Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: November 9, 2018 Guest: Tamara Keith, Mimi Rocah, Rebeca O`Brian, Mara Gay
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight President Trump lands in Paris after an angry day lashing out at reporters, senators, local election officials, and the president of France just after touching down in France.
He also said he doesn`t know Matt Whitaker, his new acting attorney general. Problem with that is a month ago he told Fox News not only does he know him but he`s a great guy.
And the big "Wall Street Journal" story just out saying Trump played a central role paying off two women from his past. One of the reporters on the story standing by to talk with us.
And Michelle Obama speaking out candidly about this President in advance of her new book. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Friday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 659 of this Trump administration and the President tries to turn his attention to the world stage as his selection to run the Justice Department, Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker is coming under increasing fire.
Demands are growing for Whitaker to recuse himself, pull himself out of the Russia investigation portion of DOJ just as Jeff Sessions did before him because Whitaker appears to have prejudged both the investigation and one Robert Mueller. And new reporting indicates that his previous business ties have attracted now the attention of the FBI.
Before leaving for Paris, Trump was asked about the concerns over Whitaker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, Matt Whitaker, I don`t know Matt Whitaker, but I didn`t know Matt Whitaker.
Matt Whitaker, who, again, I didn`t know, OK?
I don`t know Matt Whitaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So if you`re counting at home, that was four denials which makes the following more interesting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: He was very, very highly thought of and still is highly thought of, but this only comes up because anybody that works for me, they do a number on them. But Matt Whitaker is a very smart man, he is a very respected man in the law enforcement community, very respected at the top of the line.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And further, hearing the President say today "I don`t know Matt Whitaker makes this even more interesting from Fox News back in September.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: But i can tell you, Matt Whitaker is a great guy. I mean, I know Matt Whitaker.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, today the White House tried to clarify matters on this front saying Trump, "had met Whitaker but didn`t know him well."
The new acting Attorney General also received high praise from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who was in line for that job.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROD ROSENSTEIN, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: I worked with Matt Whitaker. I think he`s a superb choice for attorney general. He certainly understand the work, understand the priorities of the department. I think he`s going to do a superb job as attorney general."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Perhaps you can`t understand most of that.
While everyone is on their own figuring out the motivation of that comment, back to Whitaker and how he might affect the Mueller investigation.
Phil Rucker of "The Washington Post" is standing by to join us, he`s coauthor of a new piece, looking at the bind Trump is in over disappointment. Here is how they described the situation, "With the White House scrambling to manage public examination of Whitaker`s background and resistance to his leadership within the Justice Department, Trump sought to douse speculation that he had installed the partisan loyalist to curtail the probe of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign."
Today Trump was asked about Whitaker and Mueller.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you talk with Matt Whitaker at all about the Mueller probe?
TRUMP: I didn`t speak to Whitaker about it.
TRUMP: I haven`t ruled out anything. I haven`t even thought about it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you ask Matt Whitaker to be involved in the Russia probe? Do you want him to --
TRUMP: It`s up to him.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want him to rein in Robert Mueller?
TRUMP: What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot. You ask a lot of stupid questions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was our President on the south lawn today. The President may call the question stupid, but the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. apparently has some form of the same question. Today they asked for a report from the DOJ and Mueller`s team about the impact, if any, Matt Whitaker`s appointment might have on the Russia investigation.
And as we mentioned earlier, the business practices of a company that Whitaker once advised have now attracted the scrutiny of federal investigators. "Wall Street Journal" reports tonight that the, "FBI is conducting a criminal investigation of a Florida company accused of scamming millions from customers during the period that Matthew Whitaker served as a paid advisory board member, according to an alleged victim who was contacted by the FBI and other people familiar with the matter. Mr. Whitaker as head of the Justice Department oversees the FBI in his new job.
"Washington Post" says that the Feds are not only looking at that company but at whether Whitaker played a role in trying to silence the firm`s critics.
And let`s bring you two brand-new pieces of reporting as we bring in our lead-off panel on a Friday night. Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize Winning Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post." Tamara Keith, White House Correspondent for NPR. And Mimi Rocah, Former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now a distinguished fellow in criminal justice at the Pace University School of Law.
So, two things have happened. Number one, at 4:55 a.m. Paris time your President hopped on his phone and typed out "Matthew G. Whitaker is a highly respected former U.S. attorney from Iowa, he was chosen by Jeff Sessions to be his chief of staff. I did not know Mr. Whitaker. Likewise, as chief, I did not know Mr. Whitaker except primarily as he traveled with A.G. Sessions, no social contact."
He goes on to say, "Mr. Whitaker very highly thought of by Joni Ernst of Iowa, Chuck Grassley, Ambassador Terry Branstad, former Iowa governor Leonard Leo of the federal society and many more. I feel certain he would make an outstanding acting attorney general."
So, fast forward to other piece of news, "New York Times" since we`ve been sitting here, Goldman, Sheer and Smith report "President Trump first noticed Matthew G. Whitaker on CNN in the summer of 2017 and liked what he saw, a partisan defender who insisted there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. So that July, the White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, interviewed Mr. Whitaker about joining the President`s team as legal attack dog against the Special Counsel Robert Mueller."
So Phil Rucker, he came up the organic way, the boss on cable saying things the boss liked. What do you make of what appeared to be an attempt to distance himself, I don`t this guy, I really don`t know this guys, forget what I may have said earlier. And now tonight at 4:55 a.m. all the way across the Atlantic an attempt to defend the guy.
PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Yes. Well, this is classic Donald Trump, right? As soon as one of his associates gets in hot water embroiled in controversy, Trump will try to distance himself. We saw it with Paul Manafort, the campaign chairman who he hardly knew, with Michael Cohen, the personal lawyer who he hardly know. And then we see it again here with Whitaker.
But the truth is, Trump knew Whitaker very well. He had several meetings with him in the Oval Office according to our reporting because, and get this, because Trump didn`t want to get briefings from Attorney General Jeff Sessions because he didn`t want to talk to Sessions. So he would get those briefings instead from Matt Whitaker. He`s very familiar with Matt Whitaker. What he`s trying to do here is distance himself from Whitaker in case there`s any sort of controversy.
WILLIAMS: CNN is reporting tonight, Whitaker has been cleared into the White House, to use their word, "dozens of times."
WILLIAMS: Hey, Tamara, a lot of people noted that the President just didn`t look right today, that he looked angry, he looked tired, that it`s been a heck of a week. And on that note, he goes over to represent the United States in France. What was it like? What`s it been like talking to people on the inside?
TAMARA KEITH, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has been a week where, you know, Tuesday night it looks like a pretty decent night or not the most terrible night ever for the President. He was able to put a positive spin on it, on the midterm election as the week has gone on and on and on it has looked more and more like the blue wave he claimed didn`t come. And that has to be weighing on him among other things.
The questions do keep coming. He is battling with the press as per usual, but in particularly tough ways. And he`s headed over to this event to mark the armistice, but where he`s going to be with a bunch of different world leaders. And you know, he`s not like a particularly happy traveler either.
WILLIAMS: Yes, we`re getting that impression after two years of this.
Hey, Mimi, I know Mr. Whitaker had been a U.S. attorney, but how can a White House counsel in good faith put rigor aside, the organic vetting and recruitment process that would result in someone being named not just chief of staff at DOJ but acting A.G. and find this guy based on a television recommendation from the President and install him if this "New York Times" report bears out?
MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Yes. And that`s not how we should be picking our attorney generals. Anyone. Who ever the president, whatever your party.
WILLIAMS: I was just worried it was me. OK. Good. Glad to hear that.
ROCAH: That was absolutely -- this is one of the -- we say this, you know, quite often during this presidency. This is not normal. And this is not normal. And it`s not good and it`s not right because the position of the attorney general is interesting because the reporting you just said suggested that he interviewed to be part of Trump`s legal team, which I take to mean maybe a lawyer, you know, as part of the Russia investigation, and now here he is as attorney general. Those are two very different things, very different jobs with different goals and different responsibilities.
And you know, Whitaker himself is reported to have said that he auditioned in this job basically on T.V. You know, most of us who were former federal prosecutors and former FBI agents who are on television are doing it because we want to speak out about the rule of law and help people understand what is normal and what should be going on with the Department of Justice. He seems to have had a different purpose and he`s entitled to his own views, his own personal and political views, know, obviously, and he can even talk about them on television.
But what smells so bad here is that it just seems from all the circumstances that it is because of those views that he prejudged about this investigation and about Mueller that Trump picked him. And that`s just wrong.
WILLIAMS: So your door opens the reporting to the career staff at the Department of Justice. Every Cabinet agency has them. They have worked for Democrats as president. They`ve worked for republicans. They are the people who make Cabinet agencies go.
They tend to care very deeply about the institution, especially if your job is justice and you are a lawyer and you`ve taken that oath. In your reporting is that that`s where there are troubles inside DOJ?
RUCKER: There are. There`s actually a resistance brewing inside the Justice Department according to our reporting about Whitaker and for a couple of reasons. One, to the point Mimi was speaking of, he seems to have a conflict of interest here with the Russia probe given his past statements, given his connection, for example, to Sam Clovis who is a political friend and ally from Iowa but also happens to be a witness in the Mueller probe.
The other piece of this, though, is he -- the people in the Justice Department don`t feel he`s qualified for this job, that he simply doesn`t have sort of the qualifications and experience to be the attorney general. He`s not been before Senate confirmation, there`s a question out there about the constitutionality of even having him as the acting attorney general given that he`s not been Senate confirmed. He was a staffer, chide of staff at the Justice Department.
The third point is, there`s infighting at the Justice Department and there`s a sense he was not loyal to Jeff Sessions when he was Jeff Sessions` chief of staff. And there are bad feelings in the building about that. He had been gunning, for example, for Rod Rosenstein`s job as the deputy attorney general in recent weeks which created a bad atmosphere at the department.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Tamara, this will border on the superficial, but that`s my intent to talk about that angle of this President. He uses a 1950s phrase central casting, which was a thing in Hollywood to talk about people he is drawn to. He has not drawn to the diminutive. He`s drawn to the opposite of that, looks bearing tend to matter to him in ways that allow him to overlook a lot of substance. So here is this guy, Whitaker, who looks like he could start at right guard with any number of NFL teams.
KEITH: Well, and he was a star football player in college. So he is very much out of central casting. And this is a President who goes for people who have a certain look and he`s someone who goes with his gut. He really moves and makes decisions about personnel based on whether he likes someone, whether he has a rapport with them.
Just look at Ronny Jackson who he nominated for V.A. secretary before that nomination blew up. That was very much about a personal rapport and less about qualifications to lead a really big organization.
In this case it`s an acting position. It`s not clear how long Whitaker will stay in that acting position and or who the President will be able to find to replace him.
WILLIAMS: And Mimi, Tamara is right. And as someone every night on this broadcast has said, "Don`t overlook the word acting." However, in this acting capacity he could have broad reach into the Mueller investigation.
I want to play for you something one of our judiciary experts Ben Wittes talked about how Mueller has pre-fortified his case and his surroundings in such a threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BEN WITTES, NBC NEWS JUDICIARY EXPERT: Bob Mueller has been very strategically smart in spreading pieces of the investigation around different parts of the department.
You can`t fire your way out of this problem if you`re the President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: I also want to read something that Ben Wittes went on to write about this very topic. "If Trump imagines these investigations as a cancer on his presidency, they are a cancer that has already metastasized. Well that gets your attention, doesn`t it?
ROCAH: It does, but I think it also that this -- I totally agree with what Ben said. And, you know, the fact that pieces of this has been spun off to the Eastern District of Virginia, to the Southern District of New York. And we don`t even know there may be other pieces of it. But the fact that Whitaker is in the position he is in, even if temporary, he now oversees all of that.
ROCAH: Yes, he has much more ability, I think, to possibly control and limit Mueller`s investigation because there`s more direct reporting and oversight. But, you know, no one should think for a minute the U.S. attorney`s offices and U.S. attorneys out there, even very independent ones like the southern district of New York. They report to the attorney -- acting attorney general as well.
So that is, to me, part of what has been so kind of calculated and dangerous about this situation. He didn`t fire Mueller, which would have set off alarm bells and, you know, even bigger pre demonstrations in the street. What he did was much more subtle and makes it less clear about how much damage he can do. He put someone in a position who has oversight. And we just -- we don`t know yet what`s going to happen with that but it should set off alarm bells.
WILLIAMS: A valuable point to make.
Our thanks to Philip Rucker, to Tamara Keith, to Mimi Rocah for a terrific first session of our broadcast.
And coming up for us, a new Trump Tower meeting contradicts the President`s many denials of cash money payments and knowledge there out. One of the reporters who broke the story joins us next.
And then later Florida, Georgia, Arizona still counting votes three days after the midterms. And now Trump is once again throwing around the words corruption and fraud or as we call it, Friday night at THE 11TH HOUR. Please stay with us. It`s all ahead.
WILLIAMS: A new and important piece of reporting from "The Wall Street Journal" today says, President Trump played a central role in those hush money payments to former playboy model Karen McDougal and adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
"The Journal" has new to tells about Trump`s involvement in trying to prevent both women`s stories of allegedly affairs with him from becoming public. "The Wall Street Journal found that Mr. Trump was involved in or briefed on nearly early every step of the agreements. He directed deals in phone calls and meetings with his self-described fixer, Michael Cohen, and others. The US attorney`s office in Manhattan has gathered evidence of Mr. Trump`s participations in the transactions."
In August Trump`s former attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations. Cohen admitted he arranged payments to two women, presumably Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal. "At the direction of a candidate for federal office," meaning his client, Donald Trump. The journal also reports Cohen has, "met with investigators for Mr. Mueller and with federal prosecutors in New York seeking to provide information that could mitigate his punishment. His sentencing hearing," by the way, "is December 12th."
In April you recall President Trump told reporters on board Air Force One that he did not know about the payments to Stormy Daniels.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did you know about the $130,000 payment to Stormy Daniels?
TRUMP: No. No. What else?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Then why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to the allegations?
TRUMP: Well, you`d have to ask Michael Cohen. Michael`s my attorney and you`ll have to ask Michael.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?
TRUMP: No. I don`t know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Then in August after Michael Cohen implicated the President, Trump said he learned about both payments later on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you know about the payments?
TRUMP: A later on, I knew. Later on. But you have to understand isn`t, what he did and they weren`t taken out of campaign finances. That`s a big thing, that`s so much bigger thing. Did they come out of the campaign? They didn`t come of the campaign. They came from me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With us again this evening is Rebecca Davis O`Brien, reporter for the "Wall Street Journal" who covers white collar crime and is one of five bilines on this "Wall Street Journal" story today. And also still with us is Mimi Rocah.
Rebecca, welcome back. Mimi`s old shop, the southern district of New York is, for late people, the feds in New York. And I want to come at this a way that may, may make you answer it. Was it is now clear to you that the SDNY, the feds in New York have on either Cohen or Trump or both?
REBECCA O`BRIEN, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL REPORTER: Well as a reporter today, even before Michael Cohen pleaded guilty in August, governments, federal prosecutors in New York had prepared an 80-page draft federal indictment of Mr. Cohen, that was in the process of being edited before he pleaded. But that material drew from the search of his home, hotel, and office, and it also drew from witness testimony from David Pecker and Ellen Wiseleberg as we`ve written before in "The Journal."
And since that plea, Michael Cohen has been providing them information. So we now know that they some -- a lot of what we wrote about today including his meetings and Mr. Trump`s knowledge of this and his role in this arrangements with the women stemmed from, you know, months of investigations and now Michael Cohen is presumably going in there and backing up a lot of that.
WILLIAM: And Mimi just to side note here because you know your way around the keyboard and the feds offices in New York, 80 pages gets your attention. That`s kind of impressive.
ROCAH: Yes. I mean look is that`s speaking indictment for sure. You know, not just laying out the charges and the bare facts. Now we don`t know how much of that, you know, conduct or charges since that was about Michael Cohen. How much of that included Trump but it`s an important fact as Rebecca mentions because it shows you know a lot of what`s come out already when Michael Cohen pled guilty, when he made that incriminating statement about Trump in court and said, he you know directed me.
Trump and his allies all came out and said, "Oh, Michael Cohen is a liar, he`s just trying to help himself." Well, now we know that even before Cohen pled guilty, the Southern District of New York had evidence that, you know, Trump was involved in these hush money payments. So that`s very important.
It`s always helpful to have someone who`s an insider, who comes in later and tells you, and walks you through it. And it sounds like there`s more detail and a lot of it is corroborated what they knew before by Michael Cohen.
But, you know, the point is that the evidence against Trump, assuming everything in this story is true, and I`m sure it was reported accurately, but meaning you know that everything that`s been sort of told to them --
ROCAH: -- is accurate. You know, he`s an unindicted co-conspirator, Trump, in the crime that Michael Cohen pled to.
WILLIAMS: So does this violate any law specifically, unindicted co- conspirator is a hefty choice of words.
DAVIS: Yes, unindicted co-conspirator in violation of campaign finances.
WILLIAMS: Oh. OK, so Rebecca, to folks in our audience who haven`t maybe followed every player, who is this David Pecker fellow, and why would it occur to you if you`re Donald Trump or Michael Cohen and you needed to take care of a personal matter, why would it occur to you to go through one David Pecker?
O`BRIAN: So David Pecker is the Chairman of American Media, which is the publisher, which is the --
WILLIAMS: And they own?
DAVIS: They own the National Inquirer.
WILLIAMS: Oh yes, hear of them.
O`BRIAN: And now I think, you know, every time I pass the National Inquirer, it has special different meaning to me. But he has been a friend of Donald Trump`s and Michael Cohen`s actually for about -- for decades and they had previously done a lot, they have been on business relationship because of that we`ve written about this before.
But in August 2015, we -- as we`ve -- have written about our -- in our story today, Michael Cohen arranges a meeting for David Pecker and Donald Trump in Donald Trump`s office. At this time Donald Trump has risen to the top of most polls and he meets he with David Pecker in his office and says you know "How can you help me with my campaign?``
And David Pecker has a few tricks of his sleeve and he says you know "One thing I can do is do something they called "catch and kill" which is we can figure out who these women are who are going to come forward with stories about you and we can buy them and, you know, dispose of them, basically."
O`BRIAN: Yes. WILLIAMS: So that`s how politics works these days.
Congratulations on being part of this byline --
O`BRIAN: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: -- story that moved the agenda today.
Our thanks to Rebecca Davis, our thanks is always to Mimi Rocah. Appreciate it.
Coming up for us, claims of election fraud coming from the White House as midterm ballots are still being counted. Steve Kornacki, believe it or not is back at the big board to walk us through the latest developments having had nourishment, when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of a sudden they`re finding votes out of nowhere, and Rick Scott, who won by -- it was close, but he won by comfortable margin. Every couple of hours it goes down a little bit.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Prior to departing for Paris today, the President incorrectly weighing in on the Florida Senate race. He continued his attacks throughout his transatlantic fight. He was busy, must not like the movie, unleashing a flurry of unsubstantiated allegations about so-called electoral corruption.
In the meantime, the midterm vote come continues and while he has had time off for good behavior and to take on good nourishment, our National Political correspondent Steve Kornacki is still at the big board with the midterm that will not end and the very latest numbers. Hey, Steve.
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brian. Yes, that`s right. I mean, we still got votes coming in. And the reason in Arizona we can start a couple different states to talk let start in Arizona though on that Senate race right there.
Look, the reason the votes are still coming in is Arizona is a very heavy mail-in ballot state. So they`ve just collected and they`ve had all these votes that were sent in, in the run-up to the election and they are just slowly processing them. There`s a whole procedure where they get the ballot, they have to try to verify the identity of the person who sent it. So it takes time.
This does happen normally in Arizona elections. But has happened is that Kyrsten Sinema in last 24 hours or so the way the count is going, she`s caught Martha McSally. Tonight, she extended the lead further. She now leads by 20,000 votes statewide.
There are still in awful a lot of votes to be counted in Arizona. We can show you where they are and tell you something about them, though. The bulk of the outstanding vote is in Maricopa County. The counts are more than half of the population in the state about 70,000 votes from Maricopa County yet to come, are from a particular collection of ballots.
These are ballots that were sent in before Election Day. They`re heavily the ones that have been counted in the last day. They seem to be favoring Sinema. So we`ll add 70,000 ballots from here likely to favor Sinema more than McSally. And then after that there`s going to be about 195,000 that are counted from a second collection of ballots.
These are ballots that people brought into the polling place on Election Day. They had them at home. They filled them out. They brought them in on Election Day. These are likely Republicans to say to favor McSally more than Sinema, though the extent of how much they`ll favor her, that`s unclear.
There are also about 60,000 from down here in Pima County, Tucson. There`s a blue are of the state where Sinema has been running up the score against McSally. And then there are about 50,000 sorted from the rest of the state.
So if you add all of this together, you`ve got well over 300,000 ballots still to be counted. But the bottom line is Sinema has taken the lead, she should do very well these 70,000. Should do very well with these 60,000. Could hold her own with this 195. It is tough for McSally already down 20,000 potentially to make this up.
But still it`s going to take days through the weekend into next week. And of course, the other big drama on the Senate front it is now in the State of Florida. You see the margin here, 14,000 votes and change. Bill Nelson behind Rick Scott.
The counting is going to continue with provisional ballots between now and tomorrow around the state. We expect that will knock a little bit off this margin for Scott. Nelson will draw closer. The margin here, the final margins are going to be within.
It looks like that 0.25 percent threshold. That means this would go not just to a recount, but to a manual recount. They`ll take out the ballots. They`ll inspect them by hand. The counties have until tomorrow to report their final results. Assuming it stays under 0.25 percent. You will get that manual recount.
But if Scott is going into thing, ahead by 5,000, 10,000 votes, that still would be a lot for Nelson to overcome. Quickly the other final issue that has emerged here in Florida is in Broward County, giant county 2 million people, heavily democratic.
It does appear very possible here that the design of the ballot in Broward County where the Senate race was off to the left hand side in the far corner, there were far fewer votes cast in the Senate race than in any other race on the ballot. Democrats think potentially that might have cost them some crucial votes out of Broward County.
WILLIAMS: And really quickly, the House the number as of now, Democrats have turn over 30 and there are 11 outstanding races we just don`t have an answer yet going into the weekend?
KORNACKI: Yes, we`ve got. I mean, you can see the second district of New Mexico right here, that one we`re waiting on a call. The most fascinating one I think is Maine. This is the congressional district that Donald Trump won and got the electoral vote out in 2016.
The two candidates neither one of them hit 50 percent, in Maine does instant runoff voting, which means that the other candidates on the ballot the voters selected a second choice so they`re going to do an instant runoff there in the coming days. Let say instant runoff, it takes a few days to do it. But that might be the most fascinating House race left on the board.
WILLIAMS: We`re still in the midterm. It`s still not safe to go back to life as usual. Steve Kornacki, thank you so much for your service all this week and being at the big board for us.
WILLIAMS: Tonight coming up, no other way to put it. The President today was angry in no particular order, angry at the midterms, the White House press corps and the President of France and he let them all know it. Another Friday in the new normal when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: When you`re in the White House, this is a very sacred place to me. This is a very special place. You have to treat the White House with respect. You have to treat presidency with respect.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Just moments after that lecture on respect, President Trump went on to do something we`re now somewhat used to. He attacked the free press. When asked a question he didn`t like this morning, Trump resorted to name calling.
And as many appointed out, in just these last three days in addition of course to Jim Acosta of CNN who the President mock again today. Some the President`s most vicious verbal attack have been director at black female journalist.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the campaign trail you called yourself a nationalist. Some people saw that emboldening white nationalist now people are also saying --
TRUMP: I don`t know why say that, such a racist question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There are some.
TRUMP: You just have.
Sit down please, sit down, I didn`t call you. I didn`t call you.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Do you want him to rein in Robert Mueller?
TRUMP: What a stupid question that is. What a stupid question. But I watch you a lot, you ask a lot of stupid question.
The same thing with April Ryan, I watch her get up. I mean, you talk about somebody that`s a loser. She doesn`t know what the hell she`s doing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With us tonight to talk about all of it Mara Gay, member of the New York Times editorial board. And we convince Phil Rucker to stick around just for a few more minutes to have this discussion.
Mara, these are three terrific reporters, two of them have been on this broadcast. The one the President called stupid today did pretty well at Harvard, I understand. What are we watching going on here?
MARA GAY, EDITORIAL BOARD MEMBER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: We`re watching a couple things. Politically, obviously, race baiting, racism is something that Trump feels very comfortable with. He feels that it`s a way for him to connect with the deepest threat of his base.
That`s a sad statement about where we are in American politics. But I also think it`s more of an effort to undermine the free press. I mean, he didn`t just choose any black women to go after. He chose, as you said, Brian, people who are part of a free press.
And so the exercise is to undermine the press by having them be, you know, we`re us, right? And we`re good Americans and they`re the enemy. And so the best way in the United States unfortunately to call someone an other, if you want to other-ize someone still, 300 years later is to show that they are black in this country.
That`s where we are. I just want to point out too. I mean, Michelle Obama touched on this. But not only are our press freedoms undermined, but these individual reporters, what they go through is hellish and the kind of threats, the kind of hate
WILLIAMS: Yes, we don`t talk about it.
GAY: Absolutely. I`ve gotten some myself. But I can`t even imagine being on the front lines like they are. So, he`s really putting them in harm`s way.
WILLIAMS: Phil, having traveled with that merry band in another era, the White House press corps is usually pretty tight. You know, April, and Umish (ph) and Abby. You`ve worked with these women. These are women of esteem being taken down publicly.
PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, Abby Philip was a colleague of mine at "The Washington Post" until she joined CNN. We covered this White House together. She asks smart questions. I`ve never known her to ask a stupid question.
And as you mentioned, she went to Harvard. She`s an intelligent, professional journalist and it`s a real shame what we happening here. And one of the most interesting things the President said at that press availability this morning was he gave that lecture about the White House being a sacred place and how you have to respect the White House and the office of the presidency.
And people who have observed Trump a long time, will say he likes to project and that he will project onto others the criticisms that he faces himself. And you have to wonder how can he expect everybody else to respect the White House when he`s tweeting horseface and calling the press the enemy of the people, and sort of day in and day out doing things that cut away at that presidential decorum.
WILLIAMS: And going after people`s intelligence, which were just not use to hearing in adult life.
GAY: It`s an appeal -- I would call it facist politics. Let`s call it what it is. It`s projection and it`s an appeal to emotion. It`s not an appeal to reason. OK, we all know that those were not stupid questions. In fact, those were the most important questions of the day.
GAY: In fact those are the most important questions of the day.
GAY: And so, rather than actually win argument on reason, which you can`t do at this point, he`s appealing to people`s emotions and he is kind of exploiting our worst divisions. And that is -- like the opposite of the better angels. It`s really dangerous is what it is.
WILLIAMS: Somewhere you just made John Meacham smile for the subtitle of this book.
Mara and Philip have agreed to stay with us over this break. As we go to this break, I want to show you a graphic image the cover of this coming week`s "New Yorker" magazine. It`s important to our conversation. It`s a great piece of art, especially for those who`ve been knocking and are now ready to come in the door.
More about this when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Former first lady Michelle Obama`s memoir is said to be released next week. In it she takes the current President to task for misogyny and for among other things the birther conspiracy that he promoted against her husband.
She writes in part, "The whole birther thing was crazy and mean spirited, of course, it`s underlying bigotry and xenophobia, hardly concealed. She goes on. What if someone with an unstable mind loaded a gun and drove to Washington? What if that person went looking for our girls? Donald Trump with his loud and reckless innuendoes was putting my family`s safety at risk. And for this I`d never forgive him.
Asked to respond today, Trump said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I guess she wrote a book. She got paid a lot of money to write a book and they always insist you come up with controversial. Well, I`ll give you a little controversy back. I`ll never forgive him for what he did to our United States military.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Mara gay and Phil Rucker remain with us. So Mara, there is that obvious thing that sets Michelle Obama apart from our other first ladies, but I choose to dwell on something else, Princeton undergrad, Harvard law school. We`ve never had anyone with her basis of education in that job.
And I tend to think that side of Michelle Obama, the effective whip-smart communicator is the one this President and others are about to see. She`s going on a tour of venues, the likes of which Bruce and U2, Jay-Z and Beyonce play.
GAY: Absolutely. And it`s just this split screen, right, between the White House as it is right now under Donald Trump, which depending on his mood could be circa 1938, circa 1955, and then you have Michelle Obama and you`re right back to a vision of America that`s more inclusive, that`s more forward-thinking.
And I`m thinking of a political writer, can her tour and her book help keep people energized after the midterms? And I think that would be a really great use of her pre prodigious talents.
WILLIAMS: Phil, I want to read you a quote from the memoir, her distaste for what we cover here every night. The current political climate. "I`ve lain awake at night fuming over what has come to pass. It`s been distressing to see how the behavior and the political agenda of the current President have caused many Americans to doubt themselves and to doubt and fear one another. I sometimes wonder where the bottom might be".
All of us have family and friends who have said some form of that exact quote to us. A lot of us this week.
RUCKER: And she`s giving voice to it. In many ways she`s sort of the moral conscience of the resistant of the sort of half if not more of America that does not approve of this President. And what he`s doing in office.
We remember the convention speech she gave in 2016 in Philadelphia where she said when he goes low, we go high. That was a calling I think for a lot of Democrats in that campaign, and I think her book is going to be powerful for that half of the country.
And Trump`s going to have to figure out how to navigate this. She is a very popular figure. She`s not a politician. She`s not her husband. She`s not Hillary Clinton. She will not be easily demonized or given a nickname and diminished. She`s probably the most powerful and popular political figure out in public life right now.
WILLIAMS: Mara, in 45 seconds of brilliance, do you think he will find a carve-out of his usual communication skills or will he, in fact make the mistake of treating her like everybody else?
GAY: I think it`ll be the latter. I almost flinch to think about what it`s going to look like, but at the same time I do have faith in Americans that most people can see through that. We need voices out there, not so much, you know, Democrats.
It`s not really the important part. But just people who are willing to speak truth to power and to come in morality, to humanity that we`ve losing every day having this man in the White House.
WILLIAMS: Let that be our closing quote for this conversation with our thanks of a Friday night at the end of a longer than average week to Mara Gay and to Philip Rucker, both of them friends of this broadcast.
Coming up, for us, a report tonight on a night bordering on hell for over a quarter million people in Southern California.
WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go tonight, yet another unfolding disaster in Southern California. Last night we reported on the mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California. Today some of the folks there didn`t have the opportunity or the time to mourn or to pause because of the evacuations due to the approaching massive amount of fire.
Now measured in the tens of thousands of acres, easily 150 homes gone. It has a quarter million Californians on the move. It`s led to the closing of the 101 Freeway and the evacuation of the city of Malibu and then some.
NBC`s Gadi Schwartz file this report earlier tonight.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GADI SCHWARTZ, NBC NEWS REPORTER: The wall of flames came in the dead of night, two fast moving fire storms within miles of each other. Firefighters unable to stop their advance, instead focusing on evacuations.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire department says get out. He says you`re going to get trapped. The fire is on us.
SCHWARTZ: The 101 freeway, one of the most traveled in America, shut down in both directions as flames jumped the road making a run for the coast. This is an eerie site. Very seldom do we see the freeway comply empty.
Right now, it`s been shut down in both directions as fire has now breached the freeway it is burning towards the ocean.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god
SCHWARTZ: In the community of Westlake Village, neighbors watch firenados ripped through their canyons.
Were you able to get everything out?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just my papers. That`s all I got.
SCHWARTZ: Delia Lo (ph) says she`s worried her home of 35 years might be lost.
Are you guys scared?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Absolutely. Well, we`re safe, OK? We`re safe
SCHWARTZ: Others evacuated with everything they could, including horses.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire was all around me. I couldn`t see anything except smoke and fire.
SCHWARTZ: And right we`re seeing people who waited for the last possible minute getting out while the flames get so close. On the ridges above firefighters work to beat back flames that felt like a blast furnace. Just like that the fire comes up the ridge. We`re falling back for safety.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Evacuate the area.
SCHWARTZ: In Malibu, panic as in impending plume of smoke threatened more destruction. The entire Oceanside city ordered to evacuate, along the pacific coast highway causing traffic jams before the flames moved in.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It feels like the Garden of Eden just turned into the gates of hell.
SCHWARTZ: Even celebrities affected, Reign Wilson, Kim and Kanye West, Alyssa Milano force to evacuate and Kaitlin Jenner Malibu home reported burn to the ground. Also destroyed the historic paramount ranch where the HBO series West World is filmed. While another brush fire broke out in Griffith park.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You see the potential for this fire here.
SCHWARTZ: Forcing the closer of the L.A. zoo and evacuation of some animals. Southern California Santa Ana winds unrelenting the fire uncontained.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As we move forward, we have predictions, but we don`t know what Mother Nature is going to give us.
SCHWARTZ: Communities now praying for relief from more tragedy and loss.
Godi Schwartz, NBC News, Westlake Village, California.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Spare of though for the first responders. We are thinking of our friends, family, and fellow citizens in Southern California tonight. That is your broadcast on a Friday evening and for this week.
Thank you so much for being here with us. Have a good weekend and good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END
Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.