Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: October 23, 2018 Guest: Clint Watts, Julia Ioffe, Sabrina Siddiqui, Nicholas Kristof, Jon Meacham
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the apparent plan for Putin and Trump to meet again just five days after the midterms. The news was broken by the Presidents man of national security, John Bolton after his meeting with Putin today. He says he brought up Russian meddling, but he also says China is way worse.
Plus, the strategy to spread fear and loathing heading into this midterm. We`ve never seen anything like it. Fake stories, baseless rumors, made-up job numbers, a promise of a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class over the next two weeks from the President who sees no problem with nationalism.
And the Presidents odd reaction now that the cover story surrounding Jamal Khashoggi`s murder are unraveling. "New York Times" columnist, Nick Kristof, with us tonight to weigh in as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Tuesday night.
And good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 642 of the Trump administration, and the President appears to be gearing up for another meeting with Putin of Russia, just days after the midterm elections are concluded in this country.
And of course, it was just days ago when the feds identified the latest Russian accused of meddling in our elections. In fact, our upcoming midterm elections.
Today Trump`s National Security Adviser John Bolton met with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The focus was Trump`s decision to pull out of a three-decade- old nuclear arms control treaty, but the idea of another face-to-face sit- down was apparently not far from Putin`s mind.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: President Putin said in the opening of the meeting today when the press was there that, his words now, it would be useful to continue a direct dialogue with the President of the United States. I said, yes, in fact, that President Trump would be -- would look forward to meeting with him if Paris. So we will make the precise arrangements on that, but it will happen in connection with the 100th Anniversary of the Celebration of the Armistice that the French are hosting on November the 11th.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Not long after those comments, Trump was asked about this proposed meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, are you going to meet with Vladimir Putin in Paris in a couple weeks?
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We may. It`s being discussed right now. Mike Bolton, as you know, is in Russia talking about various things, including the whole nuclear situation.
It hasn`t been set up yet but it probably will be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The President said Mike Bolton, it`s John Bolton. If this November meeting takes place, it would be the first face-to-face meeting since the July summit in Helsinkeie where the President took questions about election meddling with Putin standing right there next to him, still viewed by so many as a low point in his presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just now President Putin denied having anything to do with the election interference in 2016. Every U.S. intelligence agency has concluded that Russia did. Who do you believe?
TRUMP: President Putin. He just said it`s not Russia.
I will say this. I don`t see any reason why it would be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Putin, did you want President Trump to win the election?
VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIA PRESIDENT (through translator): Yes, I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The President did try to clear all that up when he came home, but the damage was largely done.
Today in Moscow, John Bolton said he talked with Putin about election interference generally, and he was asked if he thought Russia was trying to meddle in the upcoming vote just two weeks away here.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOLTON: We`re obviously monitoring the potential for foreign interference in our elections across the board very closely. FBI Director Christopher Wray said about a month ago that we didn`t detect anything like the level of involvement in 2016.
The fact was that the outcome was then exactly the same by all the evidence we have, and if there were evidence to the contrary, we would have heard of it by now.
What the meddling did create was distrust and animosity within the United States, and particularly made it almost impossible for two years for the United States and Russia to make progress diplomatically.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Bolton followed that with the administration`s newest line on foreign efforts to influence our elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOLTON: If you want to talk about a really massive influence effort on the American political system, I would suggest you read Vice President Pence`s speech on China`s efforts.
Looking at everything that China was doing, a very, very senior U.S. intelligence official said it makes Russia look like the junior varsity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The Cice President`s argument which he made earlier this month went something like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE PENCE, (R) VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: On that note, let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Tuesday evening. Julia Ioffe, Russian-born American journalist who has covered Putin for years, this days are correspondent with G.Q. Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent with "The New York Times" who was formerly Moscow called bureau chief for "The Washington Post." And Clint Watts, who has never worked for G.Q. or "The Washington Post" to our knowledge but is and happens to be a veteran of the FBI, currently a senior fellow with Foreign Policy Research Institute. And also happens to be the author of "Missing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News."
Peter Baker, we`ll begin with you. What is the upside, what is the possible argument to make for another meeting with Putin days after our midterm elections?
PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it`s a great question because they haven`t really answered that one yet. The President has not been back overseas since his Helsinki trip. He`s not met with foreign leaders on foreign soils since that trip. There`s been no particular outcome from that meeting that we`ve seen, at least publicly. And there`s no buildup to the idea that this meeting is going to be a breakthrough on any particular issue contention between the two.
It`s going to come right after the midterm election. And so there will be, at that point a new Congress having been elected. We don`t know where the Democrats will win the House or the Republicans, but there could be a size make shift in the electoral landscape here in the United States.
And there could be concerns or issues about whether Russia had played a role in that election. We`ve already seen Robert Mueller indict one person, one Russian just in the last few days for trying to intervene in the 2018 midterm elections not just the ones from two years ago with these elections going on right now. So that timing makes it curious in its own rite.
And then there is no sign that there is any particular movement toward agreement on something like Syria, like arms control, like Ukraine or any other major issues that have been divided in these two countries now for several years.
WILLIAMS Clint, I keep asking you some form of this same question, what is going on here? Just optically, yet another meeting with this guy, of all the guys in the world?
CLINT WATTS, FMR. FBI SPECIAL AGENT: Yes. And it`s also coming up on another American holiday. Remember this day it would be Veterans Day, and it was going to be --
WILLIAMS: That`s right.
WATTS: -- the big D.C. parade that got canceled. So it`s odd that you want to go and do a follow-up meeting.
It`s also interesting that Vladimir Putin, basically says, "I would much rather have direct communications with the president, "which the National Security Adviser Bolton just said, because he gets what he wants when he`s in meetings with President Trump.
And what`s interesting is we had the last summit which was a colossal pr disaster. You`re coming into this now. What do we think the Mueller investigation? Where is that?
Well, everybody seems to think after the midterms one thing might start to roll out again. You could come into a circumstance here where the Mueller investigation is literally rolling out additional indictments, finding reports all related to Russia and collusion, obstruction of justice and just interference in general.
At the same time that the President is meeting with Vladimir Putin will be in the same position again where he`s going to be meeting with Putin and have to say, "What about this election interference that was in 2016 and after 2016? We just saw that with the complaint that was filed last week.
It`s odd timing. I don`t know what there is to gain from this meeting.
WILLIAMS: Especially in this very studio, if we get any numbers that are hanky, are weird, don`t look like common sense in that period after the midterm elections.
WATTS: Yes, we have one week there where we`re already seeing calls of voter fraud. Voter fraud coming from the Kremlin`s trolls, by the way, which was shown in that complaint last week and from the President of the United States who keeps throwing this out there. There is a theory that if the Republicans don`t essentially get the outcome that they want, they will claim the election is invalid or that there is voter fraud, election rigging.
And on the other side, we`ve seen the State of Georgia, there`s a lot of contention around voter suppression. So we could have a lot of tumult in our country and during that week after the midterms. And now we`re moving in to negotiations with Putting with unclear terms. Not really sure where we`re going at. If you look back in Helsinki what we supposed to be gaining from that was nuclear negotiation --
WATTS: -- that they were coming together. Now we`re pulling out of a treaty. The other thing was we were going to go into Syria and essentially work to the problems. Right now, were -- there are quite a bit of tensions between the U.S. military, Russian defense contractors, Russian military in terms over the situation as serious. So I don`t know what we gain from the last meeting. I don`t know why we rush into another one.
WILLIAMS: Julia, I so often pointed out your birthplace when you come on the broadcast, I hope you don`t mind. Mine is about two miles from the Garden State Parkway, because it inform some of your best reporting, your knowledge of the culture and the language. And we`re going to ask you to do it again when I sow this clip of Putin today referencing eagles and olives. And I want you to figure out just what`s going on here. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): As far as I remember, the coat of arms of the U.S. depicts an eagle.
PUTIM (through translator): It -- on the one hand it holds 13 arrows, and on the other hand it holds an olives branch with 13 olives as a sign of the benevolent and peace-loving policy of the U.S.
Looks like your eagle has eaten all the olives and what`s left are only the arrows.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So, Julia, what`s going on there?
JULIA IOFFE, G.Q. CORRESPONDENT: Troll so hard. I think it`s interesting that he, first of all, time this joke out, explicitly he`s patiently waiting for the translator to translate each section of the joke. So he thought about this joke. He thought in detail about the crust of the United States. It also shows this kind of salty humor, kind of salted the earth humor. And because frankly, the move that John Bolton pulled in Moscow in the last couple days it plays right into the Kremlin`s rhetoric that it is the America that is the warmonger, and that it`s Russia that`s the adult in the room, the only diplomat in the room who is trying to bring peaceful diplomatic solutions to the thorny complex world issues while America is constantly up ending the table. This was Russia`s rhetoric when it came to Syria.
And Syria negotiations, this was negotia -- rhetoric with Iran, with Libya, now with the IMF treaty, which by the way it was constantly violating anyway, but because of the move that John Bolton pulled now, Russia looks like the adult in the room that actually wants to talk details and complexities and negotiate and keep the parameters of this treaty in place. Which by the way, it needs to. It`s expensive to do all this stuff and Russia is not flush with the cash right now.
WILLIAMS: Yes. Their GDP is smaller than that of the State of Texas, as I always try to point out.
Clint, I hate to skip around, but just because Bolton repeated it on Russian soil, this notion that the Chinese are our real problem. They are the guys you guys ought to see about meddling. You`ve written about the Russian meddling in our elections and elsewhere. Can you address it once and for all?
WATSS: Yes, it is a bait and switch. Let`s focus on what China, don`t focus on Russia.
The problem is, the senior intelligence officer probably said, what China is doing in cyberspace, meaning in terms of hacking is on a much grander scale or it has been historically.
WILLIAMS: And they bought a section on the Des Moines Register.
WATTS: That`s right. The only part of their influence is that they`ve both add essentially in the U.S. newspaper which they have done for many years. I have read them in New York newspapers before.
If you`re looking at influence around the elections, then I would like to ask John Bolton and anybody else in the administration, who are the candidates they`re pushing then in 2018? That`s election interference.
What are the voting machines and the data basis that they are hacking? What are the state sponsored news outlets that are in English coming from China that have won audience chair in United States? And what are the covert personas that look like and talk like Americans that are connecting with voters on the ground trying to push them to vote in a certain way. I`ve seen no evidence for any of this. That is a disinformation effort.
What has happened is that Chinese hacking has picked up. During the Obama administration we went into, essentially negotiations, told them to knock it off. There were indictments that are actually following these Chinese hackers. And we went to a resolution point. That has returned, this hacking has returned once the tariff were kicked-off.
And no one really seems to understand is whether it` tariffs or the Iran nuke deal behind the scenes there is a cyber war going on. And that picks up whether it`s Iran or China based on how we work with those negotiations. It`s a symmetric warfare. And this is where we kind of keep stumbling into it as a country. We think, oh, we`re going to push it in the nuclear, they are now cyber attacking our banks. That`s Iran in case.
We`re going to push on China in terms of trade. They are now cyber attacking, and it seems to be the medical industry. They`re going after biotech. They`ve already stolen our I.P. in manufacturing. So they`re going after these other points.
So this sort of warfare for the Chinese is largely economic, not political. They don`t want to win our elections because they don`t really have anything to win there. They`re going to defeat us in the economic battlefield.
WILLIAMS: Peter and Julia, I`m coming to you on the subject of nationalism. And before we do we`re going to run the President from his rally last night and again today in the Oval Office.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: You know what I am? I`m a nationalist. OK?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, just to followup on your comments about being a nationalist, there is a concern that you are sending coded language or a dog whistle to some Americans out there that what you really mean is that you`re a white national.
TRUMP: I`ve never even heard that. I can not imagine that. You mean, I say, I`m a nationalist, no, I`ve never heard that theory about being a nationalist. I`ve heard them all. But I`m somebody that loves our country when I say a nationalist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, to folks of a certain age they remember Charles Lindbergh. Other folks have their own touch points in the history of the word nationalism. Can you run through the brief history and why it just rings like a bell with some people?
BAKER: Well, that`s right, exactly. Look, you know, I was in Houston last night, and the idea of nationalism, meaning, you know, if it uses in equivalent and patriotism is one thing.
There`s a reason why the President use the word patriotism and not nationalism and that is to say that it does have a frayed history. It does go back to, in this country among other things the pre World War II era with the Charles Lindbergh lead America first committee. It was isolationist and even vaguely sympathetic to the nazis. It has a history with other countries around the world and movements around the world that is not usually the message the President want to send. Critics will say that nationalism is code for racism or (INAUDIBLE).
Now, President Trump is saying, "I`m not meeting it that way, I`m meeting it in a effect as an America above others. And my job as United States president is to represent the United States." And therefor in that sense he says he needs in effect as equivalent to patriotism.
But he uses the word very carefully. And he knows the impact it has. And he even said last night in Houston when I was there, he says, "I know we`re not supposed to use this word." So when he tells Jim Acosta today that he didn`t know that it had some bad connotations among some people, it seemed like a conflict with his own statement last night.
WILLIAMS: Julia, I see you nodding. What does nationalism mean to you?
IOFFE: All the wonderful things. I`m nodding because I agree with Peter always.
But you know, I think aside from white nationalism, I think it`s part of what this administration or Trump in particular and his advisers like Stephen Miller have wanted to do from the beginning, which is relitigate a lot of the things that have been set up, a lot of the structures and treaties that have been set up in the post cold war -- sorry, post World War II era, to keep us safe and prosperous in that peace. And some of that, apparently involves relitigating whether or not nationalism is a bad word or not. And in fact, it is.
And I think what`s also interesting is this, again, it play`s right into the Kremlin`s hand. Before the Kremlin, Putin in particular was hamstrung by the Obama administration and the Bush administration and the Clinton, all kind of an any American administration he`s dealt with on insisting on a rules base international order. Again, the one that was developed after World War II.
Now Trump is saying, you know what, "Vladimir Putin? Let`s do this. Let`s have -- let`s go back to 19th century ideas of nationalism, fears of influence. You know, you move your chess pieces here and I moved them there." And it`s all just a big game of risk. And we don`t care about human rights, we don`t care about any of the people that become collateral damage as long as, you know, we`re nationalist and we care about our country first.
WILLIAMS: We thanks to our big three for a conversation we could easily have over the remainder of the hour. Julia Ioffe, Peter Baker, Clint Watts, greatly appreciate it.
And coming up, the stuff the President is choosing to say in public and out loud, as these midterms approach.
Later the Trump administration`s latest response to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway on a Tuesday night.
WILLIAMS: With just 14 days until voters get their say, President Trump is letting it fly at his rallies and really whenever microphones are present. This week he pledged a 10 percent tax cut for the middle class between now and the midterms, but Congress is out of town. That`s not going to happen.
After repeatedly charging there are Middle Easterners sprinkled into the caravan migrant group, today he admitted he has no proof. He`s Vice President is using a false figure about terrorists trying to come here from Mexico. Trump continues to go heavy on the idea of a Democratic mob. Fox News devoted more air time just tonight to the idea of mob rule.
The President has changed jobs numbers on the fly this week. He has let wild charges fly. Here now a sampling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The Democrats want to replace freedom with socialism.
The Democrats have become an angry, unhinged mob.
You know what I am? I`m a nationalist. OK? I`m a nationalist.
I don`t think we like sanctuary cities up here. By the way, a lot of people in California don`t want them, either. They`re rioting now.
Any guy that could do a body slam, he`s my kind of -- he`s my guy.
Maxine Waters. Good old Maxine. Low I.Q. individual. Low I.Q.
I`m willing to send the military to defend our southern border if necessary. All caused because of the illegal immigration onslaught brought by the Democrats because they refuse to acknowledge or to change the laws. They like it. They also figure everybody coming in is going to vote Democrat.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With us tonight to talk about all of it, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize Winning White House Reporter for "The Washington Post" and Sabrina Siddiqui is back with us, Political Reporter for the Guardian.
Sabrina, who among us doesn`t like a good sweeping generalization? So let`s start with one. The closing argument in 2016 was, don`t vote for Hillary Clinton. She`s a straight-up criminal. If you do, we`ll have none stop investigations at the start of her presidency. The closing argument 2018 seems to be they`re coming for you, they`re coming for your house, your flat screen T.V., your family, and for good measure, there are Middle Easterners embedded within the crowds. Do we have that about right?
SABRINA SIDDIQUI, THE GUARDIAN POLITICAL REPORTER: Well, that appears to be the closing argument both from the President as well as frankly Republicans on the ballot who have been running very sharply anti-immigrant political ad on T.V. And so there certainly is this embrace by the GOP of the politics of fear.
And a lot of that has to do with the fact that the Republicans were supposed to run on tax cuts on what was the President singular legislative accomplishment since taking office. But polling has found that the tax bill that the President signed into law last year is increasingly unpopular with the American public. In fact, the Republican National Committee, his own internally commission survey found that his respondents by a 2-1 margin felt that the bill just proportionally benefit wealthy Americans and the corporations over the middle class.
So what the President is doing is he`s operating of the same playbook he used in 2016, but instead trying to turn out the Republican base by appealing to his most ardent supporters and that has to do with talking fears there on immigrants, inflaming racial tensions. Will it work? Well, that depends on whether or not this midterms are referendum on his presidency or simply a question of which party is able to turn out it`s base in larger numbers.
WILLIAMS: Ashley, I swear I`m coming to you, but first I`m going to do one of my favorite things, and that is to read your writing aloud dramatically.
One of the promises the President made this week was a 10 percent middle class tax cut even though Congress nowhere close to Washington, it can`t be done. You write, "The mystery tax cut is only the latest instance of the federal government scrambling to reverse-engineer policies to meet Trump`s sudden public promises or to search for evidence buttressing his spirit. The Pentagon leaped into action to both hold a military parade and launch a space force on the President`s whims. The Commerce Department moved to create a plan for auto tariffs after Trump angrily threaten to impose them. Just this week, Vice President Pence, the Department of Homeland Security and the White House all rush to try to back up Trump`s unsupported claim that unknown Middle Easterners, the worst kind, were part of a migrant caravan in Central America only to have the President admit late Tuesday there was no proof at all."
Quickly, lets view that exchange in the Oval Office then we`ll talk to the journalist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And I spoke to one literally last night, I spoke to another one this morning. Very good relationship with border patrol and ICE. And they say it happens all the time from the Middle East. That`s not even saying bad or good. But some real bad ones, but they intercept --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- they`re in the caravan now?
TRUMP: Well, they could very well be.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But there`s no proof.
TRUMP: There`s no proof of anything. There`s no proof of anything. But they could very well be.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So Ashley Parker, is the subhead of your story that shiny objects will always be shiny objects? When you are the head of government, there are so many people beneath you that some of them can sound like orders and initiatives.
ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: They sure can. And when you`re the head of government, you can turn your whims and your desires and your offhand comments and your tweets into oftentimes reality.
What we get to in our story is, in some examples, if you just take two from this week, the President sort of said something that is not rooted in truth. Like his claim about the caravans for which he`s has been able to provide no evidence, but it sends the rest of the administration scrambling to come up with justifications and examples. And it`s worth noted.
It also leaves in their credibility hanging out to dry after they`ve all gone out publicly, the White House Press Secretary, the Vice President, vouch for the President. And then he says, as you just showed in the Oval Office, "Well, actually, you know, you`re right, there is no proof but it could be true."
The flip side of that is when your the President. Again, you can have a whim or you can have a desire, like you would like to do a tax cut, and then government sort of mobilizes around you to try to make it happen. Now of course, what the President first had a tax cut before the midterms is simply not visible. But Trump did sort of come up with this tax cut seemingly out of the blue. No one in his administration knew about it, none of the key players on Capitol Hill who would have to be involved knew about it, but what you are seeing in the background are lawmaker and aides working to try to make something that the President dreams happen. And that`s the power of the presidency.
WILLIAMS: Sabrina, to your mind and in your reporting, any parallel for this, the depths and breath of these prior to a midterm election on the part of our President?
SIDDIQUI: Well, I certainly think that with this particular President, a lot of their rhetoric on immigration and just stalking of racial divisions is fairly unprecedented.
But you think back to the 2014 election cycle and there was a migrant crisis that President Obama had to deal with at the border of unaccompanied miners. And Republicans very much did try and run the campaign that similarly revolved around the politics if you are the results of the Ebola crisis occurring simultaneously and the rise of ISIS. So you did certainly have some similar themes play out. But those were more from the down ballot candidates, of course, not coming from the presidency itself.
I think that what`s telling, though, is that if you look at a lot of this Republican ads, there`s a focus on linking immigrants to violent crime even though that`s brought out by the statistics. It really does show the extent to which the party has gone to embrace what is known as Trumpism.
And this president`s rhetoric and policy agenda when it comes to immigration. Now again, it`s designed for short-term gain to turnout support from the Republican base. But there are some Republican I offer I speak to, I think this could have long-term effects on the party especially when it comes to outreach with Hispanic voters and future elections. That of course will be a conversation for another day.
WILLIAMS: So Ashley, these west-wingers you talked to, let`s take the fictional tax cut. Do they look at this, the pile of these things stacking up and just think, this is the life we`ve chosen?
ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: I think there is a recognition that this is how this President operates, and they`ve often, to some very early days of this White House had to, as we wrote sort of reverse engineer policy or even facts to a certain extent to try to make what the President says happen or seem true.
I will say one thing, that in a way kind of helps them is that Trump has proven himself so far at least impervious (ph) to pay in the penalty for his mistruths. So, in some ways you would see aides from another politician.
If the President said something that wasn`t absolutely scrambling where as these days in the west-wing they sort of shrug and are less bothered by because they`ve learned that whether it`s President going out and mocking Dr. Blasey Ford or saying something not true about caravans. There is not necessarily a tremendous price he pays at least with that core group of supporters in his base.
WILLIAMS: To Ashley Parker, to Sabrina Siddqui our thanks for coming on tonight and helping our conversation, really appreciate it.
And coming up, the President`s odd reaction to how the Saudi story is playing out, and details of a grisly murder. We`ll ask another of our three Pulitzer Prize-winners on this broadcast tonight.
WILLIAMS: Revoking the visa`s of those believe responsible is the first punishment of any kind from this country. But the President remains reluctant to come down too hard on the Saudis.
Back with us again tonight to talk about all of it is Nick Kristof, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist for the New York Times.
It really does sound like a Caper (ph) film there. And President`s hands, how does this reaction by this American President diverge from normal?
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, OP-ED COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I mean, I guess what bothers me is not just the language he applies to it. But the fact that this cover up that he describe it is one that we are collaborating in.
The only real debate among Saudi Arabia watchers is whether it`s 90 percent likely that the crown prince was engaged in this murder, or 100 percent likely. And the fact that we are then dispatching our treasury secretary to meet with the crown prince, that we are refusing to look in his direction, and that our penalty is that we are denying visas or we`re taking away visas from people who are actually already being jailed right now for the murder of someone writing for the "Washington Post," the torture murder of this person?
I mean, we`re supposed to be upholding norms, or supposed to be creating consequences, and consequences are that we take away visas from low level guys who are following orders. And meanwhile, we`re continuing to do business as usual with the person who presume (ph) of the issue those orders.
WILLIAMS: We are depriving them of the joy of Duty Free at JFK, should they ever get out prison. In other words, what should happen to Saudi Arabia by the Americans, ordered by the Americans?
KRISTOF: So, this happened in a NATO country. I think there should be an international investigation. The Saudis obviously aren`t going to do a real investigation. The Turks are -- they`re trying to get something out of this, too.
An international investigation under the auspices of the U.N. would be a good start. NATO countries should I think act jointly and expel Saudi Ambassadors, they should suspend weapon sales to Saudi Arabia. And that has real teeth. I mean, Saudi Arabia is engaged in this terrible war in Yemen that is brought 8 million people to the edge of starvation.
Saudi Arabia requires our spare parts. There`s all that talk about how do you go to China or Russia.
WILLIAMS: China has no corollary to the F-35.
KRISTOF: And they have our equipment. They need our spare parts to stand. And also, one reason why they buy American military equipment is because of the implicit guaranteed that if they get in trouble we will bail them out.
The Chinese aren`t going to bail them out. And so, they -- we have leverage over them, not the other way around. And the fact that, their crown prince who -- if we don`t act, may well be the reckless leader of this country for 50 years to come, I mean, I clearly worried about what that means for the long-term and what that means for the signals we were sending to other countries around the world who may have journalist who they find troublesome as well.
WILLIAMS: Always not provoking, always powerful. Thank you for --
KRISTOF: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: -- always coming on our broadcast. Nick Kristof of The New York Times.
Coming up for us, several leading authors and writers have teamed up to write a new book about impeachment. So why them and why now? We will pose those questions when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How do you impeach somebody that`s doing a great job, that hasn`t done anything wrong? Our economy is good. How do you do it? How do you do it? But if it does happen, it`s your fault because you didn`t go out to vote.
If I ever got impeached, I think the market would crash. I think everybody would be very poor.
That would be interesting. You get impeached for having created the greatest economy in the history of our country.
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WILLIAMS: Trump has used those lines to maintain support but the possibility has been floated ever since he took office. Just three presidents have come close to actually being removed from office, through impeachment, Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and you remember Bill Clinton.
A new book Impeachment: An American History considers those cases and the politics surrounding them. With us here tonight two of the books co- authors Peter Baker who spent a few minutes on our soundproof booth. He is the Chief White House correspondent for the New York Times.
He knows a thing or two about presidents because he`s covered a president or two. Also with us tonight, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and historian, Jon Meacham, it`s been weeks since his last book came out. His latest solo effort is called "The Soul of America."
So Jon, as I hold this cooperative effort in my hand, people are going to see covered just that inflammatory word and say, why this topic and why now?
JON MEACHAM, CO-AUTHOR "IMPEACHMENT": It is a topic du jour, as you know. And I think that Peter will agree that Jeff Engel at SMU cause some broken arms in making us do this. I also want to tell everyone that Peter Baker is in fact the teacher`s pet.
He file is about six minutes after the assignment came out. And it really kind of made the rest of us look really bad.
It`s unquestioned that impeachment has become much more of a political subject since Nixon. We went a long time, really, Andrew Johnson all the way through until the 1970s, without talking about it much. Watergate changed that. It was used as a political weapon in the 1990s.
My contribution here, which, of course, is the oldest, was that Andrew Johnson, who escaped by only a vote of being convicted, really that example shows that impeachment is as much a political process as a legal one. It is as Gerald Ford said an impeachable offense is whatever a majority of the House Representatives decides it is any given moment.
And in Johnson`s case it was existential struggle over the nature of the verdict of the civil war. There was enormous amount of pressure in the Congress. Johnson was Democrat who`ve been put on the ticket in 1864 and a more time election to give Lincoln some cover in the boarder states.
And then the Republican Congress which wanted to actually implement the verdict of the war was stymied by Johnson.
WILLIAMS: But Johnson got the last laugh, because what is head laying on to this day underground.
MEACHAM: I believe the constitution of the United States.
WILLIAMS: Excellent, what do have for him first of our home game. Peter Baker, you and I were around for the same one and that would be the Clinton years. I`m going to read from your work on the Clinton impeachment.
Each side sought to shape the public narrative to convince Americans that the other side was violating the norms America`s constitutional democracy. How does the Clinton years, the Clinton experience temper what you say to your colleagues in the New York Times newsroom, how you look at the potential gravity and timing of what we`re going to get, which is some form of a finding a report from one Robert Mueller?
PETER BAKER, CO-AUTHOR, "IMPEACHMENT": Yes, I know they`re great questions. And I would start by saying that yes, Jon Meacham is the slacker of our group, the only two votes in two months.
WILLIAMS: Yes, I know. He`s falling behind.
BAKER: It`s really remarkable. Now of course, November is coming up. There`ll probably another one, so look out for that. But look, yes the Clinton impeachment is remarkable and it just 20 years ago. And yet we see these, we hear these echoes I think of what happen back then.
The issues are different obviously but some of the players are not. We could see of the some the same players involve today. We see some of the same arguments being held today. President Clinton and his people in particular had talked about it, witch hunt, how to get him. They demonized.
The prosecutor, they said the issue that case not the crime. And in fact that you see today with President Trump, what`s different is of course the issues that President Clinton were accused that was lying under oath about a sexual affair, obstructing justice in a civil rights lawsuit that was filed against him, those were serious issues.
But we`re talking about with President Trump a potentially even more serious if there`s any finding by Robert Mueller that there was any kind of collaboration or a collusion or conspiracy or whatever you want to call it with Russia.
There are other issues of course that have come up that Democrats will no doubt latch on to if any impeach inquiry is in launch including -- perhaps hush money that was paid to Stormy Daniels before the election, perhaps the emoluments clause, which is the clause of the constitution that says that if a President shouldn`t take money from foreign governments and in fact that what happen at Trump Hotel and other properties.
Some people argue, that doesn`t mean this is a good idea. You hear some Democrats. You played all those tapes of President Trump raising the idea of impeachment because he`s using it effective as the way of saying it base come and vote.
At least you`re going to protect me from these unfair people who are coming after me. But you don`t hear Democrats saying that they want to do it, because Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, the leader are concern that it might -- blowback on them.
And yet, they`re going to be hard press not to at least pursue it on some level, perhaps if they win the House because their own base is so fervent on this issue.
WILLIAMS: Jon Meacham in 30 seconds if that`s oxymoron. Is this book a printed warning between two covers not to use this powerful word lightly?
MEACHAM: It is. It is also a reminder that it is an incredibly difficult and explosive process. Americans do not like having their Presidential elections relegated in the Congress. I think that`s why the impeachers are really over three.
And that something to keep in mind, I think in the sense that whatever your issues are with the President almost always in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, almost always the place would take care of it is a the ballot box, not in the Congress.
WILLIAMS: These men accomplish writers and authors are among the founding friends of this broadcast. Our thanks to Jon Meacham and to Peter Baker, their new book "Impeachment: An American History," is available now.
Coming up, about the upcoming midterms. Will women tip the scales for Democrats from Election Day? You may recall, we have heard that somewhere before. Steve Kornacki, new numbers at the big board when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Let`s be honest about it, we`re starting to hear things we last heard in 2016 about the burden on the shoulders of women as a voting bloc in this country. For the election we will cover two weeks from tonight in this very studio.
And as he will be with us on that night, our National Political correspondent Steve Kornacki is at the big board on this topic for us tonight. Hey, Steve?
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brian. Yes. And look, we talked about it in 2016. We`ve been talking about it since, and we`ve been talking about it for a long time in American politics, the idea of a gender gap. It`s been around certainly in some form since 1980.
In the Trump era, we`ve been saying it`s getting bigger. We got some new numbers this week that add even a new twist to that. So let`s put this in some perspective. Right around Labor Day here, the NBC poll looked at the gender gap in the congressional, in the midterm election.
We found Democrats running 25 points ahead among women, 25 points advantage among women for Democrats. Republicans, running three points ahead among men, that by any historical standard, a staggering gender gap. That`s the story we`ve been looking at really for the last year or two when we pull this.
But now, our new poll this week. Keep this, numbers in mind because our new poll this look. Look, that Democratic advantage among women is still an astronomical 25 points. But look what happened. In the last couple of weeks the Republican advantage among men has shot up by 11 points.
Some people say this may be that Kavanaugh effect we`ve been talking about to the point we`re now the gap between those 25 points for Democrats here, 14 for Republicans, they`re 39-point gender gap. Again, put this in some perspective.
Here`s the gender gap we`ve been seeing in recent elections. Look, it was staggering in 2016 at 24 points. That was sort of high water mark here, 20 points in 2012. Again, right now, in our poll, 39 points separating where Democrats are with women and Republicans are with men.
These are two groups, just in the last couple of weeks that seem to be moving in very, very different directions. Very curious to see if something even approaching that magnitude holds an Election Day, because if does Brian, we are in uncharted territory.
WILLIAMS: I think all of the midterms will be uncharted territory. Sure, our glad to have you on our vessel as we enter that night. Steve Kornacki as always, what a pleasure, thank you for coming by.
And, coming up, using a uniquely American voice that is now gone to inspire voters to the polls. When THE 11TH HOUR continues.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, starting with a detail buried in that criminal complaint that the Feds filed last week against the Russians woman accused of the meddling operation in our current politics including but not limited to the coming midterm elections.
The whole Russian strategy was to tear us apart, turn us against each other, and to keep doing it. And it`s got to be considered cost-effective by now. The social media troll army was even advised to refer to the late John McCain as an old geezer, back when he was losing the fight with terminal brain cancer and nearing the end of his life.
It`s the kind of meanness and vitriol and anger and bile. We have come to expect from what is now a global comment section. But John McCain may have the last word. The McCain Institute at Arizona State is out with a new ad, nonpartisan aimed at getting people to vote on November 6th. Its part of a campaign they plan to roll out over two year time. And it`s based on his legacy of push public service. And here`s the first installment.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A spirit capable of compassion, and sacrifice, and endurance, cannot be paralyzed by fear. We cannot give up on ourselves and on each other. We stand for truth against falsehood, freedom against journey, write against injustice, hope against despair. I believe we must always stand up for it, for if we do not, who will?
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WILLIAMS: So we go out tonight on the words of John McCain. And that is our broadcast for this Tuesday evening. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Goodnight from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
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