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Trump threatens to revoke sec. clearances. TRANSCRIPT: 07/23/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Jeremy Bash, Ashley Parker, Peter Baker, Daniel Goldman, Kimberly Atkins, Matthew Miller

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: July 23, 2018 Guest: Jeremy Bash, Ashley Parker, Peter Baker, Daniel Goldman, Kimberly Atkins, Matthew Miller

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, Donald Trump returns to the hoax theory and lobs out a new shiny object dropping security clearance for six former national security officials who`ve all publicly criticized him.

Plus, new audio tapes in the Michael Cohen case leaving everyone to wonder if Trump`s voice is on them.

Also developments in the Manafort case as the first trial in the Mueller effort prepares to get under way.

And why was he shouting late on a Sunday night? All caps threat of potential war with Iran as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Monday night.

Well, good evening, once again, from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. This was day 550 of the Trump Administration. For some perspective, Helsinki was a week ago today.

For the past three days, the President has embarked on fresh new attacks on the Mueller investigation, a warning to Iran, and new threats to the Intelligence Community. Trump`s renewed push comes in the wake of scathing reviews of his meeting with Vladimir Putin and subsequent walk back attempts on his comments doubting U.S. intelligence on Russia`s election interference. A dozen audio tapes, at least one with Trump`s voice on it, seized from his former lawyer Michael Cohen`s office. They`re all now in the hands of feds. The growing Mueller investigation, which will soon feature the trial of his former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

Also tonight, "The Wall Street Journal" says Trump`s legal team is still talking to Mueller. The Journal reports it this way. "Trump`s legal team has submitted a counteroffer to special counsel Robert Mueller on a possible interview with the President that could allow for questions about collusion with Russia, but curtail inquiries related to obstruction of justice. As negotiations for a sit-down are set to enter the eighth month, Rudy Giuliani, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, said Monday that an interview between the special counsel and the President is still on the table."

Giuliani also told the Journal, "The President`s legal team is open to him answering questions about possible collusion with Moscow." What has the President said about that? No collusion.

In his newest swipes at the Mueller investigation, Trump described it as a big hoax as the conflicted and discredited Mueller witch hunt and then as a disgrace to America, adding they should drop the discredited Mueller witch hunt now.

Trump is also taking on a half dozen top former intelligence officials, some big names, and looking at potentially revoking their security clearances, including former CIA director and these days NBC News and MSNBC Analyst, John Brennan. One thing all of these names have in common, they have all spoken out publicly against this President.


SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Not only is the President looking to take away Brennan`s security clearance, he`s also looking into the clearances of Comey, Clapper, Hayden, Rice and McCabe. The President is exploring the mechanisms to remove security clearance because they politicized and in some cases monetized their public service and security clearances. Making baseless accusations of improper contact with Russia or being influenced by Russia against the President is extremely inappropriate.


WILLIAMS: So just to be clear, I have to repeat. In addition to Brennan, the list includes former FBI Director Comey, former DNI James Clapper, former CIA Director Hayden, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, former FBI number two Andrew McCabe. Two of them, Comey and McCabe no longer have security clearances.

That White House announcement followed a Twitter notice from Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky saying he`d said asked the President to remove Brennan`s privileges. Brennan has been vocal in his criticism of Trump`s news conference with Putin. The effort to end his clearance appears to have started last week on the President`s cable news network of choice.


TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST: John Brennan is an irresponsible partisan combatant who works for a cable news channel and has threatened the President on Twitter. Why in the world would he have a top-secret federal security clearance?

SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: You know, this is alarming. And if John Brennan still has top-secret clearance, can he research Donald Trump, can he research his family?


WILLIAMS: That also seems to echo what the President told CBS News last week when he named names of former intelligence officials in a list remarkably similar to what we heard today.


JEFF GLOR, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Do you think any intelligence agencies, U.S. intelligence agencies are out to get you?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, certainly in the past, it`s been terrible. You look at Brennan, you look at Clapper, you look at Hayden, you look at Comey.

I have no confidence in a guy like Brennan. I think he`s a total low life.

I have no confidence in Clapper. You know, Clapper wrote me a beautiful letter when I first went to office, and it was really nice. And then, all of a sudden, he`s gone haywire because they got to him and they probably got him to say things that maybe he doesn`t even mean.

But no, I certainly don`t have confidence in past people. You look at what`s happened. Take a look at all of the shenanigans that have gone on. Very hard to have confidence in that group.


WILLIAMS: Which brings us to our lead-off panel on a Monday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for the "New York Times," Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Reporter for "The Washington Post," and Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and Pentagon, also happens to be former Counsel to the House Intelligence Committee.

Jeremy, because you are the former fed here, I`d like to begin with you. Why do we offer security clearances to former very senior ranking intelligence officials, including but not limited to our former CIA directors once they have left office?

JEREMY BASH, FOR CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: It`s to benefit the country, Brian. It`s to benefit the current occupants of the leadership offices of those agencies so that they can call their predecessors and consult on some very complex and difficult issue that those current office holders may be facing. And so it`s done really to support the country.

And what`s crazy about this move by the President, Brian, is that if he were to strip these former officials of security clearances, it wouldn`t hurt those former officials much at all. Most of them are doing things kind of unrelated. It would really hurt the current agencies, and I think it`s really part of a long practice dating back to the very first days of the president in office when he went to the CIA and used that memorial wall as a political prop all through doubting the Intelligence Community assessments, all through his attacks on our intelligence agencies right through this weekend when he called the whole Intelligence Community assessment about Russia a hoax as part of a long pattern and practice of attacking the United States intelligence agencies.

WILLIAMS: So as an example, Jeremy, our current CIA gets a picture of the people around Kim Jong-un, a longtime former player is missing from the picture. They call Brennan and say, "What were your dealings with this kind? You remember this guy because he`s no longer part of the picture?" That kind of thing?

BASH: That`s a great example. Or if you`re working with another intelligence service and you want some advice about how to handle some of the current players, let`s say, those peoples are still in office. And so you call your predecessor and say, "Hey, John, how do you deal with this?"

WILLIAMS: OK. Ashley, you`re sitting there listening to Sarah Huckabee Sanders with the rest of us, and this part of the briefing comes up. And one word stuck out at you and that was monitize. And to hear you`re telling it to one of our producers, it`s one thing to criticize the President, but if he thinks you`re monetizing any piece of him, by the way, monetizing the presidency is what the Trump family writ large has been accused of since he took the oath. But if he thinks you`re monetizing him, that crosses a red line.

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": It sure does. So Sarah Sanders` whole statement jammed out of me, but you`re right, specifically that word monitize.

And to be clear, the President doesn`t like critics. He doesn`t like people who have worked for past administrations, especially President Obama. But one of the things other, again, than the original sin of Russia that just really drives him crazy is this idea that people are getting rich off of him, rich using his name, rich criticizing him.

On a side note, one interesting thing I learned was that Steve Bannon for instance. One of the reasons why he`s still at persona non grata in the administration is not just that he crossed the President on Russia, but that the President believes incorrectly that Steve Bannon somehow made money off of Michael Wolff`s book. And so the idea that Steve Bannon, again, got rich being critical of the administration is something that just drives him crazy. And I think the fact that Sarah used that word was incredibly telling.

When you listen to other aides in this White House talk about people, especially who they think are making money with either books or television contracts by criticizing the President, it is something that just bothers them across the board in this West Wing.

WILLIAMS: So, Peter Baker, as I mentioned, Helsinki exactly a week ago tonight. We were talking about that. For a White House anxious to change the subject to anything but, this would make a nifty shiny object, but how about shiny object discipline when you think about the fact that two of the names on their list potentially getting their security clearances pulled don`t have security clearances.

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. Well, it`s obviously not a very well thought through a research idea at this point when you put on people who weren`t actually currently have a security clearances. But I don`t know that it actually changes the subject. I think in some ways, it actually extends it because this is all sort of driven out the Helsinki summit. It`s driven out of the idea that this is a President who has a relationship with Russia that has been questioned, that`s under investigation.

What he is basically saying is, "If you question me, I will find a way to penalize you for that." And so I think, in fact, it extends the questions about his relationship with Vladimir Putin rather than distracting from them.

What is he so afraid of if he, in fact, he doesn`t have, you know, an untorn relationship that he would wants these people to be cutoff from information. He doesn`t want them to have any access to classified data and, therefore, he gives the impression anyway of somebody who is trying to punishes enemies and prevent people who might say things that he doesn`t like from having information that would be based on -- that would based those statements.

WILLIAMS: And, of course, in the hands of some at Fox News it goes to the deep state argument.

Jeremy Bash, I`d like to read you two tweets out of the vast sea of them today on various topics. The first one was the government`s former attorney before the Supreme Court, Neal Katyal, who said, "Trump in the last few days has attacked FBI, four federal judges all appointed by Republicans, Obama, Secretary Clinton, DOJ, Mueller, the DNC, Pelosi, the fake news media, whatever that is, the NFL. You know who is the one guy missing from this list? Putin."

Then late tonight, Comey comes out with this on Twitter. "Thought experiment: Make a list of all the public figures in this country and around the world the current President has criticized. Ask yourself. Why is Putin missing from the list? No responsible American should ever stop asking why."

Jeremy, in this case do you agree with the former FBI director?

BASH: I think it`s worth asking why. I think it`s worth asking why again the President thought he needed to have a private two-hour meeting with Vladimir Putin. Again, what is it that the President wanted to say to Putin that he thought not even his most trusted inner circle of aides and senior, Cabinet officials couldn`t hear? What was he worried that they would hear -- that if they heard it, it would somehow compromise the President?

I mean, and I think this is a critically important issue that we have to continue to ask those officials about because the President as of at least late last week hadn`t debriefed his senior, hadn`t told them exactly what secret deal he made with Vladimir Putin.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, a serious question that speaks to the balance of action versus reaction. How did the Trump presidency agenda advance today?

PARKER: That`s a good question. I think -- I don`t really have a great answer. This is a White House that is sort of -- even they will concede privately giving up on legislating and they`re just sort of responding to the latest crisis. Last week was a week of walk backs, for instance sort of.

Yesterday, the all capital letters tweet on Iran changed the subject. I guess there`s a world in which, a theory among those close to the President where they believe that that was a deliberate distraction trying to -- again, it`s not necessarily a great tweet for him that reassures the globe, but it did sort of -- he was getting criticized for being weak on Russia and it was very toughly worded and sort of alleviated that concern for him.

But if you talk to people in the White House, they don`t necessarily know there`s a campaign rally tomorrow. A rally tomorrow. They don`t necessarily know what the President is going to say or what is going to happen. And so the legislative agenda or just the agenda in general to answer your question, sort of gets advanced with the passage of time, but not necessarily with a strategy underlying any of that.

WILLIAMS: That was a terrific answer, in fact.

And, Peter Baker, we`ve been having a little bit of fun potentially dismissing this threat to pull security clearances as a potential shiny object. Not everyone took it that way today. There was a violent reaction to it by someone we both know because we learned long ago if you stick around long enough, you get to know everybody.

Here is Steve Schmidt on this network earlier.


STEVE SCHMIDT, FROMER MCCAIN CAMPAIGN CHIEF STRATEGIST: This is a very dangerous day for American democracy. This is the move of an autocrat, not an American President. Again, this President`s continuing abuse of power, his authoritarian instinct at full use here. It is alarming.


WILLIAMS: So, Peter Baker, not a mincer of words, Steve Schmidt, who gave up his membership in the Republican Party after a lifelong membership in this party because of this President.

BAKER: No, absolutely. Look, it does smack of retribution and I think that they know that, I think that they want that. They want to basically chill people who are critical.

The President is tired of hearing people out on this network and others criticizing what used to be a government. And he`s trying to send a message that, "You know, I can hit back even stronger than you hit me. John Brennan, you`re accusing me of treason, well, you know, I have something to go after you."

So, you know, it does send a chill I think though certainly Democrats, but I think a lot of Republicans as well. People who -- I don`t remember anything that`s quite like this, certainly in the post-Watergate era. I can`t remember any time a president has stripped security clearances from somebody, from the other party because they criticized him.

Look, you know, a president is not obligated to give briefings to former officials from another administration who happen to have security clearance. If Jeremy Bash wants a briefing from the Trump White House, they`re not obligated to give him one.

But the truth is to actually take a security clearance or to threaten it, which is what`s really happening here, is meant to send a signal. And I think Steve Schmidt`s response to that with the kind of reaction that a lot of people in Washington have.

WILLIAMS: We appreciate having the big three to start off a new week, Peter Baker, Ashley Parker and Jeremy Bash. Really appreciate you coming on tonight.

And coming up for us, a delay in the trial of Paul Manafort and the feds have 11 more audio tapes, it turns out, seized in the raid of Trump`s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, by the FBI.

And later, the President`s all capital letters warning to Iran and other than a giant distraction at the start of a new work week, what might it mean?

THE 11TH HOUR as we said on a Monday night on a new week back after this.


WILLIAMS: Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was in court today wearing a green jump suit. His Virginia-based trial, the first of the Mueller investigation and first of two for him was supposed to start on Wednesday, but today federal judge agreed to delay the start of his trial for six days.

Manafort`s lawyers had requested more time to review thousands of pages of documents. Manafort, we remind you, has pleaded not guilty to several criminal charges, including bank fraud.

Earlier today, prosecutors also discussed their list of trial witnesses who if called will be granted immunity for their testimony. NBC News reported all of the witnesses are connected to financial institutions of one kind or another that did business with Manafort.

On another legal front, it turns out there were more tapes seized during the raid of former Trump attorney Michael Cohen`s home and office by the FBI earlier this year. Twelve tapes have now been handed over to the feds after the parties involved withdraw their designations of privilege for the tapes. We know at least one of them is a secret recording of a conversation Cohen had with then-candidate Donald Trump about two months before the 2016 election. At this point, it`s not known if Trump`s voice is on the others.

Michael Cohen`s attorney wrote on Twitter late today, "Latest news, Michael Cohen tapes of conversations are being released by Donald Trump and his legal team who owned and waived the privilege. Will Rudy Giuliani call these tapes exculpatory again? As I noted before, the tapes will speak for themselves. Spin can`t change facts."

Well, with us tonight to talk about all of it Daniel Goldman, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Kimberly Atkins, Chief Washington Reporter for the Boston Herald. Welcome to you both.

Daniel, you`re here in our New York studios. I`ll begin with you based on home field advantage alone. A six-day delay in the start of a trial like this. I tend to be a bit of a cynic.

I heard that and thought I wonder if they`re talking about the contours of a deal. You think this is actually what it is purported to be?

DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Yes, I don`t think they`re talking about a deal at this point. I think that ship has likely sailed, perhaps with the obstruction of justice. That was the last nail in that potential coffin.

WILLIAMS: In fact, let`s go there. Do the feds get angry if Manafort`s attorney comments say, "Our guy got wobbly, he now wants to talk about the deal you offered?"

GOLDMAN: Well, it`s unclear whether they even offered a deal.


GOLDMAN: And that`s not necessarily how it would work.


GOLDMAN: I think they wouldn`t be angry, so to speak, but his usefulness has diminished if he is behaving badly. He becomes a less valuable witness to them. But this six-day adjournment of the trial date is fairly routine in trials as you`re getting closer to the beginning of it, often times the government is producing a lot more evidence because they`re constantly investigating right up until the trial and the defense says, "I don`t have enough time to review this."

Manafort wanted a couple of months of a delay and got six days. That`s not what he wanted. That`s not going to help him.

I think the advantage actually a short delay often goes to the prosecution that can really streamline the case and get all their ducks in a row with a few extra days. So, this was a win for the prosecution.

WILLIAMS: So, Kim, we noted that on the new start date for the trial, the White House announced that the President plans to go to a rally that night in Tampa, Florida. What should we make of that?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER, BOSTON HERALD: I predict it will be quite the stem winder. I mean, we have seen the President sort of telegraph his anger about the Mueller investigation, particularly through his statements, through his Twitter account any way that he can whether it`s trying to divert attention or just railing against the investigation itself as a witch hunt or any Russian collusion as a hoax.

Even though the Manafort case itself is not about collusion, it`s still going to give us the clearest picture to date of what exactly the Mueller investigation has produced. We will see that in the witnesses, we will see that in the evidence that is presented. And that is going to be in the headlines day after day and that is going very likely trigger this President to rail against it even harder than we`ve seen in the past.

WILLIAMS: Mr. Goldman, I`d like to read you a quote of Emily Jane Fox of Vanity Fair, who for the record was out ahead of this story on Friday night when others turn out they had it wrong. Here`s the headline. "Did they think I was just going to roll over and die?"

"Two people familiar with Cohen`s thinking believe that Trump`s lawyers decided to waive privilege to undercut Cohen, who could have potentially used the exclusive possession of the material as a bargains chip to cut a deal with prosecutors. Cohen has not yet met with the government, according to these people, but he suggested he may be open to the possibility during a recent interview with ABC`s George Stephanopoulos. Giuliani told me," this is the writer speaking, "that while he did not leak it, he was glad it got out."

So let`s go there. This theory that if the other side has the ability to expose some of the weapons Cohen has in his box of weapons, they will diminish his value as a potential flipping target for the feds.

GOLDMAN: That`s entirely fallacious premise.

WILLIAMS: All right.

GOLDMAN: The evidence is what the evidence is, whether the government gets it sooner rather than later. There is some truth to the fact that it is better for the government, for the prosecution that as little evidence or information about the investigation is made public as possible, because you don`t want other witnesses to know what your evidence is so that they will tailor or redirect their testimony according to what they think the evidence is.

The recordings, you know, in some respects, Michael Cohen`s cooperation is helpful in explaining the recordings. So, if that`s what they`re trying to do, it`s a fool`s errand.

WILLIAMS: Kim, I don`t want to get too psychological here, but in other cases we have seen President Trump and some in his name reach out and own the worst of something. The worst in some cases of something they know is coming. Kind of preemptively own it so that when reality pulls into town, it doesn`t sound quite as bad.

ATKINS: Yes. I mean, we`ve seen that from the very beginning, right, down to saying, "Hey, it`s a great idea to work with Russia as we prepare to start this term in the White House. So yes, I think that is something that perhaps they think they could spin their way out of it.

Look, we have talked before about how polling has shown that the American people soured on the Mueller investigation, in part because of the steady discrediting of the probe that has coming out of the White House, coming out of the President`s Twitter could. So they very likely might think they may be able to spin their way around what they think can be potentially damning evidence.

But, you know, you`re right. You can`t get around what evidence is. And when you have it presented in this way in a court of law in a way that a jury is going to be looking at it, it`s going to be much tougher to try to spin that politically than it has been other things.

WILLIAMS: Daniel Goldman, formerly of the Southern District of New York, Kimberly Atkins, lawyer and journalist it should be noted. Thank you both so very much for joining us.

And coming up, the President`s capitalized caution to Iran. Iran`s leader had a warning of his own. We`ll talk to an expert on annihilation. He will tell us where this could all go from here when we continue.


WILLIAMS: That was today but let`s back it up to last night. It`s at least still somewhat alarming when the President tweets something involving national security in all capital letters close to 11:30 at night. So this got the attention of a lot of folks and not necessarily in a good way when he said to and about Iran, "To Iranian President Rouhani, never ever threaten the United States again or you will suffer consequences, the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before. We are no longer a country that will stand for your demented words of violence and death. Be cautious."

It was Rouhani who had spoken first, here`s his words that Trump was reacting to, "America should know that peace with Iran is the mother of all peace and war with Iran is the mother of all wars." Then our Secretary of State gave rather a blistering speech critical of Iran this weekend.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: The level of corruption and wealth among regime leaders shows that Iran is run by something that resembles the mafia more than a government.


WILLIAMS: Time to call in our annihilation specialist, Joe Cirincione. Joins us again the night he happens to be president of Ploughshares Fund and the author of "Nuclear Nightmare: Securing the World Before It Is Too Late." All of Joe`s books are available in the room, at a comedy section of your favorite bookstore.

Joe, for those who have not followed, our relationship with Iran especially since the Iran deal. How serious did you take this exchange and the President`s outgoing all capital letter tweet last night?

JOE CIRINCIONE, PRESIDENT, PLOUGHSHARE FUND: I took this very seriously. The President, with the kinds of words he was using, was signaling a fire and fury type of threat, a possible nuclear threat to Iran, a level of destruction that few nations have experienced.

I think the President may have meant this as a distraction, may have been an impulsive angry tweet. The problem is that what a distraction for the president to divert attention from these other troubles could be seized upon because it`s an obsession for others, both domestically and in the region. This has been an obsession of, for example, National Security Adviser John Bolton, who was argued for going to war with Iran for over a decade now.

Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State, a favor of regime change just gave a blistering speech. You showed a part of it. The most open attempt to overthrow the government of Iran, that we`ve seen -- well, you have to go back to 1953 when we actually did overthrow the government of Iran but we did it secretly then.

Now that we do it in the open, and then I`m worried about the regional actors who want to go to war with Iran. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirate, these are all countries were unlike the situation in Korea and Northeast Asia, these countries want to go to war with a foe of the president, with somebody who has the President`s ire. That`s what`s troubling.

This distraction could stick as a war that the President may not really want to engage in.

WILLIAMS: Joe, you and I both know the President will campaign on this. He will got to rallies and say it to the people at the rally, you saw what I did. You saw what I said to Iran. I`m tired of getting walked all over by them. Previous presidents, that`s all over. It`s not going to happen with me. You concede that`s going to be his effort?

CIRINCIONE: Absolutely, and he`s got a domestic base for it. You go to some of the others so called news channels and you can see that there`s exuberance about this. They like the President standing up. So this plays well with his base which is another reason this might get traction beyond whatever the President intends.

And if the president`s troubles intensify, well, he could be encouraged to do a wag the dog scenario to encourage a foreign crisis in order to rally his base to detract from his domestic troubles.

WILLIAMS: Well, God help us. And you see Russia factoring into this as the subject to be distracted from?

CIRINCIONE: Absolutely. But this also sort of makes Putin`s case. I mean, here`s the President of the United States actively interfering in the affairs of another country. Actively, you know, ready to fund groups who would overthrow the government of another country. That is exactly what Vladimir Putin said Hillary Clinton was doing, what the United States was doing to him, to Russia.

So it starts to make Putin`s case. And should this conflict intensify, well, it just drives Iran closer to Russia. This all this favors Putin`s national security interests.

WILLIAMS: This is Joe Cirincione`s life`s work. He is a serious man who writes serious books. Joe, thank you, always a pleasure having you on the broadcast.

CIRINCIONE: Thank you. Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, fact checking. The first ever release of a FISA warrant request. Among the revelations, the FBI`s argument to wire tape Carter Page, the agent suspected of being recruited by the Russians and being an agent of a foreign power in our midst. And then four federal judges agreed. That and more when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Previously secret court documents related to the electronic surveillance of former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page are now out in the open. The FBI publicly released the request to the FISA Court over the weekend.

Page, as you know, is at the center of an ongoing controversy over how the FBI sought and continued the warrant. Earlier today, President Trump used the release of these documents to attack the Russia investigation, quote, "So we now find out that it was indeed the beyond verified and fake dirty dossier that was paid for by crooked Hillary Clinton and the DNC that was knowingly and falsely committed to FISA, and which was responsible for starting the totally conflicted and discredited Mueller witch hunt." So much there.

It`s important to note, these documents were revealed the surveillance applications were authorized and reauthorized by four separate federal judges, all four appointed by Republican presidents. The application reads in part, quote, "The FBI believes Page has been the subject of targeted recruitment by the Russian government." It also says, quote, "The FBI believes that the Russian government`s efforts are being coordinated with Page and perhaps other individuals associated with candidate number one`s campaign." That would of course be Donald Trump.

And after several highly redacted pages, it reads, quote, "The FBI believes that Page has been collaborating and conspiring with the Russian government."

We should point out Carter Page has not been charged with any crime. He has denied these allegations and accusations multiple times, but his answers have also changed and migrate and sometimes have done so on the fly as they did yesterday during an interview on CNN.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: You did advise the Kremlin back in 2013 or 2012, somewhere in there?

CARTER PAGE, FORMER FOREIGN-POLICY ADVISER TO DONALD TRUMP: Jake, that`s really a spin. I sat in on meetings, but to call me an adviser I think is way over the top.

TAPPER: Except in the 2013 letter you wrote, it says, quote, "Over the past half year, I have had the privilege to serve as an informal adviser to the staff of the Kremlin in preparation for the presidency of the G20 Summit next month, where energy issues will be prominent point on the agenda." That`s August 2013, that yourself calling yourself an informal adviser to the Kremlin.

PAGE: No, informal having some conversations with people. I mean, this is really nothing and just an attempt to distract from the real crimes that are shown in this misleading document.


WILLIAMS: With us to talk about this tonight and explain it all is Matt Miller, former Chief Spokesman for the US Department of Justice. Matt, two things. Number one, at least once in our lifetime we`ll be able to say that formerly secret documents came out that underscore the rigor of the judicial process while under cutting an American president`s argument that it`s a rigged hoax witch hunt. That`s number one.

Number two, a request for you, show us, tell us how easy or hard it is to get a FISA warrant. If I`m a fed and I come to you, a federal judge, and say there is this kind of sketchy person of interest we`re looking at. How tough is it?

MATTHEW MILLER, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT SPOKESPERSON: Even before you get to the level of going to a federal judge, you have to go through multiple layers of review first inside the FBI has to be signed off by the FBI Director himself, after going through, you know, through review by agents and by lawyers. And then comes over to the Justice Department, goes through multiple levels of reviews at the Justice Department. Ultimately has to be signed off by with one of only a handful of officials, the attorney general, the deputy attorney general or the assistant attorney general in charge of the National Security Division.

And then, as you can see by looking at this FISA warrant application that now for the first time the public has been able to look at, you know, they are extremely detailed. You know, we`re able to look at probably about half of the totality of these applications, the rest has been redacted. But, you know, at the half, you can see. You can see how much detail goes into this, how meticulous they are in describing Carter Page`s repeated contacts with Russian officials both overseas and here when he was recruited as sort of agent by Russian spies operating inside the United States.

It is an extremely high bar for the federal government to meet. And they don`t do it lightly.

WILLIAMS: Another high bar is kind of trying to figure out how any of this could be true, given the resume of this young man which bears repeating. Annapolis, top 10 percent of his class, five years US Navy including intelligence officer, Masters at Georgetown, Masters at NYU, PhD, works briefly at the Counsel on Foreign Relations and works briefly on The Hill. This is a white shoe, blue chip resume of someone we would normally have on this broadcast as an analyst or guest. What`s your theory?

MILLER: You know, I go back to something that John Brennan said in early 2017 when he was testifying before Congress about the Russia investigation. He wasn`t talking specifically about carter page, but I think his words were applicable here.

And there`s been a lot of the people who end up turning on their country. And again, Carter Page hasn`t been accused of that yet, you know, hasn`t been indicted in a formal or accused in a formal legal setting, and he claimed his innocence.

But people that end up turning on their country, they don`t do it overnight. They take one step at a time. First, making one mistake and starting down a path. And then before they know it, they`ve gone too far down the path and they can`t turn back because for many times, because someone on the other side and intelligence operative that`s recruited them, you know, holds information and can black mail them or force them into doing things that they otherwise wouldn`t want to do.

I think you see that in a lot of cases and I think if you were to look at some of the people in the Trump orbit, there are others you could point to and say, you know, that probably not, you know, what they -- where they ended up is not what they set out to do. But you take one bad action and you get, you know, sort in hawk to people who don`t have your best interest at heart. And before you know it, you`ve got a number of steps down that road eventually, betrayed your country.

WILLIAMS: This was a wholesale hit against the narrative of the Trump administration and some in the media. Is this a bad thing that we can now read what a FISA warrant application looks like?

MILLER: You know, it`s weird. I mean, look, as a former Justice Department official, I`m really uncomfortable about seeing this publicly. Not so much for this one application, but because this is the first time that the Freedom of Information Act has even been applied to a FISA application.

There`s been argument that FOIA didn`t apply to them. And now that one has been released under FOIA, you`re going to see other people try to FOIA other FISA applications and there`s precedent here for them to be release at least in some context.

That said, in this instance, it doesn`t, you know, when you have one side, in this case Devin Nunez who has been politicizing intelligence information, and, you know, the public camp look at the underlying documents. And you have Devin Nunez releasing a memo claiming that the FBI was doing something, that this document shows they in fact weren`t doing. That they were misleading the court.

In that case, you know, you have the Democrats putting up their own memo disputing it. I think the Democratic memo was pretty compelling for anyone that was paying attention. But it`s not the same as the press and the public being able to see the underlying document and know that one side here, Devin Nunez and Trey Gowdy and the others who put this memo out in February were acting in bad faith. And they were dishonest.

And the President who talks about this application -- talked about it for months now. Has been dishonest in the way he`s framed it. In this case, you know, I think the equities, you know, lie on the balance of getting out to show the American people just what is going on.

WILLIAMS: Matthew Miller, thank you for your analysis and for explaining all of it. We really appreciate you coming on.

MILLER: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, are there simply too many bald eagles. Are there so many of them in our skies that they threaten to blot out the sun? Those are the sarcastic attempts to explain something new that Republicans in Congress are pushing through when we come


WILLIAMS: While on the campaign trail, you may recall then candidate Donald Trump repeatedly emphasize his desire for a clean environment for all.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: We want crystal clear, clean water, right? Crystal clean water.

Absolutely crystal clear and clean water. We want really beautiful clean air, right/

Immaculately clean air. Beautiful immaculate air. Everybody. We want beautiful, right, and we want great safety.

And we need safety. Safety. Safety. Safety. Safety.

Clean water, clean air, and safety. And I won many environmental awards by the way. I have been called an environmentalist if you can believe that.


WILLIAMS: Then came the headlines of the past few days from the New York Times. Lawmakers, lobbyists and the administration join forces to overhaul the Endangered Species Act. The Washington Post, Trump administration officials dismissed benefits of national monuments, and from Bloomberg News, Trump to seek repeal of California`s smog-fighting power.

According to that last one, the Bloomberg report, Trump administration will try to remove California`s authority to regulate car emissions, which of course they have been doing for decades, California Emission controls, saying the proposal, quote, "amounts to a frontal assault on one of former president Barack Obama`s signature regulatory programs to curb greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change."

Washington Post reports, documents that were accidentally released by the Interior Department show Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides tailored a report on national monuments to emphasize the potential value and upside of logging, ranching, and energy development on the protected lands. President Trump has already significantly cut down two of Utah`s largest national monuments, the largest reduction of public lands protection in the history of the presidency.

Then there is the New York Times story. Sunday, the Times reported the Trump administration and Republicans in Congress are trying to weaken the Endangered Species Act to ease restrictions on gas and oil interests in part out of concern Republicans could lose the House in November. The paper reports, quote, "in the past two weeks, more than two dozen pieces of legislation, policy initiatives and amendments designed to weaken the law have either introduced or voted on in Congress or proposed by the Trump administration."

This includes a new White House plan to make major changes to the act that would make it harder to add animals to the endangered species list and easier to remove them. Well, earlier on this network, wildlife conservationist Jeff Corwin offered a rather dire prediction.


JEFF CORWIN, WILDLIFE CONSERVATIONIST: Just to be honest and frank, this administration is at war with American wildlife. They have all our incredible species in the cross hair. And when you take this Congress and this administration, I believe it will equal extinction. We probably have about four or five species that within the next three or four years will likely fall into extinction solely because of this administration.


WILLIAMS: From this network earlier today, Jeff Corwin speaking very bluntly on this proposed roll back of environmental protections.

Coming up for us, at a critical time in the history of the Supreme Court, there is a change on how Americans view a critical issue. The explanation and new member numbers when is we come back


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, some new numbers from the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll. Donald Trump campaigned on appointing conservative justices to the Supreme Court and overturning Roe versus Wade, the landmark abortion case. And Neal Gorsuch, the President got a predictably conservative vote as he likely will if Brett Kavanaugh is confirmed and sworn in.

Again, Donald Trump campaigned on appointing justices who would overturn Roe versus Wade. And this has been the issue with the base.

But a funny thing has happened across this country in the years since Roe v. Wade. American attitudes have changed which brings us back to the poll numbers. 71 percent of respondents believe Roe versus Wade should not be overturned. That`s believed to be a modern day height for this poll. 23 percent think it should be reverse.

Now, let`s look at the break down by party. Those who support abortion rights include 88 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Independents and a narrow majority, 52 percent of Republicans. With only 36 percent of Republicans saying flat out it should be overturned. Respondents on the whole also said they are more likely to vote for a prochoice candidate in the mid-terms.

The numbers are beyond interesting because of the full tilt fight expected in the streets and in the US Senate, and because of the upcoming midterm elections. Senate and House combined, there are 535 elected seats in Congress. No two states or districts are alike. But on election night during the Kavanaugh battle especially, these members may truly take on a deeper meaning.

That is our broadcast on a Monday night as we start off the new week. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Goodnight from NBC News headquarters here in New York.


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