Prosecutors reviewing Bezos extortion claims. TRANSCRIPT: 2/8/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Philip Elliott, Jill Colvin, Clarence Page, Jon Meacham

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  I have people say, you know what, you just keep that on your mind.  Barbara McQuade, a very interesting theory and a great sport.  You get tonight`s LAST WORD.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, EASTERN DISTRICT OF MICHIGAN:  Thanks, Ari.  Have a good night.

MELBER:  Thank you.

Don`t go anywhere, though, this is the end of THE LAST WORD.  You can always find me at 6:00 p.m. Eastern of "THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER" in MSNBC.  But right now, it`s THE 11TH HOUR with Brian Williams.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the day long event that turned nasty, downright ugly at times.  The Acting Attorney at least for the next few days says he hasn`t interfered with, and will protect the Mueller investigation.  While the Fed is now looking to the friend of the President accused of extortion and blackmail by the richest man on earth.

Plus, the next possible shutdown is a week from now, so what will the President settle for.  And the worsening crisis in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the entire state democratic leadership is in trouble.  The lieutenant governor now facing grave allegations as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Friday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 750 of the Trump administration, and today one of its highest ranking officials was the very first to feel the full force of a highly empowered and at times angry Democratic led House of Representatives.  Acting Attorney General Mark Whitaker -- Matthew Whitaker rather, spent nearly six hours answering questions from the members of the Judiciary Committee.

Much of today`s hearing was contentious.  Here is just one sample of the mood in that hearing room.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, NEW YORK:  This hearing is important because there are many Americans throughout the country who are confused.  I`m confused.  I really am.  We`re all trying to figure out who are you?  Where did you come from, and how the heck did you become the head of the Department of Justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  For a large part of the day, things continued about like that.  Democrats tried to keep the focus squarely on Whitaker`s handling of the Mueller investigation which, remember, he had prejudged and criticized before getting this job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JERRY NADLER (D), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Now, have you been briefed in criminal or counter intelligence matters within this Special Counsel`s per view.

MATTHEW WHITAKER, ACTING U.S. ATTY. GENERAL:  Chairman, thank you for that question.  As you know, I cannot talk about ongoing investigations.

NADLER:  You can say whether you`ve been briefed or not.

WHITAKER:  I have been briefed on it.

NADLER:  Have you communicated anything, you learned in that briefing about the investigation to President Trump?  Yes or no?

WHITAKER:  I have not talked to the President of the United States about the Special Counsel`s investigation.  We have followed the Special Counsel`s regulations to a t.  There`s been no event, no decision that has required me to take any action, and I have not interfered in anyway with the Special Counsel`s investigation.  President did not ask for and I did not provide any commitments, promises concerning the Special Counsel`s investigation or any other investigation.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, CALIFORNIA:  Have there been any discussions at the department about pardons for Paul Manafort, Roger Stone, Michael Flynn or Michael Cohen?

WHITAKER:  Because I`ve been an Acting Attorney General, I`ve not been involved in any discussions of any pardons including the ones you`re discussing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  So we tried to put together for you right there what the committee was able to get out of Matthew Whitaker about the Mueller inquiry.  Neal Katyal who is the former Acting Solicitor General of the United States under President Obama had this reaction to today`s hearing.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING SOLICITOR GENERAL OF U.S.:  The preposterousness of this man being the Attorney General of the United States.  And you saw someone who is so unqualified he shouldn`t be the Attorney General of 30 rock, three-rock.  A 7th grader would have done a better job, a more respectful job than what he did.  It was arrogant, it was irresponsible and it really calls into the question the President`s judgment for putting this man at the head of the hallowed (ph) Department of Justice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  In other exchanges during today`s hearing, the Acting A.G. was pressed on how he views the Special Counsel and whether he agrees with the President`s characterization of this investigation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. HANK JOHNSON (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, GEORGIA:  Do you agree with the President`s statement that the Russia investigation is a witch hunt?

WHITAKER:  As I mentioned previously, Congressman, I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment about an ongoing investigation.

I have been on the record about my respect for Bob Mueller and his ability to conduct this investigation.

SWALWELL:  Do you believe he`s honest, yes or no?

WHITAKER:  I have no reason to believe he`s not honest, so yes, I do believe he`s honest.

SWALWELL:  Can you say right now, Mr. President, Bob Mueller is honest and not conflicted?

WHITAKER:  Congressman, I`m not a puppet to repeat what you`re saying.

SWALWELL:  Can you say it to the President, though?

WHITAKER:  Congressman, I am not here to be a puppet to repeat terms and words that you say that I should say.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  And for the record, it is worth noting that the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, the FBI Director Christopher Wray, and the Attorney General Nominee William Barr have all maintained they do not believe this investigation to be a witch hunt as the President is fond of calling it.  The friction over the issue of time was also evident today as one by one Whitaker took on his questioners.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADLER:  Have you ever been asked to approve any request or action to be taken by the Special Counsel?

WHITAKER:  Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up.  And so I`m -- we -- I`m here voluntarily, we have agreed to five minute rounds.

REP. SHEILA JACKSON LEE (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, TEXAS:  Did you have a confirmation hearing and has it been more than 10 years since you testified before Congress?

WHITAKER:  Congresswoman --

LEE:  Can the clock be restored?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It was.

WHITAKER:  I`m sorry, what was your -- I don`t know if your time`s been restored or not.

LEE:  Mr. Attorney General, we`re not joking here.  And your humor is not acceptable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  At the request of a number of people, the Committee will stand in recess for five minutes.

WHITAKER:  I get five minutes for lunch?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Whitaker likely has just days left on the job.  The Senate just has to vote and William Barr can be sworn in as the next and permanent attorney general.  Of course, Democrats also have their concerns about his views on the Mueller inquiry.  Stemming from that memo, that he wrote and nobody apparently asked for in which he questioned pursuing obstruction.  However Barr`s recent confirmation hearing was a lot less contentious.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Have you discussed the Mueller investigation with the President or anyone else in the White House?

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTY. GENERAL NOMINEE:  I discussed the Mueller investigation, but not in any particular substance.  I can go through my conversations with you if you want.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  There is also news tonight concerning ex-Trump Adviser Roger Stone, his friend of 40 years who Mueller has accused of lying to Congress, obstruction and witness tampering, seven counts in all.  Today, Mueller`s team filed documents supporting a potential gag order on Stone, citing his recent television interviews and how his media appearances might undermine a fair trial.

Stone`s team made his own filing, arguing again such an order noting that they say he is -- he has a relative lack of notoriety, claiming that his social media footprint isn`t as big as say Kim Kardashians.  Stone`s lawyers are also asking for a new judge to be appointed in the case.  They object to having the same judge who`s presiding over the Manafort case and previous Mueller indictments as well.  And for good measure, Roger Stone gave his own home security video of his own arrest to federal authorities to the conservative Sinclair broadcasting.

With that, let`s bring in our lead off panel on a Friday night.  Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for The Associate Press, Cynthia Alksne, former Federal Prosecutor, Veteran of the DOJ, and Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence.  Welcome to you all.

Frank, there I was listening to you on this network at 4:00 p.m. today as all hardworking Americans should, and I heard the following quote from you.  "Listen, I`m not kidding when I say.  I have interviewed terrorists who were more cooperative and respected than Matt Whitaker was today."  Frank, make your case.

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  Yes, that`s the truth.  What we saw today is utter disdain for process for accountability, for government oversight.  What we saw today was not America`s lawyer which is what the Attorney General of the United States is supposed to be.  What we saw today was a partisan representative for this President, an advocate for a party, an advocate for a President.

And there`s good news and there`s bad news, Brian.  The good news is Matt Whitaker has about a week left in office.  He hasn`t pressed any buttons.  My theory is, that the Special Counsel has tolerated him, briefed him just enough to keep him satisfied, but not given him everything.  And that`s the good news.

The bad news is we have a glimpse in Whitaker of what President Trump could do if he had his own way, selecting his own people in each and every Cabinet position without any need for review or confirmation process, and that`s a scary thought.  Whitaker needs to move on, needs to learn some respect for the process.  He`s that guy, you know, in high school, you`re at the high school reunion, you hear that some guy became the acting attorney general of the United States.  And you say, excuse me?  He became what?  We saw a guy over his head, a political partisan attorney and not an acting attorney general today.

WILLIAMS:  Cynthia, I`m tempted to ask you to compare and contrast Whitaker and Mr. Barr, but as I do, I should say that Neil Katyal on this network today made a very interesting observation that the difference between the two men is so kaleidoscopic that he fears the Democratic watchdogs will ease up on their view of Barr.  Won`t hold him accountable just because he is so not Whitaker.  And he said it more elegantly than I just did.

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Well, that`s true.  I mean, on some level, we have to be happy that we`re done with this man.  I mean, he had no respect for the process, he was an embarrassment to the Department of Justice, and he showed what the administration thinks about oversight.  And you know what`s even worse on some level.  When we got off the Mueller investigation, he also showed he had no empathy.

You know, one of the Congress women was asking him about these kids in the border who are separated.  And he looked at her like she was wasting his time, because those kids mean nothing to him.  And I thought, how can we have -- I was just -- you just want to collapse.  How can the Attorney General of the United States care nothing about children?  And that`s what we had today.  If you love the Department of Justice, it was a sad day.

WILLIAMS:  And to reduce it to brass tacks, Cynthia.  Were you satisfied with his answers on Mueller?  Do you have any concerns about his effect on say the Southern District of New York investigations in his remaining days?

ALKSNE:  Well, I was convinced that he`s not capable of affecting the investigation.  I mean, this guy could not organize himself out of a bathtub.  So I -- that -- and in some level, I actually felt better about that because there`s no way he could have done anything in my opinion to hurt the Mueller investigation.  He isn`t capable.  Nor could he rule the Southern District of New York.

But it was interesting that he dodged the Southern District of New York questions.  The other thing that`s sort of weird, you know, as he`s trying to say I had no conversations with the President, he`s also sending letters about, I might -- you know, there might be executive privilege.  And those things don`t jive together because if you haven`t had a conversation, there`s no reason for anybody to say there needs to be executive privilege.  So everything doesn`t match up with this guy.  I sort of think it`s time for him to leave town and no one`s going to miss him.

Jonathan Lemire it was apparent to a lot of people watching this could be a performance for as we like to call the President, the audience of one.  Any reporting on how this might have gone over.

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:  Yes.  And Brian, you`re exactly right.  That`s certainly a truism of Trump world.  The idea that members of his own staff, his own Cabinet, try to communicate with him through television or the case like this through a televised hearing.  My reporting within the building, the President himself was watching this morning, although he did have to leave halfway through.  He went for annual physical today.  Brian, you`ll be happy to know he`s in good health according to the doctor.

WILLIAMS:  We have a whole segment on it later.

LEMIRE:  Smaller alert.  And then the White House aids I talked to sure had mixed reviews.  They did appreciate the fact that he had sort of combative tone, that he was aggressive in defending the administration, that he wasn`t, you know, cowed by these Democratic lawmakers.  Some of whom were, you know, clearly grandstanding.  That`s far for the course situation like this.

But there was a sense that Whitaker came off as ill prepared.  And not quite frankly qualified for that position.  And then that and the building, they recognize reflected poorly on this west wing.  And they`ll be grateful when the new attorney general, permanent attorney general takes his post potentially, you know, potentially within the week.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Frank, I want to get your reaction to something else, join us in listening.  This is Val Demings, Congresswoman, former Police Chief of Orlando, Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. VAL DEMINGS (D), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE, FLORIDA:  This has been painful because I believe that you have worked to make our criminal justice system -- to make a mochrie out of it.  And it`s painful for me for you to do that, and anybody up to and including the President of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Frank, your reaction to that?

FIGLIUZZI:  Yes, you know, Cynthia used the word sad, and I used that word earlier today as well.  And that reflects what happens when career people dedicated to justice criminal justice, the rule of law, see a man like Whitaker in a position where he doesn`t understand the gravitas of the position, he doesn`t respect what the position stands for.  And in doing so, he undermines and erodes the credibility of about 100,000 justice employees, agents and attorneys who come to work every day trying to do the right thing.  He was the wrong guy at the wrong time.  And I think history will reflect very poorly on his selection, his tenure.

And by the way, we haven`t seen the last of him.  This man is still under investigation.  His firm, his fraudulent scam of a firm that he led is under investigation.  He`s a fact witness in possible obstruction allegations.  We`re not done with him, but the Justice Department is done with him.  And it`s about time.

WILLIAMS:  Jonathan Lemire, the President`s defense has switched.  No one need remind you to the phrase, presidential harassment.  And it seems to me he`s trying to make this the next clean call, death tax, witch hunt, drain the swamp, Pocahontas, the expressions he trots out and tries to brand circumstances.  Any reason for believing this won`t have the same mileage.

LEMIRE:  This President both while he was in the private sector and then a candidate and now in office, I mean, you`re right, Brian.  He is a brander, he is about catch phrases, he is about those little pity (ph) things he could put in a tweet, make sure it`s small enough characters to get on there, and then he tries to hammer them home time and time again.  In interviews in rallies, in the Oval Office and again on Twitter.

Presidential harassment, this is clearly the new one.  This is something that the White House has been fear from of since the moment Democrats took control of the House of Representatives  They knew that things were going to change.  And that these investigations were starting, and that staffer after staffer, Cabinet member after Cabinet member were going to be hauled to the Hill.  Told to put their hand in the air, and then testify about not just the administration, not just ideas about Russia, but the emoluments clause, about the business organization, about the Trump, whether he`s profiting off the presidency or not.

And they`re trying to play the idea that Democrats are overreaching.  So akin to what Bill Clinton did back in 1998 during the Republican`s move to impeach him when we saw his approval ratings that can go up during that process.  That`s what we`re seeing here, the idea that the President is trying to paint the Democrats as over zealous, that they are equip with the power of subpoena, but they`re misusing it, and they`re not putting the people`s business, the business of governing first.  Now, whether he can sell that or not, (INAUDIBLE) bad of his tone, has always been with Democrats, remains to be seen.  But that is at least the toy, the newest weapon in his arsenal that he`s going with for the moment.

WILLIAMS:  Jonathan Lemire, Cynthia Alksne, Frank Figliuzzi, much obliged to our big three on a Friday night.  Thank you all for coming on.

And coming up for us, as expected.  Allegations of extortion from Amazon`s CEO, catch the attention of the Feds.  And later the turmoil in Richmond, Virginia, prompts more demands for the resignation of the lieutenant governor who tonight is denying accusations, serious ones from a second accuser.

THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on this Friday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  Federal prosecutors are reviewing if the National Enquirer`s handling of a story involving Amazon founder and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos should result in criminal charges, possibly tied to the President`s 2016 campaign.  This review stems from the Enquirer report on Bezos, his divorce and extramarital affair.

In a shocking statement yesterday, Bezos accused American Media of, quote, extortion and blackmail.  Bezos said AMI threatened to publish embarrassing photos unless The Washington Post backed off of its investigation into the murder of Post Contributor Jamal Khashoggi and made a, "False public statement to the press that we have no knowledge or basis for suggesting that AMI`s coverage was politically motivated or influenced by political forces."

More on the Khashoggi Saudi Arabia piece of the puzzle later at the heart of the Southern District of New York inquiry.  And remember that`s really the Justice Department northern branch in New York.  Is a cooperation agreement, signed by AMI back in September.  In it, AMI admitted to taking part in a so called catch and kill scheme, to bury a story about a former Playboy model acclaimed to have an affair with Trump back in `06.  That`s payment amounted to an illegal campaign contribution.  It`s the same charge finance violation Trump`s Attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to and he`s about to serve time in prison for.

According to the deal, "Should AMI commit any crimes subsequent to the date of signing of this agreement, AMI shall thereafter be subject to prosecution for any criminal violation of which this U.S. Attorney`s Office has knowledge."  In a statement, AMI responded, "American Media believes fervently that it acted lawfully in the reporting of the story of Mr. Bezos.  Nonetheless, in light of the nature of the allegations published by Mr. Bezos, the board has convened and determined it should promptly and thoroughly investigate the claims."

We have asked Cynthia Alksne and Frank Figliuzzi to remain with us for a hot second while we talk about this story.  Cynthia, dual question for you.  Could you have charged this case for extortion, blackmail against AMI, absent the cooperation agreement, in the clear and do you see a charge in light of the cooperation agreement.

ALKSNE:  That`s probably not just a dual question.

WILLIAMS:  Sorry about that.

ALKSNE:  That`s all right.  Well, first off, yes, it looks like there`s possibly an extortion charge, but it`s complicated by the agreement.  The agreement says not only can you not commit any other crimes, but guess what, when we ask you questions, you have to answer them.  And guess what, when we ask you for documents, you have to give them.  And when we tell you to come to a meeting, you have to be there.  And if this whole thing blows up, everything you`ve told us is still going to be admissible.

So, they`re in a big heap of trouble at AMI with this agreement.  And the - - you know, Cohen`s going to jail.  What they plead guilty to is a felony, because it exceeds the $25,000 limit.  So they`re not only looking at the felony for the campaign finance violation, but whatever happens on the extortion blackmail front.

WILLIAMS:  Frank Figliuzzi, I got to play this for you.  This is Manuel Roig-Franzia, he has been a guest on this broadcast.  He`s a veteran writer with The Washington Post.  In this clip he is talking about the security consultant that Jeff Bezos hired.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MANUEL ROIG-FRANZIA, WRITER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Gavin de Becker told us that he does not believe that Jeff Bezos` phone was hacked.  He thinks it`s possible that a government entity might have gotten hold of his text messages.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Frank, if that got the attention of us civilians kicking around here, I imagine it caught the ear of the former head of counter intel for the FBI.  A, what could that mean?  And b, talk about the relationship between the kingdom, the Saudis and AMI.

FIGLIUZZI:  There`s been much conjecture this evening, and we all need to proceed cautiously and carefully.  But there are enough facts on the record to be indeed be concerned that there`s more to this than just -- and by the way, in a normal world, this would be enough of a story that a tabloid is essentially extorting the head of The Washington Post.  But there`s more.  There`s more to this, because we don`t live in a normal world.  We live in a world where people are now wondering whether the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is somehow working in concert with AMI and by the way, there`s plenty of evidence of financial relationships, of quid pro quos between the Kingdom and AMI.

A lavish glossy magazine being published by AMI featuring the crown prince and how great the Saudi kingdom is, funding being sought allegedly by AMI from Saudi.  And then, you know, the phrase, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.  Saudi doesn`t like The Post, because they are pursuing the Khashoggi story.  And AMI doesn`t like The Post because they pursue the President.  And so there are questions not only about whether a foreign government may have hacked Bezos` phone and by the way, the Saudi intel services are very capable of doing it and have done this kind of thing before, to U.S. Corporate CEO`s.

But there`s even another layer to this which does the White House have any knowledge of either the Kingdom or AMI trying to go after Bezos possibly on the President`s behalf.  There`s much more to this story.  It`s very disturbing.  It involves trying to silence a free press.  It involves possible conspiracy theories of foreign powers, and maybe the White House`s flaws (ph) of investigation to do here.

WILLIAMS:  And that ladies and gentlemen is why we refer to Frank as the nicest scariest guy we get to talk to with regularity around here.  Well, we`ve probably burdened our Friday night audience with enough before sending them off to the weekend but with our thanks for sticking around.  Cynthia Alksne, Frank Figliuzzi, truly appreciate taking part in this conversation.

And coming up, this time next week, we could be facing yet another government shutdown.  It`s correct but tonight congressional negotiators say they`re optimistic about a deal.  The question is, how little will the President settle for having shot for a lot.  The latest from inside the White House with two reporters covering the story when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  As the President continues to spar with House Democrats over their oversight role.  It`s important to remember we`re just a week away from the next possible government shutdown deadline.

POLITICO reporting today, negotiators are close to a deal, but we`ve heard this before, with Democrats acknowledging that a final compromise would include funding for border barriers, a concession that could spark rebellion in their party.  Lawmakers and aids, however, said Friday that the conference committee remains several days away from a final border security deal.

This as the Times has reported Trump could be willing to give up ground on a border deal.  President Trump is moving toward accepting a border security deal that would fall well short of his once firm demand for 5.7 billion in funds for a wall at the southwestern frontier, which he might have mentioned during the campaign.

With us to talk about it, Phil Elliott, Politics correspondent for Time Magazine, and Jill Colvin, White House reporter for the Associated Press.

Hey, Phil, how will the Democrats spin it?  We`ll start with you on that end.  On the hill, if this guy walks away with something beginning in a B for an amount and something -- anything close to a barrier at the border.

PHILIP ELLIOTT, POLITICS CORRESPONDENT, TIME MAGAZINE:  I don`t think they have to spin it very hard by saying, you know what, he didn`t get all he wanted, they`re going to put so many strings attached that it will not be a wall with Trump`s name emblazoned on it.

And they`ll say, this is the cost of doing business in a divided Washington.  If Democratic base, if you don`t like it, show up in 2020.  Give us the Senate, give us the White House.  They realize that while the President did take the blunt of the blame for the last shutdown, 35 days.  They were not -- they were not spared either.

He took a bigger hit than they did.  But everyone looks bad in a shutdown.  The economy really can`t afford it right now, and a shutdown is just bad politics.

WILLIAMS:  And Jill forgive me if this calls for conjecture based on your experience watching this guy.  How is he likely to spin it to his base if he comes back way short of $5.7 billion and with comparably tiny barrier, somewhere along the southwestern border?

JILL COLVIN, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:  Well, the President`s going to need a deal that allows him to tell his supporters that he did everything he could to fight for this campaign promise of a border wall.  And he`s going to be able to point to elements of this legislation that show he is able to build something.  That he can start -- send shovels down, send crews down to start constructing this.

Now, what we`re hearing now for the White House right now is still that the President is taking a wait and see approach.  Waiting to see what the conferee has decided on.  But we`ve seen over the last 24 hours a new sense of optimism in the White House.  People believing that the President is willing to accept a deal, even if one includes far less money than the 5.6 billion that he was calling for.

One other idea that we have heard, sources have told me they`re now considering is the idea of the President potentially signing on to whatever this conference deal is, but then also taking additional executive action.  In an effort to free up other pots of money, so he can say that he got not only the money that Congress was willing to allocate him, but they were extra as well, that they were able to find and reallocate from different government departments.

The assumption is that that would immediately spark legal challenges for Members of Congress who say, look, it`s our constitutional duty to assign the money here, it`s not up to you to appropriate it, but you can see here over the last 24 to 48 hours, the White House really kind of considering the idea that the President might choose to sign something that includes, from what we`ve heard from sources today, a deal that could include as little as $1.6 billion for border security.

WILLIAMS:  And Jill, you were there.  He already road tested that word down payment.

COLVIN:  He did.  It`s a word he`s been using frequently now.  We`ve actually, if you go back and listen to what the White House has been saying now for actually the last couple months, they have insisted the President is going to find money to build this wall.

They`ve said that they`d prefer to work with congressional lawmakers to do it, but if they`re not willing to pony up the money, then they`re going to do all they can to find money elsewhere in the government.

The President directed all of his agency heads, all of his secretaries to dig through the budgets to find the money, so he`s doing everything that he can here to try to end up being able to spin this now ongoing saga over the last two years into a win.

And you`ll see on Monday he`s going to be doing his first, basically 2020 campaign rally.  He`ll be going to El Paso, Texas where he will again be focusing on the wall, because the President and the White House believe that despite everything we`ve been through that this is a winning issue for him.

WILLIAMS:  And Phil, I have a loved one living in El Paso, Texas, and they are not happy about the depiction of El Paso, Texas in the State of the Union address.  The President told some untruths that just disagree with the crime stats there, it`s going to be an interesting reception I`m imaging in El Paso, Texas.

ELLIOTT:  It is, but it`s still Texas, as much as we all -- every two years we write the Texas -- maybe it`s trending purple, maybe this is the time, maybe Beto will save us.  It`s still a deep red state with most of the levers of power controlled by Republicans.  That said, it`s again also Texas, and they don`t take kindly to people belittling them.  It`s that phrase like no one beats up my kid brother but me.

WILLIAMS:  With some wisdom on a Friday night.  Our friend Phil Elliott and Jill Colvin.  Thank you both so very much for adding to our conversation.

Coming up, there`s more big trouble in Virginia tonight.  As we mentioned at the top of the broadcast the lieutenant governor is now under the weight of another very serious allegation.  The State of the Commonwealth among other topics, when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  More breaking news out of Virginia today, as the Commonwealth remains in nothing short of a political crisis at the very top of government.  A second woman has come forward to accuse Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax of sexual assault.  She is the second woman to do so this week.  And this allegation concerns a college rape.

Here is how NBC News correspondent Geoff Bennett reported the story tonight from Richmond.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEOFF BENNETT:  That second woman who is now accusing Virginia Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax is Meredith Watson.  In a statement from her lawyer, Watson alleges that Fairfax raped her when they were both students at Duke University in 2000.

She said the attack was premeditated and aggressive and described Fairfax is friend whom she had never dated.  Watson says she can corroborate her story, she said she shared her account in a series of e-mails and Facebook messages with friends.

In a statement tonight, the lieutenant governor called the second allegation demonstrably false and he will not resign.

Former Democratic Governor Terry McAuliffe tonight calling on Fairfax to immediately resign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  And now to that last point, calls for the resignation of the lieutenant governor are also coming from Democratic presidential candidates, including but not limited to Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand.

With us tonight to talk about it, two friends of this broadcast.  Clarence Page, veteran journalist and columnist for the Chicago Tribune, and Pulitzer prize-winning author and historian Jon Meacham, his latest work of course, is "The Soul of America".

Gentleman, welcome to you.  Clarence, if this is an disaster, I`ll do until one gets here, as they say.  What are your thoughts of this unfolding incredible crisis in the Commonwealth of Virginia, not far from where you`re sitting?

CLARENCE PAGE, COLUMNIST, THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE:  Well, a number of bizarre twists, we can spend a half hour talking about -- listing all of them.  What really strikes me is, I wonder how many other states have problems like this, that we just haven`t heard about yet.

I mean, a grill was opened up, all kinds of stuff jumped out this week, at present, we`ve got top three Democrats in the state are in hot water.  And one of them is actually -- you`ve got the allegations, I guess to lieutenant governor involving what are actually criminal offenses.

And others we`re talking about, black face offenses that are -- it`s a terrible thing, if something happened in high school, they don`t appear to be about to quit over it, and this may be the kind of situation where we`re -- they`re going to have to serve in office with this cloud over their heads, so it`s a difficult situation for everybody.

WILLIAMS:  Jon, let`s talk about this.  Because you so often as a proud product of the American south, think and talk and write about the subject.  Here you have Commonwealth of Virginia, the seat of the confederacy, a state that has struggled mightily to grow and modernize and has picked up a purple political color, but then have you a black face scandal that plunges us back into America`s original sin.

And now we have the sexual allegations that bring us front and center to a topic we`ve been covering for months now.

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Well, it`s a reminder that William Faulkner was right when he said, wrote an "Requiem for Nun" that the pass is never dead.  It doesn`t even pass.  And that`s certainly the case of the governor and the attorney general the lieutenant governor`s issues seem to be to the side there.

And what I -- what seems to me is you`re right, that Virginia is a complicated state, it`s very blue up at the top, it gets redder down below.  In that way, it`s a kind of microcosm of the country.  To some extent these problems, these issues are a microcosm of what the country is -- at large is facing and dealing with.

In the case of the attorney general and the governor, I think we`re looking at an interesting test of whether the Trump era has created more like a capacity for politicians to brazen things out.  To wait it out, has in fact the line been drawn ever lower in the age of Trump.  And I think that`s going to be an interesting test case as this goes forward.

WILLIAMS:  To our viewers, both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us.  As we just sneak in a break here.

And coming up, a busy weekend already for those with an eye on the White House.  Soon it may be easier for us to list the Democrats not running for president.  That story when we come back.

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WILLIAMS:  Well, that was Cory Booker in New Jersey -- of New Jersey in Iowa today.  Right there, the first campaign stop since announcing his bid for president.  And this weekend more Democrats are hitting the campaign trail.

You`ve got Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Sherrod Brown who are going to be in South Carolina and New Hampshire respectively.  She is running, he says he`s just looking thank you very much.

And formal announcements expected from Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar on Sunday.  Still with us to sort out this mess Clarence Page and Jon Meacham.

Clarence, I am comforted by remembering there were 17 Republicans on stage last time in 2016.  But I`m still threatening to simply read the names of the Democrats not running for president, having established that it`s a crowded field, which ones do you think keep this current President up at night, especially considering that his poll numbers are under water?

PAGE:  Well, I think that the -- Sherrod Brown is one who I`ve been talking about for quite awhile.  Coming from Ohio, a senator who has a great populist record.  This last time, he was the only top -- he was the only Democrat in the top winners in the state.

Even after the Republican governor candidate Mike DeWine won election, Sherrod Brown won his Senate seat back by even a larger margin.  He has a great appeal to the rural Trump voters as well as the urban establishment Republican or I should say the suburban swing voters who both parties need.

So, I think that`s important for him.  On the other end, Amy Klobuchar right now has had some media scandal problems lately.  "Vanity Fair" reporting that she has been mean to her staff and this is something she`s going to have to talk about on the campaign trail.  And deal with.

I was very shocked by this.  I`ve talked with Amy Klobuchar several times, and even the article admitted her public record, most of us don`t see that side of her at all, but the charge has been made that she can`t keep staffers, had trouble hiring a campaign manager.

So we have an early scandal possibly brewing out there.  But I suspect  we`re going to see kind of -- we might see a replay of what the Republicans went through where they had a candidate of the week who dominated the ratings and was leading until Trump came along and just began to dominate everything in that party.

WILLIAMS:  Well, you`re so right.  That`s the way it felt in real time.  And Jon Meacham, let`s speak to your bailiwick, does history give us any guide about the type of Democrat who should be investing in bumper stickers, is it as some have said the celebrity? Is it the big populist?  Is it the kind of earnest unifier?

MEACHAM:  I think it`s a really interesting question whether any of those standards really apply in an age where Donald Trump is President.  Have all the traditional understandings of how we handicap these races gone away?

They certainly should create humility on our part, having -- at least I was one of the many people who was wrong throughout 2016 about who the incumbent president would be in 2019.  So take this for what it`s worth.

Given this number of senators, I think that`s interesting.  It`s basically the entire caucus.  Maybe there won`t be a quorum going forward in the Senate.  It reminds me of Jack Kennedy`s line about -- people said why are you running for president so young

And he said, well, I looked around and thought, well, if they can do it, I certainly can.  And so I think there must be a good bit of that.  It will be very interesting to see given there are so many people who are colleagues and who know each other pretty well how the tone and tenor gets as the race continues.

That is, they would know each other`s weak spots, they would know each other pretty well, and so I think it`s going to be a fascinating internal struggle.  The strongest nominee, it`s very, very hard to say.  History would tell us that United States senators don`t often make it.  President Kennedy, President Obama are the exceptions there.  Governors tend to do better.  But, again, Donald Trump is president, so what the hell do we know?

WILLIAMS:  The message to young budding future cable hosts is always have smart people on.  We`ve proven that again tonight.  Clarence Page, Jon Meacham, friends, thank you both very much.  Have a great weekend.

And coming up for us, we talked about it a bit earlier, the President`s health.  What we know and what we don`t know tonight following his four- hour physical earlier today.

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WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight.  What little is known about the President`s health.  And let`s say from the outset we`ve come a long way in this country in the last 75 years.  After all, FDR was elected president four times, and while he was digging the country out of depression and managing a titanic World War effort on two fronts, he did manage to hide his paralysis until the very end.  His physicians also hid from the American people his congestive heart failure which led to his death in April of `45.

Since then, with the exception of JFK`s various hidden ailments and treatments, our presidents have been much more forthcoming and the public has come to expect that.  Like when Ike suffered a heart attack in Denver, 1955.

LBJ public famous showing of his gallbladder scar, Richard Nixon`s phlebitis, Ronald Reagan`s cancer surgery.  We even witnessed Jimmy Carter`s collapse during a road race.  And 41`s explosive and sudden illness all over the Japanese prime minister.

Well, fast forward to today, our president had his second physical in office.  He`s 72.  He was the oldest person to become president.  The results of the first physical were so spectacular, given what we know about his diet and shall we say sedentary lifestyle, they were publicly doubted.

And while we`re awaiting specifics on this one, here`s what we were told.  He was examined by eleven board certified specialist over four hours to give or take at Walter Reid.  Nothing that involves sedation today, no details have been released yet.

And until then we have this from the lead physician, and we quote, "I`m happy to announce the President of the United States is in very good health and I anticipate he will remain so for the duration of his presidency and beyond.

More details when we get them.  That is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week.  Thank you so much for being here with us.  Have a good weekend.  Good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York. 

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END