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Russia Probe looms over Trump trip. TRANSCRIPT: 07/12/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Michael Crowley, Catherine Lucey

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: July 12, 2018 Guest: Michael Crowley, Catherine Lucey

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST: Tonight, an ugly partisan political showdown on the Hill as the FBI agent at the heart of the Russia investigation who was caught with some embarrassing texts traffic defends himself against GOP alligations of biassed.

And across the Atlantic tonight, President Trump leaving chaos in his way, claiming victory for something the ally say didn`t happen and then trashing the British Prime Minister in an interview that came out as they have dinner.

And the one man no doubt following all the chaos closely, Trump`s next summit partner, Putin of Russia. All of it as "The 11th Hour" gets underway on a Thursday night.

Well, good evening, once again, from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. We have a lot to get to and we`ll get there. Day 539 of the Trump administration. A kind of split scream day of competing headlines as the President continued his overseas trip with the upcoming meeting with Vladimir Putin now just days away.

Peter Strzok, the FBI agent who has come to personify Trump`s fight and fury over this Russia investigation, he was on the Hill and sworn in for what became withering partisan questioning. And there were fireworks. More on that just ahead.

The President is spending the night in England before leaving the NATO summit in Brussels. He was taking credit for the increases in allied military spending.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told people that I`d be very unhappy if they didn`t up their commitment substantially because the United States has been paying a tremendous amount, probably 90 percent of the cost of NATO. And now people are going to start, and countries, are going to start upping their commitment. So I let them know yesterday, actually.

I was surprised that you didn`t pick it up, it took until today. But yesterday, I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening, and they have substantially up their commitment, yes. And now we`re very happy and we have a powerful very, very powerful and very, very strong NATO, much stronger than it was two days ago.


WILLIAMS: That`s how that went. But NBC News reports it was not clear that the President has actually obtained any new concessions from the allies present. The leader of France and Italy told the A.P. there was no agreement for additional spending.

President Trump had just arrived in the United Kingdom when there was new controversy. It had to do with what he told a British newspaper about Prime Minister Theresa May and Britain`s volatile debate over how to withdraw from the European Union -- Brexit. He tells the "Sun" that Prime Minister May ignored his advice on how to do it. More on that ahead as well.

And there is new reporting tonight from "The New York Times" involving classified documents about an informant the FBI used in 2016 to look into any possible links between the Trump campaign and Russia. "Time" says the White House has ordered that more lawmakers be allowed to see them. But the biggest headlines in the Russian investigation coming today from Capitol Hill, specifically this controversy over the FBI informant and the agency`s initial handling of the investigation.

FBI agent Peter Strzok, who helped open that inquiry, testified for over nine hours today into tonight in front of the combined House Judiciary and Oversight Committees about a series of anti-Trump text messages to another FBI employee, Lisa Page, sent during the 2016 campaign. Again and again, Strzok was asked to respond to accusations from Republican House members who insisted those texts were clear evidence that his investigation was blatantly biassed against the President.


PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: Let me be clear unequivocally and under oath, not once in my 26 years of defending our nation did my personal opinions impact any official action I took. This is true for the Clinton e-mail investigation, for the investigation into Russia interference, and for every other investigation I`ve worked on.

I`m also proud of our work on the Russia interference investigation. This investigation is not politically motivated. It is no at witch hunt. It is not a hoax.


WILLIAMS: Some of the most contentious questioning came from South Carolina Republican Congressman Trey Gowdy, one of the more vocal supporters of bringing the Mueller investigation to a close.


REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA, CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: You`re eight days into your Russian collusion with the Trump campaign investigation and you got another text from your colleague, Lisa Paige. "Trump is not ever going to become President, right, right?" And you replied, "No, no. He`s not. We`ll stop it." By the time you promise to stop him for becoming President on August 8, how many interviews did you conducted?

STRZOK: Mr. Gowdy, so two answers to that. One, with regard to how many interviews had or had not been conducted, I have been directed by the counsel of the FBI not to answer that question. I don`t recall writing that text. I do not recall writing the text.

What I can tell you is that text in no way suggested that I or the FBI would take any action to influence the candidacy.

GOWDY: Agent Strzok, that is a fantastic answer to a question nobody asked.


WILLIAMS: And another point, California Republican Congressman Darrell Issa asked Strzok to read his own text messages out loud.


REP. DARRELL ISSA (R), CALIFORNIA, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: And I`m going to go just go to a date and then ask you to read your own words. March 4, 2016?

STRZOK: You want me to read this?

ISSA: Yes, please.

STRZOK: OMG, he`s an idiot.

ISSA: July 21, 2016.

STRZOK: Trump is a disaster. I have no idea how destabilizing his presidency would be.


WILLIAMS: And during another controversial exchange, which may have been the day`s low point, Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert referred Strzok`s affair with Lisa Page, the FBI agent with whom Strzok had exchanged the text messages.


LOUIE GOHMERT (R), TEXAS, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I talked to FBI agents around the country. You`ve embarrassed them, you`ve embarrassed yourself. And I can`t help but wonder when I see you looking there with a little smirk, how many times did you look so innocent into your wife`s eyes and lie to her about Lisa Page?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, this is outrageous.


STRZOK: The fact that you would question whether or not that was the sort of look I engaged with in a family member who I have acknowledged hurting, goes more to a discussion about your character and what you stand for.


WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Thursday night. Jeremy Bash is back with us, Former Chief of Staff at CIA and the Pentagon. He happens to be Former Chief Counsel to the House Intelligence Committee. Jill Wine-Banks, Attorney and Former Assistant Watergate Special Counsel, and Frank Figliuzzi, Former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence who has worked for Robert Mueller among others. We`re happy to say that all three are MSNBC Analysts.

Frank, because of your history with the Bureau and because this at heart an FBI saga and FBI story, I would like to begin with you. What happened today? Did you take away any tangibles and who or what won if anything?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Brian, there was only one clear winner today in the spectacle of the hearing and that really was Vladimir Putin. He`s sitting back, pleased with his intelligence services at sowing discord and disarray. That`s their objective, and they couldn`t even in their wildest strategy sessions have dreamed that this would turn up into an FBI Counterintelligence official being berated and denigrated by the Congress. This is the clear winner today.

What we saw today was partisan politics, and it`s very worst. What we saw was an FBI agent trying to defend his personal and political opinions against a tirade of political partisans putting their own political and self-interest above those with the national interest.

Jeremy, did you find my hyperbole in what Frank Figliuzzi just said.

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: No. I think investigations have to be beyond of approach. Integrity has to be the pillar of the investigation. And that`s why I think even though you can argue that some of the text messages were innocuous, it was appropriate for Bob Mueller to remove Strzok from the investigation more than a year ago.

And the bottom line is that this whole hearing was epic nonsense because the real issue is that the Mueller investigation has resulted in five convictions and 20 indictments with individuals either in prison or facing prison who were in the senior levels of the Trump campaign. And the central issue here, which is what return on investment, has the Russian federation gotten for not only meddling in the election, which is the phrase everybody uses, but actually favoring Donald Trump.

What return on investment have they gotten we`re seeing it now play out across the continent of Europe this week. And so this hearing in many ways, Brian, was merely a distraction from the bigger national security issue case in our country, which should be approached on a bipartisan and non-partisan basis.

WILLIAMS: So, Jill Wine-Banks, as a veteran of the Hill, as a former Watergate prosecutor, what stood out to you today?

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: I think what stood out to me the most was how much it sounded like the McCarthy hearings. The interrogation of Peter Strzok was really unbelievable. It was proof that this investigation of the Russian interference is not a hoax and not a witch hunt, but this was both a combination of a circus, a tragedy, a comedy. It is hard to take seriously how he was attacked today with no purpose.

There was nothing of substance revealed, and the process was really appalling. I was ashamed for America to have watched this. And I also think that -- although I agreed with both Jeremy and Frank, I think if there`s a second winner, it was Peter Strzok because unlike most people he held his cool and calm. He did not respond to any of the attacks, which were personal and far beyond anything that had to do with whether this investigation was properly handled. And that`s what we should be looking at.

WILLIAMS: Frank, what about the propriety of having this hearing, this bigger production when after all we`re in the middle and we really don`t know where we are on the timeline of an ongoing criminal investigation?

FIGLIUZZI: Yes. I think that is the shocker is that this is going on in the middle of one of the most sensitive criminal investigation in the history of this country. And what we saw today was really a disdained for and a disregard for the sanctity of preserving that criminal investigation. We saw today early in the hearing, Brian, one member of the committee saying you can`t even consult, to Peter Strzok, you can`t even consult with the FBI`s counsel here in the room.

So in other words, that shows no interests in making sure that the investigation is preserved, that secret and sources that might adversely affect the investigation are preserved. We saw none of that today. And I think people saw the true colors of some of the members of Congress.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, I hate to reduce this to these terms, but if it matters at all, how do you think the Democrats side faired and how do you think at the end of the day the witness fair?

BASH: Look, I think what some members of the panel were clearly trying to do was keep their eyes on the prize, keep their eye on the bigger issue, which is that while you can argue that the views by Peter Strzok were inappropriate and therefore he should not have been apart of the investigation, and it was appropriate for Bob Mueller to remove him. That doesn`t change the fact that the investigation is important and that it is a crucial element of defending our country. The investigation has resulted, and as I reference these five convictions, 20 indictments of people in prison or facing prison. And that in effect there is a long road ahead to figure out exactly the matter in which senior Trump officials knew about and, in fact, encouraged what Russia did in the 2016 election and their efforts to obstruct the investigation to that important matter.

WILLIAMS: Frank, I have to go back to this. Wasn`t one of the major points of defense today, here are the Republicans trying to prove bias on the part of the witness and the witness was in possession of potentially damaging information had he wanted to roll out a hand grenade that would truly damage the Trump presidential effort, correct?

FIGLIUZZI: That`s the irony of all of this, Brian. So they`re accusing Peter Strzok of being biassed and somehow having that bias impact in his decision-making investigatively. If he had truly wanted to stop President Trump as a candidate, and the FBI wanted to do that, generally they could have gone to Congress and announce loudly that they have a pending Russia investigation going.

They could have started doing over in interviews publicly of people and dropping the hints that we`ve got major investigation with a candidate. None of that happened. And to the contrary, the FBI went out of its way to not do such interviews, not notify of Congress because they wanted to stay out of the presidential campaign.

WILLIAMS: And might I add the director went out of his way to have a press conference about Hillary Clinton, in fact, days before the election.

So, Jill, I want to show you prior to all this what was the visual of the day, at least, in our business when this picture made the web. That is the campaign chairman for the Trump`s Presidential effort, Mr. Manafort. It is a bracing mugshot taken when he was transferred to the Alexandria lock up. I`m quite sure it is bracing for him to be in this circumstance. And it gives us cause to ask you, Jill, where do you think this Mueller effort is and what you`re waiting for or what you`re waiting to see next?

WINE-BANKS: It`s really hard to predict when people follow the rules and don`t leak anything. So we don`t know what indictments might be coming or when the report will be. Obviously, the rumors have been that he will issue a report sometime before September so that it doesn`t interfere with the election because he`s going to be very careful about that.

I think seeing Manafort go into a real jail will possibly have a bigger effect on him than he thinks. I`ve seen it happen in Watergate when people came from where they were in what are called the country clubs of federal prisons and put into the D.C. jail so that they could cooperate for the trial. It makes a big difference in how they behave. And so I think it`s going to be interesting to see what happens.

The difference between how the Republicans today treated this witness versus how they treated Bannon and why they won`t subpoena him and ask him questions, how they insulted Strzok about his extra marital affair while totally accepting the President`s multiple extramarital affairs really shows how partisan this has become, and it shouldn`t be. This should be a totally bipartisan investigation. And what they should be focusing on in Congress is what happens in our election and how are we going to prevent it in November. We can`t have the Russians hacking our election system and threatening our elections. Frank was right when he said in the beginning that they`re the winners in this.

WILLIAMS: We will end on that ominous note. With thanks to our opening panel tonight, Jeremy Bash, to Jill Wine-Banks, and to Frank Figliuzzi. We appreciate it. Thank you all.

And coming up, more on what the President said about the British Prime Minister that was published during dinner with the British Prime Minister, which is likely to make his lunch with the British Prime Minister a tad uncomfortable tomorrow.

And later, why some thought Vladimir Putin was a silent player as we`ve been saying in today`s marathon an ugly hearing in the House. "The 11th Hour" just getting started on a Thursday night.



TRUMP: I can tell you that NATO now is really a fine tune machine. People are paying money that they never paid before. They`re happy to do it, and the United States is being treated much more fairly.


WILLIAMS: The President prior to departing the NATO summit in Brussels. But we did not yet know then that during a closed door meeting he had just come from, sources are telling NBC News that Trump all but threatened to pull out of NATO if the other member countries didn`t pony up more money for defense spending.

"The Washington Post" reporting Trump was on such a tear that some diplomats said they feared he could well try to withdraw the United States from NATO, rupturing the existing world order. For more than an hour, the Transatlantic Alliance was caught in the chaos of Trump`s making. And that was just the start of the President`s day.

So he flew on to the U.K. And while he`s not staying in London because of protests there, he was welcomed at a black tie dinner at Churchill`s birthplace, at Blenheim Castle. And then during dinner, the Rupert Murdoch own Sun newspaper came out with this, an interview that Trump had given them, which undercut Trump`s dinner host, British Prime Minister Theresa May, specifically her approach to Brexit and trade.


TRUMP: I would have done it differently. I actually told Theresa May how to do it, but she didn`t agree, she didn`t listen to me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you say?

TRUMP: She didn`t listen. No, I told her how to do it. That will be up to her to say. But I told her how to do it. She wanted to go a different route.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you would be prepared to walk away if they didn`t give you the right terms?

TRUMP: Absolutely. I think what`s going on is very unfortunate.


WILLIAMS: To be clear, that was the President threatening to pull out of trade deals with the United Kingdom if the U.K. remains close with the E.U. Trump and May, a reminder, are set to meet again tomorrow for a lunch in an effort to make lunch less uncomfortable.

This is the clean up effort tonight. This is an official statement of the White House from the Press Secretary, and we quote, "The President likes and respects Prime Minister May very much. As he said in his interview with the Sun she is a very good person and he never said anything bad about her. He thought she was great on NATO today and is a really terrific person. He is thankful for the wonderful welcome from the Prime Minister here in the U.K."

Well, with that as a starting point, with us tonight to talk about it Michael Crowley, National Security Editor and Senior Foreign Affairs Corespondent for Politico, and Catherine Lucey, White House Reporter for "The Associated Press." Welcome to you both.

It`s difficult to know where to begin. Michael, I think I want to begin with tonight and work back all the way to earlier today at NATO. Can you remember an American president arriving in a country and giving an interview for release later that insults the host?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, NATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR, POLITICO: No, Brian. I think this is close to unprecedented, at least, in my lifetime. It`s shocking and, you know, this is the second time this week Donald Trump has kicked off an arrival by insulting his hosts. When he -- at a NATO breakfast yesterday that was supposed to be pleasantries, he launched a new attack on Germany and the NATO alliance generally. So he is feeling hostile and aggressive, and protocol is out of the window, precedent is out of the window.

How many times have we said this about Donald Trump, but he keeps seeing to find new ways to reinvent this wheel. And once again, it just takes your breath away. Tomorrow is going to be so incredibly awkward.

That statement did very little to clean this up. Those were, you know, total empty banalities. It sounded like it was dictated directly by Trump, but compared to the substance of his remarks in that interview totally banal and basically useless. It does nothing to try to repair this damage.

WILLIAMS: Catherine, I don`t think I`ve ever seen a White House statement like it using a source material, quotes lifted from the interview that started the problem in a Rupert Murdoch own newspaper tonight.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": That`s right. And if you read into the Sun piece at some point, the Press Secretary appears to try to say, "We`ve done enough, we`ve done about 10 minutes and the President kept going." I mean, he sat with them for a long time and covered a lot of topics.

And what`s amazing is that this at the beginning of his visit. I mean, this is a diplomatic grenade launched before he even showed up. Coming as he`s doing this lavish formal dinner that`s really meant to set a tone, you know, for a diplomatic meeting with May and now they`re going to go through what I think will be a very uncomfortable day tomorrow. And there`s supposed to be a joint press conference. So it`s hard to imagine that`s going to be a comfortable room.

WILLIAMS: And as we put the cover, let`s put the Sun back on the screen. Some of the subheads, some of the sidebar stories were not getting to. Down at the bottom, Boris Johnson, who just resigned from the May Cabinet, would make a great Prime Minister. That would be like someone coming for a state dinner at the White House, saying, "You know I`ve always liked that Jeb Bush fella.

The center story, immigration is killing Europe. And on the right, the mayor of London is at fault for terrorism apparently. Always a good way to get in with your host.

So, Michael, let`s backup to NATO and what is left of NATO and how existential a crisis have they been through this week?

CROWLEY: Well, this is a tricky one to evaluate, Brian, because you know on paper, NATO is doing fine. And the spending is up on a trajectory that begun before Trump`s presidency despite his inaccurate claims that defense spending by NATO members has increased since his election. They are spending more on defense. Their capabilities are improving.

There is good news coming out of NATO sort of on paper. But there`s a huge kind of political psychological dynamics here, and Trump swung a wrecking ball through the psyche of the NATO alliance. And, you know, frankly, according to reporting from Politico reporters who were in Brussels, we actually have a European branch of Politico that`s based their. So we have good sources there.

You know, the European leaders there were just completely, even in the context of the Donald Trump they`ve experience for 18 months, were completely bewildered by this performance, didn`t know what to make of it. Brian, it made me think of the scene in Apocalypse Now when Colonel Kurtz says, "Do you think my methods are unsound?" And Charlie Sheen response to him, "I don`t see any method at all." That was the response of these European leaders.

They just feel like he is all over the map. They don`t -- many of them don`t actually think there is some hidden strategy behind it. They just see a very erratic man.

You know, Trump today maybe jokingly referred to himself as a very stable genius. I think a lot of the NATO officials in that room felt exactly the opposite. And, you know, just to conclude the point, what is a sensitive implication of that is that they`re not sure they can rely on the United States at least over the next two and a half years, and are going to have to be looking out for themselves more and possibly looking for other protector if it`s not going to be America.

WILLIAMS: So, Catherine, a lunch with the Prime Minister, tea with the Queen. One is not supposed to raise politics when one is with the Queen, but one Donald Trump just might. How to avoid the discomfort we are all guessing will be in the air tomorrow?

LUCEY: You know, I think that when it comes to tea with the Queen, even President Trump is going to probably be on his good behavior, we know there`s a lot -- we believe this is a meeting that he`s wanted. He presumably has been coached on protocol, and the Queen is not someone who`s going to be political. And she of course has met a number of political leaders of all stripes over a very long time in her role. So, and the First Lady, I believe, will be there as well if I`m correct. So I think that humbly will be a sort of a temperature lowering moment.

WILLIAMS: And the Prime Minister`s meeting may be something different. It will be interesting to get a read out of how they get along with that story splashed on the front page of the Sun. With our thanks to Michael Crowley and to Catherine Lucey. Greatly appreciated. Thank you very much.

CROWLEY: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: We head to another break. And coming up, if Russia`s intent was to create chaos within the U.S. government and political system, a whole bunch of people were saying today it`s working. That and the President`s preview on Monday`s meeting with Vladimir Putin when we come back.



PETER STRZOK, FBI AGENT: I have the utmost respect for Congress`s oversight role. But I strongly believe today`s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin`s belt and another milestone in our enemies` campaign to tear America apart.


BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: FBI agent Peter Strzok ended his opening remarks today with a point of reminder that at the center of today`s Capitol Hill drama is Russian interference in America`s elections and our political system. Strzok`s testimony comes just days before President Trump is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki. Before leaving Brussels, the president offered a preview of that meeting.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We will, of course, ask your favorite question about meddling. I will be asking that question again. What am I going to do? He may deny it. I mean, it`s one of those things. All I can do is say, did you and don`t do it again, but he may deny it.

In a sense, we`re competitors, not a question of friend or enemy, he`s not my enemy. And, hopefully, some day maybe he`ll be a friend. It could happen.


WILLIAMS: With us tonight, Clint Watts, former FBI special agent and member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, his latest book is, "Messing with the Enemy", speaking of which. "Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News".

Also, back with us, remaining with us, another veteran of the bureau, Frank Figliuzzi.

Clint, you just physically reacted when the president of the United States refer to Vladimir Putin as a competitor, wouldn`t not call him an enemy.

CLINT WATTS, AUTHOR, "MESSING WITH THE ENEMY": Yes, it`s fascinating to watch, because I`m not sure that you would hear the same thing on Russian news. They would say the U.S. is our enemy and they are -- the liberal order is trying to oppress us, they`re trying to push us down and we must fight back against the liberal order by taking apart NATO, destroying the European Union and those alliances and suppressing the U.S. and the world`s stage so that we can rise up. They see it as a zero-sum game.

WILLIAMS: And what`s their report cards so far, how are they doing on that front?

WATTS: With the exception of sanctions that we have levered against them, they have done fantastically well. They are on the brink of achieving exactly what they wanted in Crimea and Ukraine. They may take Syria almost entirely with the way they wanted to without any real cost to them. They have attacked the United States with an information campaign and we have not really responded. And we`re going to go back into this Putin-Trump summit. We`re going to say, did you meddle in our election again? They`re going to say, oh, no, we didn`t do that. And President Trump will say, well, just don`t do it again. And we really don`t have a response to it.

Russia will continue to push on us, continue to push us down so they can rise back up to a super power and we`re essentially putting them in that position right now.

WILLIAMS: Frank, the president has asked for alone time with Putin, just translators, no officials, none of the specialists at the State Department. I still -- I believe they`re still at the State Department who have studied the Soviet Union and then Russia all their lives and careers. How dangerous is it to have no standing record of what is discussed in Helsinki, Finland?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI AGENT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: We`re approaching a dangerous scenario, Brian, if these two are alone in the room and the president still naively thinks that there`s a possibility that Putin could someday be his friend. Putin is not our friend. Russia is not our friend. Their goal is to destroy us and no effort, no art of the deal, no force of personality of President Trump is going to change that fact.

In fact, there`s reporting tonight, Brian, by another network that the president has actually said that he holds open the possibility and you can`t rule out the possibility that he would cancel military -- NATO military exercises in the Baltic states if Putin asked for it. You rest assured upon hearing that that Putin is going to go ahead and ask for President Trump pull out of NATO military exercises, 17 nations participate in those kinds of exercises. There`s an exercise going on right now in the Black Sea, a NATO exercise.

That`s the kind of danger we are in, where a unilateral agreement to be made. We don`t know what`s going to happen in that room. Trump comes out, pronounces victory of some sort as he did with the North Korea-Singapore Summit, as he`s done with the NATO summit, all of it inaccurate, we`re going to see that happen again, it`s quite likely.

WILLIAMS: And Clint, because this is your life and study, you and Frank, I always love hearing you talk about Putin does the most rudimentary things like mirroring which --

WATTS: Right.

WILLIAMS: -- communications expert will tell is a way to kind of endear yourself to your guest.

WATTS: Ingratiate and mirror, President Trump openly says if you tell -- if you say to me that you like me, then I like you. And so, he is just opening the door for this. Putin has done this with other world leaders, Angela Merkel, the famous story about, she doesn`t like dogs, make sure dog person (ph) in the room. You want to build rapport with President Bush, talk about religion and Christian Orthodox Church. You do these things to build and ingratiate and build a mirror relationship with the target.

President Putin will do this. Yes, President Trump here, the greatest president the United States has ever had. And, you know, we have some similar problems, like your fake press and my fake press, they`re a lot the same, right, they`re giving you a hard time. This is a very easy play for him because he will be better prepared when he goes into that meeting than President Trump will. President Trump will not understand the importance of what Frank was talking about, the NATO exercise. He will not understand why you should not talk about recognizing Crimea and he will not understand that he`s handing them a complete package of total deal in Syria.

WILLIAMS: You, professional guys, are scary.

So Frank, I`m also guessing the president isn`t going to say, extradite the 13 Russians that are in the Mueller complaint that we would like to prosecute?

FIGLIUZZI: If there were any other president in that room, they would have to bring up the fact that the special counsel has indicted 13 Russians and not hopefully think that somehow they`re going to be extradited back, but rather say, look, Mr. Putin, you say you`re innocent, you say your government had nothing to do with that. We say, we`ve had enough to indict 13 of your people. Let us have access to them, let us question them, prove your innocence. None of that is going to happen. It should be happening but it won`t be happening.

WILLIAMS: When I say these gentlemen are scary, I mean it in a good way. They`re on the home team after all. Clint Watts, Frank Figliuzzi, two veterans of the bureau. Thank you, gentlemen, both.

Coming up, critics called it a circus, a joke, even a kangaroo court today. We`ll talk about the impacts of today`s House hearing and the president`s overseas tour, let`s not forget.


WILLIAMS: So, today, while Donald Trump was so in chaos in the normal world order. If in fact the world was watching us, things back here didn`t look much better.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D), TOP HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: So, Chairman, there`s no basis for that. He can consult with the FBI counsel, he`s an FBI employee.


NADLER: And the chairman is not being proper.

STRZOK: The chairman is being proper. I don`t appreciate what was originally said being changed.

REP. TREY GOWDY (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don`t give a damn what you appreciate, Agent Strzok.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it is so frustrating, answer the question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you`ll allow him to, I`m sure he will.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has never answered the question, who (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Then stop interrupting him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Partying with the political death penalty and impeachment is not the logical way a neutral dispatch --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chairman, we`re demanding equal time.

COLEMAN: Mr. Chairman, we`re not testifying this person (ph) here, Mr. Chairman --


COLEMAN: -- and if you can`t control yourself, how do you expect this committee to control itself. You`ve been out of control since you`ve been on this committee. Why don`t you leave it alone? This is not Benghazi.


WILLIAMS: A quick reminder, they all work for us and as voters who put them there. The "Washington Post" said today`s hearing, "featured far more heated accusations than new information, was a naked display of the animus and agitation in Washington that surrounds the ongoing investigation into whether any Trump associates conspired with Russia to interfere with the 2016 election".

This is serious stuff and with us tonight to talk about it, David Jolly, a former Republican member of Congress from the great state of Florida and Matthew Nussbaum, White House reporter for POLITICO, he`s with us from Capitol Hill.

So, Congressman, this is your Congress, I ask you as a citizen, patriot and a Republican, what kind of day that they just have?

DAVID JOLLY (R), FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN, FLORIDA: This was a terrible day for Republicans, it`s a bad day for the Congress. But Republicans control the Congress. This was a terrible day for Republicans.

We have seen throughout history very dramatic moments and congressional testimony from Watergate to Iran-Contra, frankly, to the V.A. healthcare scandal of three or four years ago. But those are matters of national policy. Today was more like what we saw and I think Jill Wine-Banks said, the McCarthyism hands (ph). There were hearings in the `70s called the Church Committee and it was Frank Church, Senator Frank Church from Idaho, who questioned a bit of the integrity of the intelligence community, actually suggested on "Meet the Press." That if absolutely tyranny were to come to the United States, it might be through the channel of our own intelligence agencies.

That is what we saw today. This is a moment where the credibility of the House is on the line, certainly international accuracy but we see it domestically as well. I was sharing with you, when you get elected to Congress and odd thing happens, you went by one vote, and they give you the title of the honorable, for no other reason but you won an election. There was no honor on my side of the aisle in that ray-burn (ph) hearing room today. None at all.

WILLIAMS: Matt, do you think all elements of the base, the Fox News watching element of the Republican base agree that it was a bad day or did they see good in it?

MATT NUSSBAUM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, for people who have been hearing for, you know, two years now that the FBI is evil and that there`s a conspiracy to get President Trump. I think there is probably something fun in watching these members go on these fact-free attacks against Agent Strzok. But, I agree with the congressman here that today`s proceedings were farcical. I think the members of the committee showed that they`re intellectually shallow and simply politically motivated and had no interest in hearing the agent`s testimony or in discovering any kind of facts or in making any points about what Russia has done to our system and what it`s capable of doing.

They were just there trying to score political points. And, you know, frankly, I think it was an embarrassment for Congress. And, like you mentioned, Brian, as the people who sent them there, it was an embarrassment for the country.

WILLIAMS: We`ve asked both gentlemen to stay with us. A quick commercial break. We`re going to come back and when we do, by which measure President Trump said today, he comes out ahead of Abraham Lincoln of Illinois. That in just a moment.


WILLIAMS: We are back and our guests, David Jolly and Matthew Nussbaum have agreed to stay with us.

Congressman, you got a history in politics. I want to read you one of the codicils to the president`s interview with the Sun newspaper. This didn`t make headlines, perhaps it will by tomorrow.

First, let`s talk in (ph), you`ll be shocked to learn about his popularity and he says, "You know, a poll just came out that I am the most popular person in the history of the Republican Party, 92%. Beating Lincoln, I beat our Honest Abe."

Now, you`re also a student of history. 1864 was the Gallup poll, did they mean actually galloping to the next home to take opinions? What was opinion polling like do we (INAUDIBLE)?

JOLLY: Right, this is a president -- and it really is remarkable as a snapshot in history to suggest that we have a president today suggesting he`s more popular or somehow should be more revered than Abraham Lincoln. It is nonsense.

But it`s also a reflection of this president`s governance, his personality that he continues to go overseas as the face of the United States. And sells himself. Not the nation. He sells himself, not the importance of freedom and democracy. In fact, he confronts it. He challenges it. He`s antagonistic to these allies and freedom. We saw it with the G7, we see it with NATO, we see it with the embrace of Putin. The American people are wrestling with two issues right now. First is a fundamental change from where every past president was when it comes to overseas visits representing the ideals of the countries. The second is, you can`t escape the domestic political context that this is a president under investigation for whether or not he was actually involved inappropriately with an adversary in Vladimir Putin.

WILLIAMS: Matt, what about a sense of history? Do you think he`s aware that he is the 12th sitting president to sit with this queen of England tomorrow for a tea over an hour?

NUSSBAUM: This president doesn`t have much of a sense of history or much of an interest in history. And I think we`re seeing that on full display at this NATO summit and at this -- on this foreign trip. That there`s no real interest in what these institutions mean and why they`re so important to this American built world order. The president is concerned with his own partisan issues of complaining that America is being ripped off, of making sure that he seems like a tough guy on the world stage. There`s no real notion of the bigger geopolitical forces at play here, and I think we`re going to see that when he sits down with Vladimir Putin as well.

WILLIAMS: Matthew, thank you, buddy. Always a pleasure. Congressman, thank you for coming in. Appreciate it, gentlemen.

We`re back with more right after this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you still threatening to potentially pull the United States out of NATO for any reason and do you believe you can do that without Congress`s explicit support and approval?

TRUMP: I think I probably can but that`s unnecessary. The United States commitment to NATO is very strong. Remains very strong. But primarily because everyone, the spirit they have. Yesterday, I let them know that I was extremely unhappy with what was happening. And they have substantially upped their commitment. Yes. And now, we`re very happy. NATO now is really a fine-tuned machine. I think that NATO is much stronger now than it was two days ago.


WILLIAMS: Just a collection of greatest hits and a reminder at least two of our allies in press interviews after the president left said nothing of the sort happened behind the scenes in Brussels. So, it brings us to the last thing before we go tonight. The president disrupted just about everything he touched today. That`s his thing and his supporters say that`s the great thing about him.

As we saw, he nearly overturned a NATO meeting. Before flying on to London where an interview critical of his host, Theresa May, the prime minister, came out while he was having dinner with Prime Minister Theresa May. That sort of thing.

And now, we read of a potential disruption having to do with the color scheme of Air Force One. This is important need we remind you because unlike any other aircraft in any other country in this world, Air Force One represents all of us wherever it goes on this planet.

Now, the Axios news organization is out with a story that Trump wants the plane to look more American. And their source believes that to mean it should be red, white, and blue perhaps. He doesn`t think the iconic shade of blue on that aircraft represents the United States.

Now, this president has just recently presided over the very expensive ordering from Boeing of two brand-new next generation 747s, which he may or may not get to use while in office depending on their delivery date and when they`re ready. The Air Force may have its own opinion about keeping the paint job as it is. As the historian Michael Beschloss would seem to support. Here`s what he told Axios and we quote, "Every time you see that will blue trim and the words "United States of America" spelled out in that same typeface as an early version of the Declaration of Independence."

It brings back JFK landing in Germany to speak at the Berlin Wall, Richard Nixon flying to China, Ronald Reagan stepping off the plane to see Gorbachev in Iceland and a thousand other scenes of presidents in our past.

Still quoting from Michael, "JFK and Jackie Kennedy approved that timeless design, created pro bono by the premier mid-20th century industrial designer Raymond Loewy, to replace an earlier version of Air Force One that had simply said "Military Air Transport Service" and which made conspicuous use of the color orange which Kennedy rightfully found gaudy. It was JFK who chose what Loewy the luminous ultramarine blue that has appeared on every version of Air Force One from 1962 on."

So, Michael Beschloss gets the last word. And that is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you so much for being here with us. Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.


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