Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: May 23, 2018 Guest: Philip Rucker, Jill Colvin, Matt Apuzzo, Daniel Goldman
BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: Tonight, the President now making a full-on claim of spying on his campaign without a lick of proof to back it up. And in a surprise move tonight, we learn that a second briefing has been added for a bipartisan group tomorrow. Plus, developments today on the Mueller front involving Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos and Jared Kushner. What we`ve learned today now has full security clearance.
And did Russia actually affect the outcome of our 2016 election? One of the nation`s foremost Intel chiefs actually made that very claim tonight. As "the 11th hour" gets under way on this Wednesday evening.
And good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 489 of the Trump administration. Hours from a critical briefing about classified documents brokered by the White House amid the President`s latest efforts to undercut and discredit the Russia investigation while also attacking federal law enforcement. More on that meeting in a moment, because we want you to hear how the President is now branding what he alleges was an attempt by federal law enforcement, our own team, to infiltrate and illegally conduct surveillance on his 2016 campaign. All evidence thus far to the contrary.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of bad things have happened. We now call it Spygate. You`re calling it Spygate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Originally, two Republican House members were slated to join the FBI and the National Intelligence directors along with an official from DOJ on Thursday to review top secret material about an FBI source used to gather information about possible contacts between the Trump campaign, let`s not forget, and Russia. No Democrats were invited. Democrats minded that.
Well, tonight, we`re hearing from the Justice Department there will be two meetings. One with Republicans, Nunes and Gowdy along with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and the FBI and Intel chiefs. That will be followed by a second meeting involving the so-called gang of eight, which includes the top leaders of both parties on intelligence matters that come before Congress.
We`re also told Speaker Ryan will not be at that briefing due to a previous commitment. Here is what Adam Schiff, leading Democrat, on the partisan and contentious House Intel Committee told our own Rachel Maddow tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE INTEL COMMITTEE: I was informed by one of our intelligence agencies tonight that the meeting or briefing tomorrow would be a bipartisan briefing at a gang of eight level and that would be it. That is the right procedure. If there`s any information that could compromise a source or sources and methods. So that`s the practice that has been around for decades and they need to follow it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The material to be reviewed is part of the FBI`s early investigation and became special counsel Mueller`s inquiry officially. The "A.P." describes the President`s story line about the use of an FBI informant this way, and we quote, "Trump has told confidants in recent days that the revelation of an informant was potential evidence that the upper echelon of federal law enforcement has conspired against him, according to three people familiar with his recent conversations but not authorized to discuss them publicly. Trump told one ally this week that he wanted to brand the informant a spy, believing the more nefarious term would resonate more in the media and with the public."
Well, this morning, the President fired off a series of messages as ammunition in his war on the Russia investigation, starting with this one. "Look how things have turned around on the criminal deep state. They go after Phony collusion with Russia, a made Scam, and end up getting caught in a major spy scandal, the likes of which this country may never have seen before. What goes around comes around."
Then later, he elaborated on that in response to questions from the media, including our own colleague Hallie Jackson.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALLIE JACKSON, NBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Sir, what proof do you have that your campaign things happened. I hope it`s not so, because if it is, there`s was spied on?
TRUMP: All you have to do is look at the basics and you`ll see. It looks like a very serious event. But we`ll find out. When they look at the documents, I think people are going to see a lot of bad never been anything like it in the history of our country.
They`re going to all be in the room tomorrow. We`re going to see what happens. What I want is I want total transparency. Wait. You have to have transparency.
JACKSON: And Democrats?
TRUMP: Even they probably want transparency, because this issue supersedes the party. This supersedes Republicans and Democrats. Even the Democrats, I really believe, on this issue, it supersedes. I think they want transparency, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: From there, this afternoon on this network, Former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden told our colleague Nicolle Wallace why he`s concerned about the President`s attacks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. MICHAEL HAYDEN, FMR NSA DIRECTOR AND FMR. CIA DIRECTOR: I see a pattern in the behavior of the President. He never argues the facts. He tries to invalidate the fact bearer, the truth giver. And what we`re seeing here, I think, is a broadly political move to undercut preemptively what he fears will be the findings of the Mueller investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Former FBI Director James Comey also spoke out today about the President`s allegations saying, "Facts matter." The FBI`s use of confidential human sources, the actual term, is tightly regulated and essential to protecting the country. Attacks on the FBI and lying about its work will do lasting damage to our country. How will Republicans explain this to their grandchildren?"
He goes on. "Dangerous time when our country is led by those who will lie about anything, backed by those who will believe anything. Based on information from media sources that will say anything. Americans must break out of that bubble and seek truth."
The President had this message back to James Comey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think James Comey has got a lot of problems. If you look at what he did, if you look at all of the lies, the tremendous lies, what I`m doing is a service to this country. And I did a great service to this country by firing James Comey, and excuse me. A lot of people have said it. And you go into the FBI, and a lot of those great people working in the FBI, they will tell you, I did a great service to our country by firing James Comey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: By the way, what you just saw there proved too much for one of our on-air colleagues today and we`ll have his comments for you at the end of our broadcast tonight. But you`ll want to see it.
Now, amid all of that Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani continued his daily back and forth over whether his client will sit down with Robert Mueller.
Yesterday, Giuliani Earlier told "The Wall Street Journal" he was against such an interview. Today, he told "The Washington Post" Trump should talk to the Mueller`s team and "a decision would be made within the next couple of weeks." He added, "I guess I`d rather do the interview. It gets it over with, it makes my client happy."
Giuliani also spoke to NBC News today saying that Trump`s legal team would like to narrow the scope as much as possible and the length of the interview is under discussion. He also said a previously mentioned September 1st deadline could be pushed back.
On that, let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Wednesday night. Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press. Philip Rucker, White House Bureau Chief and a Pulitzer Prize winner for "The Washington Post." And John Heilemann, Co-author of "Game Change" and "Double Down" and Co-host of "The Circus" on Showtime, in addition to being one of our contributors here.
So Phil, let`s back all the way up to the fact that Democrats are being included in one of these sessions tomorrow after kind of noticing they were excluded before. As a practical matter, won`t that mean Democrats coming before cameras tomorrow to say this wasn`t a spy ring. This wasn`t a spy, this was a human informant.
PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Very possibly, Brian. The development of adding that second meeting to include Democrats and the full gang of eight is really a victory for the norms of this process. That`s how these briefings ordinarily are conducted. Although House Intelligence Chairman Devin Nunes had objected to sharing in his briefing with any Democrats on the Hill. So there was a real push by Senator Schumer and other Democrats to be included in that meeting, and they are going to be. And it means that they`re going to be able, you know, be a part of the public battle in the hours after those meetings to define what this information is exactly.
Remember, we don`t know exactly what these documents are going to show. We know they`re going to detail the activities, the intelligence that was gathered by the secret FBI source at the end of the campaign and the beginning of the Russia investigation. But, you know, how much detail it gets into, specifically what that source provided, how that source did his or her work and the connection inside the Trump campaign is unclear at this point.
We know what Trump is going to brand it as, and that`s Spygate as a spying effort, as an illegal spying effort. But we`ll have to see how the Democrats counter that.
WILLIAMS: And, Jill, it was interesting to learn from the President that we in the press are all calling it Spygate now. Having said that, you were part of the traveling White House today, traveling with the President to events in New York. What was the mood you were able to pick up?
JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": The President actually seemed to be in a pretty good mood today. You saw him this morning taking questions on the White House lawn before he departed for an event that`s very much kind of speaking to his base and his core interests, talking about illegal immigration and about the MS-13 Gang.
What was interesting today was during the roundtable discussion at Long Island today, Rod Rosenstein, who is somebody who has received a lot of pushback, a lot of criticism from the President, the man who is overseeing the Russia investigation was actually in that room. And the President went over as he came in. He gave Rosenstein a big hand shake. He thanked him several times during the event. You really felt none of the hostility that you`ve seen him discussing with confidants and him discussing on Twitter.
And what we`re hearing and "The Washington Post" reported also today quoting Giuliani saying that the President is really feeling better now. He feels in some way that his Twitter campaign has been somewhat effective. He`s been telling ally, as you mentioned earlier, that he really feels as, though, this kind of informant, this branding of a spy in the campaign is something that is an effective tool for him to use to try to discredit the investigation.
WILLIAMS: And now to our friend, the unencumbered John Heilemann. John, your job tonight is to normalize us. People have come home, they`ve turned on the television, hopefully preferably this network and they`ve heard the President using a term "Spygate." Telling us in the media, we`re all using the term "Spygate."
JOHN HEILEMANN, CO-HOST, SHOWTIMES "THE CIRCUS": Yes.
WILLIAMS: Slash that means someone used it on "Fox & Friends" this morning. What has happened here? This wasn`t a thing days ago. Now it`s a "Gate."
HEILEMANN: All it means is that someone, not even on "Fox & Friends," but some little man in Donald Trump`s head has said it. You know remember there was a period of times, when he says about Elizabeth Warren, they call her "Pocahontas." The only person who called here "Pocahontas" was President Trump.
Look, what happen was "The New York Times" wrote a big story in which they revealed the existence of Crossfire Hurricane and they went back and traced the history of the FBIs, that they`ve done the history of the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton some many months ago. Now, they did the history of the investigation, the Counterintelligence investigation of Donald Trump, which we did not know about it in real time an important fact about that investigation. They went back and did that last week.
And in that piece of reporting, they revealed that there was an informant who had spoken to three people in the Trump campaign on the outer peripheries of the Trump campaign, including Carter Page, George Padopoulos. Not central players but had had conversations. But that was something that, as soon as it came out, this notion of an informant, the President seized on.
WILLIAMS: The informant worried that the Russians were wheedling their way into our election.
HEILEMANN: Yes. A Counterintelligence investigation conducted by the FBI to try -- knowing what we now know is true, that has been proven beyond all doubt, that has been affirmed by Donald Trump`s own Intelligence Community. All of the appointees of his community have now come out and said it, "The Russians interfered in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win." That is beyond dispute.
The FBI had an early inkling in that and then is trying to figure out in real time what that consisted of and then they tried to stop it. And this is what this informant was supposed to be a part of. It was the most discreet thing they could have done. The FBI, if they wanted to be disruptive towards candidate Trump`s campaign, could have gone and knocked out people`s door, could have gone and shout it from the rooftops that there were problems. Instead they conducted a relatively low key form of observation and tried to find out what was happening.
President Trump continues to make the argument that there was a conspiracy against him launched by the Intelligence Community and the law enforcement community, namely by the Obama Administration to stop him from being president. And yet all of the information about Hillary Clinton`s transgressions and her alleged transgressions and minor transgressions, of all the things that went around, all of that was public by election day.
WILLIAMS: There was a press conference about her.
HEILEMANN: Many press conferences and many details that were given to Congressional committees, many things that were done, including Jim Comey coming out 10 days before the election and saying that he was reopening the case. All of that was public. And on election day, no one in America knew that the FBI was investigating Donald Trump. If they were trying to stop Donald Trump from being President, you would have thought they might have leaked it. But they didn`t, including the existence of this informant.
So that`s where we are right now. We are through the looking glass, and into this Orwellian place where Donald Trump goes out on the White House lawn and talks about how he`s doing this all in the interest of the transparency. And yet at least initially, this meeting was conceived to be an exposure of a confidential informant to only Devin Nunes and Trey Gowdy, two House Republicans, rather than what is now thank God, now transpired which is the gang of eight as custom. Because Congress pushed back. But it is a crazy situation, Brian.
And I will I just say, I agree 100 percent with Michael Hayden and I`ve been saying it for weeks. The President has now has an arsenal vindictive and it includes these words that he drills in a repetitive way into the skulls of the body politic. No collusion, witch hunt --
WILLIAMS: Witch hunt.
HEILEMANN: -- hoax. Spygate is now going to take its place among those words. And we are going to hear it over and over and over again to try to build up a reservoir, a political bow work so that when whatever happens in the Robert Mueller investigation, when the results come out and when the Michael Cohen situation resolves itself and we know everything that the prosecutors no, Donald Trump will be able to say to the public, "none of it matters. It`s all a conspiracy," and he hoped to God that he has enough people to believe him that that will carry him through regardless of what the prosecutors mind.
WILLIAMS: I think we`re going to release a director`s cut of what you just performed on DVD at stores now.
Hey, Philip, more evidence today that the spirit animal of the District of Columbia is crickets, crickets from Republicans obviously, but also a bunch of Democrats. It`s one thing to learn the Speaker of the House just can`t go to these meetings tomorrow because he has a thing. It`s another to hear so little from Democrats. What do you think is at work?
RUCKER: I don`t know, Brian, quite what`s at work. I think they`re trying to grapple with what is going on here with this informant. What these documents are going to show, and what the end game is beyond the political calculation that Trump is making. What may be the consequences for those at the Department of Justice and at the FBI and what is the President, and more importantly perhaps his allies in the Congress going to be pressing for in the days and weeks to come.
And one thing I think is worth pointing out for everybody. You played that clip where the President said, "I want transparency." He only wants transparency when it helps him.
RUCKER: This is a President who`s the first in modern time not to release his tax returns. The White House does not provide regular visitor logs. They`re not transparent in those ways. They`re only trying to be transparent in ways to expose something that President Trump thinks that can help him politically.
WILLIAMS: A valuable point. And Jill, who is in the President`s circle on a matter like this? Especially depending on who comes to the microphones tomorrow and says to the President, "Hey, pump the brakes on Spygate."
COLVIN: Well, we`ll have to see I think one notable change. You know, this is a meeting that has now changed three different times. We were supposed to not have the Democrats involved, then and so the gang of eight involved and then they were going to be briefed after the Memorial Day weekend. Now we find out that they`re going to be briefed tomorrow.
But another addition is the fact that John Kelly is going to be in the room for both of those meetings. We`ve been told earlier this week by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and he was not going to be present. And his role was solely to be coordinating the meeting and then he`s sort of turning it over to the Justice Department and to Intelligence officials. So that means that there will be a member of the Trump White House who is in the room for both of these meetings who`s able to play broker or answer questions or come back and potentially, you know, talk about this meeting with the President.
It`s unclear at this point whether the President actually knows what is in these documents, has any details on who this informant is. But it will be interesting to see the extent to which John Kelly, who we know is somebody who has really been on the outs with the President, his power has very much been curtailed, whether he might be using this to his advantage.
WILLIAMS: John, 30 seconds or less. The President is going on "Fox & Friends" tomorrow morning. What could go wrong?
HEILEMANN: You know, it will be something that we will want to watch. I`m sure it will be enjoyable in every way. I just want to say, it`s really -- you know, you`re going to talk about it later, but it`s so important and so rare where we`ve seen the Congress, who should be the referees in all of this, the leadership, particularly the Senate leadership, standing up and saying, "Hold on a second, this is not OK." And in this case, it looks like Senate Republicans, as well as Democrats obviously were complaining. And it seems to at least in this one moment have changed the trajectory that this thing was on and put it in a better place, a more normal place and a place that`s more in line with tradition and what should be good policy.
WILLIAMS: Maybe not full-on profiles in courage.
HEILEMANN: No, no, I`m not saying profiles in courage.
WILLIAMS: No, no.
HEILEMANN: I`m just saying, hey, they stood up a little bit and did their jobs and acted like their normal leadership would normally act for just a little moment. Might not change anything in a long run, but at least for one day, it seems like they`re acting like they should.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks, great conversation, to starts us off on a Wednesday night Jill Colvin, Philip Rucker and John Heilemann. Thank you.
Coming up, nearly a year and a half after Trump was sworn into office, his son-in-law, Senior Adviser Jared Kushner finally gets his permanent security clearance. At the same time, with learned that Kushner had a long second session with the Mueller team.
And later, it may be baseball season, but tonight we`ll talk football for just a bit. After the NFL releases its new policy on the National Anthem. Don`t tell us politics could be involved.
"The 11th Hour" getting started on a Wednesday night
WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, we`re tracking a number of important developments in the Mueller investigation that could shed light on where the inquiry stands right now as best we can tell. We learned today this man, the President`s son-in-law and Senior Adviser, Jared Kushner, met with the Mueller team for a second time in April. NBC News reports the sit-down lasted over six hours, covered a wide range of topics, including the firing of James Comey.
"Wall Street Journal" reported last year that Kushner pushed for Comey`s firing in discussions with the President and top advisers. Earlier today, Kushner`s attorney Abbe Lowell provided some more detail about this interview on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ABBE LOWELL, JARED KUSHNER`S ATTORNEY: I`ll tell you the topics. They were appropriate topics that Bob Mueller and his team are looking at. They are what happened in the campaign that might suggest that there were some outside influences, primarily what I call the allegations of Russia collusion, issues of contacts with people, particularly foreigners during the transition, and the topics of post inauguration, what is lumped into the category of obstruction.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: A warning that this is what lawyers always say. But Lowell went on to say that Kushner has fully cooperated with the investigation.
And Matt Apuzzo of "The New York Times" was the first to report today that Jared Kushner has been granted a permanent security clearance after working on an interim clearance for over a year. Also today, Former Trump Campaign Paul Manafort was back in federal court in Washington, D.C. His lawyers argued evidence obtained last year should be suppressed because the search warrants obtained at the time were unlawful.
Manafort has pleaded not guilty notably to multiple charges, including money laundering and bank fraud in Washington and in the Commonwealth of Virginia. His Virginia trial set to begin 48 days from now.
Meanwhile, Mueller`s team asked a judge to begin the sentencing process for Former Trump Campaign Adviser George Papadopoulos today who pleaded guilty in October of lying to the FBI.
This is notable, Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance wrote on Twitter today, "This likely means Mueller won`t use Papadopoulos as a trial witness. Whether that`s because he won`t be indicting anything he could be useful for or because the case is tight without him, and/or because there is an issue with putting Papadopoulos on the witness stand isn`t clear yet."
However, here to talk about it, the aforementioned Matt Apuzzo, Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist for "The New York Times" and Daniel Goldman, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney under Preet Bharara in the Southern District of New York. Welcome to you both.
Matt, talk about your reporting today first talk about Mr. Kushner and I may be asking for too much here. Was the detail about the security clearance provided to you in a way that one hoped would be exculpatory toward Mr. Kushner?
MATT APUZZO, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, absolutely, right? I mean I think exculpatory in the sense of many people around Jared Kushner have been waiting for over a year for this moment. They have been saying as this FBI background check has dragged on and on and on, they have said again and again and again, "This is just the normal process. Let the process play out. He`s got a lot of financial deals that were complicated. He`s got a lot of foreign contacts that are extensive. The FBI needs time to review them. This will all work out."
And a great number of people in that world were quite happy today when it finally did work out. So no question that, you know, that this was discussed in Washington in Kushner circles with some amount of relief and happiness.
WILLIAMS: Now, Counselor, it is my understanding, and I guess people are saying this on social media tonight, that the ultimate decision to award a hard pass security clearance rests with the White House after due diligence is done. So that`s a way it may not be exculpatory. Talk about that. Also talk about how the borough of Brooklyn and the Eastern District of New York may figure into Jared Kushner`s future before we`re all done.
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, on the topic of the security clearance, the FBI has a slew of staff members who do the security clearances. And they look for a variety of things, including outstanding loans. For someone in Jared Kushner`s position in particular, they`re very conscious of whether he`s at risk of being blackmailed by any foreign entities, given his position at the White House.
WILLIAMS: In the White House (ph).
GOLDMAN: Absolutely. So the fact that he got some degree of clearance from the FBI indicates that he`s not at risk of being blackmailed. The other part of the story here on Jared Kushner is the revelation today that he sat for six more hours of interviews, which from the perspective of a former prosecutor looking at that, that is an indication that he is trending more towards being a witness than a subject or target in the common parlance that we`ve all come to understand. Because you would not expect Bob Mueller, if he`s interested in charging him to not indicate that to his lawyer in some fashion, or at least not reveal it during the course of the questioning.
WILLIAMS: And what`s the Eastern District about?
GOLDMAN: So last fall, there was some reporting that Deutsche Bank had received a subpoena for records related to Kushner and his companies. So we`re reading tea leaves here, but the fact that Abbe Lowell is saying that Bob Mueller focused solely on the mandate that he has, collusion and obstruction, doesn`t necessarily mean that no one is focusing on Jared Kushner`s finances.
WILLIAMS: Finance, yes.
GOLDMAN: And that similar to the Michael Cohen case, which was referred to the Southern District of New York, it`s possible, and we don`t know yet, but it is possible that the Brooklyn U.S. attorney`s office, the Eastern District of New York may have an investigation into Kushner outside of Bob Mueller`s mandate.
WILLIAMS: I thought it was important that we at least put that on the menu of possibilities.
Hey, Matt, in the day to day work of journalism, we almost forget that Paul Manafort is out there as a whale in this case. You made eye contact with him today. Apparently you were in court for today`s proceeding. What else did you pick up about him?
APUZZO: Well, I picked up that, as you said in the lead-in, Brian, the Manafort team was arguing to have a number of pieces of evidence thrown out, arguing that the warrant when they searched his house and the warrant when they search his storage locker were overly broad or they didn`t have the authority to conduct the search. My read having sat through that argument is the judge was not entirely having it. She didn`t rule, but met the Manafort team`s arguments with a lot of skepticism.
This is a case that appears bound for trial, which is interesting because of the theory of this is yes, Mueller needs to put pressure on Manafort to see what he`s got on President Trump. We haven`t seen some of the hallmarks of that. We didn`t see the sort of the early dangle, the head of indictment from DOJ asking, "Well, what kind of cooperation might he be able to offer?" And we haven`t certainly seen any signs that there are negotiations that would try to head off this trial.
So, you know, the train has left the station and this appears headed for trial.
WILLIAMS: A great writer and a great lawyer in a story that requires both on a nightly basis around here. Matt Apuzzo, Daniel Goldman, gentlemen, thank you both very much.
And coming up for us, Trump may call the Russia investigation a witch hunt and he may call what`s now a search for a spy ring. We`ll run this by a life-long intelligence officer when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP: PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: A lot of bad things have happened. We now call it Spygate. You`re calling it Spygate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: President Trump has seized on this new branding effort to discredit the Russia investigation. He declared on Twitter today, quote, "Spygate could be one of the biggest political scandals in history." Based on what we know to be his TV viewing habits and his late night chats with a certain Fox News host, there is no shortage of source material or validation for their most prominent viewer.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: These type of tactics, spying on an opposition party in an election year, are you kidding me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The new report that may indicate that the Obama administration did, in fact, spy on the Trump campaign.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And then the news came out about the spy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This was a spying on the campaign of the opposing party.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They knew what they were doing and they were engaged in an active ongoing politically motivated spying operation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To put the fix in to save Hillary`s campaign, then they quickly started spying on the Trump campaign.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about this with the man who has engaged in spying, Malcolm Nance, a veteran of Naval Intelligence Special Ops Homeland Security, 35 years experience working in counter-terrorism and intel. Also happens to be the Author of "The Plot To Hack America: How Putin, Cyberspies and WikiLeaks Tried To Steal The 2016 election."
So, Malcolm, how and where does it strike you when you hear all of that? When you hear our President call this spygate?
MALCOLM NANCE, AUTHOR, "THE PLOT TO HACK AMERICA": Well, I find it very ironic that he would actually choose that term, despite the nod that we need to give out to the patriots. By using the term spygate, it appears that he`s carrying out a massive projection. By trying to take this innocuous use of an informant by the FBI, which is very common, and conflated into the exact scandal that is surrounding his campaign. In fact, I think we ought to take the term back. I think we should use the term spygate.
To be quite honest, sypgate technically describes the Russian spies who were possibly in conspiracy with members of the Trump campaign in order to steal an election and subvert American democracy. That`s the real spygate.
WILLIAMS: That`s why I want to play you the following. This is the James Clapper appearing on PBS today. This is the former director of National Intelligence and the allegation he makes now about 2016. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR: Since I left the government as a private citizen, it`s what I would call my informed opinion that given the massive effort the Russians made and the number of citizens that they touched, and the variety and the multidimensional aspects of what they did to influence opinion and affect the election. And given the fact that it turned on less than 80,000 votes in three states, to me it just exceeds logic and credulity that they didn`t affect the election and is my belief, they actually turned it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: They actually turned it. That right there is ball game, the one that Trump doesn`t want to see or hear because that speaks to the greater fear of illegitimacy of the election.
NANCE: And I think he`s terrified of the idea that the possibility that illegitimacy, the belief that he is an illegitimate president with evidence coming out against it, will catch fire and that is why he is making every effort to subvert the investigatory processes of the United States law enforcement. This is, you know, someone asked me the other day, they said, well, how would you explain this to the American public what Donald Trump is doing?
Well, let me give you a pop culture reference. It`s sort of like when Penguin becomes the mayor of Gotham City. The problem is that Robert Mueller is Batman. And he is mortally terrified that what`s going to happen is law enforcement and justice will do their job. Every one of them is Republicans. So he lies. He calls every one of them a Democrat.
Listen, you know, I think that by doing this, by going this route of projecting and lying and then calling this spygate, he seems to fail to realize that in 1780, Benedict Arnold didn`t realize that his name would become infamous throughout all of history. I think Donald Trump might want to reflect on that.
WILLIAMS: I know a closing quote when I hear one. And with that, it`s time to thank Malcolm Nance, I appreciate you coming on tonight, sir, always a pleasure. And coming up for us, Trump and his supporters continue their onslaught to discredit Robert Mueller, but is it actually working? Will it matter when the final Mueller report comes out, in whatever form, that`s when we continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HANNITY: Mueller is more powerful than all U.S. attorneys. Mueller was also never nominated, never confirmed by the U.S. Senate. And because Robert Mueller`s appointment is unconstitutional and that renders everything that he has done since May 17, 2017 null and void.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, that`s a new argument. From time to time, given the tenor of the conversation, we call in our next guest for a reality check on where politics stand on any given night. For that, we welcome back Mike Murphy, Republican Strategist, long time adviser to candidates like Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, John McCain, and a host of others. Thank you, sir, for being here with us in New York.
MIKE MURPHY, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, thank you. I am glad to learn that Robert Mueller runs the world, because as a decorated Republican Marine, I can live with that.
WILLIAMS: There you go. Platoon commander in Vietnam. So I heard someone say last night, a lot of members of Congress went to Harvard, to name one educational institution. It was said on television, they know better. For the President to float all this out, this huge shining object, he needs a lot of help, and he`s getting it.
MURPHY: And particularly on the House side, I think one of the u interesting subtexts of today was the Republican senators were not joining the clown shoe parade over in the House to put a rubber stamp on whatever the fantasy of the day is to move the news cycle and to build some sort of smoke defense for later if real stuff happens. So you`re starting to see a little crack. It`s like terminology. You got to kind watch who`s wearing what hat. But the senate Repubs and Democrats are not on this bandwagon, and the gang of eight breaking their way into this thing, that`s a big deal.
WILLIAMS: So what happens after tomorrow to continue the military metaphor? Does the President loses air cover if people come out to the microphones and say we saw an evidence, this was an academic in the U.K. who thought Trump`s guys were (inaudible) and too cozy with Russia?
MURPHY: Yes. I think when in doubt, the truth can puncture this stuff. And so, if the gang of eight comes back with a big collective shrug and gets back to a real bipartisan investigation, it takes a lot of energy out of this kind of card trick to the President has been trying to pull to change the subject. You know, there`s an old saying in the Southern Politics, the guilty dog barks the loudest. And I think that`s the cul-de- sac the President is heading down to with these theatrics.
I mean, the Roswell aliens may show up next. This is totally a non-factual thing and while that can drive a news cycle for the day, hard to sustain it against real facts.
WILLIAMS: I want to show you Senator Jeff Flake from Arizona, important that our audience, as you watch this, remember, he`s about to leave town. He`s leaving the Senate. So that`s how a fellow Republican can talk the way he spoke about President Trump today at graduation ceremonies for Harvard Law School.
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SENATOR JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: Our President has been debased by a figure who seemingly has a bottomless appetite for destruction and division, and only a passing familiarity with how the constitution works. And our article one branch of government, the Congress, that`s me, in the utterly supply in the visit, in the face of the moral vandalism that flows from the White House daily.
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WILLIAMS: He`s got one foot out of town. He`s the only Republican on the Senate who sounds remotely like that. Here`s the question for you, if you strapped up Republicans in the Senate and House to a lie detector, how many agree with that?
MURPHY: I think you would have a majority.
MURPHY: Yes. But they`re afraid of their primary voters. And timing is everything in politics. One thing I like to say is there`s always a lot of noise, but the mark to market event when reality signs through is a election day, because that`s when power shifts. And the day after the election, if we lose our house majority, we lose real power, if the Republican machine is now an existential cliff, then things start to change publicly.
WILLIAMS: We`ve had this two endless wars, but what we`re learning is they`re also producing spectacular candidates for office, two of them, one of the Democratic side, last night, what`s your feel of the nation going into the midterms if they were held tomorrow?
MURPHY: The election help tomorrow, I think the Democrats would win the House and the Republicans would narrowly hold the Senate. We got lot of election left, but the forces to kind of punish the President for his behavior are building, intensity, turnout, things like that that are almost outlier levels if we look at the special election.
So, you know, my crystal ball broke in the last election night when I predicted the President wouldn`t be the president, about 3 million votes the other way, with 4 million, so we`ll see. But this is what a rejection election looks like. And the Republicans are frankly worried. The more private you talk to them, the more worried they are.
Now, there`s been a little tick up in the polling now and that`s kind of the narcotic of watch in this week, is Washington political opinions are driven by weekly polls. But, you know, we`ll see what sustains here.
WILLIAMS: Let`s be honest, we`re still sweeping up crystal ball effluent in the studio from that night.
MURPHY: Good to see you.
WILLIAMS: One of the best, thanks for coming in. Mike Murphy.
Coming up, Trump gets a win today while almost guaranteeing that this will be the NFL season when we find out if the players have freedom of speech on the field, that and more when we come back.
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TRUMP: Wouldn`t you love to see what are these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flags, to say get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He`s fired. He`s fired.
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WILLIAMS: That was President Trump last fall, and today, the Trump presidency seemed to reach right into the world of pro football, at least among the owners of those teams. Prediction? This is going to get bigger, in what some view as an unabashed win for Donald Trump, NFL owners voted to put a new policy in place regarding the national anthem.
This goes back to Colin Kaepernick, who first took a knee during the 2016 season to protest police violence and racism. As you`re no doubt aware, a slew of other players and some coaches and some owners later joined in. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell laid down the new law today, quote, "This season, all league and team personnel shall stand and show respect for the flag and the anthem. Personnel who chose not to stand for the anthem may stay in the locker room until after the anthem has been performed."
The decision met with decidedly mixed reactions. Vice President Mike Pence, who, as a PR stunt, remember this, have roughly left an NFL game over the kneeling controversy last season. He linked to this story on Twitter along with the hash tag winning and an American flag emoji.
The NFL Player`s Association responded in a statement, quote, "The NFL chose to not consult the union in the development of this new policy. Our union will review the new policy, in quotes, and challenge any aspect of it that is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement."
New York Jets Chairman Christopher Johnson is running the team while his brother, Woody, serves as President Trump`s Ambassador to the Court of St. James in the U.K. He told "NEWSDAY" after the decision, quote, "If somebody on the Jets takes a knee, that fine will be borne by the organization, by me, not the players. I never want to put restrictions on the speech of our players."
Long-time New York Sports Radio Show Host Mike Francesa wrote on Twitter today, quote, "Once again, the NFL shows no backbone, no courage, no conviction. This once great league has become a disgrace." And former NSA and CIA Director General Michael Hayden, yes, Mike Hayden, who served 39 years in the military, spoke with Nicolle Wallace today about the President and the quarterback.
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MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER NSA AND CIA DIRECTOR: I`m actually surprised I`m saying this, but if you make me chose those two positions, what the President said in Huntsville or what Kaepernick has been saying, I`m surprising myself. I`m going with the quarterback.
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WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, the quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, continues his quest to rejoin an NFL team and has filed a grievance, saying the NFL owners colluded to keep him out of the league. Another break, and coming up, some powerful words from one of our on-air colleagues from earlier tonight, based on something troubling he saw and heard from the president earlier today. We`ll have that for you, as it happened, when we continue.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight. If you`re like me and you`ve got some, shall we say, mileage on you, then you remember the news casts of Yore, before there were entire news networks on cable, following the news of the day, there would be commentary, and that same kind of thing took place earlier tonight on this network.
At the end of his broadcast tonight, Chris Matthews felt he could no longer go without saying what he did, about what he saw and heard from the President today. And so, we thought our viewers might appreciate hearing it, as well. So, here now, Chris Matthews` comments at the end of tonight`s edition of "HARDBALL."
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CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR: As I`m watching him on the White House lawn today, I wasn`t sure how far Donald Trump would go in destroying this country`s most precious assets in order to protect himself from justice. Today, we heard and saw it. Listen to him today, listen to him, standing there with the White House behind him, saying what he knows to be on the same level of conspiratorial nonsense as his birther-BS.
Listen to this man, the President of the United States, continue to trash the very institutions that have made this a special country, a country of, by and for the people, a government of, by and for the people, a history of open and reasonable and generally respectful political debate, a free press.
It`s clear especially today with his out of right field talk of some sort of political spy ring, his personal assaults on a former FBI Director, Trump is proving his readiness to destroy any faith and government integrity in order to save some reasonable doubt among some about his. It`s been clear from his entrance into the political arena that Trump is willing to state what he knows is not the truth in order to advance himself. Does anyone believe that Donald Trump ever believed that Barack Obama`s mother, a white woman in Kansas, went over to Africa to deliver a child, name that child Barack Hussein Obama to lie about his birth 35 years ago when he became constitutionally qualified for the American presidency? No.
He didn`t believe that. But he did believe that selling that conspiracy would get him headed to the White House, which it is to this country`s shame, it did. Does anyone believe that Donald Trump, now that he`s in the White House, wants the country to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? On this matter of real national security, Donald Trump cannot stand the truth.
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WILLIAMS: Chris Matthews supplying the last word for our broadcast on this Wednesday night. Thank you so much for being here with us. Goodnight from NBC News headquarters in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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