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Special Counsel disputes BuzzFeed report. TRANSCRIPT: 1/18/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Annie Karni, Gabby Orr

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SETH MEYERS, HOST, LATE NIGHT WITH SETH MEYERS:  -- collusion snot a crime.  Two, there was collusion but it didn`t involve Trump.  If this keeps going, Rudy is going to be telling Trump, it`s not jail, it`s a gated community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Seth Meyers gets tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight, a very rare public statement from the special counsel pushing back on last night`s explosive BuzzFeed news report.  Robert Mueller`s Office says references to evidence of the President ordering people to lie to Congress are not accurate.

Plus, the government shutdown heads into a fifth week with more drama but little progress between Democrats and this Administration.  Why the GOP seems to be staying on the sidelines, in the lines of hundreds of thousands of Federal workers still in limbo.  The president Twitter teases a major announcement about the southern border he`ll be making Saturday afternoon. "The 11th Hour" on a Friday night starts right now.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. I`m Steve Kornacki.  Brian Williams is under the weather.  Day 729 of the Trump Administration, day 28 of the shutdown, soon to be day 29.  We begin with breaking news.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller is disputing this BuzzFeed report that broke late last night claiming that the President of the United States directed Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about negotiations to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.  Citing two law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation, BuzzFeed reported that Trump also endorse to plan to visit Russia during the campaign and to meet personally with Putin to advance the deal, and that the President in two and two of his children, Ivanka and Don Jr. all received regular and detailed updates from Cohen on the status of the project.

BuzzFeed also said that according to its sources, "The Special Counsel`s Office learned about Trump`s directive for Cohen to lie to Congress through interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company e-mails, text messages, and a cache of other documents."

Earlier today, Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani pushed back on the BuzzFeed story.  Tonight, the Special Counsel`s Office made a very rare move of issuing a public statement.  It reads, "BuzzFeed`s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel`s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen`s congressional testimony are not accurate."

BuzzFeed editor in chief responded with this statement, in response to the statement tonight from the special counsel`s spokesman, "We stand by our reporting and the sources who informed it, and we urge the special counsel to make clear what he`s disputing."  Short time ago, Ben Smith spoke to our colleague, Chris Hayes.

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BEN SMITH, EDITOR IN CHIEF, BUZZFEED NEWS:  We went to them 24 hours ago and, you know, they declined to comment on it.  Obviously the special counsel prefers to control the time line and for reasonable reasons wants to operate on his own time line and without revealing a lot of detail.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Smith also told Rachel Maddow that BuzzFeed sources continue to stand by their information.  Rudy Giuliani also weighed in tonight sending this message on Twitter, "I commend Bob Mueller`s Office for correcting the BuzzFeed false story that President Trump encouraged Cohen to lie.  I ask the press to take heed that their hysterical desire to destroy this President has gone too far.  They pursued this without critical analysis." All day he used the #fakenews.

The President just sent this, "Remember it was BuzzFeed that released the totally discredited dossier paid for by crooked Hillary Clinton and the Democrats as opposition research on which the entire Russian probe is based, a very sad day for journalism, but a great day for our country."  Again, that is the president moments ago on Twitter.

Let`s bring our lead off panel for another wild Friday night here.  Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon, also an MSNBC National Security Analyst.  Annie Karni, White House Reporter for "The New York Times."  And joining us by telephone tonight, Matthew Miller.  He`s an MSNBC justice and security analyst and a former chief Spokesman for the Justice Department.

Matt Miller, if you`re in that context, your background as a spokesman for the Department of Justice that I`m glad to have you here.  And I want to begin with you.  I want to put up on the screen a tweet, your reaction earlier tonight to this statement with just read from the special counsel.  And you said in that tweet, let me see if we can get that up on the screen here.  We may not -- here it is.  You said, "You can spend hours parsing the Carr statement, but given how unusual it is for any DOJ office to issue this sort of on the record tonight let alone this office, I suspect it means the story`s core contention that they have evidence Trump told Cohen to lie is fundamentally wrong."

That seems like the crux of this, that the question here, Matt Miller, what would it take to get Mueller`s Office to break its silence?  You say it has to be a significant error in their view in this story

MATTHEW MILLER, MSNBC JUSTICE AND SECURITY ANALYST:  I think that`s right, Steve.  Look I do -- as I said in that tweet, I have, you know, a lot of people who are trying to farce and say maybe what the special counsel is saying is that just some details of this story are wrong.  But look, it`s very unusual for any office in the Justice Department to issue this kind of statement about an ongoing investigation.  It`s just not something the department does.

It`s even more unusual for the special counsel to do it.  He is now been at this for almost two years, be two years in May.  And this is the first statement of this kind he`s ever issued.  And I think he -- it`s very hard to see him doing that.  He was just quibbling with one minor detail or even a major detail in the story.  And it wasn`t because the entire thrust (ph) of the story was wrong.

And I -- what I suspect this happening is here is this is without a doubt not the first story about Mueller`s work that had been wrong, and usually the Special Counsel`s Office just let those pass without correcting the public record.  But I think the difference here was the magnitude of the accusation contained in the story that the President committed a crime and if they had evidence that he had committed a crime.

And at the fallout that was ensuing with members of Congress already stop talking about bringing impeachment hearings.  And so if you`re The Special Counsel`s Office and you`re seeing something that you think is, you know, let`s say, unfairly maligning the President because you know that it`s wrong and it`s being attributed to law enforcement sources.

So, there are a lot of people reading the story that think Mueller`s Office is leaking that, it really does put them in an untenable position given the gravity of the accusation and the underline story.

KORNACKI:  Right.  Let me follow up on that then because as you say given the gravity of the story, the discussion that was just rampant today about the implications.  You kept hearing if the story is true, if the true, quickly followed by discussion of impeachment.  So given that as a possible factor in the Special Counsel`s Office breaking its silence and given that BuzzFeed is not backing down from this story and is, in fact, challenging the Special Counsel`s Office to reveal more, do you think it`s possible we will hear more from Mueller`s office or will this be it?

MILLER:  I don`t think they`ll say anything else on the record. I think what you`ll see is probably them talking to some other reporters on background and knocking down the original BuzzFeed story, something they could have done yesterday.  You saw -- I saw that in that clip from Ben Smith, you said they contacted the Special Counsel`s Office.  They didn`t comment.

I think, you know, the special -- oftentimes people at the Justice Department will tell reporters if they call or it will call you with a story that`s not right, they will tell -- the Justice Department spokesman will tell those reporters on background before they publish.  No, this is wrong and you really don`t want to get this wrong.

It seems to me the Special Counsel`s Office has done very little of that.  They`ve been unwilling to start a police reporting even on background, off the record in events.  And so I think given that this was, you know, they didn`t do it yesterday, my guess they`d like to go back 24 hours and have it done that but there`s no way to put the genie back in the bottle.  So what they did tonight was to knock it down as definitely as they could.

KORNACKI:  Annie Karni who covers the Trump White House, let me bring you in because we gave folks a taste there of the President`s reaction on Twitter tonight.  Rudy Giuliani, as well, you saw he used that #fakenews seems pretty clear here that from the Trump`s standpoint they are going to try to roll this now into a broader critique of the entire news media.

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  That`s for sure and you can -- I mean this plays right into their hand of the fake news.  They watch immediately said Donald Trump Jr. being retweeted by his father.  And that the one thing that`s a problem for the President here is he`s act like he was just exonerated by the Special Counsel.  And, you know, Matt is saying that this is a clearly definitive knocking down the whole story.

We don`t know yet.  It certainly puts the story in a gray area.  The facts are in gray.  We`ll eventually find out whether or not Trump directed Cohen to lie is a fact or not.  But right now, it`s in a gray area and Trump is acting like it is a definitive saying.  He`s cheering on the special counsel.  What will that look like if down the line the Special Counsel comes out with evidence that is not to his liking?  He is propping this up as a way to shoot down another enemy.  Before in previous times, he`s called the Special Counsel like 13 angry Democrats.

So, he`s acting like he`s exonerated.  If he`s exonerated maybe in this news cycle, but it does feed into the -- it hurts journalists for him to be able to say fake news and for there to be, you know, some solid ground behind him making that claim tonight

KORNACKI:  Right, on that front, when we were looking all day, I think the question it was about this time last night.  Think about 10:00 last night when this story on BuzzFeed first broke.  And then the question was would other news organizations be able to replicate the reporting, corroborate the reporting, advance the reporting in any way.  There are tonight.  There is some new reporting from the "Washington Post" and "The New York Times" worth highlighting here folks, haven`t seen this.  This from "The Washington Post", let me just read it a little bit again.

This just in the last hour to the story, this according to Washington Post has claimed Cohen had acknowledged to Mueller `s prosecutors that the President directed him to deceive Congress about key facts linking the President to the proposed Trump Tower project in Moscow.

BuzzFeed also said Mueller learned about the directive to lie from interviews with multiple witnesses from the Trump Organization and internal company e-mails, text messages and a cache of other documents.  Mueller`s denial according to people familiar with the matter aims to make clear that none of those statements in the story are accurate. that again from the Washington Post.

And Jeremy Bash, that does seems to be initially what seemed to be the major significance of the BuzzFeed report.  What was the major significance of the BuzzFeed report was the claim that Mueller had evidence, that Mueller had text, e-mails, documentary evidence that could establish the President suborned perjury.  This was not the word of Michael Cohen or somebody else.  This was documentary evidence.  And now you have, again, this report in "The Washington Post" and a statement from Robert Mueller, a huge potential of golf (ph) here.

JEREMY BASH, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST:  Yes, and that was my first reaction when I saw the Special Counsel`s was how could you possibly parse this if you`re putting on your lawyer hat.  And of course, one way is to say, well, they really talk narrowly about the descriptions and about the characterizations, not about the underlying claim in the story.  Another possible way to parse this to sort of suggest that will -- what Mueller does believe that the President and Cohen conspired to fabricate a story about the Trump Tower matter. a story which then Cohen took to Congress.  And that means that the president bears some responsibility for that falsehood.  But he didn`t learn that through text messages and e-mails.  And he didn`t learn that through witness interviews and he didn`t learn that from Cohen`s direct testimony.

So there may be some ways to parse this.  I tend to agree with Matt that this is a fairly significant and straightforward denial by the Special Counsel`s office.  But it doesn`t mean that the President has no responsibility for this lie that we know definitive Michael Cohen told to Congress

KORNACKI:  Right, and again, on that subject, I say it`s some new reporting that gets out there tonight.  I`ve showed from "The Washington Post", "The New York Times", also in its reporting tonight, we can put this up in the screen.  They have one person, one source they say familiar with Mr. Cohen`s testimony to the Special Counsel `s prosecutors said that Mr. Cohen did not state that the President had pressured him to lie to Congress.

I know Jeremy too, you`re talking about this.  I know there were -- some of those court filings in conjunction with his sentencing suggested that Cohen`s lies were an effort to align his testimony to Congress with Trump`s public statements. I think Lani Davis had said in December on a podcast that the White House -- to the President I should say had not directed Cohen to lie.

But again, there`s the question with Michael Cohen just exactly what -- for instance, he`s going to be testifying in front of a Congressional Committee.  When is it?  February 7th, that`s coming up awful soon.  All eyes are going to be on that testimony clearly.

BASH:  And big picture, Steve, the president told a false story about the Trump-Moscow tower deal.  He said I have no business dealings with Russia.  We then learn that, of course, that the deal was happening not just through the primary season in late 2015 and early 2016, but all through mid-2016 when Trump was actually the Republican nominee.  We know that Michael Cohen lied to Congress about it.  We know that Michael Cohen tried to align his story with the false narrative that the President was telling.

And so the idea that the President did nothing wrong here, I mean bears no responsibility for Michael Cohen`s false testimony.  I think it`s something that members of Congress are going to significantly challenge

KORNACKI:  And Annie Karni, quickly and just to -- in terms of what was going on at the White House today.  I know this story went up as we say it`s about 10:0 last night.  I think there was a very quick reaction from Rudy Giuliani that just simply said, you know, don`t trust Michael Cohen.  And that left the question of what about this supposed evidence.  It seems today it took them a while to get a formal response.  They were caught off guard.  What was going on at the White House?  Take us inside there.

KARNI:  Well, you can see what happened.  I mean, the first responses were from a spokesman Hogan Gidley on Fox News this morning saying -- a non- denial, denial.  Saying we`re not the kind of service we`re not going to get into it.  Sarah Sanders sort to follow that, so did Kellyanne Conway.  And the President hadn`t tweeted anything.  Ad I think there was some sense of that, you know, sometimes the aides are kept in the dark and don`t know.  Rudy Giuliani then came out with an on the record statement denying the story which is rare for him to do as well.

And then the White House spokespeople who usually don`t comment on legal matters jumped in and denied it.  And then, you know, once the Special Counsel`s statement came out, it`s now free for all.

Just to add to my point from before about how Trump is using this to bludgeon all media.  You know, in the tweet you showed, he says, he accuses BuzzFeed of publishing the fake news, the fake dossier.  BuzzFeed recently won a court ruling that a defamation suit that said that that dossier.  A court ruled over was news worthy about a public figure and BuzzFeed won on the dossier.  But, again, this allows Trump to kind of say everything, BuzzFeed, and all other outlets published that I don`t like it, it`s negative, it`s fake news.

KORNACKI:  Yes.  And again, we would say BuzzFeed right as we said is still standing by this story, and again calling on Mueller to put more information out there.  Matt Miller, I just -- so much here about the supposed evidence, the documentary evidence that they`re saying that their sources tell them that Mueller has.  In the BuzzFeed story, this is referred to as a law enforcement sources.  You`re somebody, you know, have a background in running communications shop at the Department of Justice.  When you see law enforcement sources in a story, can you give us a sense of what the range of possibilities there in terms of what that source could be?

MILLER:  It could be any number of people from senior political appointees at the Justice Department to FBI agents, to agents at other agencies who just happened to be briefed on the matter at hand because they have some connection to the investigation.  So, there really are a lot, you know, a lot of ways you can interpret it.

And I do think that that one of the problems for the Special Counsel`s Office is because the underlying reporting was about the conclusion that the Special Counsel had supposedly drawn, that he had found evidence that the President committed this crime.  Most of the people who agreed that story would naturally interpret that the leak of information was coming from the Special Counsel`s Office.

And, you know, for the Special Counsel, if you know the underlying information is not true and you have the President accusing you of leaking and you have a great -- you have a number of people in the American public who will think that this came from your office, it`s just not a position you can let stand for very long when it`s a story that really is this damaging to the President if, in fact, it`s not true.

KORNACKI:  OK, Matt Miller, Annie Karni, Jeremy Bash, thank you all for joining us.

And coming up, more on tonight`s unprecedented statement from Robert Mueller`s Office.  Then President Trump promises a major announcement tomorrow on the shutdown.  Will it be big enough to end the standoff?  Two reporters covering the story tell us what to expect.

And later, Trump in 2020.  We`re going to take a look at what his poll numbers right now tell us about his campaign`s potential for success or failure 655 days from now.  "The 11th Hour" just getting started on a Friday night.

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KORNACKI:  Welcome back.  It is exceedingly rare for the Special Counsel`s Office to comment on anything related to the ongoing Russia investigation.  Robert Mueller is known for running a tight ship.  It is one that typically does not leak.  That is part of what makes this dispute over BuzzFeed`s reporting so remarkable.

And joining us now, Cynthia Alksne, a former Federal Prosecutor and a veteran of the Justice Department and Jill Wine-Banks, Attorney, former Assistant Watergate Special Counsel and MSNBC Legal Analyst.  Thank you both for being here.

Cynthia, let me just start with you and sort of continue the conversation we`re having in the last block and ask you the question that I think everybody is sort of asking and trying to chew over right now.  You have this report 24 hours ago from BuzzFeed that put material out there that immediately suggested, if true, possibility of impeachment.

You have the Special Counsel essentially for the first time putting out a public statement.  We almost never hear from Robert Mueller`s Office.  How do you read the statement from Mueller tonight?  Is he saying there`s no there, there when it comes to this reporting?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  The one thing you`re missing in that setup is not only do we have the report, but then we had a feeding frenzy, then we should start hearing -- I mean, we need start impeachment hearings in.  And the city of Washington was completely ginned up.  And then you have the statement from Mueller`s office, which is basically a good old-fashioned spanking.  It`s just wait a minute.

And I think they -- he`s communicating in a cryptic way that he does not agree with everything that`s in the BuzzFeed article and it is not designed for us to understand exactly what he doesn`t agree with.  And unfortunately, where that leads us is, we`re just going to have to wait.  And it is a good object lesson just to slow down and not be part of a feeding frenzy before we`re really ready for that.  And there`s nothing else to do but wait a little bit.

KORNACKI:  And I do -- along those lines, we can put this up in the screen too.  We were showing you a little earlier "The Washington Post," "The New York Times", they are both out with some new reporting tonight related to this, the fallout from this.  This from Devlin Barrett, he is one of the reporters.  He`s a National Security Reporter with "The Washington Post."  We quoted from his story earlier.

This is how he summarized his story.  He said, "To those trying to parse the Mueller statement, it is a straight up denial.  Maybe BuzzFeed can prove they are right, maybe Mueller can prove them wrong, but it`s an emphatic denial."  Again, Devlin Barrett, he`s the National Security Reporter with "The Washington Post" whose story we quoted from earlier.

Jill Wine-Banks, if does seem -- if Mueller is going to prove that the BuzzFeed story is wrong, what is more likely at this point, that there is further public comment from Mueller`s office, or that we find out if and when we see a final report?

JILL WINE-BANKS, FMR. ASST. WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  I think it will wait until there`s time for him to get it out in a more appropriate fashion.  But I`m -- in terms of parsing this, I`m more in the side of saying this isn`t an outright denial of the underlying charge, that it edges along to say the details are wrong.

Now what that means, I don`t know.  Does it mean that there aren`t certain documents, there aren`t texts?  I don`t know what it means exactly.  But I`m not willing to throw away the entire BuzzFeed story based on the language that they used in this denial.

KORNACKI:  I guess the skeptical question would be, because we talk about it here.  I`m here and there on different shows and we talk about it all the time when the subject of Mueller comes up.  This has been an air-tight investigation.  We never hear from Mueller.  We never hear from the office.  We never see leaks.

And then when there are stories about he`s looking at this, he`s looking at that, we never get any comment.  So for him to weigh in, would it have to be over something that`s just clear cut and emphatic as opposed to, well, maybe we have some documents.  Would it be quibbling?

WINE-BANKS:  Yes.  And I am troubled by it.  It`s almost inexplicable that he commented whether it was a total denial or whether it was just along the edges and about the details.  Because of their past history, why they picked this one, the only thing you can say is because this is the clearest case linking Donald Trump to a crime that cannot be evaded.  It isn`t, well, he had the power to fire Comey, that`s within his constitutional rights.  This was a straight-out obstruction of justice. 

William Barr in his testimony said to Senator Klobuchar, yes, it would be obstruction of justice by the president or any other person.  So, this is one where he might want to say, hey, don`t rush into impeachment hearings.  Just let`s wait and see what happens.  I think it`s going to make it much more interesting on February 7th to listen to Cohen and the latitude he`s given.

I don`t think this relates directly to Russia, and so to the extent that Mueller has said, I don`t want you testifying about Russia and that Congress has agreed to limit it, this is about obstruction of justice.  It`s about subornation of perjury, about telling someone to lie.  That was an impeachable offense for Richard Nixon.  It would have been indictable offense, but we chose during Watergate to use the impeachment route rather than trying to go ahead with an indictment. 

So it`s going to be very interesting to see whether he can testify on this subject.  I`ll be waiting with bated breath to hear what he says.

KORNACKI:  And Cynthia, I guess the other question this raises, and Jill is getting at it there, the broader sort of political context of the reaction today before the Special Counsel weighed in, and that was you had democratic members of Congress in part reacting to that reporting, raising the specter of impeachment. 

The fact that Democrats now control the House, now can instigate impeachment proceedings, now can theoretically react to a news report like this or any other news report and go in that direction, do you think that will affect the Special Counsel`s Office at all in terms of its public- facing activities?  Will we hear more in general from Mueller given that the Democrats are now in position to react and respond from an impeachment standpoint to any explosive reporting that`s out there? 

ALKSNE:  Well, you know what, I think the explosive reporting, which got people talking about impeachment in this case did affect the desire by Mueller to shoot this down, but I wouldn`t predict that you`re going to see more of that.  I really don`t.  But there`s some big issues that are still raised here that we know are outstanding when it has to do with Cohen`s testimony.

And to me, one of the biggest is that he circulated his testimony at the White House before he testified, and that went to some lawyers associated with the White House.  Don McGahn said it wasn`t him, but apparently it went to some lawyers.  And that`s going to be an interesting thing on the February 7th testimony.  Because if those lawyers knew that what he was saying wasn`t true, they`re going to have some exposure.  And that is a very big deal looking down the pike, as well as we also know or we think we know that Mueller asked Trump, did you talk with Cohen about your testimony or Felix Sater about the Trump Tower deal?  And who else were you discussing this with?  And he asked him that in his written testimony, his take-home testimony -- take-home test, and that will also come out -- is going to come out in the next couple of weeks.  Everything has to do with this Trump Tower 

KORNACKI:  All right, Cynthia Alksne, Jill Wine-Banks, thank you both for being with us. 

And coming up, President Trump promising a major announcement on the shutdown tomorrow.  Will it be enough to end the stalemate and get thousands of furloughed workers much-needed paychecks?  What our reporters are hearing from inside the White House tonight when "The 11th Hour" continues.

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KORNACKI:  We are now less than 24 hours from what the President says will be a "major announcement concerning the southern border and the government shutdown."  This longest ever shutdown is now minutes away from entering its 29th day and hundreds of thousands of federal workers are still not being paid.

On Thursday, Trump grounded House Speaker Nancy Pelosi`s military flight to Afghanistan to visit troops citing the shutdown as a reason.  Though, she was still planning to travel commercially with her delegation, but today her office said the White House leaked those plans so the trip was canceled over security concerns.  The White House has denied the leak.  Here`s Speaker Pelosi`s take.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  The fact that they would leak the commercial -- that we were flying commercial is a danger not only to us but to other people flying commercial.  Very irresponsible on the part of the President.  We`ll go again.  We`ll go another time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How do you know the leak came from the White House?  The White House has denied that the leak came from them.

PELOSI:  I rest my case. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you view this as retaliation for your letter about the State of the Union?

PELOSI:  I would hope not.  I don`t think the President would be that petty, do you?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  With me for more, Jonathan Allen, NBC News National Political Reporter and Gabby Orr, White House Reporter for POLITICO.  Thanks to both of you for being here.

Gabby, let me start with you.  The President says major announcement tomorrow about the border and the shutdown.  Any idea what he`s talking about?

GABBY ORR, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO:  That`s a great question, Steve.  You know, I`ve talked to a few White House officials earlier this evening, and some people outside of the White House and the consensus seems to be that the President tomorrow will not declare national emergency but will outline a path forward and a way out of this shutdown.

That being said, the White House is holding its cards close right now.  We don`t know necessarily know what type of plan President Trump will outline tomorrow, whether it will be system sort of compromise that he thinks Congressional Republicans and Democrats can reach, whether it will include a fix to DACA, which he has mentioned before.

This is something that, you know, sort of hit reporters, myself included, by surprise today when the President said that there would be this announcement tomorrow, that it would touch on the humanitarian crisis at the border and also on the shutdown.  We don`t even know yet if the President has consulted with Congressional Democrats aside from that meeting with the Problem Solvers Caucus earlier this week.

KORNACKI:  Yes.  Well, Jon Allen, we know the basic contours of this.  The President is out there saying $5 billion for a wall.  The Democrats are saying a wall is immoral.  Has any in the three plus weeks of this, four weeks now, has any plausible path to a compromise or solution presented itself?

JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Capitol Hill is known for its dysfunction for the lack of movement, paralysis if you will, and the last four weeks have stood out even on Capitol Hill for the lack of movement.  Nothing has happened.  There`s been no progress or negotiation.

So much so that when Vice President Mike Pence and Jared Kushner, the President son-in-law come to Capitol Hill, they`re talking to Republicans who don`t have the power to move these bills by themselves.  When the President inviting Democrats to the White House to talk about this, he`s not inviting Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer anymore, he`s inviting rank and file Democrats.  Some of whom declined the invitation and others of whom show up to tell him that they`re not willing to talk to him or negotiate on this until he reopens the government.  There`s been absolutely no progress.

KORNACKI:  And speaking of no progress, there was also this today, a Trump campaign fundraising e-mail sent out that says "Donald Trump for President" is offering red faux bricks to be sent to Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi in exchange for a campaign contribution of $20.20 each.  The bricks will be printed with facts about the need for border security.

Gabby, I guess this tells us this whole idea of the President looking at these polls because we`ve seen several polls now that show more Americans blaming him than blaming the Democrats for this shutdown, but the President`s eye is more squarely focused it seems on his base.

ORR:  Absolutely.  And yet, there are some already division within his base on the strategy here.  There are people wondering, including federal workers who are furloughed because of this shutdown, but may have supported Trump in 2016.  You know, when they`re going to get their next paycheck and if this is all worth it for a border wall that is not even necessarily seen as greatest deterrent against illegal immigration among those immigration hocks that support President Donald Trump.  That`s the irony here, Steve.

The campaign e-mail today I think a lot of people reacted to that, saw that as sort of being in poor taste.  We`re in the middle of a government shutdown that is now reaching its 29th day, 800,000 federal workers are about to go through their second pay period without a paycheck.  And here the Trump campaign is fundraising off of this.

I don`t think it was necessarily the right time for a campaign fundraising e-mail to be sent out, for them to be trying to fill their coffers, and it certainly belongs in the category that Lindsey Graham called sophomoric behavior earlier this week when he was talking about things like the President`s decision to ground Speaker Pelosi`s plane and now this fundraising e-mail that was sent out earlier this afternoon.

KORNACKI:  And, John, one of the things that strikes me too, as you just look back at past shutdowns, and you look at the polling divides there about who to blame, you know, 1995, 2013 over Obamacare.  The numbers that we see now when you look sort of at the overall divide on this are numbers I think that have gotten folks to fold in the past.  So it seems like those old sort of political rules aren`t applying necessarily as the White House certainly, which is losing on the side of overall public opinion right now to believe the polls.  They don`t seem to apply here.

What would it take politically?  Is there any sense that would change that equation?

ALLEN:  There are a couple of things that are very different about this shutdown, Steve.  Generally speaking during a shutdown, it`s the President that wants the government to be open.  The President that wants basic services to move forward, that it`s concerned the economy will tank because of the government is shutdown.  And it`s usually Congress that`s demanding something, Congress that`s holding back appropriations bills because of some particular pet issue.

So, number one, that`s a reversal of the typical situation you`ve got.  Number two, you have a President that bragged he was going to be proud to shutdown the government.  So nobody really has any illusions about who forced this issue.  Not only did the President brag before he did it, but for months on the campaign trail and before that, he suggested that he thought that it was going to be good for him to shutdown the government as a forcing mechanism to get the wall.

A lot of his base doesn`t like the federal government.  A lot of his base wants the wall.  I think he saw it as a win-win.  What`s aspiring now is it`s very difficult to get out of this situation without capitulating.  Even if he were to eventually trying to go outside of Congress and build the wall through some sort of national emergency, and by the way, there are a ton of logistical and legal problems with that.

Even if he were to do that at this point, that would be him backing down from this fight.  He really is trying to find some traction and has failed to do so.

KORNACKI:  All right.  Jon Allen, Gabby Orr, thank you both for being with us.

And coming up, after a weekend of headlines that might raise red flags about our national security, we`ll ask our former FBI Counterintelligence agent just how just how concerned we should be, when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI:  Seven days ago "The New York Times" was reporting the FBI had opened an investigation into President Trump and whether he might have been working on behalf of Russia.  This past week also saw a reporting that the President went to extraordinary lengths to conceal details of his conversations with Vladimir Putin.  But it is obvious the President has been a frequent critic of those investigations and those running them.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The people doing that investigation were people that have been caught that are known scoundrels.  They`re, I guess you could say, they`re dirty cops.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  In about what the President calls dirty cops, says this government shutdown stretches into week five.  The impact is now hitting federal law enforcement officers.  "The Washington Post" reports efforts by the FBI and federal agents are now being directly impacted with dangerously low funding to carry out operations.

With us tonight, Clint Watts, a former FBI Special Agent and member of the Joint Terrorism Task Force as well as an MSNBC National Security Analyst.  He is also the Author of the book, "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians and Fake News."  Clint, you make social media sound very inviting with that title.

CLINT WATTS, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST:  Yes.  You want to tweet of me.

KORNACKI:  I wanted to run away from it forever.  I want to get to the impact of this shutdown on the FBI and Trump sort of war with the FBI.  Let me start though just on the big news I think everybody is digesting and trying to process tonight and that is you had that "BuzzFeed" report, 24 hours ago explosive report and now you have the Special Counsel Robert Mueller weighing in with that statement tonight.

I`m curious.  I`ve been asking our guests how do you read that statement from Mueller, an expansive statement that calls into doubt the entire story?  Or do you read this as a narrower statement on his part?

WATTS:  I see it as more expansive actually, and for two reasons.  One, this provoked a reaction in D.C. about impeachment that`s immediate.  This is a very clear, if true, you know, this is a very clear thing.  It`s the Executive branch versus the Legislative branch, do not tell the truth.  That`s an impeachment proceeding.  And you could see that in D.C. today.

If his case doesn`t support that, he needs to get out in front of it.  I`m sure that`s why he came out so vociferously really tonight with that statement said, "We never heard from him, we don`t hear from him."

There`s another part to this too which is leakers.  The Mueller investigation itself is oftentimes labeled as leakers or if any information comes out of it.  They fought very hard to grow in a tight shift (ph), two law enforcement officials said.  That`s what the sourcing was of the story.  He -- I have imagined wants to assert very clearly this did not come from my investigative team, we are not leakers.  We are in control of this investigation.

So I think it was two parts.  It`s sustaining the credibility of the investigation, but also stopping this machine from turning in D.C. that really ramped up overnight.

KORNACKI:  We mentioned too in the introduction the impact of the shutdown on law enforcement, the impact potentially on the FBI, that idea of dangerously low funding.  We`re four weeks in and counting, who knows how long it`s going to be.  What are -- from a law enforcement standpoint, from an FBI standpoint, what are the implications at this point about this shutdown?

WATTS:  I would tell you it`s an eight-week impact for four weeks, and here`s why.  As soon as the shutdown starts being discussed, I`ve been at headquarters when this happens, you start planning for the shutdown.  Resources are already diverted for the plan and the shutdown.  Then there`s resources diverted to restart back up.  So you`re losing time.  You`re losing, you know, all sorts of support staff.

Once the shutdown goes into place, you lose support staff, you lose investigative, you lose cash payments for informants.  Things that might go out to investigators or technical surveillance, all go down.  Every one of those inputs that goes down slows down cases.  You cannot cover as much ground and now you`re just relying strictly on agents just as human beings to cover the gaps nearly impossible to sustain that pace, so all investigations across the board will run much, much slower at this point.

KORNACKI:  We -- everybody tonight were talking about the BuzzFeed story, the BuzzFeed story and the response from the Special Counsel.  A week ago tonight it was that story from "The New York Times" about the FBI opening that investigation into Donald Trump and whether he might have been a witting or unwitting agent of Russia.

We played there in the introduction there the sound of the President talking about folks at the FBI as scoundrels.  I just -- maybe to broaden out a little bit here but just people working in the FBI, FBI agents just the climate within the FBI now and over the last two years as the President has engaged publicly like this about law enforcement, about the FBI.  But what is it like for those agents in that climate?

KORNACKI:  It`s terrible.  I mean, imagine you`re working without pay.  You haven`t gotten a paycheck.  You have no support staff.  You have none of the investigative sort of resources that you had before.  And at the same point, your commander-in-chief is telling you that you`re a scoundrel and that you shouldn`t be listened to.  And now you`re getting essentially erosion of public trust in your ability to do your job.  It`s almost like a two-front war on you as an investigator.

It`s got to be tough to keep morale going.  At the same point you`ve watched this investigation now starting in the summer of `16 all the way to today.  And it`s just devastating.  There`s constantly more information coming out in two parts.  One, either the President while he`s yelling at you, you know, as an FBI agent or any investigator, also going out of his way to maybe dangle a pardon or, you know, talk about the investigation or openly have his lawyer go and discredit you.  And you`re seeing what is a counterintelligence threat, a national security threat, policy positions advanced by Russia being repeated by the President that only sourced to the Russian government, and your President taking the word of Vladimir Putin on the stage over the intelligence community.

I mean, across the board, that`s four different angles that you can look at.  You have to be concerned about what`s going on in the country and you have to be concerned about how to do your job under those sorts of constraints. 

KORNACKI:  OK, Clint Watts, appreciate you taking the time out tonight.

WATTS:  Thank you.

KORNACKI:  Thank you.  And coming up, what would it take for there not to be a candidate Trump on the ballot in 2020?  Well, I`m going to head to the big board and take a look at what the polls can tell us about that when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI:  All right.  Well, folks, it`s early 2019 but the 2020 race we already know it`s off and running on the Democratic side.  What about the Republican side?  Is Donald Trump going to coast to renomination for a second term without opposition?  Is Donald Trump going to get a challenger for the Republican -- in the Republican Primaries?  Is it possible that whoever emerges from the massive Democratic field won`t even face Donald Trump in the general election?  And we thought we would take a look at that question, take you through some interesting poll numbers we`ve been seeing as 2020 starts to come into focus.

So how about this, this is a new poll from Marist this week.  They ask Republicans, Republican-leaning independent voters an interesting question.  They said should another Republican run against Trump in the Primaries?  Look at this, 44% said yes, almost the same number who said no.  So that`d suggest, hey, there might be an appetite there among Republicans at least theoretically for somebody to get in this race.

Keep in mind though take this with a grain of salt.  The same question was asked about Barack Obama among Democrats at this point in his presidency.  The result looked almost the same.  Remember Obama, no opponent in his 2012 Primaries.

How about this, though, take a look at Trump`s approval rating among Republicans.  And this, look how steady this has been his entire term, 88%.  That looks impressive among your own party and historically among your own party it is.  This is how his recent predecessors have fared with their own parties at this point in their presidencies.  Trump is sitting there at 88%.

You`ll look at that and you say, "Jeez, that may not spell primary challenge."  So if that`s the case, then this would be the situation Republicans are looking at, somebody who`s extremely popular within their party but is still sitting there.  This is his current average approval rating with all voters, who is still sitting there in the low 40s.  He goes down maybe to the high 30s, the low 40s.  That`s been the range his entire presidency.

Is that what Republicans right now, we`ll see if it changes.  That`s what Republicans are staring at.  Some in their base is not going to throw out who would then have to try to win re-election with an approval rating like that?  We`ll see.

Coming up, the longest government shutdown gets even longer as we head into day 29, how businesses are stepping in to help those stuck in the middle when "THE 11TH HOUR" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI:  The last thing before we go tonight, we are now moments away from the longest government shutdown in American history, getting one day longer.  The President says he will be making a major announcement concerning it tomorrow afternoon.  But four weeks in, frustration from those going without paychecks keeps growing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AUDREY MURRAY, EMPLOYEE, STATE DEPARTMENT:  I am a single mother.  I lost my husband last year.  I bought me a house in the process and I`m worried about how I`m going to pay my mortgage.

JOANNA MCCLELAND, PROGRAM ANALYST, DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY:  We most likely won`t see any income until after February 1st.  So it`s gotten to the point where it`s, okay, well, we managed to make our bills this month, but next month is really going to be hard on us.  I woke up in a cold sweat like 3:00 in the morning yesterday because I realize I have a travel stipend that is suppose to come in that I have a standing order against.  And I woke up going, "Oh, god, I need to cancel that.  I can`t afford to pay that if it hits."

CHRISTINE AYCOCK, PROFESSOR, HINDS COMMUNITY COLLEGE:  Going there, going to a food bank which we did last Friday had to explain to one of our sons afterwards when he didn`t understand.  Daddy has a job, you know, why, why didn`t we pay?  And it`s something -- I can`t -- how do you as a parent answer that question?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  But there are companies that are helping out and that includes PayPal, the popular payment app said today employees who use PayPal credit will be able to avail an advance of up to $500 each without having to pay any interest.  And the program will last until the government reopens and employees receive their first paychecks.

And Delta Airlines announced it is contributing more than $83,000 to reopen the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park ahead of Monday`s national holiday honoring the Slain Civil Rights leader.  It will remain open until at least Super Bowl Sunday.

And George W. Bush and his wife the former first lady also delivered pizzas to members of the Secret Service today.  They called for an end to the shutdown.  And with midnight here on the East Coast, we have an hour or at least a few seconds from now will have reached day 29 of this government shutdown.

That is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week.  I`m Steve Kornacki, Brian will be back on Monday.  Thank you for being with us and goodnight 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