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New reports of shake up. TRANSCRIPT:11/13/18, The 11th Hour With Brian Williams.

Guests: Chuck Rosenberg, Ron Klain, Barry McCaffrey

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the First Lady`s extraordinary call for a senior White House staffer to be fired saying she no longer deserves the honor of serving there.

And tonight, reports of an even bigger shakeup sparked by a President described as "furious and brooding in a cocoon of bitterness."

On the Russia investigation front, fevered speculation over what might be the next indictments.  And will written answers to Mueller`s questions from this White House even matter in the end?

Plus, the President dismissing reports that he`s getting played by North Korea.

And update on those troops at our southern border guarding against that caravan.

And Trump on the defensive over his lonely weekend visit to France.  As THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Tuesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 663 of this Trump administration.  And talk of a power struggle amid an imminent White House shakeup is getting louder and more frequent now.

Now we`re hearing about a new force behind the push for personnel changes and that would be her, First Lady Melania Trump.  Today her office publicly called for the firing of Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel seen here at the White House as recently as this afternoon at an event.

Stephanie Grisham, First Lady`s communications director issued this statement about Ricardel, "It is the position of the office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House" Grisham said.

NBC News has detailed reporting tonight about this latest development and other rifts within the White House.  "Ricardel has gotten into several disputes with the East Wing."

Also over the first lady`s trip to Africa in October, more on that later.

Tonight the White House told our colleague, Hallie Hackson, that Ricardel has never met the first lady and made no indication that Ricardel has left the administration.

NBC News also reports tonight Chief of Staff John Kelly may soon leave the White House.  You may have heard this before a time or two, but now this has changed.  "Questions about his future in the White House recently became more serious after his repeated clashes with National Security Adviser John Bolton and his deputy," the aforementioned, "Mira Ricardel.  Kelly has also gotten on the wrong side of Melania Trump over staffing issues and travel requests.  Some of the disputes with the East Wing have escalated to the President, seven people familiar with the clashes said."

"There have been instances where the East Wing staff were not treated as equals to the male-dominated decision makers in Chief of Staff Kelly`s Office" one White House official said."

Just last month, Melania Trump spoke to ABC News on the aforementioned Africa trip about how she views some staffers working for her husband, the President.


THOMAS LLAMAS, ABC NEWS:  Sources have told us, sources in the White House, that you are the gatekeeper.  That you tell him who he can trust, and who he can`t trust.  Is that true?


LLMAS:  Has he had people that you didn`t trust working for him?

TRUMP:  Yes.

LLMAS:  Did you let him know?

TRUMP:  I let him know.

LLMAS:  And what did he do?

TRUMP:  Well, some people, they don`t work there anymore.


WILLIAMS:  Interesting.  And an update on the story we first reported here last night via the "Washington Post," that Trump plans to soon replace his Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.  A close ally of General Kelly`s.

Early last week, the President started dropping hints that a shakeup was possible.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Administrations make changes usually after midterms, and probably we`ll be right in that category, too.  I think it`s very custom air.


D. TRUMP:  No timeline.  No, no timeline.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You got a lot of White House staff, some of them talking about leaving.  General Kelly has been rumored to be leaving too?

D. TRUMP:  That`s OK.  People leave.  People leave.


WILLIAMS:  Nancy Cook of Politico who`s standing by to join us tonight is the co-author of one report that paints the postured of a White House increasingly on the edge, shall we say, and a staff in turmoil, "Bottled-up hostility in president Donald Trump`s administration flowed to the surface Tuesday during a remarkable 12-hour period following an awkward midterm detente and tense trip to Paris over which the President is still seething.  "It`s like an episode of Maury" one former Trump aide observed to Politico as the spectacle unfolded.  The only thing that`s missing is a paternity test."

And the "Washington Post" and the L.A. Times describe a dark and contentious mood in the White House over the past several days.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who is now a National Security Analyst for our network, told our colleague, Nicolle Wallace, what these accounts may be signaling about this President.


JOHN BRENNAN, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR:  It may be that he is behind the scenes and really concerning about where things are going and that is a dangerous time because if he feels that he is being increasingly cornered, how is that going to manifest itself?  It`s a White House, his administration, in disarray.  This reflects this underlying tension that`s just eating away at our government.


WILLIAMS:  And with that, let`s bring in our leadoff panel on a Tuesday night.  Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times."  The aforementioned Nancy Cook, White House Reporter for Politico.  And Jeremy Peters, Political Reporter, also with "The New York Times."

Peter Baker, I have been looking forward to our conversation tonight because there`s no other way to put it, you and I are old enough to remember First Lady Nancy Reagan getting sideways with Reagan Chief of Staff Don Regan, former CEO of Merrill Lynch.  Don Reagan was soon former Chief of Staff.  So there`s precedent for this, but how unusual is this and why?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, it was fascinating, of course, Don Regan was Chief of Staff during Iran- contra.  And Nancy Reagan felt he had ill served her husband.  But the thing that really, the man has really hung up on her at one point in a testy fury.

And one thing I think must be in any White House, you don`t hang up on the first lady.

Obviously, we now have a situation where another first lady is pretty peeved at an aide to her husband.  For her to make a statement the way she made today on the record out loud, that`s something even Nancy Reagan didn`t do.  And Nancy Reagan chopped off Don Regan`s head.  She didn`t do it in a public statement issued by her press office.  It wasn`t much of a secrete.

But it wasn`t done in such an overt outward way.  And I`ve never seen -- I don`t think either of us has ever seen any first lady openly say what Melania Trump did today about a person working for her husband.  It`s unprecedented situation.

Obviously means -- you have to imagine Mira Ricardel is on the way out because how can a husband continue to employ somebody after a First Lady says something like that in a public statement.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  I had to read it twice and three times to fully understand the gravity of what I was reading.

Nancy, there`s some reporting out tonight that this official under John Bolton is very process bound and process oriented, that there might have been a dustup over the First Lady`s trip to Africa, dispute over seats that should have gone to national security types instead of media types.  Seats are very finite on those trips, as you know.

What are -- what else are the people inside the West Wing saying to you?

NANCY COOK, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, she has really been a contentious figure since she joined the White House.  And I`m always a little bit reluctant to, you know, report too much about women who are hard nosed and behave hard nosed in those situations.  But there is a ton of reporting to really back that up.

She has clashed repeatedly with Defense Secretary Mattis.  And even during the transition, she was serving on the Pentagon transition team and tried to block a number of Mattis` picks after she, herself, could not get a job at the DOD.

And she`s really been sort of an attack dog for National Security Adviser John Bolton.  Sort of going after Mattis, going after people in the White House.  There are reports of her screaming at people.

And so she has, you know, really been aggressive and also created a lot of enemies in the White House.  And as we`ve seen, she`s created an enemy in Melania Trump and I think that makes it untenable for her to stay long.

The remarkable thing about today was that there was so much personnel news coming out that it almost seems a matter of who`s going to get fired first.  Will it be Mira Ricardel, will it be, you know, the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen?  It`s almost like we`re waiting to see sort of what will happen over the next 12 hours.

WILLIAMS:  And Jeremy, to that exact point, one hopes there is a white board in the office of presidential personnel where there may be suggestions of people to fill all these jobs.  Let`s just take Homeland Security, let`s take Chief of Staff.  Cabinet-level appointments have to be -- have to go through the Senate.  And that can be very tricky.

JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL REPORTER:  That`s exactly right, Brian.  And I think that if you were to look at some of the people who`ve been talked about as potentially being on a short list for, say, Homeland Security, like Chris Kobach and -- who just lost this governor`s race in Kansas, it`s difficult to imagine he gets easy Senate approval.

Now, it would likely be easier than in the current Senate because there are now more conservative members who`ve been elected that have replaced moderates like in Tennessee and Missouri.  But, you know, nonetheless, the President is not going to have carte blanche to get whoever he wants through the Senate.  There`s likely to be a considerable degree of scrutiny that the Senate continues to place on him even though it`s more firmly in Republican hands.

WILLIAMS:  Peter Baker, I wanted to read you a trip that -- a quote, rather, about the trip to France that is totally in line with the reporting from "The New York Times." this happens to be from Rucker and Dawsey over at the "Washington Post".  "President was frustrated with the trip and he`s itching to make some changes" said one senior White House official."  This is a week where things could get really dicey."

I was thinking about the quote and then thinking about what week of the Trump presidency haven`t we been worried that things could get dicey?

BAKER:  I was going to say we have a name for that, the White House, it`s called "Tuesday."  I mean, we`ve gone from dicey week to dicey week all along.

But there`s no question, I think that in the days since the midterms, there`s a feeling of even greater turmoil inside the White House.  Uncertainty about where things are headed.  Potential clashes and conflict in Washington.  More generally we have obviously now the ascendants of a new Democratic majority in the House that will take office in January.

We have these fights over the recounts in Florida.  We have the firing of an attorney general and the installation over replacement that seems like minded with the President about the Russia probe.  So many things feel like on the edge right now.

And as Nancy said, like, you know, at this point the personnel question isn`t even so much who gets fired first.  Even maybe who gets to stay?  We should probably be looking at the other direction around, it might be easier.

It`s -- and you know, even if these people don`t leave and John Kelly has been on the way out for a year, Kirstjen Nielsen has been on the way out for many months according to the -- to our reporting and everything else, is the question of, you know, how do you do your job if it seems like you might be out in the way out at any moment?  How do you possibly get things done?  How do you approve process and policy if at any given moment you`re looking over your shoulder to see who is got knife heading towards your back?

WILLIAMS:  Please tell Siri we`re trying to talk.

BAKER:  Sorry.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Nancy, to your -- I`m sorry, I used her name.  So now she`s been engaged in the conversation.

The West Wing, to your previous point, has been always full of people, both genders, sharp elbows, hard noses, people don`t suffer fools, people don`t scare easily.  But you`ve written that this departure of a Bolton deputy may have more weight than a departure of, say, a chief of staff.  Walk us through that flowchart and the reasoning.

COOK:  Well, I just think that, you know, the point that I made earlier is just that we have known that Kelly has been on his way out for a long time.  You know, that his frustration level with both the White House and with President Trump has been well known.

I thought that the news today about Mira Ricardel and this clash she`d had with the First Lady and the First Lady`s public statement which was so extraordinary really said so much more because it really means that this is one of the first potential missteps for John Bolton as national security adviser.  He`s going to lose basically his attack dog in the White House.  Someone who really helps him carry out the bureaucratic infighting that he`s known for.

And, you know, without having this right-hand person, that will be a huge blow to Bolton.  As there are a number of foreign policy questions coming up.  You know, later this month, the President is supposed to go to Buenos Aires Argentina for the G20.  That will be a key moment that Bolton will want to be part of.  President is supposed to meet with Putin and President Xi at that meeting.

And so this is just a huge, you know, loss to Bolton internally.

WILLIAMS:  So, Jeremy, one is tempted to ask what could go wrong?  Argentina, and meetings with both Xi Jinping and Putin.  And also as the weather, as the nip arrives in the winter air, one thinks of Mar-a-Lago where as you well know the President goes for kind of the advice and comfort of old friends and allies.  Often having the effect of hardening his views and narrowing his focus, if that`s possible.

PETERS:  That`s exactly right.  And bringing out what are often his most self-destructive impulses.  I think, you know, right now you`re looking at a President who is not just struggling under the weight of the various geopolitical catastrophes facing this administration, but you also have the political considerations at home and that`s that these midterm elections did not go as well as President Trump thought they did when he went to bed last Tuesday night and tweeted out what a wonderful evening it had been, good night, everybody, thank you very much.

So here you have this situation in Florida and that`s where I am right now, covering this recount.  And the President is personally aggrieved by this.  He feels like the recount is a personal attack on him, he`s told people, because he thinks he helped drag Rick Scott and Ron DeSantis, the republicans running for Senate and governor, over the finish line.  As he does with most things, he makes them about himself.

So you have somebody who`s already in a sour mood about the various other problems he`s dealing with on the global stage, and you reinforce that with a very narrow majority he`s going to have in the Senate and a House of Representatives that`s flipped and talking about impeaching him.  It`s not a very happy place to be in.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Peter, give me 30 seconds of your wisdom on the press corps.  Secret service is normally only supposed to pull a journalist`s hard pass if you`re determined to be a threat to the President.  Physically.  Jim Acosta over at CNN, famously, has had his hard pass pulled.  The network is suing a number of people, but the White House, the Press Secretary, and others.  Do you think this may have merit?

BAKER:  Well, look, you know, he`s been effectively prevented from doing his job.  At least doing his job as well as he had done it before.  If you`re not on the ground, if you don`t have the permission to come in and go as you need to go for hits and briefings and events, that is a substantial impediment to doing your job.

And they say, well, you can get a day pass and go in on any given day but don`t want to have to be, you know, subject to the whims of the White House staff and whether they`ll put you in for a day pass.  In fact, he tried to put in for one last week after the hard pass, permanent pass, was pulled.  They wouldn`t give it to him.

So, you know, there`s a real case to be made here.  I mean, the 1st amendment, I get why people are upset at reporters who question the President sometimes in a way that might seem rude, but there`s not a rudeness exception to the 1st amendment.

And I think at this point, you know, you saw the White House even shift its rationale today.  It first said it was suspending his credential because he was placing his hands on an intern. Now they dropped that, they are saying basically it was because he was trying to monopolize the questioning.

If you don`t want him to monopolize the questioning, don`t call on him.  They`re the ones who called on him in the first place.  And, you know, we`ll see where the lawsuit goes.  But it`s got a lot of people watching it.

WILLIAMS:  A trio of mostly polite practitioners of the 1st amendment starting us off tonight.  Peter Baker, Nancy Cook, Jeremy Peters, our thanks as always.  Really appreciate it.

And coming up, if and when the President`s legal team submits written answers to questions, will it really matter to the Mueller team in the end?

And later, the President and Pentagon will ask the retired four-star general about troops at our southern border and the President`s relationship with all things military these days.  We`re just getting started on a Tuesday evening.


WILLIAMS:  Fevered speculations and predictions earlier this week that more Mueller indictments could be on the way.

In the meantime, a source tells NBC News today that the "President`s legal team is almost finished with written answers to questions from the special counsel, and they could be submitted as early as this week."  The source added the answers will pertain only to the matters related to Russian interference in the election, not obstruction of justice, "The source says the President`s legal team considers questions about obstruction to be related to the firing of FBI Director James Comey and, therefore, to infringe on the President`s power to hire and fire under Article 2 of the Constitution."

Just yesterday, Roger Stone Associate Jerome Corsi told NBC News he expects to be indicted by Mueller`s team for perjury in the near future.  Earlier today, Corsi abruptly canceled an interview at this building with NBC News after his lawyer held a scheduled phone call with the Mueller folks.

Corsi`s lawyer, David Gray, texted this to us, "On advice of counsel, Dr. Corsi is canceling today`s interview."  The message read, "No further comment, things have changed".  Gray told NBC News in a follow-up conversation, "I got to play this a certain way."

Well, let`s play it our way.  With us to talk about it tonight, Chuck Rosenberg, a lifelong veteran of the intersection between law and criminal justice, Former Senior FBI Official, Former U.S. attorney and Former Counsel to then-FBI Director Robert Mueller.

So, Chuck, first things first here, help me understand why with a fevered pitch we report with a straight face on these written answers to questions from Mueller?  We know the President right now isn`t on the second floor of the residence with a legal pad.  We know these are being prepared by his lawyers.  Why do we care and will they be treated with any seriousness?

CHUCK ROSENBERG. FMR. SENIOR FBI OFFICIAL:  I`m not sure we should care, Brian.  To paraphrase Forrest Gump, life is not like a box of chocolates, you know exactly what you`re going to get.

What you`re going to get is a heavily layered useless pile of garbage.  It`s not helpful to Mueller.  It`s not helpful to the investigation.  You know exactly what you`re going to get.

WILLIAMS:  So, why are we going through the motions?  Not so much reporting it.  Why would they ask for and then accept with a straight face such a pile of paper?

ROSENBERG:  Yes.  So, the only thing I can think of is that the Mueller team feels it has to give the President an opportunity to tell his side of the story in some way.  Maybe they decided they`re not going to subpoena him.  Maybe they decided they can`t subpoena him, and so they`re giving him this opportunity.

Remember, too, all this reporting is coming from the White House side.  Not from the Mueller side.  So I`m not even sure we can trust it.

WILLIAMS:  Now to this Corsi fellow here in New York, his lawyer insists on calling him Dr. Corsi because Dr. Corsi has a Harvard Ph.D., we note.  While also noting he`s a conspiracy theorist.  He has done work with and associated with Alex Jones from 9/11 conspiracies to birther conspiracies.  What role do you think -- what do you think is going on in his life for him to have been almost outside this building in a parked car and canceled this interview?

ROSENBERG:  Well, first, Brian, very few people tell their friends that they expect to be indicted.  I don`t think I`ve ever woken up expecting to be indicted.  I`m sure you haven`t, either.

So my guess is that his lawyer has been in contact with Mueller`s team and has conveyed to his client, to Dr. Corsi that this is coming down the road.

Why did he cancel?  Well, there`s a chance, I guess, that they`ve decided to cooperate.  We`ve heard from a whole bunch of people, Manafort, Flynn, you know, others, who have said there`s no -- Cohen, of course, who said "I`m not going to cooperate under any circumstance."  Cohen even said "I`m going to take a bullet for the President."  And they`ve all ended up cooperating.  Maybe Dr. Corsi is doing the same thing.

WILLIAMS:  I guess I can take away my modifier and call him a full-on birther.  He just posed with the cover of his book which was "Where`s the Birth Certificate After All?"

Hey, Chuck, while I have you, because I hang on your every word, I saw you on television earlier today talking about the story the Mueller team can often tell through these voluminous indictments that read differently to someone like you than they do a layperson like me.  And you cited off the top of your head paragraph 44 in the now-famous indictment of 12 Russians.  We scurried, went to work, of course, you were right.  Tell the folks watching what`s interesting about paragraph 44?

ROSENBERG:  Well, I remembered the number, Brian, because that`s the number that Hank Aaron wore as you already know.

WILLIAMS:  There you go.

ROSENBERG:  But paragraph 44 in the indictment of the Russian military intelligence officials spoke about the fact that they had coordinated, conspired with the U.S. persons, plural.  And so why that`s important is because we know from the Mueller team, from that indictment, that there are Americans involved in this conspiracy.  We don`t know who they are, but we have a good guess and my guess is that Roger Stone is one of them.

WILLIAMS:  And what will that do, what will that mean?

ROSENBERG:  Well, it means other charges should be coming.  It means that roger stone, if I`m right, should expect to be charged.  Or he should expect to have to plead guilty like others before him.  This was a signal from the Mueller team in an earlier indictment that Russians had conspired with Americans.  That Americans knew about the stolen and hacked e-mails and had participated in some way.

Does it go all the way to the President and to the White House?  We don`t know.  But we know Americans were involved.  That`s the import of paragraph 44.

WILLIAMS:  Chuck Rosenberg, if I didn`t show you my autographed Hank Aaron baseball the last time you were in my office, then you`re welcome to come back.  I`m convinced you can get power by holding it in your hands.  Thank you so very much for coming on the broadcast with us, again tonight.

And coming up --

ROSENBERG:  My pleasure.

WILLIAMS:  -- the freshman class of lawmakers arrived on the Hill today as the President calls on one candidate in a very big, very undecided race, to go ahead and concede.  The latest election update when we come right back.  We have Steve Kornacki at the big board.


WILLIAMS:  It may seem like 10 minutes, but it`s been one week since the midterm elections.  Today the newest members of Congress, more Democrats than Republicans, started arriving on Capitol Hill for freshman orientation.

No kidding, they were given tote bags and school supplies.  Even as the new comers got their briefing books, toured their new digs, several key races remain uncalled.  And the political maneuvering is ratcheting up, especially in Florida and Georgia.

And for the latest on where things stand, our National Political correspondent, Steve Kornacki, who volunteered to come in and explain all this tonight.  We`re not holding him against his will on the late shift.  He`s with us at the big board.  Hey, Steve. 

STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Hey, Brian.  I don`t want to be anywhere else.  We still got votes coming in.  These races are changing as we speak.

Let`s start in Florida.  The news in Florida today that machine recount is under way across the state.  And that includes critically in Broward County.  The margin statewide, of course, just over 12,000 votes for Rick Scott right now.  This is the big question mark.

They are now running the ballots through the machine.  Presumably we`ve been talking about those 26,000 ballots where they didn`t register a vote in the Senate race originally.  The question there was that a machine error, do these ballots actually have check marks on them?

Are they disproportionately for Nelson?  They`re probably presumably being separated out in this machine recount and then on Thursday, the manual recount would begin.  There`s a lawsuit from the Nelson campaign trying to stretch out that deadline.

So that process now under way in Broward County there.  The governors race in Georgia, new votes coming in just tonight.  Provisional ballots being reported.  You can see here, Brian Kemp`s lead.  Right now it`s about 56,000 votes over Stacey Abrams.

By tomorrow we expect more provisionals from around the state to be reported.  Also critically some court rulings tomorrow with the Abrams campaign trying to get thousands of additional ballots added to the mix.

Basically, the bottom line for Abrams, this 56,000-vote lead, she needs to get that down for Kemp to probably about 38,000.  If she can do that, she`d get him under 50 percent.  She would get this into a runoff.

The other development in Georgia affects the outstanding House race in that state.  This a Democratic target.  You can see here the margin on this screen says about 800, 900 votes for Rob Woodall, the Republican incumbent.

But again, in the last hour from a key county in here, they reported out provisional ballots and this margin has shrunk to about 500 for Rob Woodall.  We are expecting about 300 more absentee ballots to be counted here.

This is getting very close.  The prospect of a recount now looms there as well.  And some developments very quickly in House races in California, the biggest one in this tonight, where the vote continues to come in.

Mimi Walters, Republican incumbent, has now fallen behind her challenger, Katie Porter.  Walters had been leading until just a few hours ago and in the 10th district, Republican incumbent Jeff Denham, he`s fallen further behind.

Our decision desk has not called this race but I can tell you tonight the Associated Press has now called this race for the Democrat for Josh Harder, that would be a Democratic pickup.  Again, right now we have the democrats picking up 31 seats but in these outstanding seats here, they lead in a lot of them, the prospect of Democrats getting upwards of 40 seats looms very large right now, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  It`s unbelievable how much of this still rolls on.  Steve, I can`t thank you enough for walking us through it.

KORNACKI:  Thanks.

WILLIAMS:  President Trump made another attempt to discredit this electoral process today.  He wrote on Twitter, and we quote "When will Bill Nelson concede in Florida?  The characters running Broward and Palm Beach voting will not be able to "Find" enough votes.  Too much spotlight on them now."

It`s important to note there is no evidence of fraud.  No proof of sabotage of any kind, though it`s not the first time the President has made this allegation.

So, joining our conversation tonight, Ron Klain, former Chief of Staff to V.P. Biden and Gore former Chief Counsel Senate Judiciary.  He also had a front-row seat to the 2,000 Florida recount as the lead attorney for then- Vice President Al Gore.  You say that all Democrats start to twitch.  Also with us, Jeremy Peters who remains in Florida covering the recount tonight.

Ron, serious question, why is this happening again?  What is it about Florida?

RON KLAIN, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO VICE PESIDENT BIDEN:  Brian, I think the most important thing is it isn`t just about Florida.  That is, a lot of what we`re seeing in Florida is really true all over the country.

You have some very close elections.  You have electoral systems that aren`t well funded and aren`t well run.  And then you have partisans stepping into these systems trying to muck up their orderly process.

In Georgia all year long we`ve seen this spectacle of Brian Kemp who`s both a candidate and the state`s chief election officer trying to muck with the outcomes.  And over the past couple days we`ve seen Governor Scott, the chief law enforcement officer in Florida and also the Republican nominee for Senate trying to intervene in the recount.

So, what I do think will happen in Florida, though, is I think this process will play its way out.  They`ll finish the machine recount.  They`ll have a hand recount if need be and ultimately the candidate with the most votes will be the winner of the Senate race there. 

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Jeremy, your headline as they always do got attention in our newsroom, but this one especially.  "Who gets the last word in a disputed Senate race?  The Senate." please explain.

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  So, Brian, you don`t really need to look much farther than the United States constitution to find the answer to that question, because it says right there in Article 1 the Senate is the sole judge of its members and their elections.

So let`s play this out in a scenario that I don`t think is unlikely given the tenor of the conversation around voter fraud and irregularity and alleged malfeasance by the Democrats, which, of course, as you pointed out, are totally unfounded and there`s no proof of any of that.

Let`s say Bill Nelson pulls ahead in the recount and he wins.  The Republicans in the Senate could then decide not to seat Nelson and vote instead to seat Rick Scott because the constitution allows them to do just that.

And they would likely do so using the argument of widespread voter fraud, which you have seen President Trump and Rick Scott, himself, lay the groundwork for as they have claimed over and over again that the ballots are infected and that the forgery is rampant.

No proof whatsoever, not offering any evidence, but they`re just saying this and I think you have to contemplate for a minute what that does to the integrity of the process in the minds of voters end what it does looking forward to 2020 when there`s a presidential race in Florida and the outcome probably assuredly is going to be very, very close because, hey, it`s Florida, Florida`s always fought on a knife`s edge.

And you have a Republican Party right now that is willing to discredit the electoral process for political gain.

WILLIAMS:  So Ron, that dynamic right there that Jeremy`s mentioning, he just looked into the camera and told our viewers what I told them a few minutes ago, that allegation the President is making, there`s no proof of that whatsoever.

Welcome to our new era, but for you, Ron, and the business you`re in, the President is kind of a public litigant in this.  He is trying to diminish public confidence in the vote count in Florida on top of the man trying to get to the Senate is doing the same thing.  That`s new.

KLAIN:  It is new, Brian, and it is unfortunate.  I mean, it is really demeaning of our democracy.  In fact, we have the spectacle on veterans day yesterday, a time when overseas ballots from military servicemen and women who have the right under federal law to submit their ballots, mail them on Election Day, and have them count if they arrive late because they`re in Iraq, in Afghanistan.

And the President on Veterans Day said, hey, those votes shouldn`t count.  The vote count should be over.  So we have a President who has no respect for our democracy, no respect for its voters, and will do anything to take and seize power.

That said, I do think that the process in Florida is playing out in an orderly way.  President Trump`s trying to create a lot of smoke and noise around it.  But the votes are getting counted.

And if indeed Steve Kornacki raised this question, 30,000 mysterious ballots in Broward County, if, in fact, there was a machine error and there are votes for Bill Nelson and nelson wins, I think ultimately the Senate will accept and that if Nelson has the most votes, i think nelson will be seated. 

WILLIAMS:  Two of the very best guests on this topic.  Ron Klain, Jeremy Peters, gentlemen, can`t thank you enough for coming on our broadcast tonight. 

KLAIN:  Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Another break for us.  And coming up, the latest reporting that President Trump is calling fake news, when we come back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We`re very happy how it`s going with North Korea.  We think it`s going fine.  The sanctions are on.  The missiles have stopped.  The rockets have stopped.  The hostages are home.


WILLIAMS:  Days ago, President Trump was bragging about reining in North Korea`s nuclear program.  It gets a big response at his rallies, but yesterday "The New York Times" reported North Korea is moving ahead with its ballistic missile program at more than a dozen hidden bases.

Today, Trump called the report inaccurate, saying, "We fully know about the sites being discussed.  Nothing new and nothing happening out of the normal.  Just more fake news.  I will be the first to let you know if things go bad."

Well, with us tonight is retired U.S. army four-star General Barry McCaffrey, decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, a former battlefield commander in the gulf.  A man who has served presidents of both parties and served all over this world.

General, is there something the President may not get about North Korea, and what`s the danger of this "I`ll let you know when you need to worry about it"?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.):  Well, it`s a preposterous situation.  By the way, Secretary Mike Pompeo is smart enough to know what`s going on.  He`s the one who`s really in trouble.  He`s a front man in the whole effort.

The North Koreans have not stopped developing fissile material for nuclear weapons.  They`ve not stopped manufacturing missiles that we believe are capable of hitting the United States.  What they have given is sort of an assurance that some future date there will be a discussion on whether or not they`ll disarm.

Step number one of nuclear disarmament is to declare your program so that an outside inspector can go in and discover the extent of it.  They haven`t done that.  They`re not going to do it.  They`re lying.

So, but they know what the background optics, Mr. Trump talking about he fell in love with Kim Jong-un.  I mean, I followed the North Koreans for a long time.  This fellow is a monster.  He`s killed a couple hundred thousand of his own people.  He`s executed hundreds of his own senior officials of government.

WILLIAMS:  He writes a beautiful letter apparently.

MCCAFFREY:  I mean, it`s hard to imagine what`s going on.  So we`ve got some optics of a charade going on, but no serious discussion.  Worse, the Japanese are now scared.  What are we up to?  And the South Koreans have no reason not to open up economic cooperation with the North as well as Chinese and the Russians.  We`re in trouble.

WILLIAMS:  Let`s talk about World War I.  Let`s take us back beyond both of us.  Luckily the lessons of that conflict are still taught at the place so dear to you, that`s West Point.  We saw the President`s behavior over in France this past weekend.  Has our image abroad suffered, do you think, as a result?

MCCAFFREY:  I think the Europeans are aghast that almost everything we`re doing.  The President went there for one reason.  World War I in many arguments is the most consequential war in our history.  It changed everything, and we took 300,000 casualties, essentially in a six-month campaign.

We put 2 million soldiers and marines into Europe, more than the French army.  We had 2 million more coming.  Their sacrifice saved civilization in Europe.  That`s what the President was there to acknowledge.

And to be honest, I think he just wanted to stay out of the rain, eat cheeseburger, watch TV and tweet angry denunciations of his many enemies.  I think that`s what was happening.  It`s insulting.  I don`t think it has any impact on the morality of the armed forces.

They basically understand the legal obligations of the commander in chief.  They fight for each other.  Their units, their service pride.  So, I don`t thing there`s any downside to the armed forces but astonishing behavior.

WILLIAMS:  General is going to stay with us.  Please do the same.  We`ll continue our conversation right after this.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you plan to visit the border soon, and if so, what would you seek to learn there? At what point do you think a cost estimate for this operation will be available?

JAMES MATTIS, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE:  We`ll update you on costs update as they become known.  Obviously the executing the board mission, have got to report the main up there (ph).  But we are capturing the cost.  I`ll visit the boarder tomorrow.


WILLIAMS:  That`s our defense secretary announcing he is going to the border more than two weeks after the President announced the deployment of thousands of active duty troops to defend from that migrant invasion.

He was referring to the caravan of refugees from Central America, said to contain sporadic middle easterners, don`t forget.  Still weeks away at the time.  Critics called it a political stunt to fire up the President`s face before the elections.

As if the White House at the time was politicizing the Military.  Mattis simply and now famously said, we don`t do stunts.

Meanwhile "The New York Times" described a life where our troops have "Little electricity no, combat pay and holidays away from home.  Leaving out of tents, sleeping on cots, eating only MREs.  They spent Veterans Day weekend laying barbed wire and will likely be there for Thanksgiving, among other things.

  Still with us General Barry McCaffrey, what do you make of all of this, this deployment to southern boarder?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I don`t think it`s much question of what happen.  It was political stunt for the midterm election.  I spent a lot of time in Central America and Mexico.  Those poor people in Central America in particular are living in poverty, violence, injustice, corruption.  It is hopeless.  It is a disaster.

They`re fleeing for a better life.  And by the way, arguably, the 11 million illegals we have in the country, who grow our food, do the construction, have lower crime rates by far than Native Americans are vital to our economy.

So we have an immigration policy problem, both political parties that made no attempt to resolve it.  Now, when you come to the actual border, now fortunately we have 20,000 some odd border patrolmen, very professional law enforcement organization.

The troops deployed to the boarder, this is totally legal.  Both Obama and Bush before him did the same thing with modest size deployments.  They`re helpful to custom boarder protection.  It`s a waste of military energy.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you for that.  Because I`m smart enough to follow out social media, I`m going to share with our viewers a photo you posted and read the caption you gave it.

"Today, 11 November Veterans Day.  Reunion with my Vietnam `68, `69 Infantry Company and their families.  Been meeting for 30 plus years, teenagers, intense combat, heavy casualties, such brave soldiers.  They love each other.  Me and first sergeant on third combat tour, both wounded third time. 

Tell me about that group.

MCCAFFREY:  Well, they`re wonderful young men.  They still have a hard time calling me by my first name.  It still my radio call sign.  I was an old guy of 25.  They were all 18, 19, ``20. 

WILLIAMS:  What was your radio call sign?

MCCAFFREY:  Outlaw six. 

WILLIAMS:  Oh, boy.  I know what to call you forever now.

MCCAFFREY:  The first sergeant was 35.  A badly wounded in B company second in the seventh cavalry in the Korean War.  Fortunately, the two us know what we are doing.  These soldiers are in great physical shape.  They were irrepressible energy.  They actually were funny in combat.

But by and large, it was dreadful period, a very high intensity comeback, close range, hand grenades, automatic weapons.  Eventually you got killed or wounded.  Great medical care.  They came home.  They start finding each other.  They put together an organization and they love each other.

WILLIAMS:  As they enjoyed for the most part a good and productive life and a welcoming country.

MCCAFFREY:  Spectacular.  One is a multimillionaire here in New York.  A developer.


MCCAFFREY:  One of them died in prison.  But by and large, as they stood up, the families, one after the other, most had been married to the same woman for over 50 years which was very interesting to see.

WILLIAMS:  Maybe the best.

MCCAFFREY:  They`re bringing their children, their grandchildren, they`re just great soldiers.

WILLIAMS:  You might be outlaw six for the rest of the time.  General, thank you so very much.

Outlaw six tonight.  General Barry McCaffrey.  Stopping by the studio to spend time with us.  Thank you sir.

When we come back, we`ll have a late update from the West Coast for you.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight.  These are just not good days in California.  We have new video into to us.  This is point Mugu State Park on the pacific coast, normally one of the most beautiful spots in our country.

While the fire shows up better from above at night, it never stops.  So day shifts become night shifts and then the whole process repeats the next day and the day after that for those in the fight.  And think for a moment about what it`s like to be a first responder out there.

Some of them have lost their own homes in fires.  Many of their own families are living in shelters and under evacuation.  Some police departments are standing guard over smoldering streets of just ash and debris, knowing that people`s valuables may still be in there.

Elsewhere, there are search teams in some cases searching burned out cars for skeletons.  And as they search and make horrible discoveries, the death toll rises.  Tonight, it raisin again, it has reached 50.

Two more number for you, 7600 structures destroyed so far in the largest of these fires, 8,000 firefighters on the job.  Just as firefighters get the upper hand on some of them, we learn that the winds down in the southern part of the state tonight, in San Diego County, those Santa Ana Winds that blow from land out to sea, they have gusted to 86 miles an hour tonight.

And so the power company in San Diego County has gone ahead and cut the power to some areas, even though it means 25,000 customers in the dark tonight.  And classes cancel in the five different school districts because cutting the power means this.

The only things worse would be a sparring or arcing wires from a down power line because of those high winds which is already suspected of starting one of the northern fires.

This long ago went from a news story to a human tragedy.  And now dozens of families are mourning the loss of loved ones.  And for thousands more, home will never be the same again.

That is our broadcast for tonight.  Thank you so very much for being with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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