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HHS creates reunification taskforce. TRANSCRIPT: 06/25/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Franco Ordonez, Katie Benner, Josh Gerstein, Mimi Rocah, Josh Gerstein, Toluse Olorunnipa

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: June 22, 2018 Guest: Franco Ordonez, Katie Benner, Josh Gerstein, Mimi Rocah, Josh Gerstein, Toluse Olorunnipa

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, President Trump tells Republicans to stop wasting their time on immigration, but also tries to reframe the debate while his government works to reunite migrant children with their parents.

Plus on the legal front, new developments for former Trump fixer Michael Cohen and somehow actor Tom Arnold is now involved. All that in a big decision from the Supreme Court on an item within an arm`s reach of every one of us.

"The 11th Hour" this 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 519 of the Trump administration.

And tonight there`s a new report that the Department of Health and Human Services is taking action to try to reunify families separated at the border. Politico reporting that according to an internal document, the Department of Health and Human Services has created a, "unaccompanied children reunification task force, a first step toward reunifying thousands of migrant children in the agency`s custody with their families".

Earlier today, a senior Department of Homeland Security official confirmed to NBC that about 500 children and parents have been reunited since May. We saw one today, a mother from Guatemala, who was reunited in Maryland with her 7-year-old son. They had been separated at the border a month ago. As the administration attempts to deal with President Trump`s executive order ending the separation policy, he is also now firing back at his critics. This afternoon at the White House, the President hosted families whose children have been killed allegedly by undocumented immigrants.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We`re gathered today to hear directly from the American victims of illegal immigration. You know, you hear the other side. You never hear this side. You don`t know what`s going on. These are the American citizens permanently separated from their loved ones. They`re not separated for a day or two days. They are permanently separated because they were killed by criminal illegal aliens.


KORNACKI: And just hours before that, the President sent this out on Twitter. "We cannot allow our country to be overrun by illegal immigrants as the Democrats tell their phony stories of sadness and grief hoping it will help them in the elections". Democrats have been getting out their message today on the House floor. Democrat Ted Lieu playing the audio recording first obtained by ProPublica of crying migrant children separated from their families.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman will suspend.

REP. TED LIEU, (D) CALIFORNIA: For what reason, madam speaker?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman is in breach of quorum.

LIEU: Cite the rule, madam speaker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rule 17 of the House.

LIEU: There`s no rule that says I can`t play sounds.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The gentleman will suspend.

LIEU: Why are you trying to prevent the American people have listening to what it sounds like in a defense facility.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rule 17 of the House prohibits the use of that device.

LIEU: These are kids on detention facility, why do you not let the American people hear what they are saying.


KORNACKI: Meanwhile, Democratic Senators Martin Heinrich, Richard Blumenthal and Tom Udall went to Tornillo, Texas where they tried to visit a detention facility where 250 migrant children are being held. The senators were denied access, though.


SEN. MARTIN HEINRICH, (D) NEW MEXICO: I just think this is an administration that is completely afraid of transparency. It`s afraid of the media.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL, (D) CONNECTICUT: I think it`s an internment site with tents. It`s a prison-like internment site.


KORNACKI: Also today, lawmakers` efforts to deal with the immigration crisis got something of a blow from the President, who has been demanding that Congress take action. Earlier in the week Donald Trump met with House GOP leadership, said he would support legislation. This morning, though, the President tweeted this, "Republicans should stop wasting their time on immigration until after we elect more senators and Congress men and women in November. Dems are just playing games, have no intention of doing anything to stop this decades old problem. We can pass great legislation after the red wave". Then brought this reaction from Republicans on Capitol Hill.


REP. LEONARD LANCE, (R) NEW JERSEY: I respectfully disagree. I think we should continue to work on it.

REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R) LOUISIANA: I think what you`re seeing is President Trump expressing his frustration.

We need a red wave to get more Republicans who want to actually vote to secure our border.

REP. MARK SANFORD, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: It`s going to have an incredible chilling effect on the possibility of immigration moving forward.

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL, (R) TEXAS: I think we`ll have a very constructive bill on the floor next week.


KORNACKI: Let`s bring in our leadoff panel for this Friday night. Franco Ordonez, White House correspondent from McClatchy Newspaper, covering immigration and foreign affairs. The "New York Times" Katie Benner, Pulitzer Prize winning reporter who covers the Justice Department and Yamiche Alcindor, White House correspondent for "NewsHour" on PBS. Thanks to all of you for being with us.

And Katie, let me start on you. We have that reporting tonight about some movement on that issue of reunifying parents with children. At least some of them. You cover the Justice Department, the legal end of this. It sounded like there was still plenty of confusion when that executive order was issued the other day by the President about what that was actually going to allow in terms of reunification. How clear is that now?

KATIE BENNER, REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES: Absolutely. So as you say, this was another self-inflicted wound by the Trump administration not thinking through clearly enough a directive before issuing it. And so we saw a lot of confusion last night. There was a meeting at the White House where people argued back and forth for at least 90 minutes about what to do. Things do seem to have clarified somewhat. At the heart of this, the Justice Department helped draft the executive order, so they believe that their legal interpretation of this is correct, which is based around what they are calling a zero tolerance policy for people crossing the border illegally. And then other components including border patrol, DHS, has pushed back and said we just don`t think that we can do both. We cannot keep families together and continue to do zero tolerance.

Today it seems like we got the components together and that they did come to somewhat more of a position where they`re all on the same page queuing more closely to zero tolerance.

KORNACKI: And it seems that the President on this obviously, especially after issuing that executive order, trying to talk about other facets of the immigration issue, maybe change the subject, may throw more balls in the air, how everyone look at it. Let`s look at those different components.

Franco, to you, on the political component on Capitol Hill, where you had the President there a couple days ago talking to Republicans carrying the message of, hey, you know, I`m with you. Get some immigration reform. Let`s get this done. Then today going on Twitter and saying, you know what, Democrats are just getting in the way. We can`t do anything until after November anyway.

Politically on Capitol Hill, what were the odds of some action taking place on immigration between now and the election, and what are the odds now after that tweet from Donald Trump?

FRANCO ORDONEZ, WH CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPER: I mean the odds were pretty low before. It was a heavy lift from the start. That`s why the moderate proposal was punted supposedly to the next week in the first place. But then when Trump issued that tweet, it really deflate -- let the air out of any more energy. I thought of all the members that spoke in that clip that you shared, Mark Sanford, i thought was of South Carolina was the most honest in saying, look, it`s going to be really hard to do it now.

Let`s remember that Paul Ryan and other leaders at the beginning of this debate said they need Trump`s support. They need his backing. We don`t want to bring anything to the floor unless we know for sure that this is something that he`s going to support. This, obviously he`s not going to support. I think we`re just hearing a lot of talk and trying to say this is supportive. But this does not look like it`s going to work. And maybe it`s for the best. It really for moderate Republicans, this was going to be really tough to get done, and Trump was walking kind of a tight rope here. He didn`t want to like go too hard and hurt moderate Republicans, but if he didn`t go hard enough, he was going to hurt his base.

KORNACKI: Yes. And Yamiche, the other piece of what Donald Trump was saying today on the issue of immigration had to do with that event with families there -- with family members who they say had been the victim of crimes they say committed by illegal immigrants. This is something the President has talked about before as a candidate, a couple times as President. It does seem striking that he`s trying to do it today in the wake of all the issues with children at the border. You have been covering Trump and the reaction from some of his supporters, some of his base. How does something like what he`s doing today kind of mesh with what his base is looking for?

YAMICHE ALCINDOR, WH CORRESPONDENT, PBS NEWSHOUR: Well, his base is looking for exactly what the President did today. He took that message of America first and really made it something that was about whether or not you support these -- asking the question really, do you support migrant kids in cages, or do you support families whose loved ones have allegedly been killed by undocumented immigrants? He posed that question to his base. They chose -- they choose America. They choose this idea that you have to not look at these kids in cages and be appalled, that you have to instead pivot and look at these families.

The fact that he continually said that these are families that are permanently separated from their loved ones, making light of the fact that being separated from your child for a month or two months or even eight months in some cases, that that`s not as hard as your child being gone forever. So there`s this idea that he really wanted to get back to his roots because, you know, this week was really, really tough for the President. He does not step back. He does not take back his actions. And this week he had to actually say, you know what? He had to admit on paper in an executive order that this was not something that could work out, that he had to actually undo a policy that he thought was going to deter undocumented immigrants.

So, I think that the President was feeling a little wounded, and as a result he did this. I talked to a White House official a couple hours ago who said that the President still supports both of the bills that are in the House, but that person is saying that on background, not wanting to put their name on the record. And the President is not tweeting that out. He`s not saying, hey, I still, I`m excited about these two bills. I hope that they pass. Instead he`s really saying you`re wasting your time. Let`s just make it a midterm issue.

KORNACKI: Yes, and that`s the interesting thing, Yamiche. I think it was Ryan Costello, Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania, he`s actually he`s not running again. He got a tough break there in the redistricting and said, that`s it. I`m not going again. And he`s been a little more outspoken since then maybe. His reaction to what you just said from Donald Trump today was he said, hey, the calculation is clear here. The President just wants to be blaming Democrats rhetorically on this. Is there a strategy that you see between now and November that say, you know, not about policy, not about legislation, about the rhetoric of the campaign?

ALCINDOR: I think so. I think that this President wants to say if you want stronger immigration laws, if you want to actually get something done, that you need to have more Republicans. The White House official today talked to me and said that Republicans don`t have enough of the majority. There`s this idea of course that everyone knows that Republicans have control of both the presidency, the House, and the Senate.

But now they`re saying we don`t have enough Republicans to get things through and that we need to get even -- get rid of some more of these Democrats. And I think that`s really important because the President also thinks -- also sees that Democrats were having a really tough time and are still having a really tough time getting a message together. But kids in cages really grabbed the attention of the whole nation, and even Republicans who have never really criticized the President, came out and said this is wrong. Paul Ryan, all these other Republicans on Capitol Hill, evangelicals they are backing the President because of his stance on abortion and Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. They also said we cannot have this. So the President needs to get this narrative back. And the way he wants to do that is by making a midterm issue.

KORNACKI: And Franco, what Yamiche is describing does strike me when I look at the polling, this public opinion polling that`s out there, when you look at the question of family separation of kids, parents being separated at the border, parents being held for some sort of court proceeding, even among Republicans, Trump`s base, you see it split in half there. Then you just see very wide opposition outside of that. But then when the issue shifts back to this sort of underlying, so-called zero tolerance policy as the Trump administration frames it, where, you know, it`s this question of anybody crossing the border illegally, should they be held? Should she be jailed awaiting some kind of trial, some kind of legal proceeding?

Or should the families be held together in detention while that happens. There is in these polls a lot more support there, which does -- it seems the politics of this maybe get more complicated once you get away, if you get away from the family separation issue we`ve talked about this week.

ORDONEZ: No doubt. I mean I couldn`t agree more with Yamiche, who is about how the Trump administration is trying to kind of rewrite the narrative this week. It was a really difficult week. And, you know, earlier in the week obviously some of his base was kind of being chipped away. You know, it was just a few days ago that the administration, Steve Miller, the allies were saying, we`re going to stick to our guns. We`re going to keep doing this.

You know, 24 hours after that, he`s signing this executive order. Why? You know, he got so much of affront from members of his own party. But I want to say, per articularly one of the more sensitive one was members of his loyal base. The Christian, the religious community, folks like franklin Graham, who stood out, who have usually been so loyal to this President, stepped out and talked about these issues and said this was not right. It was a really fascinating turn.

You saw sessions going on Christian Broadcast Network saying, well, I didn`t really mean that we wanted to separate the children and the parents. So it really was a fascinating turn of events for this administration. They backtracked completely. Now Trump is obviously hitting back hard, blaming illegal immigrants for a lot of issues and saying there`s a whole different world of separation of U.S. citizens. So it`s quite interesting.

KORNACKI: And Katie, it seems that maybe the next phase, if there is a next phase in this, could become a dispute over this question of, OK, if going forward you`re not going to have this policy of holding the adults and then after, you know, 21 days releasing the kids, separating the kids from the adults. And then a dispute over OK, what do you do then where the Trump side is saying, you detain the families together awaiting a court ruling. And I`ve seen Democrats saying, Kamala Harris, the DNC put out a statement saying, no, no, no. You don`t detain. You don`t hold anyone. It`s the -- you know, I think it`s been reduced to this catch and release term.

From a legal standpoint, I know we`ve got this consent decree from a few years ago hanging over all this. But if the Trump administration decided to go down that road of family detention, detain families together. Legally how much latitude do they have there?

BENNER: So let me unpack this in two parts. The consent decree that you mentioned, yes, the Justice Department has asked a judge in California to modify a consent decree temporarily. And this is the decree that makes it very difficult to detain parents and children together. And what they want the judge to allow is for children to be allowed to be detained in ICE facilities, which currently they are not. Only adults are. That would keep them together. And then they`re hoping Congress does some sort of permanent fix. But obviously it`s clear that is not going to happen. So that is the consent decree portion.

Then the other is -- and I think is one of Kamala Harris` concerns, is that if we can pave a way legally for parents and children to be detained, it`s indefinite. And then what do we have at the border? What do we have all over the country? We would have detention centers where whole families are held but there is no 21-day limit. And we do know the immigrations courts the prosecutions are backed up. It`s going more slowly than people would like despite the prosecutors who have been moved to the border to take care of some of these criminal cases. And then I think the worry is we would be legally paving the way for indefinite detention of families, which is a very different issue and one that think as just as disturbing for a lot of Democrats.

KORNACKI: Right. And again, I think when we talk about the complexity of polling, on this, the polling this week showed that when you give voters a choice of all these actions about how to handle families in these situations, crossing the border illegally, that idea of detaining the family together actually was runaway the first choice of Democrats and Republicans. But then it raises the question as you there Katie, if you introduce that word "indefinite" in front of that, how does that scramble the way people think about it? So is it a lot of layers to this here.

Katie Benner, Franco Ordonez, Yamiche Alcindor, thank you all for joining us.

And this weekend, our colleague, Jacob Soboroff, he`s been doing some incredible reporting, and he has a dateline special on the crisis at the border called "The Dividing Line. That`s going to be Sunday, 7:00 p.m. eastern, 6:00 central on your local NBC station.

And coming up, why this picture has everyone asking a lot of questions tonight.

And later, President Trump says there will be a red wave. Democrats, of course, have been hoping for a blue one. I`m going to head over to the big board, take a look at where things stand. What kind of way -- is there a wave form and what color is it? A lot to get to "The 11th Hour", back after this.


KORNACKI: While the nation focuses on the crisis at the border, pressure on President Trump`s former fixer has been mounting. This week, we saw reports that Michael Cohen is considering flipping, and we learned he wants the President to foot the bill for his legal fees. Cohen also quit the RNC and openly criticized Trump`s immigration policy. And now we`re learning new details about Trump`s cozy relationship with the "National Enquirer."

"The Washington Post" reporting the tabloid sent stories about Trump to Cohen for approval before they went to print. Then there was this photo, posted on Twitter, Cohen seen smiling with Trump celebrity enemy Tom Arnold, who is working on a new show focused on obtaining damaging Trump tapes. Arnold further fueled speculation tonight that Cohen may be working against his former boss.


TOM ARNOLD, ACTOR: I`m going to spend the weekend with Michael Cohen, and the President, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump, I`m spending the weekend hanging out with Michael Cohen. And there`s a lot going on.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Did Michael Cohen tell you specifically, yes or no, that he is cooperating with the authorities should charges be brought?

Did he tell you? Do you not want to answer the question?


HARLOW: You don`t want to answer the question?

ARNOLD: Right.


KORNACKI: Cohen then downplayed Arnold`s claims on Twitter tonight, writing, "This was a chance public encounter in the hotel lobby where he asked for a selfie. Not spending the weekend together. Did not discuss being on his show. Nor did we discuss POTUS". Hashtag done, hashtag ridiculous. But just in this last hour on this network, Tom Arnold was back at it and discussing Cohen and his alleged cooperation in an interview with Lawrence O`Donnell on "THE LAST WORD."


ARNOLD: Michael Cohen is cooperating on the right side of this right now.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: So, is -- and the right side, does that include the FBI and the --


O`DONNELL: So he`s cooperating with them already?



ARNOLD: A 100%.

O`DONNELL: And how do you know that? He told you that?

ARNOLD: He didn`t say those words, but I know that.

O`DONNELL: What were the words he said?

ARNOLD: I know people are --

O`DONNELL: That indicate that? That`s OK, I understand.

ARNOLD: I`m with you. You know that.


KORNACKI: Cohen is under federal investigation in connection with $130,000 payment of hush money to porn star Stormy Daniels. Her attorney weighed in on this network earlier today.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY OF STORMY DANIELS: Perhaps this is a flare gunshot in the air for Michael Cohen to, you know, a message to Mr. Trump or others that there may be things coming down the pike. There is no doubt in my mind that Michael Cohen is going to be indicted and face some very, very serious charges. There`s no doubt in my mind that he`s going to try to trade or flip on this.


KORNACKI: Here with us tonight, Mimi Rocah, former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, now a distinguished fellow in criminal justice at the Pace University School of Law and a MSNBC legal analyst. And Josh Gerstein, senior White House reporter for Politico.

And, questions I didn`t think I`d be asking on an 11:00 news show on MSNBC a couple years ago, but let`s talk about Tom Arnold.


KORNACKI: He`s hinting in an awful lot in an interview on this network earlier tonight, on CNN we played clips, hinting in that clip we show, hinting in other parts of that interview, his antics that we played seemed erratic, the incentive he has, the hype interest in this special. He`s got coming out seems obvious. I`m a layman legally. I`m curious watching that interview tonight, watching these interviews, what did you make of it?

ROCHA: Look, it`s hard to know what he -- he didn`t actually come out and say it, right? So even when he was asked, is he cooperating by Lawrence, he said -- Arnold said he`s on the right side. But then when he asked about the exact words, the words were about "I`m with you." Cohen saying to Arnold "I`m with you," which doesn`t say anything about what he`s doing with the government.

KORNACKI: Sort saying 100%. Right.

ROCAH: Right. But it doesn`t answer the question that Lawrence had asked, which is, is he cooperating with the government, right? So, you know, there`s a lot of sort of -- its good TV. There`s a lot of different things that Arnold has said. One thing I know for sure, and this is not the point of what he`s saying. But I know for sure that Cohen`s new lawyer, its Guy Petrillo, and the prosecutors and the FBI do not want Tom Arnold out there doing what he`s doing right now, OK?

Because if Michael Cohen is headed in the direction of cooperating with them, they don`t want Tom Arnold talking about what Cohen is also telling them out on television, and they don`t want Cohen then, you know, on Twitter saying, no, that`s not true, and Arnold saying, no, what you`re saying isn`t true. You know, it`s hurting -- it could potentially hurt the credibility of what may be a very important witness if you start getting into this Twitter-fest about what someone did or didn`t say and what someone is or isn`t doing. Cooperation is meant to be a confidential process. Even if someone isn`t cooperating proactively.

So, I know at least, you know, Cohen`s attorney is probably counseling Cohen to not do this, especially given the attorney that he now has, Guy Petrillo, former prosecutor. I know him. You know, a very honorable, good lawyer, upstanding person, well thought of, well respected. He would not, I don`t think, be in favor of this.

So, you know, it`s hard to know what to make of Arnold saying all of this. I think all that said, though, you know, Cohen has a lot of incentive to cooperate. So I don`t think it`s beyond the realm at all that he is at least headed in that direction. Cooperation right now wouldn`t mean obviously that he`s going in court Tomorrow or anytime soon and pleading guilty. It may mean that he`s already possibly -- I don`t know this -- started talking, you know, with them informally or formally or it may just mean that`s where he`s headed. You know, that`s the direction he`s going in. And that makes sense because now remember, the judge has basically adopted the special master`s findings, you know, which say that almost nothing is privileged.

So all of that evidence that was seized is coming in. And so, you know -- against Cohen. And so that evidence, and, you know, we`re just starting to hear about more and more crimes that they`re obviously looking at, and I`m sure there is more to come. So he`s under a lot of pressure to cooperate.

KORNACKI: And, Kosh, I mean I`m just curious saying it includes, knows you`re your talking about when it comes to the story and watch what Tom Arnold had to say. Where does your interpretation fall on that scale of, you know, kind of hype or something erratic on one side versus something real on the other side? Where is the balance for you?

JOSH GERSTEIN, SR. WH REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, I do think that what Tom Arnold was saying in these several interviews has to be taken with more than a grain of salt, probably with at least a full tablespoon or more. But there is this element here where you do get the sense that Michael Cohen is sometimes trolling President Trump, you know, that he could have taken the opportunity not to have a selfie taken with Arnold, but he went ahead and did it. And in some of these comments and interactions seems kind of playful. It does seem like a degree of attention-seeking with respect to the President, like there`s some kind of deep-seeded, psychological grievance or neediness there.

Whether that`s part of a legal strategy or some other kind of psychological issue is hard to say. The last time I checked in with people close to Cohen, the word was that he was not cooperating with federal prosecutors, that he was open to talking with them about it, but that those discussions had not progressed to the point that anybody could describe as actively cooperating.

KORNACKI: And I think there was one point in that interview tonight when Arnold said something to the effect, paraphrasing here, of, you know, hey, I`m overselling this interaction with Cohen a little bit, but he`s underselling it. He`s very much underselling it, he cone is very much underselling. So i think Arnold had said something to that effect at one point.

Josh, related to the issue of Michael Cohen, then, and the legal situation he finds himself in, there were also some court filings, or there was a court filing today that shed a little bit more light on the documents the government now has in its possession. What can you tell bus about that?

GERSTEIN: Yes, I think Mimi was alluding to it just a moment ago. But it talked about the judge and the special master`s decision on how many information is privileged here. What was fascinating in this order that Judge Wood put out was that even among the relatively small universe of information they decided was privileged, the vast majority of it seemed to have nothing to do with either President Trump or the Trump Organization or any other clients like folks like Sean Hannity, for example.

The stuff that was deemed privileged seems to be legal advice that Michael Cohen was getting from other lawyers about Michael Cohen`s personal exposure or other legal matters and very, very little of it has to do with any clients. So the total amount that`s going to be withheld from prosecutors that could potentially be relevant to President Trump is an infinitesimal fraction, probably on the order of a tenth of 1percent or a hundredth of 1 percent of the material that`s been processed so far.

KORNACKI: And, Mimi, any sense on the timetable on this? All the speculation like you say is about, is there going to be some kind of deal, some kind of cooperation, some kind of flipping? Is that just we find out when we find out, or are there any clues that we can kind of discern here when we get an answer to that?

ROCAH: Well, we find out when they want us to find out. I mean, even once he goes down that road if he goes down the road of cooperation, we may not know it. Now, Michael Cohen is unusual because he clearly does like the attention and wants to talk. They won`t want him to confirm to anyone if he is cooperating, they being the government, and his lawyer I`m sure would try to tell him not to. But I don`t know if he can help himself.

But, you know, the truth is a sign might be, I expect Michael Cohen to get charged, right, now that this discovery process is coming to an end. One would think the next step would be him getting charged. If for some reason charges aren`t filed, that would be a sign to me that there are discussions going on.

Now, it doesn`t have to be cooperation. They could be discussions about a plea without cooperating, right? Like he hired Guy Petrillo, you know, hiring an alum from the office is someone who can help him navigate the office. Whether you go down the cooperation road, meaning giving information in exchange for something, you know, which you get from the government. It`s called a 5k letter -- or just negotiating a plea agreement that`s favorable to him so that he can, you know, try to spend less time in jail than he otherwise would if he went to trial.

So he has the same options available to him that any defendant has once he`s charged. And even if he`s not charged, you can start that negotiation process. So if those charges aren`t filed relatively soon, that would be a sign that he`s trying to negotiate something. Again, I think we have to be careful about, you know, assuming we know what that something is yet.

KORNACKI: But if we don`t hear anything, we can suspect something perhaps, maybe that`s what we could take. Mimi Rocah, Josh Gerstein, thank you both for being with us.

And up next, President Trump is talking about a red wave in November. Do the numbers say one could be forming? Going to head over to the big board and find some answers there when "THE 11TH HOUR" comes right back.


KORNACKI: All right. So the President, he had the midterms on his mind today when he went tweeting. We said he told Republicans in Congress, forget about immigration between now and the election because, he said, Democrats, they`re not going to do anything. We need to wait for the red wave.

He said we need all these Republicans to get elected. Then we do something on immigration. He said a red wave is coming. Of course, a lot of the talk has been, hey, not so much about a red wave, but is there a blue wave building because generally in midterms, the party with the White House loses seats. The question is how bad is it?

That`s usually the question. Trump suggesting something else. So let`s see a red wave, the possibility. Well, one thing Trump talks about is he says Republicans need 60 votes in the Senate because it`s a filibuster. He`s always reminding audiences. He did this the other night at his rally. He said, we, Republicans, we only have 51. We really need 60.

Well, look, on paper, here`s the thing in the Senate this year. There are 10 Democratic seats up, that are in states that Donald Trump won, that he carried in 2016. Trump state Democrats. You can do the math. You win 10 of those, you win nine of those, you got your 60. You got your 61. So what kind of gains? Are there actual gains that Republicans are poised to get in these seats?

Well, guess what? In the last week we have got a deluge of polling in these Trump states that are held by Democrats. Let`s show you what we`re seeing. So first one is the best news for Republicans I think on the Senate front. North Dakota, a state that Donald Trump won by 36 points in 2016. There you go, Kevin Cramer, the Congressman from that state, he leads Heidi Heitkamp, the Trump state Democrat, in this new poll by 4 points.

So if that is what the election looked like, that`s a Republican pickup. West Virginia, Trump won this state by 42 points in 2016. Republicans say, my god, he won it by 42. We got to be able to take out Joe Manchin, the Democratic incumbent. And yet, first poll after the Republican primary this week, Patrick Morrisey, Republican nominee, nine points behind Manchin.

Remember this name, Don Blankenship, he said he`s going to run third party. After losing the Republican primary, he may have to go to court to do that. But guess what, with him or without him in this poll, Manchin was up there by a high single digit margin. That one is good news for Democrats.

This one, very good news for Democrats, we`ve seen other polls that are much different than this. But here`s Bill Nelson, the Democratic incumbent, leading Governor Rick Scott by 10 in Florida. This is one, if this is the start of a trend, that`s the thing we want to see. Are there going to be more polls in Florida that look like this, or is the next poll going to look more like the others we`ve seen which have shown a much closer race.

But Democrats looks at that and they say, they certainly hope it`s the start of something. And you look at Pennsylvania, this is one year. Trump won this thing by a very small margin in 2016. Bob Casey, the Democrat is looking in very good position in Pennsylvania. In Montana, Jon Tester, Democratic incumbent, again, this is Trump by 20 in this state. Tester, tough, high single digit lead, that would be encouraging for Democrats. Ohio, very encouraging for Democrats, shared uncomfortably ahead there.

And we only have the numbers for it, but Wisconsin, Tammy Baldwin running again. Trump won by a very narrow margin. Republicans haven`t had their primary yet, but the polling matched up Baldwin against both possible Republicans. She led by around 10 points in each. So again, that encouraging for Democrats too. Basically go back to that map.

And we said, remember, Republicans wanted to get a bunch of these because they`re Trump states. What`s taking shape right now in the early polling? North Dakota, that as ripe a target as it looked at the start of the cycle for Republicans. We don`t have the new numbers but Missouri is still looking like a top target. Indiana is looking like a top target. Not so much Pennsylvania. Not so much Ohio. Not so much Wisconsin.

Haven`t had a new one in Michigan but, boy, if these really close states from `16 are solid democratic leads now, Michigan probably not likely. Let`s see if we get new polling there, Democrats surprisingly strong in West Virginia but still Republicans would like to make ball games out of these, and Florida kind of a wild card.

So, the possibility here for, you know, a couple Republican pickups, not a wave of Republican pickups, nothing like 60. Maybe enough to keep the Senate, but you know it`s funny. You talk about midterm elections always going against the party that`s in power. The Republicans playing defense because they`re the party in power in the White House.

With Hillary Clinton had won in 2016, every single one of these Democratic incumbents would be in danger right now. It`s the nature of midterms. And the idea of Republicans getting near that 60-seat mark probably would be real. Now, though, with Trump, Trump midterm, Republicans will be very happy if they could pick up, you know, two seats, one seat even I think they would take at this point.

Anyway, more coming up on what these numbers mean for the President and why one longtime conservative has this message for voters, vote against the GOP. "THE 11TH HOUR", back after this.


KORNACKI: As we were just showing you, President Trump started today suggesting on Twitter that Republicans could be in for a red wave in November`s midterms. But he`s already seeing pushback from within his own party. Republican Congressman Mark Sanford, who lost his primary last week after Trump endorsed his challenger at the literal last minute, told MSNBC today the President`s tweet will not help immigration reform and warned of November consequences.


REP. MARK SANFORD (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I think that it probably kills off the possibility of immigration moving forward, but you never say never. The longer this issue festers, I think it will have the reverse effect. Rather than create a red wave, it may very well be part of what creates a blue wave.


KORNACKI: Another prominent conservative is openly advocating for the GOP`s defeat this November. Columnist George Will left the Republican Party as Donald Trump won the nomination of the GOP in 2016. He writes today in a piece titled "Vote Against the GOP this November," quote, "the family shredding policy along the southern border, the most telegenic recent example of misrule clarified something.

Occurring less than 140 days before elections that can reshape Congress, the policy has given independents and temperate Republicans fresh if we`re redundant evidence for the principle by which they should vote. The principle that Congressman Republicans caucuses must be substantially reduced.

Joining me now is Toluse Olorunnipa, White House Correspondent for Bloomberg. Toluse, thank you joining us. So, let`s start on this George Will column because it is a longtime Trump critic, and I`m wondering if the reaction he`s having to this week`s events and the way he phrased it today, if it reflects changes yet to come in the Republican Party. More disaffection from people like George Will yet to reveal itself, or if this is something at this point that`s already baked in.

The folks that were going to say, hey, Donald Trump, what he`s offering, what he`s selling, that`s not real conservatism, that kind of argument. If they were going to be off the ship by 2016, and if they`re not off by now, they`re not going to get off.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, BLOOMBERG: Well, we have seen the President really double down on his base, those core supporters who are going to be with him no matter what. We have not seen him actually try to expand that base. And to win elections and to win midterms, you do need to expand that base.

And when you`re losing people longtime conservatives like George Will. We saw Steve Schmidt, the campaign manager in 2008, on the Republican side, decide that he`s leaving the party and encouraging Republicans to vote for Democrats. We`re hearing from Mark Sanford and even senators like Bob Corker saying that the Republican leadership in Congress has become sort of a cult of Trump.

That`s a sign that the President is not adding the support that he needs to his base in order to win in the midterms, that he`s really doubling down as we saw during the event day as we saw with the immigrant families with divisive policies, divisive issues that appeal to a very small minorities within his base, but do not expand the majority that he`s going to need to hold Congress, to hold the House. And that`s very clear that the President`s really looking to continue to double down, continue to focus on divisive policies when people in this party would rather have him focus on the fact that this is a six-month anniversary of the tax cut bill.

There was no, you know, celebration at the White House about cutting taxes, something that could appeal to the suburban voters that he`s going to need this November. Instead he`s turning off a lot of suburban voters with his divisive rhetoric.

KORNACKI: Yes. And I take your point, and it`s clearly very, you know, base-centric and it`s not at all what we would traditionally say, this is a President reaching out to the "middle". At the same time, I was struck, though, when you talk about going after that base, his approval rating when you looked at inside the numbers from Gallup and compare him to all modern presidents, with his own party, no president except Bush a few months after 9/11 has been stronger with his own party in an approval rating at this point in his presidency than Trump is right now.

And I do wonder if there`s a possibility that that in some way makes up for maybe not completely, but makes up politically in some way for not reaching out traditionally to the middle. That that level of intra-party support could pad what might otherwise be very, very severe losses in November.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. See, that`s a good point. That`s part of the reason the President was able to get elected, because he was able to bring home Republicans. He was able to bring home a number of people within his party who weren`t necessarily happy with the way he expresses himself or with his approach to politics, a sort of hard edged approach to taking on his opponents. But they decided to hold their nose and vote for him.

And what we have seen is that, you know, Republicans have been happy with a lot of policies he`s passed, whether it`s tax cuts or deregulation. But he needs not only those Republicans. He needs to build on that coalition by adding Independents. And what we`ve seen in some of the midterms and as you`ve pointed out, time and time again during some of these special elections is that suburban voters, independents are being turned off by the President.

KORNACKI: All right. Toluse Olorunnipa, thank you for the time. Appreciate it.


KORNACKI: And coming up, what the Supreme Court did today that affects something almost each and every one of us has nearby at this very moment when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.


KORNACKI: A major decision for the Supreme Court today that handed privacy advocates of big victory, impacts all of us who regularly use cell phones. The court said that police cannot use your phone to track your movement unless they get permission from a judge. NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams has the story.


PETE WILLIAMS, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT NBC NEWS: We`re in nation of nearly 400 million cell phones and many of us have more than one. And today, the Supreme Court says police must get a search warrant for our phone records to track where we`ve been.

As we move, our phone keep reconnecting to the nearest cell tower and each connection leads a record, a digital trail. In cities, full of cell towers, sometimes the police can tells where we`ve been down to the specific block.

Police seek that data tens and thousands of times a year. In a five to four decision, the Supreme Court said, it`s such a detailed records of our movements, it nearly turns a phone into an ankle monitor. So we expect it to be private and the police will usually need a court order to get it.

TOM GOLDSTEIN, NBC NEWS SUPREME COURT CONTRIBUTOR: We now have a solid majority of five justices who recognized that these devices that we`re carrying around in our pockets, and in our purses really can be a threat to our privacy. And they`re going to hold the government to account.

WILLIAMS: Today`s ruling says the police can still get the phone records without a search warrant. When someone is threatened with harm or if a suspect is getting away. But civil liberties group hopes today`s ruling will leave the privacy guarantees for all kinds of personal data, generated by everything from Amazon`s Alexa --


WILLIAMS: -- to Smart Home appliances. Pete Williams, NBC News, at the Supreme Court.


KORNACKI: Thanks to NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams. And coming up, again, one guest, which scandal played Trump cabinet member has yet another scandal on his hands tonight. "THE 11TH HOUR" back after this.


KORNACKI: The last thing before we go tonight. While several members of the Trump administration had their shares of scandal, one has truly out shown them all. EPA Head Scott Pruitt, from reports about high dollar tactical pants to sending staffers on fancy lotion scavenger hunts, or word that he made, quote, request for a bulletproof vehicle and an expanded 20 person protective details, a $50 a night accommodation he rented from a lobbyist, or his $43,000 soundproof phone booth we later learned was actually illegal for the time he reportedly tried to use his government office to get his wife a Chick-fil-A franchise. And when asked about that scandal by a reporter earlier this month, Pruitt gave us an answer, they can effectively be summed up thusly, "changes happening, we love chicken sandwiches."


SCOTT PRUITT, EPA ADMINISTRATOR: I mean, honestly, with great change comes, you know, I think opposition. I mean, there are significant change that`s happening across not only at the EPA but of course this administration, it`s needed.

And, look, my wife is an entrepreneur herself and I love, she loves, we love, we -- Chick-fil-A, it is a franchise of faith and it is one of the best in the country. And so, that`s something we were very excited about. So -- and we need more of them across the country. So, anyway, it`s an exciting time.


KORNACKI: And now the latest entry into the Scout Pruitt`s scandal palooza had some inside the belt way saying, "but his e-mails." New report from POLITICO, here is the headline, new Pruitt question, where are his e-mails?

Climate and Energy Reporter Emily Holden reports, an examination Environmental Protection Agency Chief Scott Pruitt`s government e-mail accounts has uncovered only one message he wrote to anyone outside EPA during his first ten months in office, a number that has watchdogs questioning whether he`s communicating in private.

Adding to that suspicion, reports from last year that, quote, "The Oklahoma attorney general`s office confirms, former Scott Pruitt used a private e- mails for state business. As latest Pruitt inquiry comes after a freedom of information act request from the Sierra Club, the environmental group says, it is as EPA to either search Pruitt`s personal e-mail for agency related messages, or certify that he never used it for government business. This is being reported by POLITICO, and quote from POLITICO`s report. If EPA does not respond, the environmental group could ask a judge to force a review of Pruitt`s personal e-mail account, and so to be continued.

That is our broadcast for a Friday night.


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