Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: August 27, 2018 Guest: Eli Stokols, Matthew Miller, Joyce Vance, Robert Costa, Ashley Parker, Jill Colvin, Michael Steele
NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC ANCHOR: New tonight from the "Wall Street Journal." Paul Manafort sought a plea deal. That was until talks broke down reportedly because of Robert Mueller.
Plus, Rudy Giuliani`s P.R. play. Why Trump`s lawyer is down to swaying public opinion as the only way to win the war.
And remembering an American hero. The late John McCain leaves a parting message for his fellow Americans as the White House reverses course today, bending to pressure let flags lowered in respect until McCain`s burial.
THE 11TH HOUR on a Monday night begins now.
Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. I`m Nicolle Wallace in for Brian Williams. It`s day 585 of the Trump administration, and the President has finally spoken about Senator John McCain two days after he passed away.
This, as the flag at the White House was lowered back to half-staff to honor McCain. We`ll have much more on all that in just a moment, but first we`re following important news on multiple fronts related to Robert Mueller`s Russia investigation.
New tonight less than one week after Paul Manafort was convicted on bank and tax fraud charges, the "Wall Street Journal" is reporting that Manafort`s defense team held talks with prosecutors to try to resolve charges in his upcoming Washington, D.C. trial. The "Journal" reporting those plea discussions took place while the jury was deliberating in his last trial in Virginia and that a deal was never reached.
"The plea talks on the second set of charges stalled over issues raised by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, one of the people said. It isn`t clear what those issues were, and the proposed terms of the plea deal couldn`t immediately be determined."
Just last week, the President weighed-in on Manafort`s situation after he`s been found guilty, writing, "I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. Justice took a 12-year-old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to break, make up stories in order to get a deal." Trump went on to say, "Such respect for a brave man."
Meanwhile, in a new interview with "The New York Times," Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani lays out his game plan in his defense of the President. The "Times" reporting that Giuliani "detailed for the first time his strategy for representing the President, in blunt and divisively political terms."
Giuliani said he believes that since Mr. Trump is essentially having his day in court, in real time, his jury is the public. The aggressive defense starts with his base, then it stretches out to independents, then to democrats, Giuliani said. He readily acknowledged that he would never win over many on the left, but maintained that for others, impeachment was going too far."
We saw some of the strategy worked over the weekend when Giuliani tweeted, "Just a few days before 60-day run-up to 2018 elections. If Mueller wants to show he`s not partisan, then issue a report on collusion and obstruction. They will show President Trump did nothing wrong. Then we will have to admit you were fair. And we will." Wow.
Let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Monday night, Matt Miller, former Chief Spokesman for the Justice Department, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a Federal Prosecutor, Eli Stokols, White House Reporter for "The Los Angeles Times," and Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post" and the Moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS.
Eli, I want to start with a tweet that caught my eye that you sent out tonight that while Donald Trump was tweeting about how Paul Manafort was the stronger character last week during his week from hell, Paul Manafort was working on a plea deal with Mueller`s prosecutors.
ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE LOS ANGELES TIMES": Right, the President after the Manafort trial praised him for not flipping and lamented. He said it should be illegal to work with prosecutors and to try to cut a deal, and go figure, days later we learned that Manafort`s attorneys were at least in conversation with the prosecutors about a possible agreement, possibly getting some leniency from the sentencing. We don`t know what the President will say, how he`ll try to spin that. Maybe we`ll find out tomorrow morning on Twitter, but it certainly does -- the most interesting thing is the fact that they couldn`t reach a deal.
Usually, if there is going to be a deal, it`s of some benefit to both parties. We have no idea if it`s simply that the investigators thought that they just couldn`t get anything that valuable out of Paul Manafort at this point, but it is a fascinating wrinkle in this case.
WALLACE: Another fascinating wrinkle, Matt Miller, is the prospect or the possibility of a pardon for Manafort. How do you read "The Wall Street Journal" reporting tonight that as recently as last week, Manafort was considering cooperating with federal prosecutors at the same time the White House has been rumbling, Rudy Giuliani putting out some fires himself late last week, about the prospect of a pardon for Paul Manafort?
MATTHEW MILLER, FMR. JUSTICE DEPT. CHIEF SPOKESMAN: Yes, you know, Nicolle, I think actually this report raises more questions for me than it gives answers. The most obvious one is what was it that cause these talks to break down? Was it the special counsel insisting, not just on a guilty plea, but on cooperation? That if you wanted to get an actual, you know, serious reduction in any jail time, he was going to have to come in and fully cooperate against the President or anyone close to the President.
But the other question that it raises to me is why this has leaked now? You know, there would only be two parties in this conversation, obviously, Bob Mueller`s office and Paul Manafort and his attorneys. I think we can say it would be fair to give recombinants is not leaked from the special counsel`s office, it seems fairly obvious that this came from Manafort and his team.
And the only explanation I could think of that would make sense for that type of leak is, you know, their legal strategy from the beginning has seemed to me to play for a pardon. They have faced overwhelming evidence in both of these cases, the one in Virginia and the one upcoming in D.C., where if anything the evidence is even stronger against Manafort, and this might just be a public signal to the presidency.
You know, look, I have been out here taking a bullet for you. I took a very serious one in Virginia last week, I`m certainly going to be sentenced to jail time. I`m now looking at another one coming up next month in September.
I`m trying to be as strong as you asked me to, but you know what? I need a little help. I need a promise of a pardon. I need something more tangible than just this possibility. This may have been a signal to the President that if I don`t get those assurances, I have another out.
WALLACE: Joyce Vance, the President called out flippers that it should to be outlawed as we`ve already mentioned here. He also sent out a signal that staying strong to his one-time national security adviser, Mike Flynn. Mike Flynn has been cooperating, I believe, the longest with team America, which is what one former federal prosecutor called the Mueller special counsel investigation.
Talk about what Bob Mueller could get from Paul Manafort. He already has his deputy, Rick Gates, he already has Mike Flynn. What would Mueller want with Manafort? What would Mueller demand in order for any sort of leniency or any sort of deal for Paul Manafort?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: I have maybe a slightly less sensational, less interesting view of what the topic of these plea negotiations might have been. Manafort doesn`t really look like someone who has the ability to go in and engage into sort of the full cooperation that prosecutors would demand to complete a cooperation agreement. So what would Manafort have that he could offer?
Prosecutors who just finished trying a case in the Eastern District of Virginia now have to gear up and go to trial again in Washington. And that`s a considerable expenditure of time and resources, especially if they have the intention to work on additional cases. So if Manafort were to offer to plead guilty, it would, for prosecutors, be an efficiency gain. And he could possibly seek from them rather than cooperation, some sort of a leniency perhaps on the amount on his property that might be seized, leaving him with resources that would provide for his family while he`s in prison.
So I would resist leaping to the conclusion that the conversation fell apart over cooperation and think that it might be a much more mundane sort of negotiation over a plea.
WALLACE: Robert Costa, Donald Trump was talking about his approval ratings as the country was largely marking the passing of Senator John McCain. But one thing that doesn`t get very good approval ratings is the idea of pardoning Paul Manafort. Sixty percent of Americans think it`s inappropriate. Only 11 percent of Americans think it`s appropriate.
What are you hearing from Rudy Giuliani and sources close to this President about the calculation down the road to possibly pardon Paul Manafort?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Giuliani has told me that he has had a discussion back in early August about the remote possibility, is the way he put it, but he urged the President to not even consider it. But the fact that they even had a conversation that broached the topic shows that it`s on the radar of President Trump`s legal team, something they know could be a political bombshell that would make Republicans alarmed as well as Democrats if they moved in that direction.
And they also feel like -- speaking to people close to the President, that they don`t have a lot of visibility now into where this Manafort investigation and trial is going, especially on the Mueller side. They know Manafort was a long-time friend of Roger Stone, who is under a lot of scrutiny, his associates, at least, right now from Robert Mueller and his investigators.
And so that`s what everyone is trying to figure out the chess moves here by Mueller. Does Manafort have any connection to the Stone inquiry at all, the Stone-related inquiry by Mueller?
WALLACE: Eli Stokols, "New York Times have some additional or new reporting on Rudy Giuliani`s strategy has ensnare Mueller strategy, which we talked about many days at 4:00 and Brian Williams covers many nights at 11:00. What`s interesting to me about this piece is that it reveals that this is all they`ve got. They are down to -- this deemed their only messages now are while you can`t indict a sitting President and Mueller is running a witch hunt. That seems to be a thread that`s going to run a little bit short of trying to impugn the integrity of the investigation in the Southern District of New York with us now and ensnared Michael Cohen and, from all account, represents some of the grieves threats to this President at this hour.
STOKOLS: Right. I mean, Rudy Giuliani in that interview with the "Times" is telling us what we already know and have discussed numerous times on this channel, and that is the fact that this has always been a political response to this legal matter. And it`s obvious that they think that that`s their best shot at defeating this, defeating in the court of public opinion and inoculating the President from the consequences of the Mueller probe because his support remains strong enough with his base that Republicans and Congress won`t go after him.
The problem with that strategy, as we`re seeing now, is that this investigation has metastasized to the Southern District of New York. There haven`t been efforts and I don`t know how you would undergo an effort to brand the Southern District of New York as part of the deep state. He`s been tweeting about Mueller and 13 or 17 angry Democrats.
It`s just hard to sort of animate your base against the Southern District of New York and going to be very hard to answer for some of the wrongdoing and the crimes that may be unearthed. I mean, we`ve already seen that Michael Cohen has pleaded guilty. They`ve given immunity to the CFO of the Trump Organization.
You don`t give immunity to somebody unless they have some legal exposure, unless they`ve done something wrong. And so if they`ve done things wrong, people who worked in the inside of Trump Tower, obviously it looks like this investigation is looking -- sitting their sights higher than Cohen or Weisselberg, and I think that is very scary to the President and that is not something that Giuliani or any really legal strategy at this point, especially a P.R. strategy, will be able to effectively mitigate.
WALLACE: Matt, Eli makes a good point. The Southern District really best known for prosecuting terrorist, the hard to have lumped in to the deep state or any sort left wing campaign against the President.
But I want to ask you about Justice Department official Bruce Ohr. He`s an official that has been the latest target, the latest sort of exhibit from Donald Trump and his allies in the right wing media of something that they have targeted as evidence of a conspiracy, part of their wackadoo campaign against the rule of law and the DOJ.
Tomorrow, Bruce Ohr is expected to testify behind closed doors before the House Judiciary Committee. We`ve seen some of their antics. We`ve seen them beat up on Rod Rosenstein and Rosenstein has defended himself and the department.
But in some new reporting from "The New York Times" tonight, we learn a little bit more about Bruce Ohr`s expertise. He`s someone who knows a whole lot about the Russian mob. Can you lay over the many sort of the complicated layers of Donald Trump`s war on DOJ official Bruce Ohr?
MILLER: Yes, if you look at what Rudy Giuliani said in that interview with "The New York Times" that you just highlighted and you look at Donald Trump`s attack on a Justice Department going back for year and a half now, the thing that ties them all together is this kind of scorched earth approach to try to destroy anyone at the Justice Department who he can just to discredit the investigation into him.
Bruce Ohr is someone who I worked with at the Justice Department. I know he`s a long-time career prosecutor who has worked to target organized crime in Russia, all over the globe, on behalf of the U.S. government. He`s someone who I believe was trying to do the right thing.
You know, he got what he thought was concerning information about, you know, allegations against Donald Trump and was challenging them to the FBI after the FBI had stopped working with Chris Steele doing it at the FBI`s behalf. So he was trying to help move this investigation forward. And you`ve seen the President now attack him, and turn him into the latest whipping boy as we`ve seen Peter Strzok and others inside the Justice Department over the last year and a half now.
And the thing that concerns me, it`s not just the President`s attacks, but, you know, we saw Jeff Sessions come out on Friday and defend himself, and it was the second time he done it. I saw a lot of people, you know, praising Sessions for finally doing that.
The thing we`ve never seen from Jeff Sessions is him standing up to the President when he attacks people like Bruce Ohr. When the President comes at the career men and women of the Justice Department who, for example, sign the FISA application into Carter Page and work on that investigation, when the President attacks him by name and when he attacks some of them by position, you never hear anything from Sessions defending those people inside the Justice Department. I think, you know, it`s a weakness by the leadership at the Department and, of course, it`s a terrible indictment on the President and his character.
WALLACE: And the President has also threatened to review the security clearance of Bruce Ohr. Should he strip him of his clearances? That would be a red line, that would be the first sitting DOJ official that the President punished by stripping his clearances. We`re going to keep an eye on that.
There`s too much going on. Nobody is going anywhere.
Coming up, as Robert Mueller plows forward, one Trump insider predicts more indictments are on the way.
And up on Capitol Hill, Republicans are bracing for a barrage of investigation if Democrats flip the House.
And later, John McCain loathed as the Senator willing to work across the aisle while never giving up the fight.
And the President finally tonight uttering John McCain`s name.
THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Monday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDOLPH GIULIANI, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S PERSONAL ATTORNEY: Well, I think if it isn`t over by September, then we have a very, very serious violation of the Justice Department rules. They shouldn`t be conducting one of these investigations in the 60-day period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Just a reminder there that President Trump`s personal lawyer has said his client will not sit down with the special counsel after September 1st if he agrees to an interview at all. September 1st is this Saturday, and as the clock ticks down to Trump`s deadline, Mueller`s team remains silent and the administration finds itself dealing with legal issues on several other fronts.
Former Trump fixer Michael Cohen is now an admitted felon, and two other associates, the tabloid executive and the man in-charge of the Trump Organization money, are both said to be cooperating with the feds in New York.
"The Washington Post" sums it up this way, "President Trump`s wall a secrecy, the work of a lifetime, is starting to crack. The myth of Trump is now unraveling, said Barbara Res, a Trump Organization executive from 1978 to 1996. He`s becoming more obvious and people are starting to know what he`s like and what he`s doing.
Matt Miller, Joyce Vance and Eli Stokols are all here.
Joyce, it sounds more and more like the people who know him best, people like a nearly 20-year veterans of his company, are simply saying to us you`re seeing what we`ve all always known. His own friends talked about his company, not as some giant business that`s well-run with controls and law-abiding employees. But this is a slightly a corrupt mom and pop operation.
Is that what is being revealed as the bright lights of the Southern District and Robert Mueller`s probe shines on it.
VANCE: The Southern District seems determined to go after whatever criminality they can find in this organization, and I think your point is a really good one. Sometimes businesses or anything that appears one way from the outside doesn`t look quite the same when it`s exposed to the harsh glare of the spotlight. It doesn`t look like Trump Org is this fabulously far-flung successful business that Trump has always held it out to be. There`s even an interesting comment in this article that talks about Trump testifying in a deposition and saying, the value of my business is whatever I say it is.
So we may see that the emperor at the end of the day doesn`t have any clothes or at least not as many as he`s tried to tell folks he has all along.
WALLACE: And Matt Miller, it`s a family business. So these comments from Roger Stone caught our attention today about Don Jr. Let`s watch and talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, TRUMP ASSOCIATE: I predicted yesterday based on excellent sourcing that the special counsel is going to charge Donald Trump Jr. with lying to the FBI. Notice that they`re not charging him for having an illegal meeting with a Russian at Trump Tower because there`s nothing illegal about that meeting.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Now with friends like those, innocent on collusion, but yes, he obstructed justice. Matt Miller, what do you make of Roger Stone?
MILLER: Well, first of all, I think the disclaimer with Roger Stone is you always have to take everything with a grain of salt that he says. I think very well, you know, it could have been a crime that Donald Trump Jr. committed in taking that meeting. But the second big thing is, you know, it might be a little bit of news that he gave, probably inadvertently there, if it`s true that Donald Trump Jr. actually met with the FBI.
So far we haven`t seen any reports that he has met with the FBI, that he`s been subpoenaed to the grand jury. Politico reported a couple months ago that Mueller has not subpoenaed or asked for interviews with any of the Trump children, including Don Jr. You know, I think I`ve always interpreted that, I know others have interpreted that as news that, you know, Donald Trump Jr. is a very serious subject if not border into target status at this point the fact that he`s not been contacted by the special counsel.
So there may be a bit of actual, you know, inadvertently helping Donald Trump Jr. news if it`s true that he was contacted for an interview and has gone in and talked to Bob Mueller. I am a little bit skeptical of that report. I think given all the exposure that Donald Trump Jr. has in this case, if he was contacted by the special counsel, I would think it`s very unlikely that he actually had sat down and given him an interview.
WALLACE: Eli, let me ask you about some reporting in Axios today that I understand from Rick Wilson, he was on our show at 4:00, has House Republicans pretty distraught at this hour. Axios on GOP spreadsheet, "Congressional Republicans are getting ready for hell. Axios has obtained a spreadsheet that circulated through Republican circles on and off Capitol Hill, including at least one leadership office, that meticulously previews the investigations. Democrats will likely launch if they flip the House."
"Publically, House Republicans are putting on a brave face about the midterms. But privately, they are scrambling to prepare for the worst.
STOKOLS: Well, yes, I mean it tells you a lot about the House Republicans and where they see things right now. They don`t know exactly what Democrats will choose to focus on if they take over the Oversight Committee upon taking a majority in November in the House. But it tells you the Republicans are not confident about this election and even the White House political shop is not confident about the House. They`re sending the President out to campaign a lot to defend a lot of these Republican Senate seats. As far as the House, they`re kind of taking a wait and see approach, but basically writing that off.
It also tells you the spreadsheet that circulated about the Republicans sort of acknowledging, whoever wrote this, acknowledging all the areas of oversight where the current House majority, the Republicans, have sort of shielded the President from oversight. They recognize there are a lot of possible areas that could be investigated, and they haven`t done any of it. That`s no surprise to anybody who`s watched the House Intel Community, sort of prosecute or not prosecute the hearings in the investigation into Russian collusion. But more broadly across the House, the House leadership and Speaker Ryan, this is part of his legacy, too.
There are a lot of areas where the White House almost bears over -- you know, demands oversight and the House Republicans have consistently looked the other way.
WALLACE: Paul Ryan may rue the day he left Devin Nunes in-charge of that committee. Matt Miller, Joyce Vance, Eli Stokols, thank you so much.
Coming up, was it negative T.V. coverage about Donald Trump that finally convinced him to offer condolences to the McCain family? After a very public course correction this afternoon, the flag once again flies a half-staff at the White House tonight to honor the late Senator.
THE 11TH HOUR back after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our hearts and prayers are going to the family of Senator John McCain. There will be a lot of activity over the next number of days, and we very much appreciate everything that Senator McCain has done for our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Those are the very first public words spoken by President Trump about Senator John McCain since he passed away Saturday.
Earlier today, this was the President`s response when asked about McCain.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, any thoughts on John McCain? Mr. President, any thoughts on John McCain, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you have any thoughts on the legacy of John McCain?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you have any thoughts on about John McCain? Do have any thoughts at all about John McCain?
Do you believe John McCain was a hero, sir?
Nothing at all about John McCain? OK.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Any reaction to the American Legion asking you to put out a proclamation of John McCain?
Why won`t you say anything about John McCain?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Wow. The American Legion and other veterans groups and lawmakers criticized the White House for raising the flag over the White House to full-staff less than 48 hours after the Senator`s death.
After a morning of public pushback, the flag was lowered to half staff again and President Trump issued a statement that read in part, "Despite our differences on policy and politics, I respect Senator John McCain`s service to our country, and in his honor have signed a proclamation to fly the flag of the United States at half staff until the day of his interment.
Tonight, the Washington Post report goes behind the scenes as the controversy escalated. "Several administration officials said Trump was frustrated with the TV coverage, and felt besiege that nothing he`s said about McCain would be enough." Trump also suggested to advisers that many of those speaking out on television were merely looking for reasons to attack him, and that some of the same people now praising McCain previously didn`t like the senator.
Trump told advisers over the weekend that lavishing praise on McCain would not be genuine, because he did not fell that way. "Everyone knows we don`t like each other", the President said according to one White House official who spoke with him.
Trump wrote much of Monday`s statement, White House official said and wanted to express that he disagreed with McCain on policy and politics. Senator McCain wrote a statement before he died meant both to be both a farewell to the nation he loved and a warning.
Rick Davis, his long-time aid and friend, and former campaign manager, read it at a press conference today. Here`s some of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK DAVIS, SENATOR MCCAIN`S FORMER AIDE: We weaken our greatness when we confuse our patriotism with tribal rivalries that have sewn resentment and hatred, and violence in all the corners of the globe. We weaken it when we hide behind walls rather than tear them down, when we doubt the power of our ideals rather than trust them to be the great force for change they have always been.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Back with us to talk about all of this is Robert Costa, and joining the conversation, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Reporter for the Washington Post and Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press.
Jill, let me start with you. You were in many of those pool sprays today and you saw the president arms crossed, mumbling thank you, thank you, barely making eye contact with Jonathan Carl or anybody else in the pool asking about john McCain. What was it that pushed him over the top? Was it this, as the Washington Post reports, the crush of cable news coverage, or was it the revolt sort of on his own White House staff that finally got him to make this turn?
JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS: Well, it seemed to be a combination of those factors. The President was just peppered with questions, four different opportunities this afternoon where the President was asked about John McCain. Do you have nothing else to say about him? Do you believe he is a hero? Why is that the only statement that you have to the nation, referring to that tweet that he put out, his only public response up until this afternoon.
You could feel the pressure mounting. You could sort of see in the President that he understood and he felt that the tension in the room as we were all bombarding him with those questions. There`s also been reporting that there were a number of staff members from John Kelly, the chief of staff, to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the communication of the press secretary who are urging him, telling him that this is not a good look for you.
The President was also seeing as he turned on cable news channel, just endless criticism. You had that very powerful image, this aireal shot of the White House, that flag up on top of the White House residents with the flag, at full staff this morning. And then, you had the Washington Monument in the background. You`re looking at it right now, with all those flags at half staff. You had, you know, veterans groups, the President has claimed that he is such a champion of coming out and criticizing him, and in the end he decided to do exactly what his aides have been urging him to do previously and put out that statement.
WALLACE: Ashley Parker, color me deeply skeptical that anyone in the White House staff was offended on behalf of an American hero. Because this was the same White House staff, Sarah Huckabee Sanders in particular, who took to the podium in the briefing room and defended Kelly Sadler when she said, well, John McCain will be dead soon.
So I have a hard time believing it was anything more than concern about Donald Trump`s political standing that brought about the pressure on him. Am I getting that wrong?
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Your skepticism is absolutely fair. I will say one of the reasons, for instance, we know as The Post reported that, you know, President Trump initially nixed putting out a statement calling Senator McCain a hero and praising his life and his military service, is because there were a number of people in that White House who were really sickened by the President`s initial behavior.
That said, a lot of their dismay and disagreements sort of took place in private or in anonymous quotes to reporters. And there is a difference in this White House between people often saying they don`t like the behavior, they`re personally disgusted, and then sort of taking the next step, that more crucial step and taking an actual public stand. And we did not see that.
We did see them ultimately, through that combination of cable news coverage and the President getting peppered with questions and private pressure being applied, get the President to a public place. But again, no one resigned and no one in that White House stepped forward to say that they disagreed with the way this was handled initially.
WALLACE: Robert Costa, what is the sort of ripple of this, Donald Trump again through a boulder in the middle of a peaceful pond? What is the ripple look like in the GOP when John McCain in death was able to shame Donald Trump in life?
ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: Many Republicans were appalled by what they heard about the White House, keeping that flag not half staff. And you see pressure from throughout the party calling into the White House saying, there has to be a Republican Party in lockstep here. This is a sitting Republican senator, a veteran Republican senator, a military veteran and a war hero.
There`s going to be proceedings at the capitol. He`s going to lie there this week. The funeral in Washington, buried at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. All these factors have led the Republican Party, mostly privately, though, we should point that out, mostly privately to reach out to this White House and say, change your mind. This is more than just a personal battle.
WALLACE: I spoke to a presidential ally and friend, and outside adviser this morning, and I said, "What`s wrong with him?" You know, John McCain is on his way to heaven, had, you know, left everything on the field, if you will, have nothing unsaid. This is hurting Donald Trump. Why can`t Donald Trump, you know, be big for five minutes just so save himself? Did you get any insight in your reporting with White House officials as to why this sort of insistence on always biting his nose to spite his face?
PARKER: Part of it again was the president sort of saying, as he did and we reported over the weekend, that he -- people know that he and Senator McCain did not get along, did not like each other, and a small bit of that was sort of that authenticity people seemed to like about him and staying true to himself and staying true to his feud.
But the real reason or the core reason is that President Trump especially, he cannot stand not being the center of attention, the person who all the adulation is focused on. Again, even in this behavior which was very politically bad for this White House, bad for this President, President Trump managed to do what he does best and enjoys most, which is to make it all about himself.
Today was a day about mourning the late senator from Arizona, and while that did happen, at its core was President Trump and the controversies of his own making, and that is where he feels most comfortable.
WALLACE: Jill Colvin, there are six days aheadof us of past presidents, Democratic presidents, Republican presidents, all coming together to honor the life and legacy of John McCain. Any prediction about how Donald Trump will weather what will undoubtedly be a very difficult six days for him?
COLVIN: I think Ashely hit it on the head there. This is a president who likes to be the center of attention. You know, he was hosting the president of Kenya today and he congratulated the president for having arrived on such a fabulous day because it was the day that the President was announcing the sort of small-scale confusing trade deal agreement with Mexico. It was a day when he was touting that the stock market was hitting a new high, so this was a really fabulous time to be visiting the White House.
Meanwhile, you have the rest of the nation in mourning. I think what you`re likely to see is a series of split shots on your television screen of people across the country, in Arizona, in Washington honoring John McCain. There will be military processions that the President signed off on, and meanwhile you`ll have whatever the President is doing, whatever he`s deciding to tweet about, whatever is angering him at the moment on the other side of the screen.
WALLACE: Robert Costa, there was a half-baked attempt to change the subject, NAFTA and trade a good issue for this President with his base. But it was a poorly executed event at best, which, you know, reminding me of the Verizon commercial, you know, can you hear me now, can you hear me now? What was behind this and why not get some policy behind something that has potential actually be helpful for this president?
COSTA: You`ve seen this tension within the administration for months. The President himself is inclined to these bilateral trade agreements against the multilateral agreements that have often been the staple of US trade policy, and he has had strained attempts to try to put these together with Mexico, other countries like japan and the UK have been having talks and more informal talks about trying to sketch out their own bilateral agreements.
But the President has a lot on his plate politically with the Mueller investigation. Trade is something he keeps coming back to because it`s a core front for him, going back to the campaign. His whole, he`s always been pretty much consistent on trade.
But cutting these bilateral deals is complicated, and Canada is watching, and there`s not a lot of appetite in this whole region to get out of NAFTA even if the President is offering a few things to Mexico.
WALLACE: And anyone that didn`t see the event, unedited but aired next to the credits for "Veep," go look for it, it`s fantastic. Robert Costa, Ashley Perker and Jill Colvin, thank you so much.
Coming up, I witnessed John McCain`s restlessness up close and can attest to his impatience over too much analysis of his place in history, that as the nation prepares to lay this giant of American politics to rest, his place as a bipartisan legislator and lover of America and all he represents seems stronger than ever. More on the void he leaves when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.
WALLACE: On their first day in session since the passing of Senator John McCain, senators from both parties honored their colleague on the Senate floor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: It is our honor as Americans to say the late, great John Sidney McCain III, what we pray he has already heard from his creator. Well done. Good and faithful servant. Well done.
SEN. CHUCK SCHEMER (D), NEW YORK: He was equally parts funny and furious, foul-mouthed and statesman-like. He could put the temper in temperament. He was a brave and honest man. He was a patriot.
SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: We are fortunate to have known him best in Arizona, but he was bigger than any one state. He always belonged to America and to the world. And now he belongs to the ages. Farewell, senator. Farewell, John. I yield the floor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Joining us now are Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, and Michael Beschloss, NBC News Presidential Historian.
Michael Steele, let me start with you. We were in the fight fore Republicans who wanted to be president. What would a John McCain presidency have looked like either in 2000 or 2008?
MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Wow. That`s a very, very good question.
WALLACE: Beschloss is going to bail us out if you or I flub it.
STEELE: No, no.
STEELE: We`re in now, that`s for sure. No, I think it would have been an administration that was tempered by the harsh realities of the time. I think it would have been an administration that would have been far more open in its reach, not just across the aisle but across America to communities that are now marginalized or outright ignored in many instances.
So I think he would have brought that temperament, talking about his temper, that temperament that of statesmanship, discipline, but a sense of hope, a sense of vision, and a sense of the purpose of the country which I think it was a hallmark of his life. It`s something that I think that was sort of forged in him during those five years as a prisoner of war, his appreciation for not just the strength of this country but the beauty of its people and the power of its legacy.
WALLACE: Michael Beschloss, let me ask you the same question. Let me drill down a little bit. Someone asked me this question having worked for George W. Bush. I recoiled at first, but I want you think of McCain presidency would have looked like if he had been our president on September 11. Do you think we would have gone to war in Afghanistan and then Iraq, or do you think the country`s path would have been different?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: I think it`s hard to say what he would have done in that place. You know, one of the advantages of being a historian is you can always say if Abraham Lincoln were alive today, this would be his view, and no one is ever going to say that you`re wrong.
But, you know, one thing, and you`ve spoken about it so well the last couple days, Nicolle, is how different John McCain really was as a leader. And I think one of the biggest parts of his legacy is going to be in the future when we refer to the McCain kind of leadership, that`s going to mean something very specific to people.
You courage, humor, modesty, love of country, above yourself, you know, desire to work across the aisle, all these things we`ve been hearing about the last couple of days. And that means that in certain ways, it could be that John McCain will be even more powerful after his life as he was during life, because in the future if a politician behaves badly and someone says, that`s not what john McCain would have done, that`s sort of a corrective.
And the other thing -- I don`t want to jump ahead, but if we`re talking about the primaries in 2020, the republican primaries, and let`s say if Donald Trump is running against several challenger, if there is challenger who seems to have the mantle of John McCain republicanism, that`s going to be a label that could be very powerful.
WALLACE: I could have talked to you both for the whole hour but all I could get was another segment. Neither of you are going anywhere, more "11TH HOUR" after this break.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARK SALTER, FORMER SPEECHWRITER AND AIDE TO SENATOR MCCAIN: I have a daughter in the Peace Corps in a third world country. She was talking to one of her native counterparts, who was complaining about the autocratic government that they live under in that country. And he said, you know, we need freedom and we`re not getting enough help.
But John McCain will help us. He had no idea my daughter had a connection to Senator McCain. He was just a guy on the back and beyond who not only knew John`s name but known to be a friend who would help him if he could. And that is an extraordinary tribute, I think, to the global importance of John McCain and his -- in a decency. He personifies the values of this country was founded on. He was their greatest champion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: That was Senator McCain`s former speechwriter and longtime aide, Mark Salter, in out network earlier today, talking about the profound impact Senator McCain had all over the world. Still with us Michael Steele and Michael Beschloss.
Michael Steele, John McCain would have been pleasantly surprised to see one of his best friends on the planet, really his political partner, one of his soul mates, Mark Stalter, who definitely doesn`t like to do very much but go on TV and talk about him.
WALLACE: John McCain got people to do things they didn`t want to do. John McCain, his existence was the most powerful rebuke of this most current moment in politics, his existence, his value of a free press, his decency, his humility, his capacity, his appetite for admitting his own mistakes and his own shortcomings. It seems like just by breathing the air, John McCain rebuked Donald Trump.
STELE: Yes. In so many ways that is true. And it really kind of goes back to that moment during the town hall that`s been played over and over again since his passing of John McCain, rebuking one of his own supporters when she went after President Obama, or then-candidate Obama. And so, it says a lot about the man in moments like that.
Just as right now, Nicolle, there are a lot of things that can be said about the man in the White House given this moment and the way he handles this moment. How you handle adversity, particularly when you`re up against a foe and opponents you don`t like personally, you have issues, says a lot about you.
And John McCain regardless of how he may have felt about you personally, we thought about your issue, always stay true to his core, always stay true to the idea that he wanted to get something done better for the country. And I think that says volumes about him and why you see the tributes that are pouring out on his behalf tonight.
WALLACE: Micheal Beschloss, this is the second, not quite state funeral, but basically for the way the country experiences. And Barbara Bush was the first, John McCain the second, where President Obama and President Bush, 43, will be invited, Donald Trump not. What does that look like? How does history mark a chapter like this?
BESCHLOSS: Well, we`ve never seen a situation like where a current president has virtually no relationship with all of the living former presidents. I mean, it`s very strange and it`s absolutely horrible. And it also touches on something else which is that, you know, half of the job of a presidency, as you well know, Nicolle, is chief of state. It`s not just to be a political leader.
And chief of state means someone who represents us around the world, someone who is a president who you want to hold up to your children and say, this is someone I want you children to be like. And Donald Trump, that`s just a side of this office that he doesn`t care about and he really doesn`t fulfill. Even friends I have who like Donald Trump will say, I would never want my children to be like him, but he`s doing things that I like.
And so that`s why, in a time like this, it`s very important for us to think of particularly political leaders who are people who represent qualities that we would like our children to grow up to be like and also represent America around the world. So for that reason, I think the brighter John McCain`s legacy, the better for all of us.
WALLACE: Michael Steele and Michael Beschloss, thank you so much for spending some time with us.
STEELE: All right.
BESCHLOSS: Goodbye and goodnight.
WALLACE: Coming up, a quick break for us, more 11TH HOUR after this.
WALLACE: That`s our broadcast for tonight. Thanks for staying up with us. You can catch me everyday at 4:00 p.m. Eastern right here in this very studio. And stay tuned to THE 11TH HOUR tomorrow night for full election results in Arizona and Florida. Goodnight from NBC News Headquarters in New York.
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