IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Flood replaces Cobb as WH Russia lawyer. TRANSCRIPT: 05/02/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Philip Rucker, Matt Apuzzo

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: May 2, 2018 Guest: Philip Rucker, Matt Apuzzo

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: A lot of news tonight, including the Trump legal team shake-up. Ty Cobb is out and Clinton impeachment lawyer, Emmet Flood, is in. One of the reporters who broke the news is here with us tonight.

Also tonight, did Rudy Giuliani just do his client Donald Trump terrible damage on live television on Fox News tonight as he announces Trump paid Cohen back the $130,000 given to Stormy Daniels?

Plus, these changes still to come for this White House. Nicolle Wallace with us tonight with her own reporting on what those moves signal and who could be the next to go. And a man who was just questioned by the Mueller investigation has emerged tonight with a vivid description of how Mueller is operating. All of it as "The 11th Hour" gets under way on a busy Wednesday night.

It`s one of those Wednesdays. And good evening, once again, from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 468 of the Trump administration. We have breaking news that we`re going to break down on several fronts for you tonight. We`ll catch you up on all of them.

We`re going to begin with a stunning admission from Rudy Giuliani about that $130,000 hush money payment to the adult film star Stormy Daniels. This money was paid to Ms. Daniels, you`ll recall, by Donald Trump`s personal lawyer, Michael Cohen. He used a household line of credit, his own money to pay him.

You may recall that on Air Force One, April 5, just a few weeks back, the President told reporters on Air Force One he had no knowledge of the payment. Well, appearing with Sean Hannity tonight here is what Rudy Giuliani said on Fox News just a short time ago.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I`m giving you a fact now that you don`t know. It`s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: So they funneled it through a law firm?

GIULIANI: Funneled it through a law firm, and the President repaid it.


WILLIAMS: The President repaid it. Sean Hannity at that point paused and said I wasn`t aware of that. That will no doubt create a host of new legal problems for the President. We`ll have much more on that just ahead.

Also tonight, the seismic shake-up in President Trump`s legal team on the Russia investigation. Donald Trump has hired Emmet Flood, a veteran criminal defense attorney. He was one of the Bill Clinton`s impeachment lawyers. He also worked in the White House Counsel`s Office during George W. Bush`s second term.

Flood, who is a partner at the D.C. law firm of Williams and Connolly, will be part of the White House Counsel`s Office and the point person for the administration`s response to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Flood replaces Ty Cobb. He`s been in that position since July of last year. He`ll retire, they say, at the end of this month.

There are major legal and political implications that stem from this move, say nothing of what Rudy Giuliani said tonight. The switch was first reported by "The New York Times" Matt Apuzzo, who`ll join us in just a moment, along with Michael Schmidt. They write "Mr. Flood is expected to take a more adversarial approach and Mr. Cobb, who voluntarily turned over White House documents to Mr. Mueller. The addition of Mr. Flood was spearheaded by White House Don McGahn. Mr. Flood is seen as a possible eventual replacement for Mr. McGahn, who has clashed privately with Mr. Trump and whose departure has long been rumored."

Our friends over at "The Washington Post" have also been working this story. Their White House Bureau Chief, Phil Rucker, standing by to talk with us. His colleagues have written tonight the legal shake-up is "putting the White House on war footing with federal prosecutors examining Russian interference in the 2016 campaign. This signals a new phase, said one senior Trump adviser who was granted anonymity to describe private conversations. We are looking at all the options now. Nothing is off the table, but the gloves may be coming off."

Keep in mind, this shift comes after reports on what the special counsel could potentially ask the President, as well as the efforts now led by Rudy Giuliani to set up that interview. Here is what Giuliani said about the chances for an interview tonight.


GIULIANI: If they`re objective, we can work something out. If they`re not, then we have to shake hands and, basically, go into a litigation over, do they have the power to subpoena. And I think they`ve lost that power. Right now, the odds are he wouldn`t be interviewed. But I don`t close my mind to it.


WILLIAMS: So this is a kind of negotiation that took place on live television tonight between Rudolph Giuliani and the Special Counsel`s Office. More on that later. Meanwhile, the President continued to send out messages on Twitter, assailing the entire Russia investigation.

"There was no collusion," capital c. "It was a hoax," capital h "and there is no obstruction of justice," a couple more capitals there. "That is a set up and trap, witch hunt."

The Mueller team, however, interviewed another witness today. Former Trump campaign aide Michael Caputo. And this is interesting. He spent three hours with investigators in the Special Counsel`s Office.

During an interview on CNN tonight where he has appeared as a political analyst, Caputo`s description of Mueller`s process was chilling.


MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: The Mueller team knew more about what I did in 2016 than I knew many myself, and I think they know more about the Trump campaign than anyone who ever worked there. I don`t think they`re convinced yet that there`s no Russian collusion. I`d say the Mueller team is spearfishing. I think they believe they know where they`re going. They`re not asking a wide range of questions.


WILLIAMS: So that just sets the table for you on a Wednesday night. And with that, let`s bring in the members of our lead-off panel. Nicolle Wallace is here with us, veteran of the Bush White House and Host of "Deadline White House" at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time here on this very network and in this very studio. Plus, two Pulitzer Prize-winning reporters, the aforementioned Matt Apuzzo of "The New York Times," the aforementioned Phil Rucker, White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post." Welcome to you all. We`ll get through it.

Nicolle, there is one of Paul Newman`s better performances is in a movie called "The Verdict." And he snaps at the great Irish judge played by Milo O`Shea and says, "Your honor, if you`re going to try my case for me, try not to lose it."


WILLIAMS: It struck me that on day one of the new White House counsel, he perhaps was watching Fox tonight when Donald Trump`s other lawyer Rudy Giuliani may have given away the store on this one aspect.

WALLACE: You know, I was in touch with Michael Avenatti after the --

WILLIAMS: Is his head still attached to his body?

WALLACE: -- you know, he plays a very calm, cool and collected attorney on television, but I think watching this Trump team boggles his mind in real time as well. And I think the fact that Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani, who were sort of brothers in arms, as, you know, campaign guys on the plane, the fact that those two can`t keep their stories straight, it`s not been two weeks and in those two weeks, what Rudy Giuliani was supposed to do was wrap up the Mueller probe. He`s now really torpedoed the President`s central legal argument in the Stormy Daniels case, which all of the great reporting that Matt and Phil have done suggest that Donald Trump and the people around him in the White House and in his outside band of sort of misfit advisers are far more concerned.

Their legal concerns center far more around the materials that were seized from Cohen`s home and offices. So Rudy potentially damaged the legal predicament that gives Donald Trump much more grief than the Mueller probe, which we`re going to talk about as well.

WILLIAMS: The control room is going to tell me when we have it ready. We`re working on a longer clip of the Rudy Giuliani, the money has been repaid. What`s germane is what Giuliani goes on to say about Michael Cohen and the relationship between Michael Cohen and Donald Trump, the retainer he gets from Donald Trump. We`ll come back to that.

Philip Rucker, why don`t you give us the overarching answer about the damage done tonight.

PHIL RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, the legal damage, Brian, is in two realms. There`s the legal damage, which I`m not exactly qualified to talk about but it seems to be significant, but there`s also the political damage. The revelation by Rudy Giuliani exposes the President and the White House Press Secretary to have been telling falsehoods to the American people. They`ve not been truthful in saying that the President didn`t know about this payment. In fact, he did, according to Rudy Giuliani, his lawyer.

That $135,000 -- or $130,000, rather, raises a lot of questions. Was this some sort of arrangement that he had with other women? How was this arrangement arrived at?

Rudy Giuliani in the Fox interview references a retainer that Michael Cohen had for this sort of work, described this as part of their standard agreement. Sort of the way they did business. So it just is a huge hole here, I think, for the reporting, but also for the federal investigators to be digging into at this hour and in the days to come.

WILLIAMS: Matt, I`m going to throw you a nice high softball here by setting you up with this clip. We have found it, we`ve isolated it. Here again is the wording in question tonight from Rudolph Giuliani. And then the following part, which we meant to run earlier about the relationship between Trump and Cohen. We`ll talk to you on the other side.


GIULIANI: Having something to do with paying some Stormy Daniels woman $130,000? I mean, which is going to turn out to be perfectly legal. That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I`m giving you a fact now that you don`t know. It`s not campaign money. No campaign finance violation.

HANNITY: So they funneled it through a law firm.

GIULIANI: They funneled through a law firm, and the President repaid it.

HANNITY: Oh. I didn`t know that. He did.


HANNITY: There`s no campaign finance law?


HANNITY: But do you know the President didn`t know about this? I believe that`s what Michael said.

GIULIANI: He didn`t know about the specifics of it, as far as I know. But he did know about the general arrangement --


WILLIAMS: I`m going to get the part on the air where he talks about Michael Cohen`s relationship with Donald Trump if it takes me the better part of the next hour. But we`re going to do it. Still, that was illustrative, Matt, in part because you watch in real time, Sean Hannity is trying to help him out there.

MATT APUZZO, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Look. So maybe I`ve spent too long in the swamp here, but I actually can see somewhat the logic here tonight.

WILLIAMS: Oh, boy. I want to hear this.

APUZZO: Yes, right. No, stay with me. So, look, if you operate under the theory that eventually we`re going to figure this out, right? Somebody was going to figure this out and blow the whole thing open.

I mean, Phil is absolutely right that this does sort of put the lie to the White House. But, you know, when has that really ever stopped anybody from saying something at the White House? So if it`s going to come out, framing it as there`s no campaign finance violation and, you know, if we start hearing tomorrow this was an effort to protect his family or protect his privacy or whatever we started to hear, framing it as this isn`t an illegal thing, this is a personal thing, stay out of my business, stay out of my personal life, then we`re in sort of the Bill Clinton territory of what do we want a special counsel to be?

So while I`m sure this was not the rollout that they would teach you in public relations school, it does sort of frame it as, we didn`t break any laws here. And, you know, call us on the lie tomorrow.

WALLACE: So I attended public relations school. And not only is this not a class that we teach there, there was no strategery here. This was not the plan. Rudy Giuliani`s central argument against doing an interview with Bob Mueller is too wide ranging.

The central problem with Rudy Giuliani`s answer there was it was too wide ranging. He was not sent on Hannity tonight to try to exonerate Donald Trump from campaign finance violations in his alleged sexual encounter with Stormy Daniels. That was not the mission. And I`ve been in touch with several people close to Rudy in the last few days, and this is not his core mission, to go on T.V. and exonerate the President from the campaign finance angle of the cases, the multiple cases that Avenatti has brought against the President.

And the President is staring down the barrel of a potential discovery process in the two cases that Avenatti has brought. And what Rudy did today hurt that cause. It did not help that cause. So I don`t think that it was any part of anyone`s plan for Rudy to go out there and clear up the campaign finance thing, which was an offshoot of something that was raised in the "60 Minutes" interview with Stormy Daniels.

Rudy`s single mission is to try to get the President somehow out of the jam he`s in in the Mueller probe. And the fairy tale of Rudy Giuliani`s legal capabilities was revealed in the starkest manner possible by airing the damage that he did in that clip to the other two sort of legal challenges that I know vex this White House and his lawyers.

WILLIAMS: I think we`ve isolated what I was talking about. Let`s try it again.


GIULIANI: That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn`t matter, and the President reimbursed that over a period of several months.

HANNITY: He had said -- I distinctly remember that he did it on his own --


HANNITY: -- without asking.

GIULIANI: I don`t know. I haven`t investigated that. No reason to dispute that, no reason to dispute that recollection. I like Michael a lot, you like Michael a lot --

HANNITY: I`ve known him a long time.

GIULIANI: -- I feel very bad he`s been victimized like this. The President feels even worse. The fact is, just trust me, they`re going to come up with no violations there.

HANNITY: All right. The --

GIULIANI: Yes, the payment is perfectly legal.


WILLIAMS: So that was the second go-around. Giuliani went there and now we know it was over a period of time.

WALLACE: Yes, and just marry that clip that you just played with Donald Trump`s pajama phoner last week with "Fox & Friends" when he said Cohen did an itty-bitty teensy bit of legal work for me but, yes, he dealt with the crazy Stormy situation. You`ve now got the President saying that Cohen was my guy on the Stormy situation. He called it crazy.


WALLACE: And now you`ve got Rudy saying yes, yes, the money was funneled, which isn`t exactly a word without any sort of legal connotation. The money was funneled through a law firm, it was repaid by Donald Trump to Michael Cohen. These are new facts in legal battles that worry this White House very much.

WILLIAMS: Phil, there`s a briefing scheduled for tomorrow. Serious question.


WILLIAMS: What will the com`s strategy from that podium by Sarah Huckabee Sanders be about this? We also have Russia writ large and the change of counsel and for all we know another change of counsel tomorrow.

RUCKER: There could be another change tomorrow, Brian. I don`t know what the strategy will be. I imagine Sarah Sanders is going to want to say as little as she possibly can about both of these matters. Her tendency in these briefings is been to punt many of the questions surrounding all the legal challenges the President faces to his lawyers outside of the White House.

Of course, Emmet Flood is going to be working in the White House, which is where Ty Cobb has been. So if that does pertain to her I imagine she`ll address that change. But, look, the White House generally speaking is taking a much more aggressive and confrontational posture with regard to the Mueller probe in particular. But clearly, as you saw, with Rudy Giuliani`s approach on the Hannity Show tonight, with the Stormy Daniels situation as well, they`re being out front, they`re talking to the press. They`re trying to intimidate, trying to play their strategy publicly with Mueller and it`s a new tact.

WILLIAMS: So Matt, having broken the story about Emmet Flood, we made clear he`s a very successful partner at the D.C. law firm Williams and Connolly, founded by the legendary Edward Bennett Williams. He`s a Yale Law School graduate. He`s been around. He enjoys support in both parties. Has a ton of friends on Capitol Hill, which is an interesting biographical note.

A couple of questions for you, Matt. According to your reporting, what`s in it for him? He`d evidently turned down several other requests. How does he ever get up to speed in a case where 1.3 million documents have changed hands?

APUZZO: I actually think that`s going to be the easy part. I mean, you know, experienced lawyers parachute into cases. They have to get up to speed really quickly. An indictment comes down by surprise and then they have to learn the whole case, you know, with great speed. That actually is going to be the easy part.

The question I have, and I think that everybody who has been watching this case unfold has is Ty Cobb was really the voice of accommodation in the White House. He came in at a time when tensions were great and he thought that the White House was on the verge of getting subpoenaed by Bob Mueller. And he said, "Look, hey, we`re going to cooperate. Whatever you want, everybody will interview." And he really actually ruffled some feathers with the White House Counsel`s Office because he was so willing to turn over these documents and he was convinced and he convinced the President that this thing would all be over soon if they just cooperated and give everything up. And turn everything over.

This will be over by Thanksgiving. Obviously that hasn`t happened. And the question I have is, is Emmet Flood going to strike a very different posture with Mueller? And I think the other thing that`s going on here is the Trump team is looking down the road. And they see the value of having somebody like Emmet Flood who can fight on two fronts.

He can fight against Bob Mueller and he can also deal with Congress if the House or Senate change hands in November. Because if the House changes hands and committees start having subpoena power, then you have to fight in the House and you have to fight subpoenas. Maybe you have to fight impeachment hearings. And Emmet Flood has done that. He fought against like in Bush term against congressional inquiries and he fought both Congress and the Independent Counsel during the Clinton years. So this is really the White House and team Trump girding for a long-term fight.

WILLIAMS: I spoke to somebody familiar with Flood today and said you don`t hire this guy unless, Nicolle, you`re going to go into a legal fight. You don`t hire him to escort the client into Robert Mueller`s office. You came on the air at 4:00 p.m. today with all kinds of nugatory about this story and deep reporting on what went into this.

WALLACE: Well, triggered by the excellent reporting in "The New York Times," not just today by Matt and Mike, but in early March, I think it was Maggie Haberman and Mike Schmidt who wrote the first piece when Emmet Flood ended up inside of the Oval Office.


WALLACE: Interviewing for a job. There was a lot of speculation about what that was, which triggered a whole lot of reaction from folks in the Bush 43 orbit who viewed Emmet Flood as almost a savior. He was involved in two of the most precarious congressional and legal investigations that George W. Bush dealt with in his second term, the attorney general scandal at DOJ that involved the White House, questions went all the way up to the level of the President, and the Pat Tillman investigation.

I know I`m taking everyone back in time. But just to understand Emmet Flood, when we talk about him taking a more adversarial posture, it has nothing to do with temperament. He`s known to be one of the most sort of soft spoken and temperamentally sort of elegant and distinguished people in sort of Republican legal circles in Washington. And that was certainly his reputation in the Bush White House.

But he takes a hard line on executive privilege. That was his reputation. That was what he did. That was his body of work around those two scandals in the 43 work that he did.

I heard from three sources that McGahn was recruiting him for many, many months before it was known that he had been all the way into the Oval Office to interview for an undisclosed job at the time and that Don McGahn views him as his succession plan. And if Don McGahn had his way, Emmet Flood will stay and Don McGahn will be gone in a matter of six to eight weeks.

WILLIAMS: Which for McGahn is a very rigorous way of doing it actually to care enough about a handoff to make it peaceful and orderly --

WALLACE: Well, and to find someone. I mean, one of the big sort of legal philosophical collisions that probably didn`t get enough attention other than from folks like Matt and people that covered the legal side of this, is that Don McGahn was never for what Phil and Matt have described, he was never for this sort of accommodation of Bob Mueller`s requests on document production, on witness participation. Don McGahn always wanted and needed and lack in ally on amore aggressive posture on executive privilege.

My questions today that have gone unanswered is how do you put the toothpaste back in the tube? Because Don McGahn has spent at least two full days with Mueller`s investigators. And so if you were going to exert executive privilege, I don`t know with whom you do it. All of the President`s advisers have already spent hours if not days testifying. And as you heard from the clip you played from CNN, Bob Mueller already knows more about the Trump campaign, and I would imagine based on the questions that "The New York Times" published this week, knows more about the way the White House functions than anybody else who works there.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Matt, you`re agreeing?

APUZZO: Yes, 100%. If there was a moment in time when the White House could say, "Hey, take a long walk, Bob Mueller, we`re not going to give up these documents, this is executive privilege material," that was a year ago. You know, you`ve turned over a million documents plus to the special counsel and you`ve made it a rule that everybody at the White House, every staff member has to cooperate with Bob Mueller and sit for an interview.

Once you` done that, it becomes awfully difficult to say, "Well, actually I have a new lawyer and a new strategy. I`m not actually interested in providing you any information. Well, great, super. Thanks for letting us know. We`ve got a million documents here already and we`ve already interviewed everybody." So Nicolle is right, you can`t put the toothpaste back in the tube.


WALLACE: But the narrow question I came up today was after seeing -- you know, I was also told by an attorney very deeply involved in the Mueller investigation that the publication of the questions that Mueller has on obstruction was a "inside job," and that it was done to get through to the President and around the questions -- and if you look at those questions. I mean, the way they were transcribed by the President`s lawyer we understand to be Jay Sekulow, they get right at what did you know? What did you think around the firing of Jim Comey? What did you think when you learned that Mike Flynn might be compromised?

I think they`re grasping on whatever they can get their hands on. And even if someone like Emmet Flood with his reputation of being someone who sort of believes on a hard line around executive privilege can get them out of having to answer some of those questions that go to the heart of the obstruction of justice investigation, that will be money well spent or capital well spent in recruiting him into the White House.

WILLIAMS: Phil, it will be said that the departure of Ty Cobb leaves only one prominent member of the moustache community in the Trump White House and that`s Mr. Bolton, who now stands alone because Ty Cobb is taking both handle bars and going into retirement apparently. To you, I have a serious question, and that`s about Mr. Caputo and that chilling descriptions, series of descriptions he gave Anderson tonight having come out of three hours of questioning. Down to the furnishings, how spare and sparse it is. That`s going to get a lot of people`s attention, especially the part where he says if your name is caught up in this, you`re in peril.

RUCKER: Yes, I was really struck by that, too, Brian. And he made it clear that Mueller is after collusion. That he has not answered those questions yet. That he doesn`t believe as the President tweets almost everyday that there was no collusion but in fact they`re still investigating it, still has question and still has episodes to look into.

And so that should strike fear, you know, in the hearts of some of those who worked on the Trump campaign who are caught up in this. Some of whom, by the way, have already become -- been indicted or pleaded guilty. And it`s worth pointing out, by the way, when we`re talking about Emmet Flood and how elegant and prepared and professional and disciplined he is and a steady hand as is the headline in that "Washington Post" story. His client now is Donald J. Trump, the President, who is anything but all of those adjectives. So I think it`s going to be very difficult for him to operate that way as a litigator and as a lawyer inside this particular White House.

WILLIAMS: Yes. A senior lawyer made it clear to me tonight that starting tomorrow part of his job becomes message control and impulse control of his client, something so many others, some great people among them have failed at.


WILLIAMS: With all this breaking news falling all around us, our thanks to Nicolle Wallace, to our two Pulitzer winners, Apuzzo and Rucker on the print side. Gentlemen, thank you very much.

Coming up as we take our first break 26 minutes into the broadcast tonight, we talk about what happens next, including more on the legal strategy for both sides at this point as Trump has blown up his team. Did Rudy Giuliani blow up something on live television tonight?

And then later on this night when a witness in the Russia investigation has emerged to talk about how Mueller is working this case, we`ll ask a former Mueller lieutenant if that sounds about right. We`re just getting started on a Wednesday night.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: We are back and we have lawyered up and that`s important for this next segment. Rudy Giuliani just told Fox News that President Trump repaid his lawyer Michael Cohen for that $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 campaign.


RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: I was talking about the $130,000 payment, the settlement payment, which is a very regular thing for lawyers to do. The question there was the only possible violation there would be, was it a campaign finance violation which usually would result in a fine, by the way. Not this big storm troopers coming in and breaking down his apartment and breaking down his office.

That was money that was paid by his lawyer, the way I would do, out of his law firm funds or whatever funds, it doesn`t matter, and the president reimbursed that over a period of several months.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: He had said, I distinctly remember, that he did it on his own --


HANNITY: Without asking --

GIULIANI: Look, I don`t know. I haven`t investigated that. No reason to dispute that. No reason to dispute his recollection. I like Michael a lot, you like Michael a lot.

HANNITY: I`ve known him a long time.

GIULIANI: I feel very bad he`s been victimized like this. The president feels even worse.


WILLIAMS: And remember for the purposes of this conversation, Sean Hannity has also been publicly identified as a client of Michael Cohen. Moments ago, Stormy Daniels` attorney Michael Avenatti, who is not a stranger to frequent viewers of cable news, responded to this news tonight on the air with our own Lawrence O`Donnell.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, STORMY DANIELS` LAWYER: This is an outrage what has gone on here. The American people have been lied to about this agreement, about the $130,000, about the reimbursement. And this is consistent with what we have been saying now for months. That ultimately was going to be proven and ultimately is going to come out. We just didn`t know that Rudy Giuliani was going to go on the Sean Hannity show and admit it on national television.


WILLIAMS: And "The Wall Street Journal" is on the board. They just published this report moments ago and it reads, "Mr. Giuliani, who joined the legal team representing President Donald Trump in the Russia investigation last month, told `The Wall Street Journal` Wednesday evening that the president had repaid Mr. Cohen but suggested that Mr. Cohen had settled the payment without Mr. Trump`s knowledge at the time."

So much to discuss. With us here in New York, Mimi Rocah, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, now a distinguished fellow and criminal justice at the Pace University School of Law. And Peter Zeidenberg is back with us, a former federal prosecutor, deputy special counsel, importantly, in the Scooter Libby case during Bush 43. Counselors, welcome to you both.

Mimi, you`re sitting here in our studio. You get to go first. What just happened tonight?

MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: So many things. And it`s hard to know which one to start with. But let`s start with what Michael Avenatti is doing a dance about right now, which is by acknowledging that Trump paid Cohen back in a way that -- first of all, it just shows that Trump has been lying, but it also really will damage their civil case, the defendant`s civil case.

So it will be -- I mean, Avenatti has a much better case now than he did, you know, an hour ago. But it`s bigger than that, I think. It`s not just about this civil case with Stormy Daniels. There`s a couple of things. First of all, I think the purpose of what Giuliani was saying -- I think he was trying to do away with this idea of a campaign finance violation. I`m not sure why he was focused on that so much because that seems to be the least of Trump`s problems in some ways. But he didn`t even accomplish that.

By saying that -- a campaign finance violation is defined as to whether the payment is to influence the election to put it in simplest terms. Nothing Giuliani said changes that. So he`s still in campaign finance violation territory and he`s done further damage because he has now proven, or stated, rather, that Trump knew about the payment. Because to pay it back, you had to know about it. He -- we don`t know what else is going to come out in Cohen`s criminal case, Michael Cohen`s criminal case.

And depending on what comes out about that payment and, you know, the source of the funds and also -- like he has now put Trump in, I think, potentially more hot water with respect to that criminal investigation of the payment. And that`s very dangerous.

WILLIAMS: Peter, before I come to you, I want to read something Robert Costa just said on Twitter. "Giuliani tells me he just spoke with POTUS tonight by phone. President, `very pleased`, Giuliani says. He says they discussed his revelation of the reimbursements long in advance. Does not expect to be fired. Insists his remarks on Fox News Channel were approved by Trump. Story to come." That`s journalist talk for to come, TK.

So, Peter, at the start of this night, before we have this development, you made the point that the payment to -- let`s see here, the Donald Trump repayment to his lawyer, the timing of that is critical because of what we have learned about Michael Cohen as a potential witness, correct?

PETER ZEIDENBERG, FORMER DEPUTY SPECIAL COUNSEL IN SCOOTER LBBY PROSECUTION: Well, it certainly going to be of interest. The timing of this is really important. Now, it may not be an issue in terms -- I think the campaign finance issue is a live one regardless of the timing, but, you know, the reporting that Michael Cohen was upset because Donald Trump had not repaid him the $130,000, and then Michael Cohen`s apartment is raided and he`s obviously presumed to be a target of a criminal investigation, I`d certainly want to know if that -- any of that payment came subsequent to that raid. Because if it was, there could be a world of problems for the president if that money was paid. That would look very troubling in terms of the timing of a payment like that.

WILLIAMS: Mimi, what`s interesting about the hiring of a prominent white shoe lawyer in Washington is that he`s joining in real time this legal team that is a moving target. They have made various arguments just today. I want to play for our audience Rudy Giuliani from tonight on Fox News talking about why the president really fired James Comey. And that will be followed by what the president told Lester Holt about why he fired James Comey.


GIULIANI: He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn`t a target of the investigation. He`s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that. And she -- he couldn`t get that. So he fired him and he said I`m free of this guy. And he went on Lester Holt. Lester Holt`s interview was as good as anybody could do. Better than I think any of the people around Mueller could have done. Lester Holt asked him why did you do it, he said I did it because I felt that I had to explain to the American people that the president was not the target of the investigation.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey knowing there was no good time to do it. And, in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.


WILLIAMS: So Mimi, there you have it. The Giuliani argument was interesting. We were unable to look up and see when Hillary Clinton had been president, but our researchers are still working on that. What do you make of that?

ROCAH: Well again, I mean, first of all, everyone here loses credibility, both Trump and Giuliani, because they can`t even keep their story internally consistent. And, you know, we`ve said this before about Trump. He can`t keep his story straight. It`s hard to keep your story straight when you`re not telling the truth. So that`s one problem. Their stories now are inherently contradictory. Doesn`t look very credible.

But second, you know, what Giuliani said is essentially some of the evidence that Mueller would be looking for, which is he -- that Trump fired Comey because Comey wouldn`t clear his name. That goes right to that question of intent with respect to obstruction. So, you know, I think Trump`s own statement to Lester Holt also was damaging, because he said, you know, because of that Russia thing. It showed it was on his mind. But Giuliani`s was even more focused than that. It`s because he wouldn`t clear me. That to me rings even more of obstruction.

WILLIAMS: Peter, this brings us back to Mr. Flood and his decision to join this legal team. First of all, do you know him personally? And secondly, without making a personal judgment, can you imagine why a partner of Williams and Connelly with a perfectly good career behind him and in front of him would take this job and enter a mature case that is where it is right now tonight?

ZEIDENBERG: You know, I don`t know Mr. Flood. He has a terrific reputation by everything I`ve read and heard about him and he comes from a terrific law firm. I can`t imagine for the life of me why he would want this job. I mean, you know, the challenge is great, but the fact is you`re representing someone who, who knows what he`s going to say tomorrow morning on "Fox & Friends" or on Twitter.

And, you know, the best laid plans, the best laid strategy are destroyed in a single tweet. And you`re embarrassed and, you know, no one`s credibility after working with this administration and this president comes out unscathed. I haven`t -- I don`t think there`s a person in the administration that`s better off after having gone through this. And a lot of people come out tarnished if their reputations aren`t ruined.

So, you know, I can`t imagine why someone would do it. And that`s why it`s been so difficult for him all these months to find someone of his caliber. I will be interested to see -- you know, you can set the clock start running right now and see how long he lasts.

WILLIAMS: Our thanks to two terrific lawyers who only enhance this operation when they stop by. Mimi Rocah and Peter Zeidenberg, really appreciate it. Thanks for rolling with us tonight.

And coming up, a former Mueller lieutenant talks about how the boss works amid new reporting tonight about what it`s like to be on the inside under questioning by them. That`s when we continue.


WILLIAMS: As we mentioned tonight, we`ve heard from a witness in this Russia case who was interviewed by Mueller`s team just today. He said he believes anyone whose name is connected with this case is in peril. He says not only is the Mueller team famously all business, but so is their office space. Nondescript and decorated with second and third-hand furniture.


MICHAEL CAPUTO, FORMER TRUMP CAMPAIGN AIDE: It`s a very nondescript, very ugly government office with a bunch of locks on the door. The furniture is all second or third hand. They`re all business over there. They`re not looking for any luxury.

And I`ll tell you, from my experience, you know, the people who were in the room with me, it was kind of moving from, you know, a kind and focused interview to, you know, kind of a challenging and what are you talking about thing. And it went back and forth.


WILLIAMS: While the president has led the attack on the Justice Department, the attorney general, the FBI, the intel agencies, tonight the president`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani called on the attorney general to end the investigation. He said, "The crimes have all been committed by the government. And all the while, the Mueller investigation has continued in a hyper orderly fashion and in total secrecy devoid of any leaks."

With us tonight is Robert Anderson, former FBI executive assistant director of the Criminal Cyber Response and Services Branch. He`s a veteran of over 20 years at the bureau, served as assistant director of Counterintelligence under then FBI Director Robert Mueller. Not long ago, he was the author of a piece in "Time" magazine that was called "How Robert Mueller Works a Case". So we thought there was one person in the world to talk to about this.

Bob, do we have this depiction of how Mueller works a case about right?

ROBERT ANDERSON, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Oh no, you` got it dead right, Brian. I will tell you that when he`s sitting down or his team is sitting down, which I`ve said many times on this program, he`s got some of the best men and women in the world working on that team. They`re experts in criminal law, counterintelligence, financial crimes.

And when they sit down to talk to, whether it`s a subject, a target, or just somebody to be interviewed, when they ask you a question, about 99% sure they already know the answer to it. And they don`t know by conjecture. They`re going to know by facts, either through other interviews or source information or by subpoenas.

So when you get into those rooms, as we`ve talked about before, a lot of times when people start misleading investigators, that`s when things really start going off the rails because they already know the answers to the questions.

WILLIAMS: And more and more these days, you hear people say the -- at one time unthinkable. We`re living in a new era where if the president goes in there for questioning, you can`t be sure if he`s going to tell the truth.

ANDERSON: Yes. Unfortunately I think that`s sad, but I think it may be true. And I think also what we`re seeing here tonight with the different interviews going on, not only with the clips of the president, but his newly hired counsel, Mr. Giuliani, there`s a lot of situations that I think he`s putting his client at risk. And honestly the way that they`re going back and forth and commenting on the different incidents, especially around the firing of the former director Jim Comey, I think they`re putting themselves really at risk because that is very, very close to bordering, especially with the intent, when you look at that of obstruction.

WILLIAMS: So if you`re Robert Mueller or his top lieutenants, how do you look at that interview on Fox News tonight with Rudy Giuliani, and do you view it as Giuliani apparently intended it to be a kind of public act of negotiation over this meeting?

ANDERSON: Yes. I think you`re right. I think there was some aspects of that. I don`t think it was willy-nilly. I`m sure it was calculated, although it came off almost casual. That was too big of a statement to make. And in most of these cases -- and I think people need to understand this -- when you`re dealing with high profile individuals, regardless if they`re in the public sector, on the international stage, it`s not uncommon for individuals to go through some forms of negotiation with the counsel`s office before they go in and sit down for the actual interview. I don`t think that part is uncommon at all.

WILLIAMS: Bob Anderson, please come back on all big news worthy nights, especially when your former boss is concern because it`s a real asset to be able to toss questions to you. Thank you very much for joining us from Washington.

ANDERSON: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: During this appearance on Fox News tonight, Rudy Giuliani also commented on Robert Mueller possibly bringing in for interviews Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.


GIULIANI: if they do do Ivanka, which I doubt they will, the whole country will turn on him. They`re going after his daughter.

HANNITY: What about his son-in-law. They`ve talked about him.

GIULIANI: I guess Jared is a fine man, you know that. But men are, you know, disposable. But a fine women like Ivanka, come on.


WILLIAMS: Men are disposable. Let`s remember that quote for posterity. We -- let`s talk about this. We welcome to the broadcast, Mara Gay, a member of "The New York Times" editorial board and Jeremy Peters, political reporter for "The New York Times" and an MSNBC contributor, they`re one of those all "New York Times" segments that happened increasing frequency around here.

Mara, I learned about you in the break that you formally covered City Hall. Mr. Giuliani is not an unknown quantity to you. In your view, what just happened tonight? What did we just witness?

MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Ah, this is Rudy being Rudy. Anybody who has covered him or written about him or known him for any period of time, in some ways, this is no different than he was 20 years ago. In other ways, a lot of people who are close to him say that he`s been, you know, a little bit different of late, maybe not as sharp as he used to be. I want to be very careful. He`s a very smart man.

But I got to say that, you know, this is someone who brings a lot of experience, he was a prosecutor, he ran New York City, everybody loved him, hated him, he was a pretty strong figure. He was known as America`s mayor. And to see that performance was really disheartening in so many ways. It`s not clear, you know, that he was intentional in what he said. It came off as kind of -- it came off as not necessarily -- kind of free ranging, I think somebody said. But we don`t really know. I mean, I just -- I`m so disappointed, just watching him.

And I just -- what he said about -- what he said about Ivanka Trump, just to narrow in for a second, I mean, this is still a democracy, so, you know, there`s no protection about, you know, the president`s children. I think the American people deserve a fair, open, honest accounting of what happened. And after tonight, it`s clear that multiple people are lying. We already knew that in some sense. It`s hard to trust any of this, and I think the circus is in full force. And, you know, let`s hope that Bob Mueller is as talented as it appears.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, I`d love to be with you tomorrow when you make your calls, and I`m wondering about how Republicans, prominent or not, are going to process just the post 5:00 p.m. news cycle tonight.

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: The post 10:00 p.m. news cycle tonight, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Yes, you`re right.

PETERS: I mean I was dozing off when this news hit in my pre "11th Hour" nap, but in an effort not to be disposable to you. No, but I do think, in all seriousness, what you have, once again, is a White House that can`t get its story straight. One of the White House deputy press secretaries went on Fox News shortly after Rudy`s comments and said, we didn`t know he was going to say that. Then, you have Rudy apparently telling Bob Costa of "The Washington Post", no, the president authorized this, it was all perfectly fine.

So while they try to get their stories straight, Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the White House and all across the country who have made it their party line to defend this president at almost any cost, you know, let`s not forget, the Republican Party`s days have become less about any particular ideology or set of principles than it has about defending Donald Trump, they`re left wondering, OK, is this about to get much, much more serious? And are charges coming down maybe sooner than we really realize, because this is much messier, and this White House is actually much less competent at keeping its story straight than we thought it was.

WILLIAMS: So, how`s this, to our veteran viewers, despite a time schedule that makes our guests actually have power naps before joining us, because of the extraordinary amount of news tonight, here we are with two pillars of "The New York Times" and we are forced to go to a commercial break and thank them. Jeremy Peters of the aforementioned power nap. Mara, we`ve been trying to have you on for a long time. We`re so happy you`ve joined us. Please make it the first of many appearances. Thank you very much and thanks to "The New York Times" for the loan.

Coming up, it`s one of the president`s favorite phrases, no matter the subject. Need a little levity at the end of the broadcast, we have it for you.



TRUMP: Mike has also earned my deepest respect and admiration and trust and you`ll see why over the coming years, probably over the coming months.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, by now, we all know the president has a menagerie of his favorite go-to phrases. One you may not have noticed quite so often, you`ll see, has, as its close cousin, we`ll see. The president uses both to respond to questions on a range of issues, the economy, foreign policy, staffing changes, some firings in his administration. Any time he wishes to be vague. This was noticed most recently today by a guest on our broadcast here last week, Katie Rogers of "The New York Times." Here now, some of the examples we`ve collected.


TRUMP: We`ll see what happens, I`m not telling you what I`m doing, but a lot of people think they know.

But we`ll see.

But we`ll see also, if I do what some people expect.

We`re going to see what happens on the 12th.

But we`ll see how it goes. And, again, whatever happens happens.

Let`s see what happens.

We`ll see what happens.

We`ll see how it all turns out, maybe it will be good and maybe it won`t.

We`re going to see what happens with North Korea.

And we`re going to see what happens with North Korea.

Let`s see what happens.

You`ll see. You`ll see. And he`ll see.

We`ll see what happens.

So, we`ll see what happens, she`ll make a decision.

We`ll see what happens.

We started a process, and we`ll see how it ends up.

We made a lot of progress, we`ll see how it all works out.

We`ll have to see.

So we`ll see what happens.

So let`s see what happens.

We`ll see what happens.

So we`ll see what happens.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Would you be open to --

TRUMP: We`ll see what happens. I mean, certainly, I`ll see what happens.

Why don`t I just fire Mueller? Well, I think it`s a disgrace what`s going on, we`ll see what happens, but I think it`s really a sad situation, when you look at what happened, and many people are said, you should fire him.

So we`ll see what happens. I think it`s disgraceful and so does a lot of other people. This is a pure and simple witch-hunt.


WILLIAMS: Tomorrow, which begins in seconds is day 469 of the Trump presidency, say it with me, we`ll see what happens.


Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.