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Kennedy to retire from Supreme Court. TRANSCRIPT: 06/27/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Tom Goldstein, Barbara McQuade, Jeremy Peters, Seung Min Kim, Cornell Belcher, Michael McFaul, Frank Figliuzzi, Malcolm Nance

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: June 27, 2018 Guest: Tom Goldstein, Barbara McQuade, Jeremy Peters, Seung Min Kim, Cornell Belcher, Michael McFaul, Frank Figliuzzi, Malcolm Nance

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, what could be the most consequential day of the Trump presidency as Justice Anthony Kennedy announces his retirement from the Supreme Court, leaving an opening for a nomination that could shape American life for a half century or more. The fight has already moved to the Hill where McConnell says they`ll vote by fall. The Democrats say it must wait until after the midterms, but they`re in the minority.

Meantime, the White House says the Trump meeting with Putin is on. They`re just waiting to work out the details. All part of our world as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Wednesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. This was day 524 of the Trump Administration. And this, according to our friend the historian, Jon Meachem, was the day the age of Ronald Reagan officially ended. This was the day Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement.

And before we go on here, just a few things about Anthony Kennedy. He`s been on the court for 30 years. He was Reagan`s third choice after the first two failed. In the end, Reagan went with a Northern Californian, a conservative, to be sure, but with a libertarian streak.

Classically trained at Stanford, London School of Economics And Harvard Law, Kennedy employed an effortless intellect and a respect for liberty. He was never shocking. He was sometimes surprising, but he was mostly a highly reliable conservative.

It should not be forgotten that during the Supreme Court term that just ended today, 14 cases were decided by a 5-4 vote. Kennedy voted with the conservatives every time. And now comes the fight over what will be Donald Trump`s second justice on the court.

The Republicans in the name of Mitch McConnell jammed up and held up Obama`s court choice to wait eight months for the presidential election. Now the Democrats, who are the minority in the Senate, want to wait the four months until the voters decide the makeup of the new U.S. Senate.

Well, tonight, President Trump spoke to supporters at a campaign-style rally in Fargo, North Dakota, where he praised Justice Kennedy and spoke about the importance of this replacement.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Justice Anthony Kennedy, a very special guy also, just announced a little while ago, his retirement from the United States Supreme Court. And I`m very honored that he chose to do it during my term in office, because he felt confident in me to make the right choice and carry on his great legacy. That`s why he did it.

And remember this, so we have a pick to come up. We have to pick a great one. We have to pick one that`s going to be there for 40 years, 45 years. We need intellect. We need so many things to go. You know, there`s so many elements go into the making of a great justice of the Supreme Court. You`ve got to hit every one of them.


WILLIAMS: Following Justice Kennedy`s announcement today, President Trump spoke at the White House and said the process to find his replacement would begin immediately. He says his replacement will come from a list the White House has compiled of mostly conservative judges.

Earlier today, Yale Law School Professor Akhil Amar spoke to Ali Velshi about that list and what will happen to this so-called idea of a swing vote position on the Supreme Court without Justice Kennedy.


AKHIL AMAR, PROFESSOR, YALE LAW SCHOOL: I`m a Democrat, I voted for Hillary Clinton. But the list is a distinguished list and even if the person picked is to the right of Justice Kennedy on some issues, some of them are actually his former law clerks, that would only mean, frankly, from just a political science perspective that the middle of the court shifts to John Roberts. It doesn`t shift all the way to the furthest right person on the court. And that`s the new swing justice.

There will always be a swing justice, it`s just where that swing happens. And just to remind everyone, John Roberts is a very good man.


WILLIAMS: Professor Amar went on to point out Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the court`s liberal justices to preserve Obamacare.

Well, now all eyes turn to the U.S. Senate and the expected political confrontation over whomever the President chooses.

Phil Rucker, "The Washington Post" reports tonight that both Democrats and Republicans will use the Supreme Court vacancy as a rallying cry.

"The already ferocious nomination battle is likely to clarify the choices for voters in Senate races across the country, strategists said, and impact other contests down the ballot. And even if Republicans install a replacement for Kennedy before the November election, the debate is still likely to thrust to the forefront issues that have been largely overlooked on the campaign trail until now."

Senate Democrats are gearing up for a battle, but earlier today, the Senate majority leader gave this crystal clear message on the Senate floor.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: We will vote to confirm Justice Kennedy`s successor this fall.


WILLIAMS: There you have it.

Let`s bring our lead-off panel for a Wednesday night. The aforementioned Philip Rucker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," Barbara McQuade, Former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District the State of Michigan. And we`re thrilled to have Tom Goldstein with us, a Veteran D.C. Attorney who has argued 41 cases before the Supreme Court. He is also publisher of SCOTUSblog, which covers the court. Additionally, he`s a Lecturer for Harvard Law School in his spare time.

And, Tom, I`m going to begin with you. How big was this to witness in real time? How big will this be? Give us 50 years as we look back at the scope of American jurisprudence.

TOM GOLDSTEIN, ATTORNEY SPECIALIZING IN SUPREME COURT LITIGATION: Well, it`s really impossible to overstate because what you`re looking at here is the justice who really wasn`t so much a swing justice, but he was a fifth vote for the left on some critical things, like abortion, affirmative action, gay rights. And that vote now will go a step to the right. And so the big barrier to making a big leap to the right in American constitutional law and other issues is now going to be gone. And you`re going to get somebody who`s much more like a Neil Gorsuch who we got this term. So it`s a pivot point, and it`s one that we won`t get to come back through again for at least another quarter century, given how long people stay on the court.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, the President`s remarks were closely watched tonight in Fargo.


WILLIAMS: Tell us about the Donald Trump you saw on display and that part we just aired about how Kennedy did this now because of his confidence in Donald Trump to do the right thing.

RUCKER: Well, Brian, there was a lot of chest thumping from President Trump. That`s to be expected because this has been an extraordinarily positive couple of days for him. Remember, that travel ban decision, the court upholding his travel ban on some Muslim -- majority Muslim countries was upheld yesterday, and then today he has this tremendous gift in the vacancy on the court that he`s going to be able to fill. And he described it as an opportunity for him. But he also tried to use it as a rallying cry for Republican voters in the midterm elections.

He said that the vacancy of Kennedy on the court makes the Supreme Court and the battle for control of the Senate the most important issue of our time. He went on a tear about Heidi Heitkamp who at one point was his favorite Democrat in the Senate. He brought her on the road with him the last time he was in North Dakota. But today he went after her on issue after issue after issue and warned his base voters that if you let Democrats take control of the Senate, and if they have a say in who replaces Justice Kennedy on the court, things could be very bad for them.

WILLIAMS: Barbara, I`m curious to hear your take on what`s at stake with this nomination the President gets to make.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think one of the really key issues that`s likely to confront the court in the coming years is the abortion question, Roe versus Wade. Is there a chance that it could be overturned? I don`t know.

You know, as Tom said, we`ve got Justice Roberts now kind at the center of the storm here. And he has always that stare decisis, the idea that you respect the precedence that came before is important to him.

And so you would think that he`s unlikely to want to reverse Roe versus Wade, but as President Trump said in that clip you played, this justice that he wants to name is likely to serve for 40 to 45 years. So even if it doesn`t happen with the next makeup of the court, how about the one after that? And so I think that is something that is likely at stake.

WILLIAMS: Tom, this seat was held by two southerners, Hugo Lafayette Black and then of course Lewis Powell of Richmond, Virginia. It was called for years the Powell seat on the court.

As we look back, give us a little perspective. Will we refer to this as the Anthony Kennedy seat?

GOLDSTEIN: We`ll probably refer to it as the Anthony Kennedy seat and as a practical matter, maybe the Anthony Kennedy court.

Justice Powell he replaced really was the swing vote. He would be at the center of the court in dozens and dozens and dozens of cases. That wasn`t as true for Justice Kennedy. But as you said, say, you have 14 cases decided on the ideological 5-4 axis, and it always came down to him.

Now this term, he was with the conservatives 14 times, but in other terms it might be more balanced. It might be 10-4, 8-6. But he was the one who was available. The big difference is that next term, when you get another big case like that, there may be no one available. It may be preordained, which is, you know, what conservatives are hoping for.

WILLIAMS: And, Tom, I`ve got another one for you. There is a wild card at work here. I`ve wracked my brain. I don`t know that this has ever been the case. Two words, Robert Mueller.

There is a concurrent criminal investigation into this administration, and in a way, they`re both following the same calendar. The run-up to a midterm election. Tell us how to think about the fact that this President making this nomination, by the way, is under investigation.

GOLDSTEIN: Well, you can think about it politically and legally. Politically, you could say the administration is ecstatic to have something that will rally people behind the President who are his supporters and distract away from the Mueller investigation. There`s going to be a huge amount of noise given the significance of the Kennedy replacement.

Legally, what`s going to happen is that a conservative is naturally going to be more inclined to presidential powers, more suspicious of an independent investigating authority. And so this replacement is actually probably a good vote as far as those things go. But, you know, we just don`t know what kinds of questions would get to the Supreme Court. For example, if the President defied a subpoena and wouldn`t appear before a grand jury, it`s kind of a mystery where the Supreme Court would end up on that.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, our colleague and mutual friend Chris Matthews was a particularly exercised when news of this came down. I want to play for you some of his remarks on the air. We`ll talk about them on the other side.



CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC HOST: It will not seem believable that they couldn`t stop a Senate from approving a presidential nominee for just 50 votes? It used to be 60. Now it`s just 50.

There are ways to prevent a modest majority of 50-49 getting its way. They will find that way or they will fail. And if they fail, they will lose their leadership.

The party will not accept failure on this front. They have not allowed someone to come into the Supreme Court for 30 years because they won by one vote.


WILLIAMS: So, Phil Rucker, what Chris is talking about there is Senate Democratic leadership. Chuck Schumer we`re talking about you and how the base of the party will not accept a loss on this.

RUCKER: Yes. The base may not accept a loss on this, but they may be forced to. The reality is -- and this is why this works so much in Mitch McConnell`s favor and President Trump`s favor is that there are a number of red state Democrats who are up for re-election in November who are going to feel intense pressure back home to support President Trump`s nominee. One of them is from North Dakota, Heidi Heitkamp. But you`ve also got the senators of Montana, Missouri, West Virginia, Indiana.

They are Democrats, but they are going to feel the heat to get behind whoever Trump nominates because they`re from states that Trump won. And in the case of Indiana, a state where there`s a very strong social conservative leaning of the electorate. And so this is going to be difficult for Schumer to keep all of his Democrats in lock step in opposition to this nominee.

WILLIAMS: On the right-hand side of your screen, live pictures. The President has flown from Fargo to Milwaukee where Air Force One has just landed.

Barbara, let`s speak a little English here. Is it fair to say the White House contracted out this list of potential justices to the federal society in Washington? That that basically is the vetting arm, at least the first wave of vetting for these names?

MCQUADE: Yes. It does seem that most of those names do have that in common, that they are judges who have been sort of groomed by the federalist society, which, of course, is the organization that is a very conservative group that has part of its mission to groom future judges and get them on the court. So I think that`s right. I think they have, I think that President Trump reached out to that group. It is a group that`s widely supported by conservatives and they work very hard to develop that network.

WILLIAMS: Tom Goldstein, before the week is out, I want you and I to sit down and go through every name on it in a lightning round. But is that a fair characterization of how that came together?

GOLDSTEIN: That`s right and that`s why it`s gone well. They said this is a group of people who are committed to this issue. They can be real supporters of mine. Let them give me the suggestions and I`ll prove to them that I`m their guy.

WILLIAMS: Philip Rucker, Barbara McQuade, Tom Goldstein, can`t thank you enough after what I know has been a long day for all of you.

As we head to our first break coming up, no summer vacation for so many in Washington. This coming epic fight now over the direction of the Supreme Court means a big change in plans.

And later, the one thing President Trump has been asking for since March may finally happen next month.

THE 11TH HOUR just getting under way on this Wednesday night.



TRUMP: Justice Kennedy`s retirement makes the issue of Senate control one of the vital issues of our time.


WILLIAMS: Well, you can say that again. Republicans in the Senate are moving to carry out a swift confirmation of whomever the President puts up to replace Anthony Kennedy, despite their very slim majority.


SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R), IOWA, CHAIRMAN OF THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think that we got plenty of precedent when to have appointments to the Supreme Court and when not to.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: At this particular time, it`s the Senate`s obligation to move ahead and do what they should do on these matters.


WILLIAMS: Now, Democrats say that any point should take place after the midterm elections, especially given that McConnell said they couldn`t possibly consider a new Supreme Court justice in the run-up to the last election.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK, MINORITY LEADER: Our Republicans colleagues in the Senate should follow the rule they set in 2016. Not to consider a Supreme Court justice in an election year.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA, SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: We`re four months away from an election. One-third of the United States Senate practically is up for election. The decision that we make is going to have generational impact. And the American people should be able to weigh in.


WILLIAMS: As for what is at stake for the Democratic Party, here`s some of what we heard earlier on this network.


MATTHEWS: It`s not acceptable to accept this as a fate accompli. In other words, for the next three decades or more, we`re going to be run by a 5-4 right wing court. And just accept that. And if you lay down like the expert are saying and lay down and accept this as history that can`t be stopped, you`re going to a see a political party in serious You watch.


WILLIAMS: With us for more tonight, Jeremy Peters, Political Reporter for "The New York Times", and Seung Min Kim, White House Reporter for "The Washington Post." Welcome to you both.

Jeremy, in talking about this before the broadcast, court picks is safe haven where Republicans and Donald Trump come together. And Republicans, even some never Trumpers voted for Trump because of the court. So this is an area where it seems to me it`s going to be hard to peel off Republicans if you go with Chris Matthews` argument.

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": That`s exactly right. And everybody says every time there`s a 50-50 split issue in the Senate, maybe you can peel away Lisa Murkowski or Susan Collins, it`s going to be extraordinarily difficult. You know what else is going to be extraordinarily difficult is Democrats in red states who are going to be under pressure to support the President`s nominee.

Could you imagine somebody like a Heidi Heitkamp or Joe Manchin who is waffling? Trump will land his plane in West Virginia, in North Dakota and harass them, saying they are blocking my nominee. They are nullifying your vote. This is what you voted for. And a lot of them realize this is exactly what they voted for.

You`re right. President Trump took the unprecedented step of giving them a list of names of people he would appoint to the court so they knew they could trust him. This is a solemn pledge between him and his base and he will not break it.

WILLIAMS: Seung Min Kim, I know you`re not the parliamentarian of the Senate, but you and Jeremy are really smart, so you get this question and that is when the Democrats talk about blocking tactics, when people like Chris on the air earlier today talked about parliamentary tactics, what can the minority party do? Minority not by much, what can the minority party do in the person of Chuck Schumer to slow this down, to throw something in the spokes?

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, frankly, there`s not a lot that Democrats can do at this point. You`re right that in the Senate, Democrats -- or the minority in this case, Democrats do have some rights, but in the case of judicial nominations, they don`t have much recourse at this point.

Remember, we`ve seen the filibuster for nominations erode bit by bit over the last several years. It began in 2013 with Senate Democrats going nuclear on most nominations. And Senate Republicans last year finishing the job by getting rid of the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations. So that is why Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans can easily pass whomever they want, whomever Trump picks, as long as their ranks stick together.

So in terms of strategy, there`s not a lot for Chuck Schumer and his ranks to do here. I mean, with anything in the Senate, you can slow down the process by some days, but at the end of the day, it`s inevitable, as long as all Republicans stay together that whomever Trump nominates in the coming weeks will get confirmed.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, it is a good point, it`s the obvious point about the math, if the GOP holds together. But as I asked Tom Goldstein, isn`t it true, we have this wild card. Oh, by the way, a massive investigation into the administration and the presidency of the man who is now going to put up his second name for the court. It`s going to be an incredible calendar to watch.

PETERS: It really is. I mean, and then our summer just got a whole lot crazier.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Thanks for pointing that out.

PETERS: Crazy enough. No vacation time for you, Brian.


PETERS: But the reason why I think this is going to be such a seminal moment in his presidency, the Supreme Court fights for Republicans are such a part of their political culture. It is ingrained in the right in a way that it is not in the left. It`s a part of their DNA. They understand the importance of a court seat much more than liberals do.

Liberals have a much less cohesive ideology. The right, on the other hand, they still feel the sting of bourque, of suter, of --

WILLIAMS: They use suter as a verb.

PETERS: They do. Exactly, they get suter. And then Clarence Thomas, by the way, too. These Supreme Court fights were such climactic moments in their political identity. And, of course, it all stops at abortion. The culture wars.

They have been losing in the Supreme Court in the culture wars for a generation. This is now a time where they hope they can reverse that. And I really do think that this could be a galvanizing moment for them going into the mid-term elections, when they`ve just come off a victory with nominating, confirming a Supreme Court justice that they`re very happy with. And that could give them some momentum going into November

WILLIAMS: And, Seung Min, another aspect of this is coordination between the White House and Republicans on the Hill. It hasn`t always been of smooth as glass. We have seen the White House cut off any number of attempts by McConnell, by Speaker Ryan at legislation. They haven`t always been coordinated. They haven`t always agreed. But this appears to be one area where the Legislative Affairs Office in the White House and the folks who do legislation on the Hill are likely to be coordinated.

KIM: Exactly. I mean, this is the one issue. I mean, you have these policy fights over trade and clashes over style and the President`s style of governing, but when it comes to judicial nominations, and not just Supreme Court nominee, but all these lower court nominees and lower court judges that don`t get a lot of attention, but is important to that conservative base, that is where Mitch McConnell and his ranks have been working hand and glove with the White House in coordinating nominees, messaging, how to move these candidates quickly through the chamber.

Mitch McConnell, it`s a badge of honor for him, not only getting Gorsuch installed last year, but also the fact that one out of every eight appeals court judges right now have been nominated by Donald Trump. That is a staggering number. And that is an accomplishment that McConnell has had to coordinate with the White House to get that through.

And from, you know, right away with the vacancy today, you`re going to see the administration and Senate Republicans work together. I mean, there are obviously renegade Republicans at times we see folks like Jeff Flake and Bob Corker. But you saw in their statements tonight that they are, you know -- they see Justice Kennedy`s retirement as an opportunity to, again, reshape the court in a conservative direction for a generation to come.

WILLIAMS: Two terrific bilines in political journalism. Our thanks to Jeremy Peters and Seung Min Kim. Thank you very much for coming on.

And coming up for us, what if anything does last night`s surprise victory by a 28-year-old Democratic socialist mean for Democrats everywhere come November? When THE 11TH HOUR continues.



TRUMP: And one of my biggest critics, a slovenly man named Joe Crowley, got his ass kicked by a young woman who had a lot of energy. She had a lot of energy. I guess he didn`t see it. They couldn`t find him.


WILLIAMS: A slovenly man. Well, today a political giant killer began making the media rounds. It is a whole new world for 28-year-old Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who last night in her first ever run for office defeated the forth ranking Democrat and the leadership in the House of Representatives, just hours later she appeared in this very studio on "Morning Joe."


ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK CONGESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Our campaign was focused on just a laser-focused message of economic, social and racial dignity for working class Americans, especially those in Queens and the Bronx.


WILLIAMS: Now, supporters of the more liberal faction of the Democratic Party see this young woman as the future. She ran as a Democratic socialist, as an ultraliberal. Her positions included Medicare for all, federal jobs guarantee and abolishing ICE, immigration and customs enforcement.

Today, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who will now lose her deputy in charge of messaging for the Democrats, Congressman Crowley pushed back when she was asked about divisions within her party.


GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: If the Democratic Party is increasingly younger, more female, more diverse, more progressive. Should the Democratic House leadership look that way?

NANCY PELOSI, HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Well, I`m female, I`m progressive. And the rest. So what`s your problem? Two out of three ain`t bad.

HAAKE: I don`t have a problem, but Democratic voters in New York last night seemed to express a problem.

PELOSI: Yes, they did. They made a choice in one district.


WILLIAMS: Now please join us and welcoming Cornell Belcher veteran Democratic pollster who drew the short straw tonight. He worked on both the President Obama campaigns, and with a number of House and Senate Democrats.

Cornell, I`m going to make your job even tougher before I even get to the first question. We just heard from Nancy Pelosi. Her name came up tonight in Fargo, North Dakota. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I want to keep Nancy Pelosi right where she is with Maxine Waters. I want to keep Nancy Pelosi. Please, I want to make a plea to my Democrat friends, please, please, please don`t remove Nancy Pelosi. She should be where she is. And please keep Maxine Waters on the air, as your face and your mouthpiece for the Democrat Party, please.


WILLIAMS: So the always understanding Cornell Belcher. Here`s the question. Nancy Pelosi it`s been theorized is the greatest single fundraising tool the Republican Party has. Last night`s victorious 28- year-old candidate here in New York is, and forgive ageism, generationalism, 50 years younger than Nancy Pelosi, 51 years younger than Pelosi`s deputy in the House.

So the question to you is when do you start thinking about new management in the House of Representatives for the Democrats?

CORNELL BELCHER, PRESIDENT, BRILLIANT CORNERS RESEARCH & STRATEGIES: Brian, I`m going to try to walk and chew gum here at the same time. I`m going to try take on two things, because I think they`re related.

The Supreme Court fight, I think they`re sort of related in this way. It`s ultimately for me, I`m going to do a different calculation. It`s ultimately not about the Democratic base or Republican base, right? Republican base is going to turn out. The Democratic base is energized. They`re going to turn out.

The problem about the Supreme Court is what suburban women are going to do, right? These college educated suburban women. And the problem is this, if those college educated suburban women who have been breaking away from Republican parties in special election after special election and look no further than Northern Virginia where they took the Democratic governor over the top in a really big way.

If they think for one moment that their reproductive rights are really at risk, I think it`s really problematic for Republicans. So I don`t think it`s necessarily a base versus a base sort of conversation. I think the calculation is a little by different.

And they will hand over the House and perhaps even the Senate to Democrats if, in fact, they think their reproductive rights are at issue. How it relates to I think what happened last night in New York is this -- those middle of the road women aren`t sitting around talking about and thinking about Nancy Pelosi

They`re thinking about their health care premiums rising. They`re thinking about how their kids are saddled with college debt. Nancy Pelosi or Speaker Ryan, they are good fodder for the base audiences on either side of the party. But regular everyday Americans, they`re not -- they`re more concerned is Nancy Pelosi. They`re more concern is the health care premiums and how they`re going to put their kids through college, right?

So it`s an insider`s game for the base to a certain, extent. However, I will say this. We did do polling of Democratic voters across battleground states about a month ago. And you have over 60 percent of activists very dissatisfied with the direction of the country and 80 percent somewhat or very dissatisfied with the current direction of the country. That`s a lot of volatility, Brian.

So every incumbent should, in fact, be on edge because we`ve got sort of volatility, they are looking for change. And if you have the smell of establishment and status quo, you have to look over your shoulder because there`s a chance that you might, in fact, lose this thing. Or you could be challenged.


BELCHER: Although we`re not seeing that -- we`re not seeing as many House Democrats taken out by the left in primaries as, quite frankly, we`re seeing on the right with Republicans.

WILLIAMS: Final lightning round question, Cornell. Do you think that just the mention of Pelosi has more of a galvanizing get to the polls effect on the Republican base than, say, Ryan on the other side?

BELCHER: I think it probably does. I mean, there`s a lot more energy, sort of anti-feminist, quite frankly, energy on the right than it is on the left. But look, in the end, I think you`re going to get -- Republicans don`t drop off that much in midterms. Their base is going to turn out. The question is, is the Democratic base going to turn out in the midterms the way they turn out in Presidential election years.

WILLIAMS: Cornell Belcher who studies this stuff for a living in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol. Thank you sir very much for coming on. Always a pleasure to have you.

BELCHER: Thanks Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, Trump may be just weeks away from a meeting with Vladimir Putin. But what does Russia stand to gain from a meeting with Donald Trump? That and more next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So will you meet with President Putin sir? And where?

TRUMP: Most likely. John Bolton is over there now. I have said from day one getting along with Russia and with the China and with everybody is a very good thing. Good for the world, it`s good for us. It`s good for everybody.

So we`ll probably be meeting sometime around my trip to Europe.


WILLIAMS: President Trump saying today he`s likely to meet with Putin when he travels to Europe next month, even as Mueller`s investigation into Russian election interference continues. He spoke about the summit after his national security adviser, as you heard John Bolton met with several Russian officials, including Putin himself.

With us tonight to talk about all of this, Michael McFaul former U.S. ambassador to Russia, author of the new book "From Cold War to Hot Peace, an American Ambassador in Putin`s Russia." And Frank Figliuzzi is back with us, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence who in the past has worked for Robert Mueller among others.

OK, Ambassador I`m going to mush together three questions. I always like to ask you, how far have we strayed from normal? Did you ever think we would use Bolton and Putin in a sentence? And what is the U.S. possibly expecting to gain from this summit?

AMB. MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: Well, let`s take number two first. No. And his incredible pivot, first meeting with Kim Jong-un and now President Putin is truly remarkable to me.

I served in the government for five years. I`ve got two decades of publications and commentary. I was never compelled to reverse my previous positions. So I thank President Obama for that. That`s pretty striking. But let`s talk about the summit.

I am not against summits, Brian. I planned several of them, including going to Moscow, like the shots you just saw of Mr. Bolton meeting with President Putin. But they have to be for a reason. They have to be for an outcome.

And so far we have no evidence whatsoever that the Trump administration is preparing for an outcome that advances American national security interests. And instead what I fear is you`re going to have a photo-op. You`re going to have the President saying very nice things about Vladimir Putin. He`s already done, so we should expect that.

And that therefore achieves Putin`s objectives without getting anything in return. That is a bad deal. I don`t know in business if that`s a good deal, but that`s a bad deal when it comes to diplomacy.

WILLIAMS: Frank, diplomatic speed dating. If I appointed you 60-second briefer of this President and said to you, your job is to kind of normal up Donald Trump`s view of Russia and Putin, what would you say to the President?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: So I would remind him that Vladimir Putin poisons people, he orders people murdered who don`t agree with him.

And that heart at the Russian goals and objectives is the goal of sewing complete disarray and undermining the American way of life. Any sit down with Putin has to start with that understanding. And so, I`m concerned about a dangerous naivete in the President where he feels somehow that his force of individual personality, force of nature, an art of the deal approach to sitting down with people is somehow going to change the goals and the objectives of the Russian government.

That`s not going to that. So we need to have the President understand that all discussions starts from the understanding that you`re dealing with an adversary, and you need to go in with your eyes open.

WILLIAMS: Ambassador, because you have been in the room where it happened, in normal times, how much of a brief, how much prep work in terms of hours, say, would go in to a President sitting down with Vladimir Putin?

MCFAUL: A lot. Most certainly, President Obama prepared for his meetings and other officials. I`ve been with vice President Biden when he met with President Putin. We spent a lot of time preparing because you`re there to achieve concrete out comes.

Now, it`s unpleasant sometimes in diplomacy that you have to talk to people like Vladimir Putin, and you should never forget the past, only part of which that Frank just talked about. You just can`t say, well, now in the interest of getting along, let`s forget about poisoning, let`s forget about Syria and propping up a brutal dictatorship there.

Let`s forget about annexation, something we thought was over, and let`s forget about violating American sovereignty. You can`t do that. But you have to then say OK, we`re not going to forgot about that, but we`re going to talk about some concrete things that we think are important for American national security interests.

And if you don`t do that, then you`ve achieved nothing. Kind words for Vladimir Putin is exactly what he wants. That will signal that President Trump has forgotten about all of that very difficult history that we`ve had with Russia recently.

WILLIAMS: Frank, because you are so often our go-to guy on all things Mueller, I have to veer the car into one question on Mueller. Rueters news agency had line confirmed by NBC News tonight, Manafort had $10 million loan from Russian oligarch, according to a court filing. How big a deal will this be? Is it just another log on the Mueller fire?

And I`m asking especially because we`re four weeks until the Manafort trial. You`ve got to agree we`re within the flip window.

FIGLIUZZI: Yes, so look this is news because it`s come from an unsealed affidavit in the search warrant last year on Manafort`s storage facility. So, Mueller has known this for a long time. And those of us following closely with our counterintelligence back ground, we are not surprised.

This indicates that Manafort may have been patient zero in the Russian infection into the campaign. He`s likely owned and operated to the Russian government. He`s indebted to them. The big question that Mueller has to solve is whether or not his infected the President, whether or not the President has fallen into that trap and whether or not the President has been compromised as well.

WILLIAMS: It is always a pleasure to have you two gentlemen, especially together. Michael McFaul, Frank Fagluizzi, thank you both so very much for coming on and being a part of our conversation.

Tonight and coming up for us, why our next guest calls the President of the United States a spy`s dream. Here`s a hint, he`s a veteran spy. When THE 11TH HOUR continues.


WILLIAMS: We are back. This newly plan Trump-Putin summit is already causing worry among our NATO allies. Jonathan Swan of Axios reports today "Senior officials from four NATO member nations told me their worst fear is that Trump clashes with American allies at NATO summit in Brussels on July 11-12, and then shortly afterwards lavishes praise on Putin."

Putin has long sought to weaken the NATO alliance further his own influence in Europe and the process. Long time intelligence expert Malcolm Nance extensively explore as Putin motive in his new book "The Plot to Destroy Democracy, How Putin and his spies are undermining America and dismantling the west" talk about a direct title.

And about the vulnerability of own President, Malcolm Nance puts it this way. "Any final assessment by a trained intelligence professional would conclude that Trump was a spy`s dream. When Trum speaks, little comes from his mouth that was not put there by shaping actions and experiencing with the Russians, and was carefully planned to benefit the Russian Republic.

That gets your attention. The four mentioned Malcolm Nance a long time U.S. arm force veterans of intelligence counter-terrorism is with us here tonight. This is his second book on justice topic about Russian influence within the U.S. Good evening and welcome and tell me why he would be an easy mark in your line of work?

MALCOLM NANCE, AUTHOR "THE PLOT TO DESTROY DEMOCRACY: Well, he`d be a relatively mark because he has all of the hallmarks of the type of person who canning influenced to let`s not used word betray, but it certainly influenced to carry out actions that would not be the best interest of his nation but in the best interest of himself.

And so, it`s not even a question of recruit. Russia so much when we`re talking about national leaders don`t have to recruit them the way that they use to do in the traditional sense. An acronym they call MICE, right? Money, Influence, Coercion, Corruption (ph) or messaging ego.

That`s just the way that you get them through the door now. Now using psychological welfare technique and information welfare technics, they can build a bubble of information around you that is surely of the making of the Russian federation.

And in that way, they craft your decisions, they technically put you in a decision-making matrix that benefits them and them only.

Now, if you are a unwitting asset, a person who doesn`t really know where the puppet strings are on you. You can make decisions that will cross him. But if you`re witting asset like Donald Trump and he has witting asset. He made that clear the day that he said Russia, if you`re listening, I want you to release Hillary Clinton`s 33,000 e-mails.

That means he knew things were being activated and were going for his personal benefit. If you are in this matrix they have constructed and you are witting, then you belong to them. All of your decisions are crafted and shaped to benefit them, even if it`s going to benefit your financially or personally.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask you a question as a veteran and a patriot. How would our nation feel if these were normal times and our election had just been hacked and we were mobilized to fight what is an inevitable second hacking.

NANCE: Well, what they should feel is that they should feel alarmed. And that we should had a moon shot national cyber security initiative which would have protected our fundamental value, right?. Free and fair elections.

We`re a constitution Republic, a democracy which protects the rights of the minority. But if we go into this next election, which right now we`ve done virtually nothing. And I suspect that we won`t have the open blatant hacking of changing the numbers on the ballots but will have an enormous amount of compromising blackmailable information. The way that they`ve tried with John Podesta, just releasing stuff into the news media and hoping the news media become the dagger that kills democracy.

WILLIAMS: In 45 seconds or less, do you share real concerns that Trump goes to the NATO summit and says catch you guys later and then is seen hanging out with Vladimir Putin?

NANCE: Yes. How can I put it? The best way to put this is and this by the way one of my contributors on Twitter said. When Ronald Reagan went to Reykjavik to meet with Gorbachev. He went there to mark the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union.

It`s quite possible that when Donald Trump goes to this trip where if it`s (INAUDIBLE) or Vienna whenever it is held, he may be going there to end, mark the end of American Democracy.

WILLIAMS: Friend, you get our attention. Thank you very much. The book is sitting in my desk. It`s hard to believe it is all fact and portions of it read otherwise. Thank you very much. Malcolm Nance with us tonight in the studio.

Coming up, what North Korea has been up to since the summit and why this may run counter to the President`s narrative, when we continue.


WILLIAMS: There was last thing before we go tonight, since the day of the summit with Kim Jong-un of North Korea as recently as this weekend South Carolina, the President has been talking up how the North Koreans agreed to denuclearize. It says so right on the piece of paper both men signed.


TRUMP: The world is going to be a much safer place and North Korea going to be a better place and agreed to denuclearization. They have agreed to no more testing.

We signed an agreement. And said we will begin the immediate denuclearization, OK of North Korea.

The big thing is the denuclearization and it says right in the first paragraph, we will denuclearize, North Korea says it.

We`re well on our way to get denuclearization and the agreement says there will be total denuclearization.


WILLIAMS: That piece of paper actually commits North Korea "To work towards complete denuclearization of the Korean peninsula." And that`s a problem. And here is why this is suddenly back on the news.

New satellite imagery from an organization called 38 North a private analyst group in Washington shows that "Improvements to the infrastructure at North Korea`s Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center are continuing at a rapid pace."

The details and imagery appear to shows modification to a cooling system for a reactor and several instances of new construction. "The Wall Street Journal" was more blunt saying the new imagery "Showed no immediate effort to begin denuclearization a the key nuclear research site."

The photos were captured just nine days after the summit. And tonight at his rally in North Dakota the President mentioned North Korea but was notably not as specific about what was agreed to at that summit.

That for us is our broadcast on a busy Wednesday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.


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