Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: September 19, 2018 Guest: Mimi Rocah, Kimberly Atkins, David Jolly, Frank Montoya, Jill Coven
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight Republicans appear to be going ahead with a vote on Kavanaugh even if they don`t hear from his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. She wants an FBI investigation first. Her attorney now wants more witnesses to take part in a Senate hearing.
Meanwhile, as Dr. Ford says she`s received threats to her life as her public testimony hangs in the balance, the President says it`s very hard for him to imagine anything happen between Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser.
And Trump said it`s very sad he doesn`t have an attorney general. Though we checked, and as of air time Jeff Sessions remains in office as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Wednesday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 608 of the Trump administration and Republicans are turning up the pressure on Christine Blasey Ford. She is the California college professor who alleges Supreme Court nominee and federal judge, Brett Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were both at a high school party. Kavanaugh denies the allegation.
Ford has been given a deadline, now has less than 48 hours to decide whether she will testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday about her allegation. In a letter to her attorney today, Committee Chairman Grassley of Iowa wrote, "You have stated repeatedly that Dr. Ford wants to tell her story. I sincerely hope that Dr. Ford will accept my invitation to do so either privately or publicly on Monday. I remind you that consistent with committee rules, Dr. Ford`s prepared testimony and biography are due to the committee by 10:00 a.m. on Friday, September 21 if she intends to testify on Monday."
But through her lawyers Ford has requested that the FBI investigate her allegation before she testified, a request that Grassley has already rejected. He did offer to send committee staff to California to speak with Ford.
Tonight Ford`s attorney released this statement, "Dr. Ford was reluctantly thrust into the public spotlight only two days ago. She`s currently unable to go home and is receiving ongoing threats to her and her family`s safety. Fairness and respect for her situation dictate that she should have time to deal with this. She continues to believe that a full nonpartisan investigation of this matter is needed and she is willing to cooperate with the committee.
However, the committee`s stated plan to move forward with a hearing that has only two witnesses is not a fair or good faith investigation. There are multiple witnesses whose names have appeared publicly and should be included in any proceeding. The rush to a hearing is unnecessary and contrary to the committee discovering the truth."
The President has been publicly supportive of Kavanaugh while allowing the Senate to take the lead in this fight. This morning as he was about to board Marine One, he took care to temper his language.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, if she shows up and makes a credible showing, that will be very interesting and we`ll have to make a decision. But I can only say this. He is such an outstanding man, it`s very hard for me to imagine that anything happened.
Justice Kavanaugh has been treated very, very tough and his family -- I think it`s a very unfair thing what`s going on, so we`ll see.
But I do think this, that given a lot of time, they will continue to give it a lot of time, and really it`s up to the Senate. And I really rely on them. I think they`re going to do a good job.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you believe Dr. Ford?
TRUMP: I really want to see her. I really would want to see what she has to say.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We should note the obvious here. The White House could ask the FBI to investigate Ford`s allegations. Tonight a number of the President`s Republican allies are pushing to move ahead with a Kavanaugh vote in the committee with or without a hearing.
Senator Lindsey Graham issued a statement today, "Requiring an FBI investigation of a 36-year-old allegation without specific references to time or location before Professor Ford will appear before the Judiciary Committee is not about finding the truth but delaying the process until after the midterm elections. It is imperative the Judiciary Committee move forward on the Kavanaugh nomination and a committee vote be taken as soon as possible."
"Washington Post" reporter Robert Costa, who will join us in just a moment, reports tonight that Republicans are concerned about the political implications of rushing this confirmation. He writes privately discussions about the political fallout grip the party with Republican lawmakers and strategists unnerved by the charge, gender-infused debates that have upended this campaign season.
Senator Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, appears to be well aware of this. NBC News reports that a source close to her says, "She had a call with the deputy director of the FBI to get a better understanding about how background investigations are conducted." This morning on a local Maine radio show, the Senator continued to publicly press for a hearing with both Ford and Kavanaugh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. SUSAN COLLINS, (R) MAINE: I think it`s not fair to Judge Kavanaugh for her not to come forward and testify. Both of them need to testify under oath next Monday before the Judiciary Committee.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, friends of Christine Blasey Ford are beginning to speak out, describing the college professor`s dedication to her work and her aversion of being in the public eye. Several of her friends and classmates from her high school holds in arms wrote an open letter of support for her.
One of those friends who say she`s known Ford for four decades now talked with our colleague Chris Hayes earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMANTHA GUERRY, FRIEND AND CLASSMATE OF CHRISTINE BLASEY FORD: She`s a strong woman and she has a strong foundation with her family and her friends, and she`s tremendously grateful for the support that she`s gotten from everyone. And I think that`s important to her so that she doesn`t feel that she`s just hanging out to dry here by herself.
To suggest that someone who has been sexually assaulted isn`t remembering this correctly is just makes my head explode. I think it makes a lot of women feel that way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Let`s bring in our leadoff panel on a Wednesday night, the aforementioned Robert Costa, national political reporter for the "Washington Post" and moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS. Kimberly Atkins, Chief Washington reporter for "The Boston Herald." And Mimi Rocah, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, now in a distinguish fellow in criminal justice at the Pace University law school.
Counselor, I`d like to begin with you and ask you the pure hypothetical. If you were Dr. Ford`s attorney, what do you think you would be advising here?
MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: I would be advising exactly what they`re saying, which is not, don`t testify ever, but don`t testify until they have done an investigation. And here is why. This is a sham, and no one knows that better than Judge Kavanaugh who is a long-time federal judge.
If I as a federal prosecutor or any lawyer walked into his courtroom and tried to put on a case by throwing two witnesses up there without doing any investigation outside of what they`re going to say on the stand, he would not be happy with our performance as lawyers in that courtroom. That is not how we look for the truth. That is not how we get at facts in this country.
This is not a criminal proceeding, but everybody is saying they want to get at the truth. They`re saying it in different ways, you know, but -- people on both sides of the aisle. The only way to do that is to do a full investigation. And it can be done quickly.
And so I think in fairness to Dr. Ford, she has not said she won`t testify, as I believe Senator Collins referred in her statement, that if she says she`s not going to testify, that`s unfair to Judge Kavanaugh. She is saying do the work first and make this a fair playing field. Because if you put Dr. Ford up there and you put Judge Kavanaugh up there, we already know what`s going to happen. The many Republican senators have already said as much, that they don`t believe her. That they`re, you know, they`re going to question everything she says.
And unless you have other facts to point to, to test peoples -- the witness`s credibility with, you`re not going to get at the truth.
WILLIAMS: I just want to share a couple things that we have witnessed over the past 24 hours, the first of which happened on this broadcast last night after the President said, "This isn`t the FBI`s thing, getting involved in an investigation like this." We put that question to FBI Veteran Senior Official Chuck Rosenberg.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
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. 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Two more things here, both on social media, one of them from Steve Schmidt who wrote this tonight, "Riddle me this. If someone is lying, Dr. Ford, and they know that lying to the FBI is a crime, why would they be asking for an FBI investigation? If a sitting federal judge is accused of something he denies with his reputation at stake, why wouldn`t he demand one?"
And then finally, Stephen Dennis over at Bloomberg news, "If both Kavanaugh and Ford testify under oath on Monday and tell opposite stories, one would be committing the federal crime of lying to Congress. Would there be precedent for the FBI to then investigate?"
Mimi, this is why we have you here. Answers to any of these?
ROCAH: Well, absolutely there would be an investigation then, or should be, about whether one of them is lying. But again, you can`t really get at that answer without going beyond the two people. The Republicans are trying by trying to jam this through, they`re trying to make this a he said/she said situation, and it`s not. It doesn`t have to be.
There are other witnesses out there. We already know about them in the public record, which, by the way, I think lends credibility to Dr. Ford`s story. Why would she have told the story and put, you know, I think his name is Mark Judge at the scene if she were making this up? Why would she put a friend of Brett Kavanaugh`s there for people to go and investigate?
But the fact is, there are people for them to talk to. There are so many details already in her story. She said she was wearing a bathing suit. Was there a pool party? I mean, there are things you can figure out. This is a closed community. There are people to talk to.
So yes, if one of them lies there should and would be an investigation. But again, to even get to that point of deciding that, you need to do this, and the fact that, as Steve Schmidt said, the fact that Brett Kavanaugh is not himself saying, "Yes, let`s investigate this and asking for it himself," I think that`s very telling.
He, you know, it`s sort of like Trump trying to shutdown the Mueller investigation, he`s afraid of what`s going to come out is really the only think I think you can read into that.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Kim, your headline got our attention. It is, analysis, Brett Kavanaugh`s fate depends on which party blinks first. Is it -- and yes, human lives and reputations are at stake. Is it that much of -- it`s been called the "game of chicken" and how dug in are the sides as far as your reporting can tell?
KIMBERLY ATKINS, THE BOSTON HERALD CHIEF WASHIGTON REPORTER: The sides are definitely dug in as we see the Democrats and Dr. Ford are not interested in moving forward without that FBI investigation as a prerequisite. But the Senate is a political body. We have Republicans and Democrats who are making political calculations, and right now they are dug in but the momentum seems to have shifted to Republicans who seem to want to move forward with this vote whether or not Dr. Ford does appear next week despite the criticism that it looks like they are strong-arming her or trying to bully her to rush this process when the process has no real deadline.
There is no reason why Monday has to be the day. They can take extra time. They can do more investigation if they don`t want to get the FBI involved. They can have some sort of third-party arbitrator to sort of vet the testimony of the people involved. There are a lot of ways to do this and they are choosing one way which is their way or the highway, the Republicans are.
But they are making that calculation because they believe in the end they will have the votes to confirm a Kavanaugh. And look, at the end of the day, they may be worried about the perception that they are strong-arming Dr. Ford or that they may have the same problem that Anita Hill -- they had with Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas` confirmation.
But despite the attention that Anita Hill`s testimony got, in the end the Republicans got the most conservative justice on the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed. And he has been on that court for 27 years. He might be on the court for a decade or more. They remember that. So I think some short- term political problems might be worth that in their calculation.
WILLIAMS: OK. Robert Costa, your job tonight is to tell us everything you know, starting with this. Just how toxic could this become? Are the Republicans that willing to take this big a hit and kind of gavel this through?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: It`s a tough question for Republicans. In conversation today, Brian, with Senator Jeff flake of Arizona, he mentioned to me Anita Hill exchange with senators in 1991 during Clarence Thomas` confirmation hearing, and it led to the 1992 so-called "Year of the Woman" when many women were elected to federal office.
And Flake worried to me in conversation that Republicans could be walking into a moment on Monday that is charged, that has a party full of older men in positions of power asking potentially aggressive questions you have an accuser in Dr. Ford facing off against people like Senator Chuck Grassley in Iowa, 85 years old, in Congress since 1975, who was involved, actually, in that Anita Hill-Clarence Thomas confirmation process back in 1991.
But the most interesting thing in my reporting notebook tonight, Brian, many Republicans are publicly calling for Dr. Ford to come forward and to appear on Monday. But privately, many then tell me, Republican aides, some of them, even some lawmakers, that it may be best for the party to avoid the hearing, that they would like to move quickly on the Kavanaugh nomination. And they would to avoid political feature (ph) that they think could be damaging to them in the midterm elections.
WILLIAMS: Are you hearing any of this move to getting her to appear but under protest? In fact, please tell your story and we realize you didn`t want it to happen this way, you wanted an investigation first but we need to hear you out.
COSTA: Senator Grassley continues to issue statements saying he is encouraging Dr. Ford to come forward whether it`s behind the scenes testimony or public testimony. He continues to say he`s giving her the option, but he will not budge on the date. And you can see from Dr. Ford`s attorneys, they don`t feel this is appropriate.
But what`s telling also is that Senator Susan Collins of Maine, even Senator Flake and other key votes, they`re not moving along with the Democratic call of the Dr. Ford call for an FBI investigation. They continue to say they`re not going to need that at this point. Until Republicans break on that. Until a Collins, or a Flake, or a Corker breaks on the FBI point, it still looks like as of tonight this vote could happen next week whether she comes to the Senate or not.
WILLIAMS: One more quick one for you, Bob, and that is, what`s the extent, what`s your reporting on the state of the Trump-Kavanaugh relationship? Your writing was so interesting on this the other night.
COSTA: Distant yet close. Kavanaugh again at the White House, huddling with Don McGahn, the White House counsel, going through what are called "murder boards," or he is being question by White House officials, tough questions we`re told about his personal life, about things he would probably be asked by Senate Democrats at the Monday hearing. But he`s not interacting with the President.
Why is that? Why does officials tell me they need to protect the presidency. They`re behind /Kavanaugh, they like Kavanaugh, they hope he gets confirmed, but they`re trying to keep the President away from this situation, not to be too close because it`s a fragile nomination. And if they need to pull it at some point, top Republicans tell me they would, but they`re so far trying to balance all these different agendas, all these different dynamics.
WILLIAMS: Kim, to Bob points we`re starting to hear a little bit of snark people are asking, which Collins is going to show update today, which Flake, which Corker, which Murkowski, for that matter, because all of them kind of have quotes all over the spectrum on this.
ATKINS: Yes. And to that point, folks that I`ve talked to, particularly Democrats, are really puzzled at this idea that there are these four Republican lawmakers that hold the fate of Judge Kavanaugh`s future in their hands. When you look at their voting records, particularly on judicial picks, but really with anybody who the President has appointed, who was nominated, they are largely almost entirely behind them. They almost uniformly vote in their favor. All of these lawmakers voted in favor of Neil Gorsuch. There`s really no strong reason to believe that they wouldn`t vote for Kavanaugh.
So again, the momentum appears to be on their side. It doesn`t seem to be something -- with the exception of that one health care vote, that`s what really got Susan Collins that reputation of sort of bucking the President sometimes. But in actuality, they tend not to.
WILLIAMS: Mimi, I have 30 seconds but you`re really smart and you can handle this. Remind folks the stakes. The Republicans seem willing to take a big chance here because what comes with a justice to the Supreme Court?
ROCAH: A lifetime appointment and a decades of, in this case, probably a significant vote that will put the majority in the conservative camp on many important decisions, including not, you know, not only but very importantly, a woman`s right to choose.
WILLIAMS: So just the law of the land for the next half century.
ROCAH: Yes, exactly.
WILLIAMS: I can`t thank you all enough, Robert Costa, Kimberly Atkins, Mimi Rocah for starting off our conversation tonight.
Coming up for us it`s perhaps the President`s most weathering criticism yet of his own attorney general and that saying something.
And later the President heaps praise on his administration`s response in the Carolinas while visiting the storm region. THE 11TH HOUR just getting started.
WILLIAMS: President Trump ramping up the attacks on his own attorney general, as we said, and one former White House official is not happy about it. We`ll get to that in a second.
This is a new interview with the Hill.TV. Trump again berated Jeff Sessions over his decision to recuse himself from the Russia investigation. This time he went further saying, "I don`t have an attorney general. It`s very sad. I`m not happy at the border, I`m not happy with numerous things, not just this. I`m so sad over Jeff Sessions because he came to me. He was the first senator is that endorsed me. And he wanted to be attorney general and I didn`t see it."
Phil Rucker and Ashley Parker of the "Washington Post" to a former White House official about the President`s latest attack on Sessions who said this, "It is a complete disgrace the way that Trump is acting like a schoolyard bully against Sessions," the official said requesting anonymity to share a critical opinion."
"I understand his frustration, I understand why he feels the way he does, but what a child. What an absolute baby. He`s disgracing himself."
Earlier today the President was asked about his comment that he didn`t have an attorney general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I`m disappointed in the attorney general for numerous reasons. But we have an attorney general. I`m disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons, and you understand that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to fire him? Are you going to fire Jeff Sessions?
TRUMP: We are looking at lots of different things. I have a great Cabinet. We have the greatest economy ever in the history of our country, so we`re very happy with the way things are running generally speaking.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With us tonight David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida beaming with pride, and Frank Montoya, former special agent in charge who, during his time with the bureau, played a role in establishing the National Cyber Investigative Joint Task Force.
All right, Congressman, you can guess this, I`m coming to you. Is it an article of faith that the day after the midterms, Jeff Sessions is xeroxing resumes?
DAVID JOLLY, (R) FLORIDA FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN: And the question is does he get fired or resign first? Look, Donald Trump`s continue comments about Jeff Sessions simply we enforce that when it comes to true leadership, Donald Trump is a weak and timid man. He is unable to confront Jeff Sessions face to face on this. He`s unable to make the hard decision instead he just continues to lampoon and deride Sessions in the press.
But I think we do have to wrestle with the question, of course, Donald Trump would be happy to fire Sessions immediately after the election. Lindsey Graham has telegraphed that, but does Jeff Sessions beat him to the punch? And what does that political story look like? Jeff Sessions has served the public for 35 years as a U.S. attorney, as attorney general in the state of Alabama. As a United States senator, he has a healthy impression of himself, as most senators do, if you will.
And does he want to go out being fired by a tweet as Rex Tillerson was, or does he actually want to go out on his own terms? I think it actually might be the latter, and we should begin to consider what that story looks like.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Frank, how are feds doing their jobs these days when the President says he doesn`t have an attorney general, and this week in the last 24 hours, called the FBI a "cancer on the country?"
FRANK MONTOYA, JR., FMR. FBI SPECIAL AGENT: It`s difficult. You know, first and foremost, to professionals until they get to put their heads down, they`re going to keep doing the work, but the fact of the matter is everybody is paying attention to this, their partners, their sources, the folks, even the folks that they`re running investigations against. And so there is a vulnerability.
And it`s also a huge challenge in terms of the trust that you try to build with the folks that you`re working with and the sources that you`re trying to develop. And so yes, it`s really hard. It`s difficult. It`s a slap in the face.
And, you know, the fact is that it keeps on going. It doesn`t end. And people are starting to struggle with it.
WILLIAMS: David, do you see any Republican standing up to this?
JOLLY: No, not at all. I think the question for Republicans is what happens with a replacement nomination?
But to your point, Jeff Sessions is one Republican right now actually standing up for himself and for the country. And in many ways has become a quiet hero regardless of what you think of his idealogy. He is advancing a very strongly conservative Donald Trump criminal justice agenda. He is rolling back Barack Obama`s criminal justice agenda. Many people disagree with that.
But at the end of the day, it is hard to point to another Cabinet member that has been resolute in his quiet defiance of this President. I don`t think anybody saw that coming with Jeff Sessions, but the reality is Jeff Sessions has continued to stand up to this President, done so under his own terms, but at least he`s due credit for doing so.
WILLIAMS: Yes, good point.
Hey, Frank, is there anything in what we`ve just been talking about, what we`ve witnessed, say, just this week that a Mueller would be interested in while he does his work?
MONTOYA: All of it. I mean, I think that he`s probably got somebody on staff just responsible for writing down every one of these utterances. It was interesting today that -- two things about the commentary. One, it seemed to confirm everything that Bob Woodward was talking about in his book.
But the other part of that too is that he seemed to be laying the groundwork for -- in the instance of a dismissal that maybe, you know, he can`t be cornered on this one in terms of an obstruction of justice issue. That point notwithstanding, the fact remains that he has said so many things about Jeff Sessions, about the Russia investigation that the point to, you know, potential obstruction of justice. Like I said, you know, somebody is keeping notes on every single one of these utterances and it`s just another piece or another straw on the camel`s back.
If I can make another point just in terms of what the congressman said, I think that, you know, regardless of what your political idealogy might be, the fact that Sessions has continued to stay the course, you know, even seen himself, I think, as part of t the thin blue line that separates us from chaos is something noteworthy. And, you know, he may leave or wants to leave on his own terms, but I think that at least at this point in time if he can stay, the longer the better.
WILLIAMS: Good points, gentlemen. Both gentlemen have agreed to stay with us. We`re just going to a brief break. When we come back, the President today was asked about Manafort and partners (ph).
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Are you concerned about what Paul Manafort will tell investigators?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I`m not.
TRUMP: Because if he`s honest, and he is. I think he`s going to tell -- as long as he tells the truth, it`s 100 percent. Paul Manafort was with me for a short period of time, he did a good job, I was very happy with the job he did. (INAUDIBLE)
I don`t want to talk about it now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: He never talks about Manafort. Please note without saying, he worked for me for a very short period of time. President Trump telling our own Kristen Welker there, he`s not worried about Manafort`s cooperation with Mueller, and as the Mueller investigation steams forward, just tonight we`ve learned Trump`s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn will be sentenced December 19. In a Federal court in D.C. certainly indicates Mueller has what he needs from Flynn.
And this A.P. headline notes, Mueller`s legal actions are not overlooked by Trump, who just this week ordered the FBI to declassify all those documents and coms (ph) that he thinks will be damaging to the investigation.
Trump double down on his attacks against the special counsel on his interview with Hill.TV calling the investigation a hoax six times and a witch hunt four times. As we mentioned, he yesterday referenced the FBI as a cancer on our country -- in our country, for give me.
Still with us, David Jolly and Frank Montoya. Frank, I`ve been meeting to ask you how big a deal is this, this release of previously confidential text messages, memos that may contain Intel, methods stuff we don`t share a reason.
FRANK MONTOYA, JR. FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT: It`s hugely disappointing. Aside from the fact there is an ongoing investigation and that it will reveal sources and methods, the biggest issue is about trust. We are absolutely dependent upon trust to do our jobs, whether it is in developing sources or in our relationships with other agencies in the intelligence community or with friendly foreign intelligence services.
If these folks think that lending information to the FBI to conduct a national security investigation is going to result in the President revealing those sources, they`re going to be reluctant to approach us or to cooperate with us. I mean, that`s just a simple fact of life.
WILLIAMS: David Jolly, I feel the need to just go back and remind everybody just take a moment. The President this week called the FBI a cancer in our country. There are agents tonight all over this country preparing for court cases in the morning, serving warrants tonight with their FBI jackets on, needing to enforce the law. This can`t help their lives.
DAVID JOLLY, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN FOR FLORIDA: You cannot undo the damage that Donald Trump has done to the law enforcement community and to career law enforcement agents, both at the FBI, but in other court of law enforcement agencies as well.
These are public servants who protect us and frankly protect the President of the United States himself, and as adult while we can have rational conversations about it. The reality is the President`s words matter particularly to his base, and they get repeated on other networks that are happy to defend the President and repeat whatever he suggests.
The reality is for a President who enjoys wrapping himself in the law enforcement community has some sense of pride and suggests that he wants to defend them. He is continuing to undermine them daily. The President should be ashamed of the words that come out of his mouth when he talks about the federal bureau of investigation and the men and women that serve the nation.
WILLIAMS: Also, David, can I ask you about a great piece of reporting in Politico? Our friend Josh Gerstein is saying the plea deal Mueller struck with Manafort contains several provisions that appear intended to discourage the former Trump aid from seeking a pardon than to rein in the impact of any pardon Trump might granted. What do you make of that?
JOLLY: It appears Mueller trying to pardon through that plea deal. And there are some legal questions around us, legal scholars, debate whether or not he could actually enforce this. But the bottom line is Mueller has suggested and Manafort has agreed that if he were to seek clemency or receive a pardon, that Mueller could then go after Manafort for other crimes or other allegations the special counsel might have.
He is clearly trying to say to the President, don`t move to pardon Manafort or I will push even further and get to your doorstep.
WILLIAMS: Frank, a question we ask you from time to time along with many of the rest of our guests, what inning do you think the Mueller effort is in right about now?
MONTOYA, JR.: I don`t want to mix Manafort, but I was reading this morning that Jim Comey thinks we`re entering into the fourth quarter. I think that`s a really good analogy there that it could go into overtime, but the fact of the matter is, I think we`re heading towards the end game.
I don`t think it will happen until after the midterm elections, but at the same time I think when Trump sees himself or sees the news getting really bad for him, that`s when his fury increases. When you hear things like what he said about Jeff Sessions today, about Jim Comey, about the FBI, that to me is an indicator that we are getting close to that end game.
WILLIAMS: David Jolly, Frank Montoya, gentlemen, thank you so very much, both of you, for coming on tonight.
And coming up for us, President Trump tours the ravaged areas of North and South Carolina. And per usual for all the meals and support he handed out, it`s the side comments, the little moments that got much of the coverage today. More on that when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In moments of despair, we witnessed the true character of the American people. So true. Citizens all across our country rallied together to rescue the stranded, to protect the innocent and to restore hope to families who have experienced tremendous and unbearable loss.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The President today delivering prepared consoling remarks while assessing the damage in areas of North and South Carolina hardest hit by Florence. Death toll from the storm now stands at 36. It`s expected to rise as floodwaters still continue to surge downriver.
In North Carolina, the President met with storm victims where he handed out food, hugged a boy who asked for one, earlier doing what was billed as a briefing with state and local officials. The President stressed, the size of the storm and he praised on the response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The job you`ve done has been incredible. Incredible. They`re talking about it all over the world. Some of the flooding is actually epic. Hard to believe. And we`ve seen all the pictures where houses are literally covered beyond the roof. You don`t even know there`s a house there and one of those things.
We`ve done a real job and we have to continue to do that real job because another phase is coming in right now and we`re going to meet that phase just like we met phase 1.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Here to talk about all of it, a woman who covers all of it for a living. Jill Coven, White House reporter for the Associated Press. Jill, a lot to get to here.
Number one, he had a job today. He is -- it`s been said by others he is empathy challenged in this role. His job was to console. He does love his black disaster raincoat. It was hot in the sun there today. He never takes off his black disaster raincoat while walking or sitting on location. Did he hit the targets today he set out to hit?
JILL COVEN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATE PRESS: Well, as you mentioned, this is a President who often has had trouble in these moments where the President`s job to really rally the nation, show compassion, to show empathy to bring people together.
The President has repeatedly been criticized for failing to rise to that occasion. You see this is a president who tends to make things all about himself. He spends a lot of time congratulating the federal response, congratulating first responders, praising them and a lot less time actually talking to people, addressing them, acknowledging the pain they`re going through.
The President actually did seem to learn from his past experience when he went and took similar trips, for instance, in Puerto Rico last year. You did see more from the President talking directly to the people impacted.
He spent time this time on the ground, both in North and South Carolina. He talked to people. He toured two neighborhoods where there was very visible damage. People outside of homes that had been destroyed. You saw debris everywhere, you saw boats scattered on people`s lawns in really devastated areas. You saw the President putting his hand on people`s shoulder asking them, how are you, how are you doing.
So you saw some of that display. But nonetheless, the President is someone who just can`t help himself sometimes. You also saw the President as you showed in those clips congratulating the federal government for its response, and also a couple of other sort of peculiar Trump-esque instances, including at one point where he asked about a region where his golf club is asking on the condition of the lake. He told officials I`m sure why I care about or I like that region so much. Of course it`s because he owns a golf club there.
WILLIAMS: We have all of those moments. We`re going to play some of those small moments where microphones were present. They briefly became a thing today.
Here they are. We`ll talk about on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Is this your boat or did just, did it become your boat? At least you got a nice boat out of it.
Thank you very much. How is Lake Norman? That area, how is that doing?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good.
TRUMP: Is doing good?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But still 10 or 12 inches of rain.
TRUMP: I love that area. I can`t tell you why but I love that area. It`s been really terrific.
Got it, have a good time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Have a good time, he wishes the last person, giving them their styrofoam-encased meal. Look, he did not employ his usual go-to paper towel distribution method today as he did in Puerto Rico, asking about Lake Norman where he has a Trump resort.
Jill, as you mentioned, that they always take the good with the bad with these ones, but it`s the little comments that the crews pick up on these trips.
COLVIN: Absolutely. This is a President who really just seemingly can`t help himself. He`s also someone who really benefits in these situations from a very low bar. I mean, we`re going in there wondering is the President going to be tossing paper towels to people as though he`s at a basketball game?
Is he going to insult anybody? Is he going to make this all about himself? So when the President does show those moments, the image you showed of him hugging the boy volunteer, interacting, really seemingly earnestly asking people how they`re being impacting, promising both in North and South Carolina to officials there that the government would be there, that federal resources were on the way.
And he does those things. He winds up getting a lot more credit than a typical president would.
WILLIAMS: I want to show you something that ended up on local media -- on social media from a local reporter covering the event down there today. This is Maggie Haberman who retweeted this saying, a local reporter experiencing the President up close for the first time.
Brett Kellerman wrote, Trump storm briefings in North Carolina was surreal. First, nobody briefed him. Politicians mostly just thanked him, second he praised local officials for their talent. Third he said we have the strongest economy ever. Fourth, he asked about Lake Norman where his golf course is.
So sometimes those of us who covers something everyday become process blind, and sometimes it takes a journalist covering it as a local story to say, wait a minute, there`s no briefing at this briefing.
COLVIN: A thousand percent. It`s always interesting when you see local reporters and people who are new to the beat sort of witnessing the President in the flesh for the first time and seeing their reacting to this. These are specially people who have spent now the last few days on the ground talking to people who have been so devastated, these homes have been destroyed, and we`re going to be spending the next weeks and months putting the pieces back together.
And as he walked through these communities today, it`s also important to note that both of these are states that voted for the President. He was in very red communities. He was greeted in some places with applause with signs welcoming him there. These are Trump`s people and so these are people that he has some kind of connection to beyond just what they`re dealing with.
WILLAIMS: After a local disaster another hot day spent in his black disaster raincoat, Jill Coven, can`t thank you enough. I really appreciate you`re coming on.
Coming up, the leaders of North and South Korea say they`re on a path to achieve denuclearization. Catches they`ll need help from the U.S. That when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We have very good news from North and South Korea. They met and we had some great responses. I got a tremendous letter from Kim Jong-un. As you know it was delivered three days ago. We`re making tremendous progress with respect to North Korea.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So here is part of what he was talking about, Kim Jong-un, welcomed South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang, capital of the North for summit that included talk of dismantling the North`s nuclear program. But it`s far from a done deal. And there is a reason that veteran diplomats and old Korea hand reminds us constantly never believe the North.
We have report on the summit tonight from NBC News Chief Foreign correspondent Richard Engel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL NBC NEWS, CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: Kim Jong-un pulls out all the stops to welcome South Korean President Moon Jae-in to North Korea with cheered crowds. An intimate lunch and one of those famous highly choreograph North Korean`s stadium shows, all for this.
Today both leaders promising to ease tensions and Kim Jong-un promising to scale back his nuclear weapon program.
To turn the Korean peninsula into a land of peace, without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats, Kim said.
Kim agreeing to closes his main missile testing facility and saying he`ll close his biggest nuclear complex if the U.S. takes correspondent measures. North and South Korea also agreed to create a no fly zone on their border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Over those mountains there, you can see in the North Korea there.
ENGEL: Meaning U.S. air force flights like this one we recently joined are in principle, now no longer allowed.
TRUMP: Prior becoming President it looked like we were going to war with North Korea and now we have a lot of progress.
ENGEL: But North Korea has so far done nothing to get rid of the nuclear bombs it already has. And U.S. Intelligence Officials have told NBC News they believe North Korea is still making nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: NBC`s Richard Engel reporting on this summit, where two other positive stories have emerged. The leader of the North now plans to visit the South and the two Koreas plan a joint bid for the Olympic games in 2032.
Another break. When we come back, we`ll return to our lead story tonight at a time when people are saying we`ve been here before. We have been close to this. The story when we continue.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight. While the President`s nomination of Judge Kavanaugh to become Justice Kavanaugh is in parallel (ph) and while there are questions surrounding Monday`s hearing and whether we will hear from Kavanaugh along with his accuser Dr. Ford.
Right now the argument turns on the role of the FBI, Dr. Ford wants them to investigate before she testifies but Republicans are rejected that. As we were reminded earlier in this broadcast tonight, the letter "I" in FBI stands for investigation.
But the president says this isn`t the FBI`s thing. It had a lot of people reaching back to 1991 when a young lawyer named Anita Hill came forward of allegations about a supreme court nominee and we`ll let Senator Orrin Hatch fills in the story of what happens next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, UTAH: I have to say the Chairman Biden, and the Ranking Member Truman, when they heard about it the first time, they immediate ordered the FBI investigation which was a very right thing to do. It`s appropriate thing to do. They did what every other chairman and ranking member have don done in the past and the investigation was done and it was a good investigation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Senator Hatch is now 84-year-old, he`s still on the judiciary committee. He ranks second in Senate seniority only to his fellow committee member of Patrick Leahy of Vermont. Orrin Hatch is not in favor of an FBI investigation in this case.
However, this story is still on the move. We`ll see (ph) where it is at this time tomorrow night.
For now that is our broadcast on this Wednesday`s 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
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