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Hundreds protest at Senate. TRANSCRIPT: 10/4/2018, The 11th Hour w Brian Williams.

Guests: Sabrina Siddiqui, Robert Anderson, Cynthia Alksne, Nancy Cook, Eli Stokols, Greg Miller

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: October 4, 2018 Guest: Sabrina Siddiqui, Robert Anderson, Cynthia Alksne, Nancy Cook, Eli Stokols, Greg Miller

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, just hours away now from the first critical vote on Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court, he shows up in the "Wall Street Journal" tonight where he admits he might have been too emotional at times. While over 2400 law professors have now signed a letter saying he has no place on the court and a former Supreme Court justice agrees.

Protests erupt on the Hill today as Republicans exude confidence after reading the FBI report and Democrats say the investigation was a sham.

And all eyes on the four key senators now, Murkowski, Collins, Flake, and Manchin. We`ll get a late live report as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Thursday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 623 of the Trump administration, a fast-moving day in this drama surrounding the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.

Earlier this evening, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell set the first vote on for Kavanaugh at 10:30 tomorrow morning. That would put the Senate on a timeline for a final confirmation vote possibly late Saturday night, but it`s complicated as we will deal with in just a moment.

The President talked up his nominee at yet another rally tonight, this time in Rochester, Minnesota.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You see what`s going on in Congress right now with one of the most respected people potentially, hopefully Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

What they`re putting him through and his family, his family is incredible, what they`re putting them through --


WILLIAMS: Back to Washington now, this has been a day of drama and high emotion on Capitol Hill. Public outrage over Kavanaugh erupted in Washington. Inside the heart Senate office building, the one with the large atrium, that`s where they saw the most protesters, the most people taken into custody. They unfired banners and they staged a sit-in. And again today they tried to corner members of the committee.

Listen to this exchange between protesters and Utah Republican Senator Orrin Hatch.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why aren`t you brave enough to talk to us and exchange with us? Don`t you wave your hand at me. I waved my hand at you.

SEN. ORIN HATCH, (R) UTAH: When you grow up --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You grow up. You guys grow up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How dare you talk to women that way. How dare you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Close that door.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ma`am, you`re going to get arrested.



WILLIAMS: Not quite the elevator moment with Senator Jeff Flake from late last week. This was all happening exactly one week after Brett Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, the woman who accused him of sexual assault, both testified back to back before the Senate Judiciary Committee. The FBI`s report on its background investigation into her allegation as well as that of Deborah Ramirez, her claim that Kavanaugh exposed himself to her at Yale, they were officially released to members of the full Senate today. NBC News has learned that the FBI spoke with nine people during its inquiry.

Lawmakers have been reviewing the one copy of the findings in the Senate`s sensitive compartmented information facility, a secure room known in the trade by the acronym "skiff." And right now the focus is on those who are publicly uncommitted devoting for Kavanaugh. They are, must know them by heart by now, Republican`s Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, plus one Democrat, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin The other senator on that list until earlier today was Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota. She announced her decision on live television with a local station back home in her home state.


SEN. HEIDI HEITKAMP, (D) NORTH DAKOTA: This isn`t a political decision. If this were a political decision for me, I certainly would be deciding this the other way. And I can`t get up in the morning and look at the life experience that I`ve had and say, yes to Judge Kavanaugh.


WILLIAMS: So here`s where we are. Two story lines have emerged following the release of this FBI report on Kavanaugh. First the Republicans, top members of the Judiciary Committee walked into a press briefing with reporters today. And while no one wanted to sound like ageism, some couldn`t help but do the simple math here, a combined age of 416 years, an average age of 69 years, and as a group today their tone was one of vindication.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MAJORITY LEADER: What we know for sure is the FBI report did not corroborate any of the allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.

SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY, (R) IOWA JUDICIARY CMTE. CHAIRMAN: I feel very good about where this nomination is right now.

This person is very well qualified.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, (R) TEXAS JUDICAIRY COMMITTEE: No corroboration, no confirmation of any of these outrageous accusations that have been made against him.


WILLIAMS: Democrats in the meantime are calling into question the integrity of this investigation and questioning the White House role in engineering the result in advance.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER, (D) NEW YORK MINORITY LEADER: We have many fears that this was a very limited process, having received a thorough briefing on the documents. Those fears have been realized.

SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D-CA) RANKING MEMBER JUDICIARY CMTE.: The most notable part of this report is what`s not in it. It looks to be a product of an incomplete investigation that was limited, perhaps by the White House.


WILLIAMS: The Democrats also continue to point to what a very angry Judge Kavanaugh had to say during last week`s hearing.


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 of the Clintons, and millions of dollars and 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: Tonight in an unusual move, Judge Kavanaugh has written an op-ed for "The Wall Street Journal." It is called, "I am an Independent Impartial Judge." And he writes in it, "I was very emotional last Thursday, more so than I have ever been. I might have been too emotional at times. I know that my tone was sharp, and I said a few things I should not have said."

He goes on to write, "Going forward, you can count on me to be the same kind of judge and person I have been for my entire 28-year legal career, hard working, even-keeled, open minded, independent, and dedicated to the Constitution and the public good."

"The Washington Post" opinion page has its own assessment of that same man tonight, advising senators to vote no on this confirmation. "The Post" says it`s the first time it, as an organization, has made this type of recommendation since Robert Bork`s failed nomination back in 1987.

With all of that established, let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Thursday night. Starting with our Correspondent on the Hill, Garrett Haake, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post," Moderator of Washington Week on PBS. And Sabrina Sadiki is back with us, Political Reporter for The Guardian. All three of these individuals were on the Hill today covering the chaos surrounding this confirmation.

Garrett, I`d like to begin with you. Round mid evening we heard a new name might be in play that a Republican senator from Colorado had been visited as so many offices have been by some victims from back home, doing what constituents do, talking to their member of the Senate. This is a huge vote for everybody. But since the evening has gone on, Garrett, I also want to hear about your moment outside Murkowski`s office since the evening has gone on. It looks to have stabilized.

GARRETT HAAKE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that`s right, Brian. So earlier in the evening there were some rumblings that Cory Gardner Republican senator from Colorado might be wafering in his support of Judge Kavanaugh impart based on conversations he had had with sexual assault survivors who had visited his office.

But Gardner is also the chairman of the NRSC, the campaign arm for Republicans running for Senate defending their Senate seats. He`s very much a part of the Republican leadership. And as the night wore on, it became increasingly clear that was probably not quite as much of a waver as we had thought. He`s office also put out a statement saying that there was nothing in the FBI background check that has changed his support for Judge Kavanaugh.

But as you said, Gardner was far from the only senator being visited by sexual assault survivors today, and I came across a large group of women from Alaska who`d been meeting with Senator Lisa Murkowski today and a couple of different groups. Some of these women were sexual assault survivors, some were not. When I met the last group of them they had just left her office. They were 18 strong.

Maybe seven or eight of them were openly in tears as they came out. And they described to me a meeting that was more than an hour long with just the senator and one other aide in the room in which they described their experience and really pressed Lisa Murkowski to vote no. And they told me she was very receptive to them, was very respectful to them and heard them out.

And to me one of the more interesting things about this, Brian, is this was not something that was advertised by Murkowski`s office. It wasn`t leaked by staff. This is not the kind of meeting that you have to check a box and say you`re consulting with constituents. This shows the kind of carefulness that this one particular senator who is on the fence and in the middle of so many of these controversial issues is putting into this vote.

And I`d have to say if you`re watching one of those three Republicans who is perhaps most likely to vote no, it might be Murkowski. She`s got a lot of political cover. Her governor doesn`t like this nominee. She`s heard a lot from her constituents and she has kept her cards exceptionally close to the vest as she often does on these issues. She`s who I`m watching tomorrow morning.

WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, let`s talk about the op-ed that showed up in the pages of the "Wall Street Journal" tonight. Nothing about this has been normal. Sure isn`t normal to hear from a Supreme Court nominee in an op-ed like this, in this case Kavanaugh switching to his indoor voice to talk about what he meant to say?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Oh it`s a strategic move by the White House. They know this nomination is on the brink of maybe falling apart as all these moderate Republican senators, even some Conservative Republicans privately voiced concerns to White House Counsel Don McGahn and others.

And if you`re going to the "Wall Street Journal" Editorial Page that used to be edited by Bob Bartley, it`s the high church really for a lot of elite conservative lawyers, and Republican lawmakers and officials, and they look to that. If you`re going there, that means you have a direct message for that block of the Republican Party.

WILLIAMS: Sabrina, Jerry Ford didn`t get to be president for long. But while he was president he appointed a young brilliant Chicago jurist named John Paul Stevens who became a firm member of the liberal wing of the court before his retirement. I`m going to play for you what justice, former Justice Stevens said at a forum in Florida that was scheduled before knowing this was all going to be a thing. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


JOHN PAUL STEVENS, FORMER SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: I thought he had definitely the qualifications for -- to sit on the Supreme Court.

The hearings caused me to change my mind. And he has -- that demonstrated a potential bias and that the senators should really pay attention to it.


WILLIAMS: So, Sabrina, we`ve mashed up the essence of what he was saying today. He has defended him as a jurist, as a lawyer, but once he saw the behavior, and this is where so many people have hopped off, he changed his mind.

SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely. There are two stories lines that emerge from last week`s hearing. And one was, of course, the circumstances around the alleged sexual assault and having Dr. Christine Blasey Ford`s testimony against that of Judge Kavanaugh`s. The other was a strikingly partisan tone that Judge Kavanaugh took in his own testimony.

And he`s, of course, written this op-ed in part I think because of the comments from Justice Stevens and others who have raised concerns over the issue of impartiality.

Now, it`s worth noting that Judge Kavanaugh has cited his emotions during the hearing but he was reading from a prepared statement. And I think in part that was because last Thursday he was performing for an audience of one, and that was the President of the United States. Tonight as he`s written this op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal," of course he is appealing to some of those moderate Republicans who might be on the fence, in part because they are very much concerned as to whether or not he can be seen as a neutral arbiter from the highest bench in this country.

And I do think that Justice Stevens might be one of those people who at the last stage has prompted some of those law makers, Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins to have more pause. It is important to recall that Jeff Flake said at the Atlantic Festival earlier this week in Washington that we cannot have that kind of behavior on the court, that the temperament that Judge Kavanaugh displayed during that hearing, that that could not proceed.

WILLIAMS: And Garrett, we continue to cover this split, this cleave, the Republicans saying nothing to see here. And Cory Booker went on this network tonight and straight-up said, "The fix was in on this FBI report, and there this problem sits."

HAAKE: Yes, Brian, it`s a real problem. And you know the rules around this FBI report are that senators are not supposed to discuss the specifics of its content. And senators in both parties who I spoke to today went about as far as they possibly could go to get up to that line without crossing it.

And I had a conversation with Cory Booker today about this subject too. And he essentially said, "Look, I can`t tell you the specifics, but the idea that there`s not malfeasance, that there`s not other issues here, that there`s not other questions here, is ludicrous."

He said, you know, he is not a professional investigator, but as he read page after page of the 46 pages of FBI interview notes, he was, you know, presented with all these questions that he wishes, he as an amateur investigator, could have gone back and asked these witnesses.

So for Democrats, they feel like this is -- this report, this FBI effort was a sham. It didn`t do the job. It provided political cover for Republicans.

Republicans who I talked to coming out of this meeting were almost uniform in saying zero corroboration, no corroboration, that was the sort of the code word from Republicans as they were digesting this report.

I don`t think we`re going to know what`s in it until or if perhaps House Democrats are in the majority in the spring of next year and they subpoena the contents. But everybody got a little bit of what they wanted politically here to continue to make their arguments, Brian. And we`re not going to know what`s in this report with any finality when the first vote gets cast tomorrow morning.

WILLIAMS: And Sabrina, I almost forgot to mention this, Republicans lost a vote if it has to happen this weekend, and that is Senator Steve Danes of Montana has said, `I`ll be seeing you guys. I have a daughter to walk down the aisle at her wedding."

Having done that, I applaud this move by Senator Danes, but it might either stop or extend the vote clock if it can`t happen Friday. He`s going to be away Saturday and Sunday. They may have to kind of hold it open Monday and that, of course, is a huge risk that something else drops.

SIDDIQUI: Yes. It`s my understanding that Senator Steve Danes is potentially going to get on a flight immediately after his daughter`s wedding and perhaps arrive in Washington first thing Sunday morning. And in that scenario, they would leave the vote open because every vote counts. It`s truly is coming down to the wire.

And I think ultimately what this will really boil down to is whether some of those moderate Republican senators believe that the FBI was able to conduct a fair and comprehensive investigation. I think there`ll be also a really open-ended question as to whether the senators as well as the American public will learn more about the process, and more specifically what were the parameters for this investigation and what, if any, constraints were placed on the bureau by the White House as they carried out this investigation into Judge Kavanaugh and the allegations against him.

WILLIAMS: So, Bob Costa, Mitch McConnell is going to have what is, in effect, a test vote. If it fails or goes south, do they pull this nominee?

COSTA: At this point they`re full steam ahead with this cloture vote. And they want to move it to that final vote. But if the cloture vote fails, it really becomes almost impossible for the nominee to go forward because if you`re not signaling to move the process as a Republican or senator at this moment, you`re not going to vote on the final vote. That`s where we stand.

WILLIAMS: And are you hearing confidence from the west wing?

COSTA: This is a process that has Don McGahn, the White House counsel, as a swan song as he heads for the exit trying to push this through to have a second Supreme Court justice under his watch. It`s -- you don`t see him on T.V. He`s a lonely figure inside of this White House, not even really getting along with President Trump based on our reporting. Yet he`s trying to push it through, talking through with Kavanaugh, how to move this forward, getting that op-ed in "The Wall Street Journal."

At this moment late on a Thursday night, there`s confidence, but there`s not a lot of it.

WILLIAMS: Can`t thank you guys enough for joining us and starting us off after a busy day. Garrett Haake, Robert Costa, Sabrina Siddiqui, appreciate it greatly.

Coming up for us, what does it mean for the FBI that their work, specifically the limits placed on their work, could further drive us apart as people?

And later there`s short term and there`s long term. Long term, a Justice Kavanaugh could be on the bench 40 years. Short term, what about those elections 33 days away? THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Thursday night.


WILLIAMS: U.S. Supreme Court, as we mentioned, Democrats on the Hill have been outraged all day over the way this FBI investigation has played out. As we also mentioned, agents spoke with nine people. That list did not include Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Christine Blasey Ford. Nor did it include the dozens of witnesses Kavanaugh`s accusers attempted to put forward.

Republicans also can`t seem to agree on exactly who decided on the interview list.


RAJ SHAH, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The scope was set by the Senate. I can`t get into -- I can`t get into the details of it just like this.

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Just for clarity, why didn`t the White House instruct the FBI to interview Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford?

SHAH: So, the scope was set by the Senate and I cannot --

ALEXANDER: But you guys make the directions.

SHAH: I cannot -- actually I`m not permitted to actually confirm or deny any of the witnesses.


WILLIAMS: It was just a few hours after that Republicans contradicted that claim.


MIKE LEE, (R-UT) SENATE JUDICIARY CMTE.: We did not come up with a list of people who the FBI should interview. The FBI was requested to conduct an investigation into any and all credible current accusations of sexual misconduct by Judge Kavanaugh. And the FBI made the decision from there as to who to interview.


WILLIAMS: Lot to talk about with our guests tonight. We welcome them both back to the broadcast. Cynthia Alksne, a Former Federal Prosecutor, veteran of the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, and Robert Anderson, Former FBI Assistant Director of Counter Intelligence, former Executive Assistant Director of the Criminal Cyber Response and Services branch. Good evening and welcome to you both.

Bob, I have to start with you because this is FBI centric. This is not a good look for the FBI. Why not release publicly what they were given as far as rules of engagement? This is not national security. And because this is going to be hung around their neck for several years to come.

ROBERT ANDERSON, FMR. FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Yes, there`s no doubt there, Brian. I think transparency is the key. And I think also going back to finding out exactly what the scope of the investigation was laid out to the bureau. I can tell you that in normal investigations regarding if they`re for clearances or background checks or criminal investigations, you always interview the potential subject. You always interview the potential victims in these cases.

And you`re taught from the very second you walk into Quantico that you follow every single lead to the end. So I`m positive that somebody had set some type of scope that they followed. I`m sure the documents they submitted to the Congress were complete and accurate but there`s definitely going to be questions.

WILLIAMS: Cynthia, not allowing the FBI to do what it does is like keeping a Ferrari in the garage or using secretariat to go into town on errands. It`s not in their DNA to limit this thing in nine interviews.


It`s not in their DNA or nearly they sort of climbed across crushed glass to get to more witnesses. And in this case, they were turning away witnesses because obviously they were instructed they were not allowed to speak to them. It`s my understanding that within the FBI there are memos being written. And my hunch would be that if the Democrats take the House, that those will be subpoenaed and we`ll finally know the truth.

All we can do is hope that Jerry Nadler is eating his wheaties because he`s going to have a lot of work to do.

WILLIAMS: And Cynthia, since you were here for the testimony, let`s talk about the victims. I found is so interesting that Senator Murkowski`s vote is a fluid matter tonight because, like so many senators, victims have come from Alaska to Washington to say this matters to us, to say that --

ALKSNE: Right.

WILLIAMS: -- in ways that Grassley can`t understand, that hearing was a triggering event. Seeing her, seeing him was a triggering event.

ALKSNE: Right.

WILLIAMS: This has given an electric charge to the community of victims across this country.

ALKSNE: Right. People come up to me and want to tell me -- and I had somebody the other day want to come tell me about her story. I can`t imagine the numbers of people that are going to see Murkowski, and Collins, and Flake, and Manchin.

And it`s one of the problems with us spending a lot of time on the process of the FBI investigation which I do think is important. But we have gotten away from the core -- the core issue here, which is what do we think about the credibility of Dr. Ford versus the credibility of Judge Kavanaugh? And you have to -- it seems, you know, 80,000 news cycles ago that we watched Dr. Ford and really think back, you know, what did we all think then? What was our gut on her credibility?

And remember that not only do we have our gut on her credibility, but this is a woman who was telling people 10 years ago or six years ago or whatever it was, many years ago before he was nominated for the court that he was the person who had done this to her. And at the same time we know, as he walked into that hearing room, his credibility had been challenged by a person no less than Senator Leahy who has accused him of not telling the truth on a number of different issues.

So as important as this investigation is, on some level you don`t really need it to make a determination here, even though I would prefer that it was a much more thorough and a decent investigation. And it`s obviously a sham. But you don`t really need it because you have a very credible victim and you have an incredible Judge Kavanaugh.

WILLIAMS: Bob, I`ve been thinking about you because I`ve been thinking about the FBI and your many years with it. They were, of course, slammed by the left after the Clinton matter. They have been slammed and trolled for the first time in their history publicly by a --


WILLIAMS: -- President of the United States. And now they are kind of the best friends of the Republican side. It`s been a whip saw.

When I first read reports that they were turning away walk-ins with tips and turning away leads to witnesses, I didn`t believe it, but it appears now to be true.

ANDERSON: Yes. I can tell you, I can guarantee you that this, and it seems like the bigger the investigations, the moreover site there are on any of these matters. And I`ve got of a lot of those things in my past to refer back to.

Just as we were talking about earlier, I can guarantee you there is immense amount of requests coming out of the field offices that were interviewing these people, back up to headquarters and probably across the street to DOJ to lengthen and expand some of these interviews.

It is not in the DNA of any agent or analyst in the FBI to not look at every aspect of the leads. No doubt in my mind.

WILLIAMS: Tough subject matter again tonight. Can`t thank you both enough for coming on and talking about it. Cynthia, Alksne, Robert Anderson, appreciate it, hope you`ll come back.

And coming up for us, leaving aside any talk of a blue wave 33 days from now why the White House is betting on something a little more red after the Kavanaugh nomination. We`ll have that when we come back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Democrats have been trying to destroy Judge Brett Kavanaugh, the very first second he was announced.


WILLIAMS: I would never say this network was part of the political echo chamber, but in the political echo chamber today this was the discussion. Trump and the Republicans using the Kavanaugh fight to rally the base and cut down on the enthusiasm gap with the Democrats.

A report in the New York Times characterizes the strategy this way, "The increasingly aggressive attacks on Judge Kavanaugh`s main accuser and the dark warnings about Democrats from his supporters are part of effort to harnessing Republicans outrage over what they see as a Democratic plot to steal a pivotal, I`ll get it right, Supreme Court seat."

Well, with us tonight to talk about it, Nancy Cook White House Reporter for Politico and Eli Stokols, White House Reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

Nancy, law school style, if I asked you to make a case that this is helping the GOP, we have seen a spike in the ratings of Fox News Channel over the last few days, certainly the first few days of this week. Could you make said case?

NANCY COOK, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: You could. And there was also a recent poll from NPR Marist earlier this week that really showed that this Kavanaugh nomination fight is closing the enthusiasm gap as you said between Democrats and Republicans. And Democrats before were incredibly fired up about the midterms, you know, infuriated about a number of President Trump`s policies.

But now Republicans are feeling equally energized over this confirmation fight and we`re seeing both parties energized about the midterms. And my question is just whether or not that holds? And just one other point on that, you know, I`ve been talking a lot this week to conservative women. And interestingly, they are also very, very fired up about that. They feel like Judge Kavanaugh has been really unfairly persecuted, that this is part of a liberal smear campaign, and they are very fired up. So it`s interesting to me that women on both sides of the aisle are incredibly invigorated by this whole process.

WILLIAMS: Eli, how confident is the West Wing in your view in your reporting?



STOKOLS: I think that they are cautiously optimistic about it, but they know they don`t have much of a margin. I think they`re very nervous tonight. I think that the op-ed in the Wall Street Journal is a sign of the nervousness that they need to do more to secure some of these votes that people are rattled not just about the allegations that the FBI looked into, but about the judge`s temperament and what he displayed last Thursday.

I think as far as the politics goes, Nancy is right. This is something anger is always a motivator. It`s now bringing Republican enthusiasm up to where Democratic enthusiasm is because they`ve been -- Democrats have been angry for two years now. So they`re ready to turnout. And this might stem the tide of some losses for Republicans, perhaps in some Senate races.

But I think, you know, the Republicans trying to deflect away from the allegations that Ford and other women have made against Kavanaugh, serve the purpose of allowing them to not grapple with the substance of those allegations, but also really was about politics, and getting everybody back to their corners, and making this a partisan fight partly because that`s the way they thought they could get Kavanaugh through. But also because there is an election less than five weeks away now and they do know that that is a tried and true wait to motivate their voters.

WILLIAMS: Nancy, any sign of regret on the following two fronts? Number one, that the President went there at that rally a couple nights ago and attacked Dr. Ford? Number two, that this is their nominee from the get-go, they obviously had a short list and other choices.

COOK: Well, I think just on the first point about Trump going after Dr. Ford at the rally and how that was received. I think it depends on who you talk to. I think Don McGahn, the White House top attorney, who we`ve talked about throughout this program, and number of senators and peopke on Senate leadership thought that display was very unhelpful. I think other people in the White House sort of tried to spin it that he was stating the facts. We saw Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders really say that.

And so, I think that it`s a bit divided. And tell me your second question again.

WILLIAMS: That was picking him in the first place.

COOK: Oh yes. I don`t think they feel regret at all. But what will be interesting to me is, you know, Trump has really doubled down on him. I feel like he`s a favorite of Don McGahns. They`ve come up through conservative legal circles together and he is also very close to Leonard Leo who runs a conservative legal group called the Federalist Society.

I think what will be interesting is that, if the vote doesn`t end up going through even though the White House is confident, I think that we will see President Trump very quickly turn on Republican lawmakers on this including Don McGahn, and Leonard Leo, and the senators and distance himself. And I think the way that he`ll do that is by calling out that Kavanaugh used to work in the Bush administration and using that as a bit of a diss or distancing mechanism.

WILLIAMS: Well, that`s interesting. And on that front, kind of Eli, when we hear Ben Sasse say it shouldn`t surprise us that Trump attacked Dr. Ford. Is that a senator wanting to have it both ways, wanting us to react with surprise that he`s so upfront in his criticism of the president, even though he`s a consistent and anticipatable yes?

STOKOLS: Yes, it is. And that`s -- Ben Sasse is, you know, sort of the poster child for that behavior but he`s certainly not alone. I think the interesting thing about Trump`s behavior and mocking Dr. Ford on stage at a rally earlier this week.

You know, if the goal is to rile up the base, then it`s a smart strategy. If the goal is to get Kavanaugh through the Senate, probably less so because as you`re exciting a lot of these conservative voters, you potentially alienating the swing votes here and making it all the more difficult for Kavanaugh to get through. And adding to the pressure really felt by Senator Murkowski for sure, by Senator Collins, by those women who are hearing from their own constituents and then being confronted by this deluge of news and being seen.

At the end of the day, you know, if they support Kavanaugh of supporting a president who really has such -- so little regard for women.

WILLIAMS: As we say to all of journalists on our broadcast, we realize we`re getting you at the end of your workday, can`t thank you enough both of you for coming back on. Nancy Cook, Eli Stokols, really appreciate it.

And coming up, a Pulitzer Prize Washington Post journalist is out with a book called "The Apprentice." We`ll let you guess who is at the center of it, as people are just now learning about what is in the book. We`re back with the book and its author after this.



TRUMP: It`s the fake news, fake news. They said with Russia, he was too nice. He was too nice. With North Korea, they said he was too tough. He was too tough. And let me tell you, if I was really rough with Russia, they`d say he was too tough. He was -- these people are loco, I`m telling you, loco.


WILLIAMS: Uncanny imitation there of a television anchor. One controversial issue that has not been dominating the headlines is President Trump`s friendly approach toward Russia as you heard him just say, and Russian election interference.

Greg Miller is a National Security Correspondent for the Washington Post. He`s part of the post team that won the Pulitzer in 2018 for its coverage of Russia`s election interference. His new book, "The Apprentice: Trump, Russia and the Subversion of American Democracy." It is a comprehensive look at the shadow Russia is casting over this presidency.

Greg, thank you very much for coming on the broadcast. I`d like to begin with a wide shot and then zoom in to one of my favorite scenes, favorite vignettes that I had to read twice in your book.

First of all, when you bump into somebody in Washington, when you tell them you have been engaged in this project and doing a deep dive immersion, and they ask you, what are Russia`s roots into Trump, how deep is their reach, what`s it about, what does it go back to, how do you answer that question?

GREG MILLER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: It`s kind of a two-part answer you have to give at this point because Robert Mueller is not finished yet, and presumably he knows a lot more than we do. We`re going to learn more by the time he`s done.

But we do know a lot already. We know that Trump for years has sought business deals in Russia, has tried to develop properties in Russia. We know that his family, his own sons have referred publicly to the large amounts of cash that have come in from Russia or his -- the Trump organization`s dependence on money from Russia. There`s been a lot of terrific journalism that I got that I`ve reviewed in working on this book, financial journalism about how many properties, Trump properties in Floriida, for instance, condominiums are purchased by buyers from Russia.

It`s a deep connection. And, of course, Trump himself has gone to Moscow, held the Miss Universe Pageant there and desperately sought a meeting with Putin at that time.

WILLIAMS: I have to tell you, the scene I want to ask you about is the meeting in the Oval Office with two Russians named Sergey and what passed for media were the folks that kids of a certain age in this country grew up hearing the soviet news agency TASS.

So you`ve got two Russians and their home team media in the Oval Office, at which the President shares intel and apparently sources and methods with them. You tell this harrowing story about learning of what transpired in the Oval Office, grabbing a colleague of yours at the Post, reporting it out. You go back, following due diligence, you go back to the White House and say, "Here is what we have. We are prepared to report this."

They say to you, "Call your sources back and make sure everybody is telling the truth, which you in the moment fear is an attempt to light up all your sources as if someone`s tracking your phone calls." Now, please, your version of that story.

MILLER: That was dead-on, Brian. You captured it perfectly. In this book we retraced a lot of the great Post reporting and reporting by other news organizations over the course of the past year and a half, two years. That was just a stand out moment for us.

The way that information came to me was unusual. Efforts it took me to try to protect the sources that were providing this information, I try to layout in the book. Give you sort of a glimpse in how we go about doing our jobs. Because, you know, journalism is under such scrutiny and even attack these days. but, yes, that was the most scary moment of that episode.

We`re in a conference call with White House officials. They`re screaming at us over the phone trying to intimidate us and convince us not to run this story. And as they hang up, one of the officials says, "You need to go back to all of your sources right now to double-check that information." And there could be nothing more foolish to do as a reporter than to come out of that call knowing it`s already animated the White House, knowing that there are already leaks investigations probably and referrals underway and start calling sources.

It was scary, but not the only scary moment covering this administration and this story for the past year and a half.

WILLIAMS: So nice, I read it twice. It certainly got my attention. This is the book, Greg Miller is the author. We`re going to put a break in here. He has agreed to stick around and when we come back in the next segment, what we learned today about Russian hacking. It`s not just for American elections any more. It`s been at aimed at olympic athletes as well. Our discussion continues right after this.


WILLIAMS: We mentioned this story before the break continues to get more unbelievable. The US charged seven members of Russia`s military intelligence agency with cyber hacking today.

According to the DOJ, the Russians tried to hack anti-drug agencies across the globe who were trying to expose doping by Russian athletes. Hours earlier, European officials accused Russia of cyber attacks on the international agency that`s investigating the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy in the UK.

Washington Post journalist and new author Greg Miller is back with us. This is the book he`s written. It`s called "The Apprentice". So, Greg, I know that you find a brazenness in the Russian model of hacking. It is clearly the new war, the new front we`re fighting with them on. Part two of my question to you, though, is do you have real concerns about our midterms, about their ability to get in and screw around with raw vote and some numbers?

MILLER: I think that there`s already clear evidence that Russia is still at it. And in fact, has gotten better at interfering in not just our elections, but other elections around the globe.

The last time around in 2016 they did a lot of a lot of clumsy things. They bought ads and materials on Facebook and Google, and left sort of clear trails back. They`ve gotten better at hiding their tracks, if anything. And I think that the lesson that they took from 2016 was that, that was a high-impact, low-cost operation.

Look at the impact it still having each and every day here in the United States with the investigations, the dysfunction, the war between Trump and the Justice Department and the FBI.

WILLIAMS: It is reminiscent in that way of 9/11 which the cost of which there is a monetary figure, box cutters, plane tickets and the like. They certainly got the return on their investment for what they launched against our system.

I`m going to show the book again. It is called "The Apprentice." It gets its title from a television show that originated from this building for 14 seasons. However, the cover image is unmistakable and that foretells the story inside. The author Greg Miller, Pulitzer Prize winner with the Washington Post, very happy to have you on tonight, thank you so much for being our guest.

MILLER: Much appreciated, Brian. Thank you.

WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, what the vice president tried to normalize today in a speech that did not get much attention, but here`s a hint. He mentioned Russian election meddling. The story when we come back.


WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go here tonight is a speech the vice president gave today. It competed for attention with the Kavanaugh drama. And as you might imagine, it lost. But what he had to say was interesting.

Let`s spend just a minute going over it here. Mike Pence spoke to the Hudson Institute. And in the speech he seemed to have two major goals. He mentioned the President 25 times and he attacked China. And with a straight face he accused the Chinese of meddling in our elections.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Worst of all, China has initiated an unprecedented effort to influence American public opinion, the 2018 elections, and the environment leading into the 2020 presidential elections. China is meddling in America`s democracy. As President Trump said just last week, we have in his words found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming midterm elections.


WILLIAMS: And when President Trump trotted out that plot line last week, ran it up the flag pole to see if anyone would salute, we asked our expert, veteran FBI Agent Clint Watts who has written a book on the subject, and he sees this as an attempt to change the subject.


CLINT WATTS, VETERAN FBI AGENT: This is the rationalizing of what we heard in the election. An so it`s very consistent. Whenever the President was challenged about the Russian interference in the election in 2016 very early on, he would throw, "Well, it could be China, it could be somebody else."


WILLIAMS: Indeed. In this speech today, Mike Pence rolled out what had the sound of actual intelligence to make his point.


PENCE: As a senior career member of our intelligence community told me just this week, what the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing across this country.


WILLIAMS: Now, cynics and skeptics and those who have been begging our government to harden our election machinery against continued Russian hacking, may see a different motive and administration making its argument in advance perhaps if it turns out that the midterms are meddled with, it was the Chinese. The evidence clearly points to the Chinese.

One other curiosity from today`s speech, it contained the word malign, which stood out in "The New York Times" op-ed a few weeks back written by that still anonymous member of the Trump administration.

On that note, that is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. And goodnight from NBC News headquarters here in New York.