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Trump's unhappy with Border deal. TRANSCRIPT: 2/12/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Tom Hamburger, Ned Price, Anita Kumar, Anita Kumar, Daniel Dale

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Donald Trump continued to mix with those employees while he was President of the United States.  The President who has complained more than any other in history about companies illegally hiring undocumented workers and that is but one of the many reasons why the most important thing Donald Trump said last night was --




O`DONNELL:  Donald Trump gets tonight`s LAST WORD and that word is "guilty."  THE 11TH HOUR with Brian Williams" starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight a blockbuster new piece of reporting from "The Washington Post" with new details on the meeting between Paul Manafort and a Russian with connections taking place a few blocks from Trump Tower at a critical time in the campaign at an interesting address.

What this could mean for Robert Mueller, whose team is set to meet with Manafort in a sealed hearing tomorrow.

Meanwhile, inside the West Wing, a President who touted himself as a dealmaker now unhappy about a bipartisan agreement.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Tuesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 754 of the Trump administration and there is new reporting underscoring the importance of that man, Paul Manafort, as former Trump campaign chairman to the Mueller investigation.

Tomorrow Manafort will be back in federal court for a hearing behind closed doors.  The judge is expected to rule on whether she believes Manafort lied to prosecutors, a decision that could impact his sentencing greatly.  That`s coming up in March.  But it was a Manafort hearing last week that continues to be of interest, last night and tonight.

Just this evening "The Washington Post" has new reporting examining the revelations from that hearing, particularly the August 22, 2016 meeting in New York involving Manafort, his deputy Rick Gates and their Russian associate, Konstantin Kilimnik.

Journalist Tom Hamburger, who joins us in a moment and his colleague Rosalind Helderman write, "It was at that meeting that prosecutors believe Manafort and Kilimnik may have exchanged key information relevant to Russia and Trump`s presidential bid."  They also report, "A former senior U.S. Intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity called the details about what occurred the most interesting and potentially significant development we have seen in a long time."

Manafort, Gates, and Kilmnik met at a crucial time during the Trump campaign at a cigar club just blocks from where we are here in Midtown, Manhattan, it`s called the Grand Havana Room.  Happens to be located at 666 Fifth Avenue, a notable address, because it was at the time famously owned by the Kushner family.  As we reported, one of Mueller`s prosecutors has described this 2016 event as being, "at the heart of the Russia investigation."

Meanwhile, NBC News reports the Senate Intelligence Committee is nearing the end of its inquiry and that both Republicans and Democrats say they have no direct link.  They`ve seen no direct link between the Trump campaign and Russia.  Today the Republican chair of that committee made a lot of news by speaking out publicly about his committee`s investigation, separate from the Mueller investigation, and what it has found or not found so far.


SEN. RICHARD BURR, (R) NORTH CAROLINA, CHAIR. INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE:  I`m not sure how to put it any clearer than I said it before.  We have no factual evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.


WILLIAMS:  Now, earlier on this network a former Justice Department official and a former CIA director took issue with that assessment.


JONATHAN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  The Senate Intelligence Committee does not have the investigative tools and capabilities and powers and subpoenas and being able to pull financial records and other types of thing that the special counsel has.

MATTHEW MILLER, FORMER CHIEF SPOKEMAN U.S. DEPART. OF JUSTICE:  They don`t have Rick Gates cooperating the way that Bob Mueller does and telling them about that Russian intelligence asset.  They don`t have Mike Flynn, the former national security advisor cooperating and telling them who, if anyone, told him to discuss sanctions relief with the Russian ambassador on the phone call.  They don`t have Michael Cohen cooperating, telling them the details of the Trump Tower meeting.


WILLIAMS:  Now that Senate Intel chairman, Senator Burr, also blasted former Trump fixer, Michael Cohen, who postponed that hearing that was scheduled for today.


BURR:  Any goodwill that might have existed in the committee with Michael Cohen is now gone.

On Twitter a reporter reported that he was having a wild night, Saturday night, eating out in New York with five buddies.  Didn`t seem to have any physical limitations.  I would prefer to get him before he goes to prison, but, you know, the way he`s positioning himself not coming to the committee, we may help him go to prison.


WILLIAMS:  Cohen, who is supposed to report to prison in early March, has cited medical issues for the reason for his postponement.  Late today his lawyer, Lanny Davis insisted his client was, indeed, recovering from shoulder surgery and that he was committed to testifying before the end of the month.

As the Congressional and Mueller inquiries move forward, there are mounting questions about how the special counsel`s findings will be made public, if at all.  This continues to be a debate.

Today John Dowd at one time Trump`s lead lawyer for that investigation made a rather surprising prediction.


JOHN DOWD, EX-TRUMP LAWYER:  I don`t think there would be a report.  I will be shocked if anything regarding the President is made public, other than, we`re done.


WILLIAMS:  "USA Today" reports that John Pistol, Mueller`s deputy at the FBI, had a similar assessment telling the paper, "a public narrative has built an expectation that the special counsel will explain his conclusions, but I think that expectation may be seriously misplaced."

Justice Department rules require Mueller to submit at least a confidential report when his work is done.  The decision to release the document will more than likely rest with William Barr, Trump`s pick to become attorney general.  He has not committed to making the report public.  Today the Senate voted to advance his nomination, which means we may see his final confirmation largely along party lines this week.

The President seems more than aware of that, at least he did today.  Here`s what he told his Acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker during a Cabinet meeting at the White House.


TRUMP:  There would be at some point you won`t be doing what you`re doing.  Come here.  I think you`ve done -- you`ve taken a tremendous amount of abuse.  You handled yourself incredibly last Friday.  But on behalf of all of us, I want to thank you very much.  Matt Whitaker.


WILLIAMS:  So, with that round of applause, let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Tuesday night.  Ned Price, former Senior Analyst at the CIA, former Senior Director on the National Security Counsel.  Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor.  And at aforementioned, Tom Hamburger, "Washington Post" National Reporter.

And Tom, because it`s your reporting we`re discussing here tonight, I`d like you to begin and talk about the setting of this meeting at this club not far from here in Midtown, Manhattan, why it matters, the more we learn about it, why it could be foundational?

TOM HAMBURGER, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL REPORTER:  Brian, it was, as you described it, an unusual meeting at an unusual place.  At the height of the 2016 Presidential campaign, August 2nd, Paul Manafort, the campaign chair, leaves campaign headquarters in Trump Tower and goes over to 666 -- to the 666 building and to a club at the top called the Grand Havana Room, a cigar club.  And there he and his campaign lieutenant, Rick Gates, meet with a visiting foreign national, Konstantin Kilimnik, a person who is since been identified by prosecutors as having ties to Russian intelligence.

And the meeting occurs at the height of the campaign, three men meet and one of the things we know from the bits of courtroom records that have not been redacted and that we`ve been able to review is that they chose to leave separately so that their meeting would have a lower chance of being seen, so they all meet secretly for dinner and then leave this Grand Havana cigar room separately.

And the things that we believe and the prosecutors have asked about that they discussed at that meeting are viewed as potentially very significant.

WILLIAMS:  There`s something else, Tom.  And as best you can, walk us through where in the calendar of events that resulted in the Trump residency this falls -- this is, what, days after Russia, if you`re listening, and 17 days before Manafort leaves the campaign?

HAMBURGER:  That`s correct.  And there are a couple other things that go on in the background as we put together this timeline.  One is, that just two days before this meeting, candidate Donald Trump also offers some seemingly sympathetic words to the Kremlin.  He suggests that maybe the folks in Crimea were not all that unhappy to have their territory sort of repossessed by Russia and becoming part of Russia, no longer part of Ukraine.

The campaign is moving into high gear at this point.  And yet Paul Manafort and his Lieutenant Rick Gates take time away from headquarters to meet with this visiting Russian national.

WILLIAMS:  Joyce Vance, we always assume Mr. Mueller`s effort is way out ahead of everybody else on this, but if you are part of the Mueller effort, Joyce, what interests you most about all of this?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  Here we actually have a clue from one of Mueller`s prosecutors who in the earlier hearing with Mr. Manafort, much of which was redacted, we learn that there`s real interest in this meeting and it`s viewed as being sort of a seminal meeting in the Mueller investigation.  And I think that that`s because, Brian, it goes to one of these foundational questions.  Was this Manafort out with a little side hustle essentially where he was trying to get old debts repaid by doing favors to the Russians or were there other folks in the Trump campaign who are involved in this sort of coordination back and forth with Russians sharing campaign informations?  That`s a question that Mueller certainly is eager to answer.

WILLIAMS:  Ned, talk about Muel -- Manafort, wow, I just merged the two men, Manafort, as a potential target here, as a potential dupe.  He`s living part time in Trump Tower.  He offers Donald Trump his services for nothing.  And we know he had, shall we say, mounting financial obligations in his personal life.

NED PRICE, FMR. CIA SENIOR ANALYST:  That`s right. And we also know, Brian, that those mounting financial obligations led to this desire of his to be made whole.  And there is great reason to suspect including on the backs of some fantastic investigative reporting that he actually took this position at the helm of the Trump campaign not in order to have another successful campaign under his belt, as a Republican political operative, but precisely to be made whole.

And so it`s interesting that time and again, including in this August 2, 2016, interaction with this associate of Russian intelligence, Konstantin Kilimnik, we saw Paul Manafort discussing things that could have significant material value for the Russians.  There`s this idea of a Ukrainian peace plan, which is more -- which is less Ukrainian peace plan and more all-out victory for the Russians because it would essentially bestow upon them sanctions relief.  And that`s something that they have long sought in just about all of their interactions with the Americans ever since those sanctions were placed on them in 2014 after Vladimir Putin`s incursion into Crimea and Eastern Ukraine.

Also in this case we understand that he was discussing polling data.  And that raises another important question.  Why precisely was Paul Manafort sharing what we understand to be very detailed polling data at this late stage in this campaign with this associate of Russian intelligence.  And it`s enticing, as Joyce mentioned, as you mentioned, that Mueller`s prosecutors say this gets to the heart of the matter.  As if the heart of their matter is determining whether this, in fact, was collusion, what we saw here.

WILLIAMS:  And Tom, what we`re left to do is just remind our viewers how unusual this is.  Meese, Baker, and Deaver while working for Reagan did not meet with Russians while applauding out the campaign.  James Carville for Bill Clinton did not meet with Russians in New York while plotting out the campaign.  At the end of your spectacular reporting you also pulled off another coup.  Tom, you got the Russians to give you a statement on the record.  Tell our viewers what they said and who they said it about.

HAMBURGER:  Well, one of the questions that emerged and that we have learned from some of the e-mail communications that have -- that Congressional investigators obtained is that Konstantin Kilimnik, the aforementioned Russian with alleged ties to Russian intelligence, was not sure how he was going to get to this meeting with Paul Manafort from Moscow.  And the day after that meeting, an aircraft owned by the Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska flies into Newark airport, stays for just a few hours and then departs again for Moscow.

And one of the questions that had been on our minds was whether Konstantin Kilimnik hitched a ride with the Oleg Deripaska, and oligarch who is close to Vladimir Putin.  We got a statement as we were reporting this story, my colleague Rosalind Helderman, received a statement from Oleg Deripaska`s office saying, "No, this was -- Konstantin Kilimnik has not met with Oleg Deripaska, and he did not hitch a ride on the Oleg Derispaska aircraft."

WILLIAMS:  Kind of an unofficial oligarch airline.  Hey Joyce, we run this videotape of Paul Manafort coming into and out of court.  We`ve all become very familiar with the pictures because we repeat them over and over, night after night.  This is what I`m talking about here.  This is a dramatically different looking man today by all accounts, people who have been in court and courtroom artists.

There is no colors than the big houses, hair has grown out, mostly gray now.  He`s been in and out of a wheelchair.  His lawyers say he`s been dealing with anxiety and gout, among other ailments.  He`s going to be presumably in this closed hearing tomorrow.  Joyce, by this time tomorrow night are we likely to know the disposition of this case, what the judge in this case has ruled?

VANCE:  I think it best what we`ll learn is whether or not the judge believes that Manafort has violated his plea agreement with the government.  And of course, the outcome of that question, the sentence that he ultimately receives will largely turn on the outcome of that question.  He`s looking at much more time, perhaps by a factor of five, six, seven years if he doesn`t get the benefit of that plea agreement that he entered into with the government.  So, the actual number we won`t learn until his sentencing hearing takes place, but tomorrow is an important day for Manafort`s future.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, some people have said a man of his age, you could make the difference between dying in prison or not.

Ned, I watched with great interest, Fox News tonight made much of Senator Burr`s comments that they found not one bit of evidence of any collusion between the Russians and the Trump campaign.  Your reaction to a statement like that from a guy in his position vis-a-vis the ongoing Mueller and Southern District of New York efforts?

PRICE:  Well, as an American, Brian, I certainly hope it`s true that my President didn`t engage in traitorous acts to give himself an advantage over his opponent in the 2016 election, but I don`t think this report today is dispositive.  I don`t think it in and of itself is exculpatory for President Trump and those around him.

And I think there are three things we have to keep in mind.  First, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

And related to that, and this is the second point, Senator Warner, who sits below Senator Burr on the Intelligence Committee as the vice chairman made very clear today that the investigation is ongoing, there are interviews that need to be completed, there are documents that need to be reviewed.  And this investigation that the Senate Intelligence Committee is running is quite different than Mueller`s probe.

But third and most importantly, I think there`s perhaps in some cases a willful misimpression being peddled of what it means that there`s no direct evidence of connecting Trump and collusion with the Russians.  To illustrate this point, there is a senior manager under whom I worked at CIA who would lose his cool every time someone told him that we lacked evidence or we lacked proof.  And his point was always that the CIA and the Intelligence Community more broadly doesn`t deal in -- it doesn`t deal in evidence.  We don`t deal in proof.  We deal in intelligence and analysts make assessments based on those -- based on that intelligence.  It`s more art than science oftentimes.

To put -- to apply this to another case, we`ve heard so much about -- from Mike Pompeo and from President Trump that there is allegedly no direct reporting tying the Saudi Crown prince to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the former "Washington Post" contributor.  At the same time, we know through investigative reporting that the CIA has a medium to high confidence assessment that the Saudi crown prince was responsible for this.

So I think it goes to show, Brian, that Intelligence assessments are not the same as evidentiary thresholds and to conflate the two in this case.  I think does a disservice to the American people.

WILLIAMS:  We`re much obliged to our big three tonight for starting us of, to Ned Price, to Joyce Vance, and Tom Hamburger, whose exclusive reporting has brought us all together this evening.  Thank you all for being with us.

And coming up for us, Congress gears up for a vote on the border deal as President Trump admits he`s not happy about it.  We have the latest reporting on the list of possible outcomes we`ll be covering next.

And later, how does one finish something that`s yet to be started?  We`ll have the truth on the status of Trump`s wall.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Tuesday night.



PETER ALEXANDER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Sir, will you sign Congress`s border deal?

TRUMP:  I have to study it.  I`m not happy about it.  It`s not doing the trick.

Am I happy at first glance?  I just got to see it.  The answer is, no, I`m not.  I`m not happy.  But am I happy with where we`re going?  I`m thrilled.


WILLIAMS:  President Trump there expressing his displeasure with the bipartisan deal to avoid another government shutdown, but he`s not threatening a veto just yet.  Congress is expected to vote this week on this bill that includes about $1.4 billion for border security.  That`s not a wall.  And it falls short of the $5.7 billion Trump was demanding.

Republican leaders are urging the President to get behind the deal and figure out the rest later on.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL. (R) MAJORITY LEADER:  Well, first of all, i hope he signs the bill.  And second, I think he ought to feel free to use whatever tools he can legally use to enhance his effort to secure the border.


WILLIAMS:  But conservatives on the right are far from satisfied.  This is how Fox News host, Sean Hannity, started his broadcast tonight.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST:  But first, we need to tackle the, what is a garbage new compromise supposedly surrounding border security in tonight`s "Hannity" watch on building the wall and keeping the government open.


WILLIAMS:  Other conservatives took to social media to bash the proposal.  Hannity`s fellow Fox News host, Laura Ingraham, called it stall funding.  And Ann Coulter called it a yellow new deal.

With us to talk about all of it, Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR, Boston`s NPR news station and Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent, Associate Editor for Politico.

Anita, you file blast in your piece this evening, I note uses the wording, the President is likely to approve it.  It`s been a little bit, been a few hours.  Is that still the case?  We have to ask.

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  That`s what I`m hearing today or even this evening.  People that are close to the White House are saying that the President is very likely to sign it but he`s taking some time just because he is going through the motions here saying, you know, he knows that conservative, some of his supporters don`t like this deal.  You know, it`s not giving him everything he wants and so he`s taking this time to say, "Well, I`m looking at it, I`m adding it, I`m working on it, I`m trying to make it better."

But the reality is, the deal is what the deal is.  There`s probably not a lot that`s going to be changed at this point.  And this is kind of him saying -- sending the signal that he`s trying to work hard.

But yes, we still hear that he`s likely to sign it.  And not only that we hear that he is likely to do one of these -- use one of these Executive Orders to find some money from other pots of money and take that and use it for the wall.

WILLIAMS:  Kim, last night in a speech in Texas he referred to the change in unemployment in the country during the last shutdown as a blip.  Said it`s been recovered from.  Because this story has a possible shutdown at the end of this week, and I don`t want people to forget that, that that could be end game here, I want to play a little more of the President on the shutdown possibility.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


TRUMP:  I don`t think you`re going to see a shutdown.  I wouldn`t want to go to it now.  If you did have it, it`s the Democrats` fault.  And I accepted the first one and I`m proud of what we`ve accomplished because people learn during that shutdown all about the problems coming in from the southern border.  I accept that.  I`ve always accepted it.

But this one, I would never accept if it happens, but I don`t think it`s going to happen.  But this would be totally on the Democrats.  OK?


WILLIAMS:  So, Kim, no matter what he says there about who`s at fault, we have been at this exact spot before and we`ve seen the right fire up on social media.  Folks like Mark Meadows, Freedom Caucus in the House, who have had a lot of sway in this White House.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SR. NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Yes.  And at, the President -- the first time before the shutdown that government shutdown happened was messaging that he thought it was a winning issue for him.  That he was saying that people were contacting him, saying, don`t give in to this, even though we are not getting paid for our jobs.

Well, the reality was the President`s popularity tanked by and large poll showed that he was the one to blame mostly for this shutdown.  As it is now, he`s the only person in charge.  He can decide whether to sign this deal or not.  So the shutdown really is in his hands.

And the people who are talking to him, including conservatives who are not happy with this deal, don`t see any other way out.  They really do not want a shutdown.  There is zero appetite for a shutdown in either party on Capitol Hill from the most liberal folks to the most conservatives.  So the President is sort of boxed in at this point and really doesn`t have much of an option other than to sign this bill.

WILLIAMS:  So, Anita, does that match what you are hearing?  Is there a level of seriousness that is governing these talks this time because, after all, we don`t want to do that again?

KUMAR:  Oh, yes.  I definitely agree that there is no appetite at all for a shutdown.  And so, here we are a few days before the Friday midnight deadline.  And the President definitely doesn`t want a shutdown.  And so, what can he do?  He has this deal in front of him and he can sign that deal.

And definitely conservatives and his supporters are very upset.  That`s where this part two comes in where, you know, they`re talking about -- there`s been a lot of talk about a national emergency.  We are hearing it might not be that but more that he would find money and be spending it on the wall.

He actually hinted at that in his tweet earlier this evening where he talked about finding some money to spend on the wall.  He mentioned it earlier in the pool spray he played with the Cabinet -- at the Cabinet meeting.  So, that is the direction they`re going in.

Now, I said this is what we`re hearing.  Of course, this is President Donald Trump, so anything can happen before Friday.  He can change his mind five times before that.  But as of today, that`s what we`re hearing.

WILLIAMS:  So, Kim, a question coming out of what Anita just said, why then the Friday night theatrics?

ATKINS:  Well, that`s how the President works.  I mean, he is trying to message all the way to the end, trying to, you know, allay the fears of the folks on the very conservative side, the folks on other networks who are messaging to him and trying to find some other way to declare victory here.  He`s already moved his message about building a wall to finishing the wall.  We`ve seen him in speeches and on twitter touting walls that are already being built when they`re actually not.  This is the President who messages even when he`s not winning and I think this is no different.

WILLIAMS:  We want to let our audience know both of our guests have agreed to stay with us while we fit in a break.  And the topic we`re going to tackle when we come back, it`s not collusion, it may be theft of a slogan but a bunch of people thought they heard the President say something oddly familiar last night at that event in Texas.  We`ll tackle that when we come back.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I love this state and I love the people of this state.  We`ve had a great romance together.  You know that.  It`s been a great relationship.  And we`re only getting stronger together.


WILLIAMS:  So, the Republican National Committee seized on those last words there from President Trump`s rally in El Paso last night with this post on Twitter.  If that slogan, stronger together sounds familiar, there`s a reason why.


HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE:  I believe with all my heart, that`s why the slogan in my campaign sums it up, that we are stronger together.

That we truly are stronger together.

We know we are stronger together.

Stronger together.

Stronger together.

So, let`s be stronger together, my fellow Americans.


WILLIAMS:  That`s where we had heard it before.  Clinton herself fired back on Twitter today with this, "Now copy my plan on health care, a fairer tax system and voting rights." She also helpfully provided a link to her website.  Kimberly Atkins and Anita Kumar agreed to stay with us.  So Kim, let`s not be polite here.  That slogan was Hillary`d (ph) in real-time during the campaign as being a kind of a formless let`s go diversity cheer when megahats were ruling the day.  How does this kind of thing happen, how does it wind up on the president`s teleprompter?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, SENIOR NEWS CORRESPONDENT, WBUR:  Whether it`s by accident or whether it`s the fact that President Trump, a part of him seems to continue to live in 2016 because he seemed to enjoy the campaign trail and having Hillary Clinton as an opponent, who knows.

But I think this connection probably isn`t something that President Trump minds.  President Trump loves continuing to run a campaign against Hillary Clinton, even though that election is over and Hillary Clinton has no problem jabbing back when she sees an opportunity.  So, it`s a continuation of the campaign that never ends.

WILLIAMS:  And, Anita, let me argue the other side, which is Mr. I alone can fix it is now all about stronger together.  How did that happen?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO:  I know that actually is the thing that really struck me beyond noticing what it sounded like, that it sounded like Hillary Clinton.  You know, we have seen him talk about unity and we saw him recently talk about unity at the state of the union address.

But as I was writing about the State of the Union Address before and after it was over, I kind looked back at some of his speeches.  He really only does that speech when he gives this big addresses to Congress.  So this was his third time that he does that.  He does talks about unity in that, bipartisanship.

But every other day of the year you don`t really hear that very often.  So, I wondering if he was trying to, was this on purpose he`s trying to talk unity instead of his what he normally talks about.  I don`t know if they`re trying to change their message.

What you usually hear from President Trump is more about, as you said, make America great again.  More about patriotism, right, nationalism.


KUMAR:  We don`t really hear this.  So, it was a very different message for him.  I don`t know if that`s what they`re going to start -- you know, this is it, he`s starting the re-election campaign.  So, I don`t know if they`re planning on changing their message.

WILLIAMS:  Our thanks to two friends of our broadcast, Kimberly Atkins and Anita Kumar, thank you both very much for your time tonight and coming on.

And coming up, the truth, the wall and President Trump.  Up next the reporter who`s made a career out of fact-checking every word out of this President`s mouth when we come back.



TRUMP:  The bottom line is we`re building a lot of wall.  Right now we`re building a lot of wall.  And you think it`s easy?  We`re building in the face of tremendous obstruction and tremendous opposition.


WILLIAMS:  So that was the claim again today, building a lot of wall on the southern border right now.  The President`s border wall was also a major part of that rally last night in El Paso.  This was the iconography we noticed right away before the event.  Finish the wall banners had been put up.  As we mentioned last night at one point Trump even said, a wall is being built right there on the Rio Grande River.


TRUMP:  Today we started a big, beautiful wall right on the Rio Grande.  Right smack on the Rio Grande.


WILLIAMS:  Engineers will tell you that is tough to do.  Peter Baker of "The New York Times" point out, "No new walls have been built or financed by Congress based on the prototypes the Trump Administration unveiled on October 2017.  Projects to replace or repair about 40 miles of existing barriers have been started or completed since 2017.  Construction of the first extension of the current barriers, 14 miles of what`s called a levee wall in the Rio Grande valley sector, is slated to begin this month, but a butterfly center has asked a judge to block the construction as the barrier would bisect its property."  Yes, there`s a butterfly center affected by this.

With us again tonight, Twitter`s most prolific presidential fact-checker, our friend Daniel Dale, The Toronto Star`s Washington Bureau Chief.  Daniel, before we even begin, I thought it would be useful for us to watch just relive how the President`s comments on the wall itself have, shall we say, migrated over the past few months.  We`ll watch this and talk about it on the other side.


TRUMP:  Mexico will pay for the wall, I promise.

The wall will also be paid for indirectly by the great new trade deal we have made with Mexico.

I`ll tell you what it`s going to be made of.  It`s going to be made of hardened concrete.

The wall, the barrier, whatever you want to call it`s OK with me.  They can name it whatever they can name it peaches.  I don`t care what they name it.

Now, you really mean, finish that wall because we built a lot of them.  Finish.


WILLIAMS:  So, Daniel, once and for all, I know you called elements of our Federal Government today to find out what is being built, how much and where.

DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE TORONTO STAR:  Yes. So, no new wall has been built.  Some time this month they are going to build the first new barrier of Trump`s administration.  That is in the Rio Grande Valley.  It did not start this week.  It did not start the day that Trump spoke.  I asked Customers and Border Protection to confirm this, they said, you know, you said it`s imminent.  The president says it has happened.  Which one is it?  And they said that was started is vegetation clearing for this wall construction.  You could argue I guess that that is part of the construction project.  I don`t they`re clearing vegetation counts dozens of wall.

So this claim that`s going to lie more than 100 times by my count he started building the wall.

I think it will sees to become a lie when that 6 or 14-miles of barrier is indeed under construction.  But that hasn`t happened yet.

WILLIAMS:  He usually has his own construction of something that will cover him if he`s called out on stuff, so was it the repair job that was done on existing barrier that you think maybe he uses as his cover?

DALE:  Yes, that`s precisely what he`s done.  And as evidence he`s put up pictures on Twitter.  He said look, I claimed we start building the wall.  Here`s the picture of the wall.  When he put up those pictures, they`ve been of replacement fencing in places like Calexico, California.  These are long-planned projects, not based on Trump`s prototypes.  They`re fencing, they`re not concrete.  And so he justified -- he`s used projects that are not his wall to justify his false claim that he is building his wall.

WILLIAMS:  And in the part of the world where the Rio Grande is the border between Mexico and the United States, obviously we`re going to quibble over a term of art, we`re building a wall on the Rio Grande.  What is this barrier going to look like along portions of the Rio Grande?

DALE:  So, it`s going to be quite short.  The first leg is six miles, much shorter than the wall Trump is talking about on the campaign trail.  It`s going to be on a levee to the height of the existing levee, plus steel on top of concrete.  So some people might still argue this is not Trump`s wall because it`s want the prototypes that he unveiled earlier in his term.  I think it`s going to look like a wall.  It`s going to be new barrier.  So, I think that`s good enough for Trump to say at that point that he is building part of his wall.

WILLIAMS:  What percentage do you think at the end of term one of the Trump Presidency could be completed of his promise from sea to shining sea?

DALE:  It`s hard to offer a precise number, but I think it`s clear at this point that at least at the end of this first term it`s going to be quite small.  Democrats are not willing to fund much of it.  He`s had to, you now, wring funding for some kind of fencing out of them.  And so it`s just not happening.

WILLIAMS:  Let`s talk about another claim the President made last night.  I think we have his words on this.  This is the number of immigrants who have come into U.S. hands collected when they have tried to come into this country.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


TRUMP:  We sign their names, they touch our land.  We sign them up.  We explain to them, please come back in six years for court.  And only the dumbest people show back up.  Nobody ever shows.  Nobody comes back in.  Like 2 percent.


WILLIAMS:  So, by that claim, 2 percent of the immigrants caught up in the system come back for their court appearances.  You fact-checked this today.

DALE:  Yes.  So, conveniently the U.S. Justice Department releases official data on this and their numbers are that in 2017, 89 percent of asylum seekers showed up for their hearings and 72 percent of everyone.  And so, you can still make an argument that`s insufficient but it`s not 2 percent.

WILLIAMS:  The President also has arrived at kind of a favorite anecdote that has happened more than once, as we`ve noticed and you`ve noticed.  Stories of large men who seem to come up to the President thanking him, often moved to tears.  Here`s the latest incarnation.


TRUMP:  I was just walking up, and every time it happens.  Sir, thank you.  Thank you very much.  This guy, he`s like a monster.  He`s this big, strong guy and he`s crying.  And he said, Mr. -- I`m walking up, Mr. -- and it happens all the time.  Thank you very much, Mr. President.  I said, for what?  He said, you`ve saved our country.  Our country was going in the wrong direction.  You`ve saved our country.  Thank you.  I`ve had so many people say that.


WILLIAMS:  So large, almost monster-like men.  Benefit of the doubt here.  When you`ve been backstage with presidents you know there`s local P.D., there`s event security, there`s VIPs, there`s appearances they have to make backstage.  There`s every chance that people have thanked him for being president.  Is this fact-checkable?

DALE:  Well, I don`t include it on my list of false claims because very conveniently these always happen backstage where there are no independent witnesses.  There was one note that I could fact-check.  He claimed that the signing of an Executive Order on the waters of the United States rule, half the people standing behind him in the White House had tears coming down their face.  There was video of this.  The White House filmed this.  And so I went to the video.  No one at all was crying.  And so, I think it`s very clear that these stories are dubious even though we can`t definitively call them false.

WILLIAMS:  Perhaps one or more large individuals have approached him, move to tears and their thanks for what he`s done for the country.  We will continue to call on you to help us with fact-checking.  Thank you.  Thanks for the work you do every day and what we read of it on social media.

DALE:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  Daniel Dale with us here in the studio in New York.

And coming up, the big political announcement that people woke up to today that has absolutely nothing to do with the White House run in 2020.


WILLIAMS:  Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, notably the husband of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, announced he is running for Senate in Arizona in 2020 as a Democrat.  The announcement was made via a campaign video that was posted on social media this morning with the title "My Next Mission."  We get the story tonight from NBC`s Cynthia McFadden.


CYNTHIA MCFADDEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  Tonight it`s official, retired astronaut Mark Kelly is running for John McCain`s Senate seat in Arizona, making the announcement in a highly polished video.

MARK KELLY, RETIRED ASTRONAUT:  You know, it becomes pretty obvious pretty early when you get into space that we`re all kind of in this together.

MCFADDEN:  Trained as an engineer, Kelly became a Navy fighter pilot and NASA astronaut.

KELLY:  These missions are very, very challenging and very rewarding.

MCFADDEN:  He met his wife, Gabby Giffords, when he was about to turn 40.  The former Arizona congresswoman nearly died during an assassination attempt in 2011.  She was by his side today.

KELLY:  You remember when you first entered Congress for the first time?


KELLY:  It was exciting.  You know, I thought then that I had the risky job.


KELLY:  Turned out that you were the one who had the risky job.


MCFADDEN:  The tragedy turned Kelly and Giffords, both gun owners, into outspoken advocates for gun control.

KELLY:  We are simply two reasonable Americans who have said enough.

MCFADDEN:  But the mass shootings have continued and how a pro-gun control stance will play in Arizona is unclear.  So, (INAUDIBLE) Kelly made no mention of the controversial topic in his video today.  He`s running as a Democrat, today taking a backhanded slap at the president.

KELLY:  We`ve seen his retreat from science and data and facts.  And if we don`t take these issues seriously, we can`t solve these problems.

MCFADDEN:  Now, a new mission.


WILLIAMS:  We should add to the reporting of Cynthia McFadden that should Mark Kelly win the Democratic nomination.  If he is their choice as a party in that state, he will likely face Republican Senator Martha McSally, who you may recall is currently filling John McCain`s seat.  She too has a distinguished military career as the first woman to command a U.S. Air Force fighter squadron.

Coming up after our final break, we`ll talk about what might have been and how Washington might have been a very different looking, different seeming place when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, let`s just take a moment to think about what might have been.  Abraham Lincoln was born 210 years ago today.  Always ranked first or second behind George Washington as our most important president.  He was a modest, self-made, self-taught man from Illinois who showed genuine brilliance and mustered astounding courage and vision, guiding our country through an existential crisis that had torn us in two.

Historians for years have wondered how we would have been different had he lived.  He was humanized a bit this week by the digital artist and colorist, Marina Amaral, who posted her work on social media.  And when you look at it, it does help bring to life a president we have only known in such stark black and white terms.

And thanks to Michael Beschloss and his always educational Twitter feed.  This week he has posted photos of, for starters, everything that was in the president`s pockets the night of his assassination at Ford`s Theater, a photo of Lincoln at his very tiny desk, a photo of Abraham Lincoln`s slippers.

But what got our attention from Michael were the two rejected designs for the Lincoln Memorial.  One with his statue on top of it and another full-on pyramid, think of how that would have changed the view in Washington for all of these years.

And with that, let us give thanks for the beauty and the majesty of the memorial that we have.  A fitting memorial for the president we lost, the man who was born 210 years ago today.

And that is our broadcast for this Tuesday night.  Thank you so very much for being here with us.  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