Ford requests for FBI investigation. TRANSCRIPT: 09/18/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Richard Painter, Doris Kearns Goodwin

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: September 18, 2018 Guest: Richard Painter, Doris Kearns Goodwin

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The breaking news tonight, Monday`s hearing is now in jeopardy. Brett Kavanaugh`s accuser Dr. Christine Blasey Ford says she wants the FBI to investigate before she testifies. The only other witness to her allegation says he doesn`t want to talk about it publicly. The news comes hours after President Trump says he feels so badly for Brett Kavanaugh whose Supreme Court nomination is now in peril.

And as for his own troubles, Trump`s legal team reportedly in the dark as they navigate the Mueller investigation.

All of it as "The 11th Hour" gets under way on a Tuesday night.

And good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 607 of the Trump Administration, and there is breaking news tonight concerning the President`s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault.

Dr. Ford, a California college professor, went public with her allegation over this past weekend, an allegation that Judge Kavanaugh denies. Tonight, Dr. Ford`s attorney says her client wants an FBI investigation before she will testify about her accusation in public, before the senate Judiciary Committee. That hearing, as you know, is scheduled to take place on Monday.

We have veterans of the FBI and Justice Departments standing by to weigh in on this, but first, here is a part of the letter sent by Ford`s attorney to Judiciary Committee Chair Chuck Grassley of Iowa, just tonight. In it, it say, "In the 36 hours since her name became public, Dr. Ford has received a stunning amount of support from her community and from fellow citizens across our country.

At the same time, however, her worst fears have materialized. She has been the target of vicious harassment and even death threats. As a result of these kinds of threats, her family was forced to relocate out of their home. Her e-mail has been hacked and she has been impersonated online."

The attorney goes on to write, "While Dr. Ford`s life was being turned upside down, you and your staff scheduled a public hearing for her to testify at the same table as Judge Kavanaugh in front of two dozen U.S. senators on national television to relive this traumatic and harrowing incident. The hearing was scheduled for six short days from today and would include interrogation by senators who appear to have made up their minds that she is, "mistaken and mixed up." Dr. Ford wants to cooperate with the committee and with law enforcement officials. As the Judiciary Committee has recognized and done before, an FBI investigation of the incident should be the first step in addressing her allegations."

That reference, by the way, "to mixed up," is a direct quote from Senator Orrin Hatch.


KASIE HUNT, NBC NEWS CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: Do you think that any of these claims are legitimate?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH, (R) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No, I don`t. I think this woman, whoever she is, is mixed up. And -- but I can`t speak for her. All I can say is, no, I don`t.

I know the Judge very, very well. I know how honest he is.


WILLIAMS: Earlier tonight, one of Ford`s attorneys was interviewed on CNN.


LISA BANKS, CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD ATTORNEY: What we`re seeing is there should be an investigation because that`s the right thing to do.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If there`s not an investigation, would she appear on Monday?

BANKS: She is prepared to cooperate with the committee and with any law enforcement investigation. And that has been her position and it continues to be her position. So she will cooperate with the committee in whatever form that takes and it remains to be seen. We have to talk with Senator Grassley`s office and the other committee members to determine what form that will take.

It`s premature to talk about a hearing on Monday, and I think people understand that because she has been dealing with the threats, the harassment, and the safety of her family. And that`s what she`s been focused on for the last two days and will continue to be focused on that.

If they care about doing the right thing here, and treating this seriously as they have said, then they will do the right thing and they will properly investigate this and she will work with them in that investigation and also to share her story with the committee. However that happens.


WILLIAMS: Senator Dianne Feinstein who is the top Democrat on the committee issued a statement that reads in part, "I agree with her 100 percent that the rushed process to hold a hearing on Monday has been unfair and is reminiscent of the treatment of Anita Hill. I also agree that we need the facts before senators, not staff or lawyers, speak to witnesses.

We should honor Dr. Blasey Ford`s wishes and delay this hearing. A proper investigation must be completed. Witnesses interviewed. Evidence reviewed and all sides spoken to. Only then should the chairman set a hearing date."

But within the past hour, the chairman of that committee, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, issued this statement. "We have offered Dr. Ford the opportunity to share her story with the committee as her attorneys said yesterday she was willing to do. We offered her a public or a private hearing as well as staff-led interviews, whichever makes her most comfortable. The invitation for Monday still stands."

Grassley goes on to say this, "Dr. Ford`s testimony would reflect her person knowledge and memory of events. Nothing the FBI or any other investigator does would have any bearing on what Dr. Ford tells the committee so there is no reason for any further delay."

Earlier this evening, before we learned of Christine Blasey Ford`s request for an FBI investigation, Senator Lindsey Graham indicated there would be no delay in confirming Judge Kavanaugh.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: If she does not want to come Monday, publicly or privately, we`re going to move on and vote Wednesday.


WILLIAMS: And today, President Trump offered up his thoughts on the need for an FBI investigation before any new hearing, while also reaffirming his support and sympathy for this nominee.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, will you ask the FBI to open its file?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How important is the --

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don`t think the FBI really should be involved because they don`t want to be involved. If they wanted to be, I would certainly do that, but as you know, they say this is not really their thing.

Now, they have done, supposedly, six background checks over the years as Judge Kavanaugh has gone beautifully up a ladder. He`s an incredible individual. Great intellect. Great judge. Impeccable history in every way. In every way.

I feel so badly for him that he`s going through this, to be honest with you. I feel so badly for him. This is not a man that deserves this.


WILLIAMS: On that note, let`s bring in our leadoff panel on a Tuesday night. Philip Rucker, White House bureau chief for the "Washington Post." And Ashley Parker, White House reporter for the "Washington Post." Both are recent Pulitzer Prize winners for their work. Also back with us is Maya Wiley, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Currently a professor at The New School here in New York.

And Counselor, I`d like to begin with you because this is chiefly a legal, yes, a political matter. As apolitically as you can, could you make a case for not investigating? Would you put a witness on the stand absent the underpinning facts?

MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: I can`t make any neutral legal argument for not investigating serious allegations of an attempted rape. I mean, particularly for someone who`s facing the possibility of being in one of the nation`s most powerful positions.

And let me tell you why, just to be clear. It doesn`t matter whether or not you believe based on the news reports that you heard if you`re a senator on the Judiciary Committee who you believe, Brett Kavanaugh or Professor Ford. What matters is that you recognize you have two people, each of whom have very different accounting of what happened, and that is part of the reason why you have FBI background checks for significant and important positions in federal government.

The only way you even know what questions to ask, someone who`s going to come forward and tell you a story of their experience of an incident, is because you have had an investigation by trained investigators who go and talk to everyone including people who may be able to identify other people who are witnesses who may have been at the party. Who may be able to identify which party it was. Who might be able to shed greater light.

If you are Senator Collins, for example, who says, "Look, if Brett, Judge Kavanaugh, Brett Kavanaugh has lied, that`s the end of this for me." How will you know? You already know what they each say. The only way you will know is if you get investigators to go and get additional evidence including the fact that you have her therapist who from 2012 has said, "Yes, she told me basically the same story before Judge Kavanaugh was up for Supreme Court nomination." That`s something that merits investigation.

WILLIAMS: So devil`s advocate, when Grassley says "No amount of FBI investigation is going to change the story you have to tell this committee, why can`t you come and do it on Monday?" Your response.

My response is that you can`t figure out which questions you should ask the witness. Can you imagine having a trial, Brian, where a lawyer is told just go ahead and let the witness talk, even though you don`t know anything about what the witness can say and, therefore, you can`t come back and cross examine the witness.

If you`re actually the senator who wants to say, "I`m not sure i believe her," then don`t you want to get all the information you possibly can that would enable you to ask the right questions? The same is true for those who believe her and have questions for the Judge, for Judge Kavanaugh, which is you have to know what you`re going to ask. You never base a witness testimony only on the witness, him or herself. You always have additional information. That`s always the way it`s done and that`s why you have a background process and if you have new information that comes forward, you want to get additional background.

WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, two questions to start you off. Is there a plan b in the west wing, and how tied is the President to this nominee?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: So right now, everyone inside the White House and a number of Republicans on Capitol Hill tell us that there is not really an official plan b and they are truly not talking about thinking of pulling Judge Kavanaugh`s nomination right now. That`s certainly not the case.

I will say, however, that people in the President`s orbit privately concede that if at any point this looks like it is politically not expedient for President Trump, that it is really going to go against his self-interest, that the President is more than willing to sort of cut Brett Kavanaugh loose and go with someone else. You have to remember that this is a President who often demands extreme loyalty but doesn`t return it in kind.

And especially as someone like Judge Kavanaugh, he doesn`t have a deep sense of loyalty to him. He doesn`t have a deeper abiding personal relationship. This was someone who has pushed on him by White House Counsel Don McGahn. And when you talk about a plan b, remember, there is that list of other judges who they thought -- who conservatives thought would be a good choice for the Supreme Court. And so the President does stand ready if he thinks he could get someone else in who would be, you know, heralded by the conservative base. He`s more than happy to replace Justice Kavanaugh, Judge Kavanaugh, with that person although, again, right now that`s not really being discussed in any real way.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, a question absent snark. But the question is, what -- which optic is worse? The hearing going on Monday and on the Republican side, 11 exclusively white males conducting the questioning --


WILLIAMS: -- or the hearing not going as planned on Monday and the vote goes through anyway and her story, her direct testimony, doesn`t get heard because she has requested an investigation.

RUCKER: Brian, both options are just so treacherous for the Republican Party. Remember, we`re only seven weeks away from the midterm elections where the polling indicates that Democrats have a big advantage in momentum and enthusiasm and that could get even worse for the Republicans if there`s a huge sort of moment that angers, especially women voters in the country at that hearing on Monday.

You played in the opening of the show that clip from Senator Orrin Hatch trying to discredit this accuser without even saying her name, Dr. Ford. He`s not met Dr. Ford. He`s not heard her story other than reading the news reports and he`s already concluded that she must be mixed up and that her allegations are not true. If you see that in that hearing live from all 11 of those Republican male senators, that could be a real political problem for the Republican Party which already is struggling to hold on in some of these suburban house districts that are going to decide which party ends up winning control of the House of Representatives.

WILLIAMS: Maya, to your point earlier, we know what we know so far, and there are limits on that, but we believe there`s only one other witness. This gentleman named Mark judge who was in the room, it`s alleged, during the alleged incident. He wrote the committee today and says in part, "I have no memory of the alleged incident. Brett Kavanaugh and I were friends in high school but I do not recall the party described in Dr. Ford`s letter. I never saw Brett act in the manner Dr. Ford describes. I have no more information to offer the committee, and I do not wish to speak publicly regarding the incidents described in Dr. Ford`s letter."

Again, apolitically, question to you, do you subpoena his testimony? Do you take no for an answer?

WILEY: You definitely subpoena his testimony because he`s an identified witness. And you definitely want him to come and speak on the record under oath and say that he does not remember. And if he doesn`t remember, why is he concerned about talking about it? Because there`s nothing to talk about from his perspective.

So it`s a bit perplexing to hear that you don`t remember and you don`t want to talk about it. You just said you had nothing to talk about. So the only conclusion to draw is that there`s some reason he doesn`t want to speak on the record under oath and I think that is a big problem not just for him, but for Judge Kavanaugh because if his corroborating witness is essentially saying, "I don`t remember and I won`t say I don`t remember," that doesn`t help him, right?

And I think if you`re on the Senate side, I actually want to go back to a point that Ashley made, at the end of the day, the issue isn`t whether or not there`s a vacancy that a sitting President can fill, and I have questions about whether from a political standpoint and from a Constitutional standpoint you should let a sitting President who`s under federal investigation actually appoint a Supreme Court justice that may rule on that.

But put that aside, if the only issue here is whether or not we allow the time it takes to make sure that one of the most powerful government positions in the country is sufficiently vetted, is sufficiently -- that no stone goes unturned, as to the character of someone who will have tremendous power and it`s really important to me to remind everyone that rape and attempted rape is actually a crime of power, not of sex. It`s an abuse of power. Think about that when we`re talking about the highest most powerful judicial position in the land, even one that has the ability to say to a sitting President or sitting elected officials whether or not they have the power to act on something.

You definitely want to make sure you have someone with the fullest integrity. This is not a criminal trial. This is a process of understanding the character as well as the competence and intelligence of the person you`re going to put on the bench. This requires a full vet.

WILLIAMS: So, Ashley, to your other point that there is plan a and plan a so far, it appears based on reporting that Judge Kavanaugh was in the White House for a long day again today and over in the executive office building, the term of art is murder boards. There was something of a murder board, kind of a mock hearing to throw at him any and all uncomfortable questions they could think of to prepare him for Monday.

PARKER: There sure was. And to the White House`s credit, our understanding is that they are also doing what they should do which is their due diligence. They understand that he`s made very clear he wants to fight this and their natural inclination as always as led by this President is to fight, is to double down, but before they`re going to back him. You notice they made him put a lot of the stuff in his own words and the President has been sort of muted in his defense of Judge Kavanaugh. But they want to make sure that there`s nothing else about his dating history, his interactions with women, anything else that happened in high school, anything else that happened going forward, for their own sake, for their own protection.

And then, of course, as you said, as murder boards to make sure that if and when there is that public testimony, that public hearing, that he is prepared because as they say at the end of the day, a lot of people in the White House believe and it may shape up to be this way that it`s going to be a question of credibility. And who do you believe? It`s going to be he said/she said and they want to make sure he`s prepared to present his best possible defense in public.

WILLIAMS: Phil, just when I thought you and Ashley could not work harder or more day -- hours per day, along comes this story. I know you`ve been working it. So I ask, if not this nominee, then who, and when, because we`re down, as you mentioned, 49 days away from the midterms?

RUCKER: Yes, it`s a good question, Brian. I think certainly, if Kavanaugh`s nomination is pulled, if he were to withdraw, the President, the White House, would immediately turn to that list that was made public in the campaign and expanded early on in the presidency for replacement. There were a few judges who were on the short list behind Kavanaugh that would get consideration.

But I think the key player in all of this is probably going to end up being Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Kavanaugh was not McConnell`s first choice for Trump`s pick, but Trump went ahead and nominated Kavanaugh, anyhow. McConnell got behind the nomination and has been pushing it through. But I think if this nomination were to fail, McConnell would seize an opportunity to step in and say, "Let me take control of this process, this is all about Senate votes. It`s about can you get the 50 plus one majority in the United States Senate to back a nominee?"

And McConnell knows his members much better than the White House does. He`s going to know who Senator Collins, Senator Murkowski, Senator Flake, who they`re going to support. And I think McConnell is going to try to make the power play to help drive this process.

In terms of the timing, the midterms are coming up. It`s very difficult to see how they`d be able to get through an entire vetting and nomination process to vote before the midterm elections and then that raises the question of whether they would do this all in the lame duck session which would be in late November and in December before the new Senate is sworn in January.

WILLIAMS: All this was just today. What a day it`s been yet again. Our great thanks to our big three starting us off on a Tuesday night, to Maya Wiley, to Phil Rucker, to Ashley Parker. Really appreciate it.

Coming up, we`re going to ask two former justice department officials about the FBI investigating the Kavanaugh case and about the President choosing to declassify documents related to the Russia investigation of his own administration.

And later, the Trump legal team said to be working in the dark when it comes to the investigation we mentioned.

"The 11th Hour" just getting started on a busy Tuesday night.



JON DECKER, FOX NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What would be the problem with the FBI re-opening their background investigation into Judge Kavanaugh? Would you support such a thing?

TRUMP: It wouldn`t bother me other than the FBI, Jon, said that they really don`t do that. That`s not what they do.


WILLIAMS: President Trump today is suggesting the FBI shouldn`t get involved in the new Judge Kavanaugh investigation because the agency doesn`t want to. The President insisting it`s not really their thing. Yet, the President has directed the FBI along with the Department of Justice and the director of national intelligence to declassify sensitive information related to the ongoing Russia investigation of his administration.

In an interview with "The Hill" today, the President cast himself as routing out corruption at the FBI. He says it will be viewed as a, "crowning achievement of his presidency" because it will, "expose something that is truly a cancer in our country."

Here to talk about all of it Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney and former senior official at the FBI, and Matthew Miller, former chief spokesman for the Department of Justice.

Chuck, it`s not the first time i asked you to fact check the President, likely won`t be the last. When the President says this isn`t their kind of thing, and they really don`t want to do it, what should we think?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: We should take a look at the letter, "I," Brian, in FBI, because it actually stands for "investigation." this is precisely their thing. This is what they do every day around the country and around the world. They do investigations.

But the way it works, there`s a protocol. This is not their first rodeo. This is not their first background investigation. They pass along information to the White House on Mr. Kavanaugh. And if the White House wants more information, all they have to do is ask. It is literally that simple.

They ask the FBI to do more interviews, to collect more information, to do an investigation and the FBI does it. So the President, Brian, in a shocking development, is wrong.

WILLIAMS: Matt, the President doesn`t want the FBI involved here. He would very much like the FBI to reveal formerly confidential communications that could reveal sources and methods, conceivably.

MATT MILLER, FMR. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CHIEF SPOKESMAN: Yes, it`s a bit ironic after a year and a half the President making, you know, repeated inappropriate demands of the FBI, the one thing we found that he won`t ask them to do is investigate allegations of sexual assault. At the same time as you point out, he`s taking this step using the powers of the presidency really to advance his personal interests.

If you get to the bottom line of what he`s doing with declassifying this information. You have to go back to the fact that this FISA application into Carter Page has already gone through declassification review, and the national security professionals at the Justice Department, at the FBI, have determined that the 21 pages that they held back, some in total, some partially, were held back because releasing that information would either compromise sources and methods or will jeopardize ongoing active investigations.

So that review has already been done. And the President is now kind of swooping in after the fact and order and release anyway because it will aid his personal and his personal campaign against the FBI and his legal team`s campaign against the FBI, all to try to undermine the investigation. It is kind the worst abuse of power possible to use your official powers to advance your personal interests.

WILLIAMS: Chuck, how much of your life`s work of this order by the President go against? How red a line does it cross in your view that he`s releasing material germane to the investigation into his administration is?

ROSENBERG: It is enormously perplexing and damaging and disheartening, Brian. Look, there`s an immediate danger to the case. To this particular case and to the investigation that Matt Miller is talking about. But there`s also a long-term institutional damage.

For instance, we share information, intelligence information, with allies around the world, including our closest allies. The U.K., the Canadians, the Australians, New Zealand. We have information-sharing protocols. And now suddenly, our allies, our best allies in the intelligence world, see us dumping information into the public sphere for partisan political reasons.

And so how likely are they to trust us in the future with the most important stuff they have? And the answer is, not very likely. So there`s damage to the immediate case and there`s damage to our long-term institutional interests as part of a larger intelligence community. Very disheartening, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Matt, if you had to reach, could you make a case that any part of the public good, the public interest, is served by lifting the veil on any of these communications?

MILLER: You know, I think you could make the case that the FISA, you know, the entire FISA process does deserve some added measure of transparency. You know, I don`t think the President is making a good-faith case here. We have to, you know, kind of have to remove him from the process because his motives have been pretty transparent from the beginning. But there were advocates at the ACLU and another places who have long said that the FISA is there ought to be more transparency around FISA applications.

But I go back to what I said before, this particular FISA application has already been reviewed to redact the most sensitive information, and what could be made public has been made public. And it`s the first time in history that happened and it only happened because the President declassified that Nunes memo back in February that related to this application. He kind of started this process in motion way back then.

So while I think you can make an argument for some general transparency, number one, that`s clearly not what the President`s after here. And I think it`s very disingenuous for him to claim that as he did in the interview you showed. And number two, with this particular one, they have already scrubbed this and released everything they can. The stuff that`s left is really the crown jewel information that shouldn`t be made public under any circumstances.

WILLIAMS: And that is why we wanted to hear from these two returning veterans on these topics, specifically. Chuck Rosenberg, Matt Miller, gentlemen, thank you both very much for coming on.

And coming up, the new report that says early missteps by the President`s personal lawyers have left his current defense team partially in the dark.


WILLIAMS: We mentioned this earlier, "New York Times" report today paints a picture of a Trump legal team struggling to find a strategy in real time as the president`s troubles close in. Trump`s roster of attorneys has been influx, notably with the departures of John Dowd and Ty Cobb earlier this year, and the impending departure of White House Counsel Don McGahn this fall.

Trump now has lawyers based mostly in Washington and New York, and according to that "Times" report by our friends, Haberman and Schmidt, "The expanding legal team is struggling to understand where the investigations could be headed and the extent of Mr. Trump`s legal exposure." The report cites a dozen people close to the president who add these details. "The lawyers have only a limited sense of what many witnesses, including senior administration officials and the president`s business associates, have told investigators and what the Justice Department plans to do with any incriminating information it has about Mr. Trump."

It goes on to say, "It is not clear if Mr. Trump has given his lawyers a full account of some key events in which he has been involved as president or during his decades running the Trump organization." We thought we would talk about this tonight with Richard Painter, a veteran attorney and the former West Wing ethics lawyer in the Bush 43 White House.

Richard, what struck you most in reading this article today?

RICHARD PAINTER, FORMER BUSH 43 WHITE HOUSE CHIEF ETHICS LAWYER: Well, the White House is in complete chaos. They have a lot of lawyers running around. And some of the lawyers are better than others. The president has some very good lawyers working for him such as Emmet Flood. But the problem there is the client. He will not always be truthful with his lawyers. He is very untruthful with the American people. He repeatedly undermines his own FBI, and he`s been engaging in obstruction of justice repeatedly.

He lies, and that`s a very difficult client to represent for any lawyer, no matter how good a lawyer you are, and then he`s tweeting all the time on top of it. So, the problem goes back to the president. He`s out of control.

WILLIAMS: Some people are clearly trying to say John Dowd did not do his due diligence. I don`t know if they`re arguing legal malpractice, but perhaps you can tell us, is it legal and proper for John Dowd to go up to a Hope Hicks who has just emerged from her session with Mueller and say, what did they ask you? What did you tell them? Is Hope Hicks, I`m just choosing her on the list of witnesses, is she under any orders from the feds not to share what was asked and what was answered?

PAINTER: Well, I have no idea what her arrangement is with the feds, but to go up to a witness like that and start talking to the witness and asking the witness what the witness said to the investigators is an invitation for trouble because you`re going to get accused of trying to either intimidate the witness or change the witness` testimony or change your testimony to your client`s testimony to match that of the witness. So that`s not a very smart move at all for a criminal defense lawyer. Not smart at all.

WILLIAMS: I want to play for you a piece of videotape that surfaced today. This is Federal Judge Kavanaugh speaking at Catholic University in Washington. This is 2015. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: Fortunately, we had a good saying that we`ve held firm to, to this day as the dean was reminding me before the talk, which is what happens at Georgetown Prep stays at Georgetown Prep.


WILLIAMS: So, Richard, obviously, Georgetown Prep, the all-boys Catholic high school he attended, which is germane and in the news because of the accusation, this kind of thing does not help. What do you make of the state of play and this upcoming hearing on Monday and whether or not there should be an FBI investigation?

PAINTER: Well, when he gave that speech, he was a little old I would think to be making jokes about, you know, what was going on back at the Georgetown Prep. We all know about that. You know, the sex, drugs and boozing. You know, it`s really not an appropriate thing for him to say. And I think it indicates what he knew what was going on back then. It`s all in his friend, Mark Judge`s, book called "Wasted." None of this is very impressive.

Of course, the FBI should investigate. That`s the FBI`s job. That`s what the FBI did for the Bush White House. I worked in the Bush White House on dozens and dozens of nominations for Senate-confirmed positions including two United States Supreme Court justices. There was always an FBI investigation. An issue comes up last minute, you get the FBI to investigate it again. And they could do that very promptly and that`s what you need to do.

And, you know, President Trump doesn`t know what he`s talking about if he says this isn`t what the FBI does. They do it all the time. We had a roomful of files with information based on FBI investigations of presidential nominees for Senate-confirmed positions. So it`s time for the FBI to get to work, take them a week or so, and then they could have the hearing. But they shouldn`t haul in Dr. Ford and other witnesses without the FBI investigation first. That makes absolutely no sense.

WILLIAMS: Richard Painter was the ethics lawyer in the Bush 43 White House. Always a pleasure having you on. Thank you very much.

And coming up for us, a leading presidential historian will tell us just how big a moment we might be heading into. Doris Kearns Goodwin is in our studio after this.


WILLIAMS: The drums mean we`re back. Let`s talk about what may be approaching. Let`s talk about other times it`s been this bad and worse and how other presidents have led us as a nation, with Doris Kearns Goodwin, presidential historian and author here with us in New York. And here`s why. She has written bestsellers about both Roosevelts, about the Kennedys, about LBJ and Lincoln, but her new book which is very relevant to the times we`re living through is called "Leadership in Turbulent Times" showing that Doris always had good taste in a book title. There it is, welcome to you. It`s good to see you.


WILLIAMS: How big a moment does it feel like to you we`re heading into right now?

GOODWIN: I think it`s really big because what`s really at issue right now is trust in our institutions. And if we don`t trust in the senate and how it`s going to produce this process of confirming a Supreme Court nominee, one of the most important things it has to do as an institution, and we think it`s being done in a partisan way, only 11% of the people trust in the congress right now, 78% disapprove of the Congress. Only 37% of the people approve of the presidency right now. If we don`t get a presidency and a Congress, an institution and a supreme court now that we can trust in, what happens in a democracy? That`s what really worries me.

WILLIAMS: I have some numbers to put on the screen. And I`d like to leave them up for people to really see them and take them in. This is confirmation votes of just the modern era. This goes back to Bush 41. Souter was confirmed 90 to 9, Ginsburg, 96 to three. Look at Roberts, the chief justice, 78-22. What happened to that? Because everything is now, as they say, a knife fight.

GOODWIN: You know, once upon a time, there was really pride in being a senator. I mean, I think about 1964 and the Senate Republicans went along with the Northern Democrats to pass that civil rights bill because they had pride in the Senate. They knew it was important for this institution. You used to be a senator. It was the great thing to be. Now, you all want to be president, you want to be on television. Your partisanship is more important than your colleagues in the Senate.

They look at one another in tribal ways. They don`t play poker together, they don`t drink together, they don`t form friendships together. Something`s happened to these institutions, which is tearing us apart. And in democracy, you have to have that colleagueship, you have to believe in what you`re doing and feel that sense of fulfillment that they once did.

WILLIAMS: So much of your book is inspirational without you setting out to be inspirational because we see these examples. You also remind us it`s been real bad before.

GOODWIN: I think we really need that reassurance because a lot of people will come up to me and they`ll say, is this the worst of times we`re living in? And it certainly is not. And we`ve gotten through tougher times before. I mean, think about Lincoln. He comes in, the country is split apart. A war that`s going to kill 600,000 people is about to begin. He said if he ever thought he was going to live through that situation, he must have thought he could make it through.

Think of FDR, he comes in, the banks have collapsed. People are lining up to get their deposits out of the banks. People are unemployed. They`re starving in the streets. And he says the whole house of cards might collapse before I even get here, but we had leadership in those times. We had citizens that believed in those leaders and we got through those times. They`re worse than now. What`s the problem now is an absence of leadership. There`s a sense of lost moorings and anxiety because we don`t feel we`re working together toward the common goals of fixing our problems. The citizenry is feeling a sense of loss and --

WILLIAMS: Even FDR thought it was important for the public to see him on a cold, rainy day parade through the boroughs in this city and he did it at the possible expense to his health because he knew the power of a gesture.

GOODWIN: Absolutely. I mean, in that last year, his health was bad. He had a congestive heart failure. He knew there were whispers about his health. So he goes out on the street and they say the champ is back, he`s there all day in the rain. He slips into Eleanor`s (ph) apartment and had a little bourbon in between, but it worked.

WILLIAMS: Yes, exactly. That has not -- that has helped a lot of people in politics over the years. Doris is going to stay with us. We`re just going to fit in a break here.

And coming up, what President Trump can learn from another New Yorker in politics when we continue.


WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, a new book from presidential historian and author Doris Kearns Goodwin highlights leadership qualities in four American presidents that helped them lead the country through rough times. "Leadership in Turbulent Times" paints a remarkable picture of the men in leadership this author has come to know best. When you think about it, other than the men in her family and anyone who has ever put on a Red Sox uniform, these are the most important men to this author. Lincoln, both Roosevelts and Lyndon Johnson.

Doris, I want to talk about the unusual notion of presidential vulnerability and empathy, something you write about regarding a place we both been, Warm Springs, Georgia, and FDR.

GOODWIN: And there`s no question that the path to the leadership that FDR exhibited in the presidency was through Warm Springs. He`s gotten polio, obviously. He finds out that there`s this place where if you can swim in the warm waters, you can exercise. He creates an entire institution for other polio patients. And while he`s there, he calls himself Doc Roosevelt. He teaches them, it`s not just a matter of exercising, you have to get joy in life again. We have to have fun. You have to feel like I do. You can see my legs, you can see what they look like. I`ll be vulnerable to you. And they played games in the pool, they have dances in their wheelchairs at night. And they learned to love life again.

And then when you think about it, he becomes president when the country is paralyzed by an economic depression and that confidence, that optimism and the empathy. He learned to feel a connection to people to whom fate had also dealt an unkind hand. He had a pretty privileged life before that, wealthy, handsome, cocky sometimes, and suddenly, the vulnerability allowed him to connect to people. Everybody, it seems to me, all my leaders, in a way (ph) my guys, I call them that.


GOODWIN: I`ve lived with them so long.

WILLIAMS: And you should.

GOODWIN: They went through adversity. And I think, if you go through adversity, Lincoln suffered a blow to his public reputation, his private sense of honor. He was in a suicidal depression. People took all knives and races (ph) from his room, but he came out of it stronger because he said, I haven`t done anything to make any human being remember that I`ve lived, so I have to go on.

Teddy Roosevelt loses his wife and his mother on the same day in the same house. He goes to the badlands and he becomes stronger. He becomes a westerner rather than an easterner. So if you go through adversity with resilience, Ernest Hemingway said, everyone is broken by life, but sometimes people are stronger in the broken places. I mean, that`s what worries me about President Trump. He says the reason he has the very, very best temperament of anyone who`s ever won for president is because he always wins, he never loses.

And the exploration of history suggests that going through loss is critical. And these guys went through it and they came out the other end.

WILLIAMS: And borrowing a trait that is the best of the web, I read your books on paper, and in the latter stage of the book, you use subheads to talk about leadership qualities that they all across the board have in common. Rapid response, transparency, modern terms that Teddy Roosevelt believed in.

GOODWIN: Right, right.

WILLIAMS: And Abraham Lincoln believed in.

GOODWIN: No, it`s interesting, it`s like a family resemblance. I mean, each leader is different depending on the time they have to be there. Some are stronger for sometimes, other than not. The man fits the times. But there is a family resemblance. Humility, empathy, resilience, connecting to people, self-reflection, and being able to laugh at yourself. I mean, Teddy Roosevelt, when somebody writes a critical review of the memoir that he wrote about Spanish-American war, and he -- they said he was so made himself the center of every battle, he should have called it alone in Cuba, instead of getting mad about alone in Cuba, he writes them back saying, I regret to tell you my wife and friends absolutely love the review of my book. Now, that`s the self-deprecating humor.

Where have we seen that recently? Not for a long time.

WILLIAMS: History fans are going to greet this book with open arms, as we always do, the appearances of Doris Kearns Goodwin in this studio. Thank you so much.

GOODWIN: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: Again, her new book is "Leadership in Turbulent Times." There it is.

Coming up, a situation unfolding tonight that is going to require a whole lot of leadership to fix. That and more when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, just a reminder that our friends in North Carolina are suffering. One image in particular today got our attention, and here it is. The meteorologist who posted this picture writes, that`s not a river, it`s Interstate 40 into Wilmington, North Carolina. This image is from a traffic camera over the interstate highway maintained by the Department of Transportation in North Carolina. I-40 is closed from I-95 all the way to the coast.

The next metropolitan area dealing with flooding now is Fayetteville, North Carolina, where the Cape Fear River is expected to crest at 61 feet, just a few hours from now overnight. In some cases, the national weather service doesn`t have depth readings because flood gauges have been swamped. Turns out the highest recorded rainfall was in Elizabethtown at just under 36 inches.

As "The Washington Post" puts it tonight, Florence and its deluge have washed out the normal contours of life across the Tar Heel State. Power is out for over 300,000 customers. Think of that. Thousands of people are tonight, again, in shelters. There`s also a slow motion environmental crisis going on. Think of the septic and sewage systems that have been emptied into the water. Schools are closed. People need food and dry clothes and insulin. Synagogues are closed on the holiest day of the year. Bridges and dams are getting washed out that we don`t even hear about and does anyone think those infrastructure projects will be rebuilt any time soon? The suffering, the destruction goes on and on, and as the governor of North Carolina warned again today, the water is still coming up in some communities.

That is our broadcast for a Tuesday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.


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