Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: June 20, 2018 Guest: Anita Kumar, Sam Stein, Katty Kay, Joyce Vance, Connie Schultz, Jon Ralston, Michael Crowley, Julia Ioffe
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: We`re out of time. That is tonight`s Last Word. THE 11TH HOUR with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, a stunning about face from President Trump after falsely blaming Democrats after falsely saying only Congress could fix the problem. The President signs a piece of paper ending his own policy of separating children from parents at the border.
But tonight at a red-meat rally in Duluth, he goes back to some old campaign rhetoric and promises, toughness on the boarder.
And a reminder tonight that back in Washington, the criminal investigation goes on. This evening, there are new details on the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians. The reporter who broke the story is our guest tonight.
THE 11TH HOUR begins now.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. Day 517 of the Trump Administration. It saw the President cave in the face of a humanitarian and publicity disaster of his own making.
Here was the scene this afternoon. The President in the Oval Office flanked by his loyal Vice President and Secretary of Homeland Security in a tableau that had the weft of a hostage video for them. The President proceeded to casts himself in an almost heroic role of ending a policy he started, that one that went on to separate families at the border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We`re signing an executive order, I consider to be a very important executive order. It`s about keeping families together while at the same time being sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border. I didn`t like the sight or the feeling of families being separated.
It`s a problem that`s gone on for many years, as you know, through many administrations, and we`re working very hard on immigration. It`s been left out in the cold. I think the word compassion comes into it, but it`s still equally as tough, if not tougher.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Tonight, an HHS spokesperson told NBC News they received no new orders on how to handle the roughly 2300 children who have already been detained. Put more directly, there, at this moment, is no mechanism to reunite parents and children while they await court hearings.
The story reached something of a crest last night when we learned from the "Associated Press" that young migrant children were being held inside this so-called tender age facilities in undisclosed facilities in South Texas. It was inevitable that photos and images would eventually emerge of young children in such places.
Well, tonight "The New York Times" obtained at least this picture from inside a shelter in Brownsville, Texas. The image shows a toddler playing on the floor. The only evidence of an adult presence are the nearby shoes with sanitary covers on them. According to the person who took the photo, the girl was separated from her relatives for about a month as part of this family`s separation policy.
Just last night the local news network in New York City, New York One shot this video of children confirmed by the New York governor to be from the southern border heading into a foster agency shelter New York City. We have since learned that separated children have been dispatched to 14 different states, again, with no mechanism to match them back to their parents.
And remember where we`ve been as this crisis has grown over the past several days, President Trump and his administration have refused to acknowledge this was a problem of their own creation, and a problem that could be stopped quickly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And I say it`s very strongly the Democrats` fault. Their obstruction. They`re really obstructionists, and they are obstructing.
KIRSTJEN NIELSEN, UNITED STATES HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Congress and the courts created this problem, and Congress alone can fix it.
STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: People said, "Look, you ripped these families apart even though it is the law, it`s heartless."
TRUMP: That`s the law, and that`s what the Democrats gave us. And we`re willing to change it today if they want to get in and negotiate.
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Why doesn`t the President pick up the phone and change the policy? He said he hates it.
NIELSEN: I think what the President is trying to do is find a long-term fix. So why don`t we have Congress change the laws? No, Congress would fix this tomorrow.
TRUMP: Excuse me. We need a one vote. We have a one-vote edge. We need 60. We need ten votes. We can`t get them from the Democrats. Wait. Wait. You can`t do it through an executive order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The title of the executive order the President signed today was important to this White House to keep the focus on Congress, yet the title, the world separation, was misspelled and has since been corrected. Typos happen, of course, just not typically on executive orders.
Michael Shear of "The Washington Post" points out tonight that for Trump what mattered most in addressing the family separation crisis was looking strong.
"The projection of strength, after all, has always been the central pillar of Trump`s politics, the reason behind his constant attraction to conflict and a main draw for voters desperate for change and a powerful ally. And immigration has always been his favorite arena for flexing his rhetorical muscles."
And indeed tonight at campaign-style rally in Duluth, Minnesota, President Trump wasted no time returning to his favorite subject.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: By the way, today I signed an executive order. We`re going to keep families together, but the border is going to be just as tough as it`s been. So we`ve already started the wall. We got $1.6 million. The wall has been started. San Diego and lots of different places.
The media never talks about the American victims of illegal immigration. I know them well. I know so many of them. I campaigned with them.
What`s happened to their children? What`s happened to their husbands? What`s happened to their wives? The media doesn`t talk about the American families permanently separated from their loved ones, because Democrat policies release violent criminals into our communities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Quick point of fact, the wall hasn`t been started. Just repair work on existing sections.
Let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Wednesday night. We welcome back Katty Kay, veteran Journalist and Anchor for BBC Wold News America, Sam Stein, Politics Editor for "The Daily Best," Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent from McClatchy Newspapers, and Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor.
Anita, you have covered this issue and this man both for a long time. How monumental was what we witnessed today?
ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Oh, it was definitely a turning point in this entire issue. I mean, we have heard for days that -- weeks that he would not budge on this issue. And we heard him say, and you played the clip of him saying, "I can`t do this by executive order." And then we saw him do it.
What really struck me is how many times on the campaign trail and in his rallies and just in conversation that he talks about how President Obama did things by executive order that he shouldn`t have done, that he relied on it too much. And then here he is doing the same thing.
You know, President Obama did rely on executive orders when Congress wouldn`t agree on something or wouldn`t act. And now President Trump has found that he`s in the same position.
WILLIAMS: Sam, I`m going to read you the work of Josh Dawsey et al over at "The Washington Post" tonight. "Trump surprised his aides by ordering them to write an executive order and saying he wanted to sign it before leaving for Minnesota." Indeed, his limousine is visible out the window on the south lawn.
"Chief of Staff John Kelly and White House Counsel Don McGahn pushed back, arguing that an executive order could not be written to comply with the legal limits on child detentions, an argument that Trump had championed publicly in recent days, prompting a debate among the President and his aides. Kelly urged the President to continue pressing Congress to pass a law, and argued that signing an order would not solve the problem. McGahn continued to question the legality of the executive order, according to officials."
"Many aides, though, including importantly Ivanka Trump and Kellyanne Conway urged the President to end the separations. Eventually, after a number of meetings, ideas and drafts, McGahn said the final product could be legal."
Sam, does the tipping point or tipping person matter?
SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEST: No, not really. I think in the end, Trump is so impulsive that it might have just been an episode on "Fox and Friends" that could have done the trick. The debate internally is what matters.
And what we`ve set up here, I think this legal -- you need to actually pass them because what we set up going forward is potentially a system in which we`re talking about indefinite detention of families, including the children and parent unit together. This could be in a legal act because there`s a decision which essentially says you cannot hold a child for 20 days after that period.
And we may end up in a court battle here where Trump may says we want to keep the family unit together but want to detain them together. And then child is with the parent, but we could go against the other decision. That could set up a very difficult, very bitter, very problematic political fight.
But I`ve talked to a bunch of immigration advocates today, including some people on the Hill. And they`re worried that by taking this act, by doing this executive action today, Trump may have taken the spotlight off of himself, but the importance, the toxicity of the issue won`t go away because of the new executive order being in effect.
WILLIAMS: And Congress will, of course, rush in and act immediately.
STEIN: Oh yes. Well-known expeditiously act in Congress.
STEIN: No, I mean, this is a huge problem, right? We have the House, which is considering two sort of broader pieces of immigration legislation, neither which seem likely to pass. The Senate has about three or four different options. No one has called us around one.
We`ve seen for decades now that Congress hasn`t able to move on immigration reform even in light of these humanitarian disasters. I don`t see any will on the Hill to actually address this. So we could end up debating this for weeks if not months to come.
WILLIAMS: Katty Kay, you heard the President tonight, red-meat crowd, very tough of Minnesota, talking about almost a glancing mention of how he signed the executive order today but the border is going to be just as tough as ever. Talk about the dueling Trumps, if you will.
KATTY TUR, ANCHOR, BBC WOLD NEWS AMERICA: I`m not sure there really are dueling Trumps. I think the President was dragged into having to reverse himself on this very one issue of separating parents from their children when they cross into the country. But when you listen to him throughout the course of the day, his gut is still hard line on this. When he talked about not wanting to be weak, wanting to be strong, actually, I would like to be strong even if that`s unpalatable to people. That`s where the President is.
It`s just that he had so many Republicans come to him from suburban districts who said, "Look, this is killing us with numbers. This is going to make the midterms even harder." And he had his wife, he had his daughter, he had Kellyanne Conway coming to him, saying these images are not helping, it has to stop. And so he changed his position.
I think he changed his position. He was dragged into changing his position. His instinct is still to be tough on the issue.
WILLIAMS: Joyce, listening to you today, I heard this in a new light when you said simply the administration had started deciding to prosecute misdemeanors and that set in order a chain of reactions, including but not limited to family separation. So the question to you as a Former U.S. Attorney, how do you fix this now? How does the word filter down to all the border check points? And it does nothing to address wrongs that have been committed.
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The action taken inside of DOJ that led to entire debacle with a relatively recent order by Attorney General Sessions that prosecutor should use a zero tolerance policy in prosecuting first-time misdemeanor offenses. In other words, people who entered the United States unlawfully for the first time. And it was their arrest and their introduction into the criminal system that triggered their separation from their children who, of course, could not accompany them to jail.
So the Attorney General could fix that problem today at any point in time simply by revoking the zero tolerance order and telling prosecutors, "You no longer have to prosecute all of these misdemeanor cases. You can return to using your discretion." But he explicitly didn`t do that today.
The Attorney General was up on the Hill announcing that the zero tolerance policy would continue. And so that seems to be a little bit at odds with this goal of reunifying families and children unless that reunification will happen in semi permanent prison camps. Which looks like that will be the form that family separation 2.0 will take in this country.
WILLIAMS: Anita, it`s not impossible to imagine a President flying back to Andrews after Duluth realizing that a lot of the coverage includes the word caved, perhaps lashing out on social media. What do you anticipate him doing tomorrow?
KUMAR: Right. Well, I`m sure there will be some messages on Twitter first thing in the morning before we all wake up.
You know, I mean he is not going to like the coverage, but he clearly didn`t like the coverage in the last few days, right? He`s the one that saw, you know, these videos, these pictures, these sounds of children crying. And he didn`t like it at all. And, you know, obviously Republicans on Capitol Hill were telling him to please do something.
He`s not going to like the coverage this evening, and so we`ll see what he does. I mean, it was very telling tonight that he went back to that same rhetoric. He wanted to appear tough.
I think the reason he didn`t get rid of the zero tolerance policy is because he wants to seem tough still. So he`s saying we don`t have to separate families, but I`m still going to keep on with this policy.
STEIN: Just a point of maybe personal privilege in editorial when we`ve talked about Trump wanting to appear tough and strong.
STEIN: I don`t get why separating children from parents is an act of toughness or strength. In fact, it`s a weakness. It`s picking on the most vulnerable people possible. So maybe I`m getting ahead of myself a little bit over my skis, but I think the framing is all wrong on that. So, that`s all.
WILLIAMS: Katty Kay, part of your job is portraying our country to a global audience, and in turn, hearing what our allies, at least I think most of them are still there, are talking about us. What can you report from that front?
KAY: Look, this story has been on the front pages of papers certainly in Britain and across Europe over the last few days. Theresa May, the Prime Minister, was pushed into having to make a response and criticized the policy after unflattering newspaper headlines, asking why she was being silent on this.
The Canadians have responded. The Mexicans have responded at a time when the United States, ironically, is pulling out of the U.N. Council on Human Rights. There are children being separated from their parents on American soil.
It doesn`t look good for America to be in this position, and after a couple of weeks in which we`ve had a battering of America`s alliances with some of its longest-standing allies, this doesn`t help. This doesn`t help America`s reputation in the world.
WILLIAMS: Politics aside, if it`s possible to say that in 2018, this remains a relentlessly depressing story for those born with even a lick of empathy.
Katty Kay, Sam Stein, Anita Kumar, Joyce Vance, thank you very much for starting off our conversation.
And coming up for us, the Trump separation policy was too much for at least one long-time Republican strategist. What a long-time friend of this broadcast announced today in protest of it.
And later, new reporting on the Trump Tower meeting with the Russians that`s been the source of so much trouble for this President.
"The 11th Hour" on a Wednesday night continues after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Democrats want open borders. Let everybody come in. Democrats don`t care about the impact of uncontrolled migration on your communities, your schools, your hospitals, your jobs or your safety. Democrats put illegal immigrants before they put American citizens. What the hell is going on?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: There was plenty of strong language on immigration at that rally tonight in Duluth, Minnesota with just a passing mention of the thousands of children who have been taken from their parents. This crisis on the border is resonating in every corner of our country. Watching all this unfold proved too much for a veteran Republican political staffer who we have come to know very well on this broadcast.
On Twitter today, Steve Schmidt announced, "Today, I renounced my membership in the Republican Party. It is fully the party of Trump." Here to talk about it tonight, Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-winning and long-time veteran of the Cleveland Plain Dealer who is now a Nationally Syndicated Columnist, and Jon Ralston, veteran Journalist himself and Editor at the Nevada Independent. Welcome to you both.
Connie, the great and sensible State of Ohio, home of Eldora Speedway and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, has given this country eight American presidents on its own. This last time it went for Donald Trump. And I`m counting on you to tell me where, if at all, public opinion has migrated on this President during this crisis.
CONNIE SCHULTZ, PULITZER PRIZE-WINNING SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, Brian, I`m on the receiving end of a lot of reader mail from Trump supporters every week, much of it unhappy with me. I`m seeing a real change in the last couple of weeks.
I think that a growing number of Trump supporters, particularly women, not all women but many women, have been unhappy with who he is as President. But they haven`t felt they could say anything about it, and they certainly weren`t going to apologize for their vote. This is giving them the chance to break free.
Look, you and I, we both have children. And most of your viewers who are watching love a child. I would do anything to save the life of my children. I would do anything to save the life of my seven grandchildren. That makes me as ordinary as millions of Americans in this country.
And they`re watching this President. He is not being tough. He is being a bully. He`s being heartless and inhumane.
And this separation issue is not over with this executive order because there are thousands of children right now who are away from their parents. Their parents have no idea where they are. Some of these children are so young.
And can we please have a shout-out to the journalism that has brought about the shift. It`s been especially the images of this John Moore`s photograph of that toddler screaming as her mother was being searched, and ProPublica`s audio of children screaming has made a huge difference in this country. And I couldn`t be prouder to be a journalist right now.
The thing I keep thinking about with John Moore`s in that interview with "The Washington Post" is that they`re confiscating everything from these people when they cross over. They`re taking the shoe laces out of the children`s sneakers. They`re taking their wedding rings, they`re taking the toys and any special blankets.
This is an attempt to continue the Donald Trump policy of treating them as something other than human so that -- and in the way he talked about them tonight, listen to that language. We must pay attention. He is talking about children. He is making them seem like a menace, like an infestation of our country. Think about what that language must mean.
I believe this is what the women in particular are responding to.
WILLIAMS: Jon Ralston, from the standpoint of things in Nevada, same question.
JON RALSTON, EDITOR, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT: He didn`t call us great and sensible, through, Brian. You meant to say that, didn`t you?
WILLIAMS: Of course, absolutely with a possible exception of just some of the casinos behind you.
RALSTON: That`s right. Exactly right. And those lined up in the slot machines.
But seriously, listen, I think that Connie is right in the journalism here is what caused this. And someone needs to give a shout-out to Jacob Soboroff of this network, who I think his reporting really started this ball rolling.
RALSTON: You know, you pointed out, Brian, the fact that there was that typo in the executive order. And it`s easy to make fun of typos. We`ve all made them, but in an executive order except -- here I think it`s emblematic of what this really was and maybe in some ways emblematic of the Trump Administration careering back and forth, responding to what he sees on "Fox and Friends." What public opinion might or might not be. What Steven Miller is whispering in his ear.
People out here in Nevada, people in Ohio, people in New York, they see this, Brian, except what Trump is banking on and what he`s always bagged on is that he can go to a rally in Duluth, or as he`s going to come to one here in Nevada on Saturday to raise money for Dean Heller who is embattled and has had more positions on immigration than he`s had on health care, which is really saying something. He thinks if he can just get that crowd whipped up, that if he can keep his base as everyone talks about it, riled up about immigration which is a divisive and emotional issue, that might be enough.
It was enough for him to win the presidency. Might it be enough for Republicans to get the rural and white vote up enough to hold on to the House and Senate? That`s the political calculation here, Brian, which is in great contrast in my opinion to the haphazard slap dash whim of the moment way that Trump and his administration conduct themselves.
WILLIAMS: All right. Lightning round here, gang.
SCHULTZ: Brian --
WILLIAMS: Yes, Connie, go ahead.
SCHULTZ: I just want to say I think these rallies -- these are about his neediness. How much attention must you still get when you`re President of the United States? He needs to hear these people chanting and cheering for these vile things he`s saying. This is about Trump needing this to feel like somebody is on his side.
He knows at some level he has got to know at this point. He is losing this one. But he still goes out in public and gets to hear these people frantically cheering for him and he goes back to the White House and feels big for a minute. It`s a betrayal of the principles of this country.
WILLIAMS: Jon Ralston, 30 seconds or less. Does this one stick when we come to the end of 2018 considering all that we don`t yet know, does this issue stick?
RALSTON: You know, it`s so hard to tell, right, Brian. I mean, our capacity for astonishment is only matched by our short attention span, right? So I don`t even know if this will be an issue tomorrow.
But, you know, I`m not so sure that Connie is right. I think Trump doesn`t know that he`s losing, doesn`t know that he doesn`t look strong on this. I think he is fueled by delusions on a lot of these issues, and I think he`s going to try to take this issue to the wall and to other things. He thinks are "strong issues."
Is this going to be a big deal? I think it will be in states like Nevada with big Hispanic populations where the Democrats need to get that vote out and Republicans hope not as many Hispanics turn out as white voters turn out.
WILLIAMS: Thank you both as well for the point about journalism. Considering the fact that we`re fake news, this has been a wonderful outing for journalism and journalists. And let`s not forget the people who are supplying them with tips that lead to the stories all across the country.
WILLIAMS: Connie, Schultz, Jon Ralston, we`ll do this again. Thank you both so much.
As we speak, President Trump has landed back at Andrew`s from Duluth, Minnesota. Air Force One taxiing to a stop.
Coming up for us, new details on the now infamous Trump Tower meeting involving Don Junior, a Russian lawyer and they were told dirt on Hillary Clinton when we continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pretext of the meeting was, hey, we have information and there was even some small talk. It just was sort of nonsensical and even garbled. And then quickly went onto, you know, a story about Russian adoption and how we could possibly help. And, really, that`s when we shut it down.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My son is a wonderful young man. He took a meeting with a Russian lawyer. Most people would have taken that meeting. It`s called opposition research. The press made a very big deal over something that really a lot of people would do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: To refresh memories, the meeting June 9, 2016. Trump Tower in New York blocks from here, it involved Donald Trump, Jr., DJTJ, Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and several Russians including a lawyer linked to the Kremlin. The president`s eldest son took that meeting at the height of the campaign after he was promised it would yield damaging information about Hillary Clinton and it`s thought to be a key part of the Mueller investigation.
We have new insights into what went on the at the June 9 meeting and what Don Jr. said from GQ correspondent, Julia Ioffe, who was the co-author of a peace out tomorrow called "Junior, The Real Story of Donald Trump, Jr.". Ioffe reports this detail about the Trump Tower meeting, "According to a person there, after some pleasantries about the view of Central Park, Don got straight to it. "So, I believe you have some information for us", he asked."
Ioffe goes on to say that the Russian lawyer brought up several other topics but not Hillary Clinton. "So can you show us how does this money go to Hillary?" two of the participants recall him asking. According to one of the participants in the meeting, Don began to realize he wasn`t going to be handed what he was hoping for. "The light just went out in his eyes", the participant told me recently. "He was totally disinterested."
Well, here to talk about all of it, the aforementioned, Julia Ioffe, a veteran journalist to us, just become a correspondent with GQ, Michael Crowley, national security editor and senior foreign affairs correspondent for POLITICO. And our friend and former U.S. attorney Joyce Vance remains patiently with us from Washington.
Julia, for members of the audience who don`t know your life or CV, perhaps I will reduce you to one sentence when I remind everyone, born in Moscow which these days is all the rage. Moved here at age seven. Went to Princeton, Fulbright scholar. And most of your adult life has been as a journalist and author. So you tackle this topic as your first new piece in GQ. What is what you`ve learned about Don Jr., the meeting, Trump Tower? What does it say about the Trump effort overall to you?
JULIA IOFFE, CORRESPONDENT, GQ: I think of -- what I gathered from it was I think Donald Trump, Jr. was trying to be as helpful as he could to his father to have his father notice him, to kind of show some love and some pride in his son which from what I`ve heard from people who know him, it`s very hard for Don Jr. to get so he took this meeting among others as we`ve since learned with the, you know, Saudis, Israelis. And he took this meeting trying to help his father.
He kept trying to bring it back to Hillary, dirt on Hillary or Hillary Clinton in some way, and what`s interesting to me is that one of the participants I talked to was, they came away feeling sorry for Donald Trump, Jr. And, one of the congressional investigators I talked to felt sorry for Donald Trump, Jr. It`s so interesting to me that this person who`s such an angry, defiant kind of angry troll on the internet defending his father evokes such kind of condescending sympathy from people he encounters.
WILLIAMS: Michael, you come away from Julia`s article realizing the way limited importance of the meeting was long ago eclipsed by the meetings` importance to one Robert Mueller.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR, POLITICO: Right.
WILLIAMS: If you get my drift.
CROWLEY: Well, absolutely. And, you know, Don Jr. now finds himself he may have been very disinterested when the meeting wasn`t delivering the goods that he --
CROWLEY: -- wanted but now he finds himself under the klieg lights. And, you know, what I think is -- what Julia just said is so interesting. This idea that he`s an object of pity, that there`s something almost pathetic about the fact that he was trying to help his father out here and it didn`t work out the way he wanted.
But I also want to focus on the fact that, you know, in the sound bites you played earlier, they illustrated the way that people around Trump keep talking about this meeting is very narrow sense. We sat down and we realized this Russian lawyer came with a bill of goods. It was bogus. They didn`t have the goods. We were disinterested. We left because we had better things to do. My eyes glazed over, I didn`t care.
That is nearly means (ph) too tightly. You have to zoom out and remember what did the e-mail say setting up this meeting?
CROWLEY: What is possibly, Brian, the most interesting line that has been recorded on paper or in pixels in this entire investigation? This is part of the Russian government`s effort to help your father become elected president of the United States. This idea that Donald Trump says, well, it`s opposition research. Anyone would take it. I mean, come on. That is a jaw-dropping line. Any responsible citizen would call authorities or not take the meeting.
So, maybe there`s pity for the guy in the moment. But I would say in the big picture, that is the key fact here. It`s not exactly what happened in the room. It`s the --
IOFFE: Well --
CROWLEY: -- understanding that that`s what was happening.
IOFFE: I also think -- I think Michael, as always, is absolutely right. But I think that it`s also interesting that even the people who are trying to help the Trump campaign with dirt sensibly provided by the Russian government, even they -- you know, he was their kind of handoff point, and even they came away from this meeting as like, poor guy. You know? Like when the Russians are trying to help you, they`re trying to give you opposition research, and the people around Donald Trump, Jr. are like, how does he not call the authorities, or wow, he`s really kind of pathetic.
WILLIAMS: And Joyce, just right there on that point and the point Michael made, remind us how unnormal it is. Like you invited who to Trump Tower based on the predicate of what?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: The first thing that should have happened when the offer for this meeting was made is that someone on the campaign staff should have picked up the phone and called the FBI. It`s illegal to accept or solicit donations from a foreign country in connection with an election, and if Donald Trump, Jr. didn`t know that at this point, although he should have, Paul Manafort, an experienced campaigner, certainly was aware of it.
So the most extraordinary feature of this meeting has always been the fact that no one called law enforcement and that`s made even more acute by the fact that the FBI had warned the campaign that they believed that they might be approached by Russians who were trying to interfere with the election. It`s really a big picture piece for Mueller at the end of the day when he sees how did the motivation for Donald Trump, Jr., which we`re learning about in this new piece of reporting, impacts the overall willingness of the campaign to engage with the Russians which may well provide Mueller with a larger train of evidence proving intent or perhaps ultimately proving a conspiracy.
WILLIAMS: Wow. All of our guests have agreed to stay with us. We`re just going to fit in a break. When we come back, we`re going to talk about Michael Cohen.
Until today, he was still deputy finance chair at the RNC, and on his way out, took a shot at his former boss.
WILLIAMS: New developments tonight concerning Michael Cohen, the president`s one-time personal attorney and confidant. "Wall Street Journal" is reporting federal authorities investigating Cohen have now subpoenaed the publisher of the National Enquirer for records relating to its $150,000 payment to a former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, who alleges she had an affair with Donald Trump.
The man smiling, Enquirer publisher David Pecker, has -- is a friend of both Trump and Cohen. Also, an official from the Republican National Committee confirms Michael Cohen resigned from his post as the party`s deputy finance chair. In his resignation letter, Cohen cited his need to spend more time with his investigation. "The Wall Street Journal" and ABC News report that he also threw in this parting nuggets. "I cannot personally support a zero tolerance immigration policy that permits thousands of innocent children being separated from their parents. As the son of a Polish Holocaust survivor, the images and sounds of this family separation policy are heart wrenching. While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips."
Our guests, Julia Ioffe, Michael Crowley, Michael Crowley remain with us. Michael, what are we to make of this kind of explicit slow motion public torture of Michael Cohen who if you believe some of the reporting is just waiting for a charging document?
CROWLEY: I don`t know. I wish I knew. It`s so incredibly strange. You know, there are a lot of things happening with Michael -- first of all, you know, Michael Cohen like Rudy Giuliani -- like Trump`s lawyers are the spin-off series of their own. So there was like Breaking Bad and then there was Better Call Saul, you know, and --
CROWLEY: -- his side characters could, you know, dominate the news for weeks on end if they wanted to. Cohen is one of them. We`re trying to figure out what`s going on with him, Brian. I don`t know the answer. He seems to be trying to do several things at once. My best guess at fissioning (ph) this out, number one, there -- he`s been sending signals that he`s resentful of his legal bills and thinks that President Trump should be paying them.
So you have to ask yourself, is he now trying to criticize Trump and suggest that he can cause Trump problems? You know, I could use a little help over here and maybe you don`t want me, you know, fueling the negative headlines about your policies? It might help him maybe like kind of the equivalent of a hush payment would be nice? Then at the same time, he`s invoking what is, you know, obviously I`m sure very sincere and heartfelt family history, any descendant of the Holocaust survivor is going to look at the events in the border in a very acute way. But at the same time, is he trying to -- you take an opportunity to portray himself in a more sympathetic like, portray himself as a victim?
And ultimately, what is his endgame here? Is he prepared to flip against the president? Is there any kind of intimation that that might be in the works? I just don`t think we know, and I think that the bottom line with Michael Cohen is he just doesn`t seem to be a guy with a very clear game plan. He doesn`t seem to be a guy, frankly, who knows how to take care of himself very well. And I think he`s winging it and I think it`s a mess.
WILLIAMS: Julia, if I gave you 60 seconds to synopsize Michael Cohen`s dealings with Russians and things Russian, how would you put it?
IOFFE: Tangled and far too extensive? You know, as to his resignation today, I`m just amazed that somebody under criminal investigation has a position like that to resign from. You know, it`s amazing the positions people can hold onto these days.
WILLIAMS: All right. I`ll take that. And Joyce, what`s behind this subpoena to the head of the publication National Enquirer, and what, if anything, since I`m always asking you a form of this question, what does it tell us about the investigation, late in the game, middle of the game, or absolutely nothing at all?
VANCE: Still in progress, as far as the investigation goes. This subpoena makes it look like folks are serious in determining whether or not campaign finance violations were committed, and Trump was given aid by the publisher here as well as by others in his campaign in the form of these in-kind contributions.
WILLIAMS: Julia Ioffe, Michael Crowley, Joyce Vance, our thanks to the three of you for our conversation tonight. Julia, good luck to you. We`ll read wherever you go. And coming up --
IOFFE: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: -- a look at what happens now to these hundreds of families who have already been separated. We`re going to go live to McAllen, Texas when we come back.
WILLIAMS: As we reported earlier this evening, an official from HHS told NBC News they haven`t received orders on how to carry out the president`s newly signed executive order. They add there are no current plans to reunite the almost 2,300 children already separated from their parents in custody.
Also, in the last 24 hours, we`ve gotten our first glimpse of these instantly branded by the president`s critics as khaki miniature Trump towers or simply Trump tents. They are tents housing detainees along the Texas border. With us tonight from there from McAllen, Texas, our NBC News correspondent, Gabe Gutierrez.
Gabe, we`ve been watching you for days working double and triple shifts indeed. I`m told you`re on the "Today Show" in, what, seven hours from now. So thank you very much for staying up with us tonight. You can confirm what we`re reporting, that there is no mechanism to reunite these families and we ask because we just found out there`s over 200 kids here in New York State. A Michigan lawyer said tonight they have 54 children there, some of them at a younger age. Then they don`t know their own names. They`re too young to speak.
GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: That`s right, Brian. These kids are spread throughout the country in at least 17 states. Mayor Bill de Blasio, you mentioned, saying more than 200 in New York State. But you read that statement from an HHS spokesperson earlier today. There was virtually no plan a short time after that, just a few hours really. We`ve gotten on-the-record statement from a director of communication from HHS saying essentially that that spokesperson that we got that statement from had misspoken. And that the agency is "awaiting" further guidance on the matter and that reunification is ultimately the goal here.
But basically, Brian, what that states is that there`s really no plan here. It`s a situation where many people are flying by the seat of their pants, at least that`s the sentiment that we`re getting here from immigration activists here on the ground in McAllen, Texas. They say that it would be very difficult to reunite these families, especially some of these younger children, Brian. We were outside one of those so-called tender-age shelters today where we spoke with one immigration activist who said that these children, younger than 10 years old, they`re being housed there. Some of them would be impossible to get information from them in order to be reunited with family members.
A congressman that toured that facility earlier this week says that he saw children younger than one -- younger than a year old, just infants being taken care of in that facility. So, yes, Brian, as you mentioned, more than 200 kids in New York State. 2,000 kids really separated from their parents over the last several weeks. Now, the question will be, how will they be reunited? And what will this executive order mean for the judicial system? The -- earlier tonight on the "Rachel Maddow Show", the Department of Defense confirming that it was sending more -- that they were sending military defense, military attorneys rather, in order to prosecute some of these outstanding cases.
A few days ago, we were in one of those immigration criminal proceedings, rather, in Brownsville, Texas, in McAllen, Texas, there are dozens of these immigrants that are prosecuted daily in these courtrooms. So, certainly, a lot of questions at this point. The immigration advocates we`ve spoken to are very skeptical that this will all be able to be ironed out any time soon, Brian.
WILLIAMS: And Gabe, one of the few things we can count on that you and I know as sure as the sun coming up tomorrow is that if they ever put out the call to volunteers for parents to come care for these kids, to change them, to rock with them, to play for them, they`d be inundated. We`d almost shut down the airlines in this country with people dropping their lives to go help. But we don`t even know if -- where they are, if the need is there, if there`s allowed to be tactile contact from civilians. Even good hearted people who just want to help.
GUTIERREZ: Yes, that`s exactly right, Brian. We`ve been asking to get inside some of these shelters and it`s been very difficult getting any information. I know Jacob Soboroff has been as well for the last several days, asking for journalists to be able to go in and film what`s going on there. And even, you know, to be able to witness some of these conditions. The information we`re getting is very limited.
And in these tender-age shelters, for example, very difficult to get any information exactly where the rest of them are. Houston`s mayor yesterday, basically saying that he was against one of these shelters being created in his city as well. But certainly, Brian, yes, there`s been a huge outpouring of support for these migrant children. What`s been most difficult to come by is information about how they`re being treated. Brian --
WILLIAMS: Gabe Gutierrez who I hasten to have spent part of his day in Mexico today, part of his day back home in the U.S. Gabe, buddy, thank you very much for your time tonight. Get some rest. We appreciate your coverage over these past several days.
Coming up for us, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen once said that what the president did today couldn`t be done. Well, tonight, she holds the proof that she was wrong about that. More on that when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, a reminder that whatever happened today in the Oval Office did not change the reality or the future of the families that have now entered the criminal justice system, where adults and children are separated and processed. That can also mean group court appearances before immigration judges whose courtrooms, like this one, have become inundated as of late with this new so-called zero tolerance policy.
So we want to repeat a moment from Lawrence O`Donnell`s live broadcast from the border just last night. This is an interview with a gentleman named Jonathan Ryan who runs a legal services organization. He spoke about what it`s like to watch as little kids are called before the court. In many cases, without an attorney present to, in effect, plead their cases.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN RYAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RAICES: I myself have sat in court and seen children with their little feet dangling from the respondent`s chair, not touching the floor. Little glitter shoes and a dress and a judge leaning over his bench in order to see her so as to speak with her. All they can discuss is, what is your name? That`s a pretty dress. But nevertheless, there is a lot of money being spent by our government in the sole design of deporting each and every one of these children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So we have that image to think about. And we have this image from today, a strange kind of keepsake given to the secretary of Homeland Security by the president put another way after putting her reputation on the line by insisting over and over this week that only Congress could fix this policy of separating families that was started by the president, she now owns the pen that the president used to end the policy having nothing to do with Congress. She said it couldn`t be done. Now, she`s the owner of the very instrument that did just that.
That is our broadcast for this Wednesday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Thanks to you at home for joining us this hour. We do have a little bit of news to break this hour, this segment, in fact, very happy to have you here tonight.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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