BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: Breaking news tonight, Donald Trump says he`ll allow the Justice Department to decide on the release of Robert Mueller`s report. It`s a major pronouncement of one of the big questions swirling around the sprawling investigation.
Plus a Mueller court filing today reveals how the Russians have been swiping information from the Mueller team, turning around and using it to wage a disinformation campaign against the investigation.
And would this story have been entirely different if Donald Trump had simply followed Chris Christie`s advice? The former New Jersey governor here with us tonight to talk about what else he`s written in his new book. As THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Wednesday evening.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 741 of the Trump Administration and the breaking news we`re covering tonight as we come on the air is in the form of quotes from the President in a new interview just out tonight. Some of it is about the Mueller investigation.
In an exclusive interview with the Daily Caller, Trump was asked about whether he`ll sign off on the final Mueller report. He responded this way, "They`ll have to make their decision within the Justice Department. They will make the decision as to what they do. I could have taken a much different stance. I could have gotten involved in this. I could have terminated everything. I could have ended everything. I`ve chosen to stay out of it. But I had the right to, as you know, I had the right if I wanted to, to end everything. I could have just said that`s enough. Many people thought that`s what I should do."
Trump was also asked whether he`d talked to his acting attorney general Matt Whitaker about the eventual end of the Mueller inquiry. Earlier this week you may recall Whitaker said the investigation was close to completion. Tonight, Trump responded about it wrapping up, "I never spoke to him about that. I would say that after almost two years it certainly should be. Process crimes or process, you know, questions. The answer is different than what you thought it might be and some people say they lost their memory or a lack of memory, which a lot of people can understand that too."
We also have brand new revelations tonight from special counsel Mueller about the latest effort to disrupt his investigation. Apparently coming from Russia itself. Federal prosecutors say the Russians swiped information that Mueller`s team had provided to a company called Concord Management, owned by a Russian oligarch, the guy known as Putin`s chef.
Concord was one of the Russian entities that Mueller accused last February of helping to orchestrate interference in our election. The information from Mueller`s team was given over to Concord`s lawyers here in the U.S. as part of what lawyers call the discovery process in this case.
Now, the feds allege that Russians took it, altered it, then distribute it on social media and used it against us.
In the new court documents filed late today the special counsel accused the Russians have creating a Twitter account in October 2018 and posting lies claiming, "We`ve got access to the special counsel Mueller`s probe data base, enjoy the reading."
Mueller`s team says the Russians` actions were "Part of a disinformation campaign aimed apparently at discrediting ongoing investigations into Russian interference in the U.S. political system."
Earlier today on this network former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller explained why this latest Mueller finding is so critical.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEW MILLER, FORMER CHIEF SPOKESMAN, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE: Mueller has been fighting turning over sensitive discovery. We turned over nonsensitive information to them under a protective order that`s supposed to stay only with the attorneys and other people in the company. It showed up on Twitter in a Russian disinformation campaign along with fabricated materials, making clear that all of this information he`s turning over to the lawyers is being turned over to the Russian government and being used against the U.S.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That right there brings us to the President`s reaction to what his own intelligence chiefs told Congress about the threats from Russia, North Korea, and Iran among others. The Intel leaders` assessments were very different from the picture the president has painted, and he didn`t hesitate to point out on Twitter multiple times he feels he`s been successful in dealing with some of this nation`s biggest adversaries while continuing to push for a wall on the southern border.
But he was particularly incensed by the Intel chiefs` conclusion that Iran was in compliance with the nuclear deal. "The intelligence people seem to be extremely passive and naive when it comes to the dangers of Iran. Perhaps intelligence should go back to school."
Those attacks came out just hours before Trump had his intelligence briefing in the Oval Office. What must that have been like? Tonight a former CIA director who has given those briefings to other presidents weighed in on the gulf between Trump and his own appointees, his own intelligence community.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEON PANETTA, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: I think the best way that you have to deal with this President is for him to bear the consequences of his rejection of their information. And the way he bears the consequences is that those matters then turn sour on him because he`s failing to lead this country with regards to national security issues.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, with that let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Wednesday night. Harry Litman, a DOJ veteran who`s former U.S. attorney and former deputy assistant attorney general under President Clinton. Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for The Associated Press. And Malcolm Nance, veteran of naval intelligence, special operations, homeland security with 35 years working in counterintel and intelligence. Also happens to be the author of "The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West." A book that could be updated on a weekly basis if the author so chose.
Welcome all of you back to the broadcast. Jill, I have to ask you, in the upside down world of 2019 how big news is it that the president said tonight and effect he`s going to follow procedure?
JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: I mean that was very notable especially in the interview with the Daily Caller tonight. We haven`t seen the full transcript yet but the President does seem to very clearly say that he`s not going to interfere with the release of the final report. That`s contrary to what we`ve heard very recently even from his attorney Rudy Giuliani, who said just in recent days that the legal team would want to correct in his words and somehow alter that final report before it made its way to congress or before it was publicly released.
I just want to also caution, though, that this is, you know very -- first we`ve heard from the President really, you know, suggesting that this is the direction. We haven`t yet heard this backed up by his legal team. And it`s still very, very unclear the extent to which this report will actually become public.
You know, you`ve got Mueller, who first needs to submit it obviously to the DOJ and then there will be a decision there that`s made about whether it should be released and how it should be released, a summary from bullet points, what kind of information would then be disclosed to Congress and potentially the public.
What we also know is that this is an administration, this is a president in his outside legal team who have worked now ceaselessly for the last at this point number of years to try to discredit the Mueller report before it`s come out. And so I don`t think this is a fight that has finished yet.
WILLIAMS: Harry Litman, here`s why this is important. In a few days I`m guessing if the confirmation process goes as they`re expecting in the Senate. We`re going to have a new attorney general named William Barr. And say what you will about him, say what we said about him during the hearings. He is mostly an institutionalist. This is his second go-round in this job. And he seems to have answered a lot of the critical questions to the satisfaction of most members of the committee.
So if you don`t find wiggle room, Harry, in what the President says tonight in this interview, is this -- again, same question as Jill. Does this pass as good news that the President of the United States vows to follow procedure?
HARRY LITMAN, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL UNDER PRESIDENT CLINTON: It does. And I think the President of the United States has concluded there may not be wiggle room. It`s obviously wrong, grievously wrong for him to say he has not protested before. Of course he has. But I think this decision is an early dividend of the nomination and prospective confirmation of Bill Barr.
Barr famously said in his hearings when asked about Giuliani`s threats to kind of monkey with things, that will not happen. And I think Trump and his team realizes with Barr stewarding the report they`re not going to be able to pierce the DOJ process and they have to sit back and let it happen. And so he`s just saying what Barr`s prospective confirmation makes manifest.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Malcolm, let`s talk about this disinformation campaign by the Russians. This gets into your cockpit. Living in a democracy has its pitfalls sometimes. And when you`re special counsel, because we have laws and a system, you have to hand over to the other party some of your evidence. In this case it gets spun around and gussied up and polished into disinformation to hurt us by the Russians. See all of your previous writings on the subject. Correct?
MALCOLM NANCE, AUTHOR, "THE PLOT TO DESTROY DEMOCRACY": Absolutely. I mean, this is a good example of how the Russians first off have no concerns over the legality of anything that they`re doing. This is disinformation warfare. Pure and simple. They take the information that they find, using the American system of justice through discovery. They use that information, hand it off to the Russian intelligence services, who process that and turn it into disinformation, creating a Twitter account so that they can feed that information back to the U.S. and international news media. And then try to discredit the special counsel, who is going after the, you know, the people who are there -- sponsor them, Donald Trump, and try to discredit the entire process. This is very old school intelligence operations the way the Soviet Union used to do.
But most importantly, they`ve added a little twist to it that I think is very interesting. They are not only stealing this -- or taking this information and not caring about the legality of it. They`re taking this information and they are using it to essentially feed the U.S. news media the way that they tried to do with WikiLeaks in the Hillary Clinton e-mails hoping that they -- that we would think that it`s salacious enough that we would ignore the way that the information was taken from Concord Management and brought around and then introduce false information into it which is called black propaganda.
So it will be interesting to see what`s true and what`s not in this -- in their releases.
WILLIAMS: Yes, they added a little Wikipedia type branding to it to make it sound extra salacious.
Hey, Harry, you`re a lawyer and we`re not. So I have a two-parter for you. Number one --
LITMAN: All right.
WILLIAMS: -- to those of us who are lay people and think it`s a credit card, explain what discovery is.
LITMAN: OK. Discovery, first of all, most importantly, is very different and very limited in the criminal context. It`s not the full-bodied interrogatories and depositions that you may be used to if you`re ever in the civil trial. It`s the provision of very limited and specified information. Essentially the evidence that the government is going to use at trial and evidence that might exculpate the defendant to the defendant.
And here, Malcolm makes a great point. What`s basically happened is Concord as a company has submitted itself to the jurisdiction of the court but the defendants have not. The individuals. And so the prospect and risk is that the company, which really can`t be punished very severely in United States, gets this information, funnels it to the individuals, and they use it to make mischief. But discovery itself is limited and subject to a lot of regulation by the court as the court did here in putting real restrictions on who could see it and when and how.
WILLIAMS: I notice you still managed to slip some Latin in there. OK, Harry, part two of the question is this. First person I read this weekend on social media with a theory about the Roger Stone indictment was our mutual friend Joyce Vance, who said the reason they`re bringing him in on these seven initial counts is because of discovery. If they have weightier stuff against him, that means they will have to expose potentially sources and methods. And this is the problem with a counterintelligence investigation. Do you concur?
LITMAN: I think it`s one of the reasons. And generally speaking, you`re having here the whole nuances of the hybrid counterintelligence versus criminal investigation. So, I agree with Joyce that probably wouldn`t happen until later on in the process. But I think it`s also the case that they expect to maybe get more and the biggest thing they could get to bolster the conspiracy charge if -- when it comes, if it comes, is Stone`s cooperation himself. That would be the big bounty.
But there are many reasons I think that Mueller, who suggested in the indictment he has a conspiracy case in the offing, would want to really wait until it`s totally tied up and strong, what Joyce says, but other tactical reasons as well to have his cards all set before he lays them down.
WILLIAMS: So, Jill, a check of the calendar shows it was two years ago today Sally Ann Yates was fired. And looking back on it, that kind of started -- well, it started a lot, and it`s been a lot. It`s been a long two years. That also started a kind of period of attack against the FBI. Fast forward to today, the President is asking that the tactics and methods used to storm the Stone home in Fort Lauderdale, Florida predawn last Friday be at least looked at, looked into.
COLVIN: Yes, the same day that the President suggested that the U.S. intelligence officials go back to school because he believes that he knows more about Iran than they do. Later that day, you`ve got the President in this interview with The Daily Caller suggesting that maybe the FBI`s tactics need to be looked at, or that he would look at the FBI`s tactics once again because he was clearly very thrown by the way that Roger Stone was brought into custody that day, which has been described as, you know, a pretty standard way of approaching somebody when you`re concerned that they might, you know, do something to compromise evidence, if you`re concerned that they might flee in some way.
And this is a pattern that we`ve seen with Trump where he has also expressed alarm even against people he`s wound up turning against. With Michael Cohen, for instance. He`s really privately and publicly dwelled on the idea that the way that the FBI operated in apprehending him in raiding his office, raiding his hotel room, he thought that that crossed a line and -- cross the line into something that was revealing their antagonism towards him.
This idea that the President has that law enforcement, that the intelligence agencies should be reflecting what he wants them to reflect, should be behaving in the way that he wants them to behave, has been this pattern that we`ve seen throughout his administration and something that is very troubling to a lot of critics.
WILLIAMS: Hey, Malcolm, quick question before we go. Were you heartened by the fact that the Mueller team in their quiet way shouted from the mountain tops today that look, this stuff is being turned around and used against us in a disinformation campaign?
NANCE: Well, I wouldn`t say that I`m heartened, but it validates what many people have been suspecting all along. You know, when you`re talking about dealing with Dmitry Prigozhin, the head of Concord Management, who also runs a mercenary organization in Syria that tried to attack U.S. Special Forces, he is the dirty tricks operative, the Erik Prince of Vladimir Putin.
And so I think Robert Mueller, by exposing his activities today, can get further restrictions against them hopefully and certainly now use this information against them. I`m not particularly sure whether that`s going to work with the Russians. They don`t care one way or the other. But certainly I hope that this will be able to be part of the process that shows that Americans that have coordinated with groups like Concord Management certainly are not dealing with people who are using the U.S. legal processes straight.
WILLIAMS: My goodness, all these people you get to cover in your line of work. Harry Litman, Jill Colvin and Malcolm Nance, our thanks to the three of you returning to the broadcast as usual.
Coming up, his public schedule nearly empty but his Twitter feed is running at capacity most days. A look at what the President`s been up to since his last public appearance with none scheduled for tomorrow.
And then later, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is here. He`ll talk about his time in and around the Trump team and why he thinks so many people might be lying about Russia. THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on this Wednesday night.
WILLIAMS: For the fifth straight day now our President huddled in the White House with no open press coverage events on his schedule. He did find time today for an interview with the Daily Caller, but the President has not been seen in public since announcing that temporary deal to reopen the government on Friday in the Rose Garden. That means no meetings with the congressional negotiators working on that deal to keep the government open past 15 February.
Trump has been spending a lot of time on his phone. Here is a small sample of the more than 40 tweets he`s sent out since the weekend including this threat today, and we, "If the committee of Republicans and Democrats now meeting on border security is not discussing or contemplating," a lot of proper names here, "a wall or physical barrier," they are, proper name, "wasting their time".
His warning seems to have gone unheeded. Democrats announced today they will, "Push for a smart, effective border security posture, one that does not rely on costly physical barriers." Meaning there is no sign of a potential deal quite yet.
With us tonight, Tamara Keith, White House Correspondent for NPR, and Franco Ordonez, White House Correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers, who covers among other things immigration and foreign affairs. Good evening to you both.
First of all, Tamara, we should all have people in our lives as loyal as Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who said in an interview out today she believes God wanted Donald Trump to be president, having established that. Last week we established during the shutdown his number one priority was the shutdown and this wall. Do you have any idea what it is we can`t see in the West Wing? This week I`m holding in his hand his schedule for tomorrow, nothing public again.
TAMARA KEITH, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Right. Nothing public again, though there is a meeting with a high-ranking Chinese official. And there have been trade negotiations going on starting today that the President wasn`t strictly speaking involved with those.
Also, there are preparations under way for a State of the Union address next Tuesday. Those typically do involve a lot of preparations, so also typically presidents are seen in public in the days leading up to the State of the Union.
So, you know, this is not the first time that President Trump has sort of seemed to disappear in recent weeks during the shutdown. There were other stretches where he just seemed to disappear from public view. In some ways the wall and the border security fight has eclipsed everything for this White House and the rest of its agenda.
WILLIAMS: Franco, Tamara is right. We have seen these long spells, and he has also felt comfortable to complain how long he`s been cooped up in the White House in Washington, what he missed out on over the holidays. You`ve been pool reporter recently, which normally you`re run and gunning, you have a huge responsibility to report back to everyone else who can`t be part of the tight group of reporters covering the President. What`s that been like other than the Maytag repairman?
FRANCO ORDONEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Exactly. I mean -- I think yesterday I was there all day from the beginning of the day to the end of the day. The only thing that I reported back to the hundreds of reporters who were kind of waiting, you know, for any type of, you know, information from the President was that there was a lunch break at the end of the day which basically called by 4:00. Colleagues are essentially watching their watches to see whether there`s a marine outside the Oval Office which indicates Trump is working.
They`re questioning is he there in the morning, is he not in there? There are a lot of questions about it. You brought up the schedule for tomorrow. The meeting with the Chi -- the Vice Premier of China as well as American manufacturer, he`s signing an executive order. That is a perfect time to have a photo op of the President doing something. This is typically what presidents do, bring the cameras in, show that the work that he`s doing. All of that is closed press. It`s very interesting.
WILLIAMS: And Tamara, because we had you on and talked about the shutdown in real time. Here`s one view of how it went over. Let`s just say in America to the west of Washington, D.C., Salt Lake Tribune, 54 percent in a poll would not vote to re-elect Donald Trump. Now, usual caveats, two years out, early yet, no identified specific Democratic candidate. But they don`t get much redder than Utah, and that number does get your attention.
KEITH: Though, Utah is a unique state in that it has a large immigrant population and has sort of different views on immigration than other deep red states. So that might be affecting it. As you saw in Utah, Mia Love, the Republican congresswoman, ended up losing in the midterms, which was one of those more surprising results.
But this is -- this is not a great time for President Trump. His approval ratings in any number of polls are not where he would like them to be. And, you know, the reality is that we`re sort of in this lull, in this time of uncertainty between the longest government shutdown in U.S. history and what comes next. And it`s not clear what will happen.
President Trump, many of his allies even will say he lost round one and now there`s this period of time waiting to see what happens in round two. And whether he`s able to hold on to his base is really critically important to him. He`s always been super focused on his base and folks in those red states. And it`s not clear if round two doesn`t go much better than round one in terms of the wall actually being built what will happen for him.
WILLIAMS: And Franco, as Tamara correctly points out, as we enter this kind of phase two, we also have a preoccupation to our south. And I don`t mean to call for a judgment on your part. But what is the latest thinking about what this administration is going to do about the situation in Venezuela?
There was this famous moment today. You have to be careful what`s written on anything that`s on your person in the era of digital photography. Bolton, National Security Adviser, in the -- I`m sorry? Oh, this was Monday, in the Briefing Room with a legal pad mentioning 5,000 troops to Colombia on the border.
ORDONEZ: Yes. It`s, you know, what`s happening in Venezuela is pretty incredible. And the President and the Trump Administration has been pushing so hard on this issue, trying to help install a new interim government to overthrow Maduro. You know, we`re reporting that this has been going, you know, very quickly, some in the administration are questioning how quickly it`s going, actually.
But it`s very interesting to watch because while Trump has a lot of detractors, actually he has gotten a lot of support from the international community as well as the administration, bipartisan support on this issue.
However, that rollout on Monday of the oil sanctions has raised a little bit of a few eyebrows because some were very concerned that maybe now is not the time to do that, it could cause more problems, more humanitarian issues, and essentially they don`t want to cause or create another Cuba- like scenario where we have an adversary for another 60 years like them.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks tonight to two of our returning guests, to Tamara Keith, to Franco Ordonez. Thank you both for coming on the broadcast.
And coming up, Chris Christie is here with us live in the studio to talk about his new book, what he says and doesn`t say about Donald Trump and the people around him, when THE 11TH HOUR continues.
WILLIAMS: Our next guest mixed it up with Nicolle Wallace in this very studio about 30 hours ago, then drank tequila with Stephen Colbert just last night, all of it in order to get ready for THE 11TH HOUR clearly.
CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY, FORMER GOVERNOR: Yes.
WILLIAMS: Chris Christie has known Donald Trump going on two decades. He`s seen a lot and heard a lot and writes about some of it in his new book, from the first time they met for dinner in 2002 when Trump ordered for him to running against each other for President.
So without delay, with us tonight former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. The new book`s full title is "Let Me Finish: Trump, the Kushners, Bannon, New Jersey, and the power of in your face politics." I`ve got to start with ordering for you.
WILLIAMS: Welcome, by the way.
CHRISTIE: Thank you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: It`s a weird -- I would never in a million years dream of doing it. There`s different styles in restaurants. You can finish this line. Try the veal.
CHIRSTIE: It`s the best in the city.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. I knew I could count on you. And you can order -- you can order calamari or garlic bread or mozzarella sticks for the table.
It`s a weird thing to order for be?
CHIRSTIE: Believe me, I thought it was too as I wrote in the book when he did it. He called Jean George, the owner of the restaurant, out and said remember the great appetizer you made me the other night? We`ll take two of those. And then the entree. Make it exactly the same way. We`ll take two of those.
Yes, Sir, Mr. Trump. And he walks away. Then I said did you just order for me? He said yes, don`t worry, you`ll love it. And the funny part, the end of the story is he doesn`t notice that I don`t eat the scallops. But when I don`t eat the lamb he says why aren`t you eating it? Is it not cooked right? I said it`s cooked right, I hate lamb. He said why did you order it?
WILLIAMS: That`s unbelievable. That`s emblematic of what?
CHRISTIE: It`s emblematic at that time, he -- our first meeting, I think he was trying to -- I was a sitting U.S. attorney. I think he was trying to impress me. I think he was showing off a little bit. And I think that`s what it was.
And he loved that stuff he had eaten, so he thought everyone will love it and that`ll be great. And that`s what it was. And it`s been a running joke between the two of us. There are two running dinner jokes between the two of us. They`re both in the book.
There`s that one and then two or three years later I turned out to be 45 minutes late for dinner one night. Mary Pat was there and on time because she was in the city. There was a big Lincoln Tunnel backup and I didn`t get in until 45 minutes late. And he was irate.
And I`ll tell you, Brian, this summer Mary Pat and I had dinner with he and Melania at the White House. And when we showed up he came into the room, dinner was for 6:30. We were there at 6:30. And he said, this is great, you`re here. Not like when you were late for me. And that had happened 13 years earlier. Never forgot it.
WILLIAMS: Wow. I want to extend the conversation that started in this room with Nicolle Wallace. You`re a prosecutor, a process guy, a former Fed after all --
WILLIAMS: -- the likes of which we have on this broadcast all the time. And a patriot. Are you not remotely curious what everyone is lying about? Are you not remotely curious why there were Russians in Cleveland at the GOP convention?
CHRISTIE: Well, listen, I`m not remotely curious about the Russians in Cleveland because there were all kinds of foreigners in Cleveland as there always are at every national convention. So that doesn`t bother me. The lying bothers me, bothers me a lot as somebody who as a former U.S. attorney hated when people lied to us and misled us because it cost us time and money and faith in the system.
Now, I also know as U.S. attorney that dumb people and bad people lie for reasons that make no sense.
WILLIAMS: But they`re all lying about one thing and they`re all in service to one guy.
CHRISTIE: But that`s what they`re being asked about. And my point to you would be if you asked them about the weather, some of these people would lie. They`re just not good people. Mike Flynn is not a good guy.
WILLIAMS: But it`s not --
CHRISTIE: Paul Manafort`s not a good guy. How many bits of evidence do you need from his business dealings to his tax dealings to hiding money overseas that Paul Manafort is just a bad guy?
WILLIAMS: But Mueller doesn`t run the national weather service. This is the Russia investigation.
WILLIAMS: Because it`s Russia and because we think their thumb was on the scale in our last presidential election.
CHRISTIE: Sure. And they tried to -- they interfered with the election. They tried move it. I don`t think they had any measurable effect on the election at all given what they did and how much they spent and all the rest of that.
The problem with what they did was we don`t want anybody messing with our election for one minute, let alone for however much time they try to vote to it and try to infect it. So, all this stuff is bad. That`s why I`ve all along said everyone should leave Bob Mueller alone, let him do his work, and let him come to a conclusion.
And I`ve told the President that and anybody else who`ll listen because in the end I think he`s a fair guy, I think he`s a direct guy, and I think he`ll come to some conclusions. I don`t know what they`re going to be, but he`ll come to them.
WILLIAMS: Will you as a former Fed and one of the people -- stories people will learn is your years as U.S. attorney. Vow on this broadcast in front of the world and Donald Trump and whoever else is watching that you, Chris Christie, will accept the findings of the Mueller report?
CHRISTIE: Sure. I`ll accept the findings in the Mueller report as long as he`s got the evidence to support it. And I will assume that Bob will have that if he put it out because he`s a pro. But I will tell you one thing. The first -- one of the first things that has made me uncomfortable about the Mueller thing was the stone arrest.
WILLIAMS: Why is that? Now, you have carried out arrests as a U.S. attorney.
CHRISTIE: Many times.
WILLIAMS: You know standards and practices.
CHRISTIE: Standards and practices on that is if there`s not evidence of imminent destruction of evidence --
WILLIAMS: Which we don`t know.
CHRISTIE: Well, he has said that there wasn`t and that there were no weapons. Now, whenever I did a raid like that as U.S. attorney, it was because of weapons. If we knew through our investigation that someone had even a weapon in their house, a firearm, that we sent the people in that way for two reasons.
One, to make sure our FBI agents weren`t in harm, and two, to try to make sure the person didn`t harm himself or herself, because if you`re coming in to be arrested that`s a traumatic moment and some people in the past have turned to suicide in that moment.
So you try to go in with that kind of force to be able to do that. I don`t see evidence of either one of those things here.
WILLIAMS: Do you think we`ll find out about it someday?
CHRISTIE: Well, I think we will. Lindsey Graham`s talking about wanting to ask some questions to the FBI director about whether he authorized it. And if so on what basis. And I think those questions should be asked because anything that we do, whether it`s tweets from the President, attacking an investigation, or overzealous enforcement by law enforcement that diminishes people`s faith in the justice system, is a bad thing for our democracy.
WILLIAMS: Let me ask you about Chris Wray who you recommended as FBI director. He was there at that hearing yesterday. Gina Haspel at CIA, who this month celebrates 34 years of service for the Federal government.
If you`re the Maduro regime, the Kim Jong un regime, or the Putin regime and you wake up this morning to see the U.S. President differing with his Intel chiefs, trolling their intelligence, isn`t that a great day for you?
CHRISTIE: Listen, I`m sure they enjoyed that. But on the other hand, I don`t think it`s going to change one whit of what happens with Gina Haspel or Chris Wray or Dan Coats. I think what they all three of them showed yesterday is they are professionals who have taken an oath and they are resolved not to be affected by political pressure.
WILLIAMS: A little weird to live in a country where they disagree with the commander in chief?
CHRISTIE: Listen, of course it is, because he appointed them. And to me it`s not the right thing to do. And I`ve expressed that to the President over time directly. Because I have faith in folks like Gina Haspel and I know Chris Wray very well and know he`s doing a great job, as director of the FBI and as a man of extraordinary integrity. But because they`re both that way, I could tell you that they won`t be affected by this.
And you saw the video Chris Wray did on Friday during the shutdown. Speaking to his people, letting them know he was standing up for them and he was speaking out on their behalf. That`s the kind of leader he is. And he won`t let the FBI be affected by any politics, whether that politics comes from the White House or from Capitol Hill.
WILLIAMS: Why don`t you think Donald Trump believes those three people who testified yesterday who work for him?
CHRISTIE: Hard for me to say, Brian. I really don`t know. I don`t know. I don`t know that there`s a logical reason to explain that.
WILLIAMS: If I can ask, how often do you talk to him and does he call you or do you call him?
CHRISTIE: We usually speak once every couple of weeks and it goes both ways.
WILLIAMS: All right. Chris Christie has agreed to stay with us largely because we`ve taken away his car. It`s too cold to walk in New York. We`ll continue our conversation about these two guys right after this.
WILLIAMS: This is the book. This is the author sitting across from us here. Chris Christie remains in our studio. Let`s do rapid fire, lightning round.
CHRISTIE: All right.
WILLIAMS: Name association. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
WILLIAMS: That`s it? That was in her title. She ran as a Democratic socialist.
CHRISTIE: Yes. Well, that`s it. I mean, you want to do this quick, right? I can pound it out if you want, but I`m following direction.
WILLIAMS: This comes in three sizes. Howard Schultz.
CHRISTIE: Run Howard run. Let`s go. I`m getting a t-shirt. Get him in the race.
WILLIAMS: Finally, Kamala Harris.
CHRISTIE: Smart lady. I`ve met her a few times.
WILLIAMS: Member of the former prosecutor community.
CHRISTIE: Yes. Smart lady.
WILLIAMS: OK. Why do you keep going back to the notion of maybe entertaining working for this crowd, Trump incorporated?
CHRISTIE: Because I love my country.
WILLIAMS: There are other ways to serve your country.
CHRISTIE: Sure. And I serve my country in a lot of different ways. But you know what? This is my profession. And so, I feel like every night when I go to bed I thank god for all the gifts that I`ve been given. The health of my family and our success and the love we have for each other. And I know that it`s only possible in large measure not only just through the grace of God but because we live in this amazing country.
And so -- and I`m nerdish enough, Brian, and you know I am, to believe that when a president of the United States picks up the phone and calls you, you at least have to listen. Now, I`ve said no multiple times to this President for multiple jobs because I didn`t think I either was suited for the job or I just wasn`t interested in doing that particular job. So it`s not like I`ll say yes to anything. In fact, I`ve said no to almost everything.
WILLIAMS: And to be fair, your buddy Jared has said no to you in a couple times.
CHRISTIE: On a couple times, that`s right. And the only thing I`ve said yes to the President on so far is the opioid commission which I feel passionate about and I`m glad that we did.
WILLIAMS: What have you been successful in changing this President`s mind on?
CHRISTIE: Going all the way back to the campaign, a number of different things. Like convincing him to lay off Judge Curiel, and knock that stuff off. To lay off the Khans. And stop that whole level of assault.
WILLIAMS: A lot of damage was done.
CHRISTIE: Sure. And that`s so funny. As you read in the book, it was the family that brought me in to talk to him at those times. On Judge Curiel it was Ivanka. On the Khans it was Jared, who called me and said we think he`ll listen to you, come and talk to him.
And so we`ll start with the campaign in doing that. To changing debate prep into something that was much more professional and much more useful which I think made him a better performer in the second and third debate. Convincing him not to rise to the bait during the debates every time and to talk about the things he wanted to talk about, a pathway to success in that regard.
And, you mentioned Chris Wray before. I advocated very, very hard for Chris Wray to replace Jim Comey after Jim had been fired. And he listened to me on that one. And I think despite whatever concern he may have from time to time he has told me too that he thinks Chris is doing a really good job.
WILLIAMS: And all the evidence is that Americans should feel very good about having Chris Wray --
CHRISTIE: Very secure.
WILLIAMS: -- in the FBI. Do you think this President will organically complete his first term? Do you think he`s susceptible to primary challenges?
CHRISTIE: I believe he will finish his first term. And I don`t believe today that he is susceptible to a primary challenge. Now --
WILLIAMS: He`s underwater in Utah.
CHRISTIE: I understand that. But when you look at the numbers just amongst Republican voters, which will be the only people that will be voting in the primaries, he`s still at a 70 percent to 80 percent approval rating. So there`s not a lot of room at the moment for a challenger.
Now, anybody who has ambition in that regard will be keeping close eye on those numbers. And the President`s got two years now to make his case for re-election. And before he can be reelected you must be renominated. If that work today, he`s clearly the nominee for the Republican Party and he will be our representative in the 2020 general election. But everyone`s going to keep an eye on those things.
And more importantly, the President should be thinking about what are the things I need to do every day to build my case that I have made a better America and I deserve another four years. And if he focuses that way then I think he has a chance to be re-elected. If he is scattered and doesn`t have good people around him, then it`s going to make that very, very difficult.
WILLIAMS: We promised the Governor to return his car if he waits through one more commercial break, which he`s agreed to do. We`ll be right back with more.
CHRISTIE: You`ll pay for the parking?
WILLIAMS: Yes, sure.
WILLIAMS: Here is the book, here is the author. We`ve returned his car and paid the parking.
WILLIAMS: So he`s ready to go.
CHRISTIE: I`m in.
WILLIAMS: In the studio yesterday with Nicolle Wallace, you talked about life being full of defeats. In your book, your forthright about them. Starting as a young man, a chapter of your life people here before hadn`t known about and that being a catcher in baseball. I should add that among your spectacular children you have raised two spectacular baseball player.
CHRISTIE: I have.
WILLIAMS: Tell us about that.
CHRISTIE: Well, I was the catcher for my high school baseball team my junior year. Good enough player that I got elected one of the captains from the beginning of my senior year. And then a guy who I had been friends with through elementary school and junior high and left to go to a private school.
And was an outstanding athlete and a great catcher. Decided because our team was going to be so good that in his last semester of high school that he would transfer from the private school back to the public school and he took my job.
And I had to live with watching my team go 28-2, guys I`ve been playing with since I was 7 years old, and win the state championship. Number one in our state. And it was one of the hardest things I ever had to do at that point in my life. Incredibly disappointing because I worked so hard towards that year.
But what -- and some people urging me to quit because they thought it was unfair, what had happened to me. And -- but my mother said to me, you`re not a quitter and go in there and do what you can do to make the team better. And she convinced me and I -- and I stayed. I hung in with the team. We won the state championship and I learned a lesson about the fact that all my teammates still admired me. I still was able to contribute in a lot of different ways. And it taught me that you got to get back up and keep fighting.
WILLIAMS: And that also will play into your next chapter, which you ain`t saying much about.
CHRISTIE: No, I mean, "Let Me Finish" is enough of a clue, right? I mean I still think I`m done yet in many respects. I`m 56 years old and I`m not ready to hang it up. And I feel like I still have a lot of things to say and a lot of things to contribute. I don`t know how that will manifest itself, Brian. I really don`t.
CHRISTIE: I`m not being coy. That I have a Republican President right now and, and I told you I don`t think anybody can beat him in a primary. The only job I`m really interested in running for elective office is President and the one I think I`m best suited for.
So if that comes and that opportunity comes again I have a chance to run and win, I`d consider it, but otherwise I hope to find another way to contribute besides just to my family and their financial well-being.
WILLIAMS: I can`t do endorsements, but you can, best Mexican food in Seaside, New Jersey.
CHRISTIE: I`ll bet. And well listen, the best Mexican food you know is right on the Seaside Heights Boardwalk --
WILLIAMS: Spicy`s Cantina.
CHRISTIE: Spicy`s Cantina.
WILLIAMS: I hope Wayne is watching them.
CHRISTIE: He better be. If you`re going to say.
WILLAIMS: Just to mention.
CHRISTIE: That`s huge.
WILLIAMS: See you down in Jersey.
CHRISTIE: I see you at shore.
WILLIAMS: Thank you.
CHRISTIE: Because down the shore, every thing`s all right.
WILLIAMS: That`s right. I heard that in a lyric to a song somewhere. Chris Christie our guest tonight.
Coming up, a look back at something said 45 years ago today. We`ll play you that tape from our archives when we come back.
WILLIAMS: We`re back. Last thing before we go tonight, the State of the Union address as delivered by a President under criminal investigation with his administration facing an urgent and existential threat. This is not a preview of next Tuesday night. This is, in fact, a chance to look back on another man at another time.
This is Richard Nixon January of 1974. In fact, on this very day 45 years ago, and this turned out to be the living definition of wishful thinking.
RICHARD NIXON, 37TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I believe the time has come to bring that investigation and the other investigations of this matter to an end. One year of Watergate is enough.
WILLIAMS: Remember what we said about wishful thinking? That was January of `74, 45 years ago today. Nixon was speaking to a joint session of Congress, controlled by Democrats. All of it, both chambers Senate and House, Nixon was gone by August of that year. Gerald Ford, whose ambition in life had been to be Republican Speaker of the House was sworn in as our next president. The rest, they say, is history.
And that`s our broadcast on a Wednesday night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: They finally did it. Took them two weeks and nobody quite understand why it took them two weeks, but they have now done it.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END