Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: September 28, 2018 Guest: Kelsey Snell, Jill Colvin, David Fahrenthold, Jon Meacham
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight it`s on hold, the vote on Brett Kavanaugh put off for a week while the FBI investigates. It was prompted by the actions of Republican Senator Jeff Flake, who was prompted by the actions of the women who spoke out and spoke up about sexual assault. Another wild and emotional day coming off such a heated day of testimony.
Tonight the Democrats get the investigation they wanted. Now Mark Judge can be questioned about what he knows. The Republicans and Kavanaugh are forced to wait and President Trump uses unusually measured words when talking about the woman who started it all, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a busy Friday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. This was day 617 of the Trump administration, and it appears that in the last 24 hours three women may have changed the course of history. They are Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher.
Dr. Ford, of course, gave that emotional testimony yesterday, and the last two women`s names, they are the women who stopped U.S. senator in an elevator today. They stopped Jeff Flake and held that door open because he had just announced he was going to vote yes on Judge Kavanaugh. They didn`t want that to happen until he had heard them out and looked into their eyes. And what they said in that elevator door appears to have led a U.S. senator to change his mind and force a delay and call in the FBI. Their words have now reverberated around this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANA MARIA ARCHILA: What you are doing is allowing someone who actually violated a woman to sit in the Supreme Court. This is not tolerable.
MARIA GALLAGHER: That`s what you`re telling all women in America, that they don`t matter, they should just keep it to themselves because if they had told the truth they`re just going to help that man to power anyway. That`s what you`re telling all of these women. That`s what you`re telling me right now.
Look at me when I`m talking to you. You`re telling me that my assault doesn`t matter, that what happened to me doesn`t matter, and that you`re going to let people who do these things into power. That`s what you`re telling me when you vote for him. Don`t look away from me. Look at me and tell me that it doesn`t matter what happens to me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Jeff Flake then huddled with some of the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee, and when he came back to his seat he paused to whisper something to Chairman Grassley who then gave him the floor. That`s when Flake called for a pause for an investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JEFF FLAKE, (R) ARIZONA JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: And I think it would be proper to delay the floor vote for up to but not more than one week in order to let the FBI continue -- to do an investigation, limited in time and scope to the current allegations that are there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: It turns out that Jeff Flake spoke for a lot of Republicans and we know he spoke for the Democratic side. Mitch McConnell didn`t have the votes. The President didn`t have the leverage. Donald Trump has since agreed to a limited FBI investigation. And it was clear when he spoke about yesterday`s hearing this morning he was being unusually measured in his choice of words.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I thought her testimony was very compelling and she looks like a very fine woman to me. Very fine woman. And I thought that Brett`s testimony, likewise, was really something that I haven`t seen before. It was incredible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: This is what the President put out later today, "I`ve ordered the FBI to continue a supplemental investigation to update Judge Kavanaugh`s file. As the Senate has requested, this update must be limited in scope and completed in less than one week."
Then a few hours ago he said this, "Just started, tonight, our 7th FBI investigation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh. He will some day be recognized as a truly great justice of the United States Supreme Court."
It turns out that Senator Flake came around with the help of his close friend in the Senate, Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware who got emotional when talking about Flake and his brave decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHRIS COONS, (D) DELAWARE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: I think he showed courage and determination today. Senator Flake is a genuine conservative. He has written a book about the conscience of a conservative. He and I do not share a lot of political views, but we share a deep concern.
Senator Flake and I share a deep concern for the health of this institution and what it means to the rest of the world and to our country if we are unable to conduct ourselves respectfully and in a way that hears each other.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: When cameras caught up with him tonight, Senator Flake talked about his decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FLAKE: This is ripping the country apart and the calls that I`ve been getting, e-mails and texts, it is just, you know, it`s been rough to see.
And my preference is that we can go ahead and confirm this nominee. I`m a conservative, he`s a conservative. I had planned on supporting him before all of this came up, and I hope that we can. But in the meantime we`ve got to have a process that`s worthy of the situation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So much to catch up on here.
For his part, Brett Kavanaugh released a statement through the White House that reads in part, "I`ve been interviewed by the FBI, I`ve done a number of background calls directly with the Senate, and yesterday I answered questions under oath about every topic. I`ve done everything they have requested and will continue to cooperate."
Attorneys for Dr. Ford responded to today`s news with this statement, "Dr. Christine Blasey Ford welcomes this step in the process. No artificial limits as to time or scope should be imposed on this investigation, they add."
Brett Kavanaugh`s high school friend Mark Judge, who Dr. Ford claims was also in the room watching during the alleged assault, said through his lawyer, "I will cooperate with any law enforcement agency that is assigned to confidentially investigate these allegations."
Earlier tonight the Senate passed a motion to begin debate on Kavanaugh, largely procedural. Nothing will happen as it`s now in recess until Monday. And a reminder the FBI has a week to do their work.
Let`s bring in our lead-off panel on this busy Friday night. Maya Wiley is back with us, a Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, currently a professor at the New School here in New York. Jill Colvin back with us, White House reporter for the "Associated Press." We also welcome back Kelsey Snell, Congressional reporter for NPR.
Kelsey, I`d like to read you something our mutual friend, Robert Costa said on social media tonight in the way he has of summing things up. "We`re watching history unfold, in a raw and urgent way. A retiring Republican senator dramatically changes the trajectory of a Supreme Court nomination as his sometimes foil/potus looks on from 1600. A majority leader instantly cornered and facing the question, plow forward or not."
Kelsey, what was it like there? We don`t see genuine spontaneous drama break out where your beat is located on Capitol Hill often.
KELSEY SNELL, NPR CONGRESIONAL REPORTER: Yes. I was in the hearing room when that all happened. And I have to say we as reporters were genuinely confused from a large portion of the time because for a while there the -- first the Democrats filed out. We thought, maybe they`re protesting again. And then the Republicans all followed and at one point in time it was just two senators sitting in the room while the rest of them negotiated in the background.
And what the request from Flake was actually truly surprising because it really puts this next week up in the air for both Republicans and Democrats. They both have a lot at stake here. For Democrats, they need to be able to have something to hold on to, to say that this FBI investigation turned up what we were looking for. It justifies what we have said, which is that Ford should be listened to, that this is a truly serious issue that should bring Kavanaugh`s nomination into question. For Republicans, they need to be sure that this won`t bring up some new allegation and give people -- more people a chance to come forward.
This next week ahead is going to be really make-or-break for this nomination.
WILLIAMS: Counselor, you were here with us for hours of our coverage yesterday. And in looking to remind people of the stakes and bring back a moment that kind of spoke for the whole day, I`ve chosen this. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY, (D) VERMONT JUDICIARY CMTE: What is the strongest memory you have, the strongest memory of the incident, something that you cannot forget? Take whatever time you need.
FORD: Indelible in the hippocampus is the laughter, the uproarious laughter between the two and their having fun at my expense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So you can draw a bright line from Dr. Ford yesterday, I want to get these names right, Ana Maria Archila and Maria Gallagher, forever known as the two women in the elevator.
MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: : That moment for the nation when Ana Maria and Maria challenged Senator Flake I think spoke to what has been the most damaging part of this entire process, is it is the plowing through of the U.S. Constitution in terms of the advice and consent provision of the Constitution.
WILLIAMS: Yes, there is that.
WILEY: There is that. And what that invites -- and this is why the American Bar Association did something unprecedented, something historic, which is said there must be an FBI investigation because there is no advice and consent if you just made a decision to rubber stamp.
And when these allegations came forward for women, and men, by the way. We talk a lot about women, but the truth is, you know, estimates are at least one in six men and boys are sexually molested or sexually assaulted in this country, that the stakes for the nation are very high because it`s about whether or not we take seriously the allegations that for so many Americans, far too many, are a reality of their lives. And when they came and spoke, what they were saying was the Democratic process did not work for us here.
WILEY: It was broken. You all plowed through it.
WILLIAMS: Voting for him means you are saying no to us.
WILEY: Voting for him means you say no to our experiences and you say something many of us have been saying for weeks now, which is the most powerful judicial position in the land is a justice of the Supreme Court. And to simply plow through, and I`m using Senator Grassley`s language --
WILEY: -- explicitly and intentionally, to plow through, to be Senator Oren Hatch who says, "I have not met her, I have not talked to her, but I don`t believe Dr. Ford." Then to hear Dr. Ford actually share, this is so imprinted on my memory that it was these two men because not only the they do something so vial to me as a human on the planet, they actually laughed about it. It required women from outside of the process to exercise the Democratic process and go to -- and I think Senator Flake was the right person, because as we saw in that hearing he was pained.
WILEY: He was truly pained. He was truly convicted, and you could see it on his face. You could hear it in his statement, and yet he did not quite feel able to stand up for a process that felt fair and just. It required these women to say publicly and insistently and aggressively, "You are telling me I don`t count." And when they did that, they were not just speaking for themselves. They were speaking for the one out of four women who have experienced sexual violence in this country.
WILLIAMS: Jill Colvin, what do you think is really going on in the White House west wing tonight and this weekend?
JILL COLVIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the White House has really been forced here to play this waiting game along with the rest of us, and this is something that the White House and the President did not want to happen. We know that the President now, for more than a week, has been deeply frustrated by the slow pace of this investigation.
You know, the White House watched along with all of us yesterday, the President watching first on Air Force One and then in the White House yesterday as these testimonies unfolded. We know that the President in speaking to aides spoke to how he felt emotionally impacted by the testimony that Dr. Ford gave, but then watched Judge Kavanaugh and felt like he had done an excellent job. The President last night spoke at a fundraiser where he went on for more than an hour, you know, really praising Kavanaugh. The White House was on this high foot thinking it was a done deal, and then they watched as the rest of the nation did as this Senator Flake made this decision to kind of throw a wrench in this and delay it for a week.
So what we`re hearing from the White House right now is they are in this waiting game along with us. They are hoping that the -- number one, the FBI investigation doesn`t turn up any new allegations, any evidence that would lend credence to Dr. Ford`s story. And they`re also very much hoping that in this week which we know is such a long time in Washington --
COLVIN: -- these days that there`s not a new allegation, a new credible allegation. You know, we`ve seen these multiple allegations popping up by the day and in the course of a week who knows what is going to pop up. So what they`re just hoping is that they can make it to the end of this investigation without any new information coming out, and then the Senate will vote, will confirm him.
And through this process that we`ve gone through it will ideally in their mind sort of lift at least some of this cloud over Kavanaugh. If they can say, "Look, we have genuinely done this investigation, we`ve done what the Democrats were asking for, the FBI investigated and at this point, you know, we`re backing Kavanaugh."
WILLIAMS: And Kelsey, there is also, as a Democratic operative reminded me tonight, there`s a trap in here potentially.
SNELL: Oh, sure. I mean this is -- it`s very difficult because it`s on the one hand. If it comes back that the FBI is not able to find anything new here, it could give a lot of political cover for these Republicans who haven`t made up their minds yet to say, "I waited. I requested this investigation along with Senator Flake and I now have a space to say, this -- it has been confirmed. We have done our jobs. I`ve done everything I can to ensure that this is the nominee that I thought it was and now I can vote yes."
The other problem here though is for if you`re a Democrat, particularly a Heidi Heitkamp running for reelection in North Dakota, a state that the President won in 2016. It is perilous. It`s very difficult now to kind of split the hairs between, you know, can I support this person, you know, that in Republicans in my state and who maybe want to vote for me would want? Or do I go with the Democrats and the base and all of these women that I`m hearing from as a senator who represents many Democrats in this state like North Dakota? Who do I follow? Where is the politics the right answer.
WILLIAMS: Maya, I`d like to talk about judicial temperament. And I have two examples to ask you about. Number one, the folks at Vox put together a graphic today. They used the color blue for answered questions and they used the color red for did not answer. It looks like a Benjamin Moore chart for painting your children`s bedroom light blue, but on the left Dr. Ford`s answers for answered questions in blue. You see the red on the right under Kavanaugh.
There were also these exchanges, sharp exchanges between a federal judge and sitting U.S. senators.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR, (D) MINNESOTA JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: So you`re saying there`s never been a case where you drank so much, but you didn`t remember what happened the night before or part of what happened?
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: It`s -- you`re asking about, yes black out. I don`t know. Have you?
KLOBUCHAR: Could you answer the question, Judge? And to you -- that`s not happened, is that your answer?
KAVANAUGH: Yes, and I`m curious if you have.
KLOBUCHAR: I have no drinking problem.
KAVANAUGH: The Swetnick thing is a joke. That is a farce.
KLOBUCHAR: Would you like to say more about it?
SEN. SHELDON WHITEHOUSE, (D) RHODE ISLAND JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Did the word Ralph you used in your yearbook that against the alcohol.
KAVANAUGH: I answered your question. If you`re --
WHITEHOUSE: You really like alcohol?
KAVANAUGH: I like beer.
WHITEHOUSE: You have to answer that.
KAVANAUGH: I like beer. I don`t know if you like beer, Senator or not.
KAVANAUGH: What do you like to drink?
WHITEHOUSE: Next one is --
KAVANAUGH: Senator, what do you like?
WHITEHOUSE: Judge --
KAVANAUGH: I welcome whatever the committee wants to do because I`m telling the truth.
WHITEHOUSE: I want to know what you wanted.
KAVANAUGH: I am telling the truth.
WHITEHOUSE: I want to know what you want to do.
KAVANAUGH: I`m innocent. I`m innocent of this charge.
WHITEHOUSE: Then you`re prepared for an FBI investigation?
KAVANAUGH: They don`t reach conclusions, you reach the conclusion Senator.
WHITEHOUSE: No, but they do investigate questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Maya, what do you think eight justices sitting on the court right now, thought of those exchanges? And did those exchanges roll around in some Republican heads in the Senate you think overnight?
WILEY: I certainly hope so, because as an attorney and I imagine what Supreme Court justices saw was the same thing is, that was abhorrent. That was unacceptable to sit there and treat a sitting senator. You don`t have to agree. In fact, that`s what judges have to do all day every day, is listen to people they may not like, hear things they may not agree with, and what they have to do. Sometimes under challenging circumstances, obviously this is much more challenging personally for Judge Kavanaugh, not suggesting it`s not.
But pressure, heat, how you behave under it, whether you can retain and maintain your ability to be open minded, to understand. You`re in a situation in which they have a constitutional obligation to understand what your answer is to very significant charges. This is a judge. That`s what he has to ask of people who come before him every day.
I was astounded that anyone could hear that kind of behavior from anyone. I don`t care what your politics are. From anyone, and then have senator Grassley respond the way he did without any, without any admonition about the disrespect with which he treated sitting senators elected by citizens of the United States to represent them in Congress. I don`t understand why that shouldn`t be, something that is dearly questioned by those who have to make the advice and consent decision.
And remember one other thing. Here was a news item today that didn`t get very much press because of these very important issues. And that`s that Democrats in Congress won the right to pursue their case against Donald Trump, President Trump for enriching himself, their allegation, for enriching himself through his hotels and other businesses as a sitting president without the permission of Congress as is required by the constitution. My guess is that comes before the Supreme Court.
How is a Justice Kavanaugh, who demonstrated that he would politicize this process by claiming that the Democrats today is, "Search and destroy" will they get a fair hearing in interpreting the Constitution if that case were to come before him as a sitting justice?
WILLIAMS: Two things, we didn`t even workshop what if that had been a woman that angry in front of Congress and, b, we`ll ask David Fahrenthold of "The Washington Post" who`s coming on this broadcast to talk about that story you just mention, they didn`t get much attention today.
Final question to Jill Colvin, the President can make this worse. No one needs to remind you of that. He can do it on social media, he can do it on camera. We are reminded he has an event in Wheeling, West Virginia tomorrow night.
COLVIN: He does indeed. One thing that has been notable throughout this process, we have seen a couple of tweets from him, but by and large the President has been extraordinarily restrained for Trump over this period of time. He held his tongue. He held his fingers yesterday on Twitter throughout the length of the testimony, choosing only to weigh in at the end of the day once the gavel had been hit.
And today, he was especially restrained in his comments, you know, going out there, specifically praising Dr. Ford, giving a lot of freedom to the Senate saying, you know what, they`ve been doing a great job up until now. And we`re just going to let them do their thing. We know that privately the President has had a very different tone, complaining about the Senate, complaining that they haven`t been moving fast enough.
But at this point the President knows the White House aides and his allies have made clear to him what is riding on this. This is probably the last thing that will happen before the midterm elections, and he needs for his base, believes that he needs this nomination to go through. If they let this get delayed any longer, you`re going to have a new Senate. They might not have the majority. This is seen as incredibly high stakes time for the President.
And at this point at least, he is keeping his mouth shut.
WILLIAMS: All right, thanks to our starting three on a Friday night. To Maya Wiley, to Jill Colvin, to Kelsey Snell, really appreciate you all coming by.
And coming up for us a long time, veteran of the FBI and a former federal prosecutor tell us what this FBI investigation is likely to entail.
And then, later, as we mentioned the lawsuit against the president that`s been given the green light to go ahead, THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Friday night.
WILLIAMS: We are back with breaking news. As they say, this just handed me and it`s a story about how the story is moving faster than we thought, the FBI component of this story. We have this one-week pause in the Kavanaugh vote while the FBI swoops in and does their work.
Well, "The L.A. Times", Jennifer Haberkorn has just written, "The FBI moved immediately given the short time frame. By Friday night, agents had sought to schedule an interview with one of two other women who, after Blasey Ford went public, made accusations of their own about alleged assaults dating the Kavanaugh`s days in high school and at Yale University, according to two sources here who asked to remain unidentified, FBI investigators contacted the attorneys for the woman and asked to interview her as early as tonight. "Can`t emphasize how unusual that is." According to one of the sources, her attorneys countered with a later time but the interview could occur this weekend, the sources said."
All of this by way of bringing in our very germane next two guests, Barbara McQuade, Veteran Federal Prosecutor, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. And Frank Figluizi, Former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence who in the past has worked for among others Robert Mueller.
So Frank, I was going to ask you if this were a movie montage. Are agents putting their stuffs in overhead compartments, getting on flights tonight, renting cars? Are there white boards at field offices across the country? And this article helps to answer the question. This is underway and moving.
FRANK FIGLUIZI, FORMER FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: This is where the FBI shines when it is allowed to, Brian. So pagers have gone off, text messages are being sent, calls are being made. Everybody has been on standby. And if you are in the Baltimore division that covers Georgetown Prep where Kavanaugh went to high school, if you are in the New Haven, Connecticut Division that covers Yale, if you are in California where some of the accusers and survivors are, you are in action, getting your plan tonight.
They`re going to divide this up by field office, and then they`re going to divide it up by what I call three buckets, people, places and things. Who are the people? All of the accusers that are known currently and some who may not yet be known, all of the witnesses. What are the places?
Yale University, dorm rooms, the house in Maryland where this party may have occurred. Does it still exist? Has it been refurbished? Is there a stairway? Is there a bathroom across from a bedroom?
Are there photographs at Yale or Georgetown Prep that can put Kavanaugh next to people he says he doesn`t even know, next to some of the accusers who lived in the dorm? Those people are going to get a phone call from the FBI back then. Those are going to be pulled.
The Potomac Safeway supermarket where people may have worked and been spotted. They`re going to pull records and pay records from there and find dates and schedules if they exist.
And what about the things? The things include the polygraph exam that Dr. Ford already took. That should be pulled and reviewed for quality and see if it was done right and is credible.
Are there other items that can be displayed, shown? Photographs that show what was in the room, blankets, linens, posters on the wall where this may have occurred. All to refresh memories.
And, boy, lining up the final interview, when all of this evidence is gathered, putting it down in front of Kavanaugh. And if I`m in charge of this, I`m putting two female agents in that room to ask him the questions and present everything that`s been found at the end of the week and see if he can hold up or whether he blows up as he did against Senator Klobuchar.
WILLIAMS: Whew, just need a moment to catch my breath.
So, Barbara, it sounds to this lay person like the FBI has done this before. What are the blanks from yesterday`s testimony? You would like filled in if you were appointed special counsel investigating this case?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR U.S. ATTORNEY: Well, I think the place that I would start is with Mark Judge. This is the one person that Dr. Ford actually puts in the room when this alleged sexual assault occurred. And so talking to him could be so critically important. I know that he has submitted a letter saying that he doesn`t remember this, but that`s so different from having an FBI agent show up at his doorstep and talk with him.
As we saw yesterday, live questioning is very, very different from what ends up in a written statement because that can be either written by or edited by a lawyer who can keep it very narrow. Watching body language, tone, inflection, all of those things matter so much as well as the ability to ask follow-up questions. And so that would be absolutely the place I would start. And then the other two places that are owe interesting and I`m delighted to hear this breaking news that the scope of this investigation is not just limited to Dr. Ford who gave a compelling narrative yesterday, but we`re going to all -- they`re going to investigate and interview also Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick it sounds like from your report.
And so we don`t know anything about them. I think it would be important to talk to them quickly so that if there is follow-up from those stories you can go interview the people, the other witnesses they identify. So it is not surprising to me that they would want to get to them tonight so that they can use the rest of the week to talk to any other witnesses who might either corroborate or refute their stories.
WILLIAMS: So, Frank, I mean this respectfully. It doesn`t sound hard, meaning it would be hard for us lay people, but this is what the FBI does, that you can reel off 30 steps is very indicative of a veteran agent. Let me ask you about a polygraph test for Kavanaugh. Is he under any obligation, and if he passes, -- if he says no, I don`t want to take one, does that get noted somewhere?
FIGLIUZZI: Absolutely it will be offered, and I`ve seen it done. I have personally been involved in derogatory allegations against nominees where a polygraph was taken, and, in fact, in those cases it has cleared the nominee. So Dr. Ford took a polygraph exam. Judge Kavanaugh will be offered one, and if he refuses it will be noted. And I`m going to tell you something.
With the number of people believing that Dr. Kavanaugh -- Judge Kavanaugh lied somewhere in the nomination process or yesterday regarding some small things and/or some big things, he may have a problem taking a polygraph exam. I would be surprised if he agrees to take one.
WILLIAMS: Wow. And Barbara, what is there -- what is their ability to compel if people don`t want to cooperate?
MCQUADE: Well, with regard to someone like Mark Judge or others, that`s a place where you could run into some problems. It is not required to talk to an FBI agent. It would be purely voluntary. If Mark Judge or others would refuse to talk to the FBI agents, the remedy really is to go back to the Senate and ask them to issue a subpoena for the testimony before the committee.
In light of the short time limit that`s been put on this, one week, I don`t know if someone refuses to cooperate they could get them subpoenaed and appear before the committee in that short period of time, or if they would have the political will to do so.
So far Mark Judge has said he`s willing to cooperate. If I were Brett Kavanaugh and I believed I was innocent and really wanted this confirmation, I would urge all of my friend to talk with the FBI. So that`s really the remedy, is a subpoena, but we`ll see whether the chairman has the political will to issue one.
WILLIAMS: As they say, the FBI is your friend if you`re telling the truth. I could not ask for two better or more learned guests to come along right after this piece of paper was placed in my hand.
Barbara Mcquade, Frank Figliuzzi, thank you both for coming on our broadcast tonight.
Coming up for us, the political stakes are high in this week ahead as we`ve established, especially when you consider those midterms looming less than six weeks away.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you thought at all about a replacement for Judge Kavanaugh?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Not even a little bit. Not even a little bit.
WILLIAMS: President Trump is firmly standing behind his Supreme Court selection even as he authorizes an FBI investigation into Brett Kavanaugh`s past. We`ve just learned last few minutes that investigation is up and running. It was, as we said, Arizona Republican Senator Jeff Flake who may have changed the course of history today after huddling with Democrats. He was allowed to announce the delay for the investigation.
No one saw it coming. "Politico" is reporting it this way, Senate Republican leaders were rattled by the Arizona Senator`s move, and they say Flake`s maneuver dropped the political land mine in the lap of majority leader Mitch McConnell, I`ll say and the White House, which now must keep Kavanaugh`s nomination on an already narrow path to approval.
Let`s talk about all of the aspects of it with Mara Gay, a member of "The New York Times" editorial board and we`re so happy as a newly minted MSNBC contributor. And Jonathan Allen, who already works for the home team, veteran journalist and author, he is an MSNBC news national political reporter.
So Jonathan, about the Hill, very few genuine surprises left and it turns out this guy from Arizona who has the truth serum of retirement and is no friend of this president had a move up his sleeve today.
JONATHAN ALLEN, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes, you hit it on the head Brian. I`m not sure that anybody really knew what Jeff Flake was going to do. Obviously Chairman Grassley seemed to be somewhat unsure how to move, had to vote, it was scheduled from 1:30. You could see him conferring with Dianne Feinstein.
Certainly, the White House was not going to get a heads up. President Trump has tweeted nasty things about Jeff Flake, calling him a Flake. Essentially, the opponent was Jeff Flake before Flake and said nasty things about the president. One thing I would keep in mind here, you know, Jeff Flakes thinks the Republican Party has moved a lot on him, rather than him moving away from it. But when he was in the House, this is the guy who was considered an ultra conservative.
In the Senate he`s been considered much more moderate. The one thing that`s been consistent throughout, I think if her were -- he is from, Arizona, he has got that sort of Western independence about him and he`s also, you know, not about geography or about political ideology. He is more of those people who -- one of those rare people on Capitol Hill who has a genuine sort of kindness and gentility about him. And it would not surprise me if that confrontation in the elevator really weighed on him.
WILLIAMS: Mara, I don`t know that we`ll ever have a monument on the mall that is elevator door being held open by the feet of two women with a startled figure of a senator inside, but maybe we will. That is by way of saying, you can draw this line from Dr. Ford through these two women in the elevator today. They just might have altered a little bit of contemporary history.
MARA GAY, THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER: That`s right. I`m so glad that you brought them up. I might not get their names right, but I believe its Maria Gallagher and then Anna Maria -- help me out
GAY: Achilla, thank you. They deserve as much credit as Senator Flake does today. They put a human face, took it straight to the senator. We owe them a lot I think. I think we also saw someone, you know, how sad is it that Senator Flake isn`t necessarily a hero, but he did the right thing today.
WILLIAMS: Due diligence.
GAY: Due diligence that he did his job.
GAY: You know, imagine if his colleagues could muster that kind of courage. And we`ll see where it goes from here. But I just -- I think he`s been an example of what we`ve been hoping to see from senators, which is actual leadership and, you know, bully for him really.
WILLIAMS: Jon, these cuts exactly two ways. Talk about the base that`s fired up if this guy gets confirmed, talk about the base that`s fired up if this guy gets turned away.
ALLEN: Both sides say that their bases are going to be fired up either way, but I think what will happen is if he gets confirmed, the Democratic base will be even more energized. I think he was defeated. The Republican base will be suddenly energized to come in to president Trump`s aide. I think that`s the way things are most likely to play out.
WILLIAMS: As a new contributor here around -- around here, Mara, you know how to be great in 45 seconds already. Tell me about this week in terms of American women and are we more divided than ever? Did we come a little closer today by dent of this one senator`s action?
GAY: I think that it was an exhausting week, not just for American women, but for those who love us and those who we love, those who believe us, those who are hearing our stories, sometimes for the first time and sometimes not. You know, I`ve talked to a lot of my friends and we are exhausted but we are also extremely empowered seeing Dr. Blasey Ford telling her story and watching it really append a Supreme Court nomination. And so there`s a lot of power in telling our stories. And I just hope that Americans give women the respect they deserve by listening.
WILLIAMS: I thank you both, Mara Gay, Jon Allen, appreciate you joining us on a Friday night after the week we`ve had.
Coming up, a federal judge tells 200 members of Congress, they can indeed sue the President of the United States. So they`re going ahead with that. More details when we come back.
WILLIAMS: As we mention earlier tonight, a lawsuit alleging Trump is violating the constitution by doing just that was given the green light to go ahead. There`s the headline. Congressional Democrats` lawsuit alleging Trump`s private business violating the constitution can proceed. And it says that Trump has been making money from foreign countries through his business empire throughout his presidency thus far.
With us for more, David Fahrenthold, "Washington Post" reporter who`s covering the President`s businesses and conflicts of interest. And David, this has become your journalistic cause. Let`s play a little common sense here. So you`re the Amir of Kuwait and you have your choice in D.C. hotels. It would make absolutely perfect sense for you to run out a couple of floors in one of Trump`s properties. Is this the kind of thing that people can`t believe is happening in plain sight?
DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, THE WASHINGTON POST REPORTER: Well, so we don`t really know that much. We don`t know the full details of what president Trump`s company has been doing with foreign governments. We do know some examples. You mention that Kuwait, the Kuwaiti embassies had a couple of events at Trump`s -- they`ve rented to that big ball rooms at Trump`s hotel in D.C. We know there`s been some foreign heads of state stayed there.
In fact, we recently saw some internal documents from Trump`s Hotel in New York on Central Park where they said we weren`t having that great a first quarter. We`re start of losing money. The revenue has been declining. But thank goodness, a whole bunch of people traveling with the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia came and stayed at the hotel. And they gave us so much money that we actually had that it saved the whole quarter for us.
So we know there`s this business there, but we don`t know exactly who is paying and how much they`re paying. We don`t see the full extent of it. These lawsuits might allow us to do that.
WILLIAMS: And courts like to talk about standing. What standing do you have to sue this individual or this company? What`s standing do 200 members of Congress have? What is their stake in the President if he`s guilty of this?
FAHRENTHOLD: This was really interesting. So this is the big hurdle, just to get sort of -- you get your foot in the door of the courtroom because the Judge say you have the right to bring a lawsuit. Members of Congress normally can`t just sue the president because they`re supposed to be using Congress for whatever their political ends are, right. You can`t try to convince your fellow legislators to do something, fail and then use the courts as a plan b. So it is a high bar for congressmen suing the president to actually be allowed to continue.
In this case though, what the judge said was that basically the emoluments cause of the constitution, the constitution requires president Trump that if he`s going to take a payment from a foreign government, he has to come to Congress first and ask if it is OK. And he hasn`t done that. He hasn`t made any sort of effort to get congressional approval. And so the judge said, well basically members of Congress, you can`t act, your vote has been effectively nullified because you haven`t been given the chance to make this decision that the constitution requires. So in this rare case, they`ll allow you to proceed with the lawsuits.
WILLIAMS: And in the seconds we have left to remind our viewers of some of this work that has earned you a Pulitzer Prize. It has been -- some of these investigations have been spread out.
FAHRENTHOLD: Yes. We`ve been looking at aspects of President Trump`s charity which is resulted in this lawsuit filed by the New York attorney general against him. And one thing we`ve been looking at in the last couple of years is trying to understand how his businesses are doing and to understand what these lawsuits are trying to get at. Who is using the President`s businesses to influence the President`s administration?
And how his power are making him money and how are other people using his businesses to influence his power?
WILLIAMS: David Fahrenthold of "The Washington Post", always a pleasure. Thank you so much for coming on our broadcast. We appreciate having you.
We`ll take a break. When we come back, after a week that will be defined by our partisan divide, we`ll ask another Pulitzer Prize recipient. What it`s going to take to bring the country back together again?
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit fueled with apparent pent- up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record, revenge on behalf for the Clintons, and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups. And as we all know in the United States political system of the early 2000s, what goes around, comes around.
WILLIAMS: You don`t often hear that from a federal judge. That was a very angry Brett Kavanaugh yesterday. And now that man facing questions about his temperament and his past will have to wait like the rest of us while the FBI investigates.
All because in one brief shining moment today partisanship broke out of the way and bipartisanship broke through. And with us tonight to talk about with a Pulitzer Prizewinning Author and Historian Jon Meacham, his new book appropriately is called "The Soul Of America: The Battle For Our Better Angels." Hey Jon, were some of those angels cleared for take off today, do you think?
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: They made a rare appearance and we`re all the better of for it. This week was a stress test for the American order unquestionably. It was a battle between tribalism and the best intentioned search for truth.
And it looked as though until about mid-afternoon today that tribalism was going to win as it`s won so often in recent decades, as its won from age to age actually. And there was this moment where, in fact, we decided or one person decided, Jeff Flake, clearly encouraged by Democratic friends, encouraged to actually allow reason a chance to take a stand against passion in the arena. And that`s the great American insight. That`s the great animating idea in many ways of the American revolution itself was that we were not going to be run by divine rights of kings or automatic ecclesiastic rights.
People weren`t going to be able to tell us what we were to believe simply because they won an election or they were born into a certain family. And the idea that we could take on contrary facts, we can make up our own minds is in many ways the promise of the country and it`s often as we both know, it`s often more honored in the breach of the observance, but today was one where we observed it.
WILLIAMS: So many the moments you write about should come with a soundtrack their grant and this seemed by comparison so modest. A modest woman Ph.D. from California raises her hand and gives her testimony and two equally modest women gem their feet an elevator door get the attention of a U.S. senator ends up changing his vote that could change the court trajectory. I guess moments become more grand as time passes.
MEACHAM: They do but the wonderful thing about history is that particularly American history is we have made our greatest progress when the seemingly powerless have caught the attention of the powerful. And in the sweep of things Rosa Parks, December 1st, 1955, refusing to get up helps ignite a movement. Alice Paul, the suffragist who decided to move to Lafayette Square and make sure that Woodrow Wilson saw women protesting for her cause that right of women to vote everyday.
The shot heard around the world. You know, it goes -- it goes on and on. And its the wonderful thing about a democracy, about a Democratic Republic is that people far from accord there`s a tower have the opportunity to bend the arc of history as Theodore Parker put it and Dr. King put it bend that arc of a immoral universe toward justice.
We don`t know what`s going to happen with this nomination. We don`t know if kettle drums will be playing or when can burns make this someday, how that will sound and feel. But we do know this that this week the country was hurtling toward another tribal bar fight with immense implications, and we got to hit pause and see what we could find out to make a better decision.
WILLIAMS: Number one job of a television host, always have people on who are smarter than you. That is part of why Jon Meacham always has guaranteed work around here. Jon, thank you my friend as always for summing things up on a Friday night.
And the last thing before we go tonight is a reminder that this week we`ve just been through has just been a week long. It feels longer, I know, but we`ve checked. And here`s what we found.
Remember back on Monday when the President was here in New York meeting with world leaders at the United Nations and all the talk was about whether or not Rod Rosenstein was going to be able to keep his job, it was a much simpler time back then, wasn`t it? Tuesday gave us the President confusing his U.N. audience for that at a Trump rally and then he got laughed at when he asserted, quote, "My administration has accomplished more than almost any administration in the history of our country." It was as if those U.N. delegates knew about the marshal plan or the new frontier or the great society.
Wednesday gave us the President`s wild 81-minute press conference. The one where he insisted those world leaders were laughing with him in fact the day before and not at him. He also called the attacks on Brett Kavanaugh a con job by the Democrats and wondered aloud if George Washington had ever faced any "Me Too" allegations of sexual misconduct.
Thursday, just yesterday, was in fact and for all-time one for the history books because of that split screen. Dr. Christine Blasey Ford told her story in testimony that was raw and measured. The tears and the anger actually came instead from the federal judge.
Brett Kavanaugh called the whole thing a calculated an orchestrated political hit, fueled by anger at his President and revenge for the Clintons. And today Kavanaugh`s nomination made it out of committee where it then came to a halt as we all, as we said, must now wait for the FBI to do its job.
That`s our look at the week it was. And that is our broadcast on a Friday night and for this week. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Have a good weekend and goodnight from NBC Headquarters here in New York.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Rachel has a night off. OK.
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