Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: July 9, 2018 Guest: Tom Goldstein, Robert Costa, Kimberly Atkins, Mimi Rocah, Michael Schmidt, Jon Meacham, David Maraniss
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the President`s choice that could affect the law of the land for decades to come. The nomination of Federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh, a Bush 43 nominee for the Supreme Court and now comes the fight over confirmation.
Also tonight, Rudy Giuliani back on T.V., back with yet another new answer on whether Trump meets with Mueller.
And the new reporting tonight on what Donald Trump said about his own staff during a phone call with Vladimir Putin. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Monday night.
Well, good evening, once again, from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 536 of the Trump Administration, and President Trump has nominated Federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh to become the next Associate Justice of The Supreme Court.
Earlier tonight, the President revealed his choice in Prime Time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It is my honor and privilege to announce that I will nominate Judge Brett Kavanaugh to The United States Supreme Court.
Judge Kavanaugh has impeccable credentials, unsurpassed qualifications and a proven commitment to equal justice under the law. A graduate of Yale College and Yale Law School, Judge Kavanaugh currently teaches at Harvard, Yale, and And Georgetown.
Throughout legal circles, he is considered a judge`s judge, a true thought leader among his peers. He`s a brilliant jurist with a clear and effective writing style universally regarded as one of the finest and sharpest legal minds of our time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Some background now on Judge Kavanaugh in addition to what you just heard the President said. In addition to being, as he said, a graduate of Yale, Yale Law School. He`s a former clerk to Anthony Kennedy, and that`s critical. He served as an associate counsel to Ken Starr during Whitewater. He was staff secretary to President George W. Bush and he served on the D.C. Circuit of the federal bench since 2006.
He married the personal secretary to President Bush 43. Together, they have two daughters. He`s a Catholic who would maintain a two-thirds Catholic majority on the Supreme Court. Kavanaugh is 53. He`s a product of D.C. and its Maryland suburbs. And only child, the son of two lawyers, his mother also taught public school.
And at the White House tonight with his parents in the audience, he talked about his life and upbringing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: My mom was a teacher. In the 1960s and 1970s she taught history at two largely African-American public high schools in Washington, D.C., McKinley Tech and H.D. Woodson. Her example taught me the importance of equality for all Americans.
My mom was a trailblazer. When I was 10, she went to law school and became a prosecutor. My introduction to law came at our dinner table when she practiced her closing arguments. Her trade mark line was "Use your common sense. What rings true? What rings false?" That`s good advice for a juror, and for a son.
My dad went to law school at night while working full time. He has an unparalleled worth ethic and has passed down to me his passion for playing and watching sports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Some big names in this process are already weighing in tonight. The Senate Judiciary Chairman, Chuck Grassley, Republican of Iowa released a statement that read in part, "Judge Kavanaugh is one of the most qualified Supreme Court nominees to come before the Senate. He is a superb mainstream candidate worthy of the Senate`s consideration."
The lead Republican, Mitch McConnell, called Kavanaugh "a superb choice." Democrats among them Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker of California and New Jersey respectively have already come out in opposition to the pick.
We could see Judge Kavanaugh on Capitol Hill as early as tomorrow to start meeting with senators. Former Republican Arizona Senator Jon Kyl has agreed to be Kavanaugh`s so called Sherpa, helping him navigate the House of Congress. Kyl, of course, is an 18-year veteran of the Senate, long time member of the Judiciary Committee.
Meanwhile, these four red states Democrats were invited to attend the event at the White House tonight but declined. We also know that Republican Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski declined invitations. All six of these folks considered critical votes that the Republicans in their case need to protect and the Democrats need to keep on their side. Importantly, they both voted, the two Republican women did, for Kavanaugh`s confirmation to the D.C. Circuit court in 2006.
Now, earlier tonight, Senator Collins of Maine released a statement that highlighted Judge Kavanaugh`s extensive experience and read, "I will conduct a careful, thorough vetting of the President`s nominee to the Supreme Court, as I have done with the five previous Supreme Court justices whom I have considered." I look forward to Judge Kavanaugh`s public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee and to questioning him in a meeting in my office."
With all that, let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Monday night. Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post," Moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS. Kimberly Atkins, Chief Washington Reporter for the "Boston Herald." And Tom Goldstein also back us with, Veteran D.C. Attorney who has personally argued 41 cases before the Supreme Court.
As we like to remind our viewers, there are only three people in the modern era who have argued more cases before the Supreme Court. In his spare time, he is publisher of SCOTUSblog about the court. He has taught at Harvard and Stanford Law Schools and in that our book that allows him to go first tonight.
So, Tom, what do you make of the pick and what do you think the folks at home should make of the pick? Give them kind of a viewer`s guide to what we`re going to see play out here?
TOM GOLDSTEIN, ATTORNEY SPECIALIZING IN SUPREME COURT LITIGATION: Well, you got a pick who you would have expected to see from any Republican President going into any Republican-controlled Senate. There`s nothing remarkably extreme about Judge Kavanaugh and there`s nothing really the Democrats can grab hold of along the lines of, say, abortion that would give them a really good chance of peeling off the one or two votes that they would need in order to stop him.
You did see a rush of Republican senators to endorse him and Democratic senators to oppose him. But in general, I think what the President did is he picked someone who is a really well-known person, has a lot of very strong credentials, a lot of experience. And he`s probably going to sail through this process as much as anyone can in this kind of fraught political environment.
WILLIAMS: And, Tom, what you just said was important to me because the President did have some pressure on him to pick, I don`t mean this as a pejorative, but rookies on the federal bench because they didn`t have much of a paper trail. In making this choice, the President knows there are 300-some-odd opinions out, every world of which can now be poured over.
GOLDSTEIN: That`s exactly right. But what is really important is that they studied all the words that involved abortion, affirmative action, and gay rights and came to the conclusion that he hadn`t written anything that would create a real opportunity to block him. Now he has conservative decisions in a lot of those areas. And also in gun rights.
But nothing so extreme that someone could say to Americans, "Look, this would be a vote to overturn Roe versus Wade, therefore, you have to stop him. Instead, what you have is a very, very solid conservative jurist.
WILLIAMS: So, Robert Costa, talk about what you know about the lobbying for and against this choice.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": There was actually an outcry, Brian, on parts of the Republican Party, inside parts of the Republican Party about, as we were just discussing, his rulings on certain health care cases, abortion cases that he was not conservative enough in the way he wrote up his opinions on those cases. But in a way, as the President thought through his options, that conservative frustration with Judge Kavanaugh actually seemed to work in his favor inside of the White House because he wasn`t seen as someone who would be too far out on the right who couldn`t bring along perhaps a Senator Susan Collins or a Senator Lisa Murkowski.
WILLIAMS: And, of course, Kim, I always point out when conversations veer in below that you`re a recovering lawyer yourself. To pick up on Bob`s last point, do you think this will be enough to satisfy the right? You and I have talked before this is the topic that brings together even some of the never Trumpers and that is court selections from this President.
KIMBERLY ATKINS, CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER, THE BOSTON HERALD: Yes. This is one area where Republicans tend to be unified and while Bob is right, there are some very conservative members of the Senate who may have raised questions about whether Kavanaugh is conservative enough, whether he went far enough, for example, in his opinion that went against the federal Health Care Act but not on the merits. Whether he really went far enough on a case involving a teenager who was seeking to be released from immigration custody in order to have an abortion. He went against that decision, but not far enough.
There`s going to be a lot of questions like that, a lot of parsing by Democrats and Republicans. But at the end of the day, he is a middle of the road sort of right of center justice that is probably going to have the best chance right now with just a one Senate -- one senator majority in the Senate to get through.
WILLIAMS: Tom, what has he said about the presidency and presidential power and distracting a President? And here, of course, I see you nodding is why I ask. This appointment does not come in the clear.
GOLDSTEIN: Yes. That`s right.
WILLIAMS: This appointment comes while a case is being litigated on a rolling basis against the President appointing him. It is not in the field of wild speculation that should he make it the day he is sworn in a case arrives on the doorstep of the Supreme Court involving this President who just appointed him.
GOLDSTEIN: That`s exactly right. And that may well have played a tiebreaking role. So Brett Kavanaugh worked for Ken Starr who people will remember from the Clinton investigations and there was involved in pursuing an investigation of the President. But after that, he wrote a law review article in which he talked about how it is that he thought that those sorts of investigations were too much of a distraction on the President, that the President needed to have his attention focused on his job.
And in addition, his rulings on the D.C. Circuit have really favored presidential powers. So I think all of that pointed in the direction of President Trump if he was concerned about a nominee who would really take his side in those cases. Not out of bias, but out of kind of his view of the jurisprudence. He did really well with Brett Kavanaugh.
WILLIAMS: Since, Tom, thanks to Attorney General Sessions, everyone who watches television news can now recite the definition of the word recusal. Wouldn`t there be grounds for him to recuse himself from a case having to do with the President who just appointed him to the court?
GOLDSTEIN: No. There will be a lot of people who would think that and would be concerned about the appearance of bias. But the rules about recusal in the Supreme Court are very, very, very tough because you can`t replace a justice once they step out. So it is actually quite rare for a justice to take themselves out of a case. It`s only when they`ve been personally involved.
So, for example, if he had heard a case on the D.C. Circuit he would be recused in the Supreme Court. But the fact that President Trump nominated him would not lead him to take himself out of any case.
WILLIAMS: All right. Robert Costa, join us in watching and listening to Senator Durbin, Democrat of Illinois. We`ll talk about this on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D), ILLINOIS: I can`t predict how all of my 49 or 48 colleagues in the Senate on the Democratic side will vote. I will tell you, though, simple math tells if you John McCain is absent, it`s a 50-49 Senate. One Republican senator can decide the fate of any Supreme Court nominee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So importantly, that`s from "Meet the Press" yesterday morning before we had the name in hand of Judge Kavanaugh as the President`s nominee. Robert, talk about where you see the math that building behind you right now tonight.
COSTA: It`s complicated for the Democrats especially those running in states won by President Trump in 2016, if you`re Senator Joe Donnelly of Indiana or Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia or even Bill Nelson, Democrat in Florida. Tough choices ahead because you realize you`re running in states that had a rough path to reelection. And this nominee is not someone who`s going to immediately revive the culture wars in the same way Judge Amy Coney Barrett may have done if she was nominated.
And so you`re going to see Leader Schumer in the Senate based on my reporting really try to get the Democratic base engaged in this fight, make sure this is a galvanizing issue for the party in the midterm elections, but make sure it`s not just about abortion or just about contraception but economic issues facing the court are also brought up as a way of making sure Democratic voters are engaged.
WILLIAMS: Kim, we all have favorites, members of the Senate we`re going to be watching. Who are yours?
ATKINS: We are going to be watching, of course, Susan Collins and also Lisa Murkowski, the moderates, really the only moderates on the Republican side who will definitely have a lot of questions particularly about abortion rights, and the senators that Bob just mentioned on the Democratic side, senators from -- Democrats from red states who are probably safe so long as Murkowski and Collins stay within the yes votes. If they vote against, that will put some pressure on those red state Democrats. But I don`t see anything so far that really seems that this is going to be a big, big push.
I think Republicans go into this with the advantage. President Trump goes into this with the advantage with his nominee as he would with just about anybody on this list made up by the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, very conservative groups. I think unless there was some big thing that comes out, I think that the Republicans can probably hold on and get him through.
WILLIAMS: And, Tom, you had the first word. I want to give you the last. Isn`t one of the leading reasons to choose a federal judge for the Supreme Court that they have already been confirmed by the U.S. Senate?
GOLDSTEIN: That`s right. And there are people who voted for him. Now, he`s been on the court for a long time, more than a decade. So it`s not like you have Amy Comey Barrett who had just been confirmed by the Senate.
GOLDSTEIN: But it really is the case, I think, that it would be shocking to see any Republican defect and vote against Brett Kavanaugh unless something came up in a background investigation that no one expected. And then I think that it`s exactly right that they`re going to hold this vote closer and closer to the midterm elections, maybe only three or four weeks before to put a huge amount of pressure on red state Democrats and also to get the conservative base to the polls and really show them that this is why they voted for Donald Trump, which many of them did despite holding their noses about him as a person.
WILLIAMS: Can`t thank you, guys, enough. There`s still breaking news story just hours old tonight. Robert Costa, Tom Goldstein and Kimberly Atkins, really appreciate you coming on with us this Monday night.
And coming up for us, new signals in the Russia investigation over truth and testimony. We`ll talk about both.
And later, more on what this President`s Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh could mean for this President`s legacy in office. We`re just getting started on a Monday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, LAWYER FOR PRESIDENT TRUMP: We would not recommend an interview for the President unless they can satisfy us that there is some basis for this investigation. What we`re asking him for is, is this the witch hunt that a lot of people think it is or is there a factual basis for this? George, he wants to testify. He believe --
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC HOST: That`s hard to believe that anymore Mr. Mayor.
GIULIANI: Well, it is hard to believe given all the things that have been shown about how tainted this investigation is. This is the most corrupt investigation I have ever seen.
ARI MELBER, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You think Robert Mueller is a biassed man?
GIULIANI: No, no, but I think he is surrounded by biassed people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: President Trump`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has re-emerged. Tonight, he was at the White House as Trump announced the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
After going dark for a time, Rudy suddenly reappeared on three T.V. networks over the weekend, laying out the latest requirements for a Trump- Mueller interview as you heard. He was also speaking about his client`s former personal attorney Michael Cohen who is currently under federal investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Are concerned that Michael Cohen is going to start cooperating with the feds?
GIULIANI: No. In fact, you know, if he wants to cooperate, I think it`s great. It`s going to lead to nothing. And look, Mueller gave it away. If this had any chance of leading to President Trump, don`t you think Muller would have kept this?
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you have no concerns at all about anything that Michael Cohen might tell the prosecutors?
GIULIANI: As long as he tells the truth, we`re home free.
I don`t know what he has to flip over. What I do know is there`s no evidence of wrongdoing with President Trump. I think he`s going to tell the truth as best as he can, given his recollection.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Cohen`s newest lawyer, former Clinton aide, Lanny Davis, fired back at Giuliani on Twitter writing, "Did Rudy Giuliani really say on the Sunday shows that Michael Cohen should cooperate with the prosecutors and tell the truth. Seriously? Is that Trump and Giuliani definition of truth? Trump/Giuliani next to the word truth equals and oxymoron. Stay tuned. #the truth matters."
It would all seem to indicate Mr. Cohen would like to cooperate with the feds. As for rumored possible pardon for Mr. Cohen from President Trump, Giuliani, no surprise, says that`s off the table at least for now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: I`ve advised the President which he understands no discussion of pardons. You can`t abridge your power to do it. That`s something you can decide down the road one way or the other and quite honestly, which has confuse everything.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With us now to talk about it, Mimi Rocah, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. This days, a Distinguished Fellow in Criminal Justice at Pace University School of Law. And Michael Schmidt as well, former -- current, actually, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Correspondent for "The New York Times." He`s a former nothing.
Mimi, let`s start with you. Rudy is in the room there tonight at the White House, at one point greeting Rod Rosenstein, at other points greeting current U.S. senators. How does that work? How does it work nominating a justice to the Supreme Court when you`re under federal investigation? And what if that justice is then asked to rule on your case?
MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: I think this is problematic. You know, look, I don`t think that he should be able to nominate a justice while he`s under investigation. I think this puts the President in the lame duck category that Mitch McConnell put President Obama in when he was, you know, too close to the election and under the McConnell rule. It seems that that ship has sailed and this nomination is going to happen.
I think what Democrats need to do now is really look at what Kavanaugh has said about the presidential power and about a President being -- whether a President should be under investigation. And, you know, there`s some debate about what his article that he wrote --
WILLIAMS: The Minnesota law journal.
WILLIAMS: And we think he`ll get grilled on that particularly.
ROCAH: And he should. Because whether or not Trump picked him because he seems to have this view of the strong executive, many people will think that is why he was picked because people expect that of Donald Trump to look out for himself first and foremost. And so if Kavanaugh, you know, cares at all about his own reputation and the integrity of the court and what the American public thinks about the Supreme Court and its independence, then he better have some good answers for that and he really should, I think, voluntarily recuse himself. He does not have to but he could voluntarily recuse himself from any cases growing out of the scenario about criminal investigation involving the President.
WILLIAMS: Knowing more the President who had just appointed him to the Supreme Court.
Hey, Michael, what do you think is behind the re-emergence of one Rudolph Giuliani on T.V. over the weekend and serious question, how much law do you think he`s practicing these days or is he mostly practicing what we see television?
MICHAEL SCHMIDT, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, Rudy was traveling in France over the past week or so, so that`s why things were quiet. And he`s back obviously now.
What Rudy has done for the President has been the public advocate that Trump has wanted all along. Trump has wanted someone on the front lines who is going to fire as much as he was at Mueller. He was going to be a fighter for him. And that`s why he went out and got him.
He didn`t go out to get him for his legal mind. He didn`t go out to get him to use in litigation. He got him to be a fighter for him. And the President thinks he has been very successful at this.
Giuliani can make things very confusing. He says many different things. He pushes many different theories about what`s going on, some of them unfounded. And what he has done is he has helped rode public opinion about the investigation.
A poll that came out at the end of last week showed that many more Americans than at any point since the Mueller investigation began in May of 2017 are skeptical of Mueller and skeptical of the investigation. They think it`s gone on for a year. And in terms of that public relations fight where the President`s lawyer think this will ultimately end up if there`s a problem in the House for an impeachment vote, they think they can rode public sentiment.
WILLIAMS: Mimi, Lanny Davis very capable, a veteran Washington lawyer was among other things a Clinton impeachment lawyer. Clinton associate, Clinton acolyte. Short of hiring skywriters is do you think there`s any doubt remaining at all that Michael Cohen plans to work for the feds?
ROCAH: There is no doubt that he wants to. I always try to add the caution that, you know, he needs to have something to offer.
WILLIAMS: He needs a charging document for starters.
ROCAH: Well, he doesn`t have to be charged before he cooperates. But not everyone gets to cooperate. There needs to be valuable information, information that the government can use. I think we`re all assuming that. And that`s seems like a reasonable assumption, but you know, that`s one predicate to him cooperating.
The second one is he needs to be truthful. They need to believe what he`s saying, test him. So assuming those things are true, yes. It does seem that his mind is now set on trying to cooperate.
And, you know, I think Lanny Davis is the public advocate for Cohen now, right. We said that Giuliani is Trumps. Well, I think this is Cohen`s answer to Giuliani really.
WILLIAMS: It will get to Trump that Lanny Davis is playing in this game.
Hey, Michael, let`s talk about the work of one of your colleagues tonight. Julie Hirschfeld Davis posted. This is about Trump-Putin phone call back in March.
"He told Mr. Putin that Russia and the United States," this is the President on the phone, "should get along better. And he commiserated with Mr. Putin over Trump administration officials whom the Russian President said had tried to prevent the call from happening, according to a person with direct knowledge of the conversation. Those are stupid people. You shouldn`t listen to them, Mr. Trump told Mr. Putin, the person said."
So that is our President talking about stupid people in quotes on his staff. Michael, I don`t know where to begin except that what does this show about the Trump-Putin relationship?
SCHMIDT: The President has been incredibly consistent on the Russia issue. He refuses to say anything negative about Putin, whether it was on the campaign or whether it was when he was in office. And this is obviously unusual because we have a President who is not afraid to say negative things about anyone. But on this one particular leader from this one country, he has held fast.
Now why is that? Obviously, we don`t know. But this is a consistent theme that we have seen. It continues to repeat itself.
If you remember, it was back in May of 2017 right around the time that he fired Comey that he told the Russian officials that by firing Comey he had relieved pressure on him. So he feels certainly comfortable confiding in them intimate details about where he stands politically on a very difficult thing like firing Comey.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to Mimi Rocah, veteran lawyer and former fed, and to Michael Schmidt Pulitzer Prize-winner with "The New York Times." Really appreciate it tonight.
And coming up for us after another break, North Korea accuses the U.S. of gangster-like behavior over denuclearization. But the President points out there was a hand shake. He also says they signed a contract where the talks go from here when we come right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I`m counting on Chairman Kim to be determined to follow-through on the commitment that he made. And so if those requests were gangster like, the world is a gangster. There was a unanimous decision at the U.N. Security Council about what needs to be achieved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: This takes just a little bit to explain what is going on. That obviously the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo firing back at North Korea`s criticism of this past weekend`s nuclear talks.
Now initially Pompeo had praised the negotiations as productive but the sentiment was quickly undercut by the North Korean Foreign Ministry statement. They called the U.S. gangster like in it`s demand for denuclearization.
They said "The attitude and stance the U.S. showed in the first high level meeting was no doubt regrettable." But President Trump stressed his faith in the U.S.-North Korea relationship on Twitter today writing "I have confidence that Kim Jong-un will honor the contract, entrusting word their "We signed" and even more importantly our hand shake. We agreed to the denuclearization of North Korea. China on the other hand, may be exerting negative pressure on a deal because of our posture on Chinese trade. Hope not."
The summit actually did not result in any contract that laid out terms for denuclearization. Tomorrow the President leaves for the NATO summit in Brussels. That will be followed by one-on-one sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin a week from today.
There are reports the President`s friendly approach to North Korea is further stoking anxiety ahead of his trip abroad. Axios report senior European officials have told Axios they`re worried that Trump will spend the entire NATO summit beating up on America`s closest allies especially Germany, for not spending enough on their defense.
They`re worried he`ll make those deficiencies the focus of the summit rather than solidarity in the face of the Russian threat. And that he`ll have a friendlier summit with Putin just a few days after a tense NATO gathering.
Well, here to talk about all of it, Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs correspondent, happens to be host of Andrea Mitchell reports at noon each day eastern time on this network, and retired four-star U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey who is of course, a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, former battlefield commander in the Persian Gulf.
Good evening and welcome to you both. Andrea, the only way to start on North Korea is in simple English and that is did we get played?
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIR CORRESPONDENT: We sure did get played. And Pompeo with the best of intentions to try to flush out what in fact was agreed to in Singapore if anything, he got snubbed.
Sarah Sanders had said that he would be meeting with Kim Jong-un. He was not. That meeting was never in the cards. And, in fact, he spent two days going through endless long, multicourse dinners, lavish dinners that he had no taste for, appetite for and didn`t get to the substance. They never got to the meat as to what really was agreed to in Singapore.
And that`s the problem. The President referring to a contract? What they signed were promises, empty promises, in fact. And when he said in his tweet today that he relied more -- put more importance on the hand shake with Kim Jong-un, why on earth would he be trusting a hand shake from someone who is from a regime that has a history of family history of having cheated and lied to the United States and to other allies to their own neighbors in the past?
WILLIAMS: And General, meantime this has become a standard line now in the President`s rallies, talking about how much safer we are, that there are no longer missiles in the skies over the pacific. Question to you is, are we any closer to denuclearization and remind me again what North Korea`s motive is in agreeing to denuclearization?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Andrea Mitchell pretty much summed it up. I have a great deal of empathy for Secretary Pompeo, Secretary Jim Mattis, the CIA director. They`ve got to remain objective. I`ve been dealing with issue since I was at JCS Strategic Planner during the Clinton administration.
The only difference between then and now is they`ve got 60 nuclear weapons, maybe, and some ICBM capabilities, striking the United States. They have no intention of denuclearizing. So the Secretary of State has got to somehow maintain a dialogue lower the tension, keep our allies close to us. South Korea and Japan are concerned.
Try and keep the Chinese supportive of the economic embargo and stop raising these nonsense expectations. The President saying he`s an honorable man are a veered by his people that is not translating in North Korea. This guy advisedly, use the word is a monster, his murdered hundreds of his own senior people, thousands of his citizens. So we`re in a very strange and concerning place right now.
WILLIAMS: General, because you`ve held posts in and around NATO in your military career and because you talked about at this week, I want to head over to that and preview that gathering. You said this, the United States is spending NATO central to U.S. and European peace and deterrence, President of the United States has savaged the utility of the alliance and embraced Putin, a threat to Western Europe and his own people.
It is also the case that our partners have shamefully not paid their share. So general, what`s your biggest fear as the President goes in to this NATO gathering?
MCCAFFREY: Well, to be blunt, the Germans have completely disarmed. In the 80s there were 12 Bundestag (ph) divisions in Central Europe, very powerful air force, a competent naval force. They were the biggest land force in NATO.
They`re gone now. The French are just about disarmed. The Brits are disarming. So we do have a problem. And Russia is a danger, less so to Germany and the Baltic States, Poland, the Ukraine, their neighbors, their immediate neighbors.
So we do have to put some iron in the NATO alliance. But at the end of the day, Brian, NATO is deterrence and peace for the United States and Western Europe. So it has to be nurtured. We need leadership out of the President, rather than this public rudeness and denigration and embracing Putin.
I mean this guy is a threat to the Russian people and to his neighbors. He`s an impoverished deeply dictatorial regime, this why Russia kleptocracy, why is embracing Mr. Putin?
WILLIAMS: And Andrea Mitchell to that last point, what`s the level of concern in your orbit about a President asking to sit down with Putin with just translators, no other record of their conversation?
MITCHELL: Well, extreme. And that is certainly the concern of our allies. I`ve spoken to a lot of senior European officials. They were nervous before Quebec. But after that G7 meeting when he went into the meeting, the President did, arguing with Russia to be invited back despite the fact that they`ve took Crimea and eastern Ukraine and haven`t really paid or acknowledged that to say nothing of attacking our election as well as other European elections.
That so unnerved our allies at the G7 who of course overlap with our NATO allies that this is really concerning. The attacks, the personal attacks against Merkel, the really dishonorable way that he apparently talked to her at the table with a private sessions as well what he said in public to both Trudeau and Macron as well as Merkel.
And now he have a weakened British leader with Theresa May. With huge prudence their cabinet with inner party a 48 members of parliament from her party signed letters that`s going to face a no confidence vote in parliament.
And so all of this happening with the Brexit problems that she faces at home, weakening her hand as well and now she has to face welcoming the President very unpopular in the U.K. for a played down state visit with enough confident (ph), circumstance to satisfy his ego. That`s going to be really tough with hundreds of thousands of people protesting in the streets of London.
WILLIAMS: Two of the people we`ll be counting on to help us cover these up coming gatherings, our great thanks tonight to Andrea Mitchell and General Barry McCaffrey. Really appreciate you`re coming on.
Coming up for us, a few decisions to find a President as much as a Supreme Court nomination, President himself has been saying that. What tonight`s announcement likely will mean in terms of legacy when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Think about when you get in the voting booth the United States Supreme Court. Just think about it. Because I`ll tell you what, you put the wrong justices on the Supreme Court and this country will never, ever be the same. It will never be what you had hoped it would be.
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WILLIAMS: While on the campaign trail, the man who is now President talked about it all the time. The importance of a Supreme Court selection. Say nothing of two of them. He clearly saw this as a red meat issue to motivate the base, get out the vote.
Well, tonight just 18 months into his presidency, the President has indeed nominated a second judge to the highest court in the land. Tonight`s nomination is critical, not just for the Trump presidency if confirmed, a Justice Brett Kavanaugh at age 53 could have a lasting impact on Supreme Court rulings for decades, generations to come.
And with us tonight to talk about all of it, Jon Meacham Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian, his latest work is "The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels" and David Maraniss, also a Pulitzer Prize winning report, author of presidential biographer and veteran of "The Washington Post."
Gentlemen, thank you both for coming on tonight. David, I`m going to begin with you. Your take on this pick and I just want to lay out one stat that a Justice Kavanaugh would bring the average age on the right side of the court to 61 by our math. The average age on the left side of the court would be 72. What do you make of this man who was introduced to the public tonight?
DAVID MARANISS, ASSOCIATION EDITOR, THE WASHINGTON POST: Brian, I think that in most cases Supreme Court nominees are judged based on their political philosophy, the political context and the individual characteristics of that judge.
In this case, I think the individual characteristics, even the age are less important than the political context and the philosophy. And, so often with Supreme Court justices you think about where sort of the history of judges.
And President Trump was right in saying how important it is. You can`t overstate the importance of his choice in terms of women`s reproductive rights, in terms of health care, and so many other issues. But I`d say two things.
One is that, can you think of a President whose legacy was determined by Supreme Court choices? Richard Nixon picked four judges. I can`t say that`s even on the top ten list of how you define Richard Nixon.
And secondly, I think that the legacy here is more to do with Republican Party than with President Trump. I think that they made a bargain, some would call it a devil`s bargain that they would hold their nose on so many other aspects of Donald Trump just to get to this moment today. And so you see so many other things exploding around Trump. And yet, this is what they were waiting for.
WILLIAMS: Jon, you and David as writers of history, it strikes me you`re entire business is all about timing. Look back at the last three presidents, two term presidents. They had two picks over eight years.
Along comes Donald Trump, he gets two picks right off the bat. 18 months and sooner or later, guys like you are writing about legacy, whatever else happens that defines whatever this presidency is.
JON MEACHAM, AUTHOR" THE SOUL OF AMERICA": Absolutely. It`s interesting. If Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed, we`ll have one justice from the one term president from George Walker Bush, Clarence Thomas, then two from Clinton, two from 43, two from Obama and two from Trump.
And so interestingly the court itself will reflect the presidential elections of the era. And as you say, actuarially we don`t know how many more he may get. The generational aspect of this is fascinating. I think David is right.
Presidents are not often defined by the choice necessarily. But eras are. There`s a war in court era that we think of really more in terms of Chief Justice Warren that we do man who appointed him, President Eisenhower.
But there`s also this longer term drama that`s unfolding, which if Trump gets two or three or even four, Franklin Roosevelt actually had appointed most of -- Roosevelt and Truman had appointed all of the justices there were on the court when in 1954 Earl Warren joined it.
And became I think the most consequential justice certainly of the 20th century and arguably the most consequential since John Marshall since the court did what the political system failed to do, which was take on integration directly.
And so these are long term bets. I don`t want to call them sleeper agents exactly. But they are particularly as they come on younger, you`re talking about 35, 40, 45 years of jurisprudence. And you also wonder in the court we all change our minds, I think if we`re thinking and living and you wonder whether any of these justices will evolve over time.
WILLIAMS: David, I was reminded today the vote on Ginsburg, Justice Ginsburg, not all that long ago in our lifetimes, was 96-3.
Now, she was not a puzzle to us. She was not enigmatic. We knew about her jurisprudence. There were zero issues with her character. So you`ve got to look at that as the last vestiges of an era when a decidedly left or right jurist could get affirmed, 96-3 in the U.S. Senate. Will we ever see those days again?
MARANISS: Well, not in the near future. Those days are over for the time being. You can never say what this country will be like in 15 years. But the political situation now is so fraught that anything, no vote is going to be 96-3 on anything these days.
WILLIAMS: Jon Meacham, this is where we bump up against your book, which is on so many tables. Coffee, bedside, and otherwise. And so many kindle and associated systems for good reason.
MEACHAM: A lot of barrooms (ph).
WILLIAMS: And that is this. Folks on the left are so dark about this Supreme Court development. You`re in the business of reminding us all as you do so well in these pages. It`s been worse, it`s been darker. But we`re hearing from folks, especially on the political left, this is bad, this is for keeps, at least for a couple of generations. What do you say to them?
MEACHAM: I know it feels cataclysmic. And each of these nominations tends to feel like the thunderdome meets C-SPAN somehow. But the country does have a way. The court does have a way, by and large, of reflecting the middle of the country.
And there are dramatic exceptions to that. But the court now is proof that presidential elections matter enormously. Again, Clarence Thomas, Ginsburg, and Breyer, Alito, and Roberts, through Kagan, and Sotomayor and now Gorsuch and perhaps Kavanaugh, that`s a fairly even span over the past four or five presidents we`ve had.
What we have to insist on, in our daily politics or which is now minute to minute politics, I think, is understanding that every vote counts. I understand why Senator Warren was out there with the quickly printed stop Kavanaugh signs.
I understand why Senator Booker was on television, Senator Harris, this is in many ways not the beginning of the 2020 race, but it`s certainly related to it. But the court does have a tendency to surprise.
And so what I would say to those who are about to set their hair on fire, is at least wait until morning. Because of the four justices that Richard Nixon appointed, Justice Rehnquist had to recuse himself, because he was in the Justice department under Nixon.
But the others had Three, Burger, Powell and Blackmun voted to make Nixon turn over the tapes, which was the precipitating event that actually led to Nixon`s resignation. Three of his appointees voted that way.
Earl Warren did not go in as this remarkably progressive voice. Eisenhower wasn`t quite sure what he was going to get. So, things do unfold. These are human institutions. And I think if you`re concerned about Judge Kavanaugh, need to get out and elect someone else president.
WILLIAMS: Because we have to Pulitzer Prize recipients tonight, we had least asked them to be in separate rooms for their own safety. Jon Meacham, David Maraniss. Gentlemen, what pleasure it is always to have you both on the broadcast. Thank you both so much.
And coming up for us, we mentioned it earlier, big troubles across the Atlantic having to do with what that man did today. When we come back.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back. And the last thing before we go, on a Monday night, is trouble on the other side of the Atlantic. When you think about it, it was the Brexit vote two years ago that was our first big indication that we may be witnessing something of a prairie fire, as we near the end of the second decade of this new century.
If our times have indeed just been redefined as a battle between norms and tearing down those norms, whether to stay in the home we`ve built or burn it down, then you could argue that it all started with Brexit, which, like the trump election months after that, was the first vote that stunned the establishment.
When the people of the U.K. voted to leave the E.U. Two years later, that hasn`t happened because decoupling is complicated. The choice before the U.K. appears to be somewhere between full-on divorce versus staying good friends, versus staying together for the sake of the kids.
Well, tonight the government of the Prime Minister Theresa May is in trouble, and so, too, is Brexit. Theresa May has suffering some cabinet resignations most notedly this morning, the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson resigning.
Now, respectfully to Americans who don`t follow U.K. politics closely, he may be more widely referred to as the guy with the hair. Johnson is a bona fide intellectual, an iconoclast, and a big backer of Brexit.
He is worried the prime minister is too attached to the E.U. The prime mister has filled the vacancies to her cabinet, but she must now watch her flank as leader of the conservative party.
It`s been said by headline writers for the better part of the last two years, it remains true. Breaking up is hard to do. And it`s less certain tonight for the E.U. and the U.K. And a reminder, our President is due to arrive in the U.K. this coming Thursday.
So, that is our broadcast for us tonight. My thanks to my friends Steve Kornacki and Ali Velshi for allowing me to sneak away from here for a few days. Our thanks to you for being here with us. And good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
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