Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: June 13, 2018 Guest: Shannon Pettypiece, Daniel Goldman, Nelson Cunningham
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the man referred to as Donald Trump`s fixer, Michael Cohen, about to change legal teams leading to speculation he`s close to cooperating with the feds to save his family.
Plus, news tonight from "The Washington Post." Robert Mueller still asking witnesses about Cohen as recently as five days ago reportedly.
And tonight, what it all means for the President, his West Wing, and his legal team as he returns from the summit as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Wednesday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. This was Day 510 of the Trump administration. There is new pressure on the President`s long-time personal attorney and so-called fixer, Michael Cohen of New York tonight. And by extension on the President himself.
Cohen is currently the subject of a criminal investigation into his business dealings. The case was referred, you may recall, to the feds in New York from the Mueller team in Washington. Sources close to Cohen tell NBC News he`s now looking for a new legal team, or lawyer, to represent him. One report even raises the possibility that Cohen maybe more likely to flip and start cooperating as a highly valuable witness for the government.
NBC News reports that Cohen has not yet spoken with prosecutors, but the possibility of him flipping has rattled Trump`s allies, who see the potential legal jeopardy for the President. In large part, because remember, the President knows the kinds of things that would be seized during a raid of Cohen`s home and office.
Also tonight, "The Washington Post" has brand-new reporting on Robert Mueller`s continued focus on Michael Cohen. "Cohen is under intensifying scrutiny from Mueller who`s continuing to investigate episodes involving Cohen, according to a witness who testified in to front of a grand jury in Washington last week. A former member of the Ukrainian parliament said in an interview that many of the questions he faced during several hours of testimony on Friday were focused on his interactions with Cohen."
"The Post" writes that the witness met with Cohen in January 2017 to discuss a back channel peace initiative for Ukraine. Also reports that witnesses told the paper, quote, "I realize that Michael Cohen is a target of special interest to Mueller."
Rudy Giuliani, the de facto spokesman for the Trump legal team in the Russia matter is speaking out about Cohen tonight. He first told NBC News Kristen Welker, "I have no information suggesting Cohen is going to flip. And there`s nothing involving the President, even if he did, and therefore I`m not concerned."
Then here is what Giuliani said to Laura Ingraham on Fox News in just the past hour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: He`s not cooperating, nor do we care because the President did nothing wrong. I was very comfortable if he cooperates. There`s nothing he can cooperate about.
Michael Cohen, I think would tell you, he`s got nothing incriminating with the President. And really, they should stop going after him. They`re torturing the guy. The reality is they`re trying to frighten him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Cohen work for Donald Trump for a decade, guarding his boss` secretes, handling delicate matters in Trump`s personal and professional life. Here is Cohen on the subject of his client prior to the inauguration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: I`ll do anything to protect Mr. Trump, the family. Fortunately, Mr. Trump has a significant number of people. I like to keep myself in that little circle of extremely loyal people. And we will do what`s necessary to protect him and the office of the presidency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That raid of Cohen`s home and office a few months back yielded a large trove of documents, in addition to numerous cellphones and computer, which the feds are using to try to figure out if he broke the law during any of his business activities, including paying out things like hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels who claimed to have an affair with Trump.
While Cohen described his relationship with Trump as offering protection, here`s how Trump described it.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Michael would represent me, and represent me on some things. He represents me like with this crazy Stormy Daniels deal. He represented me. And you know, from what I see, he did absolutely nothing wrong.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We also know that Cohen was paid by a company with ties to one of Russia`s wealthiest oligarchs, Viktor Vekselberg who reportedly met with Cohen both during the transition and at the inauguration. Throughout the 2016 campaign, Cohen worked on a then secret project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow and his name appears in the Steele Russia dossier as a linked from Trump`s inner circle to Kremlin agents.
That`s a lot, so let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Wednesday night. In Washington, Shannon Pettypiece, White House Correspondent for Bloomberg. Here in New York, Nelson Cunningham, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York who worked under Rudy Giuliani and along sides James Comey among others. He`s also the Former General Counsel at the White House Office of Administration under President Clinton and happens to be the Former General Counsel for Senate Judiciary Committee. And Daniel Goldman is back with us as well, also Former Assistant U.S. Attorney General for the Southern District of New York. A lot of talk about the Southern District of New York around here these days. I wonder why.
Hey, Shannon, bring us up-to-date on your latest reporting on Michael Cohen. And the reporting out there today that what he`s looking for in a lawyer is exactly what we have at the studio in New York, people with experience in the Southern District of New York.
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG NEWS: Well, that could be what he`s looking for right now. The indication we got was that he needed someone to help him through the next phase of this case. Now, whether that means he needs someone to help him through a phase where he`s a cooperating witness, or a phase past document production, or a phase where he has to find a different way to pay his legal bills. We were never really able to get to the bottom of so far today. But we do know to this point that was made earlier, his legal bills were becoming astronomical.
He had 15 lawyers, two data specialists, a team of paralegals and associates working around the clock, sleeping on couches, trying to review all these documents. Actually, one associate had to be sent home because he developed a hand tremor. So that is the type of legal mite that we`re talking about here. It`s not the tens or hundreds of thousands, this could be something that reaches well above a million. So the idea and this issue of him paying for his legal bills is a real concern. Whether that had anything to do with the switch in lawyers or not, it`s the issue out there.
WILLIAMS: And one can only imagine the hourly rate while the meter is running that we`re talking about here.
Daniel, I`m going to read -- I received questions from a nice man, a lawyer named Rob here in New York City. And you`re the perfect man to answer this. Would you please consider asking your guests whether this might be a ploy to simply delay the case as new lawyers afford the time to be identified and get up to speed? Second question, how many times can a client replace their attorneys and for what reasons?
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN, DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, the answer to the first is, I don`t think it`s a ploy to delay the case because there is not yet a case. Let`s remember what`s going on right now is simply a review of documents that were seized pursuant to search warrants. He has not been charged with any crime yet. And so there is no case here.
What I think is happening is that Michael Cohen is recognizing that he needs to get ready for the pre-indictment phase of this case, which means there will be negotiations with the U.S. Attorney`s Office about what they`re interested in, what charges they`re thinking of bringing, whether he might cooperate. All of these things are things that the lawyers have - - the prosecutors and the defense lawyers. And my guess is that Michael Cohen is readying himself to get past this document review, which did not reveal very many privileged documents to this point. And there`s still a lot that remain to be searched. But he`s starting to get ready for the big time, which is what actually happens with the case and whether he is charged.
WILLIAMS: Nelson is, there anything unusual thus far in all your experience, as you listen to us recite the details of this case, is it unusual that he hasn`t met with the feds? Anything unusual yet?
NELSON CUNNINGHAM, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY., SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, first of all, we don`t know for a fact whether or not he has met with the feds. Mueller`s team, of course, has been very quiet.
WILLIAMS: Good point.
CUNNINGHAM: The Southern District of New York, which is handling the other part of the case, is also being very quiet here. We simply don`t know. Every criminal case, seven, eight of it are underwater, like an iceberg. We only see the tip that`s above the water.
It is unusual at this moment that Cohen would be looking to change lawyers. Perhaps it`s the money, as many of us suspect. But don`t forget, until now, the Trump campaign was paying Cohen`s legal bills.
We learned from campaign finance documents released a couple of months ago that the Trump campaign paid $228,000 toward Michael Cohen`s legal bills for October to January. And we`ll learn in a couple of weeks when they put out their next campaign finance filings how much more they will have paid for Cohen`s legal work. Maybe they`re fed up with paying it, maybe Trump has cut him off. That would lead to -- that could lead to the sort of break that we may be seeing today.
WILLIAMS: And there`s this reporting from "The Times" just before we came on the air, the Trump family has been paying for the time-consuming and enormously expensive process of reviewing the voluminous materials seized in the raids, according to people familiar with the case. Recently, however, a dispute has erupted over the amount that Mr. Cohen`s lawyers want to charge the Trump family enterprises for the review. That hourly rate, again, which the lawyers have said they`re running with a large team of associates which Shannon mentioned. The disagreement could serve to further isolate Mr. Cohen from Mr. Trump, a risky move for the President. This is from a piece tonight in "The New York Times."
Now, Daniel, one more thing, is it just coincidence that the decision to change counsel comes at the end of this kind of a lay term, discovery process, where Cohen now realizes everything that was seized in the raid? His client, the President, has a pretty darn good idea of what was sitting in his lawyer`s office this whole time. And now the feds know everything that was seized.
GOLDMAN: Well, don`t forget, the President and all of the Trump Organization members also know what they did. Forget about what the documents were.
GOLDMAN: But if Michael Cohen were to cooperate, he not only would be providing documents but he`d be providing very valuable testimony. Look, there`s a lot we don`t know. And I wish I could --
WILLIAMS: But that`s why you are here.
GOLDMAN: -- well, I wish I could tell you, "Oh, it`s x, y or z." The fact of the matter is I was surprised that he wouldn`t have gotten a Southern District -- former Southern District of New York prosecutor to defend him once these searches occurred.
WILLIAMS: At that point?
CUNNINGHAM: Yes. You know, I actually -- I disagree with Daniel here on this.
CUNNINGHAM: Maybe because I was a lawyer here in New York at the U.S. Attorney`s Office, but I`ve also practiced down in Washington for the last 24 years in the Washington world. And for Washington, you need a different kind of lawyer than you need for Southern District of New York criminal lawyer. Being a lawyer in Washington who is more media savvy, who understands the way Congressional investigations work, who understands the 24/7 nature of the media cycle.
His current lawyer Steve Ryan, whom I`ve known for 25 years, is one of the best that way. He`s a practiced criminal lawyer. He worked on Capitol Hill. He`s been through this before. I frankly think that a lawyer who knows the Southern District extremely well may not know the Washington media as well, won`t know "The Washington Post" as well, and may not windup defending him in the public sphere as well as the criminal sphere as well as what he`s got right now.
WILLIAMS: Brief rebuttal, counselor?
GOLDMAN: Well, I was only going to say, I think up to this point, until the Southern District took over the investigation, and he learned that after the searches, you`re right. And that`s why he had Steve Ryan. I think once things, from my experience, for the past ten years, when I was doing white collar cases, almost every single defense counsel that I dealt with came from that office. That`s -- and there`s reason for it. Different offices are particularized as Nelson was saying.
GOLDMAN: So I think we don`t actually disagreement that much, Nelson.
WILLIAMS: OK. Well, to the always agreeable -- and, Shannon, we just want to let you know, we haven`t forgotten about you. And now you get to take on the Mueller tranche on this. We have a report that Mueller is still asking Cohen-specific questions. And also, Shannon, we have whatever your reporting is on the status of the potential Mueller-Trump sit down.
PETTYPIECE: Yes, this issue of an interview is about to come to a head. Our reporting indicates that Mueller`s office wants to wrap this up. This question about whether or not the President is going to sit for an interview, the President`s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani has indicated he wants to wrap this question up, too. They`ve been putting it to the back burner because the President was focused on the Singapore trip.
But with wheels down this morning from Singapore, the next big issue on this President`s plate is going to be whether or not he sits for an interview with Mueller. And the indications we get from current and former Justice Department officials and from the President`s lawyers is that we could be on collision course to a subpoena and a Supreme Court battle.
There`s a very good chance that Mueller will issue a subpoena if the President does not voluntarily sit for an interview. The President`s lawyers have indicated they do not think he should have to comply with a subpoena. And so then it goes to the courts. It will go to the D.C. court and likely make its way all the way up to the Supreme Court. So this could be a very big battle that could go on over months, potentially, and be another cloud hanging over this presidency, in addition to this investigation, this question about whether or not the President will even sit down for an interview with Mueller.
WILLIAMS: And I noted that Rudy Giuliani slipped in the mention of a possible subpoena with Laura Ingraham, who herself a very good lawyer. Nelson, you were nodding yes.
CUNNINGHAM: Well, I wondered about this question of a presidential subpoena. And so, last month, I sat down and took a look at the legal precedent, and I wrote a piece for Politico that appeared last month.
WILLIAMS: We saw that.
CUNNINGHAM: And the Supreme Court cases actually leave very little doubt that the President must comply with a criminal subpoena. In U.S. versus Nixon, the Watergate-era precedent, the Supreme Court unanimously said that Richard Nixon had to provide documents in response to a criminal subpoena from the grand jury in Washington, D.C. He had no ability to avoid that. Twenty years ago, the Supreme Court again unanimously said that Bill Clinton had to appear and testify and give civil testimony in a sexual harassment case, the Paula Jones versus Clinton case.
Now, if you put those two cases together, one case that says a President must give civil testimony, and another that says that the President must comply with a criminal subpoena for documents, I find a little doubt that the Supreme Court looking at this would swiftly conclude that any judge looking at this would swiftly conclude that the President must testify if handed a subpoena.
WILLIAMS: Daniel, last word. If you were a betting lawyer, should Paul Manafort as the feds like to say, bring a toothbrush to court for his Friday appearance? Do you think his bail will be revoked?
WILLIAMS: Wow. Thank you very much for a conclusive and one-word response from a member of the bar here in New York. History has been made.
Our thanks to Shannon Pettypiece for starting us off with her reporting tonight, to our co-counsel, Nelson Cunningham and Daniel Goldman. Thank you all very much for starting us off in great fashion.
Coming up as we approach our first break, how is this affecting the President and his West Wing? Three top reporters share their latest insights.
And later, the campaign tour billed as a road trip that also happened to have an air wing attached.
THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Wednesday night beneath the Washington monument.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back. As we`ve reported, President Trump`s longtime attorney, Michael Cohen, is expected to part ways with his current lawyer and hire a new lawyer or legal team to handle the ongoing federal investigation into his business dealings.
NBC News reports Cohen hasn`t yet spoken to federal prosecutors involved in the inquiry, nor is that unusual, despite some of the speculation you heard from one of our co-counsel in our first segment. But some say today`s news is a sign that Cohen may indeed cooperate in the future.
Meanwhile, the White House is closely watching how Cohen`s situation plays out. Maggie Haberman of "The New York Times" reports, "One person with knowledge of the legal staffing change said that Mr. Trump`s camp was very displeased with the way the Cohen investigation had so far been conducted. Mr. Trump himself has told people he is angry at Mr. Cohen over the messiness of the situation, especially those aspects involving Ms. Clifford," a.k.a. Stormy Daniels. "But the President has also indicated to allies that he is worried that if he pushes Mr. Cohen away too hard, it could increase the likelihood that Mr. Cohen will offer information to the government."
This, as a new report from Emily Jane Fox of Vanity Fair reveals Cohen feels hurt by the lack of support he`s received from the Trump family. And we quote, earlier this year, he heard that Eric Trump was telling associates that he felt Cohen was sloppy in the way he handled the Daniels agreement, which rankled Cohen. "I feel like Don Quixote," he said to people close to him. "It`s ruining my children`s lives. It`s worrying my wife`s life. It`s worst than a pit in your stomach."
Interesting place to start our discussion. And here with us to do that John Heilemann, MSNBC National Affairs Analyst, also happens to be Co- author of "Game Change" and "Double Down" as well as Co-host of "The Circus" on Showtime in his spare time. Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for "The Associated Press." And Ashley Parker Pulitzer Prize- winning White House Reporter for "The Washington Post."
Ashley, you`re a stylist among stylists here. I`d like to begin with you. Michael Cohen had a vision of life far different from the life he is having in New York right now, living in a hotel because a pipe in his Trump apartment building burst. Everyone now knows where to stake him out and wait to try to see him as he gets into any number of cabs and lifts and Ubers to go about his business.
This is a guy who thought he might be White House counsel. What are you hearing on the other end from people in the West Wing about the plight, the life and potentially the future of Mr. Cohen?
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST: So, on the one hand, people inside the White House are not particularly sympathetic to him. There`s a reason that his life has turned out very differently than he envisioned it. And sort of almost since the campaign, it`s been a series of disappointments.
He expected a huge role on the campaign. He didn`t have that. He was sort of shunted off to an office in Trump Tower but not really officially part of the campaign.
As you mentioned, he expected to come to Washington with the President, be White House counsel and he was blocked by some of the President`s family and a number of people who knew him quite well from the campaign. And now this. And there`s a reason he was blocked, because people on the campaign knew and people in the President`s orbit knew that when there was a sensitive issue or a sensitive discussion that they didn`t even like talking about, someone would come in and say, "That`s OK, Michael Cohen would handle it."
That said, there is a lot of unease within this White House about him. And there is a sense as the Mueller probe unfurls that basically people believe in the President`s orbit that he will not be guilty of collusion or conspiracy, but it`s sort of these other tangential things that worry them. The obstruction of justice and, of course, exactly what`s going on with Michael Cohen.
And the most frustrating thing for a lot of these people, especially the low-level, mid-level, and even some senior White House aides and Trump friends is they don`t know what they don`t know. And they`re learning it the way we are in the news, reading a report that says, "You know, this new legal shake-up for Cohen`s legal team might mean he`ll flip." So they don`t exactly know, but they just have a sense it`s not looking good.
WILLIAMS: That`s a harrowing existence.
Jonathan Lemire, you know the harrowing and exquisite telephonic slay ride thrill of a phone call with Rudy Giuliani. You engage in those periodically. Based on your latest, what is his thinking does it seem to be about Mr. Cohen? Also, while we`re at it, the possibility of this Mueller interview?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": I think it`s two things. Giuliani in my last conversation with him, akin to what he said tonight in this videoclip --
LEMIRE: -- sure, he`s projecting confidence, the idea that we don`t believe that Cohen will start cooperating with the federal prosecutor. Even if he does, we`re not worried about it because the President has not done anything wrong. Behind the scenes, people close to the President, senior aides in the White House, as well as his extended orbit of influential figures in Trump world are very nervous about this. They feel that the idea that Cohen, who we`d know, who has worked for Trump for so long, who knows so much, who knows where those bodies are buried, could end up cooperating is something that concerns them deeply.
As Ashley just said, there`s also this figure of the unknown. Since those raids in his office and hotel room, they`re not sure what was seized. They`re not sure what could be in there, what could be incriminating. They feel like -- and they also realized that there could be potentially, whether it be payments to the Stormy Daniels situation, or other sort of business dealings, those are things where the President could be very vulnerable as this investigation ramps up.
As far as the Mueller interview goes, let`s remember, Giuliani publicly said a few weeks ago that they would start having conversations about whether or not they would have that interview once the North Korea summit is over. Well, as of 24 hours or so ago, that summit is over. Those -- Giuliani and the rest of the legal team were supposed to convene shortly to have more discussion just whether they want to have this interview. But every signal they`re sending lately has been making it harder and harder for Mueller`s team to clear the bar that would make them want Trump to sit down. At the moment, I`d think it would have to be considered unlikely.
WILLIAMS: John Heilemann, veteran journalist and political psychology enthusiast, I note the President went after us, NBC and CNN particularly today and gave us that rare enemy of the people stamp of approval. What is his mindset returning from what he saw as a spectacularly successful summit with Kim Jong-un, coming back to what he knows exists. And remember, I keep reminding everyone, he knows what was in his lawyer`s office.
JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. Well, and I will point out, the one thing I like most about that tweet is that we were also supposed to be distracting from the "deal" with North Korea. I don`t know what the deal was given that nothing was given by North Korea to the United States of any tangible significance or merits. There wasn`t really a deal.
In any case, look, the President I think has -- part of the reason, if you want me to play psychologist, I`m happy to.
HEILEMANN: You`ve invited me to, so I will. Part of the reason the President I think put so much emphasis on this North Korea summit was because it is a play for the history books, the big trophy you put up. But another part of it was, as we all know, when we`re facing dread, when we are facing the fight, the moment of truth, the cataclysm, we often find some a great round of golf I want to go play or that great weekend in Cabo, whatever it is that we can look forward to before we come out and come back to the ugly business at-hand. This is always been the moment where we know because of the way the federal guidelines work.
We know the Mueller investigation and the Southern District investigation are going to kind of come to a halt around Labor Day for a period of time.
HEILEMANN: Around Labor Day for about two months before the election. They may resume after the election. But we have a window here where some business is going to get done. And the President knows that`s true. And he knows it`s going to be an ugly time.
Final decisions are going to have to get made whether he`s going to sit for Bob Mueller or not. And the situation with Michael Cohen, I believe -- Donald Trump knows what was in his lawyer`s office. He also particularly knows because the reality is, and this is part of the Emily Jane Fox reporting, for this whole time, Michael Cohen`s lawyers and Donald Trump`s lawyers are working together. They are sharing information. The President`s lawyers and the President know exactly what is there. In real time, not just on the basis of memory.
WILLIAMS: Yes. Exactly.
HEILEMANN: But they know exactly what`s there right now as the documents are being -- and the audio is being gone through and determinations are being made about what`s privileged and what`s not. And they`re learning that very little is privileged and an awful lot is not. And we know what - - not just where bodies are buried, but the kind of work Michael Cohen did for Donald Trump, for that decade all around the world and the ugliest parts of the world, doing some of the ugliest business deals imaginable, or trying to.
The President is starting to -- he`s been acting out for 16, 17 months. But right now, you can feel a sense -- I think he knows the moment is nigh. And I think he`s coming back in realizing that he might get through it, but it`s going to be a very ugly summer.
WILLIAMS: It does have a Scorsesean whiff about all of it. We are so happy to have these three with us. We are less thrilled to have to roll to break, but we must do that to keep the studio operating.
All three have agreed to stay with us. We`ll be right back after this.
WILLIAMS: Republican Congressman Mark Sanford, who was upset last night in his primary, says his past criticisms of President Trump led to his loss. The former South Carolina governor told "The Washington Post" this morning that a last-minute tweet from the president endorsing his opponent -- and by last minute, we mean something like four hours before the polls closed, is exactly why more members of the GOP don`t speak out against Trump. Quote, they don`t want the tweet I got last night. There`s no motivation like self-motivation.
Today, two GOP senators who have already chosen not to seek re-election warned again as they can about the dangers of blindly following the president. This morning, Tennessee Senator Bob Corker rebuked members of his party for just that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: It`s becoming a cultish thing, isn`t it? It`s not a good place for any party to end up with a cult-like situation as it relates to a president that happens to be of purportedly of the same party.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Arizona Senator Jeff Flake took to the Senate floor this afternoon to urge his colleagues to fulfill their role as a check on the executive branch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We continue to act here as if all is normal, as if all parties are observing norms, even as the executive branch shatters them. Robustly trafficking in conspiracy theories and attacking all institutions that don`t pay the president obedience. Our justice system, the free press, the list is getting longer. We demean ourselves and our proper constitutional role when we act like we work for the president, that we are only here to do his bidding. Especially now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: John Heilemann, Jonathan Lemire, Ashley Parker remain with us. And John, I`m going to pozzit (ph) a theory to have you kick it around, that this may be the most normal thing Donald Trump Does as president, that under FDR, under LBJ and Richard Nixon, you had to stay in line. And you were called out if you weren`t. They didn`t use quite the levers of power that he uses to do it. But this is a president thing.
JOHN HEILEMANN, SHOWTIMES "THE CIRCUS" CO-HOST: Yes. Although I would say yes, 100%, that we`ve seen presidents of both parties try to enforce loyalties in various ways and exact some kind of political cost. Usually it would not be a president on whose future in the office depends on his party maintaining control of the House, making it his political situation less tenable. Exactly retribution usually would pick a place where the cost to yourself would be less severe potentially. That`s one thing.
The other thing is that, you know, you look at a guy like Mark Sanford. Usually the kind of deviations would be the deviations of loyalty or deviations of ideology. You would see somebody who`s supposed to be a member of your party voting with the other party, for instance and you would inflict the costing for that.
Mark Sanford is a conservative. He`s voted with Donald Trump 87% of the time. This is exact retribution purely because of some personal pique. Purely because Mark Sanford has said Donald Trump should release his taxes as supposed to killing him on a tough vote siding with Nancy Pelosi on some important matter of policy.
Those are the places were pretty exactly -- trying to enforce discipline, normal. Exacting -- trying to enforce discipline when it`s self- destructive and when it`s over no matter of genuine policy or political principle, that`s abnormal.
WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, reaching out on Twitter a few hours before polls close is an air strike. It is tactical and kind of stealthy. Can we expect more of that? Is this going to be the midterm election by air strike?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPOTER: It could be. Think the president is very pleased with that result. Whether or not he thinks that the tweet itself help propel Sanford to a defeat or they already got win that Sanford is going to lose and therefore he wanted to pile on, to sort of send that message, like don`t cross with the message by the way that was reemphasize tonight by the head of the Republican Party Ronna McDaniel who tweeted "Complacency is our enemy. Anyone that does not embrace the real Donald Trump`s agenda of making America great again will be making a mistake."
That is a significant broadside to people in her own party, the party that if they challenge this president, they challenge the incumbent here, they would be deserving of a target last night like the president delivered, literally an air strike from Air Force One as he was coming back from his overseas trip.
HEILEMANN: Joe, you imagine a member of Mitt Romney`s family saying that?
HEILEMANN: Not something I anticipated.
WILLIAMS: Hey Ashley Parker, is everyone around Donald Trump ready to embrace, including him, this new look GOP? Like it or not, that`s what it is.
ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPOTER: Well, the president`s aides in the West Wing are certainly in the political shop are kind of happy with this cultive personality. It works out well for them. And what is so striking to me is sort of the way in which policy and ideology in the Republican Party has just fallen by the wayside.
To cite one example, the president, you know, he has sort of been going it alone, taking a lot of unilateral actions. You`ll recall at the end of the Barack Obama`s second term when he did that, when he had his pen and his phone and he made a lot of moves with his executive authority, some most notably on immigration, all the Republicans called him King Obama and an emperor. And that`s a very fair view to have depending on your views of executive power.
But what`s interesting is when the president is exercising the exact same executive authority -- and even more so. Taking the pardons, for instance, saying he could even pardon himself, you have almost no Republicans standing up to him. And the one that did recently Senator Corker trying to introduce legislation to kind of curb some of his unilateral trade actions were shot down by members of his own party who were silent and even the Senate majority leader who said that the Corker legislation was an exercise in futility. So yes, if you`re Trump`s political team, this is great news for you.
WILLIAMS: Three journalists whose work with we pay attention to, John Heilmann, Jonathan Lemire, Ashley Parker, our thanks for tonight. And coming up, why Hillary Clinton`s e-mails will emerge tomorrow as a news story all over again. We`ll have that when we come back.
WILLIAMS: New topic, we are just hours away from the release of a highly anticipated report from the Inspector General at the Department of Justice. And it`s a widely understood axiom in Washington that if you`re working for the Department of Justice, you generally don`t want the inspector general look into your business, because it`s their job to try to come away with something.
For a year and a half, this particular inspector general, this gentleman here, has been reviewing the FBI`s handling of the Clinton e-mail investigation leading up to the 2016 election. Among other things, the IG is looking into former FBI Director James Comey`s motivations, including, but not limited to, why he felt the need to hold a press conference days before a presidential election.
President Trump is expected to be briefed on the IG report ahead of its public release. Washington Post telling it this way, Trump is widely expected to use the Inspector General findings to launch fresh political attack against not only Clinton but also the law enforcement officials behind Robert S. Mueller`s Russia probe, which Trump has repeatedly referred to as a witch hunt.
Now, the president has expressed his eagerness to see what`s in the report. He said this last week, and this may give away what he`s looking for, "What is taking so long with the Inspector`s General report on crooked Hillary and slippery James Comey. Numerous delays. Hope the report is not being changed and made weaker. There are so many horrible things to tell. The public has a right to know. Transparency. With me from Washington to talk about Julia Ainsley, our NBC News national security and justice reporter. And Julia, in nation turns its lonely eyes to you. Give us a viewer`s guide of what we should try to expect tomorrow?
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, I think what you can expect is a preview that the president just gave us to that tweet. There`s going to be a lot of political football through this. Democrats might look at this and say look, this really did the actions of James Comey really affected Hillary Clinton`s chances in the 2016 election.
And then the president is going to be looking at this trying to find evidence that there is a deep state, that the FBI and the justice department are out to get him and that they have political bias that is one of the reasons why Hillary Clinton was never charged for how she handled those e-mails. And it seems he`s already setting it up so he can actually attack this report and the inspector general himself, Michael Horowitz, who really has maintained a reputation as a shrewd investigator, regardless of who he`s investigating.
Trump wants to go ahead and set it up so he can attack Horowitz if he doesn`t agree with what`s in this report. But I can tell you at NBC News, we have a big team that will be ready to go on this. We expect it to go out to the public in the afternoon. And we will be going through every page of this report. It`s going to be long day work on this for a year and a half. And it`s known that it should be pretty hard on James Comey, especially focusing in on those decisions that you laid out, Brian, to go public with his decision to not refer Hillary Clinton for charges in July of 2016, but them to reopen that investigation in October. And then close it again just days before the election.
They`ll be looking into those decisions, and whether or not he may have been in violation of something like the hatch act that prohibits government employees, particularly those in federal law enforcement from making any kind of statement, putting their thumbs on the scale in an election like this.
WILLIAMS: I always ask you about what stage we`re at in the Mueller investigation. Do you have any reaction or reporting having to do with "The Washington Post" reporting that Mueller was asking Cohen-related questions in the past five calendar days?
AINSLEY: You know, I don`t have fresh reporting on that. But I think that what we can take away from that, Brian, is that Cohen and Mueller are not separate. And we`ve been saying this for a long time on your show. Although there was part of this probe that Mueller kind of spun off and handed over to the southern district of New York and said please take a look at this, those were the people responsible for those raids on Cohen`s apartment and hotel and offices, he always had a hand in this.
Mueller has been in the driver`s seat on this. So it makes sense that he`s asking those questions, particularly as it might pertain to any kind of pay to play. If Cohen was responsible for giving access, particularly by foreign governments, to the president, they will want to know who accessed the president, what they paid, and whether or not there was any undo influence on the way. That is part of Mueller`s job. It can come not just from Russia, but other countries that might have tried to influence this election or what happened after the election.
WILLIAMS: On the eve of what`s going to be another big day on your beat, Julia Ainsley, we sure appreciate you staying up and talking to us tonight. Thank you very much.
AINSLEY: Thanks Brian.
WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, trouble for a big name Dem in the show me state, because there was more to her recent road trip than she showed her constituents. That`s when we continue.
WILLIAMS: A few weeks back, Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill kicked off a three-day campaign tour in her home state. The plan was to travel in this RV that they call Big Blue to meet with veterans around the state. The only problem according to the reporting of the Washington free beacon was that Big Blue wasn`t the only mode of transportation on the trip.
McCaskill also used a planes. While not a jet, it is known in the flying world as something of a Cadillac of single engine prop planes. It`s a Swiss made Pilatus PC 12, it`s a really nice ride. And it was along for the trip along with big blue.
So on May 29th, the RV tour went from Wansville, west to Springfield, further west to Joplin ended up for the night in Kansas City for the next day`s event. Flight data shows McCaskill`s plane taking the same route, shadowing the RV starting in St. Louis where it`s based flying west to Springfield, Joplin and ending up in Kansas City. Her bus and plane took similar routes the next day from Kansas City to St. Joe to Columbia.
After the news broke, McCaskill`s team acknowledged the role of the plane on the trip but said it only took her to overnight stays and to a last minute stop the RV wouldn`t have made in time. Her initial response provided to politico was this, "I added some stops with the use of the plane. But I was on the RV so much that the broken drawer drove me crazy." She added, "I even lost an iPad around a corner on the RV."
President Trump weighed in on Twitter though he got the aircraft wrong. He said McCaskill flew around in a luxurious private jet during her RV tour. People are really upset, so phoney." McCaskill tried to fight being back today with the statement that read, "Paying on my own dime to visit more Missouri veterans is not something I`m going to apologize for." The latest polling has McCaskill ahead of her Republican opponent Josh Hawley by four points.
Another break for us. Coming up this has been a dangerous time for norms. In a moment we look at some of the norms that have fallen in just the past 48 hours or so.
WILLIAMS: You see the handshake there. Last thing before we go tonight. Ending the annual joint military exercises in the Korean Peninsula has long been in North Korea`s wish list. For years, they have called the exercise as provocative. Now, our president is calling his own exercise as provocative and says he will end them.
Another big wish on North Korean`s wish list has been to get U.S. troops out of South Korea. And now the president seems to agree with that too.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the military withdrawing down in South Korea? You kind of hinted at that. And is there going to be this kind of (INAUDIBLE)?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, it`s not going down at all. It`s like honestly it was never discussed. I`m sure he`d like that. It was never on the table. With that being understood and, you know, U.S. may question like that, I would love to get the military out as soon as we can because it cause a lot of money, a lot of money for us. We don`t get paid fully for that military which, you know, I`ll be talking to South Korea about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Just a reminder here, tonight there about 28,000 American stationed in South Korea. American troops have maintained the presence there since the ceasefire in the war we fought there. A deployment to Korea has been part of the U.S. military experience for hundreds of thousands if not millions of American vets, and their presence gets a lot of the credit for keeping the peace over the years.
This makes for a lot of change in the course of just last few days, that includes hearing an American president go out of his way to compliment the world`s most brutal dictator using human firms, not unlike the way you describe a young CEO.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you takeover a country, tough country, tough people, and you take it over from your father, I don`t care who you are, what you are, how much of an advantage you have if you could do that at 27 years old, you -- I mean that`s one in 10,000 that could do that. So he`s a very smart guy. He`s a great negotiator. But I think we understand each other.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But he`s still done some really bad things.
TRUMP: Yes, but so have a lot of other people done some really bad things. I mean I could go through a lot of nations where a lot of bad things were done.
GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, VOICE OF AMERICA: What you surprise today about Kim Jong-un?
TRUMP: Really he`s got a great personality. He`s a, you know, funny guy. He`s a very smart guy. He`s a great negotiator. He loves his people not that I`m surprised by that. But he loves his people. And I think that we have a, you know, the start of the amazing deal.
VAN SUSTEREN: But he starved them. He`s been brutal to them. He still loves his people?
TRUMP: Look, he`s doing what he`s seen done, if you look at it. But, I really have to go by today and by yesterday and by a couple of weeks ago because that`s really when this whole thing started.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Again, just a portion of the change we have witnessed take place in about the space of a couple of days. That is our broadcast for this Wednesday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us and good night 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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