Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: May 30, 2018 Guest: Clint Watts, Matt Apuzzo, Shannon Pettypiece, Robert Costa, Jonathan Lemire, Nelson Cunningham
BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: The breaking news we`re covering tonight word of yet another memo this one is written by Andrew McCabe at the FBI. Then he witnessed a kind of cover story being compiled about why Trump fired Comey. "The New York Times" reporter who broke the story is standing by with details.
Plus, Rudy Giuliani at the White House tonight prepping for a potential Mueller interview, weighing in on whether Trump will fire his beleaguered Attorney General.
And someone on the front line is fighting Russian interference is here with a warning about how all of our social media accounts can be weaponized.
"The 11th Hour" on a Wednesday night begins now.
Well, good evening from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 496 of the Trump`s Administration.
And we have breaking news that raises new questions about the circumstances surrounding this President`s firing of Former FBI James Comey. This was May of last year, the report come from "The New York Times." One of the co-authors, Matt Apuzzo, is standing by to join us.
The "Times" tells it this way, "Former acting FBI Director, McCabe G. McCabe, wrote a confidential memo last spring recounting a conversation that offered significant behind-the-scenes details on the firing of McCabe`s predecessor, James Comey, according to several people familiar with the discussion. In the document, whose contents have not been previously reported, Mr, McCabe describe the conversation at the Justice Department with the Deputy Attorney General, Rod J. Rosenstein, in the chaotic days last May after Mr. Comey`s abrupt firing. Mr. Rosenstein played a key role in the dismissal, writing a memo that rebuked Mr. Comey over his handling of an investigation into Hillary Clinton. But in the meeting at the Justice Department, Mr. Rosenstein added a new detail. He said the President had originally asked him to reference Russia in his memo, the people familiar with the conversation said." The "Times" adds McCabe has turned over his memo to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.
You may recall, Andrew McCabe was the focus of relentless attacks, personal attacks from President Trump as part of his strategy to discredit the Russia investigation. McCabe was fired in March after an internal investigation at the Bureau.
In response to his firing, McCabe issued a statement saying in part, "I am being singled out and treated this way because of the role I play, the actions I took," and this is important, "the events I witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of James Comey. The release of this report was accelerated only after my testimony to the House Intelligence Committee revealed that I would corroborate Former Director Comey`s accounts of his discussion with the President."
Well, also, tonight there is mounting tensions between Trump and his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions was at the White House today, there he is exiting so far. No information on why he was there or who he met with.
"The New York Times" report says the President, who have been stewing over Sessions` decision to recuse himself from the entire investigation, had asked indeed that Sessions reversed that decision and get revolved.
Well, earlier today, retiring Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy offered up this explanation for President Trump`s thinking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: If I were the President and I picked someone to be the country`s chief law enforcement officer, and they told me later, "Oh by the way, I`m not going to be able to participate in the most important case in office," I would be frustrated, too. That`s how I read that. "Senator Sessions, why didn`t you tell me before I picked you?" There are lots of really good lawyers in the country, he could have picked someone else.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, guess who was watching? The President clearly agreed with that. Shortly after the interview, he sent several messages on Twitter directly quoting Trey Gowdy and ended with, "And I wish I did." Meaning, he wishes he`d chosen someone else as his A.G.
The President`s main spokesman for his legal efforts on all things, Russia, had an update today on a potential Trump-Mueller sit-down interview. Rudy Giuliani telling NBC News he`s doing practice Q&A questions with the President evenings during the week as negotiations for a sit-down continue. And Giuliani also laid down something of a deadline for the special counsel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: People should have an answer, even if they put together whatever the heck they have, interview or no interview. By September 4the, the public should have an explanation of what Mueller has. I really want that because I don`t think he has much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Rudy Giuliani along with the President and his allies are trying to so doubt about the investigation by talking up the idea that the FBI planted a spy in the campaign, maybe more than one but certainly a history making infiltration of the campaign, and there of course there is zero proof of any of that.
Just a few hours ago, Giuliani was out talking again, this time, insisting the Trump`s legal team see documents related to the FBI Russia`s inquiry before any decisions are made about an interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: I`m not going to let my client testify, the President of the United States, even if he wants to, without those documents being produced if/and when we find that this was handled appropriately. And there`s some evidence on which they can base this phony investigation will we have him testify. Well, you`ve got a group of lynching mob, so let them do their job, and boy, we`re ready to knock the heck out of you with our report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: On that note, let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Wednesday evening, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post," Moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS. Shannon Pettypiece, White House Correspondent for "Bloomberg." And the aforementioned, Matt Apuzzo, two-time Pulitzer Prize winning Reporter with "The New York Times," and we might add, among the emerging stars of the new journalistically addictive series "The Fourth Estate, A Year in the Life of The New York Times" presently airing on "Showtime."
And, Matt, I`ll begin with you, not just because of your start turn on that series, but because of what you`ve published tonight. Talk about your reporting and more specifically Andrew McCabe`s possible fears in realtime of what it was he was witnessing, and it turns out he foreshadowed this in his resignation.
MATT APUZZO, REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES: Absolutely. And of course, if you go back to last year in the aftermath of the Comey firing, the White House was pointing to this memo by Rod Rosenstein saying, "Look, this is all about Comey`s handling of the Clinton investigation. He wasn`t fair to Hillary Clinton. He was talking too publicly about an ongoing investigation, and that`s out of line." And that was the official White House line for about 24 hours.
And then President went on NBC News and talked to Lester Holt and said, "You know, I already made up my mind even before I saw that memo, and I was thinking about Russia and what a phony made up thing that was." And if you have that as your backdrop and McCabe goes into this meeting at the Justice Department, it`s a crowded meeting. And Rosenstein is telling his version of the story, and he says, "Well, as a matter of fact, the President originally asked me to mention Russian in the memo, but I didn`t think that was a good idea and I didn`t do that."
So to McCabe, as we understand it, the memo was there to write down like, hey, this may not have actually been about Hillary Clinton, there may have been some Russia interests going on here. And I think that this firing of Jim Comey and the question of what was the President`s intent in firing Jim Comey is at the heart of what Bob Mueller is still looking at right now.
WILLIAMS: So, Matt, I can`t quite tell without a white board where does this leave Rod Rosenstein vis-a-vis the Trump Administration. Is he in fashion, out of fashion, or same?
APUZZO: You know, it`s funny, I think he`s sane in terms of where he stands with the President. But what`s interesting is, our reporting shows that the President`s lawyers are actually pointing to Rod Rosenstein in their own defense now saying, "There`s no way that we could have been trying to obstruct justice because, look, Rod Rosenstein agreed with us that Comey needed to go." And so now you`ve got the Deputy Attorney General who is supervising an investigation into the President. The President is pointing at Rod Rosenstein as evidence that he`s innocent, and Rod Rosenstein may be the one to decide whether that argument has merits. So, a lot secular arrows going on.
WILLIAMS: Shannon, because perhaps it originated -- it aired from this building because people regarded as the original sin and because it`s right there on video, I want to show you and our audience just one more time the President on why he fired Comey, and we`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was going to fire him regardless of recommendation.
LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: So there was a --
TRUMP: He made a recommendation. He`s highly respected, very good guy, very smart guy. And the Democrats like him. The Republicans like him. He made a recommendation, but regardless of recommendations, I was going to fire him 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, there you have it, Shannon, this Russia thing and that continues to haunt and be deviled the West Wing.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: There is a lot of concerns right now around this obstruction investigation based on our reporting and what we`re hearing from people close to the President. That there could really be a risk of obstruction here and not necessarily obstruction in a criminal sense, because there is this issue of you, you know, can`t indict a sitting President according to the Justice Department guidelines. But obstruction in an impeachment sense, because you get into interpretation, you get into intent. If you`re talking about an impeachment, you get into a high crime of misdemeanor, which is a fudgy term.
So there is actually really concern right now that we are hearing, and I feel like I`m hearing it increasingly that there might really be something to this obstruction of investigation. And to Matt`s point about Rosenstein, I`m hearing that more and more from the President`s allies that Rosenstein has actually become a key witness that, "Oh, no, this wasn`t about Russia, this was about everything else because there was this meeting at the White House and so many issues with Comey was discussed, and Rosenstein was there."
You know, Rosenstein has overseeing this investigation, so there is a conflict. And maybe at some point, you know, the President`s attorneys can raise an issue that, well, if he`s conflicted here because he was a witness and now he`s overseeing the investigation, I may be find that as a way to pummel him out. So, I still think really keep our eye on Rosenstein and I think really keep our ears out for anything of obstruction. I feel like those two threats are starting to pick up a lot right now.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Bob, add to this vis-a-vis your reporting of what we`ve just heard this kind of slow motion car crash the length of Washington, D.C. in them off.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": When you look at the President`s relationship with Attorney General Jeff Sessions, this whole precedent with James Comey and the firing in the 2017 hangs over the current situation with the A.G., you have the President being advised to not fire Sessions, to not risk any kind of obstruction question at this point. But he`s made it clear to the Attorney General privately he`d like to see him gone or to resign. Now it`s more publicly and it`s been public in the past trying to push the A.G. out of office and they`re trying to avoid the President forcing him out of office.
But the President`s frustrations are growing daily because Giuliani and others are saying to him, "You need to have an Attorney General, chief law enforcement officer of this country, who can have some kind of role in the biggest issue facing your presidency, which is the Mueller investigation." They don`t care if this is the Attorney`s General dream job. They don`t care about his efforts anymore at the White House and immigration. They know he`s in line with the President ideologically but they want a defender on the probe.
WILLIAMS: Bob, somebody in our editorial meeting this afternoon asked aloud whether or not Sessions has a laminated handy pocket version of his resignation letter that he can just produce at any time. You`ve watched government for a long time, I`ve watched government for a long time, I cannot remember this kind of public suffering in the face of leathering public attacks from the boss.
COSTA: It`s unprecedented. I talked to Bill Bennett, the Former Education Secretary for President Reagan today. He said he`s never seen anything like this, any other Cabinet member who`s publicly and privately rebut, would step away. He said there`s one job for a Cabinet member, you have the President`s confidence or you don`t have the President`s confidence.
And for someone to stay on, when you talk to people close to the Attorney General, they say, "He doesn`t want to lobby, he doesn`t want to retire at this stage in his career. He doesn`t want to go back to Alabama. He can`t go back to the Senate so he`s hanging around," as the President keeps telling his friends and associates, "This guy is hanging around," speaking to the Attorney General. But he doesn`t want to cut the cord and he doesn`t want to have the responsibility of kicking him out the door.
WILLIAMS: Matt, I`m going to back up to you after I show Shannon one more highlight real, and that is what is happening among some on the air at Fox News.
Shannon, this has been kind of extraordinary. It speaks to the President`s latest conspiracy theory, "Spygate," the spy ring at least one, maybe two, certainly infiltrated the campaign. And now we`re hearing the first cracks from the very loyal news organization over at Fox. We`ll play that and we`ll talk to you on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: It was President Trump himself who said, number one, "I didn`t collude with Russia, but if anyone connected with my campaign did, I want the FBI to find that out." It looks to me like the FBI was doing what President Trump said I want you to do, find it out. I am everyone more convinced that the FBI did exactly what my fellow citizens would want them to do when they got the information they got.
ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS JUDICIAL ANALYST: Rudy Giuliani said they put an under cover FBI agent in the campaign. There is zero evidence for that. That is such an outlandish and outrageous allegation. It should not have been made.
SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS HOST: President Trump has also claimed the feds spied on his campaign with an informant. The President calls it "Spygate." Fox News can confirm it is not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So, Shannon, let`s call those very public cracks in the argument.
PETTYPIECE: Yes. I mean, it`s not the first time we`ve seen something like this, though. A theory that they just throw out there is unsubstantiated. There was unmask, you remember that, Uranium One. Remember the wires were taps. There were tapes of a Comey conversation. They throw these ideas out there, the President does.
And I think for most of the American public, this all gets so confusing. I mean it`s confusing for all of us sitting here. And if you are one of those people who have a family, going to school, have a job, you get bits and pieces and you may be have heard that there was a spy in the Trump campaign from the President or from Rudy Giuliani and you`re not necessarily there two days down the road when people are saying, "No, not, that isn`t actually the case." So I think this is just an effective strategy to muddy the waters, to confuse people who are trying to follow this that have busy lives.
And I mean, the President even admitted this himself that this is about marketing and branding and messaging. So I mean to the extent that people are knocking it down now, I don`t think it does much good if the message already got out there in the first place.
WILLIAMS: Matt, I started with you and I`d like you to have the last word. All these people we`re talking about it seems to me -- and you and I talked about this before, Sessions, Rosenstein, Mueller are all going to go to work tomorrow. They`re all still getting paychecks. With your knowledge of Washington and current times, what kind of triggering device would it be if any of the three of them got a pink slip tomorrow?
APUZZO: I think it would be really hard for Bob Mueller to get a pink slip tomorrow without going through Rod Rosenstein first. So you know, I think all eyes on Rod Rosenstein here, as it was said earlier. Jeff Sessions, I mean, look, he`s recused from the Russia`s investigation. If he goes, it certainly changes the dynamics. I`m not sure that it upends anything.
These are three men who obviously have decided that they are going to weather in an extremely unusual bit of intrusion of the White House into Justice Department affairs. Rod Rosenstein says that he cares deeply about protecting the Mueller investigation. And so as the President likes to say, we`ll see what happens.
WILLIAMS: To Robert Costa, to Shannon Pettypiece, to Matt Apuzzo, our thanks for starting off our broadcast tonight. I really appreciate it.
And coming up for us, Giuliani says he wants to be talking about Comey and Mueller but his boss and friends, the President, keeps talking about Jeff Sessions.
New reporting tonight about the advice Giuliani keeps repeating to the President this days.
And later, in the midst of a non-stop news day, an unexpected response from the White House Press Secretary, a rare moment we witnessed in the briefing room. That and more as our Wednesday edition rolls along.
WILLIAMS: We know this already but there are still more news. Rudy Giuliani says he has repeatedly counseled President Trump not to fire the Attorney General despite the President`s very public anger at Jeff Sessions over his decision to take himself out of the Russia investigation.
Jonathan Lemire, our friend at "The Associated Press reports, "Rudy Giuliani told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Trump has asked him multiple times before and after the former New York City mayor joined the President`s legal team last month, about whether Sessions should have been fired.
"I don`t think the President should do it and I`ve told him so, said Giuliani. Giuliani said Trump consulted him last summer during the height of his rage about Sessions recusal," and that`s saying a lot. More recently, he said, Trump has not actively considered firing Sessions."
Now, as we mentioned earlier, President Trump wrote on Twitter today that he`d wished he had picked somebody else for the job.
And just last night, "The New York Times" broke the news that in March of 2017, President Trump told Sessions he should reverse his decision to recuse himself, put himself back in charge of the Russia investigation. The "Times" also reports that Robert Mueller is investigating all of it.
Well, for more, I`m joined by the aforementioned Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for "The Associated Press." And we welcome to our broadcast, Nelson Cunningham, a Former Federal Prosecutor who worked under Rudy Giuliani and alongside James Comey. Among other greats, he is also the Former General Counsel at the White House Office of Administration under President Obama.
Jonathan, I`d like to begin with you, and I`d like to be more elegant in this. But tell us what else Rudy said to you?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": Well, Brian, good to see you. Yes, I spoke to the former mayor of New York City earlier today. He did say, and it`s very clear from his conversations, how much President Trump anger at Jeff Sessions remains unabated more than a year after Sessions decision to recuse himself.
He told me that, yes, the height of the President`s anger last summer when he was actively considering firing the Attorney General, he was consulting a number of outside allies and advisors to what to do, one of them being Rudy Giuliani, and then again more recently. More, though, not in a sense of like "I`m going to fire the Attorney General now," but rather in a looking backward saying like, "Should I have done it then?"
This is a moment where it does seem it doesn`t happen often where President Trump is bending to the political realities right now, in this case, by not firing Sessions for three key reasons. First of all, as we know, the President is always very mindful of how things plays with his conservative base, and that base likes Jeff Sessions. They think he`s getting things done at the Department of Justice they approved off.
Secondly, a lot of Republican senators are on Capitol Hill, longtime colleagues of Jeff Sessions have said, "Don`t fire him. He`s been loyal to you. And if you oust him, we are not going to hold hearings for his replacement."
And third and most importantly, is the impact it would have on the ongoing Russia investigation. The question of obstruction that it would raise, and at least for now, the President is willing to put up with Jeff Sessions. Although I would note as a final thought that Rudy Giuliani made it clear at his comments to me and again later at the White House, that while he did not think Sessions will be fired during the probe, he made no such promises for after the probe.
WILLIAMS: All right. On that note, Nelson, people who don`t like Jeff Sessions openly at the time when Sessions recused himself took a look at it, took at look at the law and thought, "This guy is doing the right thing. Regardless of what you want to say about him, he`s doing the right thing. He`s read the regs, he`s taken the advice of in-house counsels." What would have happened if he had unrecused himself and jumped back into all decisions regarding Russia?
NELSON CUNNINGHAM, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR UNDER RUDY GIULIANI: Well, President Trump fails to understand and he keeps on failing to understand that prosecutors, law enforcement officials live under a set of ethics and a set of principles. Their first loyalty are to those ethics and are to those principles.
Jeff Sessions is of course a political appointee of President Trump, but first and foremost, he`s a prosecutor, he`s a law enforcement official. He made his decision about recusal based on facts and on the legal advice he got from Ethics Council. You can`t unrecuse yourself because you cannot undo the facts that underlay the recusal. Remember, he recused himself because it turn -- he said he`d never spoken to a Russian and it turned out that he`d spoken to many Russians during the campaign.
He concluded that he`d become part of the story. He had to recuse himself. You can`t unring that bell, and therefore, he was right to recuse himself. You can`t go backwards on that sort of thing.
WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, tonight in the White House residence where FDR hosted Churchill, where Lyndon Johnson came to grips of taking the reigns of power, there is clearly a light on and a television on because I`ve just been handed this tweet by our President, Donald J. Trump. Guess what it`s about? It reads and I quote, "The recusal of Jeff Sessions was an unforced betrayal of the President of the United States." Quoting in all caps no less, "Joe diGenova, Former U.S. Attorney.
Jonathan, all of those good hefty reasons you cited at the end of your arguments, three reasons on why we shouldn`t look for the dismissal. Those all may be true. Confirmation may be a dismal outlook in the Senate and yet here we have this kind of windmill tilting again.
LEMIRE: Yes. The phrase for now in terms of Jeff Sessions` job security looms large.
WILLIAMS: Yes, that was the last thing you said.
LEMIRE: Yes. But I think this is the President more than anything sort of blowing off some steam. He`s venting. He is furious of Jeff Sessions.
Remember, Sessions is one of his first allies. He was the first senator to endorse him. These two men used to be very close, now they barely speak to each other. And in fact, the President has told people around him he doesn`t event want to hear Jeff Sessions` name mention in his presence. He`s still so angry with him. He clearly feels betrayed.
Let`s remember, President Donald J. Trump has asked, "Where is my Roy Cohn now," his infamous New York lawyer who, you know, he believes that he`s loyal to him and would do anything he asked him to do even of questionable legality. Jeff Sessions here, yes, by the book, he did the right thing in terms of the Department of Justice guidelines. That doesn`t mean the President is not going to be angry at him.
Right now, whether it`d be Rudy Giuliani, other outside advisers, others in the White House, Republicans in the building behind me, press upon the President, "Don`t fire Sessions." But as we know the President is so material that could change any time no matter the legal jeopardy would put him in.
WILLIAMS: So, Nelson, here you are, a first time guest in our television home, and I`m going to ask you the uncomfortable question over dinner. And here it is, what inning do you think we`re in in terms of the Mueller`s investigation? And part 2 of the question is this, what will endgame looked like? Will it be one of those bound paper reporters handed out to reporters concurrent with a very sober statement and maybe an A.V. presentation by Robert Mueller or one of his deputies? What will endgame looked like to you?
CUNNINGHAM: Well, I think we`re perhaps in the 8th inning here.
WILLIAMS: Eighth inning, OK. That`s further along in the game. People are heading to the parking lot already.
CUNNINGHAM: It is. It is.
WILLIAMS: All right.
CUNNINGHAM: We have a couple of factors here. For the last several months there`s been plan that there have been negotiations going on between the Special Counsel`s Office and the President`s Office over the terms of his interview. Rudy Giuliani has been confirming that in the great detail over the last couple of days.
Today, he said he`s been holding Q&A sessions with the President in the evenings to prepare for an interview. Typically that would be the last stage of a major white collar investigation like this one. You start from the outside, you get the documents, you speak to the witnesses on the outside. You move in closer and closer to your center and then you speak to your main figures.
Remember that Hillary Clinton`s e-mail investigation ended with her interview on July 2nd, and three days later, James Comey had his press release ending it. So we know that the -- they`ve been talking about interviews. That suggests to me that we`re moving towards the end. We`re also reaching the end of the window in which Mueller can realistically put out a report or conclude his investigation without being charged with interfering with the midterms, and that`s another principle that all prosecutors have banged into them, "Don`t interfere with the elections."
I did a piece in Politico last week and this week, laying out some of the ramifications of those actions and some details.
WILLIAMS: Terrific conversations tonight, gentlemen. Nelson Cunningham, welcome to you.
WILLIAMS: And Jonathan Lemire, welcome back. We really appreciate it.
CUNNINGHAM: It`s a pleasure to be here. Thank you.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
And coming up for us after this next break, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, dining in New York tonight with Kim Jong-un`s right-hand man. A rare trip to New York. Our own Andrea Mitchell has a late live report on the meal, the meeting, and more when we come back.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Something very unusual has taken place here in New York City tonight and there`s really been nothing like it in the modern era. The Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had dinner in the city this evening with the right hand man to North Korean`s dictator to Kim Jong-un. There is no press presence. I`ve been asked to tell you and stress this, these pictures were from the U.S. State Department. We were not allowed to record the moment.
The North Korea`s official is here representing the government. His name is Jim Yong Yong Chol making a very rare visit to New York City. Imagine just culturally what that is like. To note, we are told the two men dined for over an hour with interpreters, aides a ton of security present, and they will met again tomorrow.
As NBC News tells us it tonight, U.S. officials and outside experts see these talks as a critical step in determining whether to proceed with a summit on June 12th. There are a ton of hurdles including security, logistics and of course the big one, North Korea`s weapon program.
Now the Secretary of State wrote on Twitter today that he was looking forward the negotiations and that the U.S. is, "Committed to the complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean peninsula." That of course bumps up against the intelligence assessment that NBC News is exclusively reporting, saying that is that "Concluded that North Korea does not intend to give up its nuclear weapons any time soon." To talk about all of it, with us tonight our NBC News foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell, host of Andrea Mitchell`s Reports at noon Eastern Time on this very network.
I`m so interested to hear what you have to report. First of all, where did they eat tonight?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: They ate at 38th and 1st Avenue.
WILLIAMS: Over at Manhattan east side.
MITCHELL: Over Manhattan East Side, right below the U.N. It is a former residence of a U.N. deputy mission ambassador from the U.S.
WILLIAMS: So what can we gleam as we look at the pictures of their heavily secured arrivals. What can we gleam from the fact that this is happening at all other than how incredibly unusual it is to have an North Korean official in New York City?
MITCHELL: It is so interesting. Last time there was a high level official of this caliber in the United States. It was October of 2000s. And those considering normalizing relations with North Korea, Madeleine Albright, then went to North Korea to Pyongyang. I went on that trip and they were this close and Clinton later told us afterwards it was one of his big regrets that they did not move quickly. Because then (INAUDIBLE) happen they lost the election to the decision of the Supreme Court that it was George W. Bush`s and he had a completely different policy. So, they thought the moment was lost.
Now what they didn`t know was that North Korea was cheating and not fully declaring their weapons, so a lot of things may have taken place. That is why they are so determined not only because of the hard liners now in having National Security Council and the State Department.
But these are real reason to be concerned that the North rely and cheat and hide. There`s talks of plutonium programs that we don`t know about underground. But getting through dinner, it was steak and corn and cheese were told, a Midwestern menu to (INAUDIBLE) secretary of state`s heart and he wanted to show off his kind of food to Kim Yong-chol who is, you know, a really scary guy.
WILLIAMS: He was a spy master in many ways.
MITCHELL: He was a spy master and, Brian, he is under sanction, Treasury sanction, not permitted to come here. A waiver has to be granted. Because he He`s blamed for leaving the cyber attack for Sony Picture in 2014. And in 2010 he is blamed of the military action, the torpedo sinking of South Korean warship 46 sailors dying.
So, this guy has done a lot of really bad things and traded in conventional weapons which means missiles. But if there`s a chance for getting verifiable denuclearization agreement, that`s the goal. It was really interesting to me that the senior state department officials talking to us with the benefit of an enmity trying to be more candid and they really never are. But saying that the press will willing to stay for more than a day in Singapore. It`s the firs time they really said that.
Staying more than a day because he wants to see history being made. So there, again, elevating the expectations for what could take place and putting more pressure on the North Koreans to comply and do they expect that a letter did come with this -- this man from North Korea in response to the letter that the president sent that letter cancelling the summit precipitously as last Thursday.
And what -- we asked why, 10 of us, 10 reporters sitting around, you`ve been through many of these background briefings. Unfortunately, we cannot say who the person is. But we said, what changed? And this guy seems to open up a little bit. He said, well, the letter back last week. He said I have never seen a letter like that before. He said, I think it is the most forward meaning letter I`ve ever seen in years of years of diplomacy and he said, I think they really think screwed themselves and we`re trying to fix it. I`ve being so tough couple of days earlier.
WILLIAMS: Wow. Well, if you want to find out what happens tonight on the east side of Manhattan, you ask NBC`s Andrea Mitchell.
Thank you so much for staying late with us and helping out the report.
MITCHELL: My pleasure. It`s great to see you.
WILLIAMS: Fantastic to see you too as always. Coming up, an expert weighs in on the (INAUDIBLE) that is separating us from one another on a daily basis. And it`s quite literally right under our noses on a daily basis, hourly, even more than that. We`re back with our former FBI special agent right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Do I have social skills? I don`t know. I have social media, that`s for sure. I don`t know about skills but I have a lot of media.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: President certainly knows how to use social media to get his message to his base most recently using it to push out this so-called Spygate allegation for which there is zero proof. This week, new reporting from "The New York Times" identify the dangerous side effect of Trump`s conspiracy theories write in, "Trump is eroding public trusts and institution, undermining the idea of objective truth and sowing widespread suspicions about the government and news media that mirror his own.
In his new book, our friend Clint Watts, former FBI special agent and cyber security expert warns about the dark side of social media brought to us by none other than Russia. "The American electorates remained divided. Government operations are severely disrupted and faith in elected leaders continues to fall. Americans still don`t grasp the information war Russia perpetrated against the West, why it works, why it continues."
Here to talk about it is the author, Clint Watts a former FBI special agent, as we said, member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force who is testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Russian interference in our elections. This new book full title is "Messing With The Enemy, Surviving In The Social Media World With Hackers, Terrorists, Russians And Fake News." Welcome my friend, we hope a good number of people pick this up and take it home.
And first off a very basic question, how did Russians know we were susceptible? How did they know they can walk in here electronically and take advantage of it? How do they do that?
CLINT WATTS, FMR FBI SPECIAL AGENT: They perfected on their own people first. The Russian people are the ones most subjected to this information system. They learned long ago that the only thing worst of no information is too much information. This is how they went from the Soviet Union where they controlled everything to Russia now where they just annihilate you with so much information you can`t tell from facts or fictions.
The other thing that the Russian information system really understands this, infiltrate the audiences by looking like and talking like the audience you want to influence. So that`s why those troll farms, those accounts are so important because they talk like Americans and talk like American. And they`re saying things that sound very American, which allows you then nudge that audience in the direction that you want.
I think what we need to really look at now is we talked a lot of about the Russians in the 2018 with the elections. I would tell you the Americans the ones we needed to worry about in 2018. When I`m watching social media today, I see far more American organizations what they called trolling as a service, corporations with a lot of our data, lots of artificial intelligence. They can do this much faster and to a more devastating effect and so when the political campaign has come around in 2018 and 2020, they`re all copying this play book and what the president -- you were talking about the New York Times article, he is using that play book and it`s not Russia doing it. He is duplicating that effort.
WILLIAMS: What`s the gap between what we should be doing and what we are actually doing?
WATTS: Right. So there`s the two parts. And really what government and social media companies need to do is determines the length and the road like who`s going to do what. On the government side protecting our election is critical and we have started to see for the first time since steps for the Senate Intel Committee I testify to, they put out a very good report with strong recommendations and you are starting to see that move.
But ultimately, it`s civil society and the social media company that`ll deal with this. I really want to see news rating agency, information consumer, of course, I call it, which shows up in your social media feed and your internet search engines which gives you a rating for the information outlets over time. Just like when you look at it, it is like a nutrition label so that consumer knows what they`re clicking on. Part of the reason fake news spreads because you click an outlet that`s shared to you by somebody that you trust, but they don`t necessarily know where that information came from. So it`s helping them have the information so they can make their own decision about it.
WILLIAMS: When you were a cadet at West Point, I was thinking about this today, you were taught leadership. That`s what they do there. You were taught warfare. You were taught history. I am guessing knowing a little bit about when you graduated, you weren`t taught Twitter, Instagram and Facebook?
WATTS: Yes, it was interesting when I showed up at the West Point, we had e-mail in 1981. So, we were the first people with e-mails. I was the first class that have a colored monitor, which was a big deal. By the time I graduated, we had internet coming online for the first time. By the time I was an army captain and commanding Infantry Company, we got the first GPS hooked up Force 21, technologically innovated cameras. That all happened in 10 to 11 years, and you fast forward 15 more, we`ve gone from where the internet brought everybody together and social media has really torn everybody apart because you can conpartmentalize an audience, play to their preferences, play to their biases, and really separate them in a one to one way.
And so we see those divisions and we talked about Russians messing with our election.
WATTS: But their greatest achievement really was unifying an alternative right audience that stretching from France, Germany the United States and Canada as a mobilizer against democracy worldwide. They don`t command it, they`ve just unified it in such a way becoming a connected tissue to really mobilize against democracies.
WILLIAMS: We`re going to be talking about this book a lot around here because we get to talk to Clint Watts a lot for all the wrong reasons because of the attack being perpetrated upon our country and the effort to fight back. What a great pleasure. Good luck with this. And as I say, we`ll talk about it some more.
Coming up in a room where something unusual happens, most days a highly unusual moment in today`s White House`s briefing, we`ll show it to you when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Whatever your opinions about the deadly epidemic of school shootings in this country and the response or a lack of it by your government, you are of course entitled to that opinion. And this is not about that. This next item has to do with a rare moment in the White House briefing room today about school shootings.
Per usual, today the questions were scattered all over in terms of topics from Russia to NAFTA to Roseanne. Then came a genuinely unusual moment. The Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders took a question from a young journalist who was in attendance today, a kid. His name is Benje Choucroun. He`s 13 years old. He`s affiliated with Time magazine for Kids and his question was about feeling safe at school.
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BENJE CHOUCROUN, TIME MAGAZINE FOR KIDS: At my school, we recently had a lockdown drill. One thing that affects my and other students` mental health is the worry about the fact that we or our friends could get shot at school. Specifically, can you tell me what the administration has done or will do to prevent these senseless tragedies?
SARAH SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think that as a kid, and certainly as a parent, there is nothing that could be more terrifying for a kid to go to school and not feel safe. So, I`m sorry that you feel that way. This administration takes it seriously and the school safety commission that the president convened is meeting this week, again an official meeting to discuss the best ways forward and how we can do every single thing within our power to protect kids in our schools and to make them feel safe and make their parents feel good about dropping them off.
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WILLIAMS: Again, that question from a 13-year-old today. And again, say what you will about the answer and plenty of people did, but in that room where falsehoods are so casually tossed about and where drama is so often false and for effect, it struck us as a brief and very rare moment of genuine emotion.
Coming up after our next break, have you ever heard of the good lord recommending a French-made three engine transcontinental private jet as the best possible way of spreading the good word? Well, we hadn`t either, but you will likely want to see our final story here tonight when we continue.
WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go tonight appears to be proof at long last of that old phrase, the lord works in mysterious ways. My friends, who among us would say no to a three-engine French-made Dassault Falcon 7X private jet with a range of over 6,000 miles? After all, it`s the same model jet that Bill Gates uses to get around the world.
Separate question. Who among us has been told to buy one by the good lord above? Well, for one, a televangelist from Louisiana who says after his three other airplanes, god now wants him to fly in this $54 million plane and he`s asking his followers to pay for it. Tom Costello covers aviation and not faith for NBC news, but has tonight`s final story which admittedly combines a little bit of both.
JESSE DUPLANTIS, GOSPEL PREACHER: Talking about aircraft. You know I`ve own three different jets in my life and used them and just burning them up for the Lord Jesus Christ.
TOM COSTELLO, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Televangelist Jesse Duplantis says god himself told him it`s time for an upgrade.
DUPLANTIS: He said I want you to believe me for a Falcon 7X so I said OK.
COSTELLO: A Falcon 7 jet like this one to preach to more people around the world. And he`s asking his followers for the $54 million.
DUPLANTIS: I really believe that if Jesus was physically on the earth today, he wouldn`t be riding a donkey.
COSTELLO: From his Louisiana headquarters, Duplantis is among the group of televangelists who preach that their wealth is god`s will.
OLE ANTHONY, RELIGIOUS FRAUD INVESTIGATOR: This preys upon the poorest people that want and need money badly, where they`re told if they give money god is going to bless them 100 fold.
COSTELLO: Duplantis lives in a 35,000 foot square mansion tax free.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He`s asking everybody who has less than he has to pay for this jet. I don`t get that, you know.
COSTELLO: Fellow televangelist Kenneth Copeland recently bought a $36 million Gulfstream 5 jet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Praise god.
COSTELLO: The two have commiserated about how they can`t fly or pray with commercial airline passengers.
KENNETH COPELAND, TELEVANGESLIT: This dope-filled world, get in a long tube with a bunch of demons.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. That`s exactly right.
COPELAND: And it`s deadly.
COSTELLO (on camera): We asked Jesse Duplantis and his ministries for comment but they declined to respond. So far, no indication whether he has received any contributions for his jet.
Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.
WILLIAMS: If he buys the jet, perhaps they`ll name it "Chutzpah."
That is our broadcast for this Wednesday. Thank you so very much for being here with us, and goodnight from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
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