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Trump under fire for family separation. TRANSCRIPT: 06/18/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Manny Fernandez, Eli Stokols, John Kasich, Cynthia Alksne, David Sanger

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: June 18, 2018 Guest: Manny Fernandez, Eli Stokols, John Kasich, Cynthia Alksne, David Sanger

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the haunting images and now audio of children separated from their parents at the border. We`re live in South Texas with a look at what one pediatrician calls government-sanctioned child abuse.

Plus, defiance from the White House as the Trump administration tries to blame Democrats and Congress for a policy of the President`s making and one that he could stop.

Reaction to all of this from one of our studio guests tonight, Ohio Governor John Kasich.

THE 11TH HOUR on a Monday night begins now.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 515 of the Trump Administration, and today`s news left millions of Americans with a helplessness and upsetting and depressing reaction almost unique in the modern era.

Across this country today, you could hear people saying some form of "This is not who we are." Well, officially it`s a new zero-tolerance immigration policy that has led to the forced separation of thousands of children and parents who are crossing over our southern U.S. corder with Mexico.

For so many the images and now the sound recordings have simply become too much. Too much for all of our four living former First Ladies, for example, and the current First Lady, who arrived here as an immigrant.

The pictures are disturbing and saddening enough. Then came this new audio recording of children at a detention facility first obtained by the news organization ProPublica, then by NBC News from a civil rights attorney, who said she received it from a client. It adds a new dimension to this crisis.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): I don`t want them to stop my father. I don`t want them to deport him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Daddy. Daddy. Daddy. Are you going to call my aunt so she can come pick me up? And then, so my mom can come as soon as possible.

My mommy says I`ll go with my aunt, and that she`ll come to pick me up there as quickly as possible, so I can go with her.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: President Trump has been defiant in the midst of all of this.

Eli Stokols of the L.A. Times is standing by to join us with more on this. But he writes in his latest piece, "For all the controversy, Trump`s hard- line stance is in keeping with the promises that defined and helped propel his unlikely bid for the presidency from the start three yeas ago.

Phil Rucker of "The Washington Post" has also been reporting on this and added this earlier tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PHIL RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: I was talking to one senior official last night in the White House who said -- you know, I said, "Is the President reacting to these images, to what he`s seeing on T.V.? We know he watches so much T.V. news. Is he reacting to this in an emotional way?" And this official said, "No, he thinks that the media is cherry-picking these images and the President`s aides are actually bringing him pictures showing these detained children smiling and plays games."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: More on that in a bit. The President has falsely blamed Democrats for the situation on the border. He did so again today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I say it`s very strongly the Democrats` fault, their obstruction. They`re really obstructionist, and they are obstructing.

The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee- holding facility. It won`t be. You look at what`s happening in Europe. You look at what`s happening in other places. We can`t allow that to happen to the United States, not on my watch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Secretary Of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen has been the point person to enforce the latest policy, and she has insisted the White House is enforcing the law, a point she made repeatedly in the White House briefing room today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you seen the photos of children in cages? Have you heard the audio clip of these children wailing that just came out today?

KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY: I have -- I have not seen something that came out today, but I have been to detention centers. And, again, I would reference you to our standards. I would reference you to the care provided not just by the Department of Homeland Security, but by the Department of Health and Human Services.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is the government only releasing images of the boys who are being held? Where are the girls? Where are the young toddlers?

NIELSEN: I don`t know. I`m not familiar with those particular images so I would have to --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where the girls are? Do you know where the young toddlers are?

NIELSEN: We have children in DHS care both, but as you know, most of the children after 72 hours are transferred to HHS. So I don`t know what pictures you`re referencing, but I`d have to refer you to HHS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We`ve seen images of boys but we just haven`t seen any girls, any of the young toddlers and you`re saying they are being well cared for. So how can you make that claim if you don`t know where they are?

NIELSEN: It`s not that I don`t know where they are. I`m saying that the vast majority of children are held by Health and Human Services. We transfer them after 72 hours. I don`t know what pictures you`re speaking about, but perhaps they`re --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Pictures that have been released to the public. They`ve been aired all over national television.

NIELSEN: OK, by DHS or by HHS?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: By HHS.

NIELSEN: OK. So let`s find out from HHS. I don`t think there`s anything other there than just the pictures --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Released by your department. I mean, they`ve been aired all over national television throughout the day, the kids who are being held in the cages. We`ve only seen the boys.

NIELSEN: I will look into that. I`m not aware there`s another picture.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: This zero-tolerance policy has been in the making for some time. When you look back, you realize the administration began hinting at it in plain sight over a year ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Our Department of Homeland Security Personnel going to separate the children from their moms and dads.

Yes, I am considering it in order to deter more movement along this terribly dangerous network. I am considering exactly that.

JEFF SESSIONS, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you, and that child may be separated from you as required by law.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you say to people who worry about the impact of separating parents and children?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don`t break the law. I mean that`s why they`re separated, because they`re breaking the law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: The criticism and scorn are now withering. And about those First Ladies, it`s Laura Bush`s opinion piece in "The Washington Post" that`s getting the most attention.

"I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral, and it breaks my heart. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese-American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history."

Members of Congress from both sides have also weighed in. They haven`t acted mind you. But tonight Senator Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, issued a statement saying in part, "The time is now for the White House to end the cruel, tragic separations of families. They are not consistent with our values. To blame previous administrations for a wrong committed today is not acceptable." Reminder, she`s a Republican.

Other members of the Senate agreed with that sentiment.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The President has the ability to stop this if he`d like. I understand that he wants to get a comprehensive fix of immigration. So do I.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS: All of us who are seeing these images of children being pulled away from moms and dads in tears, we`re horrified. This has to stop. Kids need their moms and dads, and we can keep the families together while these cases are pending.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: It`s not necessary. The law does not require it, and certainly ethics and morals don`t require it. This is not reflective of who we are as a country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, a new report in Politico indicates the President may be thinking of getting even tougher on immigration. "Top aides to President Donald Trump are planning additional crackdowns on immigration before the November midterms. The goal for Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and his team is to arm Trump with enough data and statistics by early September to show voters that he fulfilled his immigration promises even without a physical border wall or any other Congressional measure, said one Republican close to the White House."

Well, after the day we`ve had, let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Monday night. MSNBC Correspondent Mariana Atencio in McAllen, Texas, for us tonight. In Brownsville, Texas, Manny Fernandez, Houston Bureau Chief for "The New York Times." And here with us in New York, Eli Stokols, White House Reporter for the L.A. Times.

Understanding we have a bit of a satellite delay down to Texas tonight, Mariana, tell us how you spent your day there and the kinds of stories you`re hearing.

MARIANA ATENCIO, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Brian, I was a shelter run by catholic charities a couple of blocks from the Ursula processing center behind me, where I just want to emphasize over 1,100 children are spending the night alone, away from their parents. These are the children`s parents who were prosecuted for crossing the border illegally.

But at this shelter, where I`ve actually spent four days now, you see people who cross the border illegally with their children, were processed by ICE, and actually released with ankle monitors because NBC has learned that the zero-tolerance policy isn`t even at 100 percent capacity yet. DHS told our Jacob Soboroff that they`re at 60 percent capacity. So there are still families that call themselves the "lucky ones" because they crossed the border illegally. They`re not prosecuted, and they`re released by immigration officials.

But I saw a disturbing new trend that didn`t happen during the Obama Administration, and that is mothers separated from their children by agents at the border, even when they`re not being prosecuted.

I spoke to three mothers today who told me the same thing. Separated from their children, younger than 18 years old, something that is new to this administration that we`re trying to understand why it`s happening.

And when you hear, Brian, the stories of these children, because we are able to speak to them, who were separated from their parents at facilities like the one that you see behind me, you start to get a sense of the emotional trauma these kids are going through.

A little boy today, 10 years old, his name was Robert. His mom, Christina, brought him from El Salvador because gangs had tried to recruit him, threatening him with killing his mom and sister if he didn`t join. He told me that he cried himself to sleep every night. He told me that he slept on the floor with a blanket made of tin foil, that he would ask immigration officials, you know, "Where is my mom." And they wouldn`t even tell him where she was or when he could speak to her.

So, again, it was a horrific day because it just gives you a glimpse of what these families and especially the children are going through. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Manny, you`ve covered a lot of stories in your time from the Bronx to Brownsville, Texas. You were on that tour of the converted Walmart. Be our eyes and ears because we couldn`t get there, and far from the President`s accusation that we`re cherry-picking these stories, we`re getting only the pictures and stories the government allows us to get. We can`t walk freely with cameras.

What did you see in the converted Walmart that we all need to know about?

MANNY FERNANDEZ, HOUSTON BUREAU CHIEF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, there`s a couple things, Brian. I mean first it`s sort like touring a troubled school. You know, the problems are not written on the walls. You know, overall that Walmart, that former Walmart building, was clean.

The kids were being well fed. You could tell that they had fresh clothes. They had showered. They were getting haircuts. But, you know, there was 1,500 kids in that one facility. Five beds in one room. And that had been a rapid expansion from the last couple weeks.

And so the size of it, the rapid expansion of it, and then, you know, in hindsight, there`s a couple things that, you know, we`re sort of learning after the media tour, the stuff that they didn`t tell us. One of those -- just one example of that is that facility failed two fire inspections in April and May. It passed the most recent one, but it failed two of them, and that obviously did not come up in the tour.

WILLIAMS: Eli Stokols, let`s switch to politics because it`s a necessary part of this. Talk about the strategy today. The briefing was delayed by almost four hours. They finally then put out the Secretary of Homeland Security.

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Who had to fly back from New Orleans to do this.

WILLIAMS: That`s right. The President talked about this. Talk about their ownership of it, in some cases doubling down.

STOKOLS: Well, it was a double-down from the President earlier in the day and from Secretary Nielsen after 5:00 p.m. in the briefing room after reporters had waited a long time as the administration behind the scenes was trying to figure out what that briefing was going to look like, what the messaging was going to be and who would do it. I understand that Secretary Nielsen was advised not to do it by some people close to her, including Chief of Staff Kelly. But ultimately went out there and became, for better or worse, the face of this policy that is essentially at its heart Stephen Miller`s immigration policy. The zero-tolerance thing.

I mean as they continue to blame the Democrats and say, "Congress, if you want to change this, change the law." That`s fair. You can change this law. It has been on the books since the Bush Administration.

But the Bush Administration, the Obama Administration, and the Trump Administration up until two months ago were not enforcing this law in the way they have been for the last two months, where now we`re seeing the actual separation of families. And you played all the clips of all the people. Chief of Staff Kelly talking about this is a deterrent. And you`ve got the President out here disingenuously blaming Democrats.

I think the President, people around him always tell me, look, the immigration issue is a winner for us. It always has been. Democrats look soft on immigration. This is a button we`re going to continue to press up until the election. And he`ll probably always continue to press, but I think he`s so insulated from the reality, you talked about cherry-picking.

He thinks the media is cherry-picking these images. His staff, they`re cherry-picking the images they show to him because they have to continue to sort of allow him to keep that magical thinking going. And there`s just not a realization that this is different.

Yes, the immigration issue has worked and they`ve demagogued it in the past. But these images, the audio, these are children and it is playing in a very different way to the voters that they think have always sided with them on this issue. I don`t know if that`s the case at this point.

WILLIAMS: Mariana, let`s take a whack at Kristen Welker`s question that went unanswered. Where are the infants and toddlers? We know they`re out there somewhere. Where are the young women and girls? We`ve seen no pictures of them.

ATENCIO: Brian, we heard this horrific audio today from ProPublica that we know came from children ages four to 10. And one of the most disturbing pieces of that audio was the six-year-old girl from El Salvador saying, "Please at least get me to my aunt, you know. Get me out of here." And then just seeing these agents in there being so dismissive at these children`s cries, saying, you know, we have an orchestra here all we`re missing is a conductor. And those were children ages 4 to 10. It`s the very first time we`re hearing from them.

So you can just imagine these toddlers, children much younger and how they must be feeling and coping with. And then when you also think about the logistical nightmare that this has become for this administration, the very few caregivers that are inside facilities like the one behind me, actually caring for these children properly. Brian.

WILLIAMS: And, Manny, we heard that ratio was four social workers for about 1,000 kids. We also heard that any tactile contact is kind of being discouraged, that a lot of these kids just haven`t had any human touch.

FERNANDEZ: Yes, that`s true. And, you know, going back to what you said before about the question about the girls, I talked to a number of Democratic members of Congress who toured a Brownsville shelter that had about 80 children today. Most of those children were young teenage girls and there`s also toddlers and infants there.

And these members of Congress are very emotional, very upset about it. They talked about seeing one boy that they called Baby Roger, who is about eight or nine months old, who was a product of this Trump Administration`s family separation policy. They talked about another girl named Baby Leah, who is about 12 months old.

And Congressman Lujan from New Mexico got very emotional talking about it. He said he had to leave the room during the tour because it made him so upset to see this little girl and this little boy.

WILLIAMS: Eli, I`ve got 30 seconds left. Again, cold hard facts. This is polling two-thirds against the President now. Does he continue to ride his one-third on such a deeply unpopular thing?

STOKOLS: He might. He is that, you know, indebted to his base, and that is his concern first and foremost. It`s not trying to be a President for the entire country. It`s trying to make sure that base doesn`t leave him. That`s where his power is. That has what kept Republicans in place.

But I think what you`ve seen from Ted Cruz, from other Republicans who are not normally critics of this President, to go out and say this has to end and it`s not acceptable to blame Democrats. This is something the administration can end. That is different, and it is reflective of those poll numbers and the fact that this is not seen in a positive light by most Americans.

This is horrifying to most Americans based on polling and just based on your gut instincts as a human listening to that audio, watching those images and knowing how most people will react.

WILLIAMS: We are deeply indebted to our lead-off guests, especially those of you after a long day covering this story in Texas, Mariana Atencio, Manny Fernandez, Eli Stokols here with us in New York. Our thanks to all three of you.

And coming up, one of President Trump`s Republican opponents in 2016 is these days an outspoken critic of the President`s policy to separate these families. He`s with us next.

And later, while it didn`t get much coverage today, the President directed the Pentagon to do something it hasn`t done in 71 years. That would be to create a new branch of the United States military.

THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a busy Monday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: Welcome back. We watched in realtime today as this Trump Administration immigration order has gone haywire in the court of public opinion.

In his commentary on the CBS radio network today, Dave Ross said this. "The government`s own figures say agents have now separated close to 2,000 children. Those are American border agents, trained in America, paid by American taxpayers, following orders from an administration that ran on this policy and was elected by Americans."

"So this is who we are now. I`m sure that we would very much like to be a beacon of hope to the world, but that brought us too many strangers banging on the door. So it appears we will snuff out that light at least for now and change the locks."

"As a democracy, we have the power to reconsider, but in the meantime, we are the country you see. And according to the attorney general, it`s exactly how the Bible wants it."

We talked about all of it tonight with Ohio`s Governor, John Kasich, the Republican, the rumored 2020 presidential candidate, who visited us here in New York.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS: I suppose you`re up on what we`ve seen transpire all weekend and today. And I want to start with a very basic question. What is happening? What is it you think we`re witnessing right now?

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: Brian, you and I are, you know, kind of contemporaries. We`ve never seen anything quite like this. You know, the heart of America has always been about caring. You know, and here we are in New York, and right out here is the grand old lady welcoming people.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

KASICH: I was on Ellis Island, I guess about a year ago, and my own family, my grandparents came over, and they were welcomed. And then when you look at the border and you see young children being taken from their mothers and fathers, you know, as a young kid, could you imagine if you were yanked away from the people that were raising you?

WILLIAMS: No.

KASICH: And I hope there`s just -- and this problem has existed for a while, but this solution is insane. It`s ridiculous. You can`t start dividing families.

And, Brian, the thing that is so interesting -- not so interesting but good and heartening now is the outpouring of support from both parties. You know, Laura Bush wrote a piece in "The Washington post."

WILLIAMS: Yes.

KASICH: I think finally you`re beginning to see some congressmen raise cane about this, and then hopefully they -- I don`t know if they`ll get this immigration bill through, but you`d like to see the administration say, the solution to this problem at the border is not to separate families and to create conditions that are intolerable. This is not the America that you and I have known throughout our lifetime here.

WILLIAMS: A lot of people feel that this one, this crisis will leave a mark. This feels different from anything before it during the Trump years, and like it or not, this President has an "R" after his name, which for a long time has been your political party.

KASICH: Brian, there have been a lot of things that have happened since this administration has taken office that I thought would never be accepted. I don`t know how this is going to go down with the base. And here`s the problem. I think base politics now in our country is different than I`ve ever seen it.

I mean I was in Congress for 18 years. We never decided, I can`t remember when we ever decided, "OK, we can`t do this or we can do this because of the upcoming election." If there was anything that was incumbent on us, it was to do something good. And I just hope that the base will look at the facts and take off partisan glasses.

But I have to also tell you, you know, I said earlier today on one of the shows here on the channel, I remember when we went through the government shutdown, and I felt as though the Democrats had walks away from DACA. We`re not seeing the kind of courage that we`re so used to seeing, the kind of courage embodied by somebody like John McCain or Bob Dole or people that said, "America counts and our soul matters and our hearts matter". It`s just I`m not familiar with this.

WILLIAMS: So where did the burn down the house movement start? If you and I went to Eldora Speedway, of the great dirt tracks in America, this weekend and walked around in the stands and talked to people, I`m guessing we`d find a good number of the "I`d rather burn down the house than continue our current path". Where did that come from?

KASICH: You know, I`m not sure. I mean was it Vietnam? Was it Ruby Ridge? Was it the impeachment, you know, leaving the office, impeachment, and removal of Nixon? Was it -- as I saw that great movie "The Post" this weekend, was it the Pentagon papers?

I think it`s been happening over a period of time. And then I think people have -- there was an unbelievable story. I`m so glad we`re doing this interview in this kind of a way. We`re ought to do some sound bite.

I read a story today on the CBS website saying how Americans have lost so much faith in all the institutions that you and I grew up admiring and respecting. I mean if we lose confidence in our institutions, where are we supposed to go?

WILLIAMS: Look at the FBI.

KASICH: Well, that was one of them, that, you know, people have lost confidence in that, in the court, in the Congress, in the news media. This is a bigger problem for our country, Brian, than any single event. People losing faith in what`s the truth, you know. And what is the answer for this? I think the answer is courage. I do.

I think the answer is for you and I and our people that watch, people that, you know, turn off the lights at night. You don`t have to be a big shot. Begin to say that, I need to be kinder. I need to understand, and I need to love my neighbor as I love myself.

I think there has to be, you know, a reckoning that we`re all in this together, and somehow it`s just divided. And like you say at that dirt track, people would be yelling and screaming at one another there. That`s not how -- we`ve got to get back on track.

Do I think we can? I do, but I have to tell you I think faith is a big quotient in this. The fact that the Lord has placed -- and, look, if you don`t happen to believe in that, if you`re a humanist, that`s great. You want to make the country better. But for those of faith, I think the Lord has written the roadmap on our hearts about the way we`re supposed to treat one another.

And that`s why when I look down at the border, and I feel as though that in some people`s eyes, these people are objects. They`re not people. Well, they are people. They`re flesh, and they`re blood, and they bleed, and they cry. We have to care about them.

How we ultimately solve this, because it`s something that needs to be addressed. It doesn`t take away from the fact that the human element is what`s most important here. We have an expectation to do something that`s bold and has courage and is big and is righteous. And I don`t see it happening right now. Hopefully it will move.

Is that all -- that`s a lot there.

WILLIAMS: Yes, and it all makes sense. And I am duty-bound to ask you if you`re going to get in the game and run for this kind--

KASICH: Oh I am in the game. I`m here on your show.

WILLIAMS: Well, this -- we have a lot of people on our show. Very few of them have run for president.

KASICH: Yes. Well, I don`t know, Brian. I want to keep my voice out there. All my options are on the table. I don`t know what I`m going to do. We`ll see. And I`m not trying to duck it. I just don`t know what the future brings because every five minutes -- look, you have to do live television. Nobody will do tapes anymore because five minutes from now, whatever you said is outdated.

WILLIAMS: That`s true.

KASICH: It`s just remarkable. So I don`t know. But I want to stay involved and be out there, and I`ll figure out a way to do it, I hope.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS: Coming up, we`re going to take a break here. But in way fewer than five minutes, we`re going to come back and tell you why Governor Kasich says he hopes nothing is found in the Mueller investigation. That when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: John Kasich was our first ever guest on our first ever night of this broadcast and we`re back with a bit more of our conversation from tonight with the Ohio governor. Among other things, John Kasich told me he hopes Mueller comes up with nothing on President Trump.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS: How do we get through this? The President`s campaign chairman is in jail. You and I get to go home at the end of our shift tonight. The President`s campaign chairman is in jail. How and when does this end?

KASICH: Well, I don`t know. We`re going to get to the bottom of the whole investigation with Mueller and see where that comes out. It can`t be hurried. They have to take their time. I hope there will be a resolution of it. And I hope that there`s nothing found to be honest with you.

I don`t want to see the President in trouble. You know, we saw what happened with Nixon. I mean, we saw what happened with the impeachment of Bill Clinton. It`s not good for the country.

But I also want to say, Brian, that we need to just stop looking at the prism of politics. You know, when we think about the Wells Fargo`s that took advantage of their customers, when we think about the pedophiles that went on in the clergy, when we think about these things, a lot of America has become infected. Does that mean we`re doomed?

No, because the other side, the light will always outshine the darkness. And, you know, I know you, I think, at one time you were a divinity student. I think you were a Jesuit or something like that.

WILLIAMS: No.

KASICH: Then I got the wrong Williams.

WILLIAMS: That`s okay. There`s a lot of us.

KASICH: The fact is that I remain hopeful that people will find their way. And I`m not certain to count on the big shots or all the politicians. I`m hopeful and counting on the public with leaders beginning to rise. And when you think about these guys in D.C., the Carlos Curbelo`s and the Will Hurd`s, Will on the Hill, I see, that`s what his moniker is. They`re beginning to step up. I wondered when it was going to happen.

WILLIAMS: Very few of them out there, though.

KASICH: I know. But, Brian, it`s always starts with a few, those who are determined. Martin Luther King didn`t automatically have huge crowds. It came after a while.

WILLIAMS: You made a lot of friends last time out and you gained a lot of admirers when you ran. As you said, people who hadn`t heard of or followed John Kasich. You would hope to fire up that base if you get back into it.

KASICH: You know, I don`t know. I don`t know what`s going to happen. I`m not going to get into some --

WILLIAMS: You really don`t know?

KASICH: You know what? Look at me. I really don`t. I don`t know what`s going to happen. But all my options are there. I`m not closing anything down, and we`ll see. We`ll just see. These are times that are so turbulent and uncertain, you just be prepared.

And you know, it`s sort of like in a basketball. You used to play basketball. I played basketball. Just want to be around the rim because sometimes the ball will bounce off, and you better be there to grab it.

WILLIAMS: John Kasich, thank you very much. You`re a good man. Thank you, sir.

KASICH: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS: State of Ohio has supplied eight US presidents, our conversation tonight with the current Governor John Kasich.

Coming up, President Trump claims that the new Justice Department report from its inspector general exonerates him on the question of Russian collusion. Well, today the inspector general was asked if he agrees. His answer when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Do you have any reason to believe that this investigation has been discredited?

CHRIS WRAY, DIRECTOR, FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION: Senator, as I said to you last month, and as I said before, I do not believe Special Counsel Mueller is on a witch hunt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: That was the head of the FBI, Christopher Wray, testifying before Senate Judiciary this morning. He and Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz were on the Hill to defend the IG report on the FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton`s e-mails.

The investigation found that former FBI Director James Comey breached protocol and was insubordinate but was not politically motivated in his handling of the Hillary Clinton e-mail probe. President Trump has touted the report`s findings as proof the Justice Department was out to get him and declared that it cleared his name. But the inspector general disputed those claims today.

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LEAHY: There`s nothing in the report that says it exonerates the President from any question of collusion with the Russians. It says nothing one way or the other, is that correct?

WRAY: We did not look into collusion questions.

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WILLIAMS: With us tonight to talk about it, Cynthia Alksne, a former Federal Prosecutor and a veteran of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. Cynthia, welcome back to the broadcast, I`m about to ask you about the inspector general. Is the only reason we`re talking about this, the fact that the president erroneously came out and said that the document cleared him?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Probably. You know, he likes to lie about things, so that`s not surprising that he`s chosen this. But the inspector general`s report did not go into either the collusion or even the obstruction investigation. That`s Bob Mueller`s job, and he will tell us when he`s ready what the answer to those questions are.

WILLIAMS: Maggie Haberman of the New York Times made a point over the weekend that President Trump has really devoted social media, his Twitter feed, to his own self-defense. Every day a fusillade including but not limited to charges of a witch hunt. With your knowledge of the Mueller operation and the Mueller mindset, how do you think that has gone over?

ALKSNE: I think they ignore it. I really do. I think Bob Mueller would view that as unimportant and not something he needs to follow. The President can tweet all I wants, and Bob Mueller is not the least bit interested in his tweets.

WILLIAMS: I want to read you reporting of our own Ken Dilanian about this meeting with Roger Stone and Mr. Caputo. Roger Stone and Michael Caputo say they forgot to tell investigators about their contact with a Russian national who goes by the name Henry Greenberg even though they say this Greenberg fellow offered to sell incriminating information to the Trump campaign for $2 million.

Well, first of all, how often in life are you just offered $2 million for campaign dirt, so I can see them forgetting? How is Mueller likely to approach that story? Why didn`t you tell us the first time?

ALKSNE: He`s likely to approach it as a lie. That`s basically what it is. I mean this guy came to them. He was a Russian. And Caputo knew he was a Russian. He set up the meeting with Roger Stone. Roger Stone met him. He had a heavy Russian accent. He was -- Roger Stone remembered his accent. He remembered his hat. He remembered his t-shirt. He remembered he offered him $2 million in return for dirt. And then they had text messages exchanged. And then he forgot it all. Now what are the chances of that?

And suddenly when Bob Mueller`s office could produce the text to Caputo when he was being interviewed, they remembered. It was just a miracle. It just came back up. It was just shocking. So now they`re amending their testimony to try to get away from not being charged with perjury.

WILLIAMS: Cynthia, every time you come on, I like to ask you how many weeks the Mueller investigation is running ahead of the news coverage, and what inning do you think the investigation`s in right now?

ALKSNE: Well, I think that Bob Mueller takes very seriously, and especially now after the report from the investigators about the inspector general, I apologize -- about the effect of the Comey investigation on the 2016 election, going to be very conservative.

And my guess would be, if he cannot get this investigation wrapped up by September 1 at the latest and even more likely maybe August 1, they will just be in shutdown mode and not do any report because they don`t want to affect the 2018 elections. And they`ll be very conservative about it.

The Department of Justice rules are very solid that you are not to interfere with an election. He will take that very seriously, more seriously now because of what happened with Comey.

WILLIAMS: Because at the end of the day he`s a by the book guy. Cynthia Alksne, thank you for coming back on our broadcast. Always appreciate having you.

Coming up for us, we`ll take you to the front of a new war the US is fighting right this very minute.

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ADMIRAL MIKE ROGERS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: I believe that President Putin has clearly come to the conclusion there`s little price to pay here.

SENATOR ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Bingo.

ROGERS: And therefore I can continue this activity.

WARREN: Yes.

ROGERS: Everything both as a director of NSA and what I see on the cyber command side leads me to believe if we don`t change the dynamic here, this is continue and 2016 won`t be viewed as something isolated. This is something that will be sustained over time.

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WILLIAMS: That was the Intelligence veteran, former head of the NSA Admiral Mike Rogers, warning back in February that not enough was being done to deter electronics attacks by Russia or by anyone else for that matter.

David Sanger is with us in our studio tonight. He is National Security Correspondent for the Times, in his spare time he shared in three Pulitzers at the paper. His new book, also read in his spare time, "The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age", it`s in actual bookstores tomorrow. It goes on sale on the web if we`re still at this in a couple of minutes it will open up. Welcome to you.

DAVID SANGER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Great to be back with you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: I`m opening the page. I dog eared and one particular sentence. While the Americans dithered, the Russians feasted. You were talking about the DNC hack, but it seems to me that`s the thesis statement for the whole book. I have a dual question, how would we react to being under attack were this in normal times, how it would feel like in America? And number two, how have we raised our game since you started reporting for this?

SANGER: You know, we have raised the game. The problem is that the attacks and the attack space because we`ve connected everything to the internet has increased faster than we`ve been able to raise the game.

This is a book about how countries have come to the conclusion that cyber is the main way to undercut their adversaries. It`s stealthy, hard to figure out where it came from. It can be highly targeted. It`s unlike a nuclear weapon in that regard. And the best part of all, they can dial it up and dial it down so that the United States will not come back and whack a country that attacks us.

And if there`s a lesson of the past five or six years and you have heard Admiral Rogers say that on there, it`s they`ve figured out there is no price to pay, and that`s because the succession of presidents, Republicans and Democrats, have not figured out how to make anyone pay a price.

WILLIAMS: You and I have been around the very impressive graduates of the service academies all our lives, and they create leaders and they create war fighters. Are places like West Point now creating cyber warriors like we need?

SANGER: One of the most interesting and impressive things I`ve seen is every service academy I`ve been to, West Point, the Air Force, Annapolis, they are all building cyber centers, they`re all training their people. It`s not a problem for training. It is a problem of strategy. We don`t have one.

If you sit people down and figure out what our nuclear strategy and nuclear deterrent strategy is, people can play it out. It wasn`t easy to come to it. We spent 1950s trying to figure it out. We stepped all over ourselves in cyber for a couple of reason.

First, there is so much secrecy around cyber weapons. What we`ve got with the capabilities are that no one will discuss it. If you don`t discuss it and debate it, you can`t figure out what your strategy is. The second problem that we`ve got, is that the cyber weapons themselves we`re scared to use because of the fear that Vladimir Putin will come back and escalate.

And there scenes in the book from the Russia hack before the DNC, when the Russians came into the State Department, to the White House, to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. President Obama did not publicly name the Russians, and did not do anything back to them. So why would Vladimir Putin come to any other conclusion, Brian, other than the DNC, who cares about the DNC? It`s run by a bunch of college kids.

WILLIAMS: The very same Vladimir Putin who may get his wish for a summit with President Trump. Here is the cover of the book. You can come to your own conclusions at the very end of it. It is a wild ride through the middle, including that sentence that turns out to be the thesis statement in the middle. David Sanger, a lot of luck to you.

SANGER: Great to see you.

WILLIAMS: Great to see you. Thank you for coming to our studio, we appreciate it. It is called "The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age."

Coming up, The President today used the term "separate but equal" without irony and referring to something else entirely. We will show you the moment and the comment when we come back.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We are doing a tremendous amount of work in space. I said maybe we need a new force. We`ll call it the space force and I was not really serious and then I said what a great idea. Maybe we`ll have to do that. That could happen.

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WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go here tonight, the President today attended a meeting of the National Space Council. Among its members are veteran astronauts, Eileen Collins, the pride of Elmira, New York, Jack Schmitt and Buzz Aldrin. During the President`s remarks, he suddenly awarded himself credit for revitalizing space travel before going on to suggest an enormous change over at the Pentagon.

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TRUMP: It`s patriots like you that are the reason why America was first in flight, first to the moon and why America will always be first in space. You know, before I got here, it wasn`t looking so good.

When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space. I`m hereby directing the Department of Defense and Pentagon to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the Armed Forces. We are going to have the Air Force and we are going to have the Space Force, separate but equal.

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WILLIAMS: Just to repeat, the President today proposed a new branch of the military. The Space Force would join the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. The Pentagon says its policy board will now try to figure out how this would work. We should note as we leave you there already is a US Air Force Space Command, the collective effort of about 38,000 people who operate under the official motto, "Guardians of the high frontier."

Well, for all of us down here, that`s our broadcast on a Monday night as we start off a new week. Thank you so very much for being with us here. Good night from NBC News headquarters here 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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