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Trump reluctant to criticize Russia. TRANSCRIPT: 1/29/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Mieke Eoyang, Chris Megerian, Katie Hill, John Harris

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  And I am not among those who are surprised that you are here now.  It makes perfect sense to me.

REP. LUCY MCBATH (D), GEORGIA:  Thank you so much.

O`DONNELL:  The Honorable Lucy McBath gets tonight`s LAST WORD. THE 11TH HOUR with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight a remarkable sight.  The nation`s combined intelligence chiefs all-in-one place, all of them in disagreement with the President of the United States.  No mention of any crisis at our southern border.  Instead some dire threats from places like North Korea, Russia, China, Iran and ISIS.

The Roger Stone show moves to Washington where he appears before a federal judge with a plea of not guilty right before he did the Nixon wave outside of court where his next appearance is three days from now and where the judge might not take too kindly to Roger Stone, the event.

And the increased isolation of Donald Trump.  A veteran Washington journalist walks us through just how many people have chosen to walk out of this West Wing as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Tuesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 740 of the Trump Administration gave us a stark picture today and a stark view of the reality of the world we live in.  That`s because today our top combined intelligence chiefs, the people who define their job as keeping us safe, the director of National Intelligence, the FBI, the CIA presented their annual worldwide threat assessment to Congress.  Serious business.

Their assessment of nearly every major threat is vastly different from what we have heard from their boss, our President.  This was essentially a public repudiation of his own people in Donald Trump`s world view.  In particular what he has said about Russia, North Korea, Iran and ISIS.

Trump has gone to great lengths to avoid casting Russia and Putin as adversaries for starters.  Here now what reminder of what he has said about the Kremlin`s efforts to interfere in our elections and society and what his intelligence team said today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Is Russia still targeting the U.S., Mr. President?

TRUMP:  Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Press, let`s go.  Make a way --

DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE:  The Kremlin is stepping up its campaign to provide western political and security institutions.  We suspect Russia will continue to wage its information war against democracies and to use social media to attempt to divide our societies.

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR:  Not only have the Russians continued to do it in 2018, but we`ve seen indication that they`re continuing to adapt their model and that other countries are taking a very interested eye in that approach.


WILLIAMS:  Even as the intel chiefs laid out the threat from Russia, today we learned that Trump has apparently had another previously undisclosed private exchange with Vladimir Putin.  That`s in addition to a similar exchange back in 2017, the summit in Germany, and their one on one in Helsinki.

There is in the "Financial Times."  They`re reporting today quoting a Russian government official that Trump and Putin talked for about 15 minutes at the last G20 gathering in Argentina and that they discussed a number of foreign policy issues.  The paper reports that once again no translator or note taker from the U.S. team was present, and the State Department has declined to discuss any details of the meeting.  Well, today the director of National Intelligence was asked about these private meetings.


SEN. RON WYDEN (D), OREGON, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  According to press reports, Donald Trump met privately with Vladimir Putin and no on in the U.S. government has the full story about what was discussed.  Director Haspel and Director Coats, would this put you in a disadvantaged position in terms of understanding Russia`s efforts to advance its agenda against the United States?

COATS:  I look forward to discussing that in a closed session.


WILLIAMS:  The intel chiefs had sobering assessments of North Korea`s intentions toward the U.S.  Trump for his part expects to hold his second meeting with North Korean Dictator Kim Jong-un late next month in a second round of talks aimed at getting rid of nuclear weapons.  Again, please note the differences here between Trump and his intelligence community.


TRUMP:  With North Korea, we have a very good dialogue.  I`m not going any further than that, I`m just going to say it`s very special.  We`ve made a lot of progress that has not been reported by the media, but we have made a lot of progress.

COATS:  North Korea will seek to retain its WMD capabilities and is unlikely to completely give up its nuclear weapons and production capabilities because its leaders ultimately view nuclear weapons as critical to regime survival.

GINA HASPEL, CIA DIRECTOR:  The regime is committed to developing a long- range nuclear armed missile that would pose a direct threat to the United States.


WILLIAMS:  Another topic now on the threat from ISIS. There was also a big gulf from the view from the West Wing and what we heard today.


TRUMP:  We have won against ISIS.  We`ve beaten them and we`ve beaten them badly.

It`s working out very well, knocking the hello out of ISIS.

COATS:  The group has returned to its guerilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide.  ISIS intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.


WILLIAMS:  And on Iran, the Intel chiefs say Iran is still abiding by the nuclear deal despite the U.S. withdraw, even though the president continues to criticize it.


TRUMP:  What we`ve done to Iran since I`ve become president is rather miraculous.  I ended the horrible weak Iran nuclear deal.

HASPEL:  At the moment, technically, they are in compliance but we do see them debating amongst themselves as they failed to realize the economic benefits they hope before from the deal.


WILLIAMS:  Notably absent today any word from the Intel chiefs to back up what the President just addressed the nation about from the Oval Office.  First time in his presidency, a crisis at our southern border with Mexico.  Remember that?  The "New York Times" reports this about the written report that accompanied their testimony today at the hearing, "Notably missing in the written review was evidence that would support building a wall on the southwestern border, the first mention of Mexico and drug cartels was published nearly halfway through the report following a range of more pressing threats."

Earlier on this network, the vice chair of the Senate Intel Committee was asked about the disconnect when viewing threats to the U.S.


SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA, VICE CHAIR, INTEL COMMITTEE:  I think we`ve got the intelligence community giving virtually a unanimous conclusion on some of these key areas, and we have unfortunately a case where it appears that this President doesn`t want to hear the truth or doesn`t actually reflect the opinions of the intelligence community, and that puts us in a challenging position.


WILLIAMS:  Let`s bring in our lead-off panel shall we for a Tuesday evening. Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize wining, White House bureau chief for the "Washington Post," Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, who in the past has worked for Robert Mueller, and Mieke Eoyang, veteran Washington attorney, former staffer for the House Intel and Armed Services committees.  Good evening and welcome to you both.

Frank, you have run intel, I have not.  But then I run across this sentence in their prepared report tonight and this you`re your attention, it makes you want to check the calendar that it`s not 1969.  China and Russia are more aligned than at any point since the mid-1950s and the relationship is likely to strengthen in the coming year as some of their interests and threat perceptions converge.  Again, given your experience in the job, Frank, what stood out to you today most?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  As someone who has actually helped draft the counterintelligence portion of these reports in past years, that phrase jumped offer the page at me, Brian.  The notion that our number one and number two adversaries, China and Russia, are now collaborating more than they have in half a century working together against us was very, very sobering to me.

Those combined forces are a major threat to the United States.  When they train together, when they do ops together, when they align their strategies and objectives together, we`re going to get a double barreled approach toward the United States and the West during a time when perhaps we have the most ill-equipped president from receptivity wise to the intelligence community ever in our history.  That is significant.

And the testimony today from our intelligence chiefs presented more than ever before the disparity, the growing disparity between the ground truth that they presented and the planet this President lives on.  And it begs the question, Brian, is this a President who not only is part of an unstable world, an unstable time, but is he rather contributing to the instability of the world because of his choice to ignore the Intel from the career professionals?

WILLIAMS:  Mieke, please help explain this disconnect to the folks watching tonight.  You`ve been in your share of Washington briefings.  Would the President not be briefed if given a copy of their written testimony, have it read to him, have it conveyed to him in some way, not that that would explain the disconnect?

MIEKE EOYANG, VETERAN WASHINGTON ATTORNEY:  No, it doesn`t explain the disconnect.  And it is actually quite troubling because this assessment that we saw today is the summary of all the intelligence reporting that the community is producing all the time every day.  And the President`s daily brief should reflect all of these judgments all the time.

So at this point, all the senior administration officials have heard this on multiple occasions.  And so not agreeing with these conclusions is willful disregard of the facts as the intelligence community has been gathering them for -- over the past year, and really, since the start of this administration.

WILLIAMS:  And, Phil Rucker, think of the coverage, the newspaper business and the television business gave this President`s Oval Office address.  You`ll recall --


WILLIAMS:  -- we all billed it correctly as his first use of the backdrop, the power of the Oval Office for a nationwide address.  We covered it or tried to straight down the middle.  That topic, the national emergency we were facing as a people, nowhere to be found on the list of their top security priorities today.

RUCKER:  That`s right, Brian, and it goes beyond that one night in the Oval Office.  For the last 40-odd days, President Trump has only been talking about one crisis and that`s the crisis that he sees at the southern border with illegal immigration.  And yet we heard today from the intelligence professionals, from the people that President Trump himself appointed to lead our nation`s intelligence agencies that there are much greater crises elsewhere, that there is a crisis in North Korea, that there is a crisis in Syria still with ISIS, that there is a crisis with Iran, and that there`s a real growing crisis with China and Russia perhaps converging to really do danger and harm to our country.

And President Trump has not spoken about any of that.  We`ve heard over and over and over again about the security and humanitarian crisis with Mexico about the rapes, about the murders, about the people who are coming over, the drug lords that are bringing narcotics over the border, but we`ve not heard him focusing on those other global threats.

And indeed he`s been talking a lot lately about how great the relationship is between him and Kim Jong-un in North Korea, talking about how North Korea is no longer pursuing nuclear weapons, that they are no longer a nuclear threat, and that is simply not true based on the intelligence assessments that we heard today in Congress.

WILLIAMS:  Frank, I projected, I surmised at the top of the broadcast tonight that if you asked these three professionals who testified today, bottom line of their job description and what they probably feel in their private hours, at home in the evening is protecting the American people at the end of the day, bottom line.  My question to you is, what`s it like to do that job when, at worst, you have your work contradicted or ignored, and at best your work is -- let`s just say minimized by this president?

FIGLIUZZI:  It creates a scenario, Brian, where your adversary is not just the bad guys around the world, but rather you begin to start feeling the White House as your adversary.  You want to believe that that chief executive has your back.  If you act in good faith, you want to know that the boss has got your back.  And I don`t think that feeling is there, and it`s going to translate into budget requests not being backed by the President.

When you read this sobering report, when you hear the testimony today, and you look at the cyber security risk we`re facing well into the future, well into the 2020 election, that takes money.  That takes resources.  And to make that happen, you need the chief executive officer of the United States to say, I`ve got you, I`ve got your back, I want Congress to fund you.  And we don`t see that happening.

WILLIAMS:  Mieke, coming off of Frank`s point, I want to play you the exactly the proportion where the director of national intelligence Dan Coats talked about the danger to our next presidential election.  We`ll discuss on the other side.


COATS:  We assess that foreign actors will view the 2020 U.S. elections as an opportunity to advance their interests.  We expect them to refine their capabilities and add new tactics as they learn from each other`s experiences and efforts in previous elections.


WILLIAMS:  And, Mieke, how can that not be a national emergency?

EOYANG:  It is certainly a national emergency especially when you couple that with our understanding of what Russia`s intentions are for the United States, which are to sow chaos and discord.  And when you look at what this President`s policies have done, it says so in this report, that his policies are in fact driving our allies away from us.

You can see how foreign adversaries who want to bring America low, would work very hard to see that this president`s reign of chaos continues and that is really troubling for Americans who would like to return the country back to a path of stability and leadership in the world.

WILLIAMS:  Back to you, Frank, briefly, just to get your level of concern about 2020 and do you feel a kind of generic concern over the integrity of our presidential election?  Do you feel that it worsens if Donald Trump`s on the ticket?

FIGLIUZZI:  I think the cats out of the bag with regard to the ability of our adversaries and their understanding now that they can mess with our election outcomes -- let me put it this way.  Just merely messing with our perception of the credibility of the electoral process is enough to throw us into chaos perhaps in 2020.  And as the chief said today, they are morphing their methodology.  They`ve learned their mistakes.  They were very sloppy and blatant in some regards, right?  We`ve indicted over two dozen Russians for social media propaganda hacking.  So they`re getting better and better at getting it right and we`re -- we seem to be still stumbling to find our way on how to defeat this threat and without the backing of the Oval Office to do it, we`re behind the curtain.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, you get the last word tonight.  Wasn`t this day kind of quintessential emblematic for the administration?  You have the rigor of office and responsibility and the weight of these titles and all their life experience in this testimony today.  At the other end of town, we look at a White House silent on this topic that may indeed decide when we wake up tomorrow or overnight tonight to go off in another direction on any one of these fronts.

RUCKER:  That`s exactly right, Brian.  And another front is that the possibility that the President might declare a National Emergency at the border in order to use its executive authority to redirect money from other defense projects toward building the wall and fulfilling that signature campaign promise that is probably -- I don`t believe that the intelligence officials testified to this today, but it`s safe to guess that that would be potentially disturbing prospect to them because they are dealing in facts and sort of intelligence that`s gathered on the ground.

They see a lot of cause for concern elsewhere around the world, and what you have in President Trump is a commander in chief who is focused so exclusively at the moment on the wall, on fulfilling that promise, on keeping his political base together and is considering this national emergency declaration which could happen any day now.

WILLIAMS:  A really serious day in our country you just heard expressed by our three terrific initial guests tonight.  Phil Rucker, Frank Fagluzzi, Mieke Eoyang, thank you, all three of you for starting us often.

Coming up, as expected, Roger Stone pleads not guilty in court today.  He then called into one of his favorite talk shows, describing the case against him as a lynching.  Just how will that go over with the feds who are watching and listening?

And later, a freshman member of the House of Representatives already in a position of power.  She is with us tonight with a preview of what the President can expect.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Tuesday evening.



ROGER STONE, PRESIDENT TRUMP FORMER CAMPAIGN ADVISER:  The truth of the matter is that even though I`m accused of lying, when I get Adam Schiff on the stand, when I get Eric Swalwell on the stand, when I get other members of that committee on the stand, I`ll demonstrate that they are the ones who are lying, not me.


WILLIAMS:  That`s from Fox News.  Tonight just within the past hour, President Trump`s friend of 40 years, Roger Stone, appeared in federal court today.

Hard to make out all that`s being said there, but he entered the court through a crowd of both supporters and protesters in court.  He entered via his lawyer a plea of not guilty.  The seven counts including obstruction, witness tampering, lying.  The charge extend from the Mueller investigation into Russia, before, during and after the hearing Stones said very little, a departure from the kaleidoscopic appearances he has made in different venues, different outfits, on different networks since his arrest before dawn on Friday.

Stone did manage to get his signature Nixon wave in.  Then about an hour after the hearing, Stone called and to the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on "Info Wars", so once again trash the case against him.


STONE:  This is a lynching.  This is a -- this is a legal lynching of me because I appear on InfoWars, because I`m friends with Alex Jones, because I support Donald Trump and I supported him for President and I still support him.


WILLIAMS:  Let`s talk about that.  And back with us to do that tonight, two of our best on this topic, Julia Ainsley, NBC News national security and justice reporter who was station outside court for today`s proceedings.  And Chris Megerian, reporter for the "LA Times" who has been detailed to D.C. exclusively to cover Russia special counsel Robert Mueller.  He manage to get a seat inside the courtroom today.  So we have it all covered.

And Chris, I`d like to begin with you.  After this kind of traveling Roger Stone show that even first-time viewers have come to know since just Friday, even if you haven`t seen the Netflix documentary, what was his bearing and demeanor like in a federal courtroom that can serious you up really fast?

CHRIS MEGERIAN, REPORTER, L.A. TIMES:  Inside the courtroom, it was unlike any setting that we`ve seen Roger Stone in.  He walked in very quietly.  He said almost nothing.  He was very subdued, and that`s not how you expect to see Roger Stone.  He`s very bombastic.  He`s very loud.  He`s prone to say outrageous things.  The only things we heard him say in court today were "yes, your honor" and that was just about it.

WILLIAMS:  Julia, I want to play for you more of what Roger Stone said to InfoWars today.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


STONE:  Sooner or later, the government will move to gag me.  But if I have a right to remain silent under the constitution.  I also have a right to defend myself.  And I make a living writing and speaking, speaking here on InfoWars.  So they would be depriving me of making a living if I am entirely gagged.  So we will oppose that.


WILLIAMS:  Julia, we love the word kaleidoscopic and that also describes the power that federal judges have, they have kaleidoscopic powers in our society.  Let`s talk about the possibility that the next time he goes into court on Friday, he gets hit with a gag order.

JULIA AINSLEY, JUSTICE REPORTER, NBC NEWS:  It seems like he`s gunning for it, Brian.  I mean today he just went before a magistrate judge for a simple arraignment.  Tomorrow or on Friday he`ll go to Amy Berman Jackson.  She`s the same judge that`s overseen the Manafort case in that court.  She`s known to wanting to keep things sort of insular in her court room.  She does a lot of meetings that have been, she keeps a lot classified.  She always approves things under seal.  She knows how high profile and how important the Mueller case is.

And so I -- it would seem that she could move toward a gag order, especially if he goes out and continues to talk about the case, continues to drum up support.  You could see the tension today between the Stone supporters and those who were against him outside of court.

And the idea that he makes his living off of talking, I mean yes, you can gag someone from not talking about the case, maybe not gag them from talking entirely, but it shouldn`t be anybody`s living to talk about the case in which they are defendant in, in a criminal trial.  That seems like it would be hard to do.

So at this point the only people he`s not allowed to speak to are witnesses in the case and that is pretty -- pretty easy conclusion.  We can see why the judges have drawn that so far because of the incredible intimidation that he gave to witnesses, to try to keep them from testifying to Congress.  That was put up in the indictment.  But it could be when he goes to court on Friday that we see an actual gag order where he`s not allowed to talk about this anymore.

WILLIAMS:  And Julia, I`ve been wanted to ask you about this theory that a seven count indictment was design to get him in.  Get him into the system that our favorite phrase that pays superseding indictment may be coming with something more substantial sizable.  Can you give the lay people`s version of that explanation?

AINSLEY:  We have seen superseding indictments and other defendants that have face charges under special counsel Mueller.  Rick Gates, Paul Manafort, come to mind.  A lot of times this is when they`re combining different districts in their investigations together or they have one cooperating witness whose given that more information.

With Roger Stone, I don`t want to speculate that there`s necessarily more there, because I still have a hard time understanding why Mueller wouldn`t made that connection if he had it in the Friday indictment that we saw that he knew, that Roger Stone knew that WikiLeaks was getting this information from Russia that he was there for conspiring with a foreign government to influence an election that seems like something he would have brought.

But, its not lot of experts have come on throughout this time since this indictment who say that maybe it is more.  But, the reason why you might not include it all would be as if you`re trying to get more cooperation.  And from the very beginning Roger Stone has not seem like a cooperative witness under any circumstances.  In fact, he is -- you know, making his living as he says by saying that he won`t cooperate.

WILLIAMS:  Chris, I got to ask you, and I hope this doesn`t call -- call for a judgment on your part.  But you cover all of this.  We have Whitaker under the very hot French fry lights of the Department of Justice briefing room yesterday and then we have this scene today.  This doesn`t look, again to us lay folks in the audience, like a Mueller effort that`s fix under wrap up.

MEGERIAN:  It does.  I mean you could -- you could argue -- it`s so hard to tell because the Russia investigation has been something of a black box, it`s hard to really get a clear view of what`s happening.  You could argue that because Robert Mueller hasn`t laid it out a more extensive case against Roger Stone, that what he has so far, that there is and anything else there and that maybe the end of the line for the Mueller investigation.

But there really are so many unanswered questions that we still have.  Things involving Mike Flynn, things involving Rick Gates, things involving Paul Manafort.  It`s hard to imagine that Robert Mueller can tie this off with a bow in the next coming weeks or even maybe in the next month or so.

It seems like there`s a lot of strings left to Paul and we don`t know what else prosecutors can find as they search Roger Stone`s homes, as they maybe even find a way to, you know, get some cooperation.  I mean, he says that he won`t bear false witness against the President, but he`s not, you know, rolled out talking to them in some manner.

And you never really know what`s going to happen with these things.  It`s pretty unusual for any justice government official to give a timeline on a federal investigation, a let alone one where no time I think given whatsoever so far.

WILLIAMS:  It`s great to be able to talk the two of you on this case as we hope to continue doing, Julia Ainsley, Chris Megerian, thank you both for coming on with us tonight.

And coming up, one of the few -- the new faces on Capitol Hill already is the new vice chair of the very powerful House Committee that`s about to launch investigations into the Trump White House.  She is with us live when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  The midterm elections brought a lot of new faces to Capitol Hill, and more to the point, those all important congressional committees.  That would include California Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill.  She represents California`s 25th district which is basically the land separating L.A. and the Mojave Desert.

Winning her seat in Congress was a net gain for the Democrats.  She beat a Republican incumbent.  Congresswoman Hill spent her career before Congress had a non-profit aimed at ending homelessness.

At the age of 31, she is one of the youngest members of Congress.  She has quickly become one of the most powerful members of her freshman class.  Chair Elijah Cummings has now made her the vice chair of the of the powerhouse oversight committee that had its first hearing of the year today.

So after a more eventful day than average, we`re fortunate to have the congresswoman with us live with us from Washington tonight.  Congresswoman, I have to say that your freshman class may go down in history as having arrived to crickets.  You`ve been a member of Congress for 26 days, 29 days?


WILLIAMS:  And yet this is your first week where you`re surrounded by what passes for a functioning government in this country.

HILL:  Yes, it was hard to come here into what is pretty much the epitome of a dysfunctional government.  So we`re excited to start getting to work.  I think that the three-week deadline is hanging over everybody`s heads, and we just want to make sure that we get the deal done and we make sure that these shutdowns and leveraging the paychecks of federal workers are not on the table any longer.

WILLIAMS:  I have to ask you about presidential politics before we get into committee business, because as you might have noticed, a fellow Californian, Senator Kamala Harris, during her big event in Oakland, California over the weekend has made it official.  She is in the race for president.  Tell me what you make of it.

HILL:  Well, I am so thrilled to throw my support completely behind Senator Harris.  She has been just an exceptional leader in the State of California, and I think that she is exactly the kind of candidate that we need to show the right kind of vision that we should have for this country, that we can have smart, effective solutions to some of the toughest challenges that we`re facing.

But also do it in a compassionate way that is inclusive of all the people in this great nation, and I know she`s the right kind of person to do that.  So I`m really thrilled to be work with her and I hope to support her in ever way I can.

WILLIAMS:  So Harris campaign has picked up an endorsement from a fellow California Democrat.  I want to read this to you about your party.  This was written by Paul Begala today.  "The Democrats just won their largest midterm landslide in 44 years.  They`ve won the popular vote for president in six of the last seven elections, unprecedented in history.  The Democratic Party doesn`t just represent the majority of Americans.  We are the majority of Americans".

Having said that, having established that, having established your support of Senator Harris, what do you make of the entry into the race by Howard Schultz, especially vis-a-vis all the fears that he could split the vote and do the opposite of what so many Democrats are hoping?

HILL:  Well, listen, I don`t think its official with Mr. Schultz yet, so I`m hoping that we see how the landscape shakes out, and I think if he wants to run as a Democrat in the Democratic primary and provide an alternative to what we`re seeing from the other candidates, that`s great.

I really do not think that this is the time for us to have an independent in this race.  A good friend of mine is working in his camp, and I just feel very strongly about this, so I`ve shared that with him, and I think that we cannot afford to risk anything with Trump on the ticket this year, or this upcoming year.  So let`s not screw this up.

WILLIAMS:  I`m quite sure your knowledge of history has taught you how unusual and what an honor your title as vice chair of this committee at this time in history is.  What are your hopes and wishes for the title "The committee as a platform"?  Who`s on your wish list the people you`d like to come before you raise your right hand and be sworn in?

HILL:  Well, I think we have to think about the committee in few different ways.  The first is that, this is the committee that has the unique power to be able to uncover the truth.  And that`s exactly what we`re set forth to do.

And so I think we have to be efficient and effective at doing so.  And there is such a wide purview of the different, challenges that we`re facing that we have the ability to investigate and go into.  Today we looked into the high cost of prescription drugs.  That`s something that, frankly, I ran on very strongly, that we have to lower the cost of prescription drugs for all Americans.

And we got some great testimony today.  I think that it`s moving us to toward some real bipartisan solutions that hopefully can move forward even though we`re in a divided government.  And one of the things that is very significant to me, I`m going to be on the environmental subcommittee, that I`m very proud of my colleague, Harley Rauda, also a Californian who`s sharing that subcommittee.

And we need to tackle some of these challenges about how climate change is adding to these disasters, is affecting these natural disasters, like the wildfires in my state and across the entire country.

I think that the effects of this government shutdown have sort of brought to light the challenges that we`ve got around aviation, and the air traffic controllers, the shortages that we have, I think that`s something that we need to investigate as well.

And there are just a number of opportunities.  I look forward the next couple of weeks to really setting that agenda.  It`s not about the things that necessarily make the headlines, but it`s going to be about how are we focusing on the issues that affect everyone`s day-to-day lives and how are we really zeroing in on the solutions that are going toll make a difference.

WILLIAMS:  At very minimum all those controllers you just mentioned are getting paychecks for their work at long last.

HILL:  Thank God.

WILLIAMS:  Congresswoman, we`re awfully happy to have you on the broadcast tonight.  As I mentioned a more consequential day on the committee than most, certainly for you, we hope you`ll come back and visit us very soon.

HILL:  Absolutely. 

WILLIAMS:  Democratic Congresswoman Katie Hill --

HILL:  Thanks so much for having me.

WILLIAMS:  -- the State of California.  Thank you for being on with us.

And coming up as we continue.  The man who once told the nation I alone can fix it now finds himself increasingly alone.  More on that when we come back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Without a strong border, America is defenseless, vulnerable and unprotected.

We need strong borders.  We need strong barriers and walls.

We are pulling back in Syria.  We`re going to be removing our troops.


WILLIAMS:  We have all watched together this President get challenged on his pronouncements, often from inside his own administration.  For starters, at the top of this hour, remember, we heard from the intelligence community, but today we learned a Defense Department official was openly skeptical of the effectiveness of a border wall.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put forward an amendment urging that troops stay in Syria and Afghanistan.  Also, the Congressional Budget Office stands by its conclusion that the shutdown cost our economy $11 billion, twice the money Trump wanted for his wall, even though the White House doesn`t agree with that figure.

Here with some perspective on President facing their own internal challenges, John Harris, editor in chief and co-founder of POLITICO.  Before that he was a veteran of the "Washington Post," a fellow veteran of covering the Clinton White House and surviving the Clinton White House.

John went on to become a biographer of Bill Clinton.  John thanks for coming on, again.  As always, we tend to forget that President Trump lost two big ones early on.  Keith Schiller, his kind of go-to guy, NYPD veteran Hope Hicks.  He then went for the first two of three chiefs of staff.  That can make a very big difference.  His circle only tightened from there.

JOHN HARRIS, EDITOR-IN-LARGE, POLITICO:  Sure.  And Brian, I was struck by what you said that this President is alone, but if so, he`s largely alone by choice, right?  Because he`s not expressed interest in having people who can approach him as a relative peer, of course nobody is a peer to the President.

But many competent presidents do have people who can challenge them and even welcome that.  President Trump doesn`t seem to be in his camp.  And of course, she`s got huge executive branch apparatus beneath him, millions of people who are watching what, simply all work for him.  But as we saw in that review he gave at the beginning, that doesn`t mean they necessarily bow to his authority or his view of the world.  I think it`s quite interesting.

WILLIAMS:  We know from tape-recorded conversations, a president like Lyndon Johnson could not wait to use all the available levers of the office.  He would call the desk officer over at the State Department for whatever nation he had a question about.  That takes knowing, first of all, there is a desk officer over at the State Department responsible each for an individual nation.

He loved doing that, reaping do -- reaching down through the ranks.  This President doesn`t have the same wiring, that intellectual curiosity.

HARRIS:  Well, he doesn`t have the understanding of the executive branch and how it works.  And this both the official way of how it works, the org chart way.  But often that`s quite different than the actual reality of how power gets exercised.

More recent than the LBJ example, of course, I think the modern master of this very controversial was Dick Cheney, who often would burrow down in bureaucracy.  Remember he insisted on going to the CIA in person rather than having them come to the White House, kind of intimidation tactic.

But Dick Cheney who would ban a chief of staff much earlier in his career, probably understood better than anybody how power actually gets exercised.  And this is one of the greater thieves of modern presidency, which is that people who ostensibly work for you actually can do -- they can advance your agenda if they feel they`re being respected and listen to, or they can in all manner of ways afford it.

WILLIAMS:  I got to show you these two polls from Quinnipiac.  The mathematics are not good if your name is Donald Trump.  First of all, this measures the Speaker of the House against the president of the United States.  Who do you trust?  Respondents answered Pelosi over trump 49-42.

I`m guessing that`ll get his attention, as will this.  His approval under water, 57-38.  And John, that`s an existential threat to his presidency, yes, but that also represents kind of a numeric challenge to his presidency.

HARRIS:  It`s true, although let`s remember, this President, and this is a pattern we`ve seen in recent presidents but it`s much more acute and this one, has a ceiling and a floor that are not that far apart, Brian.  There`s only so high a president as polarizing and controversial as Donald Trump is going to go.

There`s only so low he`s going to go given the solidness of his support.  I think it seems to me at the moment he`s very close to that floor.

WILLIAMS:  What is he left to say in a State of the Union, John?  Can you guess at it?  This is going to be unlike any other State of the Union in modern times.  Not many people in that chamber will share his number one priority of a wall.

HARRIS:  No, and not many people will be -- certainly not his fellow Republicans will be plotting the tactics he`s used over the past couple months to try to push for that wall.  He`s very unpopular with rank and file Republicans.  They know they lost that confrontation with Nancy Pelosi.

President Trump, remember, he has been effective in this format.  He was not effective in his Oval Office speech a few weeks ago, but if you go back to his first address to Congress, people were saying, gosh, that actually sounded more like a traditional president that we`re accustomed to hearing in a joint session of Congress.

So it`s certainly an opportunity for him to be seen -- try to be seen somewhat in a presidential light over the past couple of months.  He`s not been seen in a classic presidential way.  He`s been seen as preeminently as a partisan figure and a divisive figure.  That`s a terrible place for any president to be and it`s reflected in Donald Trump`s terrible numbers.

WILLIAMS:  John Harris, thank you for coming on.  My friend, it`s always a pleasure to have you on.

HARRIS:  Good to see you Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Appreciate it.  And coming up, what Chris Christie had to say about bad and stupid people and what ties them together in the Trump orbit.  For starters, if there`s nothing to hide, why so many lies about Russia?  When we continue.


WILLIAMS:  Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has known Donald Trump for close to two decades.  His new book came out today and in it he talks about his flirtation with working for this President.  His brush with the inner circle of Donald Trump.

Earlier today in this very studio, Nicolle Wallace asked Chris Christie a central question, why is it so many people around Donald Trump have been accused of lying about Russia?


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST:  Why would so many people tell so many lies about Russia?

FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY:  Well, what I`ll tell you is what I said to someone earlier today.  In my experience, bad people and stupid people lie all the time for no reason at all because that`s just who they are.  And if you look at this list of people --

WALLACE:  Jeff Sessions is bad and stupid?

CHRISTIE:  Well, I don`t think Jeff was bright enough to be in the position where he is.

WALLACE:  So just stupid but not bad?

CHRISTIE:  No, I don`t think he`s a bad person.  I like Jeff on a personal level.  I really do.

WALLACE:  Do you think he lied about conversations with Kislyak out of stupidity?

CHRISTIE:  Yes, I do.  Absolutely.  And I think --

WALLACE:  It happens to be the same lie told by Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, George Papadopoulos and everyone else who`s been charged by Mueller?

CHRISTIE:  Listen.  And we still don`t know the bottom of this yet, OK?  We don`t know what else Bob Mueller is going to uncover.  What I`m just telling you, I think there`s another consistent strain to consider in addition to Russia, and that is that sometimes dumb and bad people lie.


WILLIAMS:  Chris Christie with Nicolle Wallace earlier today, and a program note, he will be back in this studio tomorrow evening for an interview on this broadcast as well.

Coming up, what happened 17 years ago tonight during a very different time in our country when we continue.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, we were supposed to be covering the State of the Union address tonight.  Remember, the government shutdown pushed it to a week from tonight.  Earlier today the sight of those combined Intel chiefs and the global threats as they see them and those that do not agree with the President`s priorities, that had us thinking of today`s anniversary of another State of the Union, exactly 17 years ago, today.

In 2002 we were still very much a post-9/11 nation when President George W. Bush called out North Korea, Iran and Iraq specifically and coined a new phrase in the process.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world by seeking weapons of mass destruction.  These regimes pose a grave and growing danger.  They could provide these arms to terrorists, giving them the means to match their hatred.  They could attack our allies or attempt to blackmail the United States.

In any of these cases, the price of indifference would be catastrophic.  And all nations should know America will do what is necessary to ensure our nation`s security.  We`ll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side.  I will not wait on events while dangers gather.  I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer.  The United States of America will not permit the world`s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world`s most destructive weapons.


WILLIAMS:  What became known as the access of evil speech delivered by another president during a different time 17 years ago tonight when the State of the Union was quite different than today.  That is our broadcast for this Tuesday night.  Thank you for being here with us.  Good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York. 

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