Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: October 1, 2018 Guest: Mimi Rocah, Daniel Dale, Lanhee Chen
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the White House changes course and allows FBI agents to interview anyone they need to in the Kavanaugh investigation. The reporter who broke the story standing by for us with the latest on who has already talked to the FBI. Tonight, the slow drip of new Kavanaugh stories continues.
A new interview with an accuser, a new story about a bar fight in the 1980s. And the report alleging a Kavanaugh effort to get his old to deny new alligations.
Then there is the political fight. The President supports Kavanaugh while misquoting him and won`t discuss any plan b while we all await the work of the FBI as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Monday night.
As we begin a new week, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 620 of the Trump administration and there are new and potentially damaging revelations about Supreme Court nominee Federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh, many of them still rolling out tonight even as the President defended his nominee tonight before a rally in Tennessee.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They`ve been trying to destroy him since the very first second he was announced. He`s a good man, great student, great intellect. Never had a problem, all of a sudden, oh, let`s go back to high school. And maybe she go before high school.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: There he is, new reporting out tonight from the "New York Times" and Bloomberg. It says Kavanaugh was involved in a bar fight in New Haven, Connecticut back in 1985 while a junior at Yale. "The Times" adds that Kavanaugh had been questioned about it by New Haven police. Kavanaugh`s former classmate at Yale, Chad Ludington, spoke to Bloomberg about that fight.
Yesterday he released a statement describing Kavanaugh as, "belligerent and aggressive after drinking."
Here is what Kavanaugh said to the committee about his drinking last week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I drank beer with my friends, almost everyone did. Sometimes I had too many beers, but I did not drink beer to the point of blacking out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Earlier this evening his former classmate offered a different assessment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHARLES "CHAD" LUDINGTON, KAVANAUGH`S CLASSMATE: I can adequately say that in denying the possibility that he ever blacked out from drinking and in down playing the degree and frequency of those drinking, Brett has not told the truth. I felt it was my civic duty to tell of my experience while drinking with Brett.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Chad Ludington went on to say much more. He said he`s already been in touch with the FBI about Kavanaugh.
This morning President Trump was asked about the conflicting accounts of Kavanaugh`s drinking.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are now concerns that he may have lied or mischaracterized his drinking while testifying. If they find that he did, do you think that bars him from being your Supreme Court nominee?
TRUMP: Well, I watched him. I was surprised at how vocal he was about the fact that he likes beer and he`s had a little bit of difficulty. I mean, he talked about things that happened when he drank. I mean, this is not a man that said that alcohol was absent, that he was perfect with respect to alcohol.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Please note there, the President did not quote Kavanaugh accurately and went further than Kavanaugh did in his own sworn testimony.
Tonight there are also new questions concerning Kavanaugh and his second accuser Deborah Ramirez. She has alleged Kavanaugh exposed himself to her while they were both at a party at Yale, something he denies. NBC News reports tonight that before Ramirez went public with her allegation published in the ""New Yorker"," "The judge and the team were communicating behind the scenes with friends to refute the claim according to text messages obtained by NBC News. Those texts sent between two of Kavanaugh`s friends suggest "that the nominee was personally talking with former classmates about Ramirez`s story in advance of the "New Yorker" article that made her allegation public."
That is critically important because Kavanaugh said under questioning and under oath that he learned about the Ramirez allegation only when it was published in the ""New Yorker"." NBC News has confirmed that the FBI has spoken to Ramirez.
And the lawyer for Kavanaugh`s high school friend Mark Judge says he has spoken with the FBI but that his interview has not been completed as of yet. Last Thursday the first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testified Judge was the one in the room during Kavanaugh`s alleged assault during a house party. Ford`s friend Leyland Kaiser who has said to be at that party has also taken part in an FBI interview according to her attorney.
There has been much debate over the scope of this investigation and Democrats say they worry Republicans may try to rein in the bureaus agents on this. Today the White House signed off on the bureau expanding its inquiry beyond that set, set of witnesses offering the agency to follow any leads they wish while maintaining the same Friday deadline.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think the FBI should do what they have to do to get to the answer. I want them to do a very comprehensive investigation, whatever that means according to the senators and the Republicans and the Republican majority. I want them to do that.
Now, with that being said, I`d like you to go quickly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Today Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was determined to signal full steam ahead.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SENT. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MAJORITY LEADER: If you listen carefully, Mr. President, you can practically hear the sounds of the Democrats moving the goal post.
The time for endless delay and obstruction has come to a close. Judge Kavanaugh`s nomination is out of committee. We are considering it here on the floor. And Mr. President, we will be voting this week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our lead off panel on a Monday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for the "New York Times," Shawn Henry, former Executive Assistant Director at the FBI, and Mimi Rocah, Former Assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, now a Distinguish Fellow in Criminal Justice at Pace University law school. Good evening and welcome to you all.
Peter, you shared the by line breaking the news today that the White House -- I`ll say this, it had the air of a White House relenting in expanding the reach and scope of the FBI investigation. You have also written about the fact that it`s not without its risk.
PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, exactly right. The White House passed along the list that Senate Republicans gave them witnesses they wanted the FBI to interview. There`s only four names, of course, Rebecca Ramirez who is the second accuser after Cristine Blasey Ford, and the three people that Christine Blasey Ford say were in the house when her incident happened in the early 1980s. And that was it. That was what the FBI was told to do.
And when that got out that caused a lot of consternation among Democrats, but also among the handful of Senate Republicans including Jeff Flake who have been concern about this nomination now for weeks. Jeff Flake and Chris Coons, the Democrat from Delaware who has worked with him to initiate this investigation got in touch with the White House and made clear this wasn`t acceptable to them.
The President saw the stories and obviously decided as well that it didn`t look good anyway if it was seemed to be so restricted that it wasn`t a serious investigation, it would only generate more problems among Republicans, they`re trying to recruit over to Judge Kavanaugh. He went ahead and give Dan McGahn, the White House counsel instructions to tell the FBI to go ahead and follow their leads, interview anybody they thought they needed to interviewed as long as it was done this week.
WILLIAMS: Shawn Henry, I need not tell you the FBI is not autonomous and they hate being the story which is what they have not liked thus far about this administration. But what I mean by that is they receive orders and follow them. Are you convinced that agents and field offices feel they have received their orders and in living rooms around the country tonight where appropriate there are agents sitting this close asking people, potentially witnesses in this story, for their testimony?
SHAWN HENRY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR ASSITANT DIRECTOR: I have no doubt they are working around the clock now interviewing people, taking the results of those interviews, chronicling them, that information is going through the Department of Justice and to the White House. So, the FBI is not going to wait a week to prepare a report and send it. They`re getting the results of these investigations, these interviews contemporaneously they`re being submitted. So there may be direction and guidance coming from the Department of Justice and ultimately from the White House.
So while I believe that they`ll have the opportunity to conduct their investigation, the parameters may change as the information goes back into the White House through the Department of Justice.
WILLIAMS: So somewhere tell me there is a white board and a map of the nation and there is a red pin on New Haven, Connecticut where field agents are at Yale looking into all things in the vicinity. There`s a red pin in Bethesda Maryland and the environs (ph). There`s a red pin for Dr. Blasey Ford in California where presumably they are re-interviewing her and that kind of thing.
HENRY: Yes, imagine this is being worked out of FBI headquarters. There`s essential nucleus for this. And there are leads that are being cast throughout the United States. When results of interviews come back if the agents have the authority and the opportunity to continue to follow those leads logically as they would take them to try and get to the bottom of this, answer all the questions, then additional leads will go out and other agents will be dispatched to follow up on those interviews.
WILLIAMS: Would you be interested in a bar fight in the 1980s with that?
HENRY: You know, I think it`s important. What happened as to somebody in their teens, in high school or in college, isolated incidents in and of themselves are other types of things that are looked at, but then overlooked if they`re isolated.
I think the bigger issue here is a pattern of conduct and if in fact it continues decades into the future into the present time. The other piece is this, the credibility and the suitability of the candidate to sit on the bench. And if in fact the candidate made statements under oath to the Senate and they were misstatements or if he had perjured himself, those are the types of issues that agents will chronicle, they`re going to follow and they`re going to present them forward.
WILLIAMS: That`s exactly where I`m going to go with our wise in-house counsel tonight. So Mimi, this NBC News story that, let`s call it a "campaign," small c, of text messages were going out to old friends to say, listen, there`s something coming out, please back up our guy. The story I think in part alleges that some of them may have come from Kavanaugh.
Two tiered question for you, is there anything illegal if I`m coming up on a big moment in my hearings and I get wind of something bad coming? Second, is it really bad that this federal judge is already sworn to saying he didn`t see the allegation we`re talking about until it came out in the ""New Yorker"" and we all read it?
MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Right. So, the first question is it could be illegal. If Kavanaugh and his team got word that Ramirez`s allegations were coming out which is what it sounds like happened and Kavanaugh himself reached out to people to say, "Hey," you know, this is not unlike things we talked about with Trump before.
ROCAH: And, you know, it`s how close did he come to helping them refresh their memory. He shouldn`t have reached out directly. He should have left that to his legal team.
WILLIAMS: That would be extraordinary for a sitting federal judge.
ROCAH: It would. But it sounds like that might have happened, that he might have reached out directly. I mean, based on the reporting it says that her texts referred to Brett reaching out to her. So, I mean, look, we don`t know for sure, but that`s something that needs to be looked into because if he did, that`s highly, highly inappropriate and could border on illegal.
Even his team doing that, I mean, it depends what they said if they were simply asking questions, what do you remember? You know there are perfectly legitimate ways to do it. If they were pressuring people in any way, if they were trying to refresh their memories or get their stories straight, that`s a big no-no to put it simply.
WILLIAMS: And the allegation comes out in the ""New Yorker"." He says that`s when he first learned about it. But any of the texts would put that in doubt.
ROCAH: It would. I mean, again, it sounds like, you know, we`re hearing this from someone who has the text. This is why this investigation is so important and someone needs to really speak directly to the person who has the text which it sounds like they`ve been trying to reach the FBI and it hasn`t happened yet. So that`s a little troubling.
And my guess is that might be because of limits that were put on the FBI initially. So now hopefully they`ll be free to talk to these witnesses directly. But yes, if he, you know, did know about this ahead of time but testified that he didn`t know about it until the time it was in the "New Yorker".
Look, that`s definitely not true. Could you prove a perjury case based on that? I wouldn`t want to bring that case. But that`s not the standard here. The standard is, as we`ve all been saying, is this a person who is being forth right and honest and should be on the Supreme Court? And I think the growing impression over and over is that he was not completely forth right in his testimony.
WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, as you cover this President, I know it`s not lost on you that every so often this White House follows the book of presidential behavior. For all the times they don`t. And one of those things that Presidents do or avoid is opening the door to a plan b, a backup choice for a big nomination, a big job. The President avoided that today. He continued to support his guy tonight at the rally in Tennessee.
Behind the scenes we all know there is a white board and there are backup names. There always are during this kind of selection process. So talk to me about the degree of confidence you are sensing in your contacts with those in the west wing.
BAKER: Well, you`re exactly right. He did, in fact, avoid the trap door of acknowledging that he has a plan b. That would be devastating to his current nominee. Anybody would know that in Washington. He seems to have been convinced of that by advisors.
At the same time he did leave himself some wiggle room. As strongly as he defended Judge Kavanaugh, as much as he embraced the judge`s defense and even seemed, you know, identify with him as somebody who`ve been accused of sexual misconduct himself, he did say today that if the FBI came back with information that was relevant that he would take that into consideration and he might give a rethink to the nomination.
So he did give himself an out if in fact something else comes to the floor. I think the White House is not at all sure this is going to lead to, you know, lead to a confirmation at the end of the week. They`re confident but not, I`d say, you know, overly so because in fact they recognize it even in four days, any number of new things can come out of the wood work, more allegations, a bar fight or even more serious things that call into question not just the judge`s actions in terms of sexual misconduct but what we`re talking about tonight which is to say his credibility to candor that he exercised or didn`t exercise with the Senate Judiciary Committee.
WILLIAMS: So, Shawn, to my other question earlier, there exists the possibility that in a field office in Dallas, Texas tonight someone is slipping a note under a physical door that says, you know, urgent and confidential. Does the bureau surge field agents to new tips, new information even if it`s in tomorrow morning`s "New York Times" under the by line of one, Peter Baker?
HENRY: You know, it`s like any allegation that comes in, anybody who raises their hands and says they have information about any type of a violation you`ve got to assess the credibility of the person who`s providing the information.
HENRY: Agents will do some type of an initial triage. They are likely to take it, run it up to chain and to their supervisory staff. It may get to send over to Department of Justice saying, here is this new angle that we want to pursue. It`s still not clear, the parameters are still not clear.
I heard multiple people officially in the White House, from the President and others who made statements that have been inconsistent. And then even when the President has said there are no parameters, they can go and do what they like, there`s still some back channel, I think, suggesting, well, maybe you should just need to stay here within these guidelines here.
So, agents if they have their druthers, they have the opportunity, they`re going to want to follow all logical leads. I think we as Americans want this to be resolved one way or the other. If the judge were to ultimately to be confirmed you don`t want these questions hanging. You want the American people to have a confidence that the people that are sitting in the highest court of the land are credible, that these things have been reviewed, and that there`s been no smoke that has been left there unchallenged.
WILLIAMS: Mimi, it almost sounds like you worked at the FBI. All right, Counselor, as you know, Rachel Mitchell, the special counselor, the female assistant as one of the senators put in, who was brought in to help in the questioning and to help in the optics said something about this case being difficult to prove this weekend. And I wanted to run it by you.
"A "he said, she said" case is incredibly difficult to prove. But this case is even weaker than that. Dr. Ford identified other witnesses to the event and those witnesses either refuted her allegations or failed to corroborate them. I do not think a reasonable prosecutor," that`s the key phrase here, "a reasonable prosecutor would bring this case based on the evidence. Nor do I believe that this evidence is sufficient to satisfy the preponderance of the evidence standard."
You`re a reasonable prosecutor. Could you reach that same conclusion, Mimi Rocah?
ROCAH: No. I reach a completely different conclusion. And first of all, I have so much trouble with her process that she used here. I mean, she calls this a "he said, she said" and then doesn`t even address in the memo what he said. There is no analysis of Kavanaugh`s testimony. She focuses only on Ford`s.
And that is not how agents and prosecutors look at a case. You can`t draw a conclusion about whether something would be a good case or not by looking at one witness`s testimony. You have to look at the whole picture. And that`s exactly what they are not doing here.
And her memo picks apart Dr. Ford`s testimony in this very sort of nit- picky way. She says that Dr. Ford called it a physical assault at one point and a sexual assault at another point. Well, it can be both things. And you don`t, you know, need to use the same term over and over to describe a traumatic event like that. It can be both the physical and the sexual assault. So there are many problems with her memo.
The biggest problem, though, is that standard is completely irrelevant to what`s going on here. This is not a criminal case as the Republicans have said over and over. This is not a trial. This is not someone seeking a search warrant. This is supposedly a truth seeking exercise to find out whether, again, as we`re all saying this man is qualified and fit to be on the Supreme Court. And to put these preponderance of the evidence standard isn`t -- this is not even the right standard to be talking about here even if it were a criminal case.
So she really is just sort of -- it`s a political memo. And I said it was embarrassing that she let herself be used for the questioning, this memo is even more embarrassing. And she knows better.
WILLIAMS: I thought you might have an opinion.
Our thanks to our big three starting off a big week. Peter Baker, we`ll be reading you, Shawn Henry, Mimi Rocah, thank you so much for being with us.
And coming up, the politics influencing this debate over Kavanaugh.
And later the President boasts about his deal replacing NAFTA. We`ll ask for a Canadian perspective on all of that when we continue among other things as THE 11TH HOUR is getting started on a Monday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Democrats are willing to do anything and to hurt anyone to get their way like they`re doing with Judge Kavanaugh. They`ve been trying to destroy him since the very first second he was announced. Now, I tell you what they`re trying to destroy a very fine person. And we can`t let it happen. We can`t let it happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Again, the rally was tonight in Tennessee. The President blaming Democrats for the delay in Kavanaugh`s confirmation. Remember, please, it was a Republican request for a time-out while the FBI takes a week to re-investigate.
Earlier in the day, trump wanting to talk about trade, was forced to defend his Supreme Court selection from the White House Rose Garden.
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TRUMP: You know you look at his life, until this happened, what a change he`s gone through, what his family has gone through, the trauma. For a man that`s never had any accusation, any -- not a bad statement about him.
Well, I watched him. I was surprised at how vocal he was about the fact that he likes beer and he`s had a little bit of difficulty.
You know, what happened? They`re going back to high school and they`re saying, he drank a lot one evening in high school. You know, I tell you what, I happen to know some United States senators, one who is on the other side who is pretty aggressive. I`ve seen that person in very bad situations.
Look, here is what, I`m just saying, I`m not a drinker. I can honestly say I never had a beer in my life. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right.
TRUMP: It`s one of my only good traits. I don`t drink. Whenever they are looking for something, did I say, "I`ve never had a glass of alcohol." I have never had alcohol, I`m just, you know, for whatever reason. Can you imagine if I had what a mess I`d be? Well, I`d be the world`s worse.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And then there was this remarkable moment during which in a brief flash having misunderstood what she said the President went after ABC News White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: OK. Question? Yes, go ahead. Sure. She`s shocked that I picked her. She is in a state of shock.
CECILIA VEGA, ABC NEWS ANCHOR: I`m not. Thank you, Mr. President.
TRUMP: That`s OK, I know you are not thinking. You never do.
VEGA: I`m sorry?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With us to talk about what it is we just witnessed there, Philip Rucker Pulitzer Price winning White House Bureau of Chief for the "Washington Post" and Kimberly Atkins, Chief Washington Reporter for the Boston Herald.
Kim, you take the first swing at what it is we just witnessed there. I noted the White House transcript of the presser changes his reaction to I know you`re not thanking, you never do. When repeated airings of this say to us that he was saying, "I know you`re not thinking. You never do." What was that?
KIMBERLY ATKINS, THE BOSTON HERALD CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER: Yes. Well, the transcript is clearly a bit of a revisionist history because it seemed pretty clear that he was insulting the reporter in that moment, in a moment where his Supreme Court nominee is being accused of mistreatment by a women, at a moment where women are watching this White House very carefully and at a moment that women are receiving the message that is coming from this presidency. I think it was pretty clear. I mean, the President has an acrimonious relationship with the press in general. We all know that.
But I think what we saw today in the way he spoke to and the way he treated this reporter, Ms. Vegas as well as another reporter, Kaitlan Collins cries something else at a time where, you know, I have women leaving voice messages expressing their displeasure about what`s going on in Washington all of the time when we have mid terms coming up. So I think that`s a perilous approach for this President as he is trying to defend. He had another person close to him or that he has nominated her who`s on his team or he wants to be on his team who is being accused by women of mistreatment.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, a look at the numbers shows that this nominee`s support is slipping and Kavanaugh is underwater in all cases. We kind of put together a sum of the polls. This is QPAC, no, 48, yes 42 should the Senate confirm. The next one is also Quinnipiac, Blasey Ford -- who do you believe most? By seven points Blasey Ford over Kavanaugh. And this was a big one. Almost seven in 10 Americans support this re-opening of the FBI background check.
So perhaps, Phil, it`s numbers like this, it`s coverage like we`ve witnessed in the first 28 minutes and 30 seconds of this broadcast tonight that motivated what we just watched.
PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Yes, perhaps it might be right, Brian. And this of course is a political decision about whether to confirm Judge Kavanaugh. But it`s a decision being made by realistically three key senators, three key Republican senators who are on the bubble, so to speak, Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski. And I`m not sure that they`re going to be persuaded by public the opinion surveys of the country at large.
And one thing that they are thinking about is just the intensity behind Kavanaugh, the support for Kavanaugh within the Republican Party. There has been a real rallying cry and you see the President try to play that out to galvanize his supporters around Kavanaugh in part by airing the grievances of men. We`ve talked a lot about this "me too` movement propelling enthusiasm among female voters for female candidates on the democratic side.
But there`s a reverse effect happening within the Republican base, a smaller subset, of course but within that base where men are rallying to Kavanaugh`s defense and feeling like they are being unfairly targeted by this cultural reckoning we`re going through as a country. And the President himself is fueling it, his at the tip of the spear.
WILLIAMS: So, Kim, using your lawyerly training, help me look at this clinically, best case scenario. Is the base scenario that the FBI finds nothing profoundly new and that Collins and Murkowski and Flake all find a way, somehow find a path to a yes vote on this federal judge who is already a living, breathing beer me and is living under accusation of sexual assault?
ATKINS: In the short answer, yes. I mean we`ve already seen among those Senator Collins initially before the allegations said that her litmus test was essentially hostility to Roe v. Wade. She said she doesn`t believe Brett Kavanaugh hostile to Roe v. Wade what`s make her essentially a yes vote unless something else happens. We saw Senator Flake come out and say that he was going to vote in favor of Jeff Flake, a couple of hours before he joined Senator Coons and sort of put the breaks on this for an FBI to make a full investigation.
So in these cases you see these lawmakers are all but ready to lineup behind them on the Republican side, but for the FBI finding something whether it`s something that corroborates the accusations that are made by the women accusing Judge Kavanaugh of wrong doing, whether it`s something that showed that he lies. Both Senator Collins and Senator Flake have expressly said if it shows that Judge Kavanaugh lied to the committee that that would be disqualifying. So these are things that could stand in the way. And if they`re not there you will see Mitch McConnell eagerly to get -- to move forward with this vote.
WILLIAMS: And Phil, if we`re shooting this as a movie McConnell`s home at night and his iPhone lights up and its 2024561414, the White House switchboard, and hits ignore he must not want to answer this phone these days because can you make a case that if this nominee gets pulled there is anything that happens before the mid terms?
RUCKER: Well, I think the White House would want something to happen before the mid terms if they pull Kavanaugh`s nomination either it`s just not the time on the calendar, Brian. There are only five weeks before voters head to the polls in November and that simply not enough time to do a final vet on a candidate, to nominate a candidate, to have that judge or that judicial nominee rather make the rounds on Capitol Hill doing all the one-on-one meetings with senators that`s required, to do the vetting on Capitol Hill before the confirmation hearings and to vote. You can`t do that in five weeks.
WILLIAMS: All right. Well, we have a moving target of a story we are covering tonight. Can`t thank you both enough. Phil Rucker, Kimberly Atkins, two of our returning veterans returning to the broadcast on a Monday night.
Coming up for us, will NAFTA really give way to something called USMCA? And what did we witness at that event today? When we continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Just today we made history again when I announced to the world that we are replacing the job-killing disaster known as NAFTA with a brand new U.S./Mexico/Canada -- we added Canada, it worked out great -- trade agreement. And we`re calling it USMCA. No more NAFTA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: President Trump rolled out this new trade agreement with Canada and Mexico today intended as you heard to take place of NAFTA at what was intended to be a victory lap ceremony that White House Road Garden event. The president boasted the deal will quote transform North America back into a manufacturing powerhouse. Trump also defended his aggressive trade policies claiming those tactics led to this win.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Without tariffs we wouldn`t be talking about a deal, just for those babies out there that keep talking about tariffs. That includes Congress. Please don`t charge tariffs. Without tariffs you wouldn`t be -- we wouldn`t be standing here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Despite today`s fan fare of the original NAFTA remains in effect until the new deal can be approved by legislatures of all three countries. Daniel Dale is with us. He`s Washington Bureau Chief for the Toronto Star and he`s been the go-to social media expert for a lot of us today looking for someone to truth squad this. So Daniel, where to begin? The crowd the president was talking to in Tennessee tonight, what will they get from this? And can he argue with a straight face that NAFTA is going to be thrown out the window, we are starting fresh? I`m paraphrasing. How much NAFTA is going to be in USMCA?
DANIEL DALE, THE TORONTO STAR WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: So, I`ll go with the second one first. There is a whole lot of NAFTA in this agreement. This is a revision of NAFTA, no matter what they call it. Trump for political branding purposes is eager to pretend like NAFTA has been thrown out the window and replaced by something in highly new. It hasn`t.
These are incremental, sometimes significant in some areas on some industries, but incremental changes to an existing agreement. As for what the average person will get from this, you know, it`s very possible to be average person -- it`s likely the average person will feel nothing from it.
In some industries though people might feel something. On the auto industry, for example, it is possible though far from certain that the concessions that Trump managed to ring (ph) from Mexico will lead to some additional auto production in the U.S., so it`s possible there will be some more plants or some more activity at existing plants in a place like Tennessee.
In other areas, though, these are not the kinds of things that the average person notices like two extra years for patent protection for certain kind of pharmaceuticals being sold in Canada. You know, that matters, it matters to Canadian drug prices, it matters pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. But, you know, day to day level for the average American citizen they just might not know.
WILLIAMS: Please note that most Americans are proud with the fact that our border with Canada is the longest unguarded border in the world. And what -- when you look back, what happened between Trump and Canada? Or was it just a convenient point of argument?
DALE: It`s been bizarre. I mean Trump seemed to take initially to Prime Minister Trudeau, I think partly because he likes charismatic good looking people he thinks are from "central casting", and so he praised upon Trudeau. Originally they seemed to get along and then something turned in June when Trudeau offered a quite restrained I thought measured criticism of Trump`s steel tariffs, Trump reacted furiously for some reason and began heaping extraordinarily unusual public scorn upon the prime minister of Canada calling him weak and dishonest and patching trade advisers and economic advisers to keep additional score of him on Sunday shows.
And then today, Trump said, you know, that`s all water under the bridge. That`s on the past. We`re going to have a great relationship now. I don`t think that`s exactly how it works. It`s like in any, you know, in a domestic relationship, you know, if someone is verbally abusive towards you for four months they can`t waltz back into the house and say I changed now. Everything is going to be fine. So I think there is a tough road ahead even though they have the trade issue at least temporarily resolves.
WILLIAMS: Daniel Dale who takes his place along side Martin Short as one of our favorite neighbors to the north. Thank you so very much for coming on and truth squadding (ph) just what it is we witnessed today. We appreciate it.
And Coming up for us tonight, Flake and Murkowski and Collins, are they, in fact, the center of your United States Senate? Will they get to decide the future of this Supreme Court nomination? And should they? The story when we continue.
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SEN. JEFF FLAKE (R), ARIZONA: The judiciary committee only has a one person majority for Republicans, 11-10. I`m that 11th Republican. I had leverage there. And I felt that my friend Chris Coons on the other side of the aisle had just made an impassioned plea to have a short limited time duration FBI investigation. And I thought there is no reason we shouldn`t accept that.
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WILLIAMS: During an event in Boston today, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake offering that almost grim acknowledgment of the power and influence and impact he has had over this nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. And if Kavanaugh`s candidacy survives the finding of the FBI his fate will then likely be decided by some mixture of these three critical Republicans who in this political atmosphere pass as moderates, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Maine Senator Susan Collins, Alaska`s Lisa Murkowski.
Just today, Collins was joining Flake in pushing for the wider scope for the FBI investigation. We`re so happy that here with us in the studio tonight to talk about us is Lonnie Chen, a Senior Adviser to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. He is also a research fellow at Hoover Institution and former presidential campaign adviser to both Rubio and Romney. Good evening. Welcome. Glad to have you back on the broadcast. Is it possible that three can be the center of 100?
LANHEE CHEN, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE SENIOR ADVISER: Well, in this Senate it seems as though that`s the case. The interesting thing is that they each have slightly different political pressures at play. Jeff Flake not running for reelection really it`s a question of legacy for him. Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins face very different pressures in their states but they face pressures from a similar direction which is people from the left trying to push them towards the center. So, it`s a very, very interesting dynamic because the three of them now find themselves in the unique historical position of potentially being the ones who will decide this nomination.
WILLIAMS: And look at this friendship, this alliance between Flake and Coons, it combines two of easily the most interesting surnames in the Senate, two of the most interesting biographies. Coons went to Yale Divinity School, did time in Africa as a student. Flake is a religious Mormon who did time in Africa as a Mormon missionary. They have bonded over their experience there. I happen to believe they share a huge basis in faith that has been one of the underpinnings of their relationship.
CHEN: Well, their relationship, the ability of Chris Coons and Jeff Flake to work together is a little bit of an acroinism in the modern Senate. The notion that two people would be able to reach out have a consistent relationship where they`re not going to agree on a lot of things.
WILLIAMS: Imagine that.
CHEN: But the funny thing is if you think back historically this was so common. And now we look at it and think it`s like, you know it`s like a unicorn. But the reality is that you`re right. I think they were able to bond on issues. They don`t have the same faith but certainly (INAUDIBLE) of faith. And they`re both very thoughtful gentlemen I think at the end of the day. I think that helps a lot too.
WILLIAMS: And of course this was part of your first answer, without the mid terms looming and without Flake already having a ticket out of Washington, none of this happens.
CHEN: No. If Jeff Flake decided to run for reelection it would have been a very different dynamic. He would have faced a different set of pressures as he said himself. Essentially, he would have had a very difficult time doing this because he would never have gotten the Republican base out to vote for him. And in a mid term election in particular you need that base support. It is an intensity election. And if you don`t have your base with you, you`re not going to win. Jeff Flake realizes this was only possible given this unique historical set of events.
WILLIAMS: in 15 seconds remaining, are you confident the right thing is going to happen for your country in this instance?
CHEN: I think so. I think this investigation, this FBI investigation is evidence of that, the fact that they did get to that answer through much finagling and a lot of difficulty. The fact that they are there suggests that the right answer will prevail.
WILLIAMS: Thank you so much for coming back.
CHEN: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: It`s great to see you as always. Lanhee Chen is our guest tonight.
Coming up, a rare event on planet earth in the middle of a violent and devastating earthquake that has now triggered a further widespread tragedy, an update from Indonesia right after this.
WILLIAMS: Tonight, there is devastation in Indonesia. Catastrophic damage and a soaring death toll on an island that was hit by a 7.5 magnitude earthquake on Friday. A huge tsunami followed. Look at this carefully. You can see the initial wave and then the subsequent waves rolling onto shore. A sudden arrival of water made worse because of the fact that warning sirens weren`t working. Almost instantly some places went from dry to 20 feet of water.
The reported death toll is nearing 1,000. Widely expected to rise as more debris gets unearthed. These desperate search and rescue teams are facing shortage of equipment and impossible conditions. Countless roads and bridges are now in ruins, of course. Most of the reported deaths so far in the city of Palu, where this drone footage shows the vast impact of these two events in one neighborhood.
Cell phone video captured a powerful phenomenon that causes the earth, watch that house, to essentially liquefy. It can make structures move across the landscape. It can swallow up and knock down homes and trees as you watch.
Those who survived the initial quake and tsunami are now running out of food, fuel, they have no electricity and, remember, it`s also early yet in this disaster. And as always happens after something like this, it`s getting desperate. At the airport, where relief flights come in and desperate people surge towards the planes looking for a flight out.
One incredibly poignant picture from today shows this young infant, can`t be more than just a few days old, in the arms of a uniformed member of the military. As fear of disease sets in, hundreds of the dead have already been placed in a mass grave. The Indonesian president has authorized the country to accept offers of incoming international help. The U.S. is among the nations stepping forward to help.
Coming up for us, they have been referred to as the very best among us, and as of tonight, there are 73 of them living in our midst in the United States. The story, when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. Our country has a new recipient of the Medal of Honor. Sergeant Ronald Shurer was a Special Forces senior combat medic in Afghanistan in `08 when his unit was ambushed by 200 Taliban insurgents and a hellacious fire fight was under way. Shurer crawled through withering fire to save the wounded, lowering several down a 60-foot cliff and protecting them with his body. It took him an hour to fight through the enemy to get to his men. He killed several insurgents along the way. The fighting went on for six hours.
As the president noted today, Shurer is a warrior who is currently engaged in another battle, as he undergoes treatment for cancer. Today`s ceremony brought the Medal of Honor close to home for those who work at the White House, because Shurer, in his day job, is one of them. He`s a Secret Service agent who is a member of the counterassault, or so-called CAT Team. The men and women who wear black and carry long guns and defend the White House and the traveling White House from threats.
Every day, they get to work alongside this humble man who, today, said about the medal what all recipients said about their medals, it was a team effort. But there are men at home with their families tonight because on their worst day, Sergeant Shurer had his best day.
As they say in the movies, nobody was going to die that day, not on his watch, and nobody did. And so, Ronald Shurer has just become the 73rd living recipient of the Medal of Honor.
That is our broadcast for this Monday night, as we start a new week. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END