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Trump reluctant to blame Saudi leader. TRANSCRIPT: 11/19/18, 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Jill Colvin, John Brennan, Donna Edwards, David Jolly

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  The breaking news tonight from the "Washington Post." Ivanka Trump used personal e-mail to conduct official business while working for the government.  Tonight, she`s getting called out for arrogance and ignorance.

Plus, a bizarre 48 hours in the world of President Trump, including an attack on the admiral who oversaw the bin Laden raid, converting the last name of a prominent congressman to a dirty word.  And his continued complaint that we`re not sweeping and cleaning our forest floors near enough.  We`ll talk about all of it tonight with a special guest, former CIA Director John Brennan, as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Monday evening.

Well, as we start a new week, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 669 of the Trump administration.

And however much her father and boss savaged Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail, tonight the senior adviser to the President, a public servant who also happens to be the President`s daughter, has an e-mail problem.  Specifically, the "Washington Post" reporting that Ivanka Trump, "Sent hundreds of e-mails last year to White House aides, Cabinet officials and her assistants using a personal account, many of them in violation of federal records rules according to people familiar with a White House examination of her correspondence. 

White House ethics officials learned of Trump`s repeated use of personal e- mail when reviewing e-mails gathered last fall by five Cabinet agencies to respond to a public records lawsuit.  That review revealed through much of 2017, she often discussed or relayed official White House business using a private e-mail account with a domain that he shares with her husband, Jared Kushner."

The article continues "The discovery alarmed some advisers to President Trump who had feared his daughter`s practices bore similarities to the personal e-mail use of Hillary Clinton, an issue he made a focus of his 2016 campaign," close quote.

And a reminder.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Thirty-three thousand e- mails are missing and they say, "Oh, she`s fine, she`s fine."

Crooked Hillary Clinton, oh, she`s crooked, folks.  She`s crooked as a $3 bill.

Lock her up is right.  No.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Tonight, a statement from the spokesman for Ivanka Trump`s lawyer reads in part, "While transitioning into government, until the White House provided her the same guidance they had to others who started before she did, Ms. Trump sometimes used her private account, almost always for logistics and scheduling concerning her family."

Just tonight, the top Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, tells NBC News "The committee will likely investigate these new allegations against Ivanka Trump when the Democrats take over the House next year."

Of course, this is just tonight`s headline.  And it comes after a weekend that saw the President diminish the commander of the bin Laden mission and the mission, itself.  He changed the name of a member of Congress, changed the name of a California town, went on another tear about raking and cleaning on our forest floors, and gave himself an a-plus as president.  More on all of that in order as we continue.

And on top of that, he had a lot to say about the Mueller investigation and his choice to lead the Justice Department Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker who has been publicly critical of the inquiry.  Trump was asked about it in the Chris Wallace interview that aired yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Did you know before you appointed him that he had that record and was so critical of Robert Mueller?

TRUMP:  I did not know that.  I did not know he took views on the Mueller investigation as such.

WALLACE:  If Whitaker decides in any way to limit or curtail the Mueller investigation, are you okay with that?

TRUM:  Look, he -- it`s going to be up to him.

WALLACE:  But you won`t overrule him if he decides to curtail?

TRUMP:  I would not get involved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  A source close to Whitaker tells NBC News he intentionally tried to catch the President`s attention by raising his profile as an on-air CNN legal commentator.

The incoming chairman of the House Intel committee, Democrat Adam Schiff of California, has indicated that House Democrats plan to investigate Whitaker`s appointment come January.

The President got Schiff`s name wrong this weekend while complaining that the congressman`s been, "Talking about the fact that Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker was not approved by the Senate, but not mentioning the fact that Bob Mueller, who is highly conflicted, was not approved by the Senate."

We should point out this is, in fact, a red herring.  Unlike the attorney general, Mueller`s job does not require Senate approval.  For the record, though, the last times he did require Senate approval, as FBI director, the votes were 98 to nothing and 1 00 to nothing.

Today, three Senate Democrats filed a lawsuit in federal court to block Whitaker`s appointment.  Also citing the lack of Senate confirmation.

Meanwhile, Politico reports that the President`s lawyers have said Thanksgiving is an informal deadline for him to finalize his written responses to Robert Mueller`s questions about the 2016 election.

Trump had previously claimed to be ready and eager to sit down for an interview with the special counsel, yet over the past few months he and his lawyers seem to be less willing to talk to Mueller.  Now it seems as if that door might have closed.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE:  Is that your final position, that there`s going to be no sit-down interview, and nothing written or in person on obstruction?

TRUMP:  I would say probably.  Probably.  I mean, I can change my mind, but probably.  I think --

WALLACE:  No interview.

TRUMP:  I think we`ve wasted enough time on this witch hunt, and the answer is probably.  We`re finished.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  With that, let`s bring in our leadoff panel, shall we?  On a Monday night.  Kimberly Atkins, Washington Bureau Chief for the "Boston Herald."  Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press.  And Jeremy Peters, Political Reporter for "The New York Times."

So, Kim, Trump, you were there, and I don`t mean to dredge this up but you know this already.  Trump said to his rally crowds during the campaign that the Hillary Clinton e-mail fracas would turn out to be bigger than Watergate, that it would result in an administration consumed by investigation, and now what are we to make of tonight`s headline?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, THE BOSTON HERALD CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER:  Well, it`s quite ironic, isn`t it, that we have the exact same situation and explanation that will how possibly could Ivanka have known that these was the rules if she -- I suppose she was under a rock for the past several years, if that`s the case.  But we have, just as you pointed out, I mean, this isn`t the first time that private e-mail use has been an issue in this White House.  It was an issue reported with her husband, Jared Kushner.

And at that time, we had Democrats from the House Oversight Committee who were trying to bring an investigation to that, but the Republicans shut it down.  Now we have the Democrats taking over.  And that`s going to be one of various investigations that we can certainly see open up and this isn`t going away any time soon.

WILLIAMS:  And Jill, how do you think her explanation will fly?  Kind of the ignorance of the law explanation?

JILL COLVIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, she can certainly make that argument, you know, the spokesman for her attorney was making that argument tonight as the story was breaking.  But I think, you know, as you were just saying, it`s very difficult, given the way that the President ran his campaign for anyone to be able to stand up there and honestly say, convincingly say, that they didn`t realize that they were not supposed to be using private e-mail addresses when they are conducting official government business.

You know, if you look at some of the e-mails that were released by the good government group that brought the FOIA`s that eventually led the administration to discover these e-mails, these were conversations Ivanka Trump was having not just with staff, not just, you know, with her assistants or with secretaries.  These were conversations that she was having with the small business commissioner, with Wilbur Ross, the Commerce Secretary.

You know, people at the highest levels of the Trump administration, discussing, you know, possible administration business.  So it makes it very difficult to raise any type of argument saying she didn`t know what she was doing.

That said, you know, the spokesman for her attorney, Abby Lowell, tried to make very clear, at least tried to argue that this is very different from the Clinton e-mail situation, claiming that there was no classified information, claiming that no e-mails were deleted.  Trying to make the case that this is something that`s very different.  But as you can see from the "Post`s" story, there are deep concerns within the White House that this is too similar.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy, Mike Flynn might have been the guy who delivered it with the most gusto of all, but let`s remember, "lock her up" was about e-mails.  That chant was born of e-mails.  And now, Jeremy, here come the Democrats and that angered every last one of them.

JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL REPORTER:  Oh, yes, absolutely, not just because of the hypocrisy of it all, Brian, but because Donald Trump has always believed that he gets to live by one set of standards and rules, and set the norms and everybody else just has to do what`s right.

What`s the law?  He never really thought that the law or the constraints of history or the office that he now holds as President applied to him.  So I find it hard to believe that he`s going to see that there`s much wrong with what his daughter has done here because, you know, we are, after all, talking about his daughter.

I think to your point, the fact that Democrats are now in charge of congress and have the investigative power to look into this is interesting in that it is just one piece of, i think, what we are going to see in the weeks and months ahead, especially the issue you alluded to at the top of the program, and that is the acting attorney general and what the House Democrats are able to do about that.

The incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Jerry Nadler, said that Mr. Whitaker will be the first person that he is subpoenas.  So we should definitely be on the lookout for that.  That could get very explosive.

WILLIAMS:  And Kimberly, indeed, on these Democrats suing on the Whitaker matter, Frank Figliuzzi on this network earlier today said this is a very fraught moment for Whitaker.  We`ll watch that together and talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  If you`re Whitaker, you`re trapped in a corner.  If you do take overt steps to quash the investigation, to limit it, to limit the budget, you`re going to find yourself testifying before the special counsel team.  He`s already, I think, being looked at for whether he plays a role in obstruction.

If Mueller can investigate why Comey was fired and whether that`s obstruction, he can certainly look at why Sessions was let go and the whole move to replace him with Whitaker.

WILLIAMS:  So, Kim, to put it mildly, a kind of risk versus reward calculation for Whitaker and for Trump kind of concurrently.

ATKINS:  I think it`s absolutely right.  I mean, I think it`s difficult to believe what the President said that he never considered anything that Whitaker`s views on the Mueller probe.  Obviously, the Mueller probe is the one thing that the President`s talked about more than anything.

Clearly, he did.  He thought he was making a slick move here, but, you know, you can`t out slick a slicker.  If you have -- he is in this political spot, given the attention that he`s received that a move will definitely be investigated as potential obstruction.  You also have, again, Democrats coming in, in control of the House with the levers there to continue investigations on this.  So he is in a very tough position politically, and a tough position legally as these challenges mount.

I mean, this isn`t the first one.  This is actually the third that`s been made in court challenging the constitutionality of his very appointment.  And that`s something that`s going to be forced at some point for the Supreme Court to take up.

WILLIAMS:  And Jeremy, the President made a dirty word with the spelling of Adam Schiff of California.  I heard Ron Klain an hour ago say it was third grade humor.  That may be an insult to the American third grade.  What do you make of this?

PETERS:  I think it just really shows how frayed the President`s nerves are these days.  And really kind of what an isolated bubble we know through our reporting and through the reporting of others that he`s been living in.  I mean, this -- skipping the veteran`s event on Veterans Day of all people, this President who holds himself up as this great champion of our armed forces.  I think you see it in what you alluded to earlier with the tweets that don`t really jive with reality, Brian.

You have the President talking about not just what we saw in Florida in the recount and there being instances of infected ballots that he never offered any proof for, but he`s also gone on and on about the commander in charge of the bin Laden raid, also not appearing to understand that it`s not the armed forces that was responsible for finding bin Laden.  It was responsible for taking him out.  Not for finding him.  That`s the Intelligence Apparatus` responsibility.

So in addition to insulting this known military hero and making something up about him, that he`s a, "Hillary Clinton supporter," in the President`s words, you have the commander in chief fundamentally misunderstanding the role that the military plays in our national security.

WILLIAMS:  And we`re going to talk with John Brennan in our next segment about that very thing.

Jill, I want to relive some of this weekend in California.  We saw the President with his black crisis raincoat on touring the fire damage.  He did not like the messiness on the forest floor that he found and tried to express what he saw in the town of Paradise, Paradise, California.  So here`s a collection of some of his comments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRIMP:  I`m committed to make sure that we get all of this cleaned out and protected.

I was with the President of Finland and he said we have -- much different - - we`re a forest nation.  He called it a forest nation.  And they spend a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things and they don`t have any problem.

You don`t see what`s going on until you come here and what we saw at pleasure, what a name right now, but what we just saw, we just left pleasure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Paradise.

TRUM:  Well, Paradise.  And what we just saw at Paradise is just, you know, it`s just not acceptable.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Jill, all you have to do is focus in on the governor of California and roll Larry David theme music and it`s done for you in advance. What did you make of his fire outing this weekend?

ATKINS:  You know, this is another example where you have the President who is standing out there in this moment of tragedy, these moments that happen again and again, whether it`s shootings or fires or other national tragedies, where the country looks for the President to be the consoler in chief.  Looks for him to say the right thing.  To try to bring the country together.  To try to bring some solace to those people who are suffering, who have lost everything?

And instead, you have the President who stands up there and tries to blame California for the wildfires that it`s suffering, while citing a conversation with Finland that nobody in that country seems to have any recollection of.  I`m not sure if the President thinks that people physically take rakes and go through the whole forest floor to clean it out.  It`s unclear exactly what he is picturing there.

And then to be standing amid the wreckage, you know, of the town that had been completely decimated and having to be reminded by reporters of exactly where he was standing and where he`d visited.  You know, I think it`s an indication, number one, of some potentially shoddy, you know, staff work of them not making very clear to him exactly where he was, repeatedly.

But also this example, once again, of the President kind of finding ways, it just seems to be the way that he approaches things intrinsically, but finding ways to nitpick and to criticize and mistakes that he makes that prevent him from being able to bring people together in these moments of tragedy.

WILLIAMS:  Indeed, the President of Finland said they never discussed the cleaning and the raking of the forest floor.  People of Finland, though, can always be counted on.  They were on social media this weekend launching all kinds of different cleaning and raking parodies after they heard the President`s comments.  Be that as it may.

Our thanks on a Monday night as we start a new holiday shortened week.  Kimberly Atkins, Jill Colvin, Jeremy Peters, thank you so much for joining us tonight.

Coming up, more on the President`s attack on the man in charge of the raid that killed bin Laden.  John Brennan was in the situation room that night.  He`s standing by to join us now.

And later, the performance grade the President says he hates to give himself, but awards it, anyway.

THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Monday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE:  Bill McRaven, retired admiral, Navy SEAL., 37 years, former head of U.S. Special operation --

TRUMP:  Hillary Clinton fan.

WALLACE:  Special operations.

TRUMP:  Excuse me.

WALLACE:  Yes.

TRUMP:  Hillary Clinton fan.

WALLACE:  Who led the operations, commanded the operations that took down Saddam Hussein and that killed Osama bin Laden says that your sentiment is the "greatest threat to democracy in his lifetime."

TRUMP:  OK.  He`s a Hillary Clinton backer and an Obama backer, and frankly --

WALLACE:  He was a Navy SEAL 37 years.

TRUMP:  Wouldn`t it have been nice if we got Osama bin Laden a lot sooner than that?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  President Trump is facing growing criticism after that.  After suggesting retired U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven should have caught Osama bin Laden faster.  Lot to talk about there and we will.

Earlier today, Trump doubled down on his criticism writing that he apparently attempted to warn all of us about bin Laden.  "Of course, we should have captured Osama bin Laden long before we did."

He goes on to say, "I pointed out in my book just before the attack on the World Trade Center.  President Clinton famously missed his shot.  We pay Pakistan billions of dollars and they never told us he was living there.  Fools."

On Sunday, Admiral McRaven responded to the Fox interview with a statement from him that read in part, "I did not back Hillary Clinton or anyone else.  I am a fan of President obama and President George W. bush, both of whom I worked for.  I admire all presidents regardless of their political party, who uphold the dignity of the office and who use that office to bring the nation together in challenging times.  I stand by my comment that the President`s attack on the media is the greatest threat to our democracy in my lifetime."

Who best to react to this story than our guest tonight, former CIA Director, John Brennan, who also happens to be our Senior National Security and Intelligence Analyst.  In a way, this is all your fault, you started this, by having the President pull your security clearance.  McRaven spoke up in your defense in saying "If you`re going to pull Brennan`s, pull mine."  That`s when he was critical of the President.

Cut to the chase.  Talk to the Admiral McRaven that you know.  What kind of a guy is he, what kind of patriot is he?

JOHN BRENNAN, FMR. CIA DIRECTOR:  He`s a national hero.  He is somebody of tremendous professional competence in terms of what he did in the military for so many years.  He is revered and respected by the troops that he led and his leadership of that raid in Pakistan against Osama bin Laden.

He is someone who has tremendous integrity and that`s why he is speaking out, I think, so forcefully, when he criticized Donald Trump for saying that the "media is the enemy of the people."

Bill McRaven when he was wearing the uniform did not back any politician or political party.  But now as a private citizen, he is speaking out and he is doing it, I think, very eloquently and very appropriately.

WILLIAMS:  Please explain the workflow in finding bin Laden, the role of the Intelligence community, and the handoff to the U.S. military.

BRENNAN:  Yes, for many, many years after 9/11, the CIA and other elements of the Intelligence Community did their very best to try to track down bin Laden.  And he was very difficult to find.

WILLIAMS:  I imagine so.

BRENNAN:  Yes.  And CIA stayed on his tail as did other elements of the Intelligence Community.

And when we had indications that he was hiding out in this compound in Abbottabad, we brought in the military.  And so Admiral McRaven was the one responsible for organizing the teams that were to be deployed in order to try to get bin Laden.  And so he was basically the brain trust of this.

And I can remember vividly many times in the White House situation room when Bill McRaven would present to President Obama and the rest of the national security team the options and how he was going to ensure that this mission was a success, that the lens to which he would make sure that the individuals who were participants in the raid were going to be safe and secure.

And I thought it was just a brilliant, brilliant leadership demonstration by Bill McRaven and the courage and the bravery of those individuals that went on that trip.  I think they owe a lot to Bill McRaven.  And, in fact, they may owe their lives because he was able to get them in and get out safely.

WILLIAMS:  He is so many things.  To our viewers, I just wanted to play this, he`s, of course, a trained warrior and a leader of men and women.  He also offered the most interesting advice to the graduates, University of Texas Austin, Hook `em, Horns, during their 2014 commencement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ADM. WILLIAM H. MCRAVEN, COMMANDER U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS (RET.):  If you make your bed every morning, you will have accomplished the first task of the day.  It will give you a small sense of pride and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another.

And by the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.  Making your bed will also reinforce the fact that the little things in if life matter.  If you can`t do the little things right, you`ll never be able to do the big things right.

And if by chance you have a miserable day, you will come home to a bed that is made.  That you made.  And a made bed gives you encouragement that tomorrow will be better.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Is that the Bill McRaven you know?

BRENNAN:  That`s the quintessential Bill McRaven that I`ve known for many years.  And I`m a fellow Longhorn, like Bill.  He was a tremendous leader within the U.S. military.  Also a tremendous leader of the university, the Texas University system, as chancellor.

I think in everything he does, he comports himself with the greatest integrity, the greatest competence, and he ensures that the women and men who depend on him are going to be able to look at him and say, "That`s the type of person I want to follow."

And that`s why I think Mr. Trump may have feelings of inadequacy when it comes to Bill McRaven because I think at his core, Donald Trump is rather insecure.  I mean, that`s why he inflates the size of his inaugural crowds and other types of things.

Here`s Bill McRaven who has just such a tremendous record of accomplishment and contributions to our national security.  And so I do think that Donald Trump is a little bit envious, maybe, of the great respect and reverence that people have for Bill McRaven.

WILLIAMS:  We`ll pause the conversation here and we`ll take a break.  John Brennan has agreed to stay with us.

When we come back, this President`s latest take on the brutal murder of Khashoggi.  Why Trump will not listen to a recording of that journalist`s death, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST:  Did MBS lie to you, sir?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don`t -- I don`t know.  You know, who can really know?  But I can say this, he`s got many people now that say he had no knowledge.

WALLACE:  But what if the crown prince speaking to you, the president of the United States, directly lied to you --

TRUMP:  Yes, he told me that he had nothing to do with it.  He told me that -- I would say maybe five times at different points.

WALLACE:  But what if he`s lying?

TRUMP:  As recently as a few days ago.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  President Trump this weekend, again, reluctant to blame the Saudi leader for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.  On Friday, the Russia -- "The Washington Post" was first to report that the CIA had concluded the Saudi crown prince ordered the assassination.  And according to a new report in the "Post," "The president had already been shown evidence of the prince`s alleged involvement in the killing and privately, he remains skeptical," Trump aides said.  He has also looked for ways to avoid pinning the blame on Mohammed.  This was the president`s response when asked directly about the CIA`s findings.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I spoke with our CIA director who`s terrific, and very knowledgeable and been studying this very closely and it`s a horrible thing that took place.  The killing of a journalist.  And very, very bad situation.  Khashoggi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Didn`t the CIA assess that MBS was behind it?

TRUMP:  They haven`t assessed anything yet.  It`s too early.  Those are very premature reports.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Let`s ask an expert on all of this, John Brennan, former Cia Director.  How do you treat the president`s comments?  If the CIA has high confidence in something, is it a safe bet that it made it to his desk?

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  I would think that by now, especially since the CIA detector, Gina Haspel, was over in Turkey and has reviewed, I`m sure, all of the evidence and probably listened to the tape as well, and has consulted with the Saudi experts inside of Saudi Arabia.  I feel that the CIA assessment would have made it directly to Donald Trump.

WILLIAMS:  I want to play what the president said about the audio recording said to exist of the Khashoggi murder.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We have the tape.  I don`t want to hear the tape.  No reason for me to hear the tape.

WALLACE:  Why don`t you want to hear it, sir?

TRUMP:  Because it`s a suffering tape.  It`s a terrible tape.  I`ve been fully briefed on it.  There`s to reason for me to hear it.  In fact, I said to the people, should I?  They said, you really shouldn`t.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Do you believe that, and can you come up with a logical reason why a briefer would say don`t listen to it, Mr. President?

BRENNAN:  Well, I don`t find it that unusual that he hasn`t listened to the tape.

WILLIAMS:  Why is that?

BRENNAN:  Well, the voices probably were in Arabic and we all know that Jamal Khashoggi had a horrific, awful death.  And so it probably is quite vivid in terms of the sounds.  And so I don`t know what Donald Trump would gain from listening to it aside from just understanding just how awful the death was.  But this is where the experts would be listening to the tape and listening to the words said, and giving Donald Trump the bottom-line assessment about who carried out this heinous act, but also who was responsible for it.

WILLIAMS:  You were longtime station chief, Saudi Arabia.  This is tricky.  They are an ally.  What should happen, in your view?

BRENNAN:  Well, I believe anybody who knows anything about Saudi Arabia, and knows how Saudi Arabia operates today under Mohammed bin Salman who really has a monopoly on power.  They find it inconceivable that this killing took place without his explicit direction.

In my estimation, I think we need to try to ensure that the Saudis understand.  And I mean King Salman and the other members of the Saudi royal family understand that Mohammed Salman cannot be given a pass on this.  That the bilateral relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia is more important than one man.  Indeed, Saudi Arabia`s standing in the world is more important than one man.

And so I think that Mohammed bin Salman has to, you know, be meted out justice for the killing of this.  And the scapegoats that they have found, and they say that they may, in fact, be executed, this is just, I think, Saudi Arabia and Mohammed bin Salman circling the wagons to try to protect him.

WILLIAMS:  I have two lightning-round questions for you.  Number one, do you believe we`ll ever see Julian Assange on American soil say nothing of inside an American courtroom?

BRENNAN:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  How would that be?  And when?

BRENNAN:  Well, I think we already know that there are charges against Julian Assange.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.

BRENNAN:  And I don`t believe he`s going to stay in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for the remainder of his days.  And once he leaves that embassy, I think then he`s going to be subject to some type of arrest detention, and the United States certainly has extradition arrangements with the United Kingdom.  So I do think he`s going to be charged in some venue, whether it`s the United States or somewhere else, but I think the United States is a pretty good chance.

WILLIAMS:  So Ecuador has a big decision to make here to kick him out of the townhouse?

BRENNAN:  Yes, they do.  Yes, they do.

WILLIAMS:  Ivanka Trump, her decision on e-mails was after we knew of Russian involvement or strongly suspected it in our politics.  Is that a security risk in and of itself?  Because her dad certainly seemed to indicate that toward Hillary Clinton.

BRENNAN:  Well, I don`t know what was contained in the e-mails that Ivanka Trump reportedly had sent on her own personal e-mail account.  Certainly, there should not have been anything in there that was classified but she shouldn`t have been conducting government business on her personal e-mail account.  That is one of the rules and the guidance that the lawyers at the White House give to everybody as soon as they come in.

But also, it was such a very topical issue throughout the campaign, and after the inauguration, that I find it hard to believe that she didn`t understand the rules.  It`s not just not having your own personal server at your home.  It is that because of the requirements and law that government officials need to conduct government business on government e-mails.

WILLIAMS:  If you`re the Russians, do you target someone like that?

BRENNAN:  Oh, of course.  Absolutely.  You try to target everything that they do in terms of what they say, and contacts they have, the communications that they engage in.  And unclassified e-mails are vulnerable to being picked up by any number of entities, whether it be foreign governments like Russia, or others.  So you want to make sure that you`re not going to give our adversaries additional insight into what`s going on, or who`s important, as well as the intrigue that may be going on inside of the White House.

WILLIAMS:  John Brennan, thank you as always.  Means a lot to join us here on the late shift at night.  We appreciate it.

BRENNAN:  Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up, Donald Trump`s personal spin on wins and losses in the midterms as well as his own performance in office.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I wasn`t on the ballot.

WALLACE:  Wait, you kept saying --

TRUMP:  No, I said look at me.

WALLCE:  You said pretend I`m on the ballot.

TRUMP:  But I have people and you`ve seen the polls.  How good they are.  I have people that won`t vote unless I`m on the ballot.  OK.  And I wasn`t on the ballot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  So that`s the president with Chris Wallace.  He said something very different on the campaign trail prior to the midterms.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I`m not on the ballot, but in a certain way, I`m on the ballot.

A vote for Steve is a vote for me.

I am on the ticket.  You got to go out to vote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  When asked about Republicans` big losses in the House, the president instead focused on what he considers to be his victory.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE:  I want to talk about some of the ways in which you lost.  You lost in traditionally Republican suburbs.  Not only around liberal cities like Philadelphia and D.C., but also red state big cities like Houston and Oklahoma City.  You lost among suburban women.  You lost among independents.  And in three key states that I think you remember pretty well, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, you lost both the governors seats and the Senate seats.

TRUMP:  Are you ready?  I won the Senate, and that`s historic, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Here with us to talk about all of it, among our favorite returning veterans, both former members of Congress.  Donna Edwards, Democrat of the great state of Maryland, David Jolly, former Republican of the great state of Florida.

Good evening, and welcome to you both.  Congresswoman, I`d like to read for you what Nate Silver tweeted tonight.  "Democrats are about even money right now to wind up with 40 or more House seats.  Unless there`s something we don`t know about, it looks like they`ll win Utah 4, bringing their Florida 39, California 21 is a tossup.  Then they have outside chances in Georgia 7, and New York 27."  Congresswoman, sooner or later, this starts looking like a blue wave.

DONNA EDWARDS, (D) MARYLAND, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN:  Well, I think, you know, it started out on election night and we were together and it was a slow roll, but it really is a wave.  And I think this is where, you know, listening to the president, it`s almost like he doesn`t know or believe that we have videotape that, you know, of him saying that he was on the ballot.

And Democrats and independents and suburbanites believed him and they voted against him.  This was an absolute rebuke of Donald Trump.  I mean, think about the governors mansions that were won.  The 330-some-odd legislative seats.  It was an absolutely rebuke of the president.  What`s really interesting is that he did win the Senate, but he`s going to have to face the House.

WILLIAMS:  David Jolly, I`m thinking tonight, especially of veterans, veterans who, perhaps, have a predisposition to like this guy.  And veterans who`ve had that challenged again today with these remarks about Admiral McRaven.  I heard you earlier on this network.  You made a brilliant point about why Donald Trump had the need to diminish McRaven and I`m going to ask you to be Birilliant yet again.

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN:  Sure.  Look and I`d say this about those who served in uniform.  They know leadership when they see it, and though I`ve never served, among my peers who have, I think they each look at Donald Trump and know that that`s a man without any leadership.

My point earlier today was this.  Donald Trump has this desire to be honored and honor is not something that one can bestow upon themselves.  Honor is something that a nation chooses to bestow upon its leaders.  As a nation, we bestow honor on Admiral McRaven, on leaders like John McCain, on the Khan family who lost their son, on their son, we bestow honor who gave his last full measure of devotion.  But in Donald Trump, there`s a man with very little to no honor.

And you have to look no further than his very own supporters, Brian, who will tell you they look the other way at the dishonor that he often brings upon the nation because they want the policy accomplishments of a conservative Republican president.  But at the end of the day, this president is frustrated because he can never get what those other men and women have, and that is an honor that we choose to bestow upon them as a nation that we have yet to bestow upon  Donald Trump and for a good reason.

WILLIAMS:  I`m just going to pause our conversation for a brief bit, have a break, and then both Donna and David are staying with us.

When we come back, the Democrats have started this messy process of selecting a speaker.  The woman who`s had that job before believes she is ideally suited to hold that job once again.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  Democrats have had less than two weeks to savor their sweeping victory in the House.  A victory that as we pointed out continues to grow.  Today, 16 current and incoming House Democrats released a letter opposing Nancy Pelosi for Speaker of the House.  Writing, "We promised to change the status quo and we intend to deliver on that promise."  It was just too tempting for Donald Trump who said this over the weekend.  "I can get Nancy Pelosi as many votes as she wants in order for her to be Speaker of the House.  She deserves this victory.  She has earned it, but there are those in her party who are trying to take it away.  She will win."

Still with us, Donna Edwards, David Jolly, former members of Congress both.  Congresswoman, you have written that Nancy Pelosi will be the Republican`s nightmare.  I will say for clarity and fairness, no one can screw this up quite like the Democrats.  Already next week, Non-Democrat Bernie Sanders is putting together a gathering of his wing of the party up in Vermont.  Make the case -- I know you`re a Pelosi person, make the case why the former speaker should be the future speaker.

EDWARDS:  I am.  This is really a simple question, I mean, right now, Democrats will hold the House of Representatives, but they need to make sure that they can hit the ground running.  They come in with someone, Nancy Pelosi, who is effective, she`s proven, she`s battle tested.  She`s been there before.  She knows how to herd the cats in the various factions of the Democratic Party.  and that will set us on a course, not just to hold the majority in 2018, but to win one in 2020 and to make sure that we have an agenda so that we can carry the White House, as well.

And I just happen to believe, I worked under Nancy Pelosi and I think that she`s the most effective leader that we have.  And when you look at that list of, you know 16 or so, I think there are four incoming members-elect, but this is the same old list that was trotted out in 2014 and 2016, it didn`t work then.  And I think that Nancy Pelosi, come time in January and next week, is going to lock down the votes that it`s going to take, for her to become the next Speaker of the House, and it will set Democrats on course to do what they promised to do for the -- in the election, which is deliver on health care and lowering premiums and prescription drugs and building roads and bridges.  Those are the things that were promised.  That`s the change that was promised.  The change that was not promised was dumping the woman in the House.

WILLIAMS:  OK, David Jolly, former member of the loyal opposition.  What do you make of this, on the other side?

JOLLY:  Look, the words of Donna Edwards are always wise counsel.  And so, I hate to play contrarian, but if I need to, in this situation, I would suggest this.  Each of the last two elections really have been about a demand for change.  Just like in `92 when Bill Clinton was elected and then he lost the House in `94.  Bill Clinton said that when he lost the House, people weren`t just asking for change, they were screaming for it.

And what I would suggest the Democrat is, there are millions of Americans, not just Democrats, who are begging for change.  And it`s not just about Nancy Pelosi, it would be about Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer and frankly Kevin McCarthy, as well.  And so, for many Americans, it will be an opportunity missed if Democrats return to the leader of 12 years ago.

I would also say, while we give Nancy Pelosi credit, and credit is due for her acumen and her legislative prowess and even her leadership in re-taking the House this November, we do have to recognize that the last time she served in that position, she presided over one of the greatest losses in congressional history.  Sixty-three seats, the Democrats lost in 2010 under her speakership.  It was the most seats lost in 80 years.

Right now, we`re debating whether 39 or 40 seats was a wave.  When Nancy Pelosi was the Democratic speaker, Republicans had a historic wave.  We can give her credit for this election, but it took eight years in the minority to get there, and I would just ask that we put it all in context.  She also presided over one of the great historic losses in Congress.

WILLIAMS:  All right.

EDWARDS:  Well, David, you`ll remember that that was because of health care, and this year, Democrats won because of the health care that Nancy Pellosi delivered.

WILLIAMS:  Congresswoman, I was going to say the only reason he went up against you is you guys are in separate cities tonight.  We`ll have you have back in the studio.  We`ll have this conversation again.

EDWARDS:  Oh he`s my buddy.

JOLLY:  That`s right.

WILLIAMS:  Our thanks to two former members of Congress, Donna Edwards and David Jolly, both of whom, as I like to say, got out when the getting was good.  We appreciate you being with us.

Coming up, why a noted journalist and author declared just tonight, just a few hours ago, that irony is dead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, Ivanka Trump`s defense, after it was revealed this evening she used a personal e-mail account while handling government business.  She said she was unaware that she was breaking any rules.  She didn`t know what she was doing was a thing.  Though remember, she was at a number of her father`s rallies where the subject of his opponent`s e-mails came up from time to time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I guarantee you one thing, we`re going to be talking about those e- mails every moment of every day.

The investigation is the biggest political scandal since Watergate.

Look at what she`s done with e-mails.

Did you ever see a mess like this?

This is bigger than Watergate.

This is the biggest scandal since Watergate.

This is the biggest scandal since Watergate.

Since Watergate.

Russia, if you`re listening -- take a look at the e-mail mess -- I hope you`re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing.

Thirty-three thousand e-mails.

How about if she`s running the country?

She can`t even run an e-mail.

Look at the mess -- look at the mess.

What a mess.

She bleached and deleted 33,000 e-mails after receiving a congressional subpoena.

How can Hillary manage this country?

Crooked Hillary`s e-mails.

When she can`t even manage her e-mails?

I mean, the big question is, will she get away with the e-mail scandal?

The deletion of 33,000 e-mails.

I think that`s called the mother load.  I think they found them all.

She lied like a dog on her e-mails.

But how do you have that many e-mails?

She liked like a dog.

What do you do, sit down all day and just keep typing?

Hide and delete her e-mails.

As far as briefings and all, I will do much better than Hillary Clinton ever did with her e-mails which she exposed the entire country to whatever she`s learning as secretary of state.  You don`t get any worse than that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Tonight, in light of "The Washington Post" headline outlining the e-mail blunder by this particular senior adviser to the president, the lawyer, author and "New Yorker" magazine journalist Jeffrey Toobin declared "Irony is dead."

That is our broadcast on a Monday night as we begin a new week.  Thank you so much 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