Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: August 15, 2018 Guest: Peter Baker, Clint Watts, Robert Costa, Mimi Rocah, Chad Day, Jill Colvin
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, desperate for something anything to change the subject from Omarosa`s book, the White House takes an action with actual and chilling consequences as the President suspends the security clearance of former CIA Director Brennan and says they`re reviewing others.
Plus, hours after threatening to unload on Mueller like a ton of bricks, Rudy Giuliani tells The Washington Post he`s almost finished his rebuttal on a potential subpoena fight and the Trump`s legal team is ready to go to the Supreme Court.
And just hours away now from the start of jury deliberations in the case of Paul Manafort, the first big legal test of the Mueller era as "The 11th Hour" gets underway on a Wednesday night.
Another eventful day, and good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 573 of the Trump administration.
And today we saw that rare hybrid in the short history of this White House. A big shiny object, a giant political distraction in this case designed to attract attention away from the damage being caused by Omarosa`s book but an action underlying the shiny object that has real and potentially chilling consequences.
Today, President Trump revoked the security clearance of this man, former CIA Director John Brennan. Brennan, who we should point out these days, is a Senior National Security and Intelligence Analyst for both NBC News and MSNBC is also a consistent and strident critic of this President. He was also one of the first officials to sound the alarm on Russian meddling in our 2016 election.
Here`s the President tonight quoting one of his supporters who appeared on Fox News. "John Brennan is a stain on the country. We deserve better than this."
From the briefing room earlier today, here is how the White House Press Secretary laid out the reasons for stripping Brennan`s clearance while threatening to take similar actions against other Trump critics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SARAH HUCKABEE SANDERS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.
Mr. Brennan has recently leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series on unfounded and outrageous allegations, wild outbursts on the internet and television about this administration. As part of this review, I`m evaluating actions with respect to the following individual, James Clapper, James Comey, Michael Hayden, Sally Yates, Susan Rice, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page and Bruce Ohr.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Not only are they all Trump critics, some of those under evaluations are closely tied, as you know, to the Russia investigation.
Our own Andrea Mitchell reports the President`s own Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats was not aware in advance of today`s announcement, nor were other senior intelligence officials.
The White House was asked for evidence that John Brennan had actually somehow abused his clearance but declined to provide any.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAJOR GARRETT, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, CBS NEWS: Does this administration have any reason to believe, or evidence to suggest, Brennan has misused classified information or monetized his access to it, as was alleged earlier by this administration?
SANDERS: Again, I`ve laid out the reasons for the decision that was made on this specific instance, and we`ll continue to review the other actions.
GARRETT: Can we assume by the absence of you not saying those things, you didn`t find any evidence of that?
SANDERS: No, I wouldn`t make any assumptions. I`m telling you what the decision was based off on in this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Today`s statement pulling Brennan`s security clearance was dated July 26. That was a big indicator that it was standing by on the skids ready for weeks and was pulled out and announced just today.
John Brennan is famously one of the stone cold faces in that photo taken in the White House situation room the night Osama bin Laden was killed. Finding bin Laden was a huge part of his job and his life`s work after 9/11.
Phil Rucker of "The Washington Post" put this out tonight. "It shows Brennan`s major postings in his decades of service to this country much of a clandestine, CIA Station Chief in Saudi Arabia and CIA Station Chief Director of Terrorist Threat Integration Center, Director of National Counterterrorism Center, White House Homeland Security Adviser, CIA Director, and briefed three Presidents."
Earlier, Brennan himself spoke by phone with our Nicolle Wallace.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I do believe that Mr. Trump decided to take this action and he`s done with others to try to intimidate and suppress any criticism of him or his administration. And revoking my security clearances is his way of trying to get back at me, and this is not going to deter me at all. I`m going to continue to speak out.
I think he fears individuals who could damage him, could damage his standing from the American people. I mean, look at the way he`s been referring to Bob Mueller, Bob Mueller who is a national treasure, an icon within the law enforcement and justice communities who`s doing his best to investigate Russian interference in the election.
And the denigration of Bob Mueller as well as his team of investigators is reprehensible. I think Mr. Trump is getting more and more concerned, more and more desperate, and I would say more and more frightened as there is closer and closer magnification of some of the things that those around him had been involved in.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Just a short time ago tonight, two other intel chiefs whose clearances are under review also spoke out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL HAYDEN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL SECURITY AGENCY: The White House just messaged the entire American intelligence community, if you stand up and say things that upset the President or with which he disagrees, he will punish you. And that is a horrible message to be sending to folks who are there to tell you objective truth.
JAMES CLAPPER, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: The bigger issue here, Chris, to me is what this implies, the implications of this for the First Amendment. And the other question I have is, you know, where does this end?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Both of those two gentlemen have 50 plus years of experience.
Let`s bring in our lead-off panel for another busy Wednesday night, the aforementioned Andrea Mitchell, NBC News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, Host of "Andrea Mitchell Reports," noon, Eastern, weekdays on this network. Clint Watts is back with us as well, a former FBI Special Agent and Member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force, and Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times." Welcome to you both and good evening, Andrea.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Good evening.
WILLIAMS: You get to define this. Is this a giant, shiny object or an action with deep consequences, or both?
MITCHELL: It`s both. I mean, you are an intuitive observer, you recognize a bright shiny object. The timing, clearly, this was dated July 26th to at least today. It`s a distraction from Omarosa and all the rest of the reality T.V. show that the White House has become.
That said, there are real implications of this, First Amendment as Jim Clapper suggested and as Mike Hayden said, a real winning, a chilling effect, not just to the outside commentators, you know, they`re tough, they can make their own decisions of what to do, but to the intelligence community who are also tough. They have to stand up to this President now that they see the repercussions.
One of those on that list of possible futures revocation of security clearances is, you know, Bruce Ohr who is in the Justice Department right now and had a relationship, a working relationship with an asset, Christopher Steele, on the dossier. That was enough to put him on the list.
I mean, it`s really remarkable. It`s unprecedented. And the irony here sadly is that the whole reason that Mike Hayden helped establish the President, that former CIA directors would keep their clearances, is to help new administrations to be able quickly talk to their predecessors and find out if something is unusual, if its, you know, alarming something in Pakistan or something in Saudi Arabia. That is the whole point that they are able to quickly without having to go through a long clearance process talk to someone like John Brennan and say, "What about this guy we just picked up? What about his relatives? What do you know? What should we be alert to? What you think is happening in Saudi?"
WILLIAMS: And more on that very point a bit later on this conversation.
Hey, Peter Baker, there`s reason to believe that the President has again tonight pulled a Lester Holt and here`s what I mean by that. We have his famous comment, Lester looked at as he put Trump and Russia and, yes, of course, he was going to fire Comey.
Well, tonight in an interview with "The Wall Street Journal," the President says he was going to do this last week but it was too hectic, perhaps forgetting he was on vacation and then there is this. "I call it the rigged witch hunt, it is a sham, Mr. Trump said in an interview." So talking about what he did to Brennan. "And these people led it." He added, "So I think it`s something that had to be done."
So doesn`t that, Peter, right there blow up any appearance of process or rigger that went into to this that the Press Secretary tried to underscore today in the briefing room?
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes, that right. Look, he makes very clear that the criteria for him is the people who are investigating him or started the investigation on him, or somehow are linked to the investigating him. In other words, the people that he considers to be, you know, out to get him.
This isn`t obviously a concern about the use of classified information. They don`t have any evidence that they made public about any misused or classified information. Instead, this is a list.
It`s not just the -- Look, if there is a concern about John Brennan in something he had done, they might have handled this in a different way. This is not about that. This is a list.
What was the list that they put out? That list is, one after the other, people that President Trump has made clear he considered to be his enemy. He has gone after repeatedly on Twitter, in public settings, in all sorts of way. And this is a list of people he wants punished because, as he told, Peter Nicholas and Michael Bender from "The Wall Street Journal," they were connected to the Russia investigation.
WILLIAMS: Clint Watts, we have by my account around 50 minutes remaining in today, East Coast time. So knowing we still have 50 minutes, I`ll say this, I`ll take some risk. If you enjoyed today in America, that is to say, a day free of terrorist attack on this country, it stands the reason you would want all of these ex-officials who`ve devoted their lives and careers to the intel business to all have their security clearances so they can all be of counsel to the people taking on that enormous burden now, correct?
CLINT WATTS, FMR. FBI SPECIAL AGENT: That is correct. It`s called eligible for access. I doubt the President actually understand the distinction. There are people who are eligible for access with a security clearance. And then you read on different topics.
WILLIAMS: Yes, you`re not at home following all the intel but it so you can be right in.
WATTS: Exactly. That`s right. And then once you are right in, you have access to the actual intelligence. That`s what they do at formers, they put them eligible for access. This allows them to come back in.
Let`s say you`re negotiating in Iran deal where you have sanctions coming up and maybe nuclear options that you`re trying to restrict. You would want to bring back people that have been talking to these characters, the State Department, NSA, whoever it might be are talking to so that they can interphase and get some understanding.
Even of the more, a lot of the formers, the former intel officials and law enforcement officials, some of them have gone now into the private sector. You hear them talked about oh, they`re trying to profit from their clearance. No, actually that`s key for public-private partnerships.
It`s one of the most critical dimensions right now in cyber security because there are only a few people in the private sectors that can actually interphase with the government on cybersecurity. So they`ve been in valuable over the past few years.
These linkages are critical for the good of our national security. The only good that was done was for the Trump team today so that they could take a political shout at their adversaries.
WILLIAMS: I`m thinking of the former FBI official we have on the air who`s the head of crowd strike now.
WILLIAMS: So he takes his government experience, he`s in the web business privately, but if they need him back, they know he`s reputable and served his country if they need to read him in on a problem.
WATTS: Not only can they read him on it, he understands all the participants --
WILLIAMS: Shawn Henry.
WATTS: Yes, Shawn Henry. And he understands all the participants, all the procedures and he knows how the U.S. government works. This is a key distinction. You can`t just pull someone off the street and say, tell me about this. They don`t even have any context for it.
So it`s not good for our national security and it`s definitely not good for America.
WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell, this afternoon, Nicolle Wallace who was, of course, in the White House during the Bush administration talked about the fights like cats and dogs over the Iraq war but no one ended up having their security clearance pulled as punishment or consequence. And it`s probably not a good marker, you`re reporting that DNI Coats was unaware of this.
MITCHELL: Not only DNI Coats, but the CIA which really who had confer that eligibility on Brennan since that was his former agency. So no one in the intelligence community knew, I`m told that no one in NSC Press knew. I don`t know if John Bolton knew himself.
And that is what it`s so shocking about this, the fact that they would be cut out. They`re the ones who`s supposed to approved or disapprove these clearances, or find the grounds for revoking them.
The President has the power to do this certainly. But for him to do it, it`s so clearly is a political decision and not a national security reason. They had no reason, first of all, because they didn`t cite a reason. They didn`t say he violated security, he didn`t say he disclosed any classified information.
He has never tells us. He has never gone back for a briefing or asked for one. He`s only used that clearance in order to access his files when he was going to testify or check his own records.
So the fact that they did this today makes it seem everything, you know, more political. But I think the bottom line really is Robert Mueller. This is the Russia probe.
Brennan, Clapper, you know, and Comey were the three men who briefed the President-elect on the dossier and forever earned his animosity. And he was always suspicious of them. Comey took the head first, but the animosity of Brennan who the day after Helsinki tweeted that it was nothing short of treasonous for the President of the United States to stand next to Vladimir Putin and go against all of the intelligence assessments that Russia had done this, and as Putin himself acknowledged at that joint news conference, done it to help Donald Trump.
WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, all of these folks that Andrea just mentioned have become longtime hobby horses, especially on Fox News. But what part of the -- what strata of the Trump base, the Trump constituency, does this specifically speak to?
BAKER: Well, if this goes to the whole deep state theory of the government that, you know, that there is, in fact, a permanent bureaucracy out there in Washington that is out sabotage Donald Trump, that they ginned up a fake investigation, a witch hunt as he calls it in order to trip him up, that they, you know, misled the courts and they, you know, were biassed according to the texts they sent each other and so forth. It fits into this larger conspiracy that the President has both bought into and promoted it. And it`s a way of getting to his -- saying to his base that there is something else to pay attention to than what you`re hearing about his own actions.
That is to say, and he said that there might be Americans who voted for Donald Trump who are concerned about the things they`re hearing about possible obstruction of justice or collusion or what have you. He`s giving them something else to focus on, another target in effect, another enemy that is the people who are out to get him. That`s traditional politics in a sense but he takes it much further than other politicians have in the past have when they tried to deflect attention for the investigations against them.
WILLIAMS: Clint, you get the last word. Journalists love the phrase "chilling effect." We use it more often than people actually in the HVAC industry.
But will this have what we call a chilling effect on the men and women in your line of work, in the intelligence profession, let`s say NSA or CIA, 36,000 people in the FBI? How do they continue to try to keep their heads down?
WATTS: I don`t think any of them are that concerned about whether they have their clearance after retirement. So that`s not really of consequence. But what I think it does send a message to is not only does the President of the United States denied the intelligence that he`s been receiving from you but now he`s going after your former bosses.
Imagine you now see a former FBI director, a former DNI, two former CIA directors who also were in charge in the NSA, who all now been targeted by the President either in terms of administrative actions or firings. This sends an awful and chilling effect on the entire community.
Why would you want to serve in these organizations if you`re not allowed to produce intelligence, if you`re not allowed to serve the country, if you`re not allowed to be objective, but you instead have to tell the President what he wants all day long and every single day? That is Trump first, it is not America first, and it is not good for our country.
WILLIAMS: And these were directors that their employee is quite literally would have been willing to take a bullet for in their times.
WILLIAMS: Andrea Mitchell, Clint Watts and Peter Baker, can`t thank you enough for starting off our conversation on a Wednesday night.
Coming up for us, President Trump`s lawyer threatens to unload on Robert Mueller like a "ton of bricks" if we doesn`t hurry up and finish the investigation.
And later, when jurors return to the Virginia courthouse tomorrow morning, they will have Paul Manafort`s case and his faith in their hands.
"The 11th Hour" is just getting started at the feet of the President Lincoln on a Wednesday night.
WILLIAMS: President Trump is prepared to fight a possible Mueller subpoena all the way to the Supreme Court, as they say, if it comes to that, that is according to a new reporting tonight from "The Washington Post." The Trump legal team is still waiting for the special counsel to respond to their interview conditions.
But the Post, Robert Costa, who joins us in just a moment, reports that, "In the meantime, Trump`s lawyers are preparing to oppose a potential subpoena from Mueller for a Trump sit-down by drafting a rebuttal that could set off a dramatic fight in federal courts." That news comes as Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani ratchets up in his public relations campaign trying to pressure Mueller to wrap this investigation up before the midterm elections.
Giuliani told Bloomberg today, "If he doesn`t get it done in the next two or three week, we will just unload on him like a ton of bricks." More on that later. He added, "Write the damn reports so we can see it and rebut it."
As for the investigation, the President couldn`t resist weighing in yet again today and he employed some of the classics. "The rigged Russian witch hunt goes on and on as the originators and founders of this scam continue to be fired up and demoted for their corrupt and illegal activity. All credibility is gone from this terrible Hoax and much more will be lose as it proceeds. No Collusion."
And a reminder that so far the Mueller investigation has resulted in 35 indictments, including dozens of Russians and members of the President`s campaign.
Here with us tonight to talk about all of it, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post" and Moderator in his spare time of Washington Week on PBS. And Mimi Rocah is back with us, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now a Distinguished Fellow in Criminal Justice at the Pace University School of Law.
So, Bob, I`d like to begin with you. You spoke with Mayor Giuliani earlier today. What is his state of mind and what did you infer as the state of play?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": He`s watching the clock, Brian, he knows a week ago. He and Jay Sekulow, the other Trump attorney, sent a letter to Mueller and refusing an interview by the President that had anything to do with questions about obstruction of justice.
They`re still waiting for Mueller to respond. And they`re trying to see if Mueller is going to issue a subpoena to the President. And they`re preparing for that scenario, writing a rebuttal now so it`s ready so that they can issue immediately to start a court fight and fight at the district court level, at the circuit court level, and ultimately perhaps at the Supreme Court.
WILLIAMS: Counselor, where is this leverage coming from that Rudy Giuliani appears to? When they say things like we`ll come down upon you like a ton of bricks, where are they getting that in the balance of power?
MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY., SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: He has no leverage. And, you know, hearing Giuliani talk like that to Robert Mueller, he reminds me far more one of the mobsters that he used to prosecute and that I used to prosecute than he does of a defense attorney of any standing. And, you know, people in the U.S. Attorney`s office and then in criminal defense bar like to say your reputation is everything because, you know, unless you go on to do cases, you carry with you the case you did before and what any lawyer you dealt with. Well, Giuliani apparently has just completely given up on his reputation and his credibility.
For a former U.S. Attorney to talk like that to and about Robert Mueller who whatever he may think or want to say about this investigation, you know, has led this life of public service and been dedicated to his country is really shameful. I think it`s bordering unethical and I think this latest statement, you know, really sounds, again, borderline obstruction.
WILLIAMS: And you`re of the opinion that Mueller doesn`t necessarily need Trump one-on-one.
ROCAH: Yes. I don`t think that he -- Look, Mueller has far more experience than I do so he`ll decide if he needs him. If it were me, at this point, I think, you know, part of this was just giving Trump the opportunity to come in and explain himself so that if and when, you know, there are charges or report that`s unfavorable to him, he can`t say he didn`t get a chance to do that.
I think that Mueller has given him the opportunity, he`s thumbed his nose repeatedly at it, and he should go ahead without it and not let them run out the clock the way they`re trying to by this, you know, pretend negotiations over an interview and this supposed, you know, we`re going to fight a subpoena.
I think legally, Mueller would win that court battle if that`s how it played out. I also think it would mussel out Giuliani because once you`re in court, a judge is not going to let Giuliani go out and talk like this as a lawyer who has a proceeding pending in court. But I don`t think Mueller needs it and that`s, you know, my opinion based on the little I know. And I would just go ahead without it.
WILLIAMS: Robert, this is out of balance like all the passengers on a plane moving to one side. All we hear is the Giuliani-Trump`s side. Mueller never speaks and never leaks. So when Rudolph Giuliani says he thinks Mueller is waiting for the disposition of the Manafort trial, when he thinks they`re waiting to see if it`s guilty or innocent, is that real?
COSTA: It`s real to a point, but I think the previous point about how Mueller could issue a report any moment in my conversation tonight with Mayor Giuliani, that really stood out because he acknowledged pretty bluntly that that is a possibility, that Mueller could decide enough of the games between the Trump team and Mueller and all this back and forth, the letters sending about the interview. The longer Mueller holds off on a letter back to the Trump`s legal team, the more it becomes a possibility. And Giuliani said this is certainly a possibility.
Mueller just drops the report, drops the report as an update on the investigation and gives it to the Department of Justice and Rod Rosenstein say, that now it`s your decision on how you want to handle this. Maybe you want to update Congress on what progress we`ve made on the conduct of the President in that part of the investigation.
WILLIAMS: A great little nugget there from Robert Costa. Our thanks to Robert, and Mimi Rocah as well. Terrific conversation tonight. Thanks for all you brought to the table.
And coming up, the Manafort jury, as they say, has the case. They`ll begin discussing it among themselves, as they say, first thing in the morning. More on what they`ll say and what they`re deciding on when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Jurors in the Paul Manafort`s tax and bank fraud trial are hours away now from starting their deliberations. During closing arguments today, prosecution pointed out for what they called overwhelming evidence showing Manafort lied about his finances for personal gain.
In their statements to the jury, Manafort`s defense attorneys argued the government had not met its burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, important standard. They also argued Manafort had other people handling his finances including but not limited to former business partner Rick Gates turned star witness. Well, beginning tomorrow morning, the jury considers these 18 felony charges including bank fraud tax evasion that Manafort`s facing, if nicked on all of them, if he`s found guilty, the former Trump campaign chairman could spend the rest of his days on earth in jail.
With us for the latest, Chad Day, investigative reporter for the Associated Press, he was in the courtroom today for closing arguments. Counselor Rocah stays with us here in New York. Welcome to you both. Chad, what is the mood and attitude? The only group we care about now are 12 civilians among those jurors. What were you able to glean?
CHAD DAY, INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Right, so what we saw from the jury today was that they were taking some copious notes whenever the prosecution was going through their case. I mean, I -- when you look at this jury, they paid a lot of attention to what is a very document heavy case. And so it`s a very complex financial fraud trial.
And so today, what prosecutors were doing with them is they were walking them through each one of these different types of counts that Manafort is facing. And what they saw was, you know, we`re looking at the jury and they were taking very copious notes and paying close attention to that. For the defense, what we saw was not as much of a reaction but I think the arguments were a lot more easier to grasp. This was kind of the blame Rick Gates defense, and so I think the jury didn`t really have to, you know, stretch very much to be able to understand what they were saying.
WILLIAMS: Mimi, interesting today, the prosecution said in their closing, the star witness is the document, of course, they have this unpopular actual human star witness named Rick Gates. But, they tried to make the point paper doesn`t lie, speaking of paper, 388 photos, e-mails, documents, 27 witnesses just instructing the jury took 90 minutes. What do you think?
MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Look, I -- these cases are time intensive, they are labor intensive going through the documents, but they`re -- because the star witness is documents, and I thought that was a great line that the prosecutor used, they also tend to be sort of easier to decide. There is not as much to debate about. And I think the prosecution did a great job here of not focusing on Gates. And then when the defense got up and spent so much time saying, you shouldn`t believe Gates, you shouldn`t believe Gates, then the government gets back up in rebuttal and says, well, but we`re not asking you to. It`s a why -- that you say to the jury, why are they trying to get you to focus on Gates when that`s not what we`re really asking you to rely on to convict.
They`re asking to focus on -- they want you to focus on Gates to distract you from this mountain of evidence we just went through. So focus back on that. And that`s really what the jury has to do here. And if they do that, it should be a reasonably, I wouldn`t say fast, but not long deliberation. And it should be a conviction.
WILLIAMS: Our friend, Chuck Rosenberg, says something like five to seven days. And I was going to ask you about this, the mountain of evidence I just went through, isn`t it true that they`ll get in the jury room and most four people are going to say, should we take a straw poll to see where we all stand? And if they`re already 12, nothing times 18 counts, I guess that`s Goodnight, Irene.
ROCAH: A lot of juries do start out that way, and I think what I -- you know, juries actually are really -- they do pay attention and they`re very careful, and I`ve seen some very, very fast verdicts in a couple of hours, I don`t expect that here. But, even when they, on a poll in the beginning, agreed, they do tend to go back, they have to fill out a verdict sheet, you know, and go through the counts. So, it does take some time. It`s interesting to talk about that, I`m going to go with a Friday verdict prediction.
WILLIAMS: OK. Chad, the judge did something interesting first for me when he was giving them their instructions. A lot of judges say, I`m going to say this verbally, I`ll give you a copy of it and you can take your instructions back to the jury room. He gave it orally, now their only ability to kind of rewind it is to listen again to his audio recording of his instructions to the jury.
DAY: That`s right. And so, you know, this is kind of Ellis being Ellis. We`ve kind of seen his personality as a judge come out throughout this case. And he made a point of saying, you know, I`m not going to send back a sheet of paper that you can go and refer back to throughout when you`re making these decisions. Instead, they`re going to have to listen back to, I think you pointed out, it was 90 minutes, I think it was actually closer to about an hour and 50 minutes today. And so they`re going to have to listen back to that tape if they want to go back to the instructions that he read, which I think will probably be pretty unlikely given the look on their face while they were listening to those instructions today.
And so, it is just kind of part of Ellis being the type of judge that he is. He just made that decision and I think that he`s going to stick with it.
WILLIAMS: Sorry, Chad, I know it probably felt like every minute of an hour and 50 minutes to be sitting there and listening to the jury instructions, Chad Day, Mimi Rocah, can`t thank you both enough. Really appreciate it.
And coming up, after a couple of noisy headline making days, Omarosa, you`ll know, was quiet today. People in the White House are awaiting what will be her inevitable next move when we continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: It appears obvious to me that this is a White House that feels under siege because of the president`s former campaign manager`s trial and, obviously, some of the issues with his former staffer, Omarosa. This is an attempt to distract the American public from those items that this White House faces on a daily basis.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, that was Mark Warner, a Democrat of Virginia. He, of the Intel Committee, just went and said it that because of the Omarosa book and its effect on the Trump White House, that`s what`s behind in his belief, this move to pull John Brennan`s security clearance, a so-called shiny object, an opportunity to change the subject.
Indeed and right on queue, the story has interrupted all those accusations and secret recordings from Omarosa Manigault Newman. Her new book had the president unleashing a volley of insults at his former White House aide and reality television co-star, despite reports that advisers and allies had urged Trump to hold his fire on this one. Then came this earlier this morning on "Fox & Friends," co-host Brian Kilmeade suggested the president was playing right into Omarosa`s hands. Now, this is interesting when you consider the president seldom misses a syllable on "Fox & Friends."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN KILMEADE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: In order to sell a book, she`s come out with a series of tapes, and in many ways, seems to have outsmarted the president who has taken the bait and gone out and tweeted directly after it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Joining us now is Jill Colvin, White House reporter for the Associated Press. She`s in our studios on Capitol Hill. So, Jill, was that an intervention we just saw, nothing is said by mistake on "Fox & Friends", and make no mistake, they have one viewer they are concerned with most.
JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Yeah, the hosts of "Fox & Friends" definitely know that they are speaking often times to an audience of one and you saw it, it wasn`t just from Brian Kilmeade. There were other allies of the president who also went out there, including Geraldo Rivera, for instance, and said, look, Mr. President, this is not serving you well, you are taking the debate. Omarosa learns from the best, she learned from you, she knows how to poke your button, she knows how to get a rise out of you, she knows how to play this publicity game and all you`re doing is falling into her trap.
WILLIAMS: And Jill, you cover this place everyday, how universal was the feeling that this was, albeit a weighty decision and something that`ll have consequences, this was at heart a shiny object.
COLVIN: I mean, the minute that the announcement was made by Sarah Huckabee Sanders who came out there in the briefing today opened the briefing with a statement. You know, this was a threat the president had been making for a number of weeks now and it sort of died down, it refused to give us any updates. And you -- I think it was pretty clear to almost anybody watching the situation that they used this as a tool to distract from Omarosa, they didn`t want another day of nonstop cable news coverage of various allegations from her book. And, they, you know, critics aside, were extraordinarily affected. That is certainly what the conference station changed to today.
WILLIAMS: And it wasn`t for cause, we learned tonight the president`s interview with the "Wall Street Journal", he went ahead and said, wasn`t because of any process, it was because of the Russia investigation.
COLVIN: Yes, I mean, that -- by the "Wall Street Journal" interview is really extraordinary. The president makes a number of pretty astounding claims in it firstly saying outright that this is the reason why he did it, was because he`s mad at these people for the -- what he describes as a witch hunt. And the president also in there talks about how he -- and they have the statement ready and they could have done it last week but decided not to because too much was going on. I spent the week with the president last week in Bedminster, New Jersey, where he spent a lot of time on the golf course. He spent a lot of time having dinners with his friends and famous people and business leaders. There`s certainly no practical reason why they couldn`t put it out then.
And I think the most telling indication of that is the fact that when the White House first sent the statement out to the press, the date on it was July 26th, they quickly tried to fix their mistake by putting out a second version without the date on it claiming it was a mistake. But, I think there was a lot of skepticism about whether they were telling the truth.
WILLIAMS: And Jill, Omarosa was kind of spend a day off the book tour trail today, but there exists tomorrow, she has, I think, other interviews booked tomorrow, there exists this possibility we`re going to get a fresh recording of someone`s voice that we don`t know to expect tonight. What kind of level of fear is that causing?
COLVIN: Well, there`s definitely concern within the White House about these tapes. You know, people are wondering whether they might have been recorded on them, whether she might have caught them at a moment. But, you know, there`ve been some reports that there`s sort of fear gripping the White House and that everyone is so scared about what Omarosa is going to reveal about them. And they do think that some of those reports are just a little bit hyperbole.
There`s -- there definitely is that degree of concern and people are certainly frustrated about the fact that, look, Omarosa was somebody who was very close to the president for decade. She spent time with him on his reality show. She worked on the campaign. She was a loyal soldier who was with them during the campaign, during the transition, during the White House when there was very much at times kind of a bunker mentality with everyone sticking together. And so they very much feel betrayed about the fact that she`s on television and they most certainly don`t want to flip on the channel tomorrow and see wall-to-wall coverage of Omarosa making allegations about their boss.
WILLIAMS: Jill Colvin who covers this White House for the Associated Press every day, we deeply appreciate you joining us late tonight. Appreciate it, Jill.
Coming up for us, a comment from New York`s governor that has done the impossible, it`s united Democrats and Republicans. Members of both parties are wondering, what was Andrew Cuomo thinking? The story when we come back.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Make America great again. The American dream, that`s what we`re doing.
Look at all those hats, white ones, red ones, they all have the same thing, make America great. Well, make America great again, only to be replaced by keep America great.
Make America great again, maybe the greatest slogan ever.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: People forget he is a long-time marketer and the president continues to get such a good ride from that campaign slogan from hashtags to hats. It`s ubiquitous at least among members of his loyal base. Well, today, the governor of New York, sitting a top something like a 30-point lead in his run for reelection to a third term, decided to take issue with the slogan and its premise. And as you`ll hear from the reaction of the crowd, who remember are supporters of his, didn`t go over well.
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GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: We`re not going to make America great again. It was never that great. We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So that`s how that went today. The governor has to get past a primary challenger, Cynthia Nixon of "Sex and The City" fame, in fact, before he can go on to a general election against a Republican named Marc Molinaro who hopped on this today to say, "America, with its imperfections, has always been great. Mr. Cuomo owes the nation an apology."
Tonight, Cuomo is defending his remarks saying he was referring to women`s equality, you saw the banner, and the evolution of legislation to help all Americans. Admittedly, he did make both of those points before saying, we were never that great.
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CUOMO: What was the great time that you want to take us back to? When America was great? Before the environmental protection movement? Before marriage equality, when it was just a man and a woman? Before these new immigrants started to come across the border? And before the women`s equality movement? That`s when America was great in his head. He wants to take us back to that point.
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WILLIAMS: And we have to show you this for context. It is possible that his fellow New Yorker Donald Trump got under Cuomo`s skin and in his mind earlier this week when he publicly discussed a phone call recently between the two men.
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TRUMP: Cuomo wants to take away your Second Amendment. Now, he called me and he said, I`ll never run for president against you. But maybe he wants to. Oh, please, do it. Please. Please. He did say that. He did. And maybe he meant it. The one thing we know and they do say, anybody that runs against Trump suffers.
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WILLIAMS: And, of course, there is a tweet. Late tonight, the president wrote about Cuomo, "Can you believe this is the governor of the highest taxed state in the U.S.? Andrew Cuomo having a total meltdown?" And Cuomo has answered, "Donald Trump, what you say would be great again would not be great at all. We will not go back to discrimination, segregation, sexism, isolationism, racism or the KKK like New York`s motto says excelsior ever upward, not backward."
And before we get to a break, the Trump administration has corrected a number we brought to you on last night`s broadcast. We mentioned it during the course of our update about the 559 migrant children still separated from their families because of the Trump administration`s so-called zero tolerance policy at the border. We further told you that federal officials have been unable to connect five of those children to any known parents. That figure came from the Trump administration and today, they issued a correction of their own math. It turns out there are 26 migrant children in U.S. custody for whom the government has been unable to connect in any way with the parents or family members who might have brought them here.
Now, another break. And when we come back, what we learned today about ongoing U.S. efforts to hit back in the midst of an ongoing and nonstop active electronic warfare.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, is a serious note to end on but these are serious times even in these dog days of August. Our final story underscores the consequences of being president especially at a time when our country`s involved in active asymmetrical often invisible warfare. We should quickly add here, it`s warfare that we`re a target of electronically and warfare that we are participants in. This story is about the latter.
Here we go. Here`s the headline from the "Wall Street Journal" from just a few hours ago tonight. Trump seeking to relax rules on U.S. cyber attacks reverses Obama directive. The article by Dustin Volz begins this way. "President Trump has reversed an Obama era memorandum governing how and when the U.S. government can deploy cyber weapons against its adversaries in an effort to loosen restrictions on such operations according to people familiar with the action. Mr. Trump signed an order on Wednesday reversing the classified rules", stay with us here, "known as Presidential Policy Directive 20, that had mapped out an elaborate interagency process that must be followed before U.S. use of cyber attacks, particularly those geared at foreign adversaries."
In other words, it has to go up and down the chain in government. This is important, of course, because of the attack on our last presidential election. Because of the need to protect our electric grid, our banking system, our air traffic control systems from hacking, and because of these scattered early reports that hackers have already taken up positions inside some of our state electoral systems, many Americans want to know we`re protected. And a good number of Americans want to know in plain English that we`re giving as good as we`re getting on this front.
On that, the article goes on. "It wasn`t clear what rules Trump is adopting to replace the Obama directive." And further, "Several U.S. officials familiar with the Obama-era rules conceded it had flaws, but said that rescinding them could create more problems, especially because it was unclear what Mr. Trump would use to replace the rules." Again, all of that from the "Wall Street Journal" tonight.
Indeed, it is the Trump team that now gets to decide for all of us, how we defend ourselves and importantly how we hit back, who we hit when and how. All of it filed under the heading elections have consequences. That`s our broadcast on a Wednesday night. Thank you so much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END