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Trump strikes combative tone at NATO. TRANSCRIPT: 07/10/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Lisa Lerer, Ned Price, Josh Gerstein, Chuck Rosenberg, Michael Scherer, Nancy Cook, Bill Kristol

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: July 10, 2018 Guest: Lisa Lerer, Ned Price, Josh Gerstein, Chuck Rosenberg, Michael Scherer, Nancy Cook, Bill Kristol

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, there is nervousness about the greatest military alliance since the Second World War and it`s because of what the American President might do or say. Donald Trump is hours away from the start of a NATO summit after criticizing NATO prior to arrival.

Also, the President declares that after the NATO summit and a visit to the U.K., a meeting with Putin of Russia will be the easiest part of his overseas trip.

And Michael Flynn back in court today. New developments in the jailing of former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

THE 11TH HOUR getting underway on a Tuesday night.

Well, good evening, once again, from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 537 of the Trump Administration, and the President is waking up in Brussels for a meeting of the NATO allies.

NATO has survived a lot of things from wars to terrorism, but it`s never had to survive a threat from a President of the United States, one of NATO`s founding pillars. From NATO, the President goes to London then he meets with Putin of Russia.

Here was how the President previewed his own trip today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have NATO, I have the U.K., which is in somewhat turmoil, and I have Putin. Frankly, Putin may be the easiest of them all. Who would think?

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Would you say Vladimir Putin is a friend or foe?

TRUMP: I really can`t say right. As far as I`m concerned, a competitor. A competitor. I think that getting along with Russia, getting along with China, getting along with others is a good thing, not a bad thing.


WILLIAMS: And about this NATO summit set to get underway just hours from now, "The Washington Post" gives us this, "Leaders converged on Brussels fearful of what the combative U.S. President might say or do to rupture the liberal world order with some European diplomats privately predicting calamity. European leaders are as concerned about what concessions he might make to Putin, such as recognizing Russia`s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, as they are about the chaos he could create at the NATO summit."

The President`s last NATO visit, his first as President, did not go well as you may remember. Fellow allies were visibly uncomfortably during his remarks, which criticized the way the alliance is run and paid for. He was famously seen giving the Heisman maneuver to the leader of Montenegro, pushing him right aside to get to the front.

Again, with this visit the President went after NATO prior to arriving there about our allies. He says, "The U.S. is spending many times more than any other country in order to protect them. Not fair to the U.S. taxpayer. On top of that, we lose $151 billion on trade with the European Union."

He added this prior to his departure.


TRUMP: It`s going to be an interesting time in the U.K. and it`s certainly going to be an interesting time with NATO. NATO has not treated us fairly, but I think we`ll work something out. We pay far too much and they pay far too little. But we will work it out and all countries will be happy.


WILLIAMS: Of course during the campaign, you`ll recall he famously called NATO obsolete. President Trump`s critical comments about America`s closest allies drew a rare public rebuke, which we have for you here from the European Council President, Donald Tusk.


DONALD TUSK, PRESIDENT, EUROPEAN COUNCIL: Dear America, appreciate your allies, after all you don`t have that many.


WILLIAMS: And the U.S. Senate just sent a message of its own late today. Senators passed a non-binding motion, but it passed 97-2 reaffirming the U.S. commitment to NATO, the alliance.

Arizona Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a statement of his own that read in part, "No U.S. policy or strategy in Europe can succeed without a strong transatlantic alliance. Allies can and must have candid discussions with one another about differences. But unrestrained attacks on our closest partners will only serve to sow dissent among allies and embolden our adversaries."

Let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Tuesday night. Jeremy Bash, Former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon. We welcome to the broadcast Lisa Lerer, National Politics Reporter with "The Associated Press." And back with us Ned Price, Former Senior Director to the National Security Council also happens to be a Former Senior Analyst at the CIA.

Jeremy, no other way to put this. These are our oldest and best friends in the world. These are the countries that have our back. What is going on here?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, Brian, we are witnessing the de facto collapse of the NATO alliance led by the United States. The preface of this historic summit, I think the one country in the world that feels most emboldened is Russia.

Russia has been annexing Crimea. They`ve been propping up Assad regime. They`ve been shooting commercial airliners out of the sky. They`ve been poisoning western intelligence assets from the streets of a major American ally and they paid absolutely no consequences. And, in fact, they`re getting a significant return on their investment for their meddling in the 2016 election because here comes the American President, he`s about to basically declare the NATO alliance not just obsolete, but ineffective, ineffectual and maybe defunct.

WILLIAMS: Lisa, as we all know a summit is really two summits happening on parallel levels. There`s the leaders level and their photo ops and their meals and their closed door sessions and all. There has 1:14 and there`s the staff meeting.

And these professional staff members, most of them with multiple summits under their belts conduct their own meeting, their own diplomacy. What`s that going to be like given what the top of the ticket is like with the U.S. delegation?

LISA LERER, NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": Well, that`s a big part of the problem here for European allies is they simply don`t know who to listen to. They`re getting such mixed messages out of the U.S. government and out of the White House itself. Of course you have John Bolton arguing for a tougher approach. You have Jim Mattis arguing that, you know, we should -- that the U.S. should be more conciliatory towards its allies and prop up this alliance.

And so you have these mid-level bureaucrats who are, as you say, really -- that`s really the place where the actual diplomacy work gets done and they just don`t know who to listen to. They don`t know if the information they`re getting in this meeting is correct, if promises will be followed through on. That`s a significant problem in terms of actually getting the nitty-gritty work of diplomacy done.

WILLIAMS: And Ned, our nation turns its lonely eyes to you and here`s what I mean. You get the task of explaining, finally, what the President is talking about with the balance of payments to NATO. As he tells it, you would think we are making all the car payments for someone else to drive the car every day. You would think we are paying for some ephemeral security, the benefits of which we never see.

What is the NATO payment structure? By how much is the President exaggerating our role and their deficit?

NED PRICE, FORMER CIA SENIOR ANALYST: Well, you`re right, Brian. You would think that if you listened to President Trump. President Trump is right about thing. There is a 2% non-binding guideline for NATO members for their own defense spending. This is what NATO members should spend on their own defense. But it is not true as President Trump says that NATO is a leach, that NATO is a mooch on U.S. resources.

In making that argument, he obscures if not obliterates what we, the United States, actually derive from the world`s most successful military alliance, the Secretary of Defense, Mattis, has said. The NATO members host 28 U.S. military bases, saving us about $2.5 billion.

NATO is currently today taking part in five active missions to include of course the mission in Afghanistan where overtime NATO has contributed 40,000 troops saving the United States some $49 billion. NATO in the process losing more than 1,000 of those service members and NATO has actually come to our aid on a number of occasions to include most famously after 9/11, but also after Hurricane Katrina when NATO coordinated elements of a rescue mission. All of that, though, Brian, is really pennies on the dollar when you think about NATO`s core mission and what NATO does for us.

NATO is about deterrence. NATO is about ensuring that there is not a colossal calamities world war initiated by Russia that would ultimately draw in the United States. If that were to pass, it would be millions or billions, it would be trillions of dollars. And the U.S. investment in NATO because of that is a really smart economical idea.

WILLIAMS: And, Jeremy, I go back to this thought that these are the folks who have our back. You have the President`s meeting at the NATO summit. You have the President`s meeting with the currently embattled P.M. of the U.K., Theresa May. But how do you react as a veteran of Pentagon and CIA, to hear him say the easiest part of his trip is likely to be his time with Vladimir Putin?

BASH: It`s unbelievable, Brian, because if you think of all the operational activity that is under way at this hour with many of our service members, our intelligence professionals, our diplomats serving in many austere corners of the world, many under fire in sort of the dark difficult places of the world where America is fighting tonight and defending democracy and freedom, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with those professionals from the United Kingdom and from our other NATO allies. And so for the President to denigrate the alliance, for him to undermine the effectiveness of it and them for him to basically say, "My closest friend and now part of the world is Vladimir Putin," actually undermines the entire concept of deterrence and the entire concept of the alliance, which is of course, Brian, one of America`s greatest strategic assets.

WILLIAMS: Ned, British prime ministers in years past used to really look forward to visiting American presidents. What`s the dynamic likely to be this time around?

PRICE: It`s entirely flipped on its head, Brian. You probably remember most recently David Cameron, of course, called President Obama to the United Kingdom ahead of the Brexit vote. The vote, of course, didn`t turn out how either Prime Minister Cameron or President Obama wanted, but it just underscored that British prime ministers wanted their U.S. counterparts on British soil to boost their own popularity.

Now with Theresa May, you see the opposite. Donald Trump is essentially forbidden from the City of London. He`s probably scared away by a giant balloon depicting a crying Baby Trump, but it`s also because Theresa May really doesn`t want him there. He is going to face a tremendous large- scale protest. And actually Donald Trump`s visit more than anything else could be another imperilment to Theresa May`s continued duration as Prime Minister.

She`s already lost a couple of Cabinet ministers and now by hosting Donald Trump, she is not doing herself any favors. And, in fact, today, Brian, the U.S. embassy in London actually warned American citizens to avoid large gatherings around the visit of the U.S. President. That`s pretty remarkable.

WILLIAMS: Well, that gets your attention.

Hey, Lisa, let`s talk about the group dynamic. Famously when the talks in Canada were done, Air Force One was wheels up en route to its next destination. A photo started making the rounds at first on social media. And this photo kind of became the iconic photo of what we now know the dynamic was like in that gathering.

It was very clear President Trump liked nothing about this photo. He especially didn`t like his positioning vis-a-vis that of Merkel of Germany. Some of the same folks in this photo are going to be at the NATO gathering. What must the group dynamic be like starting hours from now?

LERER: Well, it`s certainly not going to be anything like we`ve ever seen at these kinds of summits before. For those of us who have attended them, who have covered them, these are normally pretty state affairs. At the end, statements are put out, you know, talking about the group`s unity.

This is much more likely to be a transatlantic brawl. I think that`s exactly what Donald Trump would prefer and that`s certainly isn`t going to come as much of a surprise to his allies, aides in the White House. And campaign aides like to point out that President Trump has been fairly consistent in questioning the value of U.S. alliances for decades. So this is actually one of the places where the President has been most consistent in his messaging and certainly our allies in abroad know that, too.

WILLIAMS: Lisa, thank you for joining us tonight. We`re very lucky to have you onboard our broadcast as our thanks go out to three terrific professionals in their fields, Jeremy Bash, Lisa Lerer and Ned Price. Appreciate it very much.

And coming up for us, mixed signals from Paul Manafort`s lawyers about where he should be detained while awaiting trial other than away from other prisoners, part of the latest legal maneuvering in this Russia case.

And later, Democrats pledge to knock Brett Kavanaugh`s road to confirmation off balance any way they can.

THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Tuesday evening.


WILLIAMS: Well, here`s a blast from the recent past. Former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn was back in court today, first time since he pleaded guilty to felony charges brought by the special counsel`s office.

Flynn is awaiting sentencing for lying to the FBI about contact he have with Russians during the Trump campaign. He was heckled again today entering court. Mueller`s office has asked about his sentencing being postponed.

As Politico reports, "It`s unclear why prosecutors are balking at sentencing Flynn, but it could be out of concern that detailing his cooperation with the investigation would reveal aspects of the Mueller probe that are not currently public.

Meanwhile, President Trump`s former campaign chair preparing to face trial in just two weeks. Paul Manafort is being held at a jail in rural Virginia in the countryside. Whether he will remain there is in question. It`s believed he`s being held alone away from the general population of prisoners.

His lawyers had asked that he be moved to a facility closer to D.C. so they could better prepare for trial. A judge agreed, but then Manafort`s attorneys changed their minds saying that "issues of distance and inconvenience must yield to concerns about his safety and the challenges he will face adjusting to a new place of confinement." Manafort`s defense is also trying to get the trial itself moved down south to Roanoke, Virginia arguing they can`t get a fair trial from a D.C. area jury. Lots to talk about.

We have two terrific guests to do just that. Josh Gerstein is back with us, Senior White House Reporter for Politico who was at the courthouse for that Flynn hearing today. And Chuck Rosenberg is back with us, a Former U.S. Attorney and long time Former Senior FBI Official. Gentlemen, thank you both for coming on.

Josh, starting with you. You were our man in court. What did you see there today?

JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, it`s the first time we`ve laid eyes on Flynn in court for seven months. You may remember the last time he was in court he was in front of a different judge who later recused himself from the case. So believe it or not, Brian, it turned out one of the reasons Flynn was in court was simply because the new judge, Emmet Sullivan said he wanted to have a chance to meet him before the general before he sentences him. He didn`t want to have it just the single sentencing proceeding.

It was sort of a technical discussion about how you go about sentencing and why they weren`t really ready to set a sentencing day. But the most interesting thing that come out of it was just sort of looking for tea leaves about the degree to which he may have been cooperating with Mueller`s team.

The lawyer there for General Flynn said that he didn`t think any new facts would develop in the next few months that would affect the sentencing in any way. So that seemed to sort of drain air out of any balloon that people thought maybe he`d be testifying in some forthcoming trial. That did not seem to be the case. But Mueller`s people were almost mum during the hearing so we really didn`t get anything out of them about what their take is on this case.

WILLIAMS: Hardly unusual for them.

Hey, Chuck, do you think it`s OK to believe that Flynn is still being helpful and that perhaps they just don`t want to do anything too prematurely here?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FORMER SENIOR FBI OFFICIAL: Yes, I think that`s exactly right, Brian. I mean, what prosecutors want to do is they want to get all of the cooperation from whoever, in this case Mr. Flynn, up front. At this point right now, Flynn has as much incentive as he will ever have to help prosecutors. And when that`s all said and done, and I mean all said and done, then you go to sentencing. That is what is what`s going on in federal courts around the country, not just in this case.

So, nothing unusual here. The only thing that was unusual today is that the judge said he wanted to lay eyes on Flynn before the actual sentencing. That`s a little bit odd, but it`s not a big deal.

WILLIAMS: And, Josh, what`s going on with Manafort. This is not we should emphasize to viewers, this is not Oz where he is being held. And I don`t think he`s under great risk of getting shanked in the cafeteria any given day.

He is being held away from the general population. But why this confusion over where he wants and what set of bars he wants to look out of in the morning prior to trial?

GERSTEIN: Well, yes, my understanding is he`s being held in something called the VIP wing or the VIP --

WILLIAMS: There you go.

GERSTEIN: -- at that jail in Warsaw, Virginia, which is about two hours south of the Washington area. It is a confusing set of tactics and actions by his attorneys. I have to say they`re fighting to have him released for a couple of weeks.

They`ve been complaining that this was really interfering with their ability to prepare him for trial to have him so far from Washington. They couldn`t seem him very often. They couldn`t share documents with him that are critical to this bank fraud and tax fraud case that he`s going to be facing.

And then when the judge suddenly maybe doesn`t spring him, but decides to move him to Alexandria, Virginia, pretty close to D.C., that would seem to make things a lot easier, suddenly the file something saying they don`t want to have him moved. I think it`s going to damage their credibility with Judge Alice (ph) down there in Alexandria, probably under cuts their effort to delay the trial and maybe a problem with their, as I say, a problem with their credibility going forward.

WILLIAMS: Chuck, lawyers, good ones, always ask for a change of venue kind of as a matter of course. Their feeling is they`ll get a better jury selection somehow down in Roanoke than the D.C. area. Do you believe there`s any merit to that?

ROSENBERG: Well, you`re right, lots of people ask for it, but very, very few people get it. I can think of one prominent case, Brian, where there was a change of venue. And you`ll remember the Oklahoma City bombing and the trial with Timothy McVeigh was moved from Oklahoma City, a city scarred by that horrific act, to Denver.

But I was a U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia for part of the 9/11 trial. The Pentagon was just three miles away from our courthouse and that case wasn`t moved out of Alexandria. We were able to find a fair and impartial jury to hear that matter, and really that`s what it comes down to.

Can the federal judge presiding over the trial empanel a fair and impartial jury? And the answer is almost inevitably yes, particularly in a metropolitan area, the size of northern Virginia. They`ll find a fair jury. There`s absolutely no reason for this case to go to Roanoke.

WILLIAMS: Chuck, I got one for you. It`s the latest version of a question I ask you regularly about every month, and I ask you as a former fed and as the patriot I know you to be who cares deeply about his country. When you worry about the path we`re on, what knowledge or memory of the Robert Mueller you know sustains you that all is going to end well and be OK?

ROSENBERG: Well, I`m confident that Bob Mueller is not listening to anything I say and that gives me some comfort. Brian, all kidding aside, this is a man driven by facts and law and not driven by headlines and publicity. He`s going to do the right thing today, tomorrow, and the next week because that`s all he`s ever done in his life. The right thing.

So I get great comfort and I take great comfort in the man that I know, the man that I work for, and the man that I don`t hear from now because he`s simply doing his job every single day.

WILLIAMS: Josh Gerstein and Chuck Rosenberg, two terrific guests on another interesting night. Gentlemen, thank you.

And coming up for us, if he is successful, he will be Justice Kavanaugh, if not, that will mean the Democrats have won what some are calling the most important fight of their political lives. That and more after this break.



SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R), ALASKA: I`m going to be asking for my own sit- down with him. I`ve never met him so I`m anxious to meet him and to be able to visit with him one-on-one. So there`s some work that we all have in front of us and I`m looking forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R), MAINE: I know that he is held in high regard by many attorneys and judges whom I know, but obviously he needs to go through the full vetting process and very much look forward to meeting with him in my office.


WILLIAMS: So right there, representing the states of Alaska and Maine, two very critical Republican senators if Brett Kavanaugh is to be confirmed and sworn in as Justice Kavanaugh. Today was his first day on Capitol Hill where he met with the Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell.

Kavanaugh is so-called Sherpa was there on the right, that`s Former Arizona Republican Senator Jon Kyl. He`s with him to help him make the rounds, getting-to-know-you type deal.

President Trump`s nominee also met with the Senate Judiciary Chairman, Chuck Grassley, the Iowa Republican who called Kavanaugh a respected jurist with outstanding opinions. The robust and loud PR campaigns for and against his confirmation already well under way. Some Democratic senators went for sheer volume after the nominee was announced.


SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D), NEW YORK: We must convince the Senate to do the right thing and stand against Kavanaugh.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: We have the American people on our side. Now we have to go state by state, by state to make sure that senators do what they their constituents want.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: I want to tell you right now. We will not go backwards. We will not surrender. We will not move. We will go forward.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Judge Kavanaugh has been sitting on a pre-approved list of right wing nominees for eight months now. I have reviewed his record and let me tell you, Brett Kavanaugh did not end up on this list because he is the consensus nominee.


WILLIAMS: That`s pretty much how that went. Michael Scherer of the Washington Post wrote last night, "Groups on both sides have prepared multimillion-dollar digital and television ad campaigns set to start Monday night even before President Trump`s announcement that Brett M. Kavanaugh will be his Supreme Court nominee. The battle plans were in place and the arguments have been framed. What happens next is a no holds barred fight for public opinion and Senate votes which history suggests the president is heavily favored to win."

At least one organization, the Women`s March, might have shot itself in the foot last night. A reporter grabbed a screen shot of a press release from the organization calling for the defeat of the nominee, but the two Xs indicated it was written before we knew who the nominee was going to be.

With us tonight to talk about all of it, the aforementioned Michael Scherer, National Political reporter for the Washington Post and Nancy Cook back with us as well, White House reporter for POLITICO.

So, Michael, I know some of this is going-over already plowed ground. Where do you put the odds right now? We know kind of what the math is even without John McCain as a live voting member there in the Senate chamber when it happens.

MICHAEL SCHERER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I think if you watch the body language of Murkowski and Collins todaym and they really are the key votes here. One of them alone if the Democrats hold together and McCain doesn`t return could sink the nomination.

It wasn`t good for Democrats. The basic body language was to say of course we are going to go through the process and do a thorough review, but there were no immediate warning signs flashing from either of them. That suggests that this is going to be a very difficult path for Democrats unless something comes out.

And, you know, we`ve been through enough of these to know that something could come out. Kavanaugh has a very long paper trail and they will actually do the due diligence here. Both sides were going to actually, you know, dig deep into his paper trail, talk to people and anyone who has any complaint about him will have an opportunity to come forward to the committee.

And, you know, if they have a credible complaint, something new comes out, you know, that could affect the outcome of this.

WILLIAMS: Nancy, people forget. You know, Earl Warren was a governor and the governors obviously, bring a record to the Supreme Court. A rookie member of the federal bench who hasn`t written much would be more of an enigma. But as Michael points out, we`re talking about 300 opinions, give or take.

Let me ask you something lightly infused by Michael Corleone and that is, how are they going to come at this guy?

NANCY COOK, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: I think democrats are planning to go after him a few ways. They are planning to go after him in a few ways. They are planning to go after the idea that he could roll back potentially Roe v. Wade and reproductive rights, and he could undo gun control restrictions, and he could dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

And I think the new strategy that the Democrats have really hit on today after knowing exactly who the on nominee is, is the idea that he could someone impede impeachment proceedings if the Democrats took back the House.

And, you know, Kavanaugh has written before on presidential power. He is really a big believer in executive authority and has written before that, you know, presidents should not necessarily be burdened by criminal investigations. This was informed by his own work during the Starr investigation and during the Clinton days, and also work that he did during the bush administration.

And so, Democrats are really planning to go after that idea that he could really stand in the way of the Mueller investigation if Mueller tries to, let`s say, subpoena Trump and the Supreme Court somehow gets involved.

WILLIAMS: Now, Michael, that piece of writing Nancy mentioned, I`m surprised this law journal in Minnesota has not crashed their websites with Google searches. It`s because of that writing, about presidents, investigations, and their power and freedom that Chuck Schumer said what he did. We`re going to look at it, we`ll talk to you on the other side.


SEN. CHUCK SCHEMER (D), NEW YORK: Why was Kavanaugh chosen? Because the thing that the President is most obsessed with is the Mueller investigation and Kavanaugh is the strongest against such an investigation. The strongest in believing the President even if he thinks it was unconstitutional doesn`t have to obey it.

That is so far out of the mainstream, but just what President Trump who would roll over our democracy in ways we`ve never seen would want.


WILLIAMS: So there they are on the steps of the Supreme Court. And, Michael, Chuck Schumer went there. This guy got hired in effect because of what he wrote about President in a similar circumstance.

SCHERER: I wouldn`t be surprised if Trump did and I`m sure he knew about it and did take that into consideration. I think it is worth pointing out what Kavanaugh actually said in that article. He was not saying that as a judge, you should rule that a president can`t be investigated or that a president shouldn`t be charged in office.

He even says at one point that, you know, the previous Supreme Court decision that says a civil lawsuit to be brought against a sitting president may well have been properly decided. What he was arguing for a law that Congress should pass. He was making a policy argument, not a legal argument as a judge. And I`m sure, that will be his defense or his clarification when we get to the hearings and Democrats attack him on this point.

Now, it`s absolutely true that Kavanaugh has a long record as a judge arguing for a broad reading of executive power. And that is something else that may have been attractive to Trump as well.

WILLIAMS: Nancy, it`s interesting. This is the President we`re dealing with. And he is a collection of traits. So while I`m sure he was happy about Kavanaugh`s resume, the part that said Yale College and Yale Law School. He was probably unhappy with New York Times headline this morning calling his nominee a Bush appointee.

What`s the level of bullishness that you are able to measure on the Republican side, White House, Senate Republicans?

COOK: Well, I think the White House and also conservative groups which are going to play sort of a key role in pushing for Kavanaugh and advocating for him, and also the Senate leadership are feeling sort of cautiously optimistic at this point about their pick. They are trying to really at this point paint Kavanaugh as someone who is well qualified in terms of his academic credentials, someone with a long record and someone who they feel will be fair.

I think that the comments that we saw from Collins and Murkowski today, as Michael said earlier, definitely indicated that I think that they seem to be sort of cautiously in favor of Kavanaugh. And that was really I think the Democrats` best hope of stopping him.

And the other point to make is that, you know, the White House is really hoping to pick off some of these vulnerable Senate Democrats who are up for reelection in 2018, and get them to vote for Kavanaugh. And it`s worth noting that three of those senators, Heitkamp, Donnelly and Manchin, did vote for Neal Gorsuch. And the White House is it going to make that a key talking point as they try to woo those people to also vote for Kavanaugh.

WILLIAMS: I`ll add to that, it`s worth noting that anything could happen to this nominee as he starts down this road to confirmation hearings. And we`ll be watching for all of it. Our thanks tonight to Michael Scherer and Nancy Cook, we really appreciate you, guys. Thank you very much for joining us.

And coming up for us, this could be the most consequential few days in the history of the postwar alliance between the US and Europe, nothing less. We will talk about some of the darker predictions, some of the worst fears with the GOP White House and political veteran when we continue.



SEN. BOB CORKER (R-TN), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIR: We need to absolute stand firm with our NATO allies and the Transatlantic Partnership in general. I think what would be really disastrous would be for us to have a negative NATO meeting, and then do something with Putin that further destabilizes the relationship.

Again, I can`t overemphasize the concern that we felt last week with friends in other countries, leaders in other countries. And I hope that, again, that`s not what occurs at NATO.


WILLIAMS: That`s what he sounds like when he is spun up about something. Senator Bob Corker, Republican Chair of Foreign Relations in the Senate serously worried about President Trump`s European trip. Shortly after Corker said that, the Senate echoed it support for NATO.

As we mentioned, at the top of the broadcast, they passed this motion to reaffirm the US commitment. This is symbolic. It`s not binding. But the margin was overwhelming, 97-2.

With the President`s first public appearance with the NATO allies now just hours away, we thought we do the only thing that made sense to us. And let`s bring in Bill Kristol, Veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, Editor-at-Large of the Weekly Standard.

Bill, my first question to you, describe NATO`s value to you and describe your level of anxiety about NATO on the eve of the summit.

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, WEEKLY STANDARD: And obviously, NATO has been around for my entire adult life and it`s such a core of the Western alliance both in reality and certainly Cold War days, you know, fundamental military alliance and after. It`s an important military alliance but also an important symbolic political alliance.

And if you talk to people from Central and Eastern Europe, and they -- after the Berlin Wall fell, you say, well, how did, you know, you progress the democracy pretty well. These are not countries with huge Democratic traditions. They have challenges from the right and the left.

A lot of them will say -- some of them will say the EU, but a lot of them will also say NATO helped us, link us into the West and having Germany into NATO after the Berlin Wall fell, the unified Germany in NATO. That was a huge achievement.

So, we don`t know what the world without NATO would look like, and maybe it will be fine, you know, how everything will chug along. But it`s a heck of a risk to take. And I`m struck that someone like Bob Corker who is cautious and sober is as alarmed to see it. And I`m struck that Jeremy Bash earlier on this show is as alarmed as he is.

Michael McFaul, he`s a frequent guest of yours I think, Brian, the former ambassador to Russia, very thoughtful guy, twitted just a couple of minutes ago. "NATO will survive Trump."

And I would have sort of -- I think the fact that Mike felt he wanted to tweet that and try to say, maybe it`s not quite as dire as you think is itself extremely significant. No one would even thought in the past, you know, having to say NATO will survive Bush or Clinton or Obama or Reagan or whatever.

So it is -- I think it`s worrisome. And I would have said a year ago, I would have been with Mike, with McFaul. You know, yes, at the end of the day, NATO will survive, you know, Trump is doing some damage on the margins. But at the end of the day, the alliance has been there so long.

But right now, I`m worried. I mean, Trump in the last few days, these sets of attacks on our NATO allies. They kind of almost manufactured grievances. They just wants to litigate over and over. You combine that with the friendship with Putin, friendly attitude towards Putin. And you really wonder, I mean could this thing -- could he and he be -- could he want to have it fall apart or could he be so reckless that it really does fall apart?

WILLIAMS: Well, this leads me to a question I probably asked you half a dozen times before, where are the grown ups? And by that, I mean both parties. Where are the grown ups who can say, for example, Mr. President, you are playing with House money. We don`t want just you and Putin and two translators in the room, especially coming off the North Korea example. We need professionals in the room with you so we know what is said for all time.

KRISTOL: Brian, you mentioned earlier NATO trip which was fairly disastrous, I think earlier in the show. And remember H.R. McMaster, then the National Security Adviser of the President, replaced Mike Flynn after a month. I thought that was a moment where there was a chance for some stability and reasonableness in terms of foreign policy.

McMaster and others, I think Jim Mattis, the Secretary of Defense in particularly, and Rex Tillerson persuaded the President to say, yes, we believe in article 5. And to walk back some of the damage he had done.

H.R. McMaster, (inaudible) security adviser, I think that`s been an under appreciated, under reported part of what has happened over the last few months here in Washington. He didn`t get along with Trump, didn`t like him that much. He did in different styles and Trump chase under his guidance.

But McMaster was able to kept things on track a little more than people appreciated. Mattis and Pompeo I think would, if they were left alone, would check Trump in a lot of ways. But being in the White House, you know, much more ability to do that. I`m not sure John Bolton is trying to do what H.R. McMaster trying to do across McMaster`s job.

Is about a year, you know, battling back against Trump`s instinct. And finally Trump got his (aspirated) and H.R. McMaster is no longer going to have a security adviser.

WILLIAMS: And, Bill, you have 30 seconds to be brilliant before we have to take a break. And here it is, he is meeting with our oldest and best friends, NATO summit, then the UK, but the President calls the Putin portion the easiest part of his trip.

KRISTOL: What do you think if you`re a NATO ally and Putin consistently treated better than the President of United States, that all of our NATO allies. You almost -- it`s an amazing thing that I said that statement, but that`s I think a true statement.

WILLIAMS: That`s why we would like to invite you back when we know what transpires in over in Europe. Thank you so much. It`s always a pleasure to have you on the broadcast.

Kristol: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Bill Kristol with us from Washington tonight.

And coming up for us, the Trump administration misses a deadline that was ordered up by a federal judge to reunite the youngest children who have been separated from their parents. Families who last saw each other when they came across the border into this country or tried to. We`re going to get a late update on the progress or lack of it, right after this.


WILLIAMS: Lot to cover here tonight, new topic, immigration and family separation. Today marks the deadline to reunite children under the age of 5 who were separated from their parents by our government`s so-called zero tolerance policy at the border.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, though, of the 102 children who fit the description of that age group, they expect only 38 to be reunited. They say 24 children are not eligible at this time for whatever reason. And a problem we knew would arise, 12 parents have already been deported.

The President was asked today about missing this deadline that was ordered by a federal judge.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government is not going to be able to meet the deadline to return these children?

TRUMP: Well, I have a solution. Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That`s the solution. Don`t come to our country illegally. Come like other people do, come legally.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, is that what you`re saying. you`re punishing the people --

TRUMP: I`m saying this, very simply. We have laws. We have borders. Don`t come to our country illegally. It`s not a good thing.


WILLIAMS: Of course, coming here seeking asylum is perfectly legal. Asylum seekers have been protected under federal law since the Refugee Act made it formal in 1980.

While there were reunions today of children and their parents in various places in this country, not near as many as there could have been. HHS says the delay is because of safety precautions being taken to protect the remaining children. We heard this today from one mother whose child was separated from her at the border.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translation): Why is it so easy for them to take our children but so hard to give them back?


WILLIAMS: And the federal judge who set the deadline earlier said while he`s satisfied with the progress made, "These are firm deadlines. These are not aspirational goals." the next deadline is 16 days away. It requires the under 3,000 kids ranging from the next age group, 5 to 17 years of age to be reunited with their parents.

And while the government is struggling to fix the crisis of family separation, this breaking news headline tonight from "The New York Times," likely not what the White House was hoping for. "Trump administration returns to catch and release of migrants." They report inside, "The government said on Tuesday that it will release hundreds of migrant families wearing ankle bracelet monitors into the United States effectively returning to the catch and release policy that President Trump promised to eliminate." We will stay on the story.

Coming up, their governments in a bit of a crisis, then Donald Trump is due to visit later this week. But we`ll show you why things were looking up today in the London.


WILLIAMS: The very last thing before we go tonight, a public appearance today by the two couples the British press have taken to calling the "Fab Four". William and Kate and Harry and Megan, the young ones get all the attention these days.

And we must hasten to add the queen was also on hand for a day of celebration in the United Kingdom because the Royal Air Force is 100 years old today, written out in the sky. As the Windsors watched from the back porch at the old family house, all of London got to look up and see 100 years represented in the sky, in the form of those magnificent fly-overs above the parade.

While the modern fighter jets trailing the colors of the union jack might have been the most impressive of the day and certainly the loudest, the emotional high point especially for the queen and Brits of her generation was likely the appearance of the World War II era aircraft that helped win the war for the allied cause and helped to defend an island nation from the sky.

At the height of the war, there were over 300 RAF bases scattered across the countryside. Of course, they flew side by side with Americans. Of course, they fought shoulder to shoulder with the Americans, and the alliance was formed with the free nations of Europe to keep the peace and the post-war era. The alliance we called NATO, which Mr. Putin would like to see weaken.

NATO finds itself under challenge now by Mr. Trump, because we are living in vastly different times. But in Great Britain today, they remember another time and a century of defending their island nation from tyranny and from the air.

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


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