Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: November 21, 2018 Guest: Neal Katyal, Daniel Goldman, Nancy Cook
ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: That`s tonight`s last word. I`m Ali Velshi. I`ll see you at 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. tomorrow on MSNBC. Coming up on "THE 11TH HOUR", former acting solicitor General Neal Katyal will react to Donald Trump`s fight with Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts right now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, a rare and stunning statement from the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court contradicting the president. John Roberts comes out in defense of federal judges in the wake of Trump`s criticism and the president answers back.
Tonight, we`ll ask a man who appeared before the Roberts court 37 times why he thinks the chief justice took this extraordinary step. And Rudy Giuliani is talking again tonight sharing details about Trump`s written answers to Mueller. As we await a big deadline with the special counsel and Paul Manafort. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on this Thanksgiving eve.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 671 of the Trump administration. And on this Thanksgiving eve in the new normal, our president today gave thanks to Saudi Arabia and was publicly rebuked by the chief justice of the Supreme Court for his attack on the federal bench.
Today, Chief Justice John Roberts took the very rare step of speaking up publicly to discount the words of the president. This got its start yesterday after a federal trial judge in San Francisco ruled against the president`s immigration and asylum policy. The president used that moment to return to a favorite hobbyhorse of his, criticizing the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals headquartered in California.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, you go to the Ninth Circuit and it`s a disgrace. And I`m going to put in a major complaint, because you cannot win if you`re us, (ph) a case in the Ninth Circuit. Every case that gets filed in the Ninth Circuit we get beaten and then we end up having to go to the Supreme Court like the travel ban, and we won. The Ninth Circuit, we`re going to have to look at that. This was an Obama judge. And I`ll tell you what, it`s not going to happen like this anymore.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: It is true that the federal judge in this case, Jon Tigar, was appointed by President Obama. It is also true that his ruling was not issued from the Ninth Circuit. But that from the president was all the chief justice of the Supreme Court needed to hear. When asked about it by the Associated Press, John Roberts responded today with this. "We do not have Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges. What we have is an extraordinary group of dedicated judges doing their level best to do equal right to those appearing before them. That independent judiciary is something we should all be thankful for."
A few hours later, Trump fired back, and we quote, "Sorry, Chief Justice Roberts, but you do indeed have Obama judges, and they have a much different point of view than the people who are charged with the safety of our country. It would be great if the Ninth Circuit was indeed an independent judiciary, but if it is, why are so many opposing view on border and safety cases filed there and why are a vast number of those cases overturned. Please study the numbers, they are shocking. We need protection and security. These rulings are making our country unsafe, very dangerous and unwise."
The president continued to berate Roberts on Twitter adding, "Judicial activism by people who know nothing about security and the safety of our citizens is putting our country in great danger." Followed by, "79% of these decisions have been overturned in the Ninth Circuit."
The U.S. courts for the Ninth Circuit covers the far western part of our nation. They are not the circuit with the most overturned decisions. Several others make the list before them. This is not the president`s first criticism of federal judges or the sitting chief justice of the United States.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The courts are not helping us, I have to be honest with you. It`s ridiculous. Somebody said I should not criticize judges. OK, I`ll criticize judges.
I have had horrible rulings. I`ve been treated very unfairly by this judge. Now, this judge is of Mexican heritage. I`m building a wall.
Justice Roberts gave us Obamacare. Might as well be called Roberts care. That judge has been a disaster in terms of everything we stand for.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: This back and forth between the titular heads of two of our branches of government comes as the Mueller investigation into this administration is entering as we like to say a critical phase. More indictments are expected and then there is the possibility that Mueller could subpoena Trump to answer questions related to obstruction. That could spark a giant legal battle. That could very well end up, see how this works, before John Roberts and the other eight justices of the Supreme Court.
The nation also woke up to headlines like these after the president yesterday defended Saudi Arabia in the murder and dismemberment of "Washington Post" journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi. This morning, the president followed with this. "Oil prices getting lower, great. Like a big tax cut for America and the world. Enjoy $54, was just $82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia, but let`s go lower."
Well, let`s go lower ourselves. And with that, back to our lead story. We start off tonight with the president`s criticism of federal judges and this rare rebuke by the chief justice. We are so fortunate to be joined tonight by a lawyer who has argued 37 cases before the Roberts court. Attorney Neal Katyal was formerly the government`s top lawyer before the court as acting solicitor general under the Obama presidency. He is now a professor of law at Georgetown University. He`s been kind enough on Thanksgiving eve to join us by telephone.
And counselor, what do you fear is going on here?
NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Well, happy Thanksgiving, Brian. It`s a pleasure to be with you again. And what I fear is going on, unfortunately, is this is not actually about the Ninth Circuit. Look, I mean, President Trump has criticized John Roberts and criticized other judges all the time. And your setup had some of that.
But, you know, he tweeted -- I just retweeted this on Twitter on my Twitter account. But he said, "Congratulations to John Roberts for making Americans hate the Supreme Court because of his BS." So, you know, Trump has a long history of that. We don`t have a history of a president attacking the motivations of judges. That`s something new and different. And I think what`s going on here is it`s not about the Ninth Circuit, it`s really about this president`s modus operandi, which is to criticize any check and balance on him. We`ve seen it with the media repeatedly. You know, the Acosta case but also all sorts of things.
We`ve seen it with the Justice Department and FBI where he`s actually fired the heads of those because they weren`t sufficiently doing his bidding, and the like. And this is just of a piece with that.
WILLIAMS: While I can`t believe we`re talking this way, here we are in 2018, your argument has been taken already today to its logical conclusion, that in the hypothetical, a case called U.S. v. Trump comes before the Supreme Court, your point is, I presume, that the president will have soiled the notion of Supreme Court justices, the federal bench as all agents of politics.
KATYAL: Exactly. So, you know, look, anyone who practices before the court knows these justices are going to make the decisions they make based on the law but they`re not going to do it based on their antipathy towards a particular person. So no matter how much Donald Trump says all this stuff, I don`t think it`s going to matter to the ultimate decision.
But the president has taken so many ridiculous legal positions, it`s a fair bet that this Supreme Court is going to say no to him on some things. And what I think President Trump is doing right now is laying the groundwork for an attack on the institution of the Supreme Court, an attack on the institution of an independent judiciary. And so when he loses, he`ll be able to say, oh, it`s just those biased judges, they were upset with what I said, what I tweeted, they were upset politically, who knows. But, you know, that`s the danger when you have something like this. And that`s why presidents have really not crossed this red line before.
WILLIAMS: In our closing seconds with you, I don`t want to take you into dangerous territory, but let`s talk about his two appointments to the court, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. You know he considers them "his guys". And yet is it your view that if it comes to it, if they sit for a case involving the guy who just sent them on the Supreme Court, they will side with reason and perhaps the majority that the chief will want?
KATYAL: That`s the tradition of the court. So for example, Justice Kagan was put on the court by Obama, but in her first year, she voted to strike down a big piece of President Obama`s Obamacare initiative. So that`s the way judges normally operate. And we saw it best this week because who voted on the Acosta case to say Trump, you`re wrong, CNN and Acosta, you`re absolutely right. It was a Trump-appointed judge. That`s the way judges work. That`s the way they always have worked. And what the president is doing is despicable and dangerous.
WILLIAMS: Neal Katyal, our thanks for joining us by telephone tonight on short notice. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family.
And with that, let`s bring in our lead-off panel on what is after all a Wednesday night broadcast. Robert Costa, national political reporter for the "Washington Post," moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS. John Heilemann, national affairs analyst around here. He`s also co-author of "Game Change" and co-host of "The Circus" on Showtime. And Maya Wiley is back with us, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, currently a professor at The New School here in New York.
Good evening and welcome to you all. Mr. Costa, you get to go first. Describe the scene as it`s been described to you tonight at Mar-a-Lago.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Talking to White House officials and confidants of President Trump, it`s clear that the president is isolated down there at Mar-a-Lago, isolated from many of his cabinet officials to many of his advisers. He`s in a social setting. He`s playing golf. He`s on Twitter. He`s getting reports of different things in the news, different statements being made by the Supreme Court chief justice. And this is a president who`s navigating the break largely on his own. And that is making many in his circle a tad nervous tonight. More than nervous, some of them, about the norms he continues to shatter hour by hour.
WILLIAMS: Maya, let`s talk about those norms. This was a difficult day for a lot of people to watch. On one side, you have people in the -- members of the public who saw Bush versus Gore and saw in their view the presidency being awarded to George W. Bush by members of the Supreme Court. On the other side, however, you have this attack on the federal judiciary in such a way where a president could say, look, I told you these are political animals.
MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: You know, these are -- look, I mean, this is historic in the negative, right? This is like the low a country has hit because this is not just a president who continuously -- as Neal said, continuously attacks the independence of the judiciary, he consistently attacks the independence of any institution that suggests he can`t do whatever he wants when he wants.
You know, the judge in this case, Judge Tigar in this case, has a federal statute that he read the plain language of that said, no, actually, when people come into this -- they can come into the country and seek asylum.
WILEY: And there`s nothing in the statute that requires them to walk into a particular door. So you don`t get to just ignore the federal statute that Congress passed. This is like constitution 101, right? Branches of government. You don`t get to just ignore the word of the Congress. And judges don`t get to ignore what is an obvious and an everyday person reading of the statute.
But remember that Donald Trump, not only did he like set us up and set the Supreme Court up, the Supreme Court has been bending over backwards to remind Americans that they are going to work together even though we have the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, that they are going to see each other as co- equals and peers whose job is to be neutral. They have been bending over backwards in the past weeks for that.
We now have a president who has spit on that yet again. This is also a president who has literally said, first time in 65 years, I am going to ignore the American Bar Association, the non-partisan neutral arbiter of who is qualified to sit on the bench. No other president has done this of any party. And say, I am going to ignore whether or not they deem a candidate for the bench qualified. That is an incredible low.
WILLIAMS: John, we`ve just heard from two people, Neal Katyal and Maya Wiley, who have spent their adult lives in the law. This is an emotional topic. John Roberts has also spent his adult life in the law, perhaps at a higher level. There`s taciturn, and then there`s John Roberts. What did it take for John Roberts to do what he did today?
JOHN HEILEMANN, NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST, MSNBC: It`s a really good question, Brian. I think that one of the things you -- that you know about John Roberts and you could see it in the Obamacare decision and on the basis of my reporting during the Kavanaugh hearings, there was a lot of concern. His institutionalism is what I`m getting to. His institutionalism first and --
HEILEMANN: -- foremost, he`s conservative. No doubt. But a conservative institutionalism who cares about the integrity of the court, the viability of the court and the perception of the court and its role in public life. A lot of that was on his mind when he ended up siding with the side that he was not "supposed" to side with according to partisans when it came to President Obama`s Affordable Care Act ruling.
And I think according to my reporting, he`s been extraordinarily concerned throughout the Kavanaugh hearings of what that process was doing to the image of the court, what it would mean to have Judge Kavanaugh on the court. Not that he disapproved of him personally or had a view about that, but that he had become so partisan and in fact that Judge Kavanaugh had become so partisan in response to what he saw as partisan attacks that the chief justice has been very worried and has been very worried throughout Trump`s time in office, but particularly in these last months.
It took a lot, all of that worry, coming into focus against the backdrop of his deep and profound care and concern for the court for him to step out and say this. It`s not unusual for Donald Trump to say intemperate things. It`s not unusual for Donald Trump to rebuke anyone. It is very unusual for any chief justice but this chief justice in particular to decide, I`ve had enough and I`ve got to throw a little bit of a brushback pitch here to this president.
And to your question, Neal Katyal, if I`m Donald Trump and I`m thinking about potential rulings that this court might face or I`m looking down, I`m saying, well, I got the partisan advantage here, I would not want to pick a fight with this chief justice, someone who has more than just one vote, has the suasion and the role that a chief justice has in a crucial -- essentially crucial rulings that will affect Donald Trump directly. I`m not sure it`s wise to pick a fight with him in an ongoing way.
WILLIAMS: And the great chiefs in big cases, U.S. against Nixon, like a unanimous court. They like --
HEILEMANN: They do.
WILLIAMS: -- eight nothing, nine nothing when they can.
Hey, Robert Costa, I note you`re in Philly tonight but your phone still works. So that worry that John Heilemann just talked about, any Republicans who have names on a ballot on Capitol Hill, any of them share this worry?
COSTA: Republicans on Capitol Hill do share the worry about this kind of engagement with the chief justice of the Supreme Court, but there`s a differing view, Brian, inside of the West Wing. There was talk tonight amongst some of my top sources, does the chief justice really know what he`s waded into here? He may be an institutional man trying to protect this institution and protect the reputation of the court, but President Trump does not see this as branch versus branch. He sees almost all things as political and reputational warfare.
And the president will be relentless if he feels Roberts is a foe in continuing to attack the chief justice, not seeing it in the same -- through the same prism that the chief justice does. And this is an untenable situation, some White House sources say, for the chief justice because he can`t respond in the same way the president can on Twitter day in, day out.
WILLIAMS: You know, in normal times, you would have answered that differently and quoted people speculating that the president may not fully grasp what he is getting into locking horns in a fight with the chief justice of the Supreme Court, as I know you know. But these are the times we`re living in, Bob.
COSTA: That`s exactly right, Brian. This is the political view of a White House, a White House that unusually sees the court as a potential battleground, a battleground in politics not just when it comes to judicial decisions.
WILLIAMS: Maya, this would give us some indication, would it not, of how the Trump White House would deal with subpoenas?
WILEY: Oh, I think we know that they will fight subpoenas to the death. I think one of the things, to go back to the point about Chief Justice Roberts, is between the two of them, only one of them has a lifetime appointment and it is not Donald Trump.
WILLIAMS: That is a great point. There`s a life in the law for you.
HEILEMANN: And on top of that, I`ll say --
HEILEMANN: -- I understand what Bob is saying. I -- and people at the White House are accurately reflecting the notion the president thinks that in a mano-a-mano political fight where he has the megaphone and the other person is mute that he will win. I don`t know what the evidence for that is. I mean, you look at Bob Mueller right now. Who has a higher standing in American life between Bob Mueller, who has not spoken in the last two years, has not engaged with Donald Trump?
COSTA: That is an important point.
HEILEMANN: And he`s not engaged with Donald Trump. He`s managed to maintain his standing -- I`m talking about just his polling standing, and his broader standing without having to engage at all. And in some cases having less of a megaphone, it turns out, especially when the person with the megaphone is saying divisive incendiary, and sometimes moronic things, it`s better to be a little quieter sometimes in these fights.
WILLIAMS: I`m up against a commercial break. I`m going to award 15 seconds to Mr. Costa and then 15 seconds to Ms. Wiley and that`s got to be it, you kids.
COSTA: Very quickly, the timing as John mentioned is so critical. This comes right before Bob Mueller likely issues his report on the president`s conduct. It`s institutional erosion from the White House across the board, across our law and order system.
WILLIAMS: And Maya.
WILEY: You know, the high ground wins. We`re still America. This is still the greatest country on the planet. And Trump has not sullied us to the point where we will not choose the high ground.
WILLIAMS: A consequential day. So we chose these consequential guests to talk us through it. And one plug, Robert Costa has a new broadcast of "Washington Week" on Friday. He always works. He does not observe any holidays that I can tell.
Robert Costa, John Heilemann, Maya Wiley, and Neal Katyal before that, thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you all. And coming up for us, new reporting on the president`s on-again, off-again plans to sit down with Robert Mueller. His attorney tells NBC News it`s time to put up or shut up. That`s interesting.
And later, oil prices drop on Thanksgiving eve. President gives thanks to the Saudis, as one does. We`ll talk about that. And a bad week for the markets with CNBC`s Ron Insana. We are just getting underway this Thanksgiving eve.
WILLIAMS: Welcome back now. The Trump`s legal team says it`s submitted his written answers to Robert Mueller`s questions. A form of testimony that`s been compared to a take-home test. The president`s lead lawyer is talking yet again. Rudy Giuliani told our own Kristen Welker that Mueller`s questions dealt extensively with the relationship between the campaign and Russia. He said he doesn`t see how they get a subpoena now that he expects to hear back from Mueller toward the middle or end of next week.
Giuliani also talked to Axios tonight. He said the Mueller question "looked like a law school exam". He added he does not think Don Jr. will be indicted over the 2016 Trump Tower meeting. But the usual caveats are in effect tonight. As this is Rudolph Giuliani`s comments, which are subject to change.
And tonight, the Associated Press has a look inside Trump`s refusal to testify. According to the report, a date was set for a Trump sit-down with Mueller January 27th of this year at Camp David. But his lawyers called it off after learning about the topics to be covered. Trump still has not spoken directly to Mueller`s team, of course.
And with us tonight to talk about all of it, Daniel Goldman back with us, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Nancy Cook returns to our broadcast, White House reporter for political -- POLITICO. I always do that.
Daniel, you`re here in New York. So I`ll give you hometown advantage on the first question. Do you believe any of what you just heard from Rudolph Giuliani?
DANIEL GOLDMAN, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: No, I don`t. Well, I should say this. He may be right that there will not be a subpoena. But I do not think it is for the reasons that he says, which are that legally he would have no basis for it. I think many legal experts believe that Bob Mueller would absolutely win that argument in court. But it may just be that he doesn`t want the fight, he doesn`t want to drag it out, and if he can get enough from these questions in this unorthodox way of going about an investigation, then maybe that is sufficient for him.
WILLIAMS: Nancy, as a veteran journalist in Washington, what is the viewer`s guide to Rudolph Giuliani? What is the caveat anytime he speaks?
NANCY COOK, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, I think that`s so much of what we`ve heard him say about this entire investigation has been to kind of muddy the waters, to confuse people to the point where they`re not really sure what the timeline is, what the timeframe is. You know, just make it all political. I think that he hasn`t said, he hasn`t been the most reliable narrator as to what the president is actually thinking and what their strategy has been.
And so, I don`t necessarily take him at his word when he says, you know, this will be wrapped up next week, there won`t be a subpoena. You know, I think he`s doing that to try to bring the American public on his side. It`s sort of a public campaign to win their support, not so much to actually give us information about where the investigation stands.
WILLIAMS: Daniel, I ask this warning for both our families for there to be some rest and relaxation over the next few days. With that caveat, what are you expecting next, and how soon?
GOLDMAN: Well, it`s interesting, Brian. I was here with you Friday night, and we thought Friday would be a big night.
WILLIAMS: We did.
GOLDMAN: And the biggest reason we thought Friday would be is -- for me at least is that the government -- the prosecutor`s office, special counsel, agreed to extend a status report by 10 days so that they could provide the court with more information of greater significance.
WILLIAMS: About Paul Manafort.
GOLDMAN: Sorry, it was in the Paul Manafort case. And that led me to believe, well, there`s something that`s going to be public between then and Monday, which is the end of the 10 days. If you stick with me, I think I may see a little bit of where we`re going here and how and why Bob Mueller would have wanted to parse out or separate out the collusion questions to Donald Trump from the other questions related either to the transition period or to obstruction of justice, which is that we know that there`s a significant investigation into the collusion during the campaign.
Roger Stone has been rumored to be on the indictment block for some time. It may be that Bob Mueller wanted to wait to get Donald Trump`s answers to the questions before unsealing an indictment related to collusion so that the president could not tailor his answers to the evidence which will be revealed in the indictment. So it still may be something that we see between now and Monday. I would guess it would be Monday since courts are closed tomorrow and Friday. But that may be part of why there`s been a delay.
WILLIAMS: I see what you did there. I followed that case. So Nancy, this is a more ephemeral question about anxiety, anxiety in Washington writ large and the West Wing more locally. Does it rise or fall when the president boards Air Force One and flies south to Mar-a-Lago? Days like this.
COOK: I think it rises quite a bit. You know, I don`t think people were terribly anxious this morning because he was playing golf and that keeps him occupied. That keeps him, you know, outside doing something that he loves. I think that there`s a lot of anxiety, though, when he goes to Mar- a-Lago and he`s interacting with, you know, friends, business associates, White House staff never know exactly who he`s talking to there. There`s a very small group of staff there as well with him.
It`s just much harder to control him, to sort of get a sense of what he`s seen on Twitter, what he`s watching. He`s around his family. And this is a long stretch for that. So it`s really, you know, going to be four or five days of him being able to do what he wants and consume the media he wants. And this is always a real sense of anxiety, a difficult moment for White House staff. You have to remember that he ended up firing Comey after one of these long weekends at Bedminster.
And so weekends like this as the president is facing the Mueller investigation thinking about a shuffle in his cabinet produces a lot of anxiety to the White House.
WILLIAMS: That`s a great point. And there are two kinds of guests generally at Mar-a-Lago, paying guests and summoned guests. And we`re going to have a mixture of both, I imagine.
To Daniel Goldman, to Nancy Cook, thank you both so much for showing up and being part of our conversation this Thanksgiving eve. Happy Thanksgiving to you both.
And coming up, the president takes to social media to talk about traffic and weather. Just a normal Wednesday night in 2018, nothing to see here, we`ll talk about it next.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Saudi Arabia, and I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend 40 million, 50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.
WILLIAMS: Then candidate Donald Trump more than three years ago talking up his business connections with the Saudis while on the campaign trail. But yesterday while insisting he has no business deals with the Saudis the President argued for sticking with them despite their brutal killing and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi of the "Washington Post" and reports that Trump`s own CIA suspects the Crown Prince was behind it.
As we mentioned earlier, Trump continued trying to make the case today, writing "oil prices getting lower. Great. Like a big tax cut for America and the world. Enjoy. $54 a barrel was just 82. Thank you to Saudi Arabia. But let`s go lower." The "Washington Post" succinctly summed up the President`s analysis. "The tweet was at best misleading."
And tonight Khashoggi`s old boss, "Washington Post" publisher and chief executive Fred Ryan writes in a scathing piece in his paper, a clear and dangerous message has been sent to tyrants around the world. "Flash enough money in front of the President of the United States and you can literally get away with murder." That gets your attention.
For his part here`s what`s been on your President`s mind in Florida just tonight. And we quote, "Brutal and extended cold blast could shatter all records. Whatever happened to global warming?" And this, "you can`t win with the fake news media. A big story today is that because I have pushed so hard and gotten, capitalized, gasoline prices so low, more people are driving and I have caused traffic jams throughout our great nation. Sorry everyone."
Faced with all of that we invited a friend of ours to join us on the air tonight who`s well versed in the world of financial journalism, and that is our friend CNBC contributor Ron Insana. Let`s start with the Saudis. First of all, welcome. It`s good to see you.
RON INSANA, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: Thanks. It`s good to see you as well.
WILLIAMS: The President`s quoting 450 million --
INSANA: Billion, actually.
WILLIAMS: -- I don`t know. How many jobs he`s quoting. He`s worried that we`ll lose the business to China and Russia. But they don`t make any equivalent to the military hardware and systems the Saudis use.
INSANA: Correct. And he has insisted that we`ve sold them or they`ve agreed to purchase $110 billion worth of arms from the U.S. they`ve purchased 14.5 billion. So that`s factually incorrect. He has suggested that they`ve been creating jobs in the United States. We have much bigger trading partners than Saudi Arabia. They`re very much a blip on the radar screen. It`s true that they buy U.S. treasury bonds. They recycle their oil profits back into U.S. bonds on occasion or U.S. real estate.
But you know, Canada, Mexico, China, Europe, Japan all much, much bigger players. Much bigger impact on the U.S. economy were we to have similar troubles with those nations.
WILLIAMS: What you and I will pay at the pump for gasoline this weekend? By how much did the Saudis dictate that price?
INSANA: Almost zero. If you look at what`s happening in the United States, Brian, the fracking revolution for which the President now takes credit, has been going on since about 2008. At one juncture in February of 2016 oil was as low as $26.05 a barrel. That was low enough to get frackers to stop because it was unprofitable to drill for oil in the United States at that point. The Saudis and the Russians, the rest of OPEC, drove the prices back up by cutting production. Our production has since exploded to 12 million barrels a day. We produce more than Saudi Arabia. We produce more than Russia.
So we have the biggest increasing supply of oil. We have the biggest proven oil reserves underground in the world. We`re the biggest player in the oil market. No place where we`ve been since 1973. And with respect to imports, who sends us the most oil from outside this country? Canada. We get 40% of our imports from Canada. Not Saudi Arabia, that`s 11%.
WILLIAMS: By the way, I don`t even know if we can use the word frackers on late night.
INSANA: I think we can.
WILLIAMS: Hey I`ve been looking at economic headlines this week, as an amateur follower of the market like everybody, and I`ve seen headlines like "market erases all the gains in 2018."
INSANA: Not usually a good headline.
WILLIAMS: Not usually good. Everyone has a favorite indicator at CNBC. Some people follow the sales of pallet pallets, wooden pallets --
WILLIAMS: -- for business. Do you have one and what`s it doing and what does it say about the future?
INSANA: I have one. And it`s a little bit in the weeds. It`s the relationship --
WILLIAMS: What we`re looking for.
INSANA: -- it`s the relationship of short-term and long-term interest rates.
WILLIAMS: Oh, boy.
INSANA: as the Federal Reserve is raising short rates and long-term interest rates start to fall, fearing a decline in inflation, fearing the possible onset of a recession, that`s a warning sign the recession will come. So that so-called yield curve has flattened. It`s not sending a red warning sign yet of impending recession. It may be telling us, though, that the economy`s going to slow down next year. And that`s also implicit in the stock market`s behavior and also in the behavior of economically sensitive commodities, copper, oil, some of the others.
WILLIAMS: Ron Insana, what a pleasure how explains, you make it all. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
INSANA: And to you. Appreciate it.
WILLIAMS: Great to see you.
INSANA: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: And coming up for us it`s a holiday-shortened work week, yet once again there`s plenty to talk about with our friend, the author and Presidential historian Michael Beschloss, who joins us after this.
TRUMP: You don`t think this was done by a judge for political reasons, do you? No. This ruling makes us look weak. Which by the way we no longer are. Believe me.
WILLIAMS: Donald Trump has been criticizing judges as a profession for years. Federal judges specifically for less than that. This week he`s taking it to a whole new level with this skirmish involving none other than the chief justice of the United States Supreme Court. His comments to Justice John Roberts, Chief Justice John Roberts, came hours after the report that Trump had pressured an independent wing of our government to do his bidding. You`ll recall according to the "New York Times" Trump wanted the Justice Department to prosecute two of his political adversaries, Hillary Clinton and James Comey, whom he fired.
To help us make clear just how unusual this is, we are joined once again by the author and Presidential historian Michael Beschloss. His latest work essential reading, especially during these times, is called "Presidents of War." It is available now wherever fine books are sold, as they say.
So Michael, not that historians have a moment to jump off the train and do what you do best and assess, but take just this week. How will we assess this reported attempt to use the Justice Department to harm an adversary? And today this attempt to discredit the federal bench and chiefly the Supreme Court.
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, MSNBC PRESDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, we`ve seen a President really trying to get Americans not to trust the judicial branch of our government. I never thought I would live to see this day, Brian. And, you know, and also this, you know, unbelievable response from the Chief Justice which shows how serious this was. And this was not John Roberts, you know, writing an article or making a comment to someone that was reported. He made a statement and delivered it to the Associated Press. You know, this was there to suggest how urgent he thought the danger was that Donald Trump is beginning to break down the judicial branch.
WILLIAMS: You just said you that never thought you`d live to see this day. You are not given to hyperbole. And so that has my attention, and that should worry all of us. In your view are institutions holding?
BESCHLOSS: Our institutions are holding. And one of the ways that they`re holding, you know, there always has to be pushback, you know. Thank God there is a John Roberts pushing back and saying Mr. President, you cannot do this. You`re also seeing members of Congress responding to certain things the President has done in a way that that perhaps they hadn`t before.
Marco Rubio responding to what Donald Trump said about the Khashoggi murder and, you know, his absolution of Saudi Arabia. You`re going see the checks and balances working but they`ve got to work and everyone has to be active.
WILLIAMS: And I want to play something for you. This happened yesterday on the south lawn. You and I are of a certain age that we are -- we are full of conventional norms on the part of Presidents. You and I are the type who read the Thanksgiving proclamation that the "New York Times" gives a full page to every year that the President issues as a matter of course.
WILLIAMS: He was asked yesterday if he had a Thanksgiving message to the active duty troops on our southern border. Here`s his response.
TRUMP: Oh, you know, don`t worry about the Thanksgiving -- these are tough people. They know what they`re doing and they`re great. And they`ve done a great job. You`re so worried about the Thanksgiving holiday for them. They are so proud to be representing our country on the border.
WILLIAMS: So Michael, fair to say not quite the Thanksgiving message to the troops that you and I grew up watching Presidents give?
BESCHLOSS: Wasn`t exactly Abraham Lincoln, nor was it Ronald Reagan I think. And the other thing is talking about breaking down institutions there are signs that he`s also trying to break down the Pentagon. He has sent these armed forces to our southern border to confront a threat that by most accounts does not exist. These are our noble soldiers. They should not be sent down for a political stunt that may be done for other reasons.
WILLIAMS: Michael has agreed to spend a few more moments this Thanksgiving eve with us. To do that, however, we must fit in a break. And coming up, we`ll talk about a somber anniversary on Thanksgiving Day.
WILLIAMS: This year Thanksgiving Day falls on November 22nd. On our calendars and in our minds tomorrow of course may be Thanksgiving, but it also marks the 55th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy`s assassination in Dallas, Texas. If you`ve been following Michael Beschloss`s Twitter feed today, we recommend that you do it everyday, then you know he`s been sharing some of the young President`s final moments. We see the Kennedy`s as they arrived in Fort Worth, Texas, Jack and Jackie, we look behind them and realize that is the plane, the 707 that would eventually carry his casket back east. We had no way of knowing it then.
And 55 years ago tonight Michael shared this photo as they entered the hotel Texas with Vice President Lyndon Johnson. That`s the President of the United States down there on the lower left, a scrum of people you will never see anymore accompanying a President because of the security concerns that followed the assassination of JFK.
Lyndon Johnson, of course, in that photo would be sworn in as president later that day. Michael Beschloss remains with us. Michael, in addition to a President, what all did this nation lose on that day 55 years ago?
BESCHLOSS: Well, one thing, Brian, was our certainty that unlike nations in Europe, for instance, our politics was not rocked by strange things like assassinations. That really ended at that point. And another one was a huge effort by all of our people to look for explanations that are deeper than perhaps seemed on the surface. A lot of people are most immediately questioned the official explanation of John Kennedy`s assassination that was done by a lone gunman.
A lot of people question that still, and from that day onward a lot of people have had a lot of questions about other decisions that our government has made from Vietnam through Iraq and Afghanistan.
WILLIAMS: And think of that day in our history, we didn`t know what else there might be. We didn`t know if this was part of something else. Lyndon Johnson arrives at love field and orders the window shades lowered on the plane and later told an interviewer, I wondered when will the missiles be coming.
BESCHLOSS: That`s exactly right because both he and Kennedy has been advised that if there was ever a danger of this nation, it might begin with an assassination perhaps the president or vice president to sort of -- as it was put in those days, to decapitate the top of our government and cause chaos that which there might be a first right by the Soviet Union. It seems pretty unlikely nowadays, but that was a danger that they lived with.
WILLIAMS: Of course no one in that immediate picture we`re looking at, the swearing in on the 707 is alive today, Michael --
WILLIAMS: -- but it`s hard to believe it`s been 55 years. Hey, I wanted to mention something, Jon Meacham whose name we bring up very reluctantly on this broadcast --
WILLIAMS: -- has tweeted a photo of you. And there it is. This is basically trolling Beschloss.
BESCHLOSS: It really is.
WILLIAMS: This is Michael Beschloss as a graduate student at Harvard. Some will see the -- and it just -- it`s an uncanny resemblance between Michael and a young the actor and producer Ken Olin, others will see an opportunity here and Michael, you`ve got to find and on earth a picture of young Jon Meacham. I think this is war.
BESCHLOSS: Yes, I think it really is war, and that picture was actually on my first book which came out when I was 24 and I think I look about 16. I think I look like a member of the cast of "Oliver" don`t you?
WILLIAMS: No, you look like a upstanding American, a scholar and future historian than that Meacham character.
BESCHLOSS: Exactly right.
WILLIAMS: Michael, thank you. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
BESCHLOSS: Happy Thanksgiving, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Michael Beschloss --
BESCHLOSS: Thank you so much.
WILLIAMS: -- with us from Washington tonight.
Another break from our broadcast. And when we come back an update on the story we have covered extensively that takes on more importance over these next 24 hours.
WILLIAMS: Oh there it is, the last thing before we go here tonight. The families who escaped the California fires with only their lives will no doubt give thanks this season for at least that, though, our thoughts, of course, immediately turn to the homes that were lost, the animals, the pets that were lost, those who were still on the list of the missing as of today and the desperate search by loved ones to find them all.
The truth is hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced by these fires, and thousands of homes have been destroyed. But we are happy to report the charity in people`s hearts is starting to meet the enormous need in people`s lives. Complete strangers have shown up in shelters handing out gift cards, money, meals, and in some cases, the clothing off their backs.
And remember, no matter how dark our politics get, remember that although our President has blamed California and called out the state for not raking and cleaning the forest floor, we are still a nation of hope and light and charity. To that end, NBC News has compiled a list of the organizations offering immediate aid. They remind us, donating things is often unhelpful because people have nowhere to keep things.
So in many cases, cash donations and gift cards are what`s needed most by those who have to now put their lives back together. We have posted the list of charitable organizations on all of our social media accounts for you. We will be thinking of all those who are doing without during this Thanksgiving season as we wish everyone watching a happy Thanksgiving.
That is our broadcast for this Wednesday night. Thank you so much for being here with us. 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
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