Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: August 8, 2018 Guest: Robert Costa, Barbara McQuade, Jonathan Lemire, Shane Goldmacher, Daniel Goldman, Eugene Robinson, A.B. Stoddard, Rick Wilson
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, eight months into negotiations, the Trump legal team tells Mueller no questions on obstruction. In fact, Rudy Giuliani is asking that the whole thing be wrapped up by September 1st.
Just three weeks after Trump`s astounding summit appearance with Putin, new sanctions for Russia, and a grim warning from a Florida senator about the threat Russia poses to the November elections at the state level.
And he was the first ever member of Congress to support Donald Trump. Today, he was arrested and charged with insider trading for something he allegedly did at the White House. Tonight, Chris Collins says he`ll be on the ballot in November. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Wednesday night.
Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 566 of the Trump administration facing the threat of a possible subpoena, a possible constitutional showdown.
The President`s lawyers have turned down Robert Mueller`s latest terms for an in-person interview with the President of the United States. The Trump legal team`s rejection of Mueller`s terms was first reported by "The New York Times." "The Washington Post" followed soon with its own reporting.
"Times" writes that the President`s lawyers did make a counteroffer, which "suggested a narrow path for questioning, people familiar with the matter said. Mr. Trump`s lawyers did not reject an interview outright, but included the narrower counteroffer, one person familiar said. However, Mr. Trump`s lawyers do not want him answering questions about whether he obstructed justice, according to the person."
"The Washington Post" reports that this latest development in the talks between the two camps "significantly lessens the possibility of a voluntary presidential interview, according to two people familiar with the discussions. The multipage response represents what Trump`s lawyers expect to be their last word on Mueller`s request for a sit-down interview. The letter from Trump`s lawyers leaves open the possibility of having Trump answer some questions in writing, according to the two people familiar with the negotiations."
Earlier today during a live radio call-in show, conveniently hosted by his co-counsel Jay Sekulow, Rudy Giuliani called on Mueller to end his investigation, but declined to get into details about these negotiations about the interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: We don`t have an internal deadline. We are moving -- I use the phrase expeditiously through this, and understand the significant constitutional issues that are raised. But, Mayor, I know you`ve said and I`ve said, we want to see this come to closure soon here. Mayor?
RUDOLF GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: Yes, we do. It`s about time that it ends. I also think and I hope the special counsel is sensitive to it as we are. We do not want to run into the November elections. So back up from that, this should be over with by September 1.
We have now given him an answer. Obviously, he should take a few days to consider it. But we should get this resolved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: More on that in a bit. And just a short time ago appearing with Sean Hannity, Giuliani spoke about his reasons to keep Trump from talking to Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIULIANI: I think if it isn`t over by September, then we have a very, very serious violation of the Justice Department rules.
He knows the answers to every question that he wants to ask. He is going to ask him, "Did you tell Comey to go easy on Flynn." The President is going to say, "No I didn`t."
Hey, Bob, you know it. Why do you want to get him under oath? You think we`re fools? You want him to get under ought because you want to trap him into perjury.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: More on all of it later. On other fronts, "The Washington Post" also reports tonight the White House is preparing an executive order that authorizes the President to punish foreign interference in U.S. elections.
The "Post" writes, "The eight-page draft order appears to be an effort to stave off aggressive legislation, including a bill introduced in Congress this month, and to quell criticism that Trump seems to give more credence to Russian President Vladimir Putin`s denials of interference than to U.S. intelligence agencies` conclusion to the Kremlin sought to undermine the 2016 election."
That comes to us as Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, whose running in a tough reelection fight, tells the Tampa Bay Times, "Russian operatives have penetrated some of Florida`s election systems ahead of the 2018 midterms. He said any further information is classified."
Today, the White House actually did impose new sanctions on Russia, but not for election meddling. The administration is penalizing the Kremlin for using chemical weapons against an ex-spy and his daughter in the U.K., a decision that Congress had to push the White House to make.
Meanwhile, Republican Senator Rand Paul is in Moscow this week, of all places, apparently on his own summer outreach mission to the Kremlin. The senator had been one of the few open defenders on Capitol Hill of President Trump`s overtures to Vladimir Putin, the only defender at times.
Today, he wrote this about his visit. "I was honored to deliver a letter from President Trump to President Vladimir Putin`s administration." The letter emphasized the importance of further engagement in various areas, including countering terrorism, enhancing legislative dialogue, and resuming cultural exchanges.
Putin was not in Moscow to meet with the senator personally, we`re told.
The White House was quick to respond that the letter was written at Senator Paul`s request.
On that, let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Wednesday night. Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for "The Associated Press," Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post" and Moderator of Washington Week on PBS. And Barbara McQuade, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Of Michigan. Good evening and welcome to you all.
Robert Costa, I`d like to begin with you with the proviso, the reminder to everybody watching we are seeing exactly one side of these negotiations over a sit-down meeting between the President and Mueller. The Mueller team doesn`t talk. And as far as we know, they don`t leak.
So Robert, is this all kind of a T.V. game show we`re watching? Is any of this truly serious or binding? And will you believe any of it until it happens?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Your healthy skepticism is right on, Brian, because I`ve been talking to Mayor Giuliani in recent days and keep urging him, "We`d like to see this letter, the response you`ve given to Bob Mueller and his investigators." But the President`s lawyers will not release the letters so we`re relying on their accounts.
And they continue to reiterate that they don`t want to have the President sitting down with Mueller to talk about the firing of Jim Comey at the FBI, to talk about then national security adviser Mike Flynn and what the President said to Comey about letting it go, and as Giuliani says, they really believe Mueller has a perjury trap here. But Mueller, he is trying to finish this report based on our reporting with federal investigators. And he`s trying to get it done before September, but he needs to figure out the President`s intent. And until the President sits down, Brian, he`s not going to really have that.
WILLIAMS: Barbara, you`re the lawyer here. Real quick, this phrase "perjury trap" that we hear on a near daily basis. I`ve heard some lawyers like you on T.V. say listen, "The truth will set you free. If you tell the truth, if those around you tell the truth, there`s no such thing as a perjury trap." What do people mean by perjury trap?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, at least at the Department of Justice, the idea of a perjury trap is forbidden. And that is when you have no legitimate purpose for calling someone to a grand jury other than to try to catch them in a lie. That is you don`t believe they`ve committed any other crime. But you`re going to try to catch them in a lie so that you can charge them with that lie.
I think in this instance it`s clear that Robert Mueller has a lot of legitimate questions that he wants to ask of President Trump. And the idea that it`s a perjury trap, I think only exists if he chooses to lie.
WILLIAMS: Now Jonathan Lemire, the question for you which may call for a judgment is, what is greater do you think in the Trump camp? The fear of a subpoena or the fear of perjury?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE ASSOCIATED PRESS": I think they`re worried about both. I mean, they believe they have legal arguments to protect them against a subpoena. They don`t believe that the Department of Justice in the code there that Mueller is put forward that, he certainly a buy the book prosecutor we know, and that we believe that they believe that they would not put with that. So perhaps therefore it`s perjury.
I mean, everyone, as I`ve said before and I`ve reported before, people around the President just feel that he is walking into a land mine situation if he goes in there, that he is so undisciplined when he speaks, and that he sometimes will try to say things to win over the room and to curry favor with these investigators. He`s going to walk in there and say some mistruths or say things that aren`t right or be selective in what he says and therefore as Giuliani says, walk himself into perjury.
I mean, the President, though, to this point is publicly saying he still wants to do this. I think the longer this goes on, the more that Giuliani and the legal team moves the goal post sort of making it almost impossible for Mueller to finally to agree to this.
As much as the special counsel does want this interview, as Bob just said that, they need to be able to identify. They need to figure out the intent what was behind the President, the actions when he moved whether it was Comey or Flynn and so on. But at some point, they`re going to have to make a decision, well, if he`s not going to sit down, then we have to think about the subpoena.
And I think that at this point, Giuliani and others, they`re trying to run out the clock here. They know that Mueller is trying not to wade into the midterms. That if he doesn`t do it then, he tables it as of Labor Day let`s say, and revisits in November or December, even though, of course, we did see Jim Comey open up a federal investigation that absolutely mattered to an election just about 10 days before voters went to the ballot boxes.
WILLIAMS: More on that in just a moment. Barb, I watched Giuliani with Sean on Fox tonight. It was interesting at a certain point, Giuliani stopped talking about this. He kind of referred to -- deferred to Jay Sekulow.
A, is it possible one of the feds said your side should really stop talking about these negotiations? And, b, what are the feds likely to make of all this public sharing of letters and demands and no questions on obstruction and the like?
MCQUADE: Well, ordinarily, the Department of Justice doesn`t want to silence people who want to talk. They have first amendment rights to do that. So I`m sure they don`t like it. They probably aren`t happy with it.
It may not even be accurate. But they`re probably not going to do anything about it if Giuliani and Sekulow want to continue to talk about it. I don`t think it advances their position in negotiating by talking about it in the public sphere. But I don`t think that the Justice Department is going to order them to stop in any way.
But you`re right that the affect of it all, though is that we get this very one-sided narrative. We don`t even know whether it`s true. They made representations about their letter. We haven`t seen the letter and certainly we`re not hearing from Robert Mueller. So we don`t know what it says.
But I do get the sense that they`re slow-walking this. They`re trying get themselves as close to September as possible. Say we`re negotiating, we`re still keeping the door open because they know that as that election approaches, it`s less likely that Robert Mueller would serve that subpoena and launch what`s likely to be some, you know, very explosive litigation.
WILLIAMS: Also, Barb, what is Rudy talking about when he says this investigation will violate DOJ rules if it goes past September 1?
MCQUADE: Well, he is conflating some things here. I don`t know whether it`s intentional or not, but there are sometimes something referred to as a 60-day rule before an election, there`s usually a cooling off period.
The language of the rule really is very broad. It just says prosecutors shouldn`t do anything to influence the outcome of an election. And what you do or don`t do really depends on the facts of the case. But many people have interpreted that to be sort of a 60-day rule that says when you get 60 days out of an election, you probably should cool off and not file anything publicly.
So with the elections in November, that would be about Labor Day. So I think there have been many suggesting that Robert Mueller would be unlikely to serve a subpoena then. But to suggest the investigation needs to be over by then is a very different thing. Even if he does go into a cooling off period, which he may or may not do with Trump on the ballot, nothing says he has to be done by September 1st.
WILLIAMS: Bob, on that point, no one expects Mueller to do anything incautious, a. And b, one of the hardened cynics in our business proffered this theory tonight, and that is that by saying September 1, by getting that out into the bloodstream, Rudy, who is a member of this team that says nothing really by accident. Usually it`s back referenced, may be getting into the public consciousness what he sees as a win if and when Mueller suspends on or about September 1st for election season, they can say it`s been properly -- this investigation has been paused, and that`s a victory for us.
COSTA: That`s right, Brian. Talking to Mayor Giuliani, you see him preparing right now for the subpoena fight. That subpoena threat, goes all the way back to March when Mueller made it in a private exchange with then Trump attorney John Dowd.
The Republican Party is on edge, especially after Tuesday`s primaries in Ohio and elsewhere about the midterm elections. They don`t want to have the Mueller report hanging over their heads.
So in my conversations with Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill, they`re telling the White House, they`re telling Trump allies, they`re telling Giuliani and the President, anything you can to get Russia off of our plate, we`d appreciate it. And they know they have to take a tough line and sanctions.
The party is more hawkish than the President of Russia, but they want this Mueller report to be not hanging out there as a variable. And so that`s why, in part, this is a political strategy for Giuliani as much as a legal strategy.
WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, I want to read you the quote, two very young promising writers at "The Associated Press" have worked together on this piece. Oh, look, it`s you and your co-author.
"Trump has seethed to confidantes that he views the Manafort charges as a warning shot from Mueller. He has told those close to him that as he watches the courtroom proceedings, he fears that Donald Trump Jr. could at some point be the one on trial," left out all the careful sourcing that you were careful to put in this.
You`re just back from Bedminster, New Jersey. How is the President enjoying his vacation?
LEMIRE: We haven`t seen too much of him on the vacation.
WILLIAMS: Exactly the way they planned it.
LEMIRE: That`s right. He did have a dinner with business leader last night. We saw the first few minutes of it. But largely he`s been laying low. The White House hasn`t reading out who he`s been speaking with and golfing with.
We know, thought, over the last ten days or so, we have seen, and it`s reflected in his tweets, as well as these private conversations how upset he has been watching the Manafort trial day after day. It`s the cable coverage, it`s in his face. It`s mostly you, inescapable every day that he sees it there.
LEMIRE: And that he -- as he`s told people around him, he feels that`s Mueller`s sort of opening act. Even though this trial course is not about Russia, but he feels like Mueller`s hand is involved, obviously Manafort was a prominent part of his campaign and it`s a sense of what could still be to come.
And even though the President trussing around him, he doesn`t believe his son did anything wrong, but he suggests that either, a, he inadvertently broke the law, perhaps, or b, he is simply the victim of a witch-hunt. Stop me if you`ve heard that before from the President. And in this case, he feels that that could be next. And that is something that even though publicly he is suggesting I`m not worried about Don Jr., privately he is.
Don Jr. himself also very much taking this brash approach, moving forward. He has become a very popular surrogate among Republicans for the midterm elections who`s been crisscrossing the country. So he is not letting this slow him down.
WILLIAMS: Big thanks to our big three on a Wednesday night in August. Jonathan Lemire, Robert Costa, Barbara McQuade. Thank you.
Coming up, a prominent member of Congress who went big for Trump early, arrested and charged by a Trump appointee at the Justice Department for something he might have been photographed doing at the White House on the lawn.
And later, the President says he`s five for five. Others in his own party, however, are scoring the situation a bit differently with the midterms 90 days away.
THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on Wednesday night.
WILLIAMS: He was quite notably at the time the fist member of Congress to support Donald Trump for President. Today, he was arrested. Republican Congressman Chris Collins is facing charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI.
Collins, who has been a guest on this broadcast, represents a district in upstate New York. He surrendered to FBI agents this morning. He`s accused of tipping off his son who then sold stock in a pharmaceutical company days before news came public that tanked the stock.
According to the indictment, Collins was attending, there he is, a congressional picnic on the White House lawn June 2017. Indeed, he is visible in picture there`s from that day. Pictures that appear to show him on his phone at times.
It`s alleged that during the event, he received an e-mail from the CEO of the company informing him of bad news that a key drug trial had failed. Collins was on the board of the company. But armed with that insider information, the feds say he immediately called his son.
The indictment says Collins` son Cameron sold a large block of stock and tipped off others, including his fiancee`s father, who is also facing charges of insider trading. The feds allege they avoided in all more than $700,000 in losses by dumping the stock when they did.
A U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a Trump appointee, by the way, said someone who helps write the laws of this land act as if they didn`t apply to him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Congressman Collins cheated our markets and our justice system. These charges are a reminder that this is a nation of laws. And that everybody stands equal before the bar of justice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: All three men, including the Congressman pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court.
Earlier tonight in Buffalo, Collins said he`s looking forward to clearing his name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REP. CHRIS COLLINS (R), NEW YORK: The charges that have been levied against me are meritless, and I will mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name. I look forward to being fully vindicated and exonerated, ending any and all questions relating to my affiliation with an aide.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Congressman says he`s not only staying in his seat, his name will be on the ballot as he is running for reelection in November.
Meanwhile, House Speaker Paul Ryan has stripped Collins of his post -- committee post on Energy and Commerce pending an investigation into the accusations.
With us tonight to talk about it, Daniel Goldman, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for, wait for it, the Southern District of New York, who prosecuted an insider trading case just last year. And Shane Goldmacher is back with us, Chief Metro Political Correspondent for "The New York Times." Welcome to you both.
Shane, I don`t want this to become an episode of billion, but we have upstate political players and power bosses and we have the aforementioned Southern District of New York.
Talk about this seat. How safe was it for Collins? What was his position in the New York delegation? And what would it take for those political bosses to say, "You know what? This seat is too valuable. We need you to step aside."
SHANE GOLDMACHER, CHIEF METRO POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, his position in the New York delegation shifted dramatically the day he endorsed Donald Trump. He`s the first member of Congress to do so, because after that he became a senior member when Trump became President because suddenly he had entree to the White House that most of these Republican did not have.
He would bragged to people early in the administration that the Trump administration and the White House is calling him on the phone, that the President was on the phone. So he became an important member of the delegation. He wasn`t before. He was a back bench member. And he represents the Trumpiest seat in New York.
Donald Trump won almost 60 percent there, more than any other seat in the state. This is seen as a safe Republican seat, except candidates running under indictment are almost never actually safe.
WILLIAMS: Counselor, correct me if I`m wrong, other when there`s an earnings call and a stock takes a tumble, or skyrockets up, when there`s an event that cause as stock to tumble or soar, doesn`t the SEC, don`t the feds kind of rewind the tapes two, three days and look for any large blocks of stock, any significant movement of stock? And you`ve got guys like this member of Congress. Don`t they understand people are watching and listening?
DANIEL GOLDMAN FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY., SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Well, it is interesting. FINRA, which is the sort of nonprofit arm funded by Congress, has algorithms that goes back and looks at all of these things. And that`s where a lot of these investigations begin.
But, you know, it was a small, small stock generally speaking. It was 50 cents when this occurred, or when this information was relayed to him.
It was very difficult to trade in the United States. It was only over the counter. It was not on a larger exchange because it`s an Australian stock.
So I think it was -- it seems, if you can put yourself in his mind-set, it was almost instinctive, like I got this information, I got to tell my son. I can`t sell my shares, which is laid out in the indictment as to why he can`t, including the fact that his shares were in Australia and there was a moratorium on trading them. So I`m just going to tell my son. And then his son took it and told everybody else.
But this guy was on the board of this company. He has a fiduciary duty to maintain the confidentiality of what is clearly inside information. And for someone in elected office to completely abdicate that responsibility and pass along information that he unquestionably knew he should not be doing is a blatant violation of the law.
WILLIAMS: By the way, 50 cents a share. We`re talking about a lot of stock, if they were stemming losses potentially close to 3/4 of a million dollars?
GOLDMAN: Yes, the stock went down 92% after this was made public.
WILLIAMS: A true penny stock after this. Shane, the problem with the seat and the area in New York State where it`s located is how cruel the economy was to that real estate, that part of New York State.
The optics of a member of Congress cozy with the Trump White House on the lawn, on the South Lawn, on his phone. It looks very swampy. And if the right Democrat comes along in that district and says this is the rich getting richer. Must be nice to be at a picnic at the White House, must be nice to avoid three quarters of a million dollars and stock losses as alleged. You could see red turn to blue, could you not?
GOLDMACHER: You could. One of the challenges the Democrats don`t obviously have the candidate they wanted in this race. It`s a local elected official progressive activist. But the governor was actually trying to get his running mate, Kathy Hochul to leave the lieutenant governorship and run for Congress sit.
He publicly basically lobbied for her to do so. She lost to Chris Collins a few years back. She said no. And so they`ve ended up with this progressive activist.
He has almost no money, about $81,000 in the bank. Chris Collins has $1.3 million in campaign cash and millions in personal funds he can tap into. But he is already running up legal bills.
He may not want to front the legal bills himself. He may want to use the campaign money to pay off things. He spent $250 thousand already to the law firm that`s defending him.
But look, if you`re facing jail time and you have millions of dollar, I think you spend as much as you can to not go behind bars. Frankly, that`s one of the hopes the Democrats have over the long run. But look, the seat went from off the board to on the board, right?
This may not be the most competitive seat in New York, it may not be the most competitive seat certainly in the country, but it`s something that certainly the Republicans are going to have to look at. You saw that video, right?
GOLDMACHER: This is on the White House lawn, on camera, on the phone. That is a devastating political ad.
WILLIAMS: Daniel, roughly how many years is he looking at if convicted?
GOLDMAN: Guessing in the four to five-year range.
WILLIAMS: OK. Gentlemen, thank you. We couldn`t help but note Goldman and Goldmacher would make great letterhead if they were going to affirm of some sort. Daniel Goldman, Shane Goldmacher, thank you both very much.
Coming up, prosecutors in the trial of Paul Manafort may be days away from resting their case.
And tonight what`s now an open question. Is the judge in this case making the case more difficult for the feds, when we come back?
WILLIAMS: Day seven in the trial of the President`s former campaign chairman and jacket enthusiast Paul Manafort, and the star witness against Manafort took the stand for a third straight day. Rick Gates pleaded guilty to helping Manafort commit tax and bank fraud. Manafort`s defense made another attempt to discredit Gates by pointing out he embezzled from his boss, and they called his character into question, getting Gates to admit on the stand that he made many, many mistakes over the years.
But the real meat of today`s testimony came in the form of financial documents and flow charts. An FBI forensic accountant testified that Manafort`s lavish purchases coincided with massive wire transfers from foreign banks. An IRS agent told the jury Manafort hid $16 million from the government, and that his 2014 tax return was, "false."
Back with us is Barbara McQuade, who not only is a former U.S. attorney, she was in court for today`s readings. We can`t thank her enough for staying late to talk about it with us.
Barbara, what does the jury, do you think, make of this thing so far? We`ve gone from ostrich jackets to mention of, what, four extramarital affairs to a man they know is the star witness.
BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: You know, well, one of the things today I thought was a great recovery day for the government. You know, after sort of this rollercoaster ride of Rick Gates on the stand, they had sort of a stomach soothing day with these two experts. The forensic accountant and the IRS revenue agent who did a very nice job, you know, rather tedious presentation, but went through charts that they had compiled that showed very meticulously that it was Paul Manafort who controlled these accounts overseas, that wire transfers went from those accounts to buy his luxury goods, the suits, the rugs, the cars, the homes, and all of those things, and that this income did not show up on his income tax return.
So I thought that was very methodical. It was exactly what they needed after hearing from Rick Gates. You know, they often refer to that as the cooperator sandwich, you want to put the cooperator whose testimony is likely to be risky in the middle of your case. You want to start strong and end strong and put that cooperator in the middle and it seems to be exactly what the government is doing.
WILLIAMS: And I want to ask you about this federal judge again. We talked about him last night. But the question is what did this judge do today that got your attention and why?
MCQUADE: Well, one of the things he did today, again, is interjecting his own views about the case when it`s supposed to be the jury who is the fact finder. At one point, this forensic accountant testified that two of Paul Manafort`s purported signatures appeared to her to be different. And the judge remarked you think those signatures are different? Well, I guess the jury will decide.
You know, what is the jury supposed to make of that? I mean he`s almost testifying. So these interjections I think are incredibly inappropriate. Now it may be that if and when the defense puts on a case, he does the same thing to them. But I do think that there are messages that the jury gets in these cases.
The thing that bothers me the most is in his obsession, really to move the case along quickly, he often refuses to allow the jury to see exhibits in real-time. He says they can look at those later. But I think in a case as complex as this, it`s really important to see those exhibits as they`re coming in. You know, a trial is supposed to be a show-and-tell. They`re getting the tell part, but not necessarily the show.
And the idea of going back later and finding, you know, which one of these bank records matches up to the testimony of the witness is really difficult. So he allowed more of that today, of seeing these charts that were made by these experts, but I do worry about keeping those documents out of the view of the jury as we move things quickly to the detriment of the government who has the burden of proof. If the jury is not convinced, that means they can`t find the defendant guilty.
WILLIAMS: As Paul Newman`s character said in a great courtroom movie, the verdict, your honor, if you`re going to try my case, try not to lose it.
Barbara McQuade, whose days start very early in that courtroom and who was so kind to stay late and bring us up to speed on this trial, can`t thank you enough. Appreciate it.
MCQUADE: My pleasure, Brian. Thanks.
WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, one party`s big voter turnout. The arrest of a Republican member of Congress, and a reality TV star`s claim of secret recordings, there she is, of President Donald Trump, her old boss. The growing problems for the grand old party when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE SCHMIDT, FORMER REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: It`s not Paul Manafort alone. There is a lot of Paul Manaforts out there across Washington, D.C. and people right now are feeding at the public trough, ripping off the American taxpayer, breaking all manner of rules, ethics, laws, and so far they haven`t been called to account on it.
But what`s always been the case is that corruption has worked as an issue in political campaigns, and that to be the reform party, to be the good government party, to be the clean government party is a powerful place to be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That`s what a former Republican sounds like. Political strategist Steve Schmidt reacting to the current situation we`re watching in Washington after Republican Congressman Chris Collins was arrested and charged with insider trading and lying to the government earlier today.
The charges against Collins come as Republicans trying to figure out a game plan, perhaps leading into the midterms in 90 days. Last night`s special election in an Ohio district that Trump won by 11 points, still too close to call as our network sees it right now.
Robert Costa of "The Washington Post," who we had on earlier tonight, puts it this way. Talking about all of last night`s results, "Many Republican strategists viewed the results as a dark omen three months ahead of Election Day, saying they illustrate the limits of Trump`s ability to boost candidates, particularly in suburban areas where the President`s popularity has suffered. Even in Republican primaries, securing Trump`s endorsement was not a guarantee of electoral success."
We are so happy tonight to be joined by both Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for "The Washington Post," and A.B. Stoddard, veteran Washington journalist, a columnist and associate editor at Real Clear Politics.
Eugene, what`s happening in the Republican Party? What`s happening in the electorate, and is it such a moving target that if I ask you on Monday, your answer could perhaps be different?
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Oh, totally, totally.
WILLIAMS: I`ll wait and ask you.
ROBINSON: But here we are on Wednesday, and we just had some elections yesterday. So you can say the Republican Party is looking at some substantial losses in the midterm election. They`re looking down that barrel.
WILLIAMS: As in no more Speaker Ryan?
ROBINSON: Certainly could be. And I think you`d say that`s likely now. Likely, only lasts for a couple of days in this era, apparently. But right now, you`d have to say that`s likely. You know, Democrats have to close the deal, right? They have an edge on in enthusiasm and you saw that again last night.
Clearly, they have made a whole lot of what should be safe Republican districts competitive. But they got to close the deal. And one way they can fail to do that is being complacent about last night`s results.
You know, Donald Trump went to that district in Ohio, and it looks like he might have brought the Republican Balderson across the finish line, right? 1500 votes right now. It`s too close to call.
ROBINSON: But we can`t -- we don`t know. But he`s ahead by 1500 votes. And that could have made the difference of those 1500 votes. You can`t doubt that he boosted GOP enthusiasm to some degree in that district. And Democrats should prepare for that. I mean, they have to amp it up too.
WILLIAMS: A.B., our friend Eugene is not hyperbolic. He is a level headed man who I`ve known for long time. And yet I`m looking at the headline on his column. Trump`s rally rhetoric is going to get somebody killed. And sadly, there is a good chance Eugene may be right. And you combine that, that speaks to the tone and tenor of our times with all this politics we`re seeing.
The question to you is, what are Republicans really talking about in cloakrooms and restaurants and homes?
A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST: Right. What`s interesting is that Troy Balderson, if he won, and it looks like he did, it would have been because of Trump as Eugene said. And if he loss, it would have been because of Trump.
STODDARD: So as Trump comes and rallies and his supporters love all that stuff, about the disgusting fake news and everything he does, really all of that aggressive talk really riles them up, and they enjoy it.
So it`s -- so when you`re in the House and you`re looking too hold the House, and you`re at the NRCC, the campaign committee, you`re looking at the map, you think that`s fine for Donald Trump to go to Senate -- help Senate Republicans in states he won by landslide margins. He can`t go to swing districts in the House if they risk losing, and they need to defend their majority. He is welcome in safe districts, but they aren`t the ones that they need to hold.
WILLIAMS: And those are a moving target too.
STODDARD: So that`s really -- right. Now, there are more --
ROBINSON: The definition of safe.
STODDARD: And that`s -- if you look at the political report data that Republicans are -- that`s making them so nervous, it`s that if you -- they did a comparison recently from August of 2006 to November. August of 2010 to November. There are more competitive seats this August, and those numbers always grow. And they have no -- it`s 53 right now. And they have no idea where it`s going go November 6th.
ROBINSON: Think of the day the president is having today, while he is keeping his campaign chairman continue on trial.
WILLIAMS: Yes. Deputy campaign director is the star witness.
ROBINSON: The star witness. His first supporter in Congress is arrested and indicted and arrested today. And there are the election results from last night which he puts a brave face on. But I`m sure people have explained to him this really isn`t that good, Mr. President. So I think you can anticipate in the next few days he might be on a jag. I think a tweet storm is coming.
WILLIAMS: Don`t forget, somewhere there`s an ostrich saying was it really worth it to kill my brother so that this guy could have a jacket.
A.B., you`re such a nice person, you don`t deserve this, but I`m going to read you this Daily Beast quote anyway. Multiple sources with direct knowledge of the situation tell the Daily Beast that Omarosa Manigault- Newman, the infamous former Apprentice star who followed Trump to the White House, secretly recorded conversations with the president, conversations she has since leveraged while shopping her forthcoming tell-all book bluntly titled "Unhinged."
A.B., nice person, level headed person, what does this say about our time?
STODDARD: What this says about President Trump is that he asked for this. I did not watch the Apprentice but I am told by people who did that the Omarosa character was the viper, and you didn`t mess with her, you mess with the bull, you get the horn, she was not loyal to anybody. She was happy to serve trouble and she would turn on you. He let her into the West Wing. She had a nebulous job. No one knew what she did. She recorded him.
If this is true, this is what he -- the danger of Trump and Omarosa is they are not in the reputation preservation business. They`re unembarrassable.
WILLIAMS: You sure you never really watched? You`re really good on this.
STODDARD: I don`t do reality TV.
ROBINSON: But think about -- you know, think about it, though. He brought a reality television contestant into the White House as a senior adviser. In the West Wing.
WILLIAMS: Think about this. He worked in this building and received a paycheck from this company for 14 years. Eugene Robinson and A.B. Stoddard, our thanks. Terrific conversation. I think she has been sneaking reality television.
Coming up, as we have reported, the Trump presidency has been very good for the book publishing business. There is a new one, already up to number two among new releases in just 24 hours on Amazon, and it`s unambiguous. It`s equally unambiguous author standing by to join us.
WILLIAMS: Our never modest president today talked about his affect on his party, and I quote, "As long as I campaign and/or support Senate and House candidates within reason, they will win."
Our next guest here tonight might disagree even though he is a veteran of Republican politics. There`s a hint about how he feels about this president buried in the title of his new book and it`s called "Everything Trump Touches Dies," a Republican strategist gets real about the worst president ever.
In it, Rick Wilson writes "While imitation of Trump is the stupidest form of political flattery, the plague of Trump-like candidates racing toward their own doom keeps growing. Republican primaries have become contests for the Darwin Awards, a political version of hold-my-be-watch-this bubba- ism."
Rick Wilson is a proud Floridian, a veteran strategist and ad maker. Donald Trump has called him weak, totally conflicted and dumb as a rock which our guest tonight wears as an enormous badge of honor.
Thank you for coming on. You have a dedicated following on social media. I`m happy to say I`m among them.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Thank you sir.
WILLIAMS: The book is a heck of a journey. How did the Trump era happen? It takes two to tango in politics. There were some really good Republican candidates.
WILLIAMS: How did this happen? When people ask you that question, what`s your answer?
WILSON: This was a failure of leadership at the highest levels of the party, and that includes Reince Priebus and the party leadership. It includes all the people that fund and run the money part of the party. It included all those 17 candidates who were considered some of the best and brightest in the field and all of them misread the situation and all the professional class guys like me misread the situation, too.
A lot of us thought, you know, this guy is a joke, he`s a clown, he`s going to self-destruct. We didn`t reckon with the fact that people were voting for a candidate who they thought was the character he played on reality television.
WILLIAMS: Fourteen years.
WILSON: Fourteen years in this building in a huge hit show for this network and for Trump.
WILSON: And the misreads and the missteps, it`s a gigantic leadership failure. And they`ve compounded it by the fact that now that he`s in the Oval Office, now that he`s in the presidency and his behavior and his leadership and his governance is such a train wreck, they`re trying to normalize it and pretend this is the new way we do things. And they`ve had to walk away from every principle that Republicans have ever had or ever stated that they believed in.
And we`ve got a president who governs by rage tweets from the toilet at 6:00 in the morning. So the journey getting here, you know, as a guy who was a party loyalist and a guy who fought in the trenches for 30 years in the conservative movement in the Republican Party, it wasn`t an easy transition. But, you know, I sleep well every night. I`m comfortable with it.
WILLIAMS: As opposed to some of those you`ve chosen in the book, you go through the individuals attracted to work for Trump. And you give them outside of a Benny Hannah, you don`t see a filet job like this individually. Do us the honor, one of the passages that already got to me we`ve excised a dirty word from the first sentence.
WILLIAMS: This is your own writing. First two paragraphs on Steve Bannon. Will you give us a dramatic reading?
WILSON: I will happily give you a dramatic reading. "The brightest, hottest, weirdest blank star in the Trump constellation from the moment of the Donald`s unexpected electoral victory was Steve Bannon. If you`re looking for the white hot center of esoteric Trumpism, Bannon is the intellectual architect. Once you get past the homeless drifter with a hitchhiker`s head in his backpack affect."
"Bannon, a man who looks like a spokesmodel for a new line of gout medication is known for his oddball sartorial choices, the multiple shirts, the tactical operator pants and the Barbour jacket are all hallmarks of his bus-shelter-chic style. Persistently rumpled, persistently grizzled, and persistently looking like he`s been dragged over 30 miles of bad road, Bannon was no one`s idea of the White House`s dull but professional suit- and-tie culture. His rheumy-eyed stare and an odd constellation of facial moles, warts, scrofula and weeping sores, and grizzled beard patches make him look vaguely piratical.
WILLIAMS: And that`s the book`s dedication. No, I`m just kidding. That is just the portion on Steve Bannon. We`ll take a break. Rick Wilson has agreed to stay with us over the break because when we come back, I`m going to ask him how this all ends.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back. Rick Wilson has agreed to stay with us. His new book is out it`s called "The World is Over and We`re All Going to Die." How do you see -- there`s the actual book. How do you see the Republican Party in our lifetime, serious question, ever resetting and ever going back to a true north?
WILSON: Look, the conservative values that you said define the Republican Party, limited government, respect for the rule of law, fiscal discipline and fiscal probity, strong international alliances that protect America from the vicissitudes of wild foreign affair swings. All those things have been abandoned.
And at some point, either the Democrats are going to pick up the mantle of some of those things and own them, they have a huge market opportunity right now to own fiscal discipline because we`re spending money like drunken sailors on shore leave. And the debt is rising. The deficit is rising. We`ve made a huge bet with this tax bill which was helping 150 guys down on Wall Street.
And so all those things, you know, unless you want to reset on them and do the hard work of it, the Republican Party is going to become the Trump party and maybe a conservative party emerges from that and hives off from it. But it`s a very dark path ahead. We -- the statism and nationalist populism that defines Trumpism is going to become under the Republican brand something I think is unsellable to people who are younger than 55.
WILLIAMS: What is your 30-second answer to how does it end? How does the Trump era end?
WILSON: That whole scene in "Mad Max" where the guy is playing the guitar on truck, pretty much like that.
No. I think that Trump will collapse of his own weight in the end. He`s not happy. He`s a man under enormous pressure. This is not a comfortable space for him. He`s stuck in this. He thought it was going to be a prank and joke and make a ton of money off of it. And you can tell he is fiscally and mentally uncomfortable with the position he`s in as president. And I don`t think it lasts.
WILLIAMS: Rick Wilson`s new book "Everything Trump Touches Dies" is presently ranked number two among new releases on Amazon. And this important where it has leapfrogged the "Russia Hoax" by Gregg Jarrett and where it now trails only this, "Stay Sexy and Don`t Get Murdered," which I think is good advice for all of us.
With our thanks to Rick Wilson for joining us, that is our broadcast on a Wednesday night. Thank you so very much for being with us. Good night from all of us here at NBC News headquarters in New York.
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