Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: November 8, 2018 Guest: Chuck Rosenberg, Jackie Speier
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the new acting Attorney General Whitaker with no plans to recuse himself from the Mueller investigation, having already voiced his opinion of it, having already argued there was no collusion with Russia, and that`s not all.
Meanwhile, some folks took to the streets tonight in support of Robert Mueller. The questions now, are any members of the Senate willing to protect Mueller, and is anything about to emerge from the investigation following an election season of quiet time?
And new vote total still coming in tonight in critical races, and others perhaps headed for a recount. We will update you on where things stand 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 658 of the Trump administration, and there are brand-new results coming in from a number of undecided elections around the country. Don`t forget, we have 11 House races not called. These numbers include the new number of seats the Democrats have now won in the House. We`ll have the latest on all of that still ahead.
Tonight, however, protesters have been marching in cities across this country, calling for the protection of Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his Russia investigation. A number of the protesters also object, of course, to the naming of Matthew Whitaker as our acting attorney general. A move they see as an effort to stop the Russia investigation.
As that unfolds, a new A.P. report out tonight says the White House is bracing for the Mueller investigation to come roaring back, to accelerate and make its way back into the public consciousness. "Trump`s advisors are privately expressing worries that the Special Counsel who has been out of the news for the past month has been stealthily compiling information and could soon issue new indictments or a damning final report.`
That brings us to the man who is now overseeing the Special Counsel inquiry, that would be acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker. Here he is saying good-bye to the old boss last night at DOJ. He is now officially in charge of the Justice Department, hand picked by Trump to replace Jeff Sessions.
Whitaker is known as a vocal critic of Mueller`s inquiry, but tonight we`re learning even more about his views from interviews that are just now surfacing, interviews he gave long before joining the Justice Department.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATT WHITAKER, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let`s assume the President asked him to stop investigating Flynn. That doesn`t rise to the level of obstruction of justice and it doesn`t sound to me based on what`s been reported that Jim Comey, as he sat there, believed that the President was telling him to stop the investigation.
The truth is there was no collusion with the Russians in the Trump campaign. There was interference by the Russians into the election, but that is not the collusion with the campaign. And that`s where the left seems to be just combining those two issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: None of that has been proven, of course. That and other comments caught the attention of Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee today. They sent Whitaker a letter asking that he take himself out, recuse himself from the investigation.
"Washington Post" reports that`s unlikely. "Whitaker has no intention of recusing himself from overseeing the special counsel probe of the Russian interference in the 2016 election, according to people close to him who added, they do not believe he would approve any subpoena of President Trump as part of that investigation.
Tonight, House Democrats are already preparing for battle. NBC News reports leader Nancy Pelosi has already been talking with Judiciary Committee Ranking Member, the head Democrat there, Jerry Nadler of New York and other key ranking committee members about confronting the White House over Whitaker`s appointment while protecting the Special Council.
Earlier on this very network, Congressman Nadler who becomes Judiciary Committee Chair, come January, raised his concerns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JERRY NADLER, (D) NEW YORK JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The President is creating a constitutional crisis, that`s a moment of peril for our country.
We think it is very important the President be put on notice that he is not above the law.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: More on this whole notion of a Constitutional crisis a bit later on in our broadcast as well.
The White House is not backing down from any of this, as you might imagine. It appears ready to support Whitaker despite calls for him to step aside.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR: We had an attorney general who was recused from it. We now don`t have an acting attorney general who is recused from it. Nobody wants to prolong it. We`ve done everything that we`ve been asked to do. I don`t know why he`d be recused.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: But there are objections to this Matt Whitaker coming from other corners, including but not limited to Kellyanne Conway`s own household. Her husband George Conway and former Obama acting Solicitor General Neal Katyal are the authors of a "New York Times" op-ed that says Whitaker`s appointment is "unconstitutional." And these are two high wattage Washington lawyers.
They write, "So-called principal officers of the United States must be nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate under its advice and consent powers. Mr. Trump`s installation of Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general of the United States after forcing the resignation of Jeff Sessions is unconstitutional. It`s illegal. And it means that anything Mr. Whitaker does or tries to do in that position is invalid."
Neal Katyal says Trump`s actions demonstrate a clear disregard for our Constitution.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL OF THE U.S.: Here, what you have is President Trump reaching into the bowels of the Justice Department and appointing essentially a constitutional nobody.
When you look at what the President did yesterday, it extinct to high heaven.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Trump still has to find and appoint a permanent attorney general.
Today former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Senator Lindsey Graham both met with the President, both are reported to be possible candidates for the job.
Graham contends he`s focusing on supporting Trump in his search for a new A.G.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: I talked pretty good at length with the President about the attorney general selection. He deserves someone that he trusts, that has confidence in, but the American people also have to have confidence in this person and they have to get through the Senate. I`m going to stand by this President`s ability to make a selection of his choosing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our lead off panel on a Thursday night, John Heilemann, MSNBC National Affairs Analyst, veteran journalist, co-author of "Game Change" and co-host of "The Circus" on Showtime. Kimberly Atkins, Washington Bureau Chief for the Boston Herald. And Barbara McQuade, Former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.
Counselor, I`d like to begin with you. As a DOJ veteran, how troubling is it to you to have this man appointed who has, by the evidence, just looking at it, just listening to it, kind of prejudged large portions of this Russia investigation?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: Yes, Brian, it isn`t even just what he has said, which is very troubling on its face. But when you look at the unusual nature of his appointment, that suggests to me some concern as well. President Trump has repeatedly said that he was very unhappy with Jeff Sessions for recusing himself. That seems to be his original sin that caused him to lose his job yesterday.
And so instead of going the normal route of having the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein step in and replace him, instead he hand picked Matt Whitaker, someone sort of unknown, to come in and do this under the Vacancy`s Reform Act. Somewhat obscure provision to replace him. Some argue an unconstitutional provision. I don`t know whether it is or it isn`t. But it suggests to me that President Trump very much wants that person he`s always wanted as attorney general, his Roy Cohn, someone who is going to protect him.
WILLIAMS: Kim, I want to listen together to Elijah Cummings, a very serious voice, a senior member in the House of Representatives from Maryland who is poised to become chairman of the Oversight Committee. We`ll talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE: He had already judged this situation, Rachel, before he even knew the facts. I`m shocked that he has not already recused himself. Most lawyers in this situation would voluntarily say, you know what, I don`t want to even have the appearance of a conflict.
(END VIDEO CLIP) WILLIAMS: That was the Congressman tonight with Rachel Maddow.
So, Kim, how ugly does this get?
KIMBERLY ATKINS, THE BOSTON HERALD CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER: It could get pretty ugly. I mean, it`s a complex set of problems with this appointment, and one is the constitutional issue that you pointed out, which is an open question. You have the issue of whether the President had the statutory authority to appoint him when there was a deputy attorney general in place.
But I think the most important issue is this one, this political issue that it seems pretty clear that the President decided to put someone who he wanted in charge of this investigation. That`s precisely what just about every rule in the Justice Department, just about what every ruling by the Supreme Court and other courts. The idea of that is exactly what it`s guarding against.
That this is not supposed to be a role where someone answers directly to the President when they have essentially acted on behalf of the President as a spokesperson for the President, almost as the President`s attorney, all this time leading up to this appointment. This is why we have Senate confirmation of attorneys general and other Cabinet positions.
And while in an emergency, you can put someone in, in an interim capacity. That`s not meant when you already have a deputy in place. What should have happened is that Rod Rosenstein should have moved up to this role until there was somebody else who was Senate confirmed to take it over because Rosenstein himself was Senate confirmed.
But the politics of this is pretty clear. The President has been pretty transparent in his objectives here.
WILLIAMS: So, John, the left got very frothy with hope during Kavanaugh when the Flake-Coons partnership was born in the U.S. Senate. Jeff Flake about to depart the institution, it went nowhere. Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court.
There are further fever dreams tonight that the departing Republicans would perhaps change their party affiliation to independent, making the Majority Leader Chuck Schumer for the few legislative days left, passing, in effect, the protection of Robert Mueller act.
The question to you is, is there enough Republican support? Is there any to cross the aisle and, you know, cast a vote for good government and process and protect Mueller?
JOHN HEILEMANN, "GAME CHANGE" &"DOUBLE DOWN" CO-AUTHOR: Well, Brian, you said fever dreams as that going to go. I think those are -- that`s an apt description of what`s people are thinking now in certain quarters. And I would say not just fever dreams, but probably fever dreams fueled by heavy duty narcotics and hallucinogens.
The reality is it is the case that Coons and Flake are bringing forward that legislation. They would like to see it. They`ve been behind it for a while. They`d like to see it now taken up in this period.
You know, there is a theory in the world in which the departing senators, people like Corker and people like Flake are free now political pressure and the need -- political equities and the need to think about their political futures. And so therefore they`ll act with courage.
I haven`t seen any evidence of that in the course of the last two years even after some of those people had made it clear they weren`t coming back to the upper chamber. And the reality is that for, I mean, really Flake would like to see this legislation passed. But in general, I think if you are now departing the body, what you are looking forward to is a lucrative job in the world of lobbying, most likely coming out of the U.S. Senate.
And for those people they have not any political equities to worry about any more, but they have financial equities to worry about. And they, I think are have been loath to take hard votes and do hard things that oppose Donald Trump when they were in office. I can`t see any reason to be hopeful, but they will take hard votes in these closing days, in this lame duck period.
WILLIAMS: Barbara, Neal Katyal makes a very convincing argument that this is unconstitutional. And he told a story tonight on the 8:00 o`clock hour on this network about the fact that and, if I have this right, he argued a case yesterday that may have been named Pennsylvania versus Sessions. By the time he got out of court, there was no Sessions.
And part of what he`s arguing is the A.G. becomes a name sake title on cases like this. When the A.G. is not Senate confirmed, all it`s going to take are some really crafty lawyers and federal judges out there, maybe they`re representing death penalty cases, maybe they`re representing big civil cases, to realize that Whitaker is not confirmed by the Senate and not valid.
MCQUADE: Yes, he wrote a very interesting op-ed with George Conway, as you mentioned earlier, that talks about the idea that the appointments clause of the constitution says that the "President may appoint, but the Senate must confirm anyone who heads an agency," like the attorney general at the Department of Justice. And there was someone in place under the ordinary Department of Justice succession statute, as we said before, that person would be Rod Rosenstein who would act in that temporary capacity until a new attorney general can be appointed.
And the difference there is that Rod Rosenstein is a Senate confirmed appointee, having gone through that process when he was appointed back at the beginning of 2017.
And so, to have someone in that role now who is not Senate confirmed removes that check and balance that we have written into our constitution to protect us against abuse of power by the President. I don`t know that the argument is clear-cut. Certainly there could be exceptions for temporary vacancies. This statute puts a limit of 210 days on it, but I think it`s certainly a valid argument and one that we might see argued in the courts.
WILLIAMS: Kim, some of you say all of you guys are overlooking this word "acting." And they point to the presence of those two gentlemen at the White House today to prove that the west wing is, indeed, thinking long term, an actual attorney general confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Are you hearing any of that?
ATKINS: Look, I think right now that I`m not getting a sense of urgency to make a formal -- make a formal nomination of someone to replace Jeff Sessions. I think the President is very happy to have acting Attorney General Whitaker in that role as long as he could be there, particularly now that it looks like the Mueller investigation is entering its final stages. And to have him there to be a protector more or less.
We don`t know what someone else who comes in might do. I have questions as to whether one of the people, former governor Chris Christie who`s being considered, he also worked in the Trump campaign. I`m sure there will be calls for him to recuse himself from this, too. And there might be problems there. I think that`s a lot of uncertainty. I think right now he would love to keep Whitaker in there as long as this -- the Mueller investigation lasts.
WILLIAMS: Hey, John Heilemann, it does occur to us that tomorrow is a Friday.
WILLIAMS: Tomorrow is the first Friday following the midterms.
WILLIAMS: And this has been a quiet time for Robert Mueller, et al. When you put your head under the railroad tracks, something we do not recommend anyone do. Are you hearing the rumblings of distant locomotives? Do you think it`s going to be an eventful Friday or a boring Friday?
HEILEMANN: You know, well, the President is getting a planning going to Paris tomorrow, Brian. So that`s one thing that -- you can argue that either way that it augers for activity. The President won`t be reachable. And if something bad, something that would trouble people was about to happen, the President might prefer to be out of the country or up in the air during that period. That`s one point.
It`s also the case that, I don`t know, I don`t think I was alone in thinking that if the election, if this midterm election gave Donald Trump a sense of either fear or emboldenment, and I think he ended up with a little bit of both, that he would move quickly to get rid of Jeff Sessions. We knew Sessions was probably going to leave by the end of the year. A lot of people didn`t expect it would be literally 12 hours after the polls closed. But, I thought that was possible.
The other thing that`s been in my mind is that Rod Rosenstein, were he still running the show, might be bringing forth or announcing some indictments. People that we`ve been hearing about that he seems to be near to indicting someone like Roger Stone, for instance, there`s been some discussion about the possibility to Don Jr., an indictment might be coming. Don Jr. Trump, might be coming shortly.
Now, I think there`s a lot of question about whether an indictment -- it`s the case that, you know, if there are indictments, that the grand jury already has under seal, it may be the case that Whitaker cannot stop those indictments from coming forward. It would take an extraordinary act for him to go through to go back to the court and try to undo those indictments if they are sitting out there.
So, it`s possible that even though Whitaker can undermine the Mueller investigation in various ways, and that`s obviously what Donald Trump wants him to do. It`s also possible there are indictments out there under seal and is it possible we might see one of those or more of those tomorrow? I would not be surprised if we did.
WILLIAMS: Which is why we tell people to stay tuned, and it looks like Heilemann wins scrabble with emboldenment.
John Heilemann, Kimberly Atkins, Barbara McQuade, our great thanks for starting off our broadcast tonight.
Coming up for us after our first break, a deeper look at what Mueller may be preparing to do next from two of his former colleagues.
And later, an update on the latest American tragedy, the latest staggering death toll in a mass shooting. This time in Thousand Oaks, California.
THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Thursday night.
WILLIAMS: With Jeff Sessions out and acting Attorney General Mark Whitaker now overseeing the special counsel, we are getting new reporting tonight on where the Mueller/Russia investigation may stand.
Politico reports that according to Rudy Giuliani, and that would mean we`re under a mandatory caveat warning, Trump and his attorneys are, "Planning to meet next week to decide whether to submit any of their written responses to Special Counsel Robert Mueller about what Trump might have known about Russian hacking during the 2016 campaign. Giuliani added, the President`s lawyers have prepped answers for Trump to review, but have made no final decision about sending them on to Mueller."
Politico goes on to report, "Based on the questions Mueller delivered to the President`s lawyers, Giuliani said he would be surprised if the Special Counsel wasn`t already writing at least a final report dealing with topics related to the Trump campaign and the Russian hackers." We repeat, mandatory caveat warning.
With us to talk about it all, Frank Figliuzzi, Former FBI Assistant Director for Counter Intelligence who in the past has worked for, among others, one Robert Mueller. And Chuck Rosenberg, a Former Senior FBI official, also a Former U.S. Attorney.
So, Frank, what do you think is happening with Robert Mueller behind the scenes? What tea leaves have you traditionally looked for that have steered you correctly in this investigation?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Well, I`ve got a theory, brain, and it`s just a theory. But perhaps Bob Mueller has already indicated to us what he`s going to do. And by that I mean, it`s possible that since Mueller has given us indictment after indictment that tell us very detailed stories of what happened, more detailed than you ever usually see in indictments of this nature, perhaps that`s a strategy.
Perhaps what we`ll see is Bob Mueller telling us the story of a corrupt President through indictments. And you say, well, indictments of who? I think the Whitaker appointment steps up the time line. And I think perhaps if Mueller sticks to the strategy of telling us the story through indictments, the indictments speak to us, that he`ll speak to us soon, very soon, with additional indictments, perhaps that tell the story of a corrupt President.
Now, I`m not saying he`s not going to go the route of filing a report. I think he will. I think that`s pretty traditional, and he`ll do that. But I think he`ll choose what he`s comfortable --
WILLIAMS: We appear to have lost the satellite connection between us and Frank Figliuzzi. Do we still have Chuck Rosenberg on the line? We do, I`m told.
OK. Chuck, please stand by. I`m going to read you as we try to effort getting our cams (ph) back with Frank. Let me read you this out of Vanity Fair. This just hit. "In recent days, according to three sources, Don Jr. has been telling friends he is worried about being indicted as early as this week. One person close to Don Jr. speculated that Mueller could indict him for making false statements to Congress and the FBI about whether he had told his father about the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians to gather "dirt" on Hillary Clinton."
I think that`s what you lawyers call legal exposure, Chuck.
CHUCK ROSENBERG, FMR. SENIOR FBI OFFICIAL: That`s legal exposure, Brian.
And, by the way, I don`t think Frank Figliuzzi, and I hope he rejoins us because he`s a lot smarter than me or you or any of our friends, have ever spent a day in their lives telling their friends that they expected to be indicted. And that`s just a remarkable thing to say.
What would prompt someone to say that, Brian? Well, I think it`s rather simple. And like Frank, I also have a theory.
I would imagine that Donald Trump, Jr.`s lawyer has been in constant contact with prosecutors. And so perhaps they have told him to expect this and he, of course, has told his client. Whether or not that turns out to be true, we`ll see. But I can tell you, you don`t tell your friends you`re about to be indicted unless you know something is coming. It`s more than a premonition.
WILLIAMS: Frank, you missed it. We said nothing but great things about you while you were gone electronically.
WILLIAMS: Those of us who spend any time in corporate America or civil service are used to the phrase "short timer." And you used affectionately the phrase in talking with one of our producers tonight about Bob Mueller, what did you mean? What context did you put that in?
FIGLIUZZI: Well, I think his days are numbered. I think this is a blatant attempt by the appointment of Whitaker is a blatant attempt by the President to make Mueller go away in the form of either removing him or greatly constraining his mandate, or funding.
So, Mueller knows that. He`s, you know, he`s been there, done that. He`s prepared for this. And that`s why when we had lost our satellite feed, I was explaining, I think he`s ready to indict some folks.
And through those indictments will tell the story of what he`s found against the President. I`m not saying he`s indicting the President. I`m saying there`s a middle ground where he tells us the story, locks it into the court system by indicting others then files a report with Whitaker.
Whitaker can look very partisan by refusing to release the report. Congress can subpoena it. There can be this battle going on. But while that battle is going on, the indictments of others that tell us the story of Trump are sitting in the court system.
WILLIAMS: Chuck, I`m not going to ask you to pass judgment on the appointment of Mr. Whitaker, who like you, is a former U.S. attorney. But I am going to ask you for a definition. We`ve already used this phrase "constitutional crisis" once on the broadcast and we`re hearing it on a daily basis in this country now. For folks who may not have as much mileage on them as the three of us do, sharing a generation, define it, not whether this rises to it, but define what a constitutional crisis, and do you know it when you see it?
ROSENBERG: Yes. I think there is a fairly narrow definition of a constitutional crisis properly told, Brian, and that sometimes it`s used in a hyperbolic way. A Constitutional crisis, for instance -- and I forget which presidents were at issue. It might have been Polk. But I know people will check me on this.
A constitutional crisis occurs when a president dies in office and you don`t know whether his successor is the president or an acting president, meaning the Constitution literally doesn`t answer the question. There is no answer. And so I don`t know that we`re in a Constitutional crisis defined that way.
I think we are in an uncharted water. I`m concerned about it. I think about what might happen every day to my beloved Department of Justice. I also have something that keeps me grounded, and I think Frank will agree with this. The men and women of the FBI or the Department of Justice, the career prosecutors and agents are still doing their work.
And I`ve told you this before. That gives me great comfort. I hope that the gravitational pull of the Department of Justice is such that even Matt Whitaker sort of feels it`s -- feels the weight of his new job, feels the gravity, if you will, of the new job. And that it moves him in the way it moves all of us in the department toward the norm, toward the rule of law. That`s what gives me hope.
I think describing it right now is a Constitutional crisis is a bit hyperbolic.
WILLIAMS: Thank you for that last point. Two of our most learned and experienced guests we get to call on from time to time. Frank Figliuzzi, Chuck Rosenberg. Gentlemen, thank you, as always, for coming on with us.
And coming up for us, with votes still being counted in several states, we will ask a prominent member of the House Intelligence Committee what the President can expect from the Democratic party when we come back.
WILLIAMS: OK. Get comfortable. This is important. Just over 50 hours after the polls closed in Arizona, we have a new leader in the Senate race there. After the latest count, the Democrat Kyrsten Sinema is now leading Republican Martha McSally after trailing her for the better part of these last two days.
But there are still -- this is a huge number. Over 500,000 outstanding ballots to be counted in Arizona. It`s a huge vote by mail state, and they are dealing with tremendous volume.
In Florida, Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson has moved within a half percent of Governor Rick Scott. The narrow gap likely will trigger an automatic recount. Earlier tonight, however, Governor Scott accused Democratic county officials of working to swing the results against him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. RICK SCOTT, U.S. SENATE NOMINEE (R), FLORIDA: We`ve all seen the incompetence and irregularities in vote tabulations in Broward and Palm Beach. Well, here we go again. I will not sit idly by while unethical liberals try to steal this election from the great people of Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And, oh, look, he`s getting ear support from the White House. Just a while ago the President added this on Twitter. Law enforcement is looking into another big corruption scandal having to do with election fraud in Broward and Palm Beach, Florida, voted for Rick Scott. That`s the president of the United States.
The Florida governor`s race is now also within the margin for a recount. But because the Democrat Andrew Gillum conceded, our network`s designation stands as apparent winner for Ron DeSantis. In the state next door, Republican Brian Kemp resigned today as Georgia Secretary of State conveniently declaring himself the winner of the state`s race for governor.
His opponent, however, the Democrat Stacey Abrams, currently trails by about 60,000 votes, but her campaign says she`s going to stay in this until every ballot is counted.
Meanwhile, the scope of the Democrats` dominance in the House is still today coming into focus. Just today, NBC News called Democrats Katie Hill the apparent winner in California House 25. Kim Schrier the apparent winner of Washington State House 8. Lucy McBath, the apparent winner in Georgia House 6. That was the seat Ossoff tried by failed to win for the Dems during the special election last year.
The seat that had been held by Republicans since 1979 when that young man, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich won it. 11 House seats remain undecided, but here`s the number that snuck up on people who went to bed on election night and haven`t checked back in since.
The Democrats have already gained a net 30 seats in the House. Another way of looking at it, 317 congressional districts swung toward the left on Tuesday.
Well, joining us tonight, Democratic Congresswoman Jackie Speier of California. Her new book, undaunted, Surviving Jones town, summoning courage and fighting back is available now and we`ll get to that in just a moment.
But Congresswoman, looking at the results, how do you think your party should play it, recognizing that parties have played a sudden accumulation of power wrongly in the past?
REP. JACKIE SPEIER, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, first we have to have a very specific plan that we are going to execute on day one. We`ve been articulating it all through the campaign.
That is, securing the Affordable Care Act, securing protection for preexisting conditions, making sure that the prescription drug benefits can be reduced in terms of the cost of prescription drugs, doing an infrastructure bill, and dealing with the corruption of this administration. Those are our marching orders, and I expect that we are going to execute on them.
WILLIAMS: You tweeted this yesterday about the departure of Sessions. Firing Sessions and replacing him with a man who has repeatedly publicly talked about the ways the attorney general could shutdown the Special Counsel`s case, or as he calls it, the Mueller lynch mob puts us firmly into constitutional crisis territory.
Whitaker must immediately recuse himself. My question is what if he`s here to stay? What if there is absolutely no plan to move him?
SPEIER: Well, then the question becomes, to what extent is he going to try to reduce the Mueller investigation by shutting down the budget, by trying to remove him, by tampering with the evidence? And that`s when we need to step in and step in, in a very forceful manner.
I also think that the special counsel is a very smart man, and he has anticipated all of these actions. I`m certain that the attorneys will go to court much like they did with the Watergate situation when President Nixon attempted to take all of the documentation and bring it under his control.
They will go to the courts to make sure that that documentation, that evidence is held appropriately. So, there are steps that can be taken. There are steps that the House Democrats can take to subpoena special counsel Mueller if he is, in fact, removed from office.
There is ways we can make sure there is proper funding. So I`m confident that even though Mr. Whitaker who is the acting attorney general, may, in fact, be there under unconstitutional grounds because under Article 2 Section 2, as you pointed out earlier in your show, really requires the advice and consent by the Senate for any principal officer, and he is certainly a principal officer, being defined as someone who is only directly responsible to the President.
WILLIAMS: Our viewers may not know something about you, and I think I`m correct that you have the unusual distinction of having the most bullet wounds of any member of Congress, and here`s why. An event in our history, the year after I graduated from high school, 1978, called Jonestown, its lasting effect in our culture, it left us with the phrase "Drinking the Kool-Aid." but as more and more people come up behind the generation in charge now, fewer and fewer people know the story.
It was a religious cult. You flew down as a young aide to Congressman Leo Ryan, and right before the largest mass suicide in contemporary history, over 900 people drank poison Kool-Aid. You went out to the airport. There was gunfire. There was a massacre. If I`m not mistaken, you were shot five times, waited 22 hours for medical attention. Talk about the part of that that lives with you, because gun violence, for one, is in our news on a daily basis.
SPEIER: Well, gun violence is a scourge in this country. 12,000 deaths already this year, tens of thousand probably who have been injured, and you have those scars with you, certainly both physically and mentally, the rest of your lives.
So, this book is really about how you take that kind of trauma and turn it into triumph, how you find ways of healing from the grieving. And it`s my effort to try to talk to my kids and to young people throughout the country about how there are many low points and some high points in every life, and the importance of moving forward with grit, with true grit.
WILLIAMS: There`s a memorial to the two NBC employees we lost in that massacre, no more than 50 yards from where I`m speaking here. So we have cause to think about that incident here every day.
Congresswoman, look forward to seeing your book. Thank you so much for joining us on the air tonight. Congresswoman Jackie Speier from the State of California.
SPEIER: Thank you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Coming up, gridlock and grandstanding, how the Trump White House is preparing for a Democrat led House of Representatives when we continue.
WILLIAMS: Well, it turns out the Trump White House did see something of a blue wave coming. Jonathan Lemire of the Associated Press writes it this way. As polls showed for months that the Democrats were likely to flip the House, covert work began in the West Wing to prepare for a new more contested chapter of the Trump presidency, though no formal war room was established, senior aides convened meetings to map out the administration strategy for combating newly emboldened Democrats. Trump himself at times took part in informal conversations about the future".
We are fortunate to be joined by Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the Associated Press.
So, two things are -- well, one thing is true. The President enjoys having a foil, an enemy. But does he really have a sense of how they`re going to come at him?
JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: He`s starting to. All our reporting suggests that he was slow to grasp what a threat this is to his presidency. But in recent weeks, last couple months, as hit their campaign really accelerated into the homestretch, he started to recognize what it would mean if the Democrats captured at least one Houses of Congress.
And, yes, there`s no -- these talks, these preparations are going to pick up dramatically between now and January. The White House still has two months to prepare for the Democrats taking charge. But they are getting ready on a couple different levels.
There will be at least a measured attempt for some bipartisan legislation. It is certainly a poisonous relationship between the Republicans and Democrats, but they think whether its opioids or criminal justice reform, there might be a few things where there can be agreement across the aisle.
But beyond that, the President said in his news conference yesterday going to be on a war footing. They anticipate there`s going to be a flurry of subpoenas from these now newly controlled Democratic House committees.
The Republicans are going to -- in allies of the White House are going to try to hit back. They`re going to do so by running of the clock on some of these investigations, stalling, but more than they`re going to vilify the Democrats who come after them.
As one senior aid put me, they`re going to make some of this congressional chairman, Nadler, Cummings, so on, household names for all the wrong reasons. They`re going to go digging in their past, they`re go after them, the President will attack them on Twitter, probably assign to a derogatory nickname.
They will really to fight back and point to the overreach of their own party, back in the late `90s when the Republicans impeached Bill Clinton, but more than that, there was a real sense of real government over reach and they`re going to try to make that comparison again.
WILLIAMS: I have to ask you about a fellow member of the press corps, Jim Acosta from CNN. Even CNN has tried not to give this shiny object status beyond what it already has, but his hard pass was pulled. He can`t get back on the White House grounds because of what happened during the news conference, an intern was trying to wrestle the microwave from him.
The press office put out a video that appears to be originally produced by an acolyte of Infowars. The Alex Jones folks. "The New York Times" and Politico have done a slow-motion forensic study of this video that came out with the Imprimatur of the press secretary of the White House.
And here`s the Washington Post version. On the left is real life as it happened, on the right for sharp-eyed viewers there are said to be a few frames that have been alter today make it more of a downward karate chop motion on this intern.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders said he laid hands on her. What do you make of all of this? First of all, tweeting out video that appears to have been altered.
LEMIRE: Right. Certainly this President has vilified the media to a degree that none of his predecessors have. Every President has complaints about the press coverage. No one has made press part of the story like Donald Trump has, as candidate and now the commander in chief.
WILLIAMS: That`s for sure.
LEMIRE: He has used the phrase "Enemy of the people" and so on. And those of us, there are many people who fear he`s going to incite violence someday against members of the press. This moment here, this is, it was a fast confrontation in the room obviously.
There was some contact. The video here seems altered or doctored and that is obviously, of course, inappropriate. But the more than anything, the White House correspondents association, a certain know, the Associated Press believe that any kind of attempt to curtail press freedom is wrong. We oppose that. We urge that the White House return Jim Acosta is our pass.
WILLIAMS: All we say is that several other news organizations have done their forensic study of this video and have come to that conclusion.
Our thanks to fellow member of the White House press corps, Jonathan Lemire, Associated Press.
Coming up, the tragedy in Thousand Oaks, California, another mass shooting a dozen lives lost, family shattered and a tragic almost pathetic sameness settles in across our land. That angle of this story when we come.
WILLIAMS: There has been another mass shooting in this country. 12 dead in Thousand Oaks, California. This time, the gunman was a deranged 28- year-old, a marine veteran of Afghanistan where he was a machine gunner.
The dead include a police officer who ran in the door to put down the gunman, and some of the victims inside the country western-themed bar had actually attended and survived the concert in Las Vegas. Considering the definition of a mass shooting is four or more victims, there has been a mass shooting almost every day of 2018.
After the President ordered flags at half staff today, someone said on social media, we can probably just leave them at half staff at this point. NBC`s Stephanie Gosk has our report tonight on this tragic sameness in our American life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE GOSK, NBC NEWS REPORTER: The scenes look and feel so familiar. The police run in while terrified students, concert goers, regular people run out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was shooting everybody, and there were dead people everywhere.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was hoping that we could get out and looking for all of our friends.
GOSK: This year alone, Parkland, Santa Fe, Pittsburgh, and now Thousand Oaks. And that just skims the surface. There have been 307 mass shootings with four or more people shot. 328 people killed, and the year is not over.
Many Americans woke up this morning and had the same thought. Oh, no, not again, because they knew what to expect. The phrases we use had become part of a grim lexicon. Makeshift memorials, candle light vigils, thoughts and prayers.
For a moment we reflect on the victims. For their families, that moment lasts the rest of their lives. The challenge for the country is this. How do we not grow numb? Some of the young people at the borderline bar and grill also survived the concert in Las Vegas. That fact alone should shatter this mass shooting routine. We may not agree on how to stop the gun violence, but we can`t forget that we must.
Stephanie Gosk, NBC News.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And coming up, a big tradition in a small place that the rest of this country could do well to emulate when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, is a big hearted tradition in our second smallest state. In the state of Delaware, this was Return Day. It has nothing to do with retailing and everything to do with civics and a civil society.
Since about the start of the 1800, people of all parties have made a tradition of flocking to Georgetown, Delaware, county seat and the most southern and most conservative Delaware County, they parade through the streets. They eat and drink, businesses are close for the day.
And it`s really a great American political tradition. The results of the election are read aloud. And the winning and losing candidates take part in the parade. And while it`s meant to celebrate the political process, this is politics after all.
So the losing candidates do have to sit backwards in the parade carriages that take them through town. That along with some teasing, some light booing and occasional scattered this thing is about as rough as it ever gets.
They even buried the hatchet, meaning they bury an actual hatchet in the sand every year to symbolize coming together. The local constable is there to make sure people don`t over celebrate but worst than being rowdy or drunk in public. There is one unforgivable offense. You don`t call it Returns Day. Do not put an S on it. In Delaware, today was Return Day.
And that is our broadcast for this Thursday night. Thank you for being here with us. And good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
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