Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: October 30, 2018 Guest: Jon Ralston, Barry McCaffrey
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight an attempt to smear Robert Mueller has been handed over to the FBI for investigation for investigation. As for the work of Robert Mueller, his investigators have now spoken once again with Steve Bannon as all signs continue to point to the vulnerability of Roger Stone, the Presidents friend of 30 years.
Plus, with a week to the midterms and a direct line to his base, the President launches a theory that he alone can reverse a Constitutional birthright.
Tonight we have Kornacki at the big board with the numbers and the late word that the President has lost Kanye.
All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Tuesday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 649 of the Trump administration.
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania remains just about the saddest place on earth tonight, and we`ll have coverage this evening of the President`s uncomfortable and unusual visit to that city today.
But first here tonight, we are following developments on the Robert Mueller front both in attempt to smear Mueller personally and new word on his Russia investigation.
"The Washington Post" is reporting Mueller`s team is pressing witnesses about Roger Stone, specifically his private interactions with senior Trump campaign officials and whether Stone have knowledge of John Podesta`s e- mails released on October 2016 as you recall by WikiLeaks really minutes after the Access Hollywood report dropped.
Mueller appears to be focused on whether WikiLeaks coordinated some activities with Stone and the campaign. And we, "On Friday, Mueller`s team questioned Stephen Bannon, Trump`s former chief campaign strategist, about alleged claims Stone made privately about WikiLeaks before the group released e-mails allegedly hacked by Russian operatives."
According to the report Mueller`s team has interviewed several Stone associates and, "Investigators have questioned witnesses about events surrounding October 7, 2016. The day the "Washington Post" published a recording of Trump bragging about his ability to grab women by their genitals. Less than an hour after the post published its story about Trump`s crude comments during a taping of "Access Hollywood," WikiLeaks delivered a competing blow to Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton by releasing a trove of e-mails hacked from the account of her campaign chairman John Podesta."
We should note Roger Stone and WikiLeaks have both denied they were in contact. Stone has also denied any prior knowledge of the Podesta e-mails and has denied discussing WikiLeaks with Trump campaign officials.
"The Post" goes on to report, "Investigators have been scrutinizing phone and e-mail records from the fall of 2016, looking for evidence of what triggered WikiLeaks to drop the Podesta e-mails right after the "Access Hollywood" tape story broke. It is unclear whether the Special Prosecutor has evidence connecting Stone to WikiLeaks activities. Julian Assange could have concluded on his own that releasing the e-mails on that day would benefit Trump."
Meanwhile, as we mention NBC News is reporting tonight about an apparent effort to smear Robert Mueller. Over the past few weeks, several reporters say they have been contacted by a woman who said she was offered money to claim she was sexually harassed by Mueller. The reporters say they determined the harassment allegation seemed like a hoax. They say it is unclear if the woman had been offered money to make the claim.
Some journalists told Mueller`s office about the interactions. In a very rare public statement, a spokesperson for Robert Mueller wrote today, and we, "When we learned last week of allegations that women were offered money to make false claims about the Special Counsel, we immediately referred the matter to the FBI for investigation."
On that note, let us bring in our lead-off panel on a Tuesday night, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-Winning White House Reporter for the "Washington Post." Frank Figliuzzi, Former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence who in the past has worked for Robert Mueller among others. And Mimi Roka, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now a Distinguish Fellow in Criminal Justice at the Pace University School of Law. Welcome to all.
Frank, because you alone here have worked with and for Robert Mueller, I`d like to begin with you. This caught our eye tonight from our friend and frequent contributor Barbara McQuade, also a former U.S. attorney, "Requesting an FBI investigation is what innocent people do when false accusations are made.
Frank, I`m tempted to joke at this point that when you hear tales of drinking, especially heavy drinking and womanizing, you think Robert Mueller immediately, but you really did work for this man. We know a lot about his bearing and we know less about his life, so talk about this smear attempt.
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Well, Brian, it`s been several days of a very somber nation and I haven`t laughed much in the past several days because of events. But I have to tell you I laughed today. I laughed today when for the first time I read this account of this woman claiming that she has been paid and then reporting that someone tried to pay her to besmirch Bob Mueller.
That`s not Bob Mueller. It`s laughable for two reasons. One is it`s not the white shirt, starched shirt, straight arrow boy scout that we all know and love, but rather it`s laughable because of the sloppiness with which this hoax was perpetrated. And if you read the details into it where people are -- business phones are coming back to somebody`s mom, and there`s businesses created, LLC is created in the last two weeks to kind of perpetrate this fraud, and linked in accounts with actors` photos on them. You can see that there`s an act of desperation as we approach the point where they can`t find any real dirt on Bob Mueller. So they decided to do what desperate people do. They`ll pay for what they need, and that`s what we`re seeing tonight.
WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, Adam Goldman over at the other newspaper, the "New York Times," writes this tonight, "The plot appeared to be the latest and one of the more bizarre in a string of attempts by supporters of President Trump to discredit Mr. Mueller`s investigation as a hoax and a witch hunt. He has secured six guilty pleas and a trial conviction in the 17 months he has overseen the investigation." That if anything is an understatement of the Mueller effort does far. What does it say about potential anxiety and frustration on the part of the right?
ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, it`s worth mentioning, obviously, that these people, best we can tell, are not in any way affiliated with the Trump White House. But to your point, it does get to a level of anxiety of what Mueller`s probe may turn up. And while in the past several weeks have not been focused on this, it`s been out of the headlines. We`ve been focused on these tragedies and also of course on the midterms and the President`s strategy. And even he has kind of have been grappling with finding that right balance.
This is a good reminder that Bob Mueller has not stopped his work. He has quietly been proceeding along with exactly what it is he was tasked to do. And the midterms do stand as a marker where we expect that after that he may come up with something that a number of people are quite anxious about.
And also the President may use the midterms to finally take action on some of the things he`s been promising, like a shake-up at his Justice Department including firing his Attorney General Jeff Sessions. So this has sort of been out of the headlines, but it hasn`t been halted in any way.
WILLIAMS: Mimi, it is true that Robert Mueller may have no comparison in American life. The only thing Frank left out was Marine Corp captain and combat in Vietnam who became an army ranger for good measure because it was missing from his resume.
So, leaving him aside, perhaps if that`s possible, how common are threats or smear attempts against public servants like prosecutors?
MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Really not common at all. I mean, that`s part of what is so unusual about this situation.
For the most part prosecutors, you know, in the Department of Justice and the U.S. attorney`s office all over the country are sort of untouched.
You know, even the mob, who is infamous for going after cooperators, they don`t go after prosecutors because they know, first of all, that prosecutors are replaceable. You know, you knock one off, you`re going to get another one. Whether you knock them off by threats or violence or intimidation which here it seems like what they were trying to do with some sort of intimidation scheme or getting Mueller removed.
So, I think it`s, you know, it speaks to first of all this desperation that both, you know, you and Frank have referenced, and Ashley. But it also speaks to the uniqueness of this situation, that we have the Special Counsel.
And I think that Trump -- and I know Trump isn`t directly connected to this, but Trump has made lots of allegations.
I mean, it wasn`t that long ago late this summer that he saying, "Oh, you know, we`re going to have to hear about Mueller`s conflict of interest and then he`s going to have to step aside." So there`s just all -- this constant attempt, this is a very extreme form of it to get rid of Mueller personally because he is so good at what he does. And I think they really fear him.
And you know, I think that on the one hand, yes, somebody else would step in. And for some reason Mueller wasn`t able to continue, but the Special Council Investigation was still going. There would be a replacement, but no one would be like Mueller. And I think in a lot of ways this just speaks of their fear for him.
WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, to the reporting in your newspaper specifically, Bannon, to put it in Broadway Orleans (ph) this is the callback you don`t want. He already spent an estimated 20 hours with Mr. Mueller`s investigation -- investigators. You don`t want to come back and I am guessing you`re going to tell me you don`t want to Roger Stone right about now.
PARKER: You sure don`t. The irony about being Roger Stone right about now is that Roger Stone is a self-proclaimed dirty trickster. He actually and legitimately sort of traffics in the dark arts. But when you do that, you also brag and overheight trafficking in the dark arts which is normally good for that sort of brand. Except for now when you have Bob Mueller squarely focused on you.
And so you`re now seeing Roger Stone kind of do a walk back and say, you know, I was just typing things, all these things I claimed, you know, were jokes and weren`t quite true. So it`s a tough line for him to walk.
And just the fact that Bannon was called back to talk about Roger Stone is another good reminder that Roger Stone is someone who whatever this probe does or does not turn up, legitimately has been President Trump`s friend for 30 years. He was quite close to the campaign.
It was Roger Stone who was instrumental in installing Paul Manafort in his role in the campaign. It is Roger Stone who communicated with Trump frequently during the campaign and even into at least the early days of the White House.
So, depending on what Mueller`s probe does find, this is not like some of these others as they try to claim a mare periphery figure. Roger Stone is someone who was in touch with all of the key players throughout the entire ordeal.
WILLIAMS: Mimi, we`ve established you can`t be intimidated, so I`ll ask you, as I ask you all the time. This latest "Washington Post" reporting that we were just talking about, where does it tell you this investigation is right now?
ROCAH: Well, I mean, they are still clearly very focused on Stone. And what we`re hearing about in the new reporting is that they are in addition to obviously looking at his electronic communications, at his public statements that he made, you know, bragging about his connections to WikiLeaks and Julian Assange. They`re also focusing obviously on his private statements to people within the campaign like Bannon.
And that`s important I think for two reason because it shows one, that Mueller is trying to figure out when Stone said things publicly as we know he did about his connections to WikiLeaks. Were those true? This is a way of testing, you know, what he said privately against his public statement. Was is it just provider (ph) or was he also saying this to people in confidence.
And second of all, when he`s saying this -- if he`s talking about this, you know, connections to WikiLeaks to people in the campaign that also tells us about what knowledge and possibly what knowledge people in the campaign also had. So we`re -- they`re zeroing in on that question of why were those e-mails released when they were released. And who knew about that and who might have helped plan that timing. And it could just be Rogers, it could not be Roger Stone, it could be Roger Stone. And it could also be people in the campaign that he coordinated with. And I think that`s really where they are.
WILLIAMSL: Frank Figliuzzi you get to be our closer tonight and I saw some of the comments you maid to one of our producers about the issue center of this. And we don`t mean to dance around it, but I need you to talk about it. If Americans are willing to pay attention at the end of this, what do you think they are going to learn about what Russia has done o the United States and their role in our politics?
FIGLIUZZI: Oh, that`s a good question as we discuss the role of Roger Stone. Because what really is at the heart of this question and at the heart of the Special Counsel investigation is the degree to which the campaign colluded with a foreign adversary to get assistance toward the campaign. And the degree to which that foreign adversary did so to a receptive campaign staff.
And so when you talk about Roger Stone, ultimately what`s likely to come out here is the collusion question. And if Americans read a final report carefully, it`s going to read like a John le Carre novel in terms of attempts to get a intelligence service engage. And the use of Russia to use WikiLeaks to get e-mails out.
And so, ironically here, people like Roger Stone, the dirty tricksters, they thought they were helping their candidate, they thought they are doing things to reach out and help. And what really was going on was Russia was doping them. Russia was using them for their own means. And these folks have been doped.
The question is, whether or not they care that a foreign adversary use them as a means to an end.
WILLIAMS: On a troubling note, we wrap up our first segment with our thanks to our guest. Ashley Parker, Frank Figliuzzi, Mimi Rocah, greatly appreciate it.
And coming up for us with one week to go until the midterms, the President`s latest controversial move aimed directly at an audience of his followers.
And later we talked to a retired four star U.S. army general about sending the U.S. military to our southern border.
THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a busy Tuesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On immigration, some legal scholars believe you can get rid of birthright citizenship without changing the Constitution.
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: With an Executive Order.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Exactly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you thought about that?
TRUMP: Yes. It was always told to me that you need a Constitutional amendment.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right.
TRUMP: Guess what, now they`re saying I can do it just with an Executive Order. Now how ridiculous, we`re the only country in the world where a person comes in, has a baby and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States for 85 years with all those of benefits. It`s ridiculous. It`s ridiculous. And it has to end.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: On the matter of birthright citizenship in other countries, the President is actually wrong there. At least 30 other countries, including Canada and Mexico, grant automatic birthright citizenship. We learned about Trump`s latest plan to essentially do away with this 14th amendment one week before the midterms and on the eve of his six-day, 11-rally campaign sweep.
Earlier tonight the White House was asked about the timing of this birthright announcement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALLIE JACKSON, MSNBC CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is this just a way to whip up the base ahead of the midterms?
KELLYANNE CONWAY, SR. ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: No because if only the base had voted for him, he wouldn`t be President. So I think I understand that that`s like the sesame grover word of the day, that and fear and some other stuff. But no, it`s not whipping up the base.
There are Constitutional scholars that say the 14th amendment has been misinterpreted and actually the Supreme Court has never give a solid opinion on this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: This is interesting, not 30 minutes after Kellyanne Conway spoke those words, the "Washington Post" published an op-ed by her husband, Attorney George Conway co-authored with Former Obama Solicitor General Neil Katyal. They write that Trump`s plan to end birthright citizenship is unconstitutional. And we, amendment has been misinterpreted and the court has never given a solid opinion on this.
not 30 minutes after kellyanne conway spoke those words, the "washington post" co-authored that Trump`s proposal to end birthright citizenship is unconstitutional. And we quote, "At its core, birthright citizenship is what our 14th amendment is all about, bridging the declaration of independence promise that all men are created equal with a constitutional commitment that all men born in the United States share in that equality. Trump was wrong, a constitutional amendment would indeed be necessary to revoke birthright citizenship."
Here to talk about all of it, Eli Stokols, White House Reporter for the "Los Angeles Times". And Jon Ralston is back with us, Veteran and Journalist and Editor at the Nevada Independent. Gentlemen, welcome to you both.
Eli, we`ve compiled a way of sharing, reminding you, having been through the Trump campaign and the Trump presidency, and more specifically members of our audience, this issue is not new for Donald Trump. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There`s a very big question as to the anchor babies. They`ve been talking about it for years. There`s a very big question as to whether or not the 14th amendment actually covers this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to get rid of birthright citizenship.
TRUMP: You have to get rid of it. Yes. You have to.
A woman is pregnant, she steps across the border, she has a baby. Congratulations, we take care of that baby for 90 years.
Don`t listen to the liberal press. We do not have to take care of that baby. You know, they call them "anchor babies." We do not have to take care of that baby. OK? For 85 years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So, Eli, this wouldn`t have anything to do with the midterms, you don`t think?
ELI STOKOLS, LOS ANGELES TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Oh, never, Brian, no.
I mean, look, you`re right, those clips do show that this is something that President has felt strongly about for a long time and has brought up at various point. Immigration is obviously his number one issue, it`s what galvanize support for his campaign three years ago when he lost the campaign by talking about Mexican`s bring rapist to the country.
He`s always used fear of others, of difference in minority sub groups, Chinese people taking American jobs. There was the Muslim ban. Now there`s the caravan. He`s always leverage people`s fear, try to stoke those fears to get people to turn out and support him no matter what Kellyanne Conway says about it. That is something this President has been consistent about.
And he has also revved that up ahead of elections which are win loss referendums on his popularity and his support. And that`s how he views 2018 as sort of his first reelection. That`s how Steve Bannon describe it to me last week. This is the President`s first reelection effort and he is going all in with this rhetoric and the birthright citizenship issue is another thing that he can throw out there in the final week of this election to steer the debate back to immigration because he feels that even if that debate is being held and legal scholars are out there saying he can`t do this and it`s ludicrous. That`s where the focus is and he think that is something that will motivate his core supporters to turn out.
WILLIAMS: To Jon Ralston in the great State of Nevada, you`ve got a hell of a Senate race out there, Jon, as any follower of you social media or your work would know. Nevadans as they say on the farmers insurance commercial also know a thing or two about immigration. How is this likely to go over there?
JON RALSTON, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT EDITOR: Well, it`s an interesting question, Brian, and the polling here shows what Eli was talking about which is that immigration is the number one issue for Republicans in that Senate race. We may see encounter intuitive to a lot of people.
We`re not a border state, but there are a lot of undocumented folks here and it`s been an issue in the past. Now Dean Heller as with most issues has been all over the map. When he run in 2012, and remember, Brian, when he first 2012 he had been appointed. He only won by 12,000 votes and he lost the Hispanic vote here by four to one.
Before he saw those results, Brian, he was against anchor babies. He used that term which is considered offensive to some Hispanics. He was against the Dream Act. He said that birthright citizenship maid less sense today than it did when the 14th Amendment was passed. Then he woke up the day after the election, saw the changing demographics and suddenly he was for comprehensive immigration reform.
But -- so, I have to believe that Dean Heller who`s hiding from this now and not saying anything about what the President has said is just absolutely a mortify that the President is doing this. Or is he, Brian? Is he happy that the President is going to help get out the base, early voting here shows the Republicans are trailing. Maybe this will help get out the base in rural Nevada.
This is the divide in this country. It`s the divide in Nevada as well, Brian. It`s trying to get the Republican base out with these nativists anti-immigrant appeals versus alienating a growing Hispanic vote which has been as much as 20 percent of the electorate here in Nevada.
WILLIAMS: I want to read you something from our friend Shannon Pettypiece, the talks about the base and the way the issues, some of them absolutely tragic had played out over the recent day. You have the Kavanaugh approval. And then of course we`ve been through the scare and the sadness of both pipe bombs and the souls -- these innocent souls in Pittsburgh. So Shannon and Jennifer Jacobs have teamed up on "Republicans fear some voters are losing enthusiasm with a week until the midterms."
So it is -- to be gross about it in political terms, it`s a base that needs tending as they put it.
STOKOLS: Was that for me?
WILLIAMS: Jon -- I`m sorry, that was for Jon.
RALSTON: That was for me? I`m sorry, Brian.
WIILIAMS: No. That`s OK.
RALSTON: I mean, you`re absolutely right. You`re absolutely right. That is what`s going on here. And to use another metaphor, Brian, the Trump train was going along but wasn`t going as fast as he hoped it was going. He`s looking at what`s going on around the country.
He sees polling, he sees early voting numbers. So suddenly he needed to super charge that train and get it rolling faster and get more members of his flock as it were onto the base. If I can torture this metaphor after 11:00 o`clock back on the East Coast as much as I can, that`s what`s going on here, Brian. That`s it has obviously everything to do with the midterm. He didn`t do this by accident.
This is -- Steve Bannon must be saying, "Wow, he still listens to me with this kind of stuff."
WILLIAMS: Oh, Jon, don`t worry, I`ve absolutely water boarded metaphor is in my time on this shift.
Hey, Eli, the other big news of the night, when last we saw him, Kanye was delivering what was affectionately referred to as manic appearance in the Oval Office. He was hugging the President. He was pounding the resolute desk. He was showing the President an energy alternative aircraft on his phone.
Well, tonight it seems the President has lost Kanye as Kanye apparently has thought better of it. "My eyes are now open" he says on Twitter tonight. "And now realize I`ve been used to spread messages I don`t believe in. I am distancing myself from politics and completely focusing on being creative."
Eli, number one, the guessing game is underway as to why the change who perhaps got to Kanye and spoke to him. Number two, how the President will react, but because a deal is in popular culture, because his visit got so much press, here we are.
STOKOLS: Yes. And I don`t have the full explanation on this for you, Brian. I`ve been chasing other stories today. But I know there is some sort of maybe a snafu that happened on the on line space, something that got to Kanye West that maybe made him feel some pressure about this.
But the President has been out there over the last few weeks at rallies and he`s mentioned Kanye West and Jim Brown, he`s pointed to them as evidence of support from African-Americans. And so we`ll see if there`s any acknowledgment. We`ll see if Kanye West does more to explain what it is that`s causing him to shift focus.
But just think back to the three weeks ago and that farce in the Oval Office where 15 minutes or more, the President just sat there. Kanye West held forth. And the whole thing, you just had to step back and ask yourself why was this happening? It seemed like the President was just putting this little show together to amuse people.
And just, you know, seem like the Oval Office was being utilized as the sound stage. And it happened as a hurricane had just come ashore in the Carolinas. I mean, just the sort of tribulization of the presidency. This was one of these moments that seemed to crystallize that. Hopefully it won`t be, you know, remembered for, you know, it`s hard to remember what happened just days ago but just sort of one of these absurd moments in this presidency. And obviously it`s taken another turn.
WILLIAMS: Eli Stokols in Washington, Jon Ralston way out west in Nevada, gentlemen thank you both for being with us here tonight.
And coming up for us Trump deploys 52,000 U.S. military members to the border to prepare for a migrant caravan that`s still a few thousand miles away. Good call or political stunt? We`ll ask a retired four-star U.S. army general when we come back.
WILLIAMS: There`s been plenty of criticism over the president`s decision to deploy over 5,000 active duty U.S. military to the U.S.-Mexico border. It`s because of these pictures of that so-called migrant caravan making its way north from Honduras, originally. They are roughly a thousand miles away. That`s the rough equivalent of walking from Houston, Texas to Jacksonville, Florida. Meaning, at a moderate walking pace, they are still a month easy away from the nearest U.S. border crossing point.
As time passes, the number of them has continued. Their numbers were once estimated at north of 7,000 but now they are only about an estimated 3,500 people. Even so, the administration moving ahead with this military buildup at the border. According to Newsweek operational documents leaked from the Pentagon indicate the administration was told ahead of the decision to deploy that only a small percentage of the caravan will likely reach the United States. But "The government continued its plans to send troops to the border."
The president is continuing to call it an invasion. It is not. And members of our National Guard and Ready Reserve may not like hearing this distinction from the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I called up the military. This caravan is not -- they`re wasting their time. They are not coming into the country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What`s the military going to be able to do? Obama and Bush both sent the National Guard, it`s had no effect.
TRUMP: I`m sending up the military. This is the military.
WILLIAMS: With us for more tonight, retired four-star U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey, a decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, former battlefield commander in the Persian Gulf, another way of saying a man who has pled for this country and who has had thousands under his command.
General, if we agree the president has the right to do this, is it right to do this, announcing this says before an election?
BARRY MCCAFFREY: Well, look, Brian, my life in the military was the southern commanders, so I spent a lot of time in Central America, Mexico, all throughout the region. Central America in particular, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Nicaragua are disasters.
Poverty, violence, injustice, lack of hope -- by the way, last time I said this on air, some well meaning bright young guy from one of our embassies said, oh no, it`s getting perfect down here. So these people are basically economic refugees fleeing both violence and poverty. They`re hardly a national security threat.
But having said that, we ought to back off a bit and say, look, the Armed Forces routinely provide support to the law enforcement, both federal, state and local, under strict guidelines. What the president is doing is entirely legal. Both Obama dn Bush beforehand, it surges the frontier. It`s helpful to the customs and border protection. Right now, there`s three combat engineer battalions, three aviation medium lift companies. There`s three C13 and a C17 prepared do support the customs and border protection. So it`s a legal operation, but it`s entirely a political stunt aimed at effecting the midterm elections.
WILLIAMS: General, I like asking you from time to time, talk to us about your concerns about our country from nationalism to pipe bombs to the 11 innocent souls we`re mourning in Pittsburg.
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, I put out a tweet a couple of days ago. It`s actually getting discouraging and I`m personally apprehensive. The level of anger of rain corps, much of it, I might add generated not just by Mr. Trump, who`s feeding this kind of underlying ferocity of political viewpoints, but also the leaders who amplify it or who don`t stand up and counter it.
You know, we haven`t seen anything like this in my lifetime. It`s a problem, it`s getting worse, the president is bordering on in my view an unconstitutional behavior. The Congress has not stood up and the media and the court system seemed to be trying to confront him on this issue but I think -- mark me down as personally concerned about what`s going on.
WILLIAMS: We have recorded your concern. We`re going to have you back and when we do, we`re going to talk about the departure of Merkel from the scene and why the entire world needs to sit up and take notice. Always a pleasure, General. Barry McCaffrey, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
Coming up, one week from right now, votes will be counted. Steve Kornacki has some brand-new poll numbers from a couple of critical races. We`ll be at the big board with those when we see you after the break.
WILLIAMS: If it`s Wednesday it must be Fort Myers. The next rally on the president`s schedule comes tomorrow. He has made it quite clear whatever else is happening in our country, he will go on with his rallies. His schedule over these next six days includes 11 rallies, eight states stumping for GOP candidates. Notably almost every stop has a Senate seat the GOP hopes to flip or in danger of losing. And with exactly one week until Election Day, this is a big night at the big board, as you might imagine. That means Steve Kornacki is here with a seven-day read.
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brian. Yes. So NBC News-Marist, we are polling some of these critical Senate races in this final week. A brand-new one out this afternoon to tell you about. We can show you here in the state of Tennessee. And here we go, our polls got Marsha Blackburn, a Republican, leading a majority of the vote for her 51% to 46% for Phil Bredesen.
Again, this continues a trend. This race really did seem to take a turn sometime in late September, start of October. Phil Bredesen, a very personally popular Democrat in a very red states of Tennessee, he`d been leading over the summer. He had led in fact in our NBC poll over the summer. But Marsha Blackburn, the Republican, it seems like political gravity, partisan gravity may be asserting itself in Tennessee. She now leads this race by five in our poll.
Also we had this week our new poll in Arizona. This one of piece a good news certainly for the Democrats, Kyrsten Sinema leading by six points over Martha McSally the Republican. And this is a state Trump won in 2016 only by three points. This would be a pickup for Democrats because Jeff Flake, the Republican not running for reelection. What does this all do to that race for the Senate?
We talked so much about how uphill this is for Democrats. We can illustrate that for you. Look, if Sinema hangs on that, let`s put that in the Democratic column. Look, they`ve still got a long way to go. They got to get this number up to 51, 50-50 tie wouldn`t do it for Democrats.
And again, look, if Tennessee does slide over here to the Republican column, if he got North Dakota, we`ve seen some polls there now. Several of them showing high camp down double digits for the Democrats.
Look, just with those two, Republicans would be one away and then you say Texas, we`ve had like a bazillion polls out of Texas. They pretty much consistently show Ted Cruz there. So just those three would put Republicans at 50 with Mike Pence breaking any tie, that alone would be enough to preserve the Republican majority even all these others went into the Democratic column.
So Democrats need to shake one of these loops. They`re down five in Tennessee. They`re probably down more in North Dakota, they`re down at least five in Texas. One of these, they have to shake lose, get it back into this undecided column, get Republicans under 50 and then they need everything to break their way if they`re going to have a shot at actually getting to Senate. We say they`re favored to get the House, that`s not certain but they`re favored it`s the opposite in the Senate. The Republicans certainly favored to hang on there, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Steve, with your specificity on numbers, that`s a first for us, we`ve never heard you say a bazillion before. So we`ll lock this up in the time capsule. Thank you my friend. Rest up. We`ve got a week to go till we`re back in the studio on the big night.
Coming up, the president is met by protests in Pittsburgh today, just three days after Saturday`s massacre at the synagogue. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss is here with us in our studios to give us his take on the president`s leadership under fire.
WILLIAMS: The sound of music. President Trump was met by solemn protesters in Pittsburgh today who say he`s not welcome in their city until he fully denounces white nationalism. At last count by NBC News, over 47,000 people from that city signed an open letter from Jewish leaders to President Trump, and the document reads in part, "For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement. You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday`s violence is the direct culmination of your influence."
The president spends his time in Pittsburg today visiting that synagogue where roses and stones were placed upon 11 memorials. And as we said, the visit was eerie. He was not met at the airport. Public officials had said he was not welcome there. And after a visit to the hospital, he left town silently and without comment, a first, at least in our memory.
But let`s ask someone for whom the study of the presidency is his life`s work. Two with his latest work, the result of a decades worth of work on his part, "Presidents of War" by the author, the presidential historian and our guest and good friend Michael Beschloss.
Have we ever seen anything? Is there a corollary comparison to any time in president history?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: You know, I tried to think of one, Brian, and there`s nothing even close. You know, we`ve seen so many things during the last year and a half that really don`t connect to our earlier history. But the sight of a president, you know, making this visit, not having something memorable to say, and the number of people there who, you know, in absolute good faith did not want him there because they felt that he contributed to this and they were waiting for him to say something that cause a change, and they did not get it.
WILLIAMS: Like you, I`ve been struggling to think of stories to tell to remind people to recenter people in what our -- the role of our president - -
WILLIAMS: -- in American life, and I came on one tonight that I`m going to ask you about cold, but I know you have encyclopedic knowledge of the hurricane and the flooding, Lyndon Johnson and the flashlight.
BESCHLOSS: Which you have written about very well. Lyndon Johnson was the first one to think that it was a very good thing for a president to go to the scene of hurricanes, as he did in 1964 and 1965. You know, went down and there was not power and there was light provided by flashlights.
And so, the odd thing is that it was really in modern times, LBJ who started the tradition that presidents go to the scene of a big accident. You remember, at least from reading about it, 1963, there was a major disaster, naval disaster, nuclear submarine called the Thresher was sank in the Atlantic, hundreds of men were killed. John Kennedy was a Navy man, he felt for them but there wasn`t a ceremony. He didn`t make a statement.
He put out a written statement, but very unlike the way that we see presidents do it in the modern era, which is so closer, so much closer to the way that Ronald Reagan reacted to the Challenger disaster in 1986 by giving that memorable speech from the Oval Office.
WILLIAMS: Bill Clinton, I was covering him --
WILLIAMS: -- when he went to give the Teddy Bear Service, as it was known forever, after the Oklahoma City bombing. These are moments where you are the consoler. It comes with the job.
BESCHLOSS: Part of the job is you`re chief of state as well as political leader. And that means after something like this, you try to heal, you try to unite, you try to inspire. Those are things that are not in Donald Trump`s toolbox, and I think he really demonstrated that today.
WILLIAMS: I want to talk about a word that has entered our national conversation, get your opinion of this exchange. This is from Fox News, their interview with President Trump last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS: The word nationalism has taken on for the left this connotation of fuelling anti-Semitism, hate, even violence. Do you think that is fair and do you want --
INGRAHAM: -- to further clarify what nationalism means to you?
TRUMP: No. To me, I don`t have to clarify. It means I love the country. It means I`m fighting for the country. I look at two things, globalists and nationalists. I`m somebody that wants to take care of our country because for many, many years, you know this better than anybody, our leaders have been more worried about the world than they have about the United States and they leave us in a mess.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Your reaction?
BESCHLOSS: He has no empathy. This was the biggest attack on American Jews, in American history, while they were worshipping. And in the wake of that, he goes on television and pronounces himself a nationalist. Nationalist, that word has been used in many ways. It was used by the American Nazi Party leader George Lincoln Rockwell in a book called "The Nationalist Perspective," the subtitle was "White Power." He knows that the word globalist has been used by anti-Semites to refer to prominent Jews around the world. The charitable explanation is he didn`t know what he was saying. My assumption however is in some way he certainly did.
WILLIAMS: And what does it mean going forward for us as a country?
BESCHLOSS: It means that we`ve got to get our comfort and our healing and our unity from someone other than the president. And that`s something very strange for us because it`s so in our DNA, all the way back to George Washington, that that is what president`s do.
You know, oftentimes people say that if you don`t get leadership from the president, you have to get it from other sources. The one thing that even presidents who were not particularly effective leaders have been able to do in the past is something like this, to give a speech that comforts us. It`s just not in him. It`s so much in him instead to try to divide, to pick groups against one another and reap political benefit and he`s doing it. You know, he`s know been to Pittsburgh. He`s now going to go on to 11 more political rallies. I doubt if he will mention this ever again.
WILLIAMS: Thank you friend. Great to see you.
BESCHLOSS: Wonderful to see you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Michael Beschloss, the book is "Presidents of War" and readers will be enriched for the experience.
Coming up, these are emotional days in Boston. The Sox just came home with the trophy, then the other shoe dropped just today. The story when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, Whitey Bulger is gone. And while we`re never really sure about anything where Whitey Bulger is concerned, he lived unrecognized, after all, for years in Santa Monica. And while the Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed his death, saying it was the result of a prison beating that left him unrecognizable.
Today, a friend of mine in Boston texted me to say, I`m sure he`s heading here, meaning even in death, Boston will be wary that Whitey is coming home. It would just be nice to have some proof to know for sure that Whitey is gone. It was probably for that reason that one bartender in South Boston today was asked to comment on Whitey`s departure from life, and he declined.
Whitey Bulger was a lot of things, in no particular order, a sociopath, a stone-cold murderer, a full-on thug, a snitch, a chameleon, and something of an Irish-American folk hero. He was chillingly portrayed by Johnny Depp in "Black Mask." More loosely portrayed, shall we say, by Jack Nicholson in "The Departed." And this was how the story was reported tonight on the 11:00 news, as the broadcast came on the air on our Boston NBC station, WBTS.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Developing at 11:00, a violent end to Whitey Bulger`s life of crime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would hope they were thinking about me when they were murdering him. Me and the victim`s families.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The infamous mob boss killed in prison.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have some breaking news here. James "Whitey" Bulger is dead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From the families of the mobster`s victims --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He doesn`t deserve like a quiet, happy death. He deserves a horrible death.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To Bulger`s family.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I heard he wasn`t feeling good awhile back, that`s all I heard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Live team coverage on the newest information into the killing of Whitey Bulger starts now.
SHANNON MULAIRE, NBC BOSTON HOST: The notorious mobster was found dead in his cell this morning. Good evening, everyone. I`m Shannon Mulaire.
PHIL LIPOF, NBC BOSTON HOST: And I`m Phil Lipof. Tonight, we are live with team coverage for you from reaction to those impacted by Bulger`s violent past to the latest on the investigation into how he was killed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: These are big days in the city known as the hub. First, the Boston Red Sox, now Whitey Bulger. That`s our broadcast on a Tuesday night. Thank you so much for being here with us. Goodnight 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
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