Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: January 3, 2019 Guest: Kelsey Snell; Peter Baker; Sam Stein; Ron Insana
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Congresswoman Holland took her oath in traditional dress and was joined at the Capitol by her family.
That is tonight`s last word. "The 11th Hour With Brian Williams" starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Tonight, Nancy Pelosi is again Speaker of the House, setting up a House versus White House fight that`s already tonight underway. With the first major votes as the government remains shutdown into the New Year. And then there`s the President, who made his first public appearance in the briefing room today, to use federal employees and the Border Patrol Union reps to make his point about the wall.
And while we were looking at all that, Wall Street headed south. Apple`s stock has been shaken to its core. Ron Insana is here to tell us what`s going on and where we all might be headed as "The 11th Hour" gets underway on a Thursday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News Headquarters here in New York. This is the third day of the New Year, the `19. That makes it day 714 of the Trump administration. And tonight for the second time in U.S. history, a woman is second in line to the President.
For the second time in U.S. history, a woman is Speaker of the House turns out it was the same woman both times. Nancy Pelosi, a Baltimore native, long-time Democratic member of Congress from the State of California, is once again House Speaker where the Democrats have just become the check on this President.
Today, after giving the -- given the gavel, she spoke about respect and truth.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D), CALIFORNIA, HOUSE SPEAKER: We have no illusions that our work will be easy, and that all of us in this chamber will always agree. But let each of us pledge that when we disagree, we will respect each other and we will respect the truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: It was an odd day at the U.S. Capitol, all these swearing in going on while the government remained shutdown. Tomorrow at midnight will mark two weeks. Pelosi and the Democratic leadership say there will be no wall and no money for any wall. They could not wait to do what they just did tonight, pass two funding bills to reopen the government, but the measures contain no money for a wall. Pelosi told reporters her party is just doing what Senate Republicans did last month.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PELOSI: We have sent -- are sending them back exactly, word for word, what they have passed. To cover the eight agencies of government. And exactly what they passed in a continuing resolution until February 8th. Why would they not do that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Then the Speaker was asked if that meant not $1 for the President`s border wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any situation in which you would accept even a dollar of wall funding for this President in order to reopen the government?
PELOSI: A dollar? One dollar? Yes, $1.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But, how high would you willing to go? Are you willing to go --
PELOSI: But you said a dollar. You said a dollar.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But how high would you willing to go?
PELOSI: Well that`s not your question. You said a dollar and I`m answering your question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My followup question is the President wants to cut a deal --
PELOSI: A wall is an immorality. It`s not who we are as a nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Of course, it doesn`t really matter what the House passed tonight if it`s dead on arrival. In the new look Republican Senate where the GOP now has a 53/47 majority, Mitch McConnell controls what is brought to that floor. He says the spending package will not be brought to the floor because the President does not support it. There`s no wall money in it.
But then there was this tonight, Washington Post reports McConnell may have broken in the -- have a problem in the ranks, "Two senate Republicans broke with Trump and party leaders Thursday, saying it was time to end the shutdown, even if Democrats would not sign off on the more than 5 billion in border funding Trump is demanding. The comments from Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Susan Collins of Maine, the only two Senate Republicans who are up for reelection in 2020 in states Trump lost, pointed to cracks in the GOP strategy."
Now, it sure seems like they`re trying to say it comes down to politics here. And meanwhile, earlier this afternoon, President Trump made a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room. He told reporters that he`s winning the fight over funding for the border wall, but he began his remarks by actually congratulating the new Speaker.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to start off by congratulating Nancy Pelosi on being elected Speaker of the House. It`s a very, very great achievement, and hopefully we`re going to work together and we`re going to get lots of things done, like infrastructure and so much more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The President took no questions during his first-ever remarks in his own White House briefing room. Tomorrow morning, the leaders of both parties will head back to the White House to, once again, talk to the President about this ongoing shutdown.
Let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Thursday night, shall we? Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times." Kelsey Snell, Congressional Reporter for NPR, and Sam Stein, Politics Editor for "The Daily Beast." We welcome all three back to our broadcast for a Thursday night.
So, Kelsey, this is your beat specifically. How fraught is this as the President figures out how to deal with a person familiar to him, just not in this title? Nancy Pelosi is now Speaker Pelosi.
KELSEY SNELL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR: Yes. This is possibly the strangest shutdown that I have ever covered because typically when we`re at a situation where they are at an impasse, these efforts scurrying around the Capitol, the principals are meeting, there`s staff room meeting, but this time it just feels really different because both sides are really dug in.
You heard Pelosi say that the wall is an immorality. And I think that is a really, really important thing to hear when you`re thinking about where Democrats are on this. Because when you`re talking about a word like morality, it`s very different than just, say, a policy platform or a political space. It`s making it a core belief about who Democrats believe themselves to be.
I think the President might not be hearing that word, and might not be realizing how much it makes it difficult for Democrats to move on this. And like you said, there are these two Republicans who are breaking in the Senate which does put some pressure on McConnell, but McConnell doesn`t want to be embarrassed and pass another bill if the President won`t sign. So we`re at this impasse that I can`t really see where they find an out for themselves.
WILLIAMS: So, Peter, there was the President flanked by Federal employees. What was that thing in the briefing room today? The all-call went out from Sarah Huckabee Sanders. We were told it was going to be a briefing, which usually indicates questions and answers. Press Secretary came out and introduced, and I`m quoting here, our very great President, Donald J. Trump. Peter, what was that?
PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, it`s a way of President getting in on Nancy Pelosi`s day a little bit, getting -- you know, try to reframe the debate. The Democrats, of course, had a day of images of them taking office and children up on the podium and so forth and pledging to reopen the government. He wanted to get back in the conversation. His point which is that this wall is necessary, in his view, to secure the country.
These people behind him are members of the Border Patrol Unions that have supported him politically in the past, support his policy proposal on the wall and he wanted to kind of get his point into the conversation a little bit.
WILLIAMS: So, Sam, anything that you can read, any signal pointing that the deal could be brokered here?
SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, "THE DAILY BEAST": In fact, just the opposite. Everything you read suggested this could go on a lot longer than a lot of people are willing to come to grips with at this point. Usually shutdowns are solved in one of two ways, a short-term punt in which you just agree to continue negotiating months, weeks from now or you try to negotiate some sort of bigger-term package.
In each case, the paths forward seem pretty fraught. No one wants to do a short-term punt after Trump basically said, he was taking it too hard from conservative talk radio and had to get border wall funding in any deal. So that seems like an avenue that can`t move forward. And then on the big- term deal, the problem we have here is that the confess negotiation which would essentially be big investment in wall funding or border security in exchange for some sort of comprehensive immigration reform measures, that had been tried in the past, but the deal fell apart because of a variety of reasons, most notably because the White House says more hard line immigration advocates wanted to insert more hard line measures into the deal.
So, with both those avenues closed, it really becomes difficult to see where the resolution will happen. Absent some sort of real world event complicating factors, or real-life pain emanating from the shutdown currently in week two.
WILLIAMS: Kelsey, you`re so right that these seldom make sense. In the end usually federal workers get hurt, both sides give, they come together and pass something the taxpayers don`t understand called a continuing resolution. Kick the can down the road. This one, though, as you point out, is particularly fraught. And let`s think about the atmospherics or maybe even the optics tomorrow in the Oval Office.
President is used to McConnell and Ryan, and he`s used to having two members of the home team in charge.
WILLIAMS: He`s got Schumer and Pelosi tomorrow, Kelsey, and it`s just going to add something new to the mix.
SNELL: Yes, absolutely. I think it`s important to remember that Schumer and Pelosi have a long-standing relationship. And it`s been said that they have a closer relationship working together than McConnell and Ryan ever really did. And they`re kind of playing off for the same play book. They communicate and they share a general sense of the right way to do politics.
And as we saw the last time that they came over to the White House in that televised meeting back in December, they really are good at reading each other and picking up on each other`s cues and going after the President in a confrontational manner that really took the President off guard in December. He may be more prepared for them when they come in on Friday, but this is one of those situations where they feel confident that their base agrees with them. And that they are messaging in a way that Democrats really respond to. So they`re not going to likely back down now when the President is coming back at them with more pressure. This is likely to be another confrontational meeting.
WILLIAMS: And, Peter, look at that headline from one of your colleagues, Annie Karni who just joined the staff of "The New York Times." "As Trump holds firm on shutdown, he never mentions one group, federal workers."
And let`s throw some stats out. This affects roughly 800,000 of our fellow citizens, 80 percent of whom are outside Washington, D.C. And it`s such an important kind of leadership point for presidents normally, Peter.
BAKER: Well, it is. About half of those people are working, even though they`re not getting paid. The other half are furloughed at home, waiting for the offices to reopen again. And you`re right, they`re caught in the middle. You know, ultimately they will be repaid the money they missed during this break, so it`s not saving the federal government anything. What it means is the taxpayers are not going to get anything for the money they will eventually pay, but at this -- in the middle of that are these workers who the President hasn`t talked about at all.
This is now at day 13, we`re heading to day 14 tomorrow and they`re idle. And they have bills coming due, you know, anybody is living paycheck to paycheck, has to find a way to make the mortgage, has to find a way to put groceries on the table. So they have not earned the, you know, the President`s -- at least public notice, other than the Border Patrol people he had behind him. And he didn`t talk about them in the sense of the class of people being hurt by the shutdown. He used them as validators of his political argument, the wall is necessary for the country`s security.
WILLIAMS: And Peter, in the not insignificant calling around from "The New York Times" that you guys do, which side seems to feel the urgency? Is there one?
BAKER: Well, I think Sam is right. This could go on for quite a while. And it`s because of what Kelsey just said, which is that, you know, we`ve moved past a normal situation where you can split the difference, right? It`s not like one side is saying zero, the other side is saying five, so let`s do 2.5. If it`s immoral on the one side and it`s absolutely imperative for the security of the country on the other, it has to be a wall and not just border security. They both staked out positions that are really hard to reconcile at this point.
WILLIAMS: And Sam Stein, we`re going to talk about this a little bit later in the broadcast, but all eyes are also on the Senate and these interesting combinations that may come up, because apparently, it`s marked on Congressional calendars which years you`re coming up for reelection and some members of the Senate have looked at the calendar, oh, look at the time, it seems I`m up in two years.
STEIN: Yes. It`s weird how that works, right? You suddenly begin to feel the acute political pressures. But, yes, the Senate has a few members, Republicans, who are in a bit of a crunch here, who have already come out and said, you know, let`s just get the government reopened and we`ll deal with the border wall funding in a separate vehicle. Let`s have the debate while the government is open.
I think the real bind though that the Senate is in is the fact that they took a vote before leaving for the Christmas break in which by unanimous consent, they said we want to open the government for a short period of time. It`s a little bit difficult for McConnell to now come in and say, you know the vote that we took before Christmas break, I know we took it, but we`re not going to do that again because the President doesn`t want us to do it again.
Theoretically, he could hold that vote at any point in time. He would have the numbers and he`d have the numbers to override a presidential veto. So there is going to be a bit of pressure on McConnell, too, even though he didn`t face the reelection pressures, he will face that public relations pressures with people asking, why can`t you just have the same vote again, and worse comes to worse, why couldn`t you override a veto.
WILLIAMS: Kelsey, in effect since you gaveled us into order tonight, I`m going to also give you the last word. What single lawmaker, what single word will you be watching for tomorrow? Throw out some tea leaves as a viewer`s guide as we watch this. Will anything -- will any one indicate to you any movement in this at all?
SNELL: Well, I think the President is the only one who can tell us if movement is going to happen because the President is the one who has to sign whatever bill comes out of Congress. And, you know, it`s true, there is a possibility that Congress can override a veto, but I don`t think the politics are there. So we have to wait and see if the President is in a deal-making mood. And if he isn`t -- if he starts to feel like he`s under that pressure that we`re talking about and it will be up to him.
WILLIAMS: As history will record them forever, my first three guests of 2019, Peter Baker, Sam Stein --
STEIN: What an honor.
WILLIAMS: -- Kelsey Snell. There you go. Thanks guys for joining us on a Thursday night. Really appreciate it.
And coming up for us, President Trump calls it a glitch. We`ll ask our friend Ron Insana about the economic anxiety driving the markets and perhaps your 401(k) balance, look away.
And later will the criticism from the new junior senator from Utah, that freshman right there, convince more of his GOP colleagues to take on this White House. "The 11th Hour" just getting started on a Thursday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Our country is doing better by far than any other country in the world from an economic standpoint. We`re the talk of the world. And we had a little glitch in the stock market last month, but it`s still up. I guess around 30 percent from the time I got elected. And it`s going to go up once we settle trade issues and once a couple of other things happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was the President just yesterday trying to explain the market tank in late December as a glitch. This third day of the New Year wasn`t better. The Dow ended down 660 points today, making it the worst start to a new calendar year in 19 years. A major factor was Apple`s warning that it`s expecting a slow down in iPhone sales in China.
Axios broke down what happened on Wall Street this way, "This was a severe hang over from the Apple revenue warning tied to China`s slowing economy, as well as Trump`s Economic Advisor Kevin Hassett saying that other U.S. companies will have China-related earnings trouble until the trade war is resolved". That gets your attention.
The President brushed off the notion that the effects of that trade war might be hitting home, "The United States treasury has taken in many billions of dollars from the tariffs. We are charging China and other countries that have not treated us fairly. In the meantime, we are doing well in various trade negotiations currently going on. At some point, this had to be done".
Well, with us to talk about it, our friend the Veteran Financial Journalist, CNBC Senior Analyst and Commentator Ron Insana. So, he says we`re the talk of the world and we`re doing --
RON INSANA, CNBC CONTRIBUTOR: He`s probably not wrong about that.
WILLIAMS: We`re doing very well. And I know you don`t love prognostications.
WILLIAMS: How worried are you by way of asking how worried everyone should be?
INSANA: Well, I think the risk of recession or growth recession or global slow down is going up by the day. China appears to be weaker than most people thought. Apple is evidence of that. Although Nike is doing quite well in China, we should point out.
So, differences in product may have different results in China. But China is weakening. Germany had a negative GDP last quarterly. Japan had negative GDP last quarter. We could be slowing down to an under 2 percent growth rate this year as the effects of the tax cut wear off. And the financial markets are telling us that.
We`re seeing stocks drop precipitously. We`re seeing interest rates come down and we`re seeing economically sensitive commodity prices fall. All of that tells us that financial market investors who are pretty wise about these things are anticipating much slower growth in 2019, both at home and abroad.
WILLIAMS: Was it especially impactful because this is not an all the way back day yet? You look around New York. It is clear, people aren`t all back at work. It`s the third day of the New Year, after all.
INSANA: Yes, you know, I go back and forth on these issues about, you know, thin market conditions and --
WILLIAMS: But I love to ask --
INSANA: The generals aren`t at the desks, the soldiers aren`t.
INSANA: But computers run a lot of things and we have cell phones and other device that can keep everybody in constant communication. So this was a big worry and this was a big surprise as well. Apple has now lost almost $450 billion in market value after having topped a trillion earlier in 2018. So it`s a significant decline for Apple. Its suppliers fell sharply and global markets fell on this as well.
WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about Apple. The standard of growth for them is insane --
WILLIAMS: -- because of what Steve Jobs, the legacy he left. With every new phone, if it doesn`t have a bread-making attachment, we`re disappointed. And they`re also asking a grand for some of these iPhones. That is a lot of money on a product that is now under incremental change. It gets slightly cooler with each new generation, but the iPhone is still the product Steve Jobs left us.
INSANA: Yes. And the phone companies have stopped subsidizing the purchase of phones, which Tim Cook in an interview on CNBC yesterday acknowledged was an issue. Pricing was an issue. The slow down in China was more profound than they anticipated the trade wars having an effect on their sales. So there a whole host of things that added up to their surprise announcement after the close yesterday. And they had their worst day in six years, today down almost 10 percent. That`s a pretty big move for a company that, you know, at one point was worth a trillion, and is now worth again 450 billion less.
But it`s also indicative of other problems that we`re seeing, the stock market decline. Today we got some manufacturing data that was far weaker than expected here at home. That had an impact. What you quoted Kevin Hassett saying --
INSANA: -- had an impact. He also said that every two weeks that the government is shutdown we lose 1/10 percent of GDP growth. That`s not insignificant of this thing starts to go on for months.
WILLIAMS: And how else will this be bad for the President? How else will Donald Trump come to dread any of what you just said if it comes true?
INSANA: Well, to the extent that this decline is not over, that it becomes more and more problematic for him. Now, he was advised last week to solve the China trade war, to reopen the government, to do some other things, stop fighting over the wall, stop tweeting so much about certain things. And if he heeds that advice, you might see some progress. In fact, Chinese and Hong Kong markets are up tonight because there are scheduled trade negotiations early next week that are going to get underway between the U.S. and China.
Now, whether or not you solve what is a 215-page complaint by Robert Lighthizer, one of the President`s top trade advisors, by March 1st is an open question. If there`s real progress on the trade front it could help but there are other factors that are hurting. This is just one.
WILLIAMS: In 30 seconds or less, is this trade war solely of our making?
INSANA: It`s not. I mean, China has been stealing intellectual property for decades. They`ve also been forcing U.S. companies to transfer sensitive technologies if they want access to their market. Those are legitimate issues.
The trade war, as it`s constructed under President Trump, is I think counterproductive. We could have used our allies to our benefit. We could have used the World Trade Organization to our benefit. We could have joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership which would have isolated China economically and that would have given us more leverage with them.
So, the trade war the way it`s constructed is our problem. The issues that we have with China are theirs.
WILLIAMS: This is why you always have a home here. Thank you.
INSANA: Thank you, sir. I appreciate it.
WILLIAMS: Happy New Year.
INSANA: You too.
WILLIAMS: Ron Insana joining us again tonight.
Coming up, he is a multi-millionaire. He is a former presidential candidate and newly minted U.S. senator. And he`s got nothing to lose when you look at it that way.
Bill Kristol and Rick Wilson are coming here next to interpret Mitt Romney`s criticism of Donald Trump after his first day in the U.S. Senate. We`re back with that after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R), UTAH: You know, I think it`s important as I step into the Senate in this new responsibility, to layout my priorities and my perspectives. I`m not worried about what other people think about what I have to say. Some people said, well you should have waited a couple months or four months. I`m not sure what makes special one time versus another, other than to do your very best from the beginning to describe what`s important to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was now Senator Mitt Romney earlier today talking about his latest critique of President Trump. This came out in the form of that op- ed published on the eve of his taking his seat in the Senate. Romney said, Trump, quote, has not risen to the mantle of the office, and he expressed concerns about the President`s character and competence.
Former Governor of Massachusetts, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, is now a freshman Senator from the great state of Utah. His stature within his party means that his criticism of his President may carry a lot more weight, and it certainly has already caused great consternation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If he fought really hard against President Obama like he does against me, he would have won the election.
RONNA MCDANIEL, CHAIRWOMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: As party chair, not as Mitt`s niece, I just wanted to point out that this is what Democrats want. They want to see infighting with our party.
NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER HOUSE SPEAKER: Why he would pick his very first venture to be an attack on the Republican president --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh and it`s like, "Look at me, how virtuous I am, and I`m going to bring down the presidency by criticizing his character in front of the whole nation".
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: The Associated Press also reports that some Republican Party members are concerned that Mitt Romney`s op-ed could embolden possible challengers to Trump in 2020. And look at the man they have focused on in that photo. And they are looking for ways to protect Trump`s candidacy, the people around him are.
With us to talk about it, Rick Wilson, proud Floridian, proud Never Trumper. He is a veteran Republican Strategist whose latest book is called "Everything Trump Touches Dies". Bill Kristol, veteran of the Reagan and Bush Administrations, also a long-time journalist who co-founded the Weekly Standard, the demise of which we covered during Bill`s last appearance on this broadcast. Gentlemen, thank you both for coming on.
I`d like to ask you pretty much versions of the same question. And, Rick, we`ll start with you.
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Sure.
WILLIAMS: It seems to me that Mitt Romney may be in a very rare position right now in American politics. He may be close to bullet proof in Washington, D.C., start of a six-year term, public-minded man who is part of royalty in his home state, he has a unique public name in this country, and I just think this period is going to be very interesting.
WILSON: Brian, I think you`re exactly right there. Mitt Romney has a position of power in the Senate for two big reasons. One, he`s unbribable and he can`t be browbeaten down like a lot of other opponents of Donald Trump, or people who are concerned about Donald Trump`s style and the damage he`s done to the Republican Party.
You can`t, you know, Donald Trump can`t say, "I`ll destroy you, Mitt Romney". By the time Donald Trump decides to destroy Mitt Romney, he`ll be out of office. And so Mitt Romney is in a position of unique power. And all senators have a unique degree of power that many of them ignore and have walked away from.
They`re not just employees of the Trump organization working in the US Senate. They are representatives of their several states. And Mitt Romney gets that. He is the senator from Utah and is going to reflect the values of his state, and reflect the virtues of his state, and he`s not going to be silent about the things that Donald Trump says, does, and the behaviors he displays that are enactment of those things. And as a leader in the conservative movement, I think Mitt Romney has a big opportunity to be a voice and an example and a contrast every day to Donald Trump.
WILLIAMS: And, Bill Kristol, same question.
BILL KRISTOL, FORMER, EDITOR AT LARGE, WEEKLY STANDARD Yes. And I emphasize one other thing. I think Romney has said of one of his fellow senators, he`ll be an important to influential senator, there were freshman.
But I`d say, think about 2020. If you read Mitt Romney`s op-ed, you really can`t conclude that Mitt Romney thinks Donald Trump should be re-nominated as the Republican nominee for president or really reelected. You might think that Trump wanted in 2016 what happened, happened. They`ve got to work with him. As Romney said in the op-ed, support policies you agree with, criticize Trump when you disagree, that`s sort of what he does as a Senator.
But as a Republican Leaders, a former nominee, presidential nominee himself, I think what Romney`s op-ed has done is make it legitimate to say, "Wait a second, whatever your position on the tax cuts or the judges, or even whatever you voted, whoever you voted for in 2016, do you really want to re-nominate this guy in 2020?"
So Romney is really -- I don`t know that he himself or probably he won`t, but he`s opened up the possibility of a primary challenge, legitimatize the possibility of a primary challenge to Donald Trump in 2020. The way that`s pretty remarkable and pretty important I think.
WILLIAMS; Rick, I want to play for you what Robert Costa of the Washington Post said on this network during our 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time hour tonight about some of the others in the party.
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: People are starting to talk more in the GOP about are there going to have to be options for 2020. Talking to senators today, they say they`re keeping a close eye on the senators who just retired Senator Corker of Tennessee and Senator Flake of Arizona.
Now, they don`t have the political capital, the stature of Senator Romney inside the Republican Party. But if they start head to Iowa or New Hampshire, I think some senators, maybe not publicly yet, are going to at least listen.
WILLIAMS: So, Rick, I suggested today that we have embeds working at all the major car rental counters in the state of Iowa to spot these people if they travel there. Obviously add Kasich to the list.
WILLIAMS: But to Bill`s point, Rick, it does -- it gives a little bit of air cover.
WILSON: I agree with that, Brian. And what you have in all situations like this, authoritarian types like Trump, they want a hermetically sealed process where only they can be nominated. And that`s why, it`s this Saddam Hussein, "No, we won 105 percent of the election". That`s not what we`re going to get if serious people start to contend against Trump. And look, will they win? It`s a high hill to climb.
But they`re sending a signal that they`re willing to go out and compete. They`re willing to go out and fight, and they`re willing to go out there and put their names on the line because they recognize that Donald Trump for -- set aside the femoral things. This is a man who displays all the time how unqualified and unready he is to be president.
WILLIAMS: Bill, there will be no single moment where this new senator from Utah may be called upon to prove his worth than after we hear from Robert Mueller, or anything to do with the protection of Robert Mueller. That`s when it seems to me it`s going to be critical to hear from Mitt Romney.
KRISTOL: I think that`s a very good point, Brian. I was talking to someone who has been close to Mitt Romney for many, many years. I don`t know that he talked about this in particular. We were sort of thinking ahead about what could happen. He made exactly that point, that both in terms of legislation to protect Mueller, perhaps, it there are attempts to interfere by Whitaker or by Trump himself, but also what if there is a serious Mueller report?
I mean that says there are at least grounds to consider impeachment. And Democrats start to say, well, I think we have to look at this, the instinctive Republicans reaction I suppose, among Trump`s -- Trump Republican at least will be to say rubbish, you know. They`re reports are legitimate. Angry Democrats witch hunt and now they are -- this is totally, you know, called for.
Someone like Mitt Romney stands up, even though he`s in the Senate not the House where impeachment would begin, and says, "Wait a second, we need to have a serious consideration of this". That gives a kind of legitimacy again to something that not -- maybe most Republicans don`t go with Romney, but do a quarter, a third in the country or in the House or in the Senate?
It really changes the dynamic, I think, to have Romney there. What he signaled with that op-ed is that, he wants to change the dynamic. He`s not happy with the way Republicans on the hill behaved for the first two years of the Trump presidency.
WILLIAMS: Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us through the break. Our conversation will continue on the other side right when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
Donald TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: I don`t know why, but they like me. They say I`m the most popular president in the history of the Republican Party. How do I do have these numbers when I get bad press? Because people see the job we`re doing.
(ENDS VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We are joined tonight by two gentlemen who know what they`re talking about when it comes to the Republican Party. See the sly smiles on each of our guests? Rick Wilson and Bill Kristol.
Bill, you seem to be reacting to that quote from the President. How could the President be wrong? He says, some people have said he`s the most popular Republican president ever.
KRISTOL: Yes. Some people have, I guess. I mean, we had an election in November just two months ago. The Republicans ran -- Trump made it about himself in a sense. He made the Congressional elections about -- a judgment on him as president and Republicans lost the popular votes for the House by almost 10 million votes.
They want it very narrowly in 2016, so that`s really a big swing against the President. And for me that was a moment. You know, the November -- that the market began to slip in October. The elections went badly for the Republicans in November.
Jim Mattis resigns as Secretary of Defense in December and Donald Trump gratuitously goes after him. He gets in a fight with many retired senior military officers, all men of great distinction as it happens. And now, we have a government shutdown, an awful lot of people don`t see the point of and they don`t see why we`re shutting down six or seven or eight agencies for the sake of a fight over the wall. And Trump is being stubborn.
And then, we have the Mitt Romney op-ed in the sense that maybe Republicans shouldn`t automatically support Trump. I think that all that together really -- it`s been a rough -- I think things have changed a lot since three months ago.
WILLIAMS: And, Bill, let me add this on the rigor of government and governing. First of all, you had that cabinet meeting this week. And you look around the table. And ask yourself how many titles now begin with the word "acting" around that table, starting right there with the attorney general in the center of the picture.
Eric Clapton on The New York Times said this on social media today. "As of Thursday, DOD will be run by a former senior bowling executive. EPA is run by a former coal lobbyist. HHS is run by a former pharmaceutical lobbyist. And Interior will be run by a former oil industry lobbyist. Welcome to 2019."
And, Bill, that`s part of the optics, part of the problem.
KRISTOL: Yes. And I mean -- and people like -- when Rick and I would say to our Republican friends, this is not going to end well. They say don`t worry so much. Gary Cohn is in there in the White House stopping the trade war. John Kelly the serious person Chief of Staff, HR McMaster, National Security Adviser, Jim Mattis Defense Secretary. Even Jeff Sessions, you may not love him, but, you know, protecting the rule of law at the Justice Department. All gone, all replaced by people of much less stature and much less willingness or ability to stand up to the President. So, that`s another huge change from where we were just several months ago.
WILLIAMS: Rick Wilson --
WILLIAMS: -- I`m going to give you an open net goal. I`m going to give you a lay up shot. You choose the metaphor. How will Paul Ryan be remembered in terms of the great profiles in courage in politics in the last couple of decades?
WILSON: I could get in so much trouble with this one, Brian --
WILLIAMS: Oh, go ahead.
WILSON: -- but, I`m going to stop myself for once. But, the profile encourages -- replaced by profiles and chicken. And you know what the last word in that phrase is. Paul Ryan squandered his reputation and basically gave away the store to Donald Trump. He turned the house over as a wholly- owned subsidiary of the Trump organization instead of being a member or leader of a co-equal branch of government.
And so, I think his legacy is going to be defined strictly as how he behaved towards Trump. No one is going to remember Paul Ryan wanted to do, you know, fix the gigantic problem of entitlement reform. No one is going to remember Paul Ryan wanted to balance the budget. They`re going to remember that Paul Ryan basically behaved like a junior manager to Trump golf course when it came to what Donald Trump wanted in the House of Representatives for two years, and basically ended up, because of that decision, lost the majority.
Because, of that decision to accommodate Trump on every factor, and to pretend that he wasn`t constitutionally obligated to be the leader of a co- equal branch of government, that, you know, he advocated that responsibility and that position. That`s going to be the legacy sadly.
WILLIAMS: And, rick, I`ve also heard it said just in the last 24 hours that from McConnell, this 53/47 advantage may not feel like it at all. Watch there be a thing made up of a kind of coalition of west of the Mississippi or even Rocky Mountain Republicans. Some of them are up in two years. Some of them looking at you, Mitt Romney, aren`t who start to do some wavering as we`re already seeing on the shutdown.
WILSON: Well, that`s exactly correct, Brian. You know, 2018 was the good year for Republicans when only eight seats were competitive. There going to be over 20 Republican seats that are up in 2020 that are going to be competitive, that are going to be in danger. And a lot of them are in purple states. A lot of them are in places like Maine and Colorado where they`re not going to have this easy skate of pretending it`s Alabama or Mississippi or Arkansas.
They`re going to be in places where voters actually don`t like Donald Trump very much, and they`re going to be asking the question, are you representing us, or are you representing this Trump movement in DC?
And so, I think you`re going see as you saw with Cory Gardner today, you`re going to see some nervousness that`s going to grow. And as the Trump, you know, as the costs of Trumpism mount and especially if the economy and the market continue to go down to go south, these guys are getting one for the tall grass because politicians are ultimately survivors. They ultimately understand that their career and their position depends on whether they do the things that their state and their districts want, not just what Donald Trump wants every day.
WILLIAMS: Bill Kristol, in 30 seconds or less, how much change are we up to see in 2019? This will be the year of, fill in the blank.
KRISTOL: I don`t know, I think it`s going to be pretty wild. And Mueller report next month, god knows what the economy and the markets, foreign policy crisis, confirmation just to the next couple of weeks of an attorney general perhaps, a new secretary of defense. I mean all the open positions you`ve mentioned. So I think 2019 will make 2018 look like a calm year.
WIILIAMS: Wow. OK, gentlemen. Thank you very much. Bill Kristol, one of the sitting kings of the Republican political ideal. Rick Wilson, ditto Pride of Florida, Prince of Periscope, may I add. Gentlemen, thank you both very much for coming on.
And coming up, some of the history that was made today and some of it that cannot be reversed, when we continue.
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REP. NANCY PELOSI, CALIFORNIA HOUSE SPEAKER: I`m particularly proud to be women Speaker of the House of this Congress which marks the 100 year of women having the right to vote.
And we all have the ability and the privilege to serve with over 100 women members of Congress, the largest number in history.
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BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC NEWS ANCHOR: Let`s talk for a moment about the history that was made today in Congress with the swearing in of the most diverse and the most female Congress in our history. Of the 434 members, over 100 are women. And when you look at the numbers, it`s so interesting to know where the growth is from.
Back in 1989, there were 16 female House Democrats and 13 female House Republicans. As of today, there are 89 female Democrats and still only 13 female Republicans. Among the many new members who are breaking boundaries, there`s the youngest-ever black Congresswoman, 32-year-old Lauren Underwood of Illinois.
There`s also the youngest woman ever elected to the House period, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez from here in New York. We watched as the first two Muslim women were sworn in. Congresswoman Rashida Talib of Michigan is a Palestinian American. She took her Ottawa wearing traditional clothing while placing her hand on Thomas Jefferson`s copy of the Qur`an, and Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, the first woman to wear a hijab in Congress.
In 1837 rule banning head wear on the floor of the house was changed to accommodate it and her. The first Native American women ever to serve in Congress were on the floor of the House, sharing a celebratory hug. One of them, Sharice Davids of the state of Kansas, also happens to have been in mixed martial artist with an Ivy League law degree.
This Congress includes the first-ever Congress women from Iowa and the first Hispanic women ever elected from Texas. All this record-breaking representation gives women nearly a quarter of the House seats in a country where they of course, are half the population.
But as of today, African-American and Asian-American representation in the House is now a much closer reflection of overall US population. And while the Democrats spoke proudly today of their diversity, another great moment from today was this post from army veteran turned Republican Congressman Brian Mast of Florida. He`s there in the middle, posing with his fellow wounded veterans, he writes "Five eyes, five arms, four legs, all American. Welcome to Congress.
Coming up, the amount of expertise that American taxpayers are getting on a daily basis and free of charge, as we were reminded just again today. That when we come back.
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TRUMP: Do you see what`s just been put out on social media where thousands of people are rushing the border. Having a drone and fly overhead, and I think nobody knows as much more of that technology, this type of technology certainly than I do.
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WILLIAMS: That was the President earlier today. As we said oddly, it was his first visit to the White House briefing room as president. And it brings us to our last thing here tonight. Look at a certain way by voting for Donald Trump as president of the United States. It could be that the American people are getting a tremendous bargain.
Sure. You get Donald Trump the President but also and as he has reminded us as recently as today. You are getting one of the great experts in the world on any number of subjects, disciplines and topics.
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TRUMP: I think nobody knows more about campaign finance than I do because I`m the biggest contributor.
There`s nobody bigger or better at the military than I am.
If you look at my book which was written a couple of years prior to the attack, I actually mention the name of Osama Bin Laden. I mean, I know what`s happening, Sean. I know what`s going on. I think I could stop it because I am very tough illegal immigration policies.
I know more about ISIS than the generals do. Believe me. I know more about courts than any human being on earth.
I understand social media. So, I know a lot of about Twitter. I understand Twitter and I do mostly do it myself, bing-bing, bam-bam-bam. Put it out @realDonaldTrump. Somebody said I`m the Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters. Can you believe that? I was actually given that credit.
I understand the power of Twitter. I understand the power of Facebook, maybe better than almost anybody, you know, based on my results, right?
Now, let me tell what happen with Eisenhower.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are you consulting with consistently so that you`re ready on day 1?
TRUMP: I`m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain.
I know words. I have the best words.
Nobody with me will know how to do. I`m the king of banking. Am I good at banking? Do I know how to deal with banks?
Construction is what I know. I say nobody knows it better.
OK. Let me just tell you this, I understand money better than anybody. And I`m way up on the economy when it comes to questions on the economy.
And I said Mitt Romney should not run. He`s choke artist. And I said it very strongly. Nobody knows more about trade than me. I mean, I made so much more money than Mitt. You know, I have store that`s worth more money than Mitt. It`s a store.
I know more drones than anybody. I know about every form of safety than you can have.
Nobody knows the system better than me which is why I, alone, can fix it.
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WILLIAMS: And so, as we start off the New Year, the `19 day 4 just minutes away with thanks to Steve Kornacki for filling in here. And thanks to all of you for allowing us to just slip away for a while. We`re back. That is our broadcast for this Thursday evening.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END