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Pressure on Manafort to cooperate. TRANSCRIPT, 6/15/2018. 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Josh Gerstein, Nancy Cook, Jonathan Allen, Ken Thomas

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: June 15, 2018 Guest: Josh Gerstein, Nancy Cook, Jonathan Allen, Ken Thomas

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, Former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort in jail pending his September trial as the Mueller investigation plows forward.

Plus, a free-wheeling appearance from the President on the White House driveway, ranging from pardons to immigration to North Korea.

And is Vladimir Putin next on Trump`s agenda? New reporting tonight on Donald Trump`s wish to sit down with the Russian President.

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

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. I`m Steve Kornacki in for Brian Williams. Day 512 of the Trump Administration, and the President`s former campaign manager, the man who engineered Donald Trump`s ascendancy to the top of the GOP field in 2016 is now behind bars.

Paul Manafort is spending his first night in a Virginia jail, this after a federal judge in Washington, D.C. revoked his bail privileges and ordered him detained. All of this coming after allegations from Robert Mueller`s team Manafort had tampered with witnesses in the Russia investigation. Manafort is already facing charges of money laundering, fraud, and conspiracy and has pleaded not guilty to all of those counts. He will now be held in pretrial detention until September. The criminal case against Manafort is not directly connected to allegations about Russian election interference, but his role in the campaign and his ties to Russian-backed politicians have made him a target for Mueller`s team.

Reporter Josh Gerstein of Politico, who is standing by to join us, sums up the importance of this latest development, writing, "Sending the 69-year- old Manafort to jail could boost the pressure on him to cut a deal with Mueller, whose main task is to determine whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow on its election meddling efforts."

Manafort`s one-time client, President Trump, had this reaction. "Wow, what a tough sentence for Paul Manafort, who has represented Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole, and many other top political people and campaigns. Didn`t know Manafort was the head of the mob. What about Comey and Crooked Hillary and all the others? Very unfair."

But this morning as Manafort was beginning his day in D.C. federal court a few miles from the White House, this is how the President described him.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign. But I feel -- I tell you, I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago. He worked for me, what, 49 days or something. A very short period of time.


KORNACKI: As we said, Manafort served as Trump`s campaign chairman and he spent 144 days in 2016 working on getting Trump elected.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What have you learned about Donald Trump since you started working for him that you didn`t know before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I`ve known him a long time, and I`ve always known him to be flexible. I`ve always known him to be driven.

TRUMP: And we have great people. Paul Manafort. He doesn`t have to do this, like I don`t have to. He doesn`t need to this, but he wanted to because he saw something. And he called me, he said, "This is something special."

Paul Manafort has done an amazing job. He`s here someplace. Where`s Paul? Paul Manafort.


KORNACKI: And Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had his own thoughts on Manafort`s incarceration, telling "The New York Daily News" that "when the whole thing is over, things might get cleaned up with some presidential pardons." However, Giuliani later dialed back those comments in an interview with NBC News, saying he would advise against a pardon. Then just a few hours ago, Giuliani added this.


RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Let me make it clear right now.


GIULIANI: Anybody listening.

CUOMO: That`s why I wanted you on.

GIULIANI: He is not going to pardon anybody in this investigation, but he is not obviously going to give up his right to pardon if a miscarriage of justice is presented to him.


KORNACKI: Meanwhile, the pressure is ratcheting up on another Trump associate, Michael Cohen, who is under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan. There are more reports the President`s former personal attorney is said to be open to some sort of cooperation with the government. And according to court filings, prosecutors have "extracted more than 700 pages of messages sent using encrypted programs on phones seized from Cohen and have reconstructed 16 pages from the contents of a shredding machine."

Also Cohen`s request for an emergency gag order against Michael Avenatti, the attorney for porn star Stormy Daniels, has been rejected by a federal judge in Los Angeles. The President had his own comments about Cohen earlier this morning.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried that Michael Cohen might flip?

TRUMP: Look, I did nothing wrong. You have to understand this stuff would have come out a long time ago. I did nothing wrong.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is Michael Cohen still your friend?

TRUMP: I`ve always liked Michael. I haven`t spoken to Michael in a long time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is he still your lawyer?

TRUMP: No, he`s not my lawyer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Your personal lawyer. And Not anymore?

TRUMP: But I always liked Michael and he`s a good person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you worried that he will cooperate?

TRUMP: No, I`m not because I did nothing wrong.


KORNACKI: With that, let`s bring in our lead-off panel for this Friday night. The aforementioned Josh Gerstein, Senior White House Reporter for Politico. He was in court today in Washington where Paul Manafort was. Barbara McQuade, Former U.S. Attorney to the Eastern District of Michigan and MSNBC Legal Analyst. And Chuck Rosenberg, Former U.S. Attorney, Former Senior FBI Official and current MSNBC Contributor. Thanks to all you for being with us.

Josh, let me start with you because you were where the action was this morning. We`ve learned that tonight apparently Paul Manafort has been booked in a jail in Warsaw, Virginia, apparently about two hours outside Washington, D.C. The events that resulted in him being sent there, though, in that courtroom, tell us what the scene was like there. What was the expectation when you walked in there, when his lawyers walked in there today? Was the expectation that the judge might take this action, or was this a complete surprise?

JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Oh, it certainly wasn`t a big surprise, Steve. I think everybody going into that courtroom realized that this was at a minimum a significant possibility that Manafort was going to be sent to jail. And certainly by the time they finished with the argument session, which lasted maybe a little bit over an hour to an hour and a half, we saw the FBI agents conferring out in the hall in what seemed to me to be them making some preparations for what was going to come next for Mr. Manafort. I don`t think they knew exactly, but I think they had a sense of what was coming.

So it was certainly very tense. It was the most packed courtroom I`ve seen there for any Manafort hearing since his arraignment last October. And the judge gave sort of a head fake when it was time to give the ruling. She suggested maybe that she was going to give him one more chance, but then eventually just said that she couldn`t trust Manafort. There had simply been too much of a history of him seeming to skirt her orders and another judge`s orders, and she just didn`t think she could trust him to abide by whatever conditions she might impose.

KORNACKI: And just quickly, could you discern, could you read from his body language, from his -- any kind of a reaction to all of this from Paul Manafort?

GERSTEIN: I didn`t see much in the way of reaction. His facial expression was pretty neutral. He seemed rather resigned to the situation. In court he`s generally been resigned.

He seemed a little bit more dour than on previous appearances, and he gave his wife sort of a half wave, a somewhat feeble wave as he was led away by two marshal marshals. He wasn`t handcuffed or anything, just taken out after the judge ordered him to be put into custody and taken into the back there. And eventually, I guess, hours later moved to this jail south of Washington.

KORNACKI: And Barbara McQuade, let me bring you in on the decision this judge make. We can show a couple of the quotes as she said issued this order today in court.

She said, "This isn`t middle school. I can`t take his cell phone. And if I say, well, don`t call the 56 witnesses that Mr. Westling tells me I need clearly list in the order, will he call the 57th?" Mr. Westling the attorney for Paul Manafort in court today. She also said about Manafort, "You seem inclined to treat these proceedings as just another marketing exercise and not a criminal case."

How unusual is it in a matter like this, if there are other matters like this, for a judge to make a decision like this?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think it`s not unusual that a judge in a situation where there is allegations of witness tampering and there`s been a probable cause finding by a grand jury to revoke a bond. It`s considered a very serious crime, especially by judges, because it`s a crime on the integrity of the criminal justice system. And so I was not surprised to see the judge revoke bond here.

In fact, the detention statute says the Bail Reform Act, that upon a finding of probable cause of the commission of another crime, the judge shall revoke bond unless the defendant can rebut the presumption of detention. And here I think she wanted to hear whether Paul Manafort had any explanation that might change her mind. But upon not really hearing anything that persuaded her otherwise, found that she just couldn`t trust him again to comply with the conditions of bond now that he has breached it in a very serious way.

KORNACKI: And, Chuck Rosenberg, from the standpoint of Mueller, of the investigation that really sort of started all this, the question, the issue that`s been raised here is does it make it more likely for Paul Manafort to want to cooperate, to want to seek some kind of a deal with the special counsel? From Mueller`s standpoint, do you think those odds in his mind went up because of that?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, yes and no, Steve, and here`s why. Paul Manafort was already facing a lot of counts and a lot of time in jail. He had every incentive. He has every incentive to cooperate. That hasn`t really changed very much. What`s changed is that he was on bond, and now he`s not.

So I think the calculation perhaps changes slightly. Perhaps it sharpens his senses a bit. Perhaps it brings the question to the fore. But in the main, no.

He`s always had incentive to cooperate. It`s just a question of whether or not he wants to go to trial or plead and cooperate. So I don`t think it changes very much.

KORNACKI: It does seem here, at least from my sort of layman`s perspective when it comes to legal matters, there is a wild card here in what President Trump`s attorney, Rudy Giuliani, is saying today about this question of pardons because he says at one point this whole thing, this whole investigation might end with a series of presidential pardons. Then he says it`s not going to happen. Then he says the President still reserves his right to do it.

Does that, Barbara, from the standpoint of Paul Manafort and his defense team here -- does this enter into their strategic calculations? Do they discern some kind of message being sent to them here from the President, from his attorney?

MCQUADE: I don`t know. But, you know, Rudy Giuliani, it`s hard to know whether he`s sort of bumbling or whether he`s being very strategic and just sort of dangling it out there and letting Paul Manafort know that that is something that President Trump has the power to do and reminding him of that and maybe sending him a message. It`s difficult to know. I think it`s still risky, however, for Paul Manafort to count on that, and I think he still has a lot of pressure on him to decide whether to go to trial or to plead and cooperate.

And, you know, he doesn`t have to decide just yet. He`s got some time. He still has some pending motions to suppress evidence. He may want to see how those come out. That`s actually quite common to see how a judge decides on motions like that because a favorable decision could make the case against him weaker, or, you know, he`s got until July 25th until his trial begins, so he`s got a little time to see how things shake out.

So much happens in a day in these cases that he`s got a little time on his hands. But I think as we see that date approach and the decisions on those motions be decided, that we may see Paul Manafort face the music and have to make a decision here.

KORNACKI: Yes. And, Josh, do you have any sense from the standpoint of Paul Manafort himself, maybe just his lawyers, how they`re interpreting the public comments that President Trump has made about him, about his relationship to the campaign, the comments from Rudy Giuliani tonight? How is that all being interpreted on the Manafort side?

GERSTEIN: Well, what I can tell you, Steve, is that they have gone out of their way on the Manafort side to stress again and again, whenever they have the opportunity, they`re in court or in public in some instances, that these charges have nothing to do with the Trump campaign. I find that to be a message of trying to get on the President`s good side, to try to underscore some of the themes the President has struck in the course of this investigation. You heard the President in the clip you played making a comment about how these charges go back 12 years, and it seems like they`re digging things up on him. The tweet where the President says, why is Manafort being treated like a mob boss?

So there`s definitely some maneuvering that seems to keep Manafort`s messaging aligned with the White House`s messaging. But in terms of a pardon, I think that`s something they want to stay away from reacting to in public, but it simply has to be part of their calculus and part of what may have led Manafort to hold out as long as he has in negotiating with the special counsel`s office.

KORNACKI: And, you know, Chuck, I guess when we talk about the possibility of some kind of a deal, some kind of cooperation from Paul Manafort, it presumes that he has information that Mueller and the special counsel`s team would find valuable, would find useful. The President, you know, has been insisting there is nothing to the idea of collusion between his campaign, between his sort of political orbit and Russia. If that is correct, if that is true what the President has been asserting and Paul Manafort couldn`t shine any light on that subject, would he be of any value to the special counsel`s team in terms of cooperating?

ROSENBERG: My guess is he probably would, but it`s just a guess, Steve. Look, not every defendant has information that`s valuable. But the way the United States sentencing guidelines are constructed, and those are the guidelines that help the court, the judge fashion a sentence, you still get credit. You still get some consideration for accepting responsibility.

So, defendants always have some incentive to plead guilty. They have perhaps more incentive. They get more consideration if they have valuable information. That said, Steve, it`s really hard to imagine that this guy doesn`t have valuable information.

Perhaps it`s not about the President. It could be about Michael Cohen. It could be about Kushner. It could be about a whole bunch of other people, folks whose names have not even surfaced yet. Either way, I think he has incentive to plead and cooperate.

Let`s remember most defendants become convicted felons. Most convicted felons become cooperators.

KORNACKI: All right. On that note, we will end this discussion. Chuck Rosenberg, Barbara McQuade, Josh Gerstein, thank you all for being part of it.

And coming up, what this all means politically for President Trump, His West Wing, and his party.

And later, the President wrongly blames Democrats for separating children and parents hoping to cross the border even as his administration keeps enforcing the policy.

"The 11th Hour" just getting started on this Friday night.



TRUMP: I know Mr. Manafort. I haven`t spoken to him in a long time, but I know him. He was with the campaign as you know for a very short period of time, relatively short period of time but I`ve always known him as a good man.


KORNACKI: That was President Trump last summer seeming to distance himself from his Former Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort after a pre-dawn raid on Manafort`s house.

Today, the President echoing the same message.


TRUMP: Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign, but I feel -- I tell you, I feel a little badly about it. They went back 12 years to get things that he did 12 years ago. You know, Paul Manafort worked for me for a very short period of time.

He worked for Ronald Reagan. He worked for Bob Dole. He worked for John McCain or his firm did. He worked for many other Republicans. He worked for me for what, 49 days or something. A very short period of time.


KORNACKI: As we`ve said, though, Manafort was campaign chairman for Trump for 144 days, and the two reportedly have had a business relationship for years. Back in 2016, Trump ally Newt Gingrich told Fox News that Manafort`s impact on the campaign should not be underestimated.


NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF HOUSE OF THE REPRESENTATIVE: I thought Paul did an important job in getting through the convention and getting the campaign more of a national campaign, more of a professional campaign. Nobody should underestimate how much Paul Manafort did to really help with this campaign to where it is right now.


KORNACKI: With the midterm elections now just months away and the Russia investigation appearing to be entering a new phase, what impact could all of this have on the President and the Republican Party? Here to talk about it, Michael Steele, Former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and an MSNBC Political Analyst, and Nancy Cook, White House Reporter for Politico.

Nancy, it`s interesting because so many Democrats, so many Trump critics, so many folks on the left seem to be following every incremental development of the Russia story. When I look at the messages that Democratic candidates are running on, though, Russia doesn`t seem to be as prominent.

NANCY COOK, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Yes. I think that for a lot of Democrats, you know, they don`t want to sort of overplay their hand. I think that, you know, privately there is a real interest in taking back the House, and I think that if that happens, the Democrat-controlled Oversight Committee would bury the President and the White House under investigations.

But I think that there`s a feeling that they don`t want to just play into this. They want to talk about other sort of forward-looking message that the Democrats could offer. They want to talk more about sort the economic stuff, tax cuts, health care, and sort of things that they can actually offer voters because I think to some voters, the Russia investigation feels sort of above their heads at a 30,000 foot level that they`re not necessarily thinking about day to day. And I think the Democrats are aware of that.

KORNACKI: Yes. Well, Michael, that`s what I hear from a lot of Democrats, that they feel politically if they`re talking about health care, they may be scoring more political points than if they`re talking about Mueller, if they`re talking about the investigation. From a Republican perspective, what is a worse issue to be talking about for a candidate, I guess? Defending -- trying to do away with Obamacare or defending the President on Mueller?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, I think it depends on what part of the country you`re from. Certainly if you`re, you know, a west coast or an east coast Republican, you don`t want to be having conversations about Donald Trump and investigations and Mueller. You want to make it local. It`s all politics will be local for you. So you`re going to be talking about close to bread and butter issues. You`re definitely going to be talking about the tax cuts if you`re Republican.

If you`re a Democrat -- and we`re starting to see this messaging starts to pop up in places like Maryland where it`s going to be a competitive race for governor, for example. You`re trying to do the tag the Republican candidate if you`re a Democrat to the President. Again, it depends on where you are. So there`s still a lot of turf left to cover before we really get a sense how Manafort and Mueller and Trump all play out for both parties going into September.

KORNACKI: And, Nancy, there is the possibility too that the way this Mueller investigation has been playing out is there will be an indictment here, a plea deal there, a leak here. But in terms of something comprehensive, a report, a conclusion, assertions from Mueller about what happened, what didn`t happen, we haven`t had that yet. There is the possibility, though, that something more definitive could break before this election and affect the campaign that way.

COOK: Of course, it certainly could. And it could be something in the form of, you know, a report to Congress. I mean we just don`t know because Mueller has played his cards so close to the vest.

I think the bigger risk for Republicans and for the Trump White House is just that, you know, Trump has really gone around and sort of undermined, tried to undermine a bunch of American institutions like the Department of Justice, the FBI. And I think in doing so, you know, he`s really sort of tried to, you know, create this echo chamber so that people are more suspicious of institutions. And I think that could have -- that could backfire on him a bit in the midterms because it could also mean that Republican voters or independent voters, you know, they`re just not less interested in the government, less trustful of the government, and may not want to come out to the polls. And that could hurt him particularly since Democrats are so fired up.

KORNACKI: I wonder what you make of that, Michael, because I was looking at some polls in the last couple of weeks and this question of how Republicans feel about Trump right now, this was striking to me. If you look at all the modern Presidents and how they were doing with their own party, not all voters, just their own party --

STEELE: Right.

KORNACKI: -- besides George W. Bush in the months after 9/11, no President has had his own -- had had a higher rating with his own party than Trump does right now.

STEELE: Right. Yes. That`s great. But how do you translate that at the ballot box for, you know, 218-plus Republicans who are trying to keep the majority in the House? That`s the dance. I mean Trump`s not on the ballot.

And so the question for the political arm of the White House and the RNC is how do you put Trump on the ballot without actually having him on the ballot? In other words, having a lot of the things that people that that base really likes about what he`s done, maybe not so much how he`s done it or the way he`s talked about it, but in other words, how they move towards going out to support that agenda, tieing that to candidates. And that gets back to the point I was just making, Steve, whether or not those candidates really want to carry that particular baggage because if the tariffs kind of implode on the tax cuts and the tax cuts kind of get lost because insurance premiums go up in September, October, and November, that`s going to be a tough narrative for Republicans to walk into November itself.

KORNACKI: Yes, it`s interesting trying to figure this out. We will find out with time, but it feels like everyone who wants to vote against Trump we know is going to turn out. It certainly feels that way.

STEELE: Right.

KORNACKI: A wild card there, folks who want to vote for Trump, will they turn out when Trump`s name isn`t actually on the ballot. Michael, Steele, Nancy Cook, thank you both for joining us.

And coming up, about 50 children per day. That is the average number of kids separated from their parents each day under a Trump administration zero-tolerance policy at the border. The President weighed in today, and that`s ahead when "The 11th Hour" comes right back.



TRUMP: The children can be taken care of quickly, beautifully, and immediately. The Democrats forced that law upon our nation. I hate it.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: But there`s no law that says families have to be separated at the border. There`s another way to go about it, Mr. President.

TRUMP: The Democrats gave us the laws. Now, I want the laws to be beautiful, humane, but strong. I don`t want bad people coming in. I don`t want drugs coming in. And we can solve that problem in one meeting.

Tell the democrats, your friends, to call me.


KORNACKI: That was President Trump today addressing the crisis at the border, where a staggering number of children have been taken away from their parents and sent to detention centers. As you heard, NBC`s Kristen Welker point out there, there is no law that requires children to be separated from their parents. In fact, it is the result of a Trump administration policy.

In April, the Department of Justice directed federal prosecutors to adopt immediately a zero-tolerance policy. That means everyone caught crossing illegally will be charged with a federal crime. The Department of Homeland Security confirms that nearly 2,000 children have been taken away from their parents since that policy took effect. And as our colleagues at all in exclusively reported tonight, 360 kids were taken from their families just between June 3rd and June 11th.

Joining me now is Jonathan Allen, NBC News National Political Reporter and Franco Ordonez, White House Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, covering immigration and foreign affairs.

And John Allen, let me start with you. And let me read to set this up from a "Washington Post" piece tonight that I think explains the calculation behind what you hear President Trump saying there in terms of trying to pin this on Democrats. They say, "President Trump has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate. The attempt to gain advantage from a practice the American Academy of Pediatrics describes as causing children irreparable harm sets up a high-stakes gambit for Trump, whose political career has long benefited from harsh rhetoric on immigration."

So, essentially "The Washington Post" there saying the President sees this policy as leverage to get a deal from Democrats on immigration.

JONATHAN ALLEN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS: Right. The President obviously believes that Democrats are going to be more concerned about this particular policy and that they`re going to be willing to give up more to him to get him to change this policy if he keeps it in effect, if he, you know, continues to do things like plan for tent cities.

I was on Capitol Hill today talking to conservative Republicans who said that their constituents don`t like these policies of separating families. Both the President and Republicans in Congress know that this policy is unsustainable politically, which is why they`re blaming Democrats for the policy that the President has put in place and that the attorney general has argued this week is a policy that essentially comes from God.

I don`t know if you saw Jeff Sessions` remarks about the Apostle Paul and the idea that laws should be obeyed because the people put in governance were put there by God. But a lot of the constituents of both Democratic and Republican members of Congress -- some of them believe in separation of church and state, but others also believe in a God that is compassionate and humane. What we are not seeing right now is compassion or humanity on the border.

KORNACKI: So, Franco, the White House is sending signals now that if the President sees this as leverage in trying to get something through on immigration that the contours of what they`re looking for includes the wall, it includes some limits -- some restrictions on legal immigration, protection for families at the border, and then a path to legal status for the dreamers.

Politically, given this situation at the border, is there any sense among Democrats, any appetite among Democrats to go down that road towards compromise, or is that just a complete dead end to start with?

FRANCO ORDONEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: I mean, let`s remember that back in January when they were talking about taking away DACA, the Democrats did jump all over, and they were ready to cut a deal, they were ready to pay for the wall. But the key issue here that you just mentioned is the legal immigration and slashing legal immigration in just a major percentile. I think that`s where the line is going to be drawn with Democrats and many Republicans.

They are very resistant to an overhaul of the tenets of the American immigration system because that really would change the fabric of how we do immigration, focusing on family migration and taking care and making sure you keep families together. And I think that`s also part of what you`re seeing today, this week, with some of the concerns about separating children and families.

It`s always been a moral issue for the United States to keep families together, and there`s concern about that we`re getting away from that.

KORNACKI: And Jon, the flip side of that that is you have Democrats, I think it was Dianne Feinstein now come out with a proposal just to address this issue with families at the borders, to codify something that would keep families together at the border. So, if that is sort of the counterpressure that Democrats apply here, you mentioned Republicans seem very uneasy with that -- with this administration policy. Is there a chance that Republicans start turning on this administration and turning toward legislation like that?

ALLEN: I mean not immediately. What you`ve seen is a Republican Party that is very much in lockstep with President Trump. And I think a lot of these lawmakers, even if they believe their constituents think that families should be kept together, I think a lot of them also believe that their constituents support President Trump more than they care about family unification on the Mexican/U.S. border.

You know, I think Franco is absolutely right that this has always been sort of a moral question in U.S. immigration policy about keeping families together, and it`s one that has survived for a long time. The idea that families should be able to be kept together once they`re here, and also, in fact, from one family member to bring other family members to the United States. And what we`re seeing is a White House that believes very strongly in a policy of stopping that kind of migration and is willing at least to separate families at the border for the purposes of driving political leverage.

KORNACKI: And Franco, what has the reaction been outside of the United States, in Latin America, to this? The White House -- excuse me -- the administration has seemed to make the case that this policy also is some kind of deterrent. Is it having that kind of effect? Is that how it`s being read?

ORDONEZ: I mean there`s certainly some more concern and more concern, but the conditions in El Salvador and Honduras are so bad that families have continued to take those risks. I mean it was last year where when the President started off, and he started this rhetoric, he started this bluster, and we did see record drops in migration to the United States. But that changed in the past year and now we`re seeing new high levels of migration to the United States.

Different experts have different reasons, but the big reason that they say is that, look, the laws are the laws. And if you can still prove that you have a credible fear, if you have a prove that -- if you can prove that if you return to El Salvador or Honduras that you could be killed, you could - - your life would be in danger, the laws here are the laws, and they will give you the chance to get a court hearing, to get your case in front of a judge. So, you do still have the opportunity to protect yourself and seek asylum.

President Trump calls those loopholes. Others say those are protections that the United States has issued as a port of moral reasoning. So, I think you`re going to continue to see these issues and you`re going to continue to see this fight, but it`s not going away.

KORNACKI: All right, Franco Ordonez, Jonathan Allen, thank you both for being with us.

ALLEN: Thank you.

KORNACKI: And coming up, is it a joke or does the President really want to be treated like North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un? "The 11th Hour" back after this.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we close to seeing Mr. Kim here at the White house?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They talk about that yesterday --


TRUMP: Yes, I think it`s something that could happen, yes. Hey, he`s the head of a country, and I mean he is the strong head. Don`t let anyone think anything different.


TRUMP: He speaks, and his people sit up at attention. I want my people to do the same.


KORNACKI: President Trump once again praising North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un and Kim`s control over the people of North Korea during an interview this morning. When later pressed by a reporter at an impromptu press conference on the White House lawn, Trump insisted that he was just joking.

The President`s comments follow "The Washington`s Post`s" reporting about Trump`s visit to Singapore, "At one point after watching North Korean television, which is entirely state-run, the President talked about how positive the female North Korean news anchor was toward Kim according to two people familiar with his remarks. He joked that even the administration-friendly Fox News was not as lavish in its praise as the state TV anchor, one of the people added, and that maybe he should get a job at U.S. television instead."

With us tonight, Ken Thomas, White House Reporter for the Associated Press, he was on the White House lawn with President Trump today. And retired four-star U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey, a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, a former battlefield commander in the Persian Gulf, he is now an MSNBC military analysts. Thank you both for being with us.

Ken, let me start with you because you were there and maybe you could add some context to this if there is any to add. The President says he was just joking in that Fox News interview. Explain what it was like, the interaction between the press and the President after that interview.

KEN THOMAS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, you know, there was -- there was questions about what he meant in this interview. We were able to get a rundown as it was happening on Fox. But, you know, this is an example of the President praising another autocratic leader. And, you know, we`ve seen it with Duterte in the Philippines. We`ve seen it with King Salman in Saudi Arabia. You know, we`ve seen it in a lot of places, especially with Vladimir Putin. And you have to juxtapose it with the lack of discussion that we saw on human rights in Singapore.

Kim Jong-un has 100,000 or more political prisoners. That`s the size of a city like South Bend, Indiana, or Gainesville, Florida, and it really didn`t merit a lot of attention. It certainly wasn`t a pre-condition to the meeting. So, I think there`s concern when the President speaks highly of these leaders and praises them that it`s an abdication of the moral leadership that the U.S. often provides around the world and presses leaders to do better on human rights and to do more on, you know, forcing democratic institutions.

KORNACKI: And General, as Ken says, there is this history of President Trump talking about autocratic leaders and he talks about the great control they have, the great power, these sorts of things. In this instance, I`m wondering, can you see any connection, any potential connection between President Trump offering these kinds of public comments about Kim Jong-un and any potential progress in terms of denuclearization, in terms of resolving this situation? Could one at least potentially be connected to the other?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (VET): Well, you know, first of all, I think it`s utterly preposterous to talk about how the North Korean people love with fervor Kim Jong-un. I mean he`s a mass murder. He`s slaughtered hundreds of his senior leaders. He`s a dangerous man. He`s killed his own family.

So to some extent, this is simply inane talk by the President. If he`s doing it because he thinks it`s going to change their strategic objectives of nuclear weapons, it won`t have any impact on it at all.

I think what it does have impact on is it unsettles democratic nations and a thoughtful citizens of the United States in particular on what is he up to. Does he actually admire Mr. Putin, this thug Duterte in the Philippines, Erdogan in Turkey who`s stamping out democracy? Is he actually comfortable dealing -- more comfortable dealing with autocrats than with the U.K. Prime Minister or Angela Merkel in Germany? And I think the conclusion may be, yes, he is.

KORNACKI: All right. A quick pause for us to squeeze in a break, both of you are staying with us though.

And coming up, why President Trump says it is President Obama`s fault that Russia invaded Crimea? That`s when "The 11th Hour" continues.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you planning to meet with Putin this summer?

TRUMP: Like I said, it`s possible that we`ll meet, yes. And I thought, you know, this all started because somebody one of you asked should Putin be in the G7? Yes, I know he`d be on G8, I think it`s better to have Russia in than to have Russia out.


KORNACKI: And today`s surprise and roving press conference, President Trump expressed the willingness to meet with Vladimir Putin and, again, said that he thinks Russia should be allowed back into the G7.

The New Yorker Susan Glasser reports that Trump is pushing his team to arrange a one-on-one meeting with Putin this summer. She cites a senior administration official familiar with the deliberations who says, "There is no stopping him. He`s going to do it. He wants to have a meeting with Putin, so he`s going to have a meeting with Putin."

President Trump also took aim at his predecessor today, blaming President Obama for Russia`s invasion and annexation of Crimea.


TRUMP: President Obama lost Crimea because President Putin didn`t respect President Obama, didn`t respect our country, and didn`t respect Ukraine.

The President Obama, not Trump. When it`s my fault, I`ll tell you. But President Obama gave away that -- now, President Obama by not going across the red line in the sand that he drew, I went across it with the 59 missile hits. But President Obama, when he didn`t go across the red line, what he gave away, nobody even knows.


TRUMP: But just to put it one more time, President Obama gave away Crimea. That shouldn`t ever happen.



KORNACKI: Still with us, Ken Thomas and General Barry McCaffrey.

General, the red line that President Trump`s referring today was 2013, Syria, Bashar al Assad, chemical weapons saying that President Trump -- President Obama at the time not following through on that red line sent a signal of weakness, led Putin to invade Crimea. Is that a credible claim?

MCCAFFREY: No, of course not.

Look, you know, Putin`s running a kleptocracy. The Soviet Union came apart, these people, the only we care about was the Russian right now are nuclear weapons, oil and natural gas, and cyber warfare. Their economy is less than that of Italy. Their life longevity is falling because of AIDS and heroin addiction and bad nutrition and alcoholism. There are threats to their near neighbors.

Putin -- and we keep talking about how clever Putin is. Putin`s ended up isolating these beautiful people, physicist, Mathematicians, ballet, literature, he`s got Russia isolated. So, it`s sort of a semi-dangerous basket case and we ought to deal with him as such.

KORNACKI: A fascinating poll we can show you today. Monmouth conducted this one and they asked Americans which world leader they think President Trump has the best relationship with. And you can see it`s a runaway there for first place, Vladimir Putin, 27 percent choosing him. Number of others there, Kim Jong-un you see up to 5 percent there.

But, Ken to you on Vladimir Putin in this reporting from Susan Glasser that they summit, a meeting, a one on one or some sort between President Trump and Vladimir Putin is now inevitable this summer. Is that your sense around this White House?

THOMAS: Yes, absolutely it`s a very strong possibility. The president is going to be going to the NATO meeting next month in Brussels, after that he`ll be going to the United Kingdom to meet with Theresa May. And the expectation is that he could add on a stop in Vienna to meet with Vladimir Putin.

So, you know, this is certainly a possibility. And his rhetoric on Crimea, I think he`s raising, you know, the possibility that, you know, what would be on the table in a meeting with Putin? Is he signaling perhaps a willingness for the U.S. to recognize Crimea as part of Russia that`s something that we have not been willing to do? And where is he looking at, perhaps lifting some of the sanctions. And both of those would be very controversial.

But this message that he`s been driving since the G7 in Quebec that Russia should be returned or be allowed to return to the G8 and that Obama is the reason why this invasion took place seems to be creating some type of opening for this meeting with Putin which we do think will happen.

KORNACKI: And in General, Ken is outlining things with Russia that Putin could stand to potentially to gain in a meeting like that. Is there anything the United States could gain through a meeting like that?

MCCAFFREY: No, I doubt it. I think, obviously continued dialogue with the Russians is important. They are a national security threat for sure to the Eastern European nation, particularly the Baltic States, Poland, Ukraine, they are continuing problem in Syria. We actually had a battle between Russian mercenaries and U.S. Forces. We may have killed a couple a hundred Russians. So, there are problem that we need to stay attuned to.

But, again, sort of back-off that this is not a great power, this is a kleptocracy. There is no reason to not stand behind NATO firmly and be ware of the national security threats from Mr. Putin to Eastern Europe in particular.

KORNACKI: General Barry McCaffrey, Ken Thomas, thank you both for your time.

MCCAFFREY: Good to be with you.

KORNACKI: Thanks. And coming up, the discourse in Washington has gotten so coarse. We are having to bleep senators. "The 11th Hour", back after this.


KORNACKI: The last thing before we go tonight. We`ve become used to hearing President Trump use rather blunt even salty language. But when it comes to the other power senators inside the beltway, there`s still is an expectation of decorum. Well, that changed a little today when Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, talked about his willingness to work with the White House.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Let me tell about the critics. When I worked with President Obama and I did on occasion, I was a hero. Now, when I work with President Trump, I`m two-faced.

I know how the game is played and I don`t give a damn. I`m going to do what`s best for the country, I like the President, I want to help him. So, if you don`t like me working with President Trump to make the world a better place, I don`t give a shit.


KORNACKI: That was Lindsey Graham on live television. And that wasn`t today`s sole moment of coarseness.

Trump attorney, Rudy Giuliani also took the opportunity to let lose when he spoke to the Huffington Post about the 2020 election. He had this to say about Joe Biden when the topic turned to the former Vice President running against Trump, "Joe Biden is a moron," Giuliani said, claiming that Biden finished last in his law school class at Syracuse and had been unable to understand issues Giuliani tried to discuss with him when he was a federal prosecutor and Biden was a Delaware Senator. "I`m calling Joe Biden a mentally deficient idiot," Giuliani said.

And that brought this response from Senator John McCain`s daughter, Meghan. "I`m disgusted by Giuliani`s abhorrent and idiotic comments about Joe Biden. Joe Biden is one of the great political leaders of all time. One of the truly decent men left in politics and someone my family has looked up for strength during the most difficult time in our lives."

That seems to put a stop to the flow of coarse comments today. We will see what tomorrow brings on the President`s Twitter feed.

And that is our Broadcast for Friday night. Brian will return on Monday. Thank you for being with us and good night from MNBC News Headquarters in New York.


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