Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: June 6, 2018 Guest: Philip Rucker, Michael Schmidt, Guy Lewis, Elizabeth Bumiller, Robert Costa, Danny Savalos, Jill Colvin, David Jolly
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: On our broadcast tonight, Rudy Giuliani says Robert Mueller and team are trying to frame the President of the United States, while the President today commuted a sentence and freed a grandmother from federal prison because he was asked to do so by Kim Kardashian.
Plus, Stormy Daniels accuses her former lawyer of colluding with Michael Cohen, and Michael Avenatti releases text messages he says prove it.
And there are new and bad headlines for EPA Chief Scott Pruitt. Melania Trump back in public, and what the President thinks Canada had to do with the war of 1812.
THE 11TH HOUR on a Wednesday night begins now.
Well, good evening, once again, from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 503 this was of the Trump Administration.
And Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is escalating his public attacks on Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team in an effort to discredit the entire Russia investigation.
Earlier today at an investment conference in Israel, Giuliani said Mueller`s team is trying hard to frame the President of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP ATTORNEY: They are a group of 13 highly partisan Democrats that make up the Mueller team, excluding him, are trying very, very hard to frame him, to get him in trouble when he hasn`t done anything wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: While in Israel today, Giuliani also sat down for an interview with Pat Robertson of the Christian Broadcasting Network. During that interview, Giuliani went after Former FBI Director James Comey and said Robert Mueller needs to take control of his team.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Comey worked for me in the U.S. Attorney`s office, and Mueller worked under me in the Justice Department. I`m very, very disappointed in Comey. Comey I think is the real villain of this whole thing.
I think in Mueller`s case, it`s more that he`s not taking control of these people that work for him. And they`re going around starting all these new investigations. He`s got to have the discipline to put a stop to it, or we`re going to have to do everything we can, including some things that I don`t think we`d want to talk about right now to try to, you know, try to appeal to have it stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, that was ominous. As Giuliani and Trump keep up their constant attacks on the Russian investigation, at least up with more Republican is dismissing the President`s claims that the FBI planted a spy, perhaps more than one, in the Trump campaign for political reasons.
Earlier today and in what has become rare public moment for him, House Speaker Paul Ryan said he agreed with Congressman Trey Gowdy, who said just last week the FBI did nothing wrong in using a confidential informant.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN, HOUSE SPEAKER: I think Chairman Gowdy`s initial assessment is accurate. I have seen no evidence to the contrary of the initial assessment that Chairman Gowdy has made. But I want to make sure that we run every lead down and make sure we get final answers to these questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Speaker Ryan also pushed back on the idea of President Trump pardoning himself after the President wrote on Twitter he had the absolute right to do so earlier this week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Mr. Speaker, do you believe the President has the power to pardon himself?
RYAN: I don`t know the technical answer to that question, but I think obviously the answer is he shouldn`t and no one is above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, we saw another act of clemency from the President today as he commuted the sentence of 63-year-old Alice Marie Johnson, who was serving life in prison for a nonviolent drug conviction. Today`s commutation came after Kim Kardashian showed up at the White House last week and brought Ms. Johnson`s case to the President`s attention.
Peter Baker of "The New York Times" points out just today, "The President`s intervention was contrary to the policies of his own Justice Department that has enacted since he took office. Attorney General Jeff Sessions last year ordered federal prosecutors to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against criminal defendants, reversing President Barack Obama`s efforts to ease penalties in nonviolent drug cases."
The White House released a statement on today`s commutation that read in part, "Ms. Johnson has accepted responsibility for her past behavior and has been a model prisoner over the past two decades. While this administration will always be very tough on crime, it believes that those who have paid their debt to society and worked hard to better themselves while in prison deserve a second chance." One wonders if that is going to be universally applied.
Let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Wednesday night. Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," Guy Lewis, a Former U.S. Attorney who has worked with Robert Mueller, James Comey and Rod Rosenstein among others while at DOJ. Also with us, Michael Schmidt, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Correspondent for "The New York Times," and Elizabeth Bumiller, Washington Bureau Chief, also of "The New York Times." And at this point, we`re compelled to point out that both Elizabeth and Michael have emerged as two of the, let`s just say, reluctant stars of Showtime`s documentary series "The Fourth Estate" which chronicles a year in the life of "The New York Times" as it covers the first year of the Trump Administration. We`re happy to have you all on with us tonight.
Mr. Rucker, since your paper is underrepresented just for the purposes of this conversation, I`ll begin with you. How many minds do you think are being changed at this point by this doubling down by the President on social media and his attorney in places like Israel?
PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think the President and his attorney are hoping a lot of minds are being changed here in the United States. The point of what Rudy Giuliani said in Israel today, and a point of what he and Trump have been saying for several weeks now is to just muddy the waters with this Mueller probe, to politicize it, to put it in a partisan lens and make the American people view this as a partisan witch hunt, to use a phrase that the President likes to use over and over again. It`s a pattern that he`s been doing in his political life, but also in his life as a marketer, as a businessman, as a real estate mogul.
He in some cases will exaggerate, some cases say things that are not true to play to people`s fantasies, to make them believe sort of his own reality that he creates and win in the court of public opinion. That`s what he`s trying to do here with this Mueller probe and change the way the American people view the Russia investigation.
WILLIAMS: Michael, let`s talk about exactly that. There`s no one out there to correct the record. So I have a two-part question for you. What of this notion of 13 registered Democrats working for Mueller?
And secondly, how do they balance the noise deficit, the P.R. deficit? Rudy Giuliani is out there every day. Mueller`s team has this steely discipline, part of their sense of duty, to remain quiet.
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Mueller is different than Ken Starr. He`s not out there doing media. He`s not on the courthouse steps. He has only put out, I think, I know of two statements. Everything else has been in court filings.
So his voice has essentially come from those documents and from former federal prosecutors on cable television defending him. Besides that, you have Giuliani with this megaphone and the President with his Twitter account that have caused some real problems for Mueller here. They did not acknowledge that Giuliani has changed the public discussion. He has had some significant impact. So if you`re Mueller, how do you push back on that? How do you change that when you appear to be so limited in what you can do?
On the Democrats, the issue there is that Mueller would have to have done a litmus test on the folks he was hiring to know their political leanings and that would have been illegal. So the folks that he has working for him are the folks that he could hire. There would have been no way to determine whether they had given money to one party or another.
WILLIAMS: Guy, I know some career fed types who are insulted by this line of argument by Rudolph Giuliani. They say in their own defense, when you call a cop, do you ask for a police officer by party affiliation? Everyone in the Justice Department holds some political opinion, but the definition of being a professional is casting that aside and doing the best job you can on the legal matter.
GUY LEWIS, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: That`s right, Brian. It`s funny, because this is not a tactic that those of us who did this for a long time have not seen before.
I`m always reminded of Carl Sandberg`s famous quote about lawyers when he said, "If the facts are against you, argue the law. If the law is against you, argue the facts. And if the facts and the law are against you, pound the table and yell like hell." That`s what he said. And I think that`s what we`re seeing Giuliani do.
WILLIAMS: And, Guy, is Mueller so agnostic there`s not a television set on in that office? That staff doesn`t hear when Rudolph Giuliani says something like they`re trying to frame the President of the United States?
LEWIS: Oh, Brian, they hear it. They hear it, they talk about it. And in some instances, one could argue that kicking the lion, kicking the tiger that`s actually bearing down on you is not the best tactic. But remember, and I agree with Michael 100%, that the -- know your audience.
The audience right now is not 12 members of a jury in a box in federal court. That`s not what they`re arguing. That`s not who their audience is.
They`re worried about the idea that a report is going to come out. They`ve already decided that he can`t be charged as criminal defendant in this case. But they`re worried about a report that`s going to come out, an impeachment report. That report going to Congress and Congress acting on that report. So every single one of these statements, all this media blitz, the Twitters, everything, it`s all going to those members of Congress who might vote on articles of impeachment.
WILLIAMS: Elizabeth, one of the wonderful things about the four-part documentary series that a lot of us have already seen on Showtime is we get to see you as a manager, as a motivator, as a leader, as a veteran editor, as a journalist fresh from the field and so many assignments and postings yourself. So, it`s with that in mind that I ask you, how do you begin to cover the story just today and, of course, this falls to the foreign desk, so that`s too easy after answer, of a foreign New York mayor now serving as counsel to the President on foreign soil telling an Israeli audience that the special counsel in the United States is out to frame the President? How do you interpret that in contemporary language?
ELIZABETH BUMILLER, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, first of all, I used to -- I covered Rudy Giuliani when he was mayor of New York. So I mean, I covered his midlife crisis two years of his eight-year term. So this is not that unfamiliar to me and those at the "Times" who also covered him.
Look, you cover it straight but you also have interpreted the way the rest of the panel has. This is part of a sustained attack on the Mueller investigation. They are obviously worried, Giuliani and the President are very worried about what will be in Mueller`s report which we think will go to Congress perhaps in September. We`re not sure. And this is just a sustained attack that we will see through the rest of the summer.
And yes, the audience is Congress, because if the Congress -- if the House goes democratic after November, there is a very good chance there will be impeachment proceedings. So that`s what`s going on right now. This is not going to stop. We`re going to see tweets every morning, in the evening.
And Giuliani is -- Giuliani has kind of found a new way of life, you know? He`s made for this. He`s good at this. He`s obviously enjoying himself. And, you know, stay tuned.
WILLIAMS: Mr. Rucker, you`re part of a piece by your newspaper tonight that talks about the President`s reluctance to go to Canada for the G-7. He`s due in Quebec on Friday. He says he`s openly discussing ways to get out of it.
They`re floating the possibility that Pence goes in his stead. That is usually not done. That could make it the G-6. But this would be another norm that would fall.
RUCKER: Yes. And Brian, to be sure, White House officials tell us that Trump is going to be making that trip to Canada, but he`s certainly not happy about it. He`s been venting privately about Prime Minister Trudeau, who`s going to be hosting this summit in Quebec, about their trade tensions that have burst into public view. He`s been highly critical with Trudeau`s media appearances. And he`s reluctant, frankly, to go to Canada for two days and be lectured to, which is how he experiences these summits.
He doesn`t want to have to sit there and talk to Chancellor Merkel of Germany and Prime Minister May of the U.K. about trade policy and so many of their disagreements. He would rather be sleeping in his own bed here at the White House and preparing for the summit in Singapore with Kim Jong-un.
But participating in a summit is an important thing that the U.S. President does every year. The advisers in the White House have reinforced that with President Trump and told him, "You know what, you have to go." And so as of now, as of this hour, he`s planning to take that trip on Friday.
WILLIAMS: Michael, let`s talk about pardons. First of all, the statement that the White House put out today in justifying this commutation, as I tried to indicate, if they want to start applying that across the board, there are a whole lot of prisoners in the federal system who would love to have that conversation, especially people who went down with mandatory sentencing minimums on nonviolent drug crimes. But that`s a conversation for another time.
How do you think this President views the awesome power of pardon and clemency and commutation in the scope of his job? And does he look at it as a long-ball defense against Mueller?
SCHMIDT: Well, as we reported a few months ago, the President`s lawyer went to the representatives of Flynn and Manafort last year to discus pardons. This has been something that the President was talking about privately. He understands it. He sat with the White House Counsel`s Office. They explained to him his power of pardon.
But if you understand the President, it`s sort of -- you can see how it appeals directly to him. You go on Fox & Friends, you make your appeal, you sort of lay out your case, you go and meet with the President if you`re a celebrity, and you end up with something like we just saw in a sort of remarkable way. There`s a big process in the Justice Department for how pardons are supposed to work through a pardon office, providing documentation. The White House Counsel`s Office is supposed to look at it.
It doesn`t appear like some of these pardons that have gone through have gone through that rigorous part. This seems more impulsive on the President`s behalf. But in many ways, it sort of fits his style of how he governs and operates.
WILLIAMS: Hey Guy, another legal question for you. When Rudy Giuliani is acting as the President`s lawyer, saying things like a special counsel is trying to frame the President, are there any consequences for him? Or does that all get thrown on the pile of being an effective advocate?
LEWIS: Well, once a case is actually filed, there are rules of court that we all must adhere to. And we saw that play out in the Avenatti-Cohen matter up in Manhattan. Now, Rudy Giuliani, as a lawyer, licensed in New York, also has some rules and ethical responsibilities that he has to adhere to from the New York bar.
So while I don`t think he`s crossed them and I certainly think he is being very aggressive, a lot of lawyers, this would not be their style. But certainly he wouldn`t be doing it, I don`t think, without a vigorous good job from the President of the United States.
WILLIAMS: Elizabeth, you`re going to get the last word. And the question is this, the bureau you run is probably the busiest Washington bureau in the history of "The New York Times" Washington bureau in terms of output and man and woman hours. How much of your output, though, is the coverage of the Trump administration, the Trump agenda, and the effort to move its agenda forward on a daily basis?
BUMILLER: I would say -- that`s tough. We cover the government.
BUMILLER: And so that`s -- I would say most of our -- but no, we also cover the Pentagon. We cover, you know, national security, the CIA. But it`s all related to the Trump Administration. So I would say the vast majority of what we do is the Trump Administration, just by definition.
WILLIAMS: Well, let me rephrase. Do you sense an affirmative effort on their part to push an agenda, and of course, I`m talking about the giant distraction of all things Russia investigation?
BUMILLER: I got it. Yes. Well, we cover the noise, we cover the tweets, we cover the statements from Giuliani in Israel.
WILLIAMS: No, we are.
BUMILLER: We cover all the noise. And we look at the tweets carefully to make sure that they`re newsworthy. We also cover, you know, much deeper issues. We have -- there`s a deregulations team that is covering all the quiet things that are going on at the agencies that are noticeable which will effect the rest of us for a long time to come.
So there`s a lot we cover that is not just the noise. I mean, we get -- our readers are always saying, "Why are you covering the tweets?" Well, many of them are policy. But I think, yes, we`ve never been busier I think it`s fair to say. And it`s never been more crowded in the bureau. I`ve said this before, we`re literally out of desks in the Washington bureau.
WILLIAMS: And, Elizabeth, knowing something about how early your day starts because we saw it in the documentary, we really appreciate you coming on the air with us tonight. As we appreciate Michael Schmidt, and Philip Rucker, and Guy Lewis. Terrific starting conversation tonight. Thank you all so much.
Coming up next for us, Stormy Daniels and Michael Avenatti back with a new lawsuit and revealing text messages from Michael Cohen.
And later, it`s hard to anger our neighbors to the north but we have appeared to succeeded. The latest is, our President reportedly accusing them of having some involvement of fire in the White House 206 years ago. We`ll get to all of it.
THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Wednesday evening.
WILLIAMS: A new lawsuit filed by the adult film actress Stormy Daniels claims her former attorney was secretly working with President Trump`s self-proclaimed fixer, Michael Cohen.
NBC News was first to report the lawsuit which alleges Keith Davidson was a puppet for Michael Cohen. Davidson is the lawyer who negotiated $130,000 settlement with Cohen. That`s the agreement Daniels signed forbidding her from discussing her alleged affair with the President.
Court documents point to text messages sent between the two men. In one exchange, Cohen and Davidson appear to be discussing a possible Stormy Daniels appearance on Sean Hannity`s show on Fox News.
According to the court filing, "The clear purpose of this exchange between defendants was to collude and arrange a media appearance of Ms. Clifford," which is Stormy Daniels given name, "not for the benefit of Ms. Clifford or to ensure that Ms. Clifford truthfully told her side of the story to the media, but for Ms. Clifford to provide a false interview and lie to the American people and to serve the best interests of Mr. Trump and Mr. Cohen."
Now, Stormy Daniels` current attorney, Michael Avenatti, addressed the lawsuit earlier today on Nicolle Wallace`s program here in the studio.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: If anybody believes that Michael Cohen is putting or attempting to put my client on Sean Hannity without the President`s knowledge, I have a bridge or perhaps other things to sell them. Because that just didn`t happen. If anybody thinks that Michael Cohen is meeting with the First Lady to talk about Stormy Daniels without the President`s knowledge, same answer. I have a bridge to sell him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: A spokesperson for Keith Davidson fired back with a statement that reads in part, "Attorney Davidson is very happy that he has filed this lawsuit, because he strongly believes that the filing constitutes a full and complete waiver of the attorney-client privilege. Attorney Davidson believes that the American people deserve to know the entire truth and they soon will."
Well, with us to talk about all of it, Danny Cevallos, a veteran Criminal Defense Attorney and MSNBC Legal Analyst, and Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post," moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS. Gentlemen, welcome to you both.
Counselor, I`ll begin with you because you`re our lawyer here for the purposes of this conversation. Am I getting it right, this lawsuit basically says, "Keith Davidson was my Attorney," this is Stormy Daniels speaking. "But the fantastic was in. He really wasn`t working as my attorney, he was one of the Trump guys. And so my happiness, my livelihood wasn`t his chief priority."
Question two to you is, does this have merit? Will this go anywhere?
DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Your analysis is spot on. And it raises several different legal issues.
WILLIAMS: Keith Davidson, obviously.
CEVALLOS: Yes, sir. Davidson`s conduct raises several legal issues as Stormy Daniels` attorney. The first is whether or not he breached his duty of confidentiality, his duty of loyalty that all of us as attorneys owe to our clients. And for which we can be disciplined under the rules of professional conduct. But beyond that, in looking at the four corners of the complaint, which I have here, you look at the actual allegations. And even if they`re true, there is question as to whether or not there`s ultimately a legal case here.
What are the damages? You know, when you described the case so accurately, you said that she has suffered. But at some point, the plaintiff in this case is going to have to show what exactly did she suffer as a result of this breach?
Let`s assume for the moment that he did reveal her confidences, let`s assume that he did try to orchestrate her appearance on T.V., what is the dollar amount that she suffered as a result? She ultimately settled that matter. Maybe she could have settled it for more. But these are all things that the plaintiff will ultimately have the burden to show or not show.
WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, this is all part of the Michael Cohen legal matter. You were on this broadcast when it first broke. You were part of a panel of people saying this is the one that could cause so much damage. Maybe not being viewed right up there with the Russia investigation, but when you look at what`s in this case file, what Michael Cohen was still doing earlier this year, it`s kind of incredible the breadth and scope of his resume for Donald Trump.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST`: Indeed, Brian. When you look at -- there`s one level of the legal squabble here with Mr. Avenatti and Ms. Daniels and Mr. Davidson, fighting over the context of the legal relationship, how this all played out in the fall of 2016. And that fight could continue for weeks, if not months. But the more important context is what does this mean for the Southern District of New York, the U.S. Attorney`s office as they investigation Mr. Cohen and then move forward with that investigation?
And when you look at what`s going on with the Mueller probe. Any information about what happened during this payment and all the discussions, all the e-mails, the phone calls between Ms. Daniels and her lawyer, between Mr. Cohen and Ms. Daniels, her whole camp, all this is likely to come out and it could have political implications for the Trump administration.
WILLIAMS: Danny, I want to read you two quotes. This is Rudolf Giuliani at this financial panel today in Israel on the subject of Stormy Daniels.
"I`m sorry I don`t respect a porn star the way I respect a career woman or a woman of substance or a woman who isn`t going to sell her body for sexual exploitation. On the subject of Melania and Stormy Daniels, she believes in her husband." This is the first lady. "She knows it`s not true. I don`t even think there`s a slight suspicion that it`s true. When you look at stormy Daniels, I know Donald Trump, look at his three wives, beautiful women, classy women, women of great substance. Stormy Daniels?"
In the hours since he delivered those comments, it`s been called misogyny, it`s been called kind of drive by attacked, sexism, character assassination. What else is going on here? Are you surprised that the President`s lawyer felt the need, again, on foreign soil, to go there today?
CEVALLOS: It seems like an unnecessary risk for Giuliani, because this is not really what he was retained for. From all appearances, Trump has some very serious criminal defense attorneys in the form of Emmet Flood who are handling the behind the scenes defense. And Rudy has been left sort of go out on air and make statements and maybe create a fog of war at least as to the Russia investigation and the special counsel.
This gratuitous comment about Stormy Daniels and her case, when the lawsuit we`re talking about today doesn`t actually name Trump as a defendant. Yet, I actually think it will never name Trump as a defendant, because I think the ultimate goal is to drag Cohen and Davidson into discovery without having to deal with the immunity that the President would have. So with that in mind that he may never be named in this lawsuit, it doesn`t make a lot of sense. We lawyers are risk adverse. It doesn`t make a lot of sense to acquire that new risk of speaking out against Stormy Daniels and her lawsuit and anything to do with Michael Avenatti.
WILLIAMS: And Robert Costa, Rudy Giuliani was not done. He took on geopolitics today, specifically the upcoming summit with North Korea and North Korea`s leader. I want to play that for you. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: Well, somehow North Korea, after they canceled the summit because they insulted his vice president, they insulted his national security adviser and they also said that they would go to nuclear war against us. They were going to defeat us in a nuclear war. We said, "Well we`re not going to have a summit under those circumstances." Well, Kim Jong-un got back on his hands and knees and begged for it. Which is exactly the position you want to put him in.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Robert, our job is not to worry about what Kim Jong-un likes or doesn`t like. He`s not going to like that last sentence there about coming back on his hands and knees.
ROBERT COSTA, PBS "WASHINGTON WEEK" MODERATOR: Mayor Giuliani was considered for secretary of state backdoor in the transition in the winter of 2016. He, of course, did not get that position. He was looked at for attorney general, but he has always considered himself someone who understands diplomacy.
But with this latest statement, you see him just a few days before this major summit in Singapore weighing in as confidant of the president. And the president response to this remark will be revealing. We`ve seen hard line advisers on foreign policy such as National Security Adviser Bolton, even the vice president take a certain stance on North Korea.
The president has continued to move forward with negotiations. North Korea is known to have thin skin with these kinds of statements. We are in the crunch time. Reporters are just -- as you were saying, preparing to fly to Singapore soon.
WILLIAMS: Night after night on this broadcast, we get to talk to the very best. You`ve just witnessed two more. Danny Savalos and Robert Costa, thank you so much for being part of our conversation.
Coming up for us. The remarkable staying power of a cabinet secretary, under 15 separate investigations. What it might reveal about his boss, the president, and the question, will we someday refer to something called Chic-fil-A gate? The 11th Hour back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Administrator Scott Pruitt, thank you so much. EPA is doing really, really well. People are really impressed with the job is being doing at the EPA. Thank you very much, Scott.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: President Trump is happy with the work that EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt is doing. Others are not. Just today, two of Pruitt`s long time aides have quit, among them a member of his senior counsel who was in the spotlight earlier this year after receiving a 52% pay raise after it was denied by the White House.
The second is Millan Hupp who just this week revealed she was asked to perform various personal tasks for Pruitt, including the odd request of pricing out of all things a used mattress from the Trump International Hotel.
The Atlantic reports one top EPA official as saying Hupp was "Tired of being thrown under the bus by Pruitt." When asked by the Atlantic for EPA reaction to her exit, a spokesperson for the EPA declined comment but said to the reporter, "You have a great day. You`re a piece of trash."
The resignations come just one day after it was revealed that Pruitt allegedly asked a different assistant to arrange time for him to meet with the chairman of Chic-fil-A in an effort to hook his wife up with a franchise opportunity. Pruitt was asked about the Chic-fil-A controversy today and he offered this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: With great change comes, you know, opposition. I mean there`s significant change that`s happening across not only at the EPA but across this administration and it`s need. And look, my wife is an entrepreneur herself. I loved she loves. We love. Chic-fil-A is a franchise of faith and one of the best in the country. And so, that`s something we were very excited about. So, we need more of them in Tulsa and more across the country. So anyway, it`s an exciting time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: I think we can all agree on our love for Chic-fil-A. Back to our political discussion we`re joined by Jill Colvin, White House reporter for the Associated Press and David Jolly, former Republican congressman from the great state of Florida.
Well, Jill, sadly you get to go first. What does this behavior seem like to you? I know you`re on the news side and not editorial, but go ahead and sum up what you`ve witnessed.
JILL COLVIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPOTER: I think there is undeniably a pattern here of abuse of power, of Pruitt using his office for his own personal gain. At this point, I think all of us have lost track of all the different scandals involving him from using a staffer to run personal errands, including the mattress episode. Using his position to try to help his wife secure a business. Having a deal with a lobbyist`s wife in which he pays $50 a night to rent an apartment in Washington, D.C., which despite the White House`s claim is way below market rent. To spending taxpayer money to build himself a soundproof booth in his office.
I mean the list of allegations just goes on and on and on as you mentioned. There are more than a dozen investigations ongoing right now into his conduct. And what`s so incredible is, number one, the way that you saw right there, the way that Pruitt is responding to this. There`s no sense of contrition here, there`s no apology for the way he`s used his position. Instead, all he doing here is either blaming subordinates or he`s saying look, I am a victim here. I am doing -- pushing through so much change, pushing through these policies that are obviously very unpopular with environmental activists and they`re attacking me. I`m a victim here of their criticism.
WILLIAMS: David Jolly, as we said, 15 separate investigations under way. You, sir, are a former public servant. Some of your best friends are public servants. You ever seen anything like this in your time?
DAVID JOLLY (R), FLORIDA FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Look, unfortunately, yes. And I love the way you framed that question. There is clearly with Scott Pruitt of pattern of graft and corruption. The question is, are they mere ethics violations or does it rise to the level of criminality? I think of all the things are being investigated, Chick-fil-A probably does not rise to the level of criminality, but the notion that he was staying in a lobbyist`s apartment or condominium while at the same time being influenced by that lobbyist or client of that lobbyist does raise significant questions of pay to play.
But Brian to your point of myself and former colleagues, I would say it`s fair at this point with Scott Pruitt to ask him questions about his own personal integrity. Every public official when they step into that job has to make a decision, are they going to use the office for their own enrichment? For the trappings of power they can surround themselves with, or are they going to own up to a certain higher level of public trust, higher level of stewardship. In this case I think it`s clear Scott Pruitt has chosen the former, not the latter.
WILLIAMS: Jill, how will you know a tipping point if and when one comes along?
COLVIN: You know, it`s hard to see. You played that footage earlier of the president at his FEMA briefing today going out of his way to praise Pruitt and saying somebody has to come out here and compliment the job you`re doing. You know, people in the White House at this point are baffled about the fact that the president has not taken some kind of action, the fact that he doesn`t seem more irritated.
I want to be clear. The president has not enjoyed the trickle of story, the news reports that he sees, but nonetheless, look, this is a president who is supposed to be someone who cares a great deal about wasting money and gets very upset when he sees people not doing that. He`s someone who doesn`t like it when other cabinet members are in the news.
And nonetheless, the president still seems to have the soft spot for Pruitt. He`s really happy with the policies that he`s putting into place. And he also, I mean, this is a president who also is dealing with a slew of other issues, with the Russia investigation, with all of the negative news stories. And it just hasn`t reached the point yet where the president feels like this is something that`s really pulling him down.
WILLIAMS: Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us. We`re going to fit in a break here. When we come back, we`re going to talk about the first public sighting of the first lady after a 27-day disappearance. We`re back for that right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I would like to sort of maybe say and pay some respects to some of the people here today. I have a list. Of course, we have to start with our great first lady Melania. Thank you, Melania. She went through a little rough patch but she`s doing great. And we`re really proud of her. She`s done a fantastic job as first lady. The people love you. The people of our country love you. So thank you, honey.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was her first public appearance in almost a month, joining the president at FEMA headquarters for that 2018 hurricane season briefing which by the way, did not mention the loss of life in Puerto Rico in the last hurricane season.
The first lady was last seen in public May 10th. Four days before that procedure for what her office described as a benign kidney condition kept her in the hospital for a week. The president started the day defending his wife on Twitter, "The fake news media has been so unfair and vicious to my wife and our great first lady Melania. During her recovery from surgery, they reported everything from near death to facelift to left the White House and me for New York or Virginia to abuse. All fake. She is doing really well. Four reporters spotted Melania in the White House last week walking merrily along to a meeting. They never reported the sighting because it would hurt the sick narrative that she was living in a different part of the world, was really ill or whatever. Fake news is really bad."
For the record, our CNBC colleague Eamon Javers did write on Twitter last week. He had seen the first lady walking in the West Wing.
Back with us, fake news veteran Jill Colvin and former member of the Congress David Jolly. Jill, I kid. But how does your view of truth and the reporting differ from the version we just heard from the president there on social media?
COLVIN: Well, I mean, get your viewers to correct me if I`m wrong here. I certainly don`t remember reading any reputable news outlets raising speculation about plastic surgery or her being abused or abducted or living in some other country.
In fact, the president of the United States is the only person I can recall recently making some crude jokes about somebody potentially having a facelift and spreading that rumor back when he was in the spat with the "Morning Joe" hosts, a couple of months back.
That said, look, the president and the first lady have a different relationship than I think a lot of people are used to seeing of the first lady in the White House. You know, she`s not accompanied him on his foreign trip right now to Canada and to Singapore. She has had a -- defined her role differently. There are two people who describe themselves as very independent. And they`re also two people facing a lot of questions right now because there`s the Stormy Daniels story. There are all these allegations. There are all these questions about their marriage. So it just looks from these tweets like the president is really feeling concerned about that and worried about it.
WILLIAMS: David Jolly, you get to comment on the moment of the day easily the weirdest moment of the day and easily the one with the least impact on geopolitics. It has to do with bottled water. The president takes his, puts it on the floor. Vice President Pence does the same.
Strange enough at a nice setting to choose to put a bottle of water on the floor next to you. Really strange to see your number two doing the same thing. There`s a hidden second move by the president as he takes the mini napkin and puts it in his lap.
JOLLY: That`s right.
WILILAMS: David, what is -- it`s just one of the darnedest things we`ve seen in a long time.
JOLLY: This is a president consumed by image far more than substance. And what we saw is Mike Pence play along with that. Brian, you`ve covered a lot of presidents. They`re all concerned about their image. Ronald Reagan had Mike Deaver, who was set up the Oval Office just right. Who setup for instance the speech of Pantoja 34 years ago.
This president, however, perhaps he was trying to get water out of the way of a photo and a napkin out of the way of the photo. What he missed was the bigger image and you alluded to it earlier. This is a president sitting in front of a backdrop for FEMA on hurricane preparedness week and not discussing the loss of life for Puerto Rico and his response. The image failed whether or not there was a bottled water in the picture of not.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to David Jolly and to Jill Colvin for being good sports and always answering the bell when we call. Really appreciate it. And coming up for us, new reports of a tense phone call between our president and the prime minister of Canada. And why Trump raised the question of a suspicious fire at the White House. We`ll explain when we continue.
WILLIAMS: Well, it`s taken a few months, but we`ve finally been able to damage our relationship with Canada. This story is especially timely tonight since it`s the 74th anniversary of D-Day, when Americans and Canadians landed, fought, and died side by side on the beaches of France and later all across Europe as they were running down Adolf Hitler and defeating tyranny.
Our two countries share the longest contiguous undefended border in the world. We American kids were routinely taught in school that Canadians were our neighbors to the north. You know the rest. Fast-forward to today and we`re now enforcing tariffs on our ally Canada on steel and aluminum. This was the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau`s reaction last weekend on "Meet the Press."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTIN TRUDEAU, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: The fact that -- I mean, next week we`re hosting the G7 summit of world leaders and the air field, the military base, the Air Force One`s going to land in was put there in World War II to protect an aluminum smelter that was providing to the military effort. The idea that we are somehow a national security threat to the United States is quite frankly insulting and unacceptable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And now we learn today that a phone call between Trump and Trudeau took a nasty turn. The Canadian broadcasting company is reporting "Trudeau reportedly asked Trump how tariffs could be imposed on Canada on national security grounds. Trump reportedly responded, didn`t you guys burn down the White House?"
The exchange was first reported by CNN. A quick review of the facts here shows that was the war of 1812 and it was the Brits who set fire to the White House. So please, people of America, if you see him, take no action against Martin Short.
Adding to the general discomfort, the president is due, as we mentioned, at the G7 summit in Canada. On Friday, Trump and representatives from the six other nations are set to gather in Quebec and a potential trade war expected to be a big topic there now that we have found and identified the culprits behind that attempt to torch the White House.
Coming up for us after a break, a look back at the day 50 years ago that changed the course of American politics when we continue.
WILLIAMS: There it is. Last thing before we go tonight has to do with today and history. In addition to being the 74th anniversary of D-Day, in the era since then it was 50 years ago this morning after a sleepless night for millions of Americans the nation`s worst fears were confirmed, when a grim and drawn campaign press secretary, the late Frank Mankiewicz, father of our own Josh Mankiewicz, stepped up to the podium and told a national television audience that Bobby Kennedy was gone. Killed by an assassin`s bullet in the year that shook this country to its core. 1968. Bobby Kennedy was killed just months after the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Those wishing to mark the passage of 50 years since those two assassinations will find a dramatic difference in historic preservation at the two locations.
For starters, there is the Lorraine Motel. The balcony where Dr. King was shot, his motel room, personal effects from him that day, all of it, beautifully, painstakingly preserved as part of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
Then there`s the old ambassador hotel in Los Angeles. That was the ballroom where Bobby Kennedy uttered his last words in public. Now it`s on to Chicago and let`s win there.
Moments later, while being escorted through the hotel kitchen, he was shot. That`s all gone now. All of it. The ballroom, the kitchen, the hotel. It`s been replaced by this, a school building and a beautiful one.
And while some of the architectural features of an old nightclub have been preserved there`s nowhere to go there, nothing to see for those perhaps wanting a tactile or visual connection to the day 50 years ago to this day that changed the course of our country and of course politics in America.
And with that, that`s our broadcast on a Wednesday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
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