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Mueller probe entering year two. TRANSCRIPT: 05/14/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Ashley Parker, Jonathan Lemire, Mimi Rocah, Peter Baker, Janine Zacharia, David Jolly

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: May 14, 2018 Guest: Ashley Parker, Jonathan Lemire, Mimi Rocah, Peter Baker, Janine Zacharia, David Jolly

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, inside the Russia investigation as Robert Mueller enters year two as special counsel. Ashley Parker of the "Washington Post" standing by with details of her story based on 22 sources.

Plus, five days and no White House apology to John McCain after mocking his fight with terminal cancer. Instead, the President calls the leakers of the comment traitors and cowards. That`s all in the West Wing.

But in the East Wing, total secrecy. Zero leaks as the First Lady goes in for a medical procedure about which little is known.

"The 11th Hour" on a Monday night begins now.

Another Monday, and good evening, once again, from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 480 of the Trump administration, and we have some of the most revealing reporting yet on Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation.

What it`s like behind the scenes on the inside and especially the toll it`s taking on the President as this inquiry moves into its second year. This comes to us from the team at "The Washington Post." One of the writers, Ashley Parker, standing by to join us.

She and her colleagues conducted interviews, and this is important, with 22 White House and Justice Department officials, witnesses, Trump confidants, attorneys connected to the investigation.

The "Post" reporters write, "The Mueller operation like the former Marine Corps platoon commander who leads it is secretive and methodical. Ten blocks west in the White House. President Trump combats the probe with bluster, disarray and defiance as he scrambles for survival."

On the President`s mood, they report this. "The President vents to associates about the FBI raids on his personal attorney Michael Cohen, as often as 20 times a day in the estimation of one confidant, and they frequently listen in silence knowing little they say will soothe him. Trump gripes that he needs better T.V. lawyers to defend him on cable news and is impatient to halt the witch hunt that he says undermines his legitimacy as President. And he plots his battle plans with former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, his new legal consigliere. We`re on the same wavelength, Giuliani said. We`ve gone from defense to offense."

And this is what the reporters write about the grand jury proceedings. "Mueller, the 73-year-old former FBI director with a hangdog visage and rigid bearing, looms over the investigation but is an intermittent presence in the windowless room in the E. Barrett Prettyman Federal Courthouse. Grand jury witnesses arrive one by one at the windowless room at the courthouse on Constitution Avenue in downtown Washington."

"They are struck first by how commonplace the setting feels, more classroom than courtroom, two witnesses said. One of special counsel Robert Mueller`s prosecutors stands at a lectern. The jurors, diverse by age and ethnicity, are attentive and take notes. The questioning is polite yet aggressive, surprising witnesses with its precision and often accompanied by evidence, including text messages and e-mails, displayed on a large old- fashioned overhead projector." Great detail there.

And with that, let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Monday night. The aforementioned Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize winner at "The Washington Post" as White House Reporter. Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for "The Associated Press." And Mimi Rocah, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now a Distinguish Fellow in Criminal Justice at the Pace University School of Law. Welcome to you all.

Again, Ashley, fantastic detail by you and the members of your team. What struck you most? And allow me to call it about the Trump method and the Mueller method.

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER," THE WASHINGTON POST": What struck us most was just how different they were. Both sort of in temperament and goal. You have Mueller, who is methodical and disciplined and leak-free, and you have the President, who is loud and blustery and defiant.

And as we started doing these interviews and reporting, we also realized that they are making two very different cases. Mueller`s team is building, again, methodically a legal case. And the President, while he has a team of lawyers and he may need a legal defense, is building a political case and a P.R. case that he`s taking to the public. And it is sort of an open question of which one of these will win out and rule the day and which one will be more important or, if in some ways, a good P.R. case in the court of public opinion can help combat what is going to be a very airtight legal case, whatever he finds, by Robert Mueller.

WILLIAMS: I`m going to ask you again to react to your own work in part. Here`s another quote from this piece you contributed to. "Many Trump aides and associates say they are confident the President will be exonerated, but they privately express worries that the probe may yet ensnare more figures in Trump`s orbit, including family members. There is particular worry about Trump`s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., and Jared Kushner, his son-in- law and a senior adviser."

And, Ashley, Mr. Kushner signaled just how serious it might be by his choice of lawyers in Washington, Abbe Lowell among the very best, especially for officials who find themselves in trouble. But the first part was so important. Those close to the President believing at this late date in his eventual exoneration.

PARKER: They absolutely believe that. Nearly everyone we talked to believes, especially when it comes to collusion, they believe that the President says he`s done nothing wrong. They believe him when he says that, and they also sort of say, "Look, Bob Mueller is so thorough that if there was a "there "there, it would have turned up by now."

There`s a little more question on the obstruction of justice bucket just because no one sort of quite knows what the bar is and what they may not know. But they sort of describe saying we believe the President will be exonerated but they are sort of psychologically steeling themselves for a long slog because they don`t know if and when it will happen. And they also recognize in the process, and again, I should be clear this is their speculation, but this -- well, they talk about this going to the top. And when they say the top, they don`t necessarily mean the President. They mean the President`s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his oldest son, Don Junior.

And one thing we mentioned in there, it`s a tiny detail, and it`s a quite obvious detail. But one of the people who was called was Jared Kushner`s 29-year-old personal assistant. On the one hand, that makes perfect sense.

It`s not particularly alarming on its own. But this is the person who was helping with Jared`s schedule, planning his travel, knows who he`s, you know, talking to, which foreign governments he`s had contact with. So there is a sense that Mueller is looking into the President`s family as well.

WILLIAMS: That`s what`s so unnerving for all these witnesses. You don`t know fully what they know when you sit down for questioning or what`s been said in the room prior to your arrival.

Jonathan Lemire, you`ve been in touch, shall we say, with the former mayor of New York quite a bit of late. How does Rudy Giuliani`s current world view of this investigation square with what we know of reality?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": Well, it is different. And Ashley makes a great point, sort of how the President and his team are sort of fighting this on two different fronts. Yes, there is a legal defense. But right now Rudy Giuliani`s focus seems to be the more outward facing, the public relations case, the one that he`s making on Fox News and other cable networks many hours of the day.

Now, the President was frustrated for a long time before he hired Giuliani. He heard that, you know, he couldn`t -- he wanted an attack dog to be on television. He was tired of the criticism that he couldn`t find a big-name lawyer to come on the team. He hired Rudy Giuliani.

In fact, he told one confidant that we`ve quoted in one of our stories that, "Look, look at this. I finally have him. I have America`s bleepin` mayor, like he`s on board." He was very fired up about that. And he likes the role. He`s out there, taking the fight to the press, making the case.

He does not, however, like everything that that Giuliani has done. He`s made some notable missteps talking about the Stormy Daniels payments or the Michael Cohen situation or most recently the merger with AT&T and Time Warner. But Giuliani is emblematic of a more aggressive tack this White House is trying to take with the Mueller probe.

We`re seeing more and more signals from the White House itself, like Vice President Mike Pence last week and Trump allies, suggesting this needs to wrap up. This has gone on too long, that it`s becoming a distraction and impeding the President from doing the nation`s business. And while they`re making that case, they`re also engaging in some stall tactics in terms of whether the Trump interview is going to happen.

Remember, Giuliani originally said he wanted to make a decision on whether the President would sit down for that interview by the one-year anniversary of Mueller`s appointment, which is just in a few days. Instead he told me on Friday that they`re pushing that back. They`re not going to have any sort of interview before the North Korea summit, which is June 12th, and most likely wouldn`t even make a decision as to whether there would be an interview until after that date. He also acknowledged they`ve done next to no preparations for what would be arguably the most important day of President Trump`s term in office.

WILLIAMS: Yes, that`s for sure. Mimi Rocah, counselor, we were awfully eager to have you on the air tonight mostly because of my favorite of detail in this "Washington Post" piece, and that is the overhead projector because it speaks to the kind of civics lesson that is buried in this piece of journalism about how modest in a federal building in Washington our grand jury process is, really by design. It`s the antithesis of Trump Tower just as Mueller is the antithesis of Donald Trump. So shed some light on what this piece gets right about the interior spaces of the federal buildings you occupied for a living for so many years.

MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY., SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, it really did strike me when I read it, and I`m sure every prosecutor or FBI agent who read it said, "Yes, that`s kind of what it`s like." You know, the Southern District of New York, for example, you cannot get a more decrepit building, quite honestly. But it`s a badge of honor, and here`s why. Because the people who work in those buildings, they don`t care what the building looks like. They don`t care that there`s an inch of dust and it`s falling apart.

What they care about is the work they`re doing because there`s so dedicated to it, and it`s sort of this feeling of, I love this job. I`m dedicated to this job even though I`m working in a place that looks like this. And that`s kind of the spirit, and I`m sure that`s what`s going on with Mueller and his team. They`re not paying attention to the room.

And the other thing that struck me is about the grand jury, you know, the detail about them taking notes and listening attentively.


ROCAH: This is what goes on in grand juries and in courtrooms all over the country.

WILLIAMS: These are our fellow citizens.

ROCAH: Hundreds of times a day. I mean these are ordinary American citizens. So when you hear Trump and his team talk about, you know, the witch hunt by the prosecutors who are out to get him, who all donated to Hillary, well, guess what? The people who are really, you know, ultimately the ones who, if there were an indictment of anyone, would vote on that indictment and who get to ask questions and help direct the investigation, sure, it`s the prosecutors. But grand jurors can ask for evidence. They can ask questions of the prosecutors, ask them.

Those are ordinary American citizens. So it really shows sort of the lie of them calling this a witch hunt.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, so illuminating to hear that further description of what you started in the newspaper, and a friend of mine familiar with the President`s thinking keeps making the point over and over. Some version of that mindset is so foreign to Donald Trump, the person who would want to be a modest public servant, especially in a line of work where you could make much more, you could be more famous, you could have more trappings in life. But I think Mimi gets it right when she describes the public servants working in and around the Barrett Prettyman Federal building.

PARKER: I think that`s exactly right. It was striking to hear these descriptions from witness after witness, and someone I was talking to, who speaks to the President, sort of said that in their own way they were trying to make this point to him. They were trying to say that -- and trying to get him not to make any rash moves at the Justice Department, not to send any tweets.

They were saying Bob Mueller is a consummate professional, and he is just doing his job and that you do not like the scope of that, but that`s not his fault. This was the mandate he was given, and they`ve tried to counsel the President that the good news about this is, you know, you say you`re going to be exonerated. If that is in fact true, when Bob Mueller clears you, if he clears you, that -- his word means the world. It will not be viewed as partisan. It will be viewed as the actual truth.

So please let this investigation run its course. It`s unclear how much the President has internalized that message, but it is worth mentioning there are people in the President`s orbit who do understand what goes on in those windowless federal buildings and have tried to communicate that to Trump himself.

WILLIAMS: A really important point. Jonathan Lemire, let`s talk about another player in this. "The Wall Street Journal`s" depiction of one Michael Cohen, someone you`re familiar with as well.

"People close to the White House say there was little contact between the two, Cohen and Trump, unlike other longstanding advisers to the President who wandered in and out of the White House in the early weeks. As 2017 passed, Mr. Cohen grew frustrated with his lack of access to the administration. In march, Mr. Cohen confided in friends he felt undervalued by Mr. Trump and questioned whether he should continue his work as a lawyer for the President, said a person familiar with the matter."

What`s the ring of truth to you, knowing the players here as you do, from this piece of journalism?

LEMIRE: I do think it`s clear that Michael Cohen felt left behind. This is someone who played an important but unofficial role in the campaign, had hope have designs on a significant White House job. Even told people around him he thought he could be chief of staff. Instead he`s blocked from the White House by Reince Priebus and Steve Bannon, ends up on the outside. You know, then proceeds to try to make some money off of his association with the President, with his lobbying and all but name, efforts that, you know, sort of dominate the news in resent weeks.

But there`s no question that he was sort of, he felt undervalued to use that word and upset by sort of not being -- not just -- not on the White House staff, but not being one of those outside advisers that the President would call all the time. The President`s evenings in the White House residence are spent frequently on the phone talking to advisers, you know, past and present, asking what they think he should do, what they think of that day`s news coverage. Cohen wasn`t always getting those calls. And if you are someone in Donald Trump`s orbit, Michael Cohen being frustrated at the President is probably not a good sign if he`s being offered some sort of deal at that point were that to happen, from prosecutors, for his cooperation.

And also one more point on Cohen here that underscores how different the Trump approach has been to the Mueller approach. The lobbying, the attempts for Cohen to sell his insights to these corporations, that was on Mueller`s radar screen last fall.


LEMIRE: And we`re just hearing about this, the general public is just hearing about this last week.

WILLIAMS: The submarine theory that he surfaces briefly for indictments but then goes back under the water.

Mimi, it strikes me that the attention of the federal government, the legal arm of the federal government, is kind of like a prison yard spotlight. It goes over our heads most of the time. We`re vaguely aware of it. When it`s on you, it`s beyond blinding. And most white collar, would be criminals who are caught up in it, don`t like it very much.

They don`t have the capacity to push back. They don`t have a public megaphone or the ability to erode at the very institutions of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice that`s coming after them.

ROCAH: Right. I mean can you imagine if everyone -- you know, being investigated by the federal government is not a pleasant thing.

WILLIAMS: It takes over your life.

ROCAH: And you hear -- you know, there are people who want the investigation to end before Christmas so they can spend Christmas with their family. They want to have a nice, you know, summertime, or their work is demanding and they need to get back to their job. This happens all of the time, and they don`t get to say -- most Americans under investigation don`t get to say, "You know what? I don`t think my prosecutor is really being open-minded, so I don`t think I`m going to go to the grand jury, or I`m not going to sit for this interview." They don`t get to sort of make those grandiose decisions in that way.

I understand he`s the President. You know, this is different, and there should be a respect for the office, which I think is being honored here. But on the other hand, he`s taking power that he has solely because of that office and using it in a way to try to mess up, if you will, I mean I won`t even use the word obstruction. Let`s just say mess up or, you know, kind of mess with the investigation, and that is a real, I think, abuse of power.

WILLIAMS: What a terrific conversation to start us off on a Monday night, starting with a member of the team at "The Washington Post" whose journalism set the bar today, Ashley Parker. Mimi Rocah, Jonathan Lemire, our thanks to all three of you for joining us.

Coming up for us, in the absence of an apology to John McCain, the White House says it has a leaking problem. But the President says the real problem is the fake news media.

And later, the one thing the leaky White House was able to keep secret today. "The 11th Hour" just getting started on a fresh Monday night.


WILLIAMS: It has been five days now since White House aide Kelly Sadler made that morbid and awful remark about Senator John McCain`s failing health, and still the White House refuses to apologize. Sadler said McCain`s opposition to the CIA director nominee didn`t matter because he`s "dying anyway." The White House, for its part, is focusing not on what was said but rather who leaked the original comments from a meeting.

Here is Deputy Press Secretary Raj Shah from today`s press briefing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are there any concerns that this White House seems more concerned about the fact that there was a leak than about the content of what was said?

RAJ SHAH, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I think, you know, we`re concerned about all sorts of matters, but this is an internal matter. It`s being addressed internally. And I don`t have any further to add.

What I will say is that when you work in any work environment, you with your colleagues at NBC or elsewhere, if you don`t -- if you aren`t able in internal meetings to speak your mind or convey thoughts or say anything that you feel without feeling like your colleagues will betray you, that creates a very difficult work environment. I think anybody who works anywhere could recognize that.


WILLIAMS: President Trump weighed in on Twitter. "The so-called leaks coming out of the White House are a massive over exaggeration put out by the fake news media in order to make us look as bad as possible. With that being said, leakers are traitors and cowards, and we will find out who they are.

Axios reporter Jonathan Swan characterizes the White House response this way. "Once you`ve worked for Trump for a while, you know that the worst thing you can do, the biggest show of weakness, is to apologize. So, staff knows that if they publicly apologize they`re actually more likely to incur Trump`s wrath than if they just move on."

Joining our conversation tonight, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times." We`ve asked Jonathan Lemire to stick around and join us as well.

So, Peter, it has been five days, and based on your knowledge of this institution and this President, provided you don`t have direct knowledge, does this kind of order come from the top because some days it feels like nothing else would explain the lack of an apology to John McCain.

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, no. I think that`s exactly right. It`s been five days as you say, and in five days, it will be ten, and ten days after that, it will be 20. I don`t think we should expect that to change.

I think that this is a President who has made very clear long before becoming President that he doesn`t believe in apologies. He thinks apologizing is sing of weakness. He particularly doesn`t favor the idea of apologizing given what he and other Republicans have seen -- have said. It was President Obama`s habit of apologizing too much.

So I think that he`s made very clear to the staff that that`s not something that they should do even though there are, of course, members of his staff who think that if he simply had done it on day one or the White House had done it on day one, the story would be over. It`s very frustrating, I think, for people who work on the staff right now because they don`t think this is a story that has to be dragged on as long as it has and they could have put an end to it. But they are -- you know, they do serve the President, and they follow his wishes.

WILLIAMS: Peter, your first rodeo, this is not. You`ve covered a number of White Houses in your time. Is this the leakiest you`ve ever seen?

BAKER: It certainly has moments where it is, sure. Of course. And maybe more so, I think, in the first few months of this administration, less so in the last six months but it still leaks of course. And every White House leaks.

It is surprising. You can understand the frustration of people who work in this White House to sit down in a meeting of communications staff, which is 15 or 20 people there, and then to have the conversation reported within hours in the news media. You can certainly understand that frustration. What they don`t seem to want to grapple with is their internal frustration doesn`t, you know, mitigate the fact that a lot of people find the comment about Senator McCain to be offensive and to require some sort of expression of regret.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, I have one for you to react to. You and I are going to watch Kellyanne Conway appearing on Fox News on the subject of leaks. We`ll talk about it right after this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: I think the President is on solid ground here, that if you work at the pleasure of the President as we all do here and you have the privilege and the blessing of coming every day to work in this White House on behalf of the nation that we all love, then you ought to be competent, you ought to be loyal, and you ought to be able to reinforce the agenda that prevails here. And so I can`t go on more, but I had several discussions with the President on this very topic today.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Do you expect personnel changes as a result?

CONWAY: I do, actually. Yes, I do.


WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, the ball is as they say in your court. Your response?

LEMIRE: I enjoyed the President`s tweet today, where no leaks here, but, boy, we`re going to get those guys.


LEMIRE: This is something that this White House has grappled with for a long time. And what Kellyanne said there is something they have said periodically, that they will crack down on these leaks, their heads will roll, and that very little has changed. You might recall Anthony Scaramucci`s very short-lived tenure as communications director was predicated on the idea that he was going to come in and crack down on some leaks, eliminate them. In fact, he was considering firing a few people before he himself got fired.

This is something, though -- this is a White House that there is -- though, Peter is right, is less leaky than it was, it still is. There`s less infighting than there used to be in the building, but there`s still some. There`s still some rivals. There are people still jockeying for position, trying to influence the President through the media.

There are certainly people who are looking to make themselves look better by denigrating his or her colleagues. That`s not -- doesn`t seem to be changing anytime soon. When the boss himself, of course, is a notorious leaker both before and during his time in the White House.

WILLIAMS: New York reporters knew him by his pseudonym.

Hey, Peter, let`s talk about the fight for oxygen. We saw the President welcome home those hostages last week, today fulfill the campaign promise, move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem in yet today`s briefing dominated mostly by questions, why no apology to John McCain?

BAKER: Yes, that`s exactly right. These sort of small tempests in a teapot become bigger because they refuse to do the things that politicians typically do to make them go away. You know, there`s a script for this kind of thing. Even if you don`t want to comment on internal matters, you simply say something to the effect of, you know, we have great respect for John McCain. Of course, anything that would, you know, call into question his service, his country, would not be the message the President wants to send, except in this case, you`ve got a President who has sent that message himself in the past. It wasn`t that long ago.

The President said that John McCain is not a war hero because he got captured and he prefers, that is Donald Trump, prefers those who didn`t get captured. He never took that back. He never apologized for that. So why should he or his staff in his view apologize for the random comment made behind closed doors by an aide?

So I don`t think that you see a lot of opportunity -- I don`t think you see a lot of incentive here from the President`s point of view to make good on this. He used John McCain as a critic. He regularly cites McCain at rallies as the one who killed his health care program last year. And so I think this reflects their relationship.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, Jonathan Lemire, gentlemen, thank you both so much for joining our broadcast and taking our questions tonight.

And coming up for us, a tale of two cities really. One celebration, the other under live fire. Where does the White House stand, or was that made clear today when we come back.


WILLIAMS: We`re back. And as we said, the President fulfilled a major campaign promise today with the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem. But as the elaborate dedication ceremony took place with high-profile guests like Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner on hand, less than 60 miles away at the Gaza border, huge protests turned decidedly and suddenly deadly, 56 Palestinians were killed.

Before we talk about it, let`s get a late report from NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel in Jerusalem.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Outrage boiled over in the Gaza Strip today, while just 60 miles north, that seemed like a world away, ovations for President Trump in Jerusalem, daughter Ivanka helping do the honors, unveiling the new embassy seal.

IVANKA TRUMP, DAUGHTER OF PRESIDENT TRUMP: We welcome you officially and for the first time to the embassy of the United States here in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. Thank you.

ENGEL: Also there, her husband and Middle East Adviser Jared Kushner.

Jared Kushner, Middle East Adviser: We`ve shown that the United States of America will do what`s right, and so we have.

ENGEL: President Trump appeared in a recorded message, saying the embassy move from Tel Aviv keeps a campaign promise.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: The United States under President Harry Truman became the first nation to recognize the state of Israel. Today, we officially opened the United States embassy in Jerusalem. Congratulations.

ENGEL: Jerusalem is a divided city. Palestinian Arabs in the east, Jewish Israelis in the west. Today the U.S. recognized Israel`s claim to all of the city, forever.

President Trump is now entering into Israel`s history books. Previous U.S. administrations had promised to do this move, moving the embassy here to Jerusalem, but had deferred the decision, fearing it could cause an outbreak of violence in the volatile Middle East. And today that`s exactly what happened.

Tear gas and bloodshed in the Gaza Strip where some 2 million Palestinians are sealed off from the outside world, protesters marched toward Israel`s closed and heavily defended border. NBC`s Matt Bradley was there.

MATT BRADLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Tens of thousands of Palestinian protesters have been trying since this morning to breach that border into Israel. The reaction from Israel was sniper fire and artillery, has led to more deaths here.

ENGEL: Cameras captured protesters falling after being shot. Many in Gaza feel they have nothing to lose. Better to die for a principle, their claim to Jerusalem.

Brian, some people dismiss this embassy move as purely symbolic, transferring the Ambassador`s Office from one building, one city to another. But it has very real world consequences. Palestinians tomorrow are planning even more demonstrations in Gaza that could be even deadlier. And look what`s happening here in Jerusalem tonight. They are projecting images on the old city walls of the Israeli flag, the American flag, and the words "Thank you, President Trump." So this is not just symbolic. This is historic and lives are at stake. Brian?

WILLIAMS: Thank you for that reporting and that detail, Richard Engel in Jerusalem for us tonight. And here to talk about it, Janine Zacharia, former Jerusalem Bureau Chief for the Washington Post, who is back state side teaching journalism at Stanford University and who was recently the author of a piece I`m holding in my hand from the San Francisco Chronicle, "Don`t Move U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem."

Janine, I`m going to ask you a question. I fear the answer. Is this what a new intifada looks like?

JANINE ZACHARIA, FORMER JERUSALEM BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, very well may be, Brian. I mean, we`ve seen these pictures before and along the Gaza border in particular. Let`s remember that we had very serious wars between Israel and Hamas in 2008, 2012, 2014. And so we`re looking at a definite uptick, the most bloody day of clashes along that border since that 2014 war. So it very well might be.

WILLIAMS: You`ve been to Gaza many times. I`ve been to Gaza several times. How do you describe it beyond the hopelessness that`s evident even in television pictures? How do you describe it to your friends in the U.S.?

ZACHARIA: You know, I generally try to talk about the people that are there because I think what we get in the United States is a very monolithic kind of skewed picture. It`s controlled by Hamas, yes, but there`s regular people that want to live there. And Gaza is very quickly becoming unlivable.

I believe the United Nations says by 2020, it will be effectively unlivable in Gaza because of the situation with electricity and water. And even though Israeli withdrew its troops in 2005 from Gaza, it still controls a lot of that, all of the movement and access into the territory. So it`s people that are struggling who want to be able to go on with their lives and they`re sort of stuck between this ongoing battle between Hamas and Israel.

WILLIAMS: Tell me how we are ever going to get to peace, and tell me how we`re ever going to see a two-state solution?

ZACHARIA: Well, one of the things that you`re going to need, Brian, if we`re going to get to a two-state solution is some shared control of the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is, of course, the most fraught of the final status issues that have been negotiated over the years between Israel and the Palestinians. And now President Trump, while he said back in December he was taking Jerusalem off the table, he`s put it front and center again by relocating the embassy. So I`m concerned that any chance of reviving the peace talks could be undercut by today`s move.

Now, perhaps there`s something in Jared Kushner, in Jason Greenblatt`s plan that maybe it is reward Israel with this massive carrot. It`s not really a carrot even. This was supposed to be a carrot. Just this reward, and now you`re going to say to Israel you have to cede control of parts of the city, but it`s really hard to envision how that`s going to work not that effectively, the Palestinians say the U.S. is no longer an honest broker.

WILLIAMS: Janine Zacharia, veteran journalist with vast experience in the area we`re talking about tonight. We will no doubt call upon you again as this remains a subject of great interest and attention here. Thank you very much for joining us tonight from the West Coast.

Coming up for us, who is the President talking to before bed most nights? Some new reporting on that when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.


WILLIAMS: Welcome back after shall we say a turbulent 17 months in the White House that has seen historic unrivaled levels of staff turnover. President Trump has sought counsel from an atypical if not totally unexpected source. This week`s New York Magazine reports that Trump and the Fox News show host Sean Hannity speak on the phone most week nights. They write, quote, "I was told by one person that Hannity fills the political void left by Steve Bannon." The report also quotes a former White House official who says Hannity and Fox create a feedback loop that puts Trump in a, quote, "weird headspace", adding, quote, "what ends up happening is judge Jeanine Pirro or Hannity fill him up with a bunch of crazy expletive and everyone on staff has to go and knock down all the expletive fires they started. A lot of expletives there.

With us tonight is David Jolly, former Republican Congressman from Florida. If this were Bill Maher, we could just speak our piece expletive free, but it`s not so here we are. Talk about this Trump/Hannity dynamic, portions of which we were all kind of aware of. What does it explain to you if anything?

FRM. REP. DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA: Look, Sean Hannity is the new Steve Bannon, and that is accurate. Steve Bannon is gone. Sean Hannity fills this void for Donald Trump, and the important thing about this is that this is the president of the United States who is listening to somebody who represents the echo chamber of the base, not somebody who represents the very hard conflict of opinion within the United States.

Our founders empowered a cabinet, and if you look back through history, we looked at the department of state and war and treasury as those who gave trusted advice to the president of the United States. In this case Sean Hannity is somebody giving advice.

And mind you, Brian, this is Sean Hannity who once said, I am not a journalist jackass. Now, there was no punctuation in that, but he was espousing was, he`s not even a fair minded journalist in his own words. He is an opinion talk show host who is feeding that opinion to the president of the United States and making him feel good before he goes to bed at night.

WILLIAMS: Some of those public servants you just mentioned, this quote that`s in the article, Trump in -- what is the -- I wrote it down in my own writing and I can`t -- inherently distrust. Sorry, it`s my own penmanship. Inherently distrusts anyone who chooses to work for him. Imagine FDR trying to carry out World War II, get this country out of a depression if he was working around Harry Hopkins all the while.

JOLLY: That`s right. Fast forward even to our generation with Bush 43. Whatever you think of his politics, his decisions with the war, the reality is Bush 43 came in having lost the popular vote. He won the Electoral College. His legitimacy was questioned. He stayed quiet largely for the first nine months until 9/11. He listened to advisers like Cheney and Powell and Rumsfeld and Condi Rice, and he followed their advice.

We can disagree with the politics, but he understood what he didn`t know and he was disciplined. Donald Trump today is probably the most undisciplined president we`ve ever seen. It`s what we wrestle with in the body politic.

WILLIAMS: I want to ask you about the vice president by way of reading this, quote, "Republican officials now see Mr. Pence as seeking to exercise expansive control over a political party ostensibly helmed by Mr. Trump tending to his own allies and interests even when the President`s instincts lean in another direction."

So absolute adoration and fealty publicly, but behind the scenes, anyone who knows Mike Pence, He`s a cagey veteran politician. You`ve often said on this broadcast this can`t be the party of Trump, though you admit it probably is. Is it the party of Mike Pence?

JOLLY: It may be. Brian, every single Republican is trying to figure out what happens after Donald Trump, and that includes Mike Pence. My wife and I were talking tonight about Churchill`s comment. An appeaser is the one who feeds the crocodile thinking they`ll be the last one to be eaten. That is Mike Pence tonight.

He is appeasing Donald Trump thinking he has an opportunity to overtake this party when Trump leaves. There are three camps. Always Trumpers, never Trumpers, and those who are silent, and there`s a very hard conversation coming among Republicans with those who are silent. You can respect the always Trumpers and the never Trumpers, but those who are silent that will arise and pretend nothing ever happened, those are people that we need to hold accountable as Republicans, and these are friends of mine. We talk about this. This is a hard conversation coming post-Trump in the Republican Party.

WILLIAMS: I think that`s where we need to end the conversation with our thanks as always for the opinions and viewpoints of Congressman David Jolly. Thank you very much.

JOLLY: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, a health update tonight on two prominent Americans, both hospitalized when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.


WILLIAMS: This next item contains the word procedure six times because we don`t know much about it and we don`t really know what else to call it, but there you have it. The news is this. Melania Trump is recovering from a procedure this morning to treat what the White House called a benign kidney condition.

The aforementioned procedure was a surprise to the public and kept under wraps by the first lady`s office in the East Wing. In a statement released this afternoon, they write, quote, "the procedure was there were no complications." Mrs. Trump is at Walter Reed Medical Center and will likely remain there for the duration of the week. That`s important.

The President was not with the first lady during the procedure but went to visit just minutes after his tweet for attacking White House leaks, while his way, by helicopter in Marine One. The president did follow up on Twitter writing, quote, "Heading over to Walter Reed Medical Center to see our great first lady Melania, a successful procedure. She is good spirits. Thank you to all the well-wishers."

We should note there`s a lot we don`t know about the first lady`s condition. While the word benign seems to rule out cancer, a number of doctors were puzzled as to why she would be hospitalized for a full week for a embolization procedure that is sometimes conducted on an outpatient basis, so more on that when we learn it.

We also learned today about this man. Former Nevada Senator, Harry Reid, former Majority Leader in the Senate, under went surgery today for pancreatic cancer. Reid`s family released a statement in which it says in part, quote, "His surgeons are confident that the surgery was a success and that the prognosis for his recovery is good." He will undergo chemotherapy as the next step in his treatment. He is now out of surgery in good spirits and resting with his family.

Well, fellow Senator John McCain in the midst of his own cancer fight, wrote this to Harry Reid on Twitter. From one cantankerous senator to another, sending my prayers and best wishes to Senator Reid as he recovers from a successful surgery." Another break for us.

Coming up, why the President was accused today of trying to make another country great again. That story when we come back.



TRUMP: We give state dinners to the heads of China. I said why are you doing state dinners for them? They`re ripping us left and right. Just take them to McDonald`s and go back to the negotiating table, seriously. It`s true.

We`re getting ripped off by China. This country is in big trouble. We don`t win anymore. We lose to China. We lose to Mexico, both in trade and at the border. We lose to everybody.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. As a candidate, the president mentioned China so often and slammed them with such gusto using his own unique pronunciation that as you recall, it actually gave Alec Baldwin new material.


ALEC BALDWIN, DONALD TRUMP IMPERSONATOR: Our jobs are fleeing this country, they`re going to Mexico. They`re going to China. China, China, huge China.


BALDWIN: Shut up.

MCKINNON: He started the birther movement.

BALDWIN: You did.

MCKINNON: He says climate change is a hoax invented by China.

BALDWIN: It`s pronounced China.


WILLIAMS: Remember that, it was all in good fun and long ago, and then came this from the President this weekend. President Xi of China and I are working together to give massive Chinese phone companies ZTE a way to get back into business fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed on get it done.

Those words from the president amounted to a shocker. Beyond the fact that you don`t often hear a U.S. president asking to make a Chinese company great again, this is not just any Chinese company. One in ten phones sold in this country is made by ZTE. They rank fourth in U.S. smartphone sales. And that`s a problem because the U.S. intelligence community believes they pose an unacceptable risk to our national security.

The FBI director has warned ZTE phones could be carrying out undetected espionage, spying us on. The sale of ZTE smartphones has been banned in every PX, every store at all of our state side military bases for a reason. Here is Arkansas Republican Senator Tom Cotton polling our intel chiefs to see if opposition to ZTE is unanimous.


SENATOR TOM COTTON (R), ARKANSAS: All the witnesses, I`d like to address this question to you, will you please raise your hand if would you use products or services from Huawei or ZTE? None of you would. You obviously intelligence services so that`s something of a biase question. Raise your hand if would you recommend that private citizens use Huawei or ZTE products or services? None of you again are raising your hand. Thank you for that.


WILLIAMS: Then this weekend, the President came to the defense of ZTE. ZTE is banned from using American parts in its phones. It was done on protect the U.S., it has crippled the company. And after lamenting the loss of jobs in China, the President late today explained his position a little further. ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.

And that is all we know about this, as of our air time on a Monday night as we start a new week. With that, thank you for being here with us, as always, and goodnight from NBC News Headquarters here in New York.


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