson did drop out, the President hinted partisan politics had made it hard for Jackson to continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I called him today. I said in a certain way, in a very big way, you`re an American hero because you`ve exposed the system for some horrible things. I`ve had it happen to me with the Russian collusion hoax. It`s a hoax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: This week, the President also played host to two critically important leaders, but in very different ways. He welcomed French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to the White House. At the top of both leaders` agendas, keeping the U.S. from leaving that Iran nuclear deal. President Trump appeared to be mostly focused on warning Iran about resuming its nuclear program.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: They`re not going to be restarting anything. If they restart it, they`re going to have big problems, bigger than they`ve ever had before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Trump continued his efforts to remake U.S. foreign policy by talking up the remarkable summit between the leaders of North and South Korea and putting himself at the center of the effort to end decades of hostility.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAKE BURMAN, FOX BUSINESS WASHINGTON REPORTER: Do you feel like it`s your responsibility for this to eventually get settled between North and South Korea?
TRUMP: I think I have a responsibility. I think other Presidents should have done it. I think the responsibility has fallen on the shoulders of the President of the United States, and I think we have -- I think I have a responsibility to see if I can do it. And if I can`t do it, it will be a very tough time for a lot of countries and a lot of people.
It`s certainly something that I hope I can do for the world. We get a kick every once in a while out of the fact that I`ll be watching people that fail so badly over the last 25 years explaining to me how to make a deal with North Korea. I get a big, big kick out of that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Let`s bring in our lead-off panel, shall we, for another Friday night. We are so happy to welcome to our broadcast Katie Rogers, White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," Catherine Lucey is back with us, White House reporter for "The Associated Press," as is Jeremy Bash, Former Chief of Staff at CIA and the Pentagon and an MSNBC National Security Analyst.
Hey, Jeremy, I want to do something unusual, and that is first things first. Go back up to our list of particulars about the news today and ask you what we should think about this federal judge ruling in the Trump-Cohen matter.
JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAF: Well, Cohen won the battle but he lost the war because he won a 90-day reprieve from the civil suit that was filed by Stormy Daniels and her attorney against him basically to nullify that hush agreement where Michael Cohen on behalf of President Trump paid Stormy $160,000. So the federal judge there said, "We can`t go forward with the civil suit. Why? Because Michael Cohen is likely going to be indicted based on evidence collected by that raid on his offices, his hotel, and his home. And, therefore, there`s too much factual overlap between the civil case regarding Stormy Daniels and the federal criminal investigation into Michael Cohen`s conduct."
And so, Brian, just to kind of wrap this up here, you have a very distressing development if you`re in the Michael Cohen legal camp.
WILLIAMS: So, Katie, if you were assigned the news analysis thought piece for tomorrow`s "New York Times," as people left the West Wing tonight, people on the staff, what do you think the mood was after this week that was?
KATIE ROGERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, luckily I`m not a signed that news analysis, Brian. Thanks for having me by the way.
I think one of the things that strikes me about the West Wing is how much it takes to rattle them at this point. They describe their work as in the trenches with each other. I do think that one of the obstacles for this crew now will be dealing with a President who is obviously very frustrated with the ongoing investigation and also who appears to be visibly trying to distance himself from Michael Cohen.
I think as Michael Cohen`s legal problems mount, there`s a growing distance there, and I think, you know, for White House aides, I think managing that -- managing his tendency to sort of go back and forth on Cohen. I think last week he was encouraging him to stay strong on Twitter, and yesterday it was stupid question. And then it was I barely know the guy on "Fox & Friends." So I think for the West Wing aides, just knowing which end is up is often a problem.
WILLIAMS: And Catherine, now it can be told yours was the voice in the distance that got President Trump to react to the $130,000 payment. He was standing in the doorway, in front of the press cabin there on Air Force One, making the choice not to of course enter the press cabin on Air Force One. How surprised were you to hear that he went there on Cohen vis-a-vis Stormy on "Fox & Friends"?
CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": Well, it was notable, wasn`t it, Brian? I mean, two weeks ago when asked, "Did you know about this $130,000 payment," he said, "No." I asked, "Why did Cohen make it, then?" And he said, "You know, Michael Cohen is my lawyer. You`ll have to ask Michael."
But then this week on "Fox & Friend," he`s seems to, you know -- I mean, he`s clearly said that Cohen did represent him and "this crazy Stormy Daniels deal." So he seems to be struggling with what he should say in this matter, and you saw he says two things with "Fox & Friends." He spoke about Cohen represented him. At the same time, he also said, "He does a tiny fraction of my legal work," and you saw in court in New York, you know, those words were quickly seized upon as an example of why, you know, certain papers should be usable and not subject to attorney-client privilege. So one thing that it shows is that every time he speaks about this, I mean it potentially creates new legal vulnerabilities for him.
WILLIAMS: That`s right. As a layperson and not a lawyer especially and as has been described, a guy who doesn`t always take the advice of counsel.
So, Katie, if we take a look back at this week, does the Dr. Jackson incident become a kind of -- I don`t mean to diminish him or the incident. Does it become a blip on the time line of the Trump presidency, or is there a deeper cautionary tale there about things like vetting?
ROGERS: I think there`s totally a deeper cautionary tale about things like vetting. Mainly that it doesn`t seem to happen in this White House to the degree that perhaps President Trump`s predecessors might have carried out hiring and vetting individuals I think, you know, starting with somebody like Rob Porter and now, you know, Dr. Jackson`s nomination. I think there are serious questions about how the President is appointing new nominees for very high-profile, very high-responsibility jobs and their readiness for it.
I mean this came out. I mean it was kind of a land speed record to have somebody say, never mind. I don`t want to go through this. So going forward, one would assume that these questions will be put to the White House. You know, how is the President picking his nominees and why?
WILLIAMS: Jeremy, as the member of this panel who`s a veteran of the agency and the Pentagon, this next one is to you, and it`s about the Korean peninsula. This has been the situation my entire adult life, and while I don`t have your schooling, I was taught that our presidents in succession have done their level best to, A, keep the lid on and, B, diminish North Korea as a global power. Why does the President keep saying that this was left to him, that this was almost uniquely his burden to bear?
BASH: Well, I think he wants to make a political point about his predecessors, but there`s a broader national security point here, which is that we do have a handshake. We do have a hand clasp. We have two leaders walking across each other`s borders, and that`s good. We`d rather have dialogue. But we don`t yet have any specificity as to what the actual end agreement will be.
We don`t know whether U.S. troops will remain on the peninsula. We don`t know whether or not U.S. military will be permitted to exercise. We don`t know whether or not North Korea will be permitted to retain their ICBMs or their nuclear arsenal.
And so at this point, we don`t have really anything more than has already been promised over these last 6.5 decades. And so the real result is not a meeting -- or it`s not an accomplishment. The accomplishment will and only be when, in fact, we have concrete results.
WILLIAMS: And yet, Jeremy, I can`t stop watching these pictures. Just seeing Kim speaking in front of the media live and in person next to his counterpart from South Korea, seeing how he reacted, how he conversed, how he related to the other side, endlessly fascinating.
BASH: Absolutely. I mean it hearkens back to images we`ve seen of the Berlin Wall falling, of the handshake on the White House lawn between Arafat and Rabin, and other momentous times and global events. This is one that`s going to be remembered, Brian, but again the ultimate significance I think has yet to be written.
WILLIAMS: So Catherine, what a week it was, disparate week on the foreign policy front. Think about Macron, the French leader who plays up the President, then goes before a joint meeting of Congress and could not have been more critical. And then the leader of Germany and then what`s going on in North Korea, absolutely astounding.
LUCEY: Yes. I mean there`s a whiplash-inducing element, I think, to this political moment all the time. But you certainly see that this week. There`s just so much going on.
I do think it`s interesting to see the contrast with the Macron and the Merkel visits. Macron obviously came in. There was a big state visit. The red carpet was rolled out. You saw a lot of affection between the two. Merkel obviously was a more brief visit today.
That said, both of them came in with key goals and messages, and it`s still not clear what the results are. Both are looking to see what Trump is going to do on the Iran nuclear deal, what he is going to do on tariffs, and they don`t really have answers yet.
WILLIAMS: Two things to note as we prepare to say good-bye and run to a break. Macron got a state dinner. Merkel went out apparently in Georgetown last night. And tomorrow night the Correspondents` dinner in Washington, the President is having a rally as a kind of counter event. Won`t that all be interesting?
Our great thanks to Katie Rogers, to Catherine Lucey, and to Jeremy Bash. Thank you all for being part of our conversation at the end of a long week on a Friday night.
Coming up for us, two intelligence veterans share their take on this House Intel Committee Russian report and what wasn`t found.
And later the real-life effects of White House chaos on the rest of the country. Trump friends and foes alike.
THE 11TH HOUR just getting start, as we said, on a Friday night.
WILLIAMS: President Trump was all too happy to get the news from the House Intelligence Committee today. The Republicans in charge wrote and released the final 250-page report which found there was no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. Democrats on the committee accused Republicans of prematurely closing out the investigation out of a desire to protect the President.
"The New York Times" sums it up this way. "The strikingly divergent conclusions closed a chapter for a congressional committee that, while charged with oversight of American spy agencies," that`s the important part, "has fractured into warring factions that often seemed to see the advancement of political agendas as their primary mission." Heck of a sentence there.
The President wrote on Twitter tonight for his part, "House Intelligence Committee rules that there was no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia. As I have been saying all along, it`s all a big," unexplained capital letter "H," "hoax, by the Democrats based on payments and lies. There should never have been a special counsel appointed. Witch hunt." Counsel spelled wrong.
And today during a meeting with the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, the President said he was honored by the report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It was a great report. No collusion, which I knew anyway. No coordination. No nothing. It`s a witch hunt. That`s all it is.
There was no collusion with Russia, you can believe this one. There was -- she probably can`t believe it. Who can? But the report was very powerful, very strong. There was no collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian people.
As I`ve said many times before, I`ve always said there was no collusion, but I`ve also said there has been nobody tougher on Russia than me. With that all being said, if we can get along with Russia, that`s a good thing, not a bad thing. But there has been nobody tougher on Russia than me.
I was very honored by the report. It was totally conclusive, strong, powerful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We should note the Senate investigation into Russian interference is ongoing, and of course there is Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation. Here with us tonight to talk about it, Clint Watts, former FBI Special Agent and Member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. His new book out next month is "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, And Fake News." And Malcolm Nance, a veteran of Naval Intelligence, Special Ops, Homeland Security with 35 years working in Counterterrorism and Intelligence. He happens to be the author of "The Plot to Hack America: How Putin`s Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried to Steal the 2016 Election." And so it`s for good reason both gentlemen are MSNBC Analysts and the only two guys we wanted to have on to talk about this.
Clint, I want to take a customer service angle with you about House Intel. I assume you pay your taxes, and I know I pay mine. We are customers. They are working for us, using our money. This is the Committee in the House where we are supposed to trust that they will deal appropriately with our secrets provided we`re both patriots and we care about the home team.
Why shouldn`t we be angry that it has devolved into this partisan mess?
CLINT WATTS, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: It is the biggest example probably of the decline of American Democratic institutions because this was one of the two committees, the other one being the senate Intel Committee, that was seen as the gold standard. This was the two places that did oversight. This is where you saw, you know, bipartisan usually congressmen working together, trying to do oversight.
WATTS: And this report is utterly worthless. It is lacking in depth. There`s more out there on the internet. I have more in this notebook probably on this investigation than is in that report. And so it`s really doing no service to the citizens of this country.
WILLIAMS: Malcolm Nance, we learned more today thanks to Richard Engel`s interview with this woman, Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who shows up in Trump Tower for a meeting, the purpose of which was later changed in the public memory. A lot of people had their suspicions about her.
I`m going to roll Richard Engel`s interview with her, including a very curious way she describes herself at the end. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: The only reason I`m asking these questions is because of the contact that you had with the most senior people who are now in our government.
NATALIA VESELNITSKAYA, RUSSIAN LAWYER: Listen, once again, Richard. I do not care what kind of government you have and who is in it.
ENGEL: And you said your relationship with the prosecutor general is what?
VESELNITSKAYA: I`m a lawyer and I am an informant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So as we`re used to hearing every day, I`m a lawyer, and I`m an informant. And, Malcolm, I heard Bill Clinton`s White House lawyer, Jack Quinn, say tonight that he thinks this is Putin pressing a button to say to Trump and the U.S. government, "I`m the captain now. Here`s a few of the things I can control, and don`t forget I`m involved in your process."
MALCOLM NANCE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TERROR ASYMMETRICS PROJECT: That`s an excellent example. I actually used it as Putin`s own personal guardrail, sort of a way to hedge Trump in. You have a person here who`s on the verge of leaking information.
I thought the most extraordinary part of Richard Engel`s interview, which I think is just brilliant journalism, he always does well, is when he got her to admit that she worked for a special military unit that was associated with the FSB. And we all know what is. That is the GRU, Russian Military Intelligence. And so technically she`s from the Judge Advocate General`s office of the GRU or some other military intelligence organization where she specializes in legal work and obviously as a cutout. So that being said, I just think it`s fascinating that she would come on television and leak just a little bit of information, enough to make everyone on the Mueller side pretty excited, but it`s going to make the White House a little worried, I believe.
WILLIAMS: Clint, I want to read you Laurence Tribe from Harvard Law School, smarter than the average bear. "Donald Trump was in the building when now confessed Russian spy Veselnitskaya met with Donald Jr. to trade anti-Hillary dirt for Trump`s promise to dilute anti-Kremlin sanctions," for those of you following at home, "but Nunes shut down the House inquiry into what Trump knew and when. Trump-Putin conspiracy plus obstruction of justice." Agree? Disagree?
WATTS: Agree. There are several points in this document when you go through it where you see them go. They ask somebody a question, and they say, no, somebody else. For example, Ukraine and offensive weapons. That changed in the RNC platform. You see it in the document. They go and ask was Manafort involved in this? No, Manafort didn`t know anything about it. It was somebody else in the campaign. But it stops.
WILLIAMS: No follow-up.
WATTS: Right. And Senator McCain, he has brought this up repeatedly. I just watched the documentary where he talks about it. It was a complete shock to him.
The Republican Party going soft on Russia. This is really odd, yet this policy change happened. They didn`t explore it. It`s not even in the report. And we know a lot of these leads are being run down by the Mueller investigation. I`m sure we`re going to find out more.
In every aspect, this report is going to look foolish because we`re going to have a great investigator, our nation`s best, come forward with so much evidence that`s going to put so much light into this. This will look like amateur hour.
WILLIAMS: And I don`t think I`ve come to believe it`s not overstatement to refer to Mueller as our nation`s best. Malcolm, this is what John Brennan, doesn`t speak often, but when he does, make sure you`re strapped in. "A highly partisan, incomplete, and deeply flawed report by a broken House committee means nothing. The special counsel`s work is being carried out by professional investigators, not political staffers. SC`s findings will be -- special counsel`s findings will be comprehensive and authoritative. Stay tuned, Mr. Trump."
Any disagreement with that, Malcolm?
NANCE: No. And leave it to John Brennan, Former Director of the CIA, to cut right to the chase. He`s absolutely right. The information that is in this report, some of it actually reveals that there was even more potential conspiracy, collusion, and cooperation than we knew before.
The sequence that Adam Schiff tweeted about tonight, the telephone communications between Donald Trump Jr. and a blocked call shows us that there`s -- you know, the Mueller investigation is not going to not look into that number and get the actual owner of that telephone number. This kind of coincidence is just unheard of. But this report as it exists right now is an abject failure. It is very clearly a political document designed to provide cover and to misuse the intelligence process and abuse the intelligence producers out there. It`s really a disgrace.
WILLIAMS: So, Clint Watts, this woman, this lawyer from Russia, full-on spy in your view. And second part of the question, do you believe Mueller is leagues ahead of this?
WATTS: Yes. I would assume at this point he`s done exhaustive interviews. We also saw if you remember the Internet Research Agency, the troll farm. When that indictment came out, it was really detailed. It had all sorts of specifics.
Things I didn`t know were in that document. You saw him use sources and methods talking about we heard them say, "Hey, it`s time to cover our tracks." This is really advanced stuff, and he`s going to be having those insights in his report.
I think what will be interesting is how it balances out with the Senate Intel Committee. They`ve really focused mostly on the election interference. They did a really strong report. Harrison Langford there have done a really good job of putting a bill forward. That`s the kind of recommendations we need from Congress.
So it really looks appalling when we see this from the House. And I think the Mueller investigation is going to be so rich and deep in so many different ways, whether it`s collusion or obstruction and really even other crimes that have been discovered. I think it`s going to be so much more in-depth.
WILLIAMS: Malcolm, if I could talk you out of academia and back into working for the home team and told you, you to had pick a trunch of the Mueller effort and work for one of those sub-councils, what area would you volunteer for duty in?
NANCE: Oh, that`s a fascinating question. You know, there are two events that I think that we haven`t heard from, that I find absolutely fascinating. When I first heard them, I found them stunning.
First was Jared Kushner`s meeting at the Russian embassy along with General Mike Flynn where he asked for, you know, a back-channel, using their secure cryptographic systems to Moscow. That right there, any other person in the United States would have been hauled in by the FBI, polygraphed to the nth degree, and quite possibly brought up on potential charges of espionage or abuse of classified information because how did he know he could get a secure back-channel at that embassy? Well, the director of Defense Intelligence was sitting right next to him. That needs to be torn apart just for the safety and security of this nation.
WILLIAMS: Wow, put it that way, this starts to sound serious. And you`re absolutely right. I had forgotten about that chapter in this story because we`re all human at the end of the day. But these are both authors and Clint Watts, please come back on when your book comes out.
WATTS: I will.
WILLIAMS: And Malcolm Nance, we`re happy to sell copies of yours. Gentlemen, thank you both for coming out on a Friday night to be with us.
Coming up, one of the nation`s top Republican political strategists is here with the residual effect, let`s call it, of the Trump chaos we`ve been covering politically.
THE 11TH HOUR continues after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Right now, our party has simply become, it seems, an apologist for certain actions of the President when we shouldn`t be. On the second level, politically, it`s just not smart for us as Republicans. I mean we saw what happened with the midterm election in Arizona -- I`m sorry -- the special election, leading up to the midterms. There is no way to spin that than we`re in trouble here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Again, the kind of talk even by a Republican who`s retiring and doesn`t have to worry about it that does get your attention. Republicans pulled off a victory, yes, in this week`s special election in the Arizona 8th Congressional District, but the margin of victory has some Republicans like, there`s Senator Jeff Flake admitting there`s trouble on the horizon.
Republican Debbie Lesko won by a five-point margin, but as our NBC news political team points out, it`s a district that, "President Trump carried by 21 points in 2016 and which Mitt Romney won by 25 points in 2012."
David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report also got our attention this week when he wrote on twitter, "There are 147 GOP-held House seats less Republican than Arizona 08. It`s time to start rethinking how many of those are truly safe in November."
So, we thought long and hard, and we could only come up with one name, the one man we wanted on this broadcast to address this for us, and that`s longtime Republican Strategist Mike Murphy, who worked with John McCain in addition to a number of other GOP candidates including but not limited to Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney.
He happens to be a senior fellow at Harvard University`s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. So, Mike, this tweet by Mr. Wasserman just got in our heads and rattled around all week. When you put it this way, 147 GOP-held house seats less Republican. Remind our viewers how many the democrats have to pick up to flip the House.
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, depending because there can always be another special election or something between now and, you know, actual election day in November. And you never want to have it by one seat because then chicanery. But, you know, they get to the high 20s or 30, I think the current count is like 32, 33 seats. I haven`t looked at it exactly, but let`s put it this way. They are really, truly in striking distance.
I mean, you know, we can declare victory that we won in Arizona 8, but it`s a point spread system kind of like football. And what happened there was the equivalent of the New England Patriots beating a good high school team by only one touchdown.
So, yes, we won. But the very fact the game was that close in such an unbalanced district, as you say, that has 150 more districts that are more Republican in front of it, that`s how deep into Republican world this was. And, you know, you could discount this if it was the only special election that went sideways, but the pattern has been democratic overperformance since Donald Trump`s been inaugurated just about across the board. So that`s about as plain as it gets that we have a real political challenge here in the party.
WILLIAMS: I know you brought up the Patriots in the same week our Giants made a rare great draft selection, but there`s time for that discussion later.
Anyway, the classic disconnect, which I know you talk about a lot between mainstream media on the coast and actual Americans. The media assume rank and file Republicans are panicked and abandoning the president. What is your experience in actual America?
MURPHY: Well, I think Donald Trump is in a cul-de-sac politically, which is he has a good grip on Republican primary voters, who aren`t the same as all people who identify themselves as Republicans. But they`re the biggest activists.
The most polls show he has around 80%, four out of five support of real Republican primary voters. So here`s the problem. If you`re in the Republican Congress and even in a tilt Republican district, the independents are against Trump. You`re taking that heat. The Democrats are wild against Trump. They`re all, you know, very, very intense.
So you`ve kind of got all Trump`s enemies and his friends alone aren`t enough to win. So these guys are caught in a real vice, and so it`s hard for them to attack Trump because the nominating electorate that picks him, the Republican primary vote by four or five to one like Trump, but everyone else doesn`t.
Now, I do believe those Trump numbers if we lose the House or if we, god forbid, lose the Senate and the House could change into `19 and really turn Republican politics upside down. But today the base is staying with Trump even though the political cost is rising.
WILLIAMS: So that`s important. You fear that a flip could be something for keeps and that means one to two to three cycles.
MURPHY: Yes. Well, no. I think that if there`s a flip and the laws of politics flip and Speaker Pelosi or whoever it might be is making policy, then the guy whose brand is built on win, win, win, we`re never going to stop winning is going to be the guy who had the biggest Republican loss in a long time, and that might start changing minds in the party. Because even though he`s at 75, 80% favorable, normally you`re at 90-plus. He`s still got one out of five Republicans who don`t like him now. It`s enough to control the party, but we`ll see how losing works.
Now, you know, election`s a while away. This Korea summit will be full of good optics. I`m not sure there will be any good policy outcome, but it will get tremendous media. The very fact that, you know, nobody stabs anybody with a fork at dinner will be portrayed as a huge victory. So the president, if he`s start, can get a bump out of this, but I don`t know if it`s enough to help all the other problems he has. We`re going to have to wait and see.
WILLIAMS: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why we`re always so happy to have Mike Murphy on our broadcast, especially late on a Friday night on a week like this. Hey, Mike, thank you as always.
MURPHY: Thank you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Coming up for us here tonight, the question we ask often. Just what is it we`re witnessing? Luckily, we have the best people to answer that around here. One of them standing by to talk with us after this.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN F. KENNEDY, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: No president should fear public scrutiny of his program. Without debate, without criticism, no administration and no country can succeed, and no republic can survive. And that is why our press was protected by the first amendment. The only business in America specifically protected by the constitution."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: John F. Kennedy spoke those words on this date 57 years ago. He gave the address titled "The President and The Press" before the American Newspaper Publishers Association at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel blocks from here in New York City.
With us tonight, the man who reminded us of the anniversary of that event, say nothing of the fact that it was here in Midtown Manhattan, our presidential historian and author Michael Beschloss. And Michael, teach a little civics here. Why is that both important and so relevant 57 years later to where we are right now?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, MSNBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, if candidate came back, he`d see a president in President Trump who`s screaming about the press all the time and talking about fake news and running press conferences like today that are very different from JFK.
And, you know, Brian, when Kennedy said that in 1961, he and we had just been through the bay of pigs, that failed invasion of Cuba by CIA backed freedom fighters, and what he was saying in that speech was, I won`t like it, but you should report even more about the flaws in my programs because you might prevent them.
WILLIAMS: I was amazed to hear from one of our producers that in a phone call today, you said that there were broader lessons from what we just witnessed this week, the nomination of Dr. Ronny Jackson to the much larger job, head of the second largest bureaucracy in all of government, to be the head of Veterans Affairs.
BESCHLOSS: Nominations show a lot about a president`s values. You know, Brian, you and I heard during the last campaign, Donald Trump said over and over again, I feel so strongly about the plight of the veterans and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Elect me, and I`ll fix it. And the way he fixes is by appointing someone with no administrative or serious political experience, who was destined to fail in that job -- Ronny Jackson -- even without all the personal problems that were raised.
WILLIAMS: And I couldn`t help but note what a momentous week this was on foreign affairs, on our soil and on the Korean Peninsula. You had the leader of France come here and kind of very adroitly work on the American president as a diligent boxer would, only using much more gentle hand and footwork, while at the same time last night the pictures that came in to us from the DMZ between North and South Korea, nothing short of remarkable. With these steps, the leader of North Korea, the dictator becomes the first to enter South Korea certainly since the cessation of hostilities.
BESCHLOSS: And a moment in history if it leads somewhere. You know, not maybe of the magnitude of Nixon going to China or Sadat to Jerusalem in 1977, but has that potential. And here`s a case where historians of the future will know in a way that we cannot today, you know, how much of this might be owed by President Trump and if President Trump had a role in bringing this about, he`ll get some credit from history.
WILLIAMS: I note you also know a lot about how news and history was covered in the moment. We witnessed this week an attempt by the president, and we`ve seen those from time to time of him to either distance himself from someone we know to be close to him, i.e., Michael Cohen of New York, or try to change the nature of the relationship. When we`ve seen previous presidents do that in the `60s, `70s, `80s, was the coverage perhaps more robust and more direct than it is now? Do you think we take more steps to be kind and watch our wording because of whatever fear or political correctness?
BESCHLOSS: Well, I think sometimes that`s true. You know, a tiny parallel would be in 1964 Lyndon Johnson`s old very close Senate aide Bobby Baker of whom he said, if I had a son, this would be the boy, got into real trouble, finally went to prison. And Johnson said, I hardly know the man.
WILLIAMS: So at least he was being rather up front for back then. And finally on Macron of France -- and I`m sorry to hop around --
BESCHLOSS: No, it`s great.
WILLIAMS: Have you ever seen a case where a president of a foreign nation comes here, is hosted at the White House, addresses a joint meeting of Congress, and gives a speech as explicitly critical of his host as Macron did?
BESCHLOSS: No. That is rare, and what you see that we`re watching in realtime that we haven`t seen before is people like Macron, Angela Merkel trying to see how they can handle Donald Trump and maneuver him around. Usually we see it from the other side, you know, the Goliath American president dealing with these European leaders.
This is really something we`ve not seen before. One thing we have not seen also during the last year and a half has been Donald Trump growing in the presidency, becoming less impulsive, more disciplined. We really haven`t seen it. He really should study.
WILLIAMS: On that cautionary note, what a luxury to be able to talk to you after a week like this. As we always say, Michael Beschloss, thank you so much for joining us.
BESCHLOSS: Thanks Brian. Love it always.
WILLIAMS: A quick break for us. We`re right back with more after this.
WILLIAMS: The news tonight at the top of our broadcast brought still more evidence of how one man is becoming a larger and larger part of the story of Trump`s presidency and that`s Trump`s long time personal lawyer and fixer as he`s been called Michael Cohen.
The president yesterday admitted for the firs time that Cohen represented him and "this crazy Stormy Daniels deal." The president then said Cohen handles just "A tiny, tiny little fraction" of his legal matters. But President Trump and Michael Cohen go back a long way. That relationship is part of a closer look at Michael Cohen that we are presenting this weekend as part of the headliner series and here now a preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s brash.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He`s a pit bull. His first inclination is to fight.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tough talking.
MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP PERSONAL LAWYER: The disgusting liberal mainstream media have attempted to label Donald Trump a racist.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In his mind going after his boss, he was going to fight back. It`s kind of lawyer that Trump would want.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The self-proclaimed fixer to the president.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The job here is to protect the king. And that something that Michael Cohen apparently did very well.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Before Michael Cohen became entangled in a presidential scandal, he was the kid from the suburbs who revered Donald Trump.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Michael was withdrawn (ph) to him, his personality, his brashness, his approach to life.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think they both define themselves by what they wear and what they drive, and what they can buy, and what they can sell.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But will that admiration and loyalty be enough to protect the president?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So I just heard they broke into the office of one of my personal attorneys, a good man.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Attorney/client privilege is not a magic wand. If the attorney is healthy (ph) and you commit a crime, will conceal the crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If he flips, you`re in trouble.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said to me that he would take a bullet for the president. And when he said it, he sounded like he meant it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: You`ve been warned. Make a note, set your DVR for "Headliners: Michael Cohen," hosted by our own Ari Melber, Sunday, 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time right here on MSNBC.
Coming up back, we`re back with one of the more unusual comments of the day, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight. People who have written books about this president, some of who have observed him up close covered him for many years, have observed that he lacks empathy. I have couple of notes here. Not everyone has it, not everyone is born with it, not everyone can learn it, nor is it necessary to sustain human life.
For some people, this was encapsulated in the phrase that we later learned was written for him by Hope Hicks, on that card in his hard, at the listening session after the Florida high school massacre, it said, I hear you.
Well, today at a White House event, the president addressed members of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic teams and comments perhaps meant one way perhaps came out another way.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: So today, on behalf of the Untied States, I want to thank every Olympian and Paralympian. That was just incredible and what happened with the Paralympics was so incredible and so inspiring to me that I watched -- it`s a little tough to watch too much, but I watched as much as I could.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: President Trump at the White House today. And that will do it for our broadcast on a Friday night, and for this week. Thank you for being here with us as always and good night from all of us here at NBC News headquarters in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END