LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: THE 11TH HOUR with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The breaking news we`re covering tonight, a federal judge rules Paul Manafort intentionally lied to the FBI, the special counsel and a grand jury and the result may be a 70-year-old man in failing health may spend his last days in federal prison. All of it serving to revive the gnawing overarching unanswered question, why all of the lies about Russia?
Plus Trump says the wall is, "very, very on its way." While congress hopes and prays here signs their compromised deal. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Wednesday night
And good evening, once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 755 of the Trump administration and we have breaking news from today in the Mueller investigation. The President`s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is tonight facing the very serious prospect of living out the rest of his days on earth in federal prison. Things did not go well for his side in court today.
Late today a federal judge sided with Special Counsel Mueller`s office and ruled that Manafort lied to prosecutors in violation of the plea deal he struck just last fall. Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that Manafort made multiple false statements to the FBI, Special Counsel`s Office, and to the grand jury. This came in a closed-door hearing a little more than a week after another critical sealed hearing in which Mueller`s team laid out its case against Manafort. Prosecutors argued that Manafort intentionally lied to them about matters central to the investigation, including a meeting with Russian Ukrainian associate Konstantin Kilimnik, at the height of the Trump campaign, that according to one prosecutor, goes, "very much to the heart of what the Special Counsel`s Office is investigating.
Today Manafort`s lawyers insisted their client did not lie and that any misstatements were accidental. They also cast doubt on the credibility of a key witness, former Manafort partner right there, Rick Gates, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the Feds.
That was not enough to convince a federal judge today who ruled the Special Counsel`s Office established Manafort`s intention to lie in three of the five cases presented. Number one, he lied to investigators about a 125,000-dollar payment, which he had tried to disguise as a loan. Number two, he intentionally gave false information related another federal investigation carried out by a different office. And three, Manafort lied to the FBI, the special counsel and grand jury about his communication with that Russian-Ukrainian associate Kilimnik who the FBI says has ties to Russian intelligence.
Now that Paul Manafort has been found to have officially breached his plea agreement, the special counsel is under no obligation to recommend a lighter sentence in exchange for his cooperation. Next big date in his life is his sentencing date D.C. court, March 13th.
With that, let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Wednesday night, Julia Ainsley, NBC News National Security and Justice Reporter who`s been on the Manafort court beat for us. Mimi Rocah, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now Distinguish Fellow in Criminal Justice at the Pace University School of Law. And Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and Pentagon and former Counsel to House Intel.
Jeremy, I`d like to begin with you. Did Paul Manafort just end up worse off than if he hadn`t taken the plea deal with the Feds in the first place? And what by dent of this judge`s order today have we learned that advances the ball, advances this story?
JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: He may be equally worse off, Brian. A convicted felon has essentially two tickets out of prison. One is to cooperate with the prosecutors after the conviction or after his guilty plea, I should say. Tell them everything he knows, do so truthfully and hope that they join in a recommendation to the judge that he be sentenced at the low end or receive what`s known as the downward departure, basically a shorter sentence.
The second ticket out of prison is, of course, a pardon. And one has to wonder tonight whether or not this effort to lie, to conceal, to obfuscate the truth from the prosecutors, from the government is motivated in part by his desire to be seen by the President of the United States as holding firm in their cover story about Russian interference in 2016.
WILLIAMS: Mimi Rocah, I have to say, Jeff Toobin was talking about Paul Manafort on television tonight and I wrote down some quotes. He saw him in the last court opinions -- appearance, he says, his decline has been shocking. He is almost unrecognizable and appears disoriented. He`s either walking with a cane or with the help of a wheelchair.
Prison can be a rough environment, especially if you`re not used to it. But I also know that there is nothing Feds like less than entering a deal with someone who goes back on that deal. So this can be an in effect death sentence for him.
MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: Absolutely. I mean, prosecutors don`t tear up cooperation agreements as we put likely. It is something they`re going to do when they think the lying has been intentional, significant, material, serious. And that is what they thought here, that is what the Special Counsel`s Office got to the point where they thought they could not go forward, because he`s these lies were so serious.
And that this man that just pled guilty to additional crimes and is now facing additional time that he was not necessarily facing before, that they needed to say, we can`t go through with this. And the judge found that to be the correct position. And so as everyone is asking why, why is he lying?
And I just want to point out, what did he lie about? You laid out the three general categories. That third category about his interactions with Kilimnik, it seems that specifically, he was lying about the fact that he and Kilimnik were continuing to discuss this Ukrainian piece plan which is really just another way of saying sanctions relief. And we can just fit that in there, even after, even while he was Trump`s campaign adviser and for several meetings afterwards. So that`s one of the core pieces that he lied about.
And the other piece, it seems, is about the transferring of this pole data. So the two pieces that we`ve all been talking about, Ukraine -- relief from sanctions and Russian interference in the election. Those are the two things he lied about. And that, you know, it`s just second off red flashing signals and I really think it`s almost beyond a doubt in my mind that Manafort conspired and the Russians, it`s a question of who is he protecting by lying if anyone and why?
WILLIAMS: And Julia we have to keep stopping ourselves, Mimi just trying to emphasize one of these instances has Trump`s campaign chairman handing over polling to a Russian, that`s not done, that`s not normal. And to Mimi`s other point, we`ve had three people now, we`ve had Flynn, we`ve had Cohen, and Manafort found by a federal judge to have lied about the same thing and it`s all related to Russia.
JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS NTL. SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Right, Brian. So you have to ask yourself, is it just that the President surrounded himself with people who are not honest brokers and continued to lie to try to protect their own self interest or are they lying to cover up someone higher up than them, trying to coverup something larger within the campaign.
I just want to take a moment and look at where we were in time of August 2016, at a time that Manafort would have had this meeting with Konstantin Kilimnik, this is shortly after the Republican convention when Manafort was a big player in getting a pro-Russian platform introduced into the Republican platform when Trump is going forward as the nominee.
It is also, Brian, around the time that we reported at NBC where we know that people from the FBI came to the Trump campaign and said, "You should be careful because there is outside international interference in this campaign and we are concern about Russia. They named them by name.
So this was not an innocent bystander, this is someone who setup this meeting knowing that this was unusual, that this meeting was not done, and they continued to talk about sanction relief during this time. And the number of meeting is the other thing that they`re saying that Manafort lied about. You know, that`s material.
Manafort lied and said that he had this one meeting where he dismissed that peace plan Mimi talked about as crazy when, in fact, he went back multiple times and prosecutors likely with the cooperation of Rick Gates, Manafort`s former business partner, that is how they got to the conclusion that there were multiple meetings with Konstantin Kilimnik and he did so and knowing lied about it.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, you`ve been in and out of Washington your adult professional life. Take a whack at explaining to our viewers how unnormal this is and why all the lying about Russia.
BASH: Yes. Well, what I want to do, Brian, is actually take Mimi`s theory one click further, she posited that Manafort may have been conspiring with the Russians. I think there`s another way to view this case which is that Manafort had become a de facto Russian agent himself. And he was under the control -- operational control of the Russians, he was obviously indebted to them financially intertwined, had developed these relationships, was unregistered Russian agent literally speaking.
And so in some respects when the Trump campaign and even the candidate himself conspired with Manafort about foreign policy outcomes in a Trump presidency like sanctions relief, like undermining NATO, in effect, Trump was conspiring with a Russian agent. And therein lies an element of conspiracy. I don`t think we`ve really explored yet.
WILLIAMS: And the bottom line, Jeremy, to what you just said is why this is the -- being called the original sin of this campaign is that it speaks to the potential illegitimacy of election which has been Donald Trump`s third rail at all times.
BASH: That`s right. And why would Paul Manafort who been on the outside of American politics join the Trump campaign for no pay? Why would he sort of seemingly drop from thin air into the lap of Donald Trump if he wasn`t actualy placed there by people who were working with him, people potentially who were controlling him. And in some ways Donald Trump welcomed him with open arms.
And again, therein lies to the agreement. I think less important is whether or not there was any back and forth between Trump and the Russian federation, what`s much more important is whether or not Trump upheld his end of the bargain, he received support during the campaign, he received financial support from the Russian federation over the many years including the Moscow-Trump Tower deal. And did Trump hold up his end of the bargain, you bet you, he did.
WILLIAMS: I have another question for our former Fed here in New York. Mimi, I`m going to play for you something Congressman Schiff said on this network tonight, we`ll talk about it on the others side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, CHAIR. INTELLIGENCE CMTE: It appears the judge has largely agreed with what the special council argued. And that is not only did he lie, but the motivation here is if he told the truth about his relationship with someone affiliated with Russian intelligence, while he was the campaign chairman, that would be so damaging effectively to Trump, that it would make (ph) his chance of a pardon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We played that because Jeremy invoked pardons. It must be like having a missing man or woman in court. If part of what you are up against is something that you can`t feel or see and that`s the potential of a pardon.
ROCAH: Right. And Andrew Weismann, the prosecutor in the hearing and the transcript you see him sort of explaining that --
WILLIAMS: Used the "P" word in the transcript, yes.
ROCAH: He used it. And he said, this is very unusual, we don`t usually have this incentive. All the normal ways that people are incentivized to tell the truth to the government because that is what will literally set you free are not w there when the countervailing incentive is the possibility of a pardon. And that -- here could seem like the easier way out to Manafort. You know, I think that`s a big risk that he is taking. And there are all sorts of legal complications to that and why he may not after all go free even if he is pardoned.
But, yes, it is striking to see someone from the Special Counsel`s Office say that part of Manafort`s motive in lying, specifically about these two things that we talked about again, the polling, the polling data that would have been valuable to the Russians interfering and the sanctions relief was that he lied because if he told the truth, you know, Trump wouldn`t be happy with him. I mean, that`s really another way of saying it, which means that he`s protecting Trump by lying about it. And that`s incredible.
WILLIAMS: Take 30 seconds and tell me what you hope at the end of all of this, whenever it takes us, people learn about Feds and federal judges.
ROCAH: I hope they learn that their not motivate -- that their main motivation is the law and the facts and they are not coming from the political place that so many other areas are. And judges and prosecutors personally have political beliefs. But when they are investigating a case they really try to lead -- be led by the fact and the law and not their politics or personal beliefs.
WILLIAMS: Julia, one more for you. And that is this, Manafort associate who was a new one to several of us, Sam Patton, has also decided to cooperate with the federal government. For those for whom this is a new name on the roster, please fill us in.
AINSLEY: So Sam Patton actually has a lot in common with Paul Manafort. They have worked together, there are a lot of links here. He too is a Republican political consultant and he was charged with lobbying on behalf of a pro-Russia political party in Ukraine, another charge that we saw come down on Rick Gates and Paul Manafort.
I think he really serves as a foil right now for how easy it could be for Paul Manafort if he cooperated. We know that Sam Patton had agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in D.C. because of a referral that came out of Robert Mueller`s office. He also is -- will be cooperating and giving information about how he tried to use straw purchasers to be able to get Russian oligarchs into the inauguration, that`s another thread we`re going to be pulling on for weeks or months to come, Brian.
But he is someone who already has a sentencing date set up. He`s being cooperative. That is how easy things could have been for Paul Manafort, given he was charged with more, he was more involved in the campaign, but it was as easy as that.
And as we`ve gone over tonight, there were a lot of irrational -- seemingly irrational decisions from the outside in Paul Manafort`s case when you look at how straightforward it was for someone like Sam Patton.
WILLIAMS: Some nights I swear there is less talk about Russians in Russia than in this country and on this broadcast on the average night. Our thanks to Julia Ainsley, to Mimi Rocah, and to Jeremy Bash for straightening some stuff out for us tonight.
Coming up, President Trump plans to look for land mines in this new border deal legislation but one of his closest friend in the Senate, you can guess who, warns declaring a national emergency may still be on the table. That will make for an interesting Friday night.
And later, the democratic candidate mulling a Presidential run who may have gotten a big boost this week from Trump deep in the heart of Texas, that and more when we come back on a Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA: Is the President incline today accept the agreement and move on and try to find money elsewhere and most likely declare an emergency I think is generally the plan. But we really don`t know until you get the details of the bill.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He discussed that with you the national emergency still on the table?
GRAHAM: Definitely on the table. I`ll let him tell you whether or not he`s going to do. But he`s very incline to go no route.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Just a casual toss-off reference there in the hallway. Lindsay Graham today saying his buddy, the President, is incline today accept a bipartisan agreement to avoid this looming shutdown and perhaps declare a national emergency to fund his border wall.
Today multiple sources told NBC News the President is, in fact, likely to sign that deal. They also quickly cautioned there`s nothing set in stone because this White House has yet to see anything in writing among other things. We just learned the final text of the legislation has been completed at long last. We`re waiting for it to be released. Senate is expected to vote first on the bill tomorrow then the House. This morning Trump said that he would be scanning the compromise for any hidden surprises.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We haven`t gotten it yet. We`ll be getting it. We`ll be looking for land mines, because you could have that, you know. It`s been known to happen before to people. But we are in very good shape. And going take a look at it when it comes, I don`t want to see a shutdown. Shutdown would be a terrible thing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: NBC News reports this compromise agreement, "provides nearly $1.4 billion for 55 miles of new border fencing, which could include steel slats and other existing technologies.`
During an afternoon event with law enforcement, Trump again repeated his claim the wall is being built.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: The wall is very, very on its way. It`s happening. As we speak. We`re building as w we speak in the most desperately needed areas and it`s a big wall. It`s a strong wall. It`s a wall the people aren`t going through very easy. It`s going to have to be in extremely good shape to get over this one. They would be able to climb Mount Everest a lot easier I think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Not everybody agrees with that. Today Ann Coulter for one was back at it trolling the President, "announcing the Trump border trellis, not just a garden trellis, it might extend for yards and yards."
And let`s not forget there is still Rick Wilson`s compromise suggestion of a freedom ditch.
With us to talk about all of it, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Price Winning White House Bureau Chief for the "Washington Post." And Eliza Collins, Politics Reporter for "USA Today" who covers Congress for a living.
Phil, take us inside the West Wing. I know the wall is very, very on its way, what`s going on you think inside?
PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: Well, Brian, there is a realization inside, including by the President that the 35-day shutdown of December and January was a political loser for him. So there`s nobody, really nobody who is encouraging the President to have a second shutdown and continue this fight with Congress over the border wall.
So what they`re preparing is for the President to sign this spending bill once it reaches his desk later this week and then try to take executive action to secure more funding -- more funding, more money, reallocating more dollars towards that wall. And put on a public relations show to try to claim this as a victory. But the President knows it`s not anywhere near the $5.7 billion that he was demanding for Congress. And this is really something of a political defeat for him, not being able to get more money from Congress for the wall.
WILLIAMS: Eliza, is it fair to cast this and Hannah-Barbera terms and say that the folks on Capitol Hill are anxious to maybe just gently pull the pin out of this grenade. Get a pass and toss it down Pennsylvania Avenue.
ELIZA COLLINS, USA TODAY POLITICS REPORTER: I think so. And I think that`s why you`re seeing people on both sides, saying, "Yes, we are OK with this deal even though we haven`t seen the text yet. We are seeing this bill rushed through." Of course this has to be on President`s desk before Friday at midnight because part of the government would lose funding after that.
So we`ll see the Senate move tomorrow, then the House. And they`re just kind of trying to move things along really hoping that the President doesn`t change his mind at the last minute, which he has done before.
WILLIAMS: Now, Eliza, it`s -- if you are a viewer of broadcasts like Bill Mar, you know the left has fun referring to President Coulter, there is that pressure on this President. On the right, there is Ann Coulter, there is Sean Hannity, there`s others at Fox News who he listens to and cares about. And then there is Mark Meadows of the House Freedom Caucus, let us in on their thinking and how this could still gnaw at and influence the President?
COLLINS: Well, this is a group that helped him in to that first shutdown. They were advising him not to take a temporary funding bill. They said you should shut the government down. This is an issue you ran. This as one of the most important issues you ran on. And you really need to go to the mat for this.
Of course the President did take the shutdown 35 days and then he ended up signing a temporary funding bill to get out of it because most like there was no other way out. That group was sort of cautiously optimistic at that point. They said, "OK, sign this bill, but you better get something the next time."
They are not happy with what he`s gotten this time. And Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, they have been very vocal about that.
Now, Mark Meadows is a little bit different, because he is a member of Congress. He said he`s not going to support the bill himself. He sort of went after earlier this week. But today he had changed his tune a little bit. I was texting with him earlier today and he basically said that if the President were to sign this bill, just as long as he was going to do something else to get the rest of that money, possibly an emergency declaration which Meadows said he would support or Republicans are talking about finding other funds to allocate. They`re not clear on how that would be.
The base would forgive the President on this. And basically avoid the shutdown. They all know that the President was blamed in polling for the shutdown, so Meadows was sort of giving Trump an out even if he didn`t personally support the bill.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, I wasn`t great at globes and maps, but I know 55 miles ain`t no sea to shining sea.
RUCKER: Doesn`t go very far.
WILLIAMS: So, what`s the chance that by this weekend we`re going to hear words like an emergency declaration or an executive action?
RUCKER: I think high pretty high, Brian. The President traveled down to El Paso on Monday. It was a long trip aboard Air Force One about four hours, three to four hours each way. And on board the trip was the White House counsel. Now, White House lawyers don`t usually travel to campaign rallies with the President, but perhaps Peloni (ph) was on board the plane presumably going over a lot of this paper work and talking the President through what his legal options would be for any sort of executive action.
It`s a pretty complicated step. It`s not just flipping a switch. But there are all different pots of money that have to be triggered at various points and there is a legal protocol to protect the administration from a challenge in the courts. And I think that`s the sign that the President is preparing to make an announcement.
And I wouldn`t be surprised if, you know, while he`s signing this bill on Friday, he`s simultaneously announcing that he will going to be taking some sort of executive action. That`s what some of his advisers are encouraging him to do. And it`s a way for him to show his political supporters out in the country that he`s going keep fighting for the wall.
WILLIAMS: So, Phil, you wouldn`t be surprise to take Eliza`s point and what we`re reading in a competing newspaper tonight that the White House is calling people with names like Hannity and Dobbs just to try to rally support among people whose opinion matters to President.
RUCKER: It matters a great deal to the President and part of what the President is trying to avoid is to make this look like a defeat or a concession to his supporters around the country. They`ve been hearing it about the wall now for more than three years since he launched his campaign and it`s time that he shows some results and some actions and so that`s what the administration is trying to sort of rally the cable hosts and others to get behind.
WILLIAMS: Two of the best reporters on their respected beats, Phil Rucker, Eliza Collins, thank you both for coming on with us tonight. We really appreciate it.
RUCKER: Thank you.
WILLIAMS: And coming up, what is behind Russia`s plan to try unplugging from the rest of the internet? To see if it can go it alone on the web when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAN COATS, DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: All four states that I have just mentioned, China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, are advancing their cyber capabilities which are relatively low cost and growing in potency and severity. This includes threatening both minds and machines in an expanding number of ways.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: I was saying a lot there, the Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats just last month on the ongoing foreign cyber threats to our country. He has said one of the things that keeps him awake at night is the possibility that a foreign actor like Russia could kill the power and turn off the heat across all of New England in the dead of winter. Think about that.
This week we learned that Russia is preparing for its own cyber war simulation. This is an odd one. Russia is apparently planning an experiment to disconnect its internet from the rest of the world. State media reporting, "The goal is to ensure the uninterrupted operation of the internet in this country in case of unforeseen threats from outside". The test comes after the U.S. authorized offensive cyber operations and NATO said it was mulling offensive defense with cyber warfare rules. In other words, the kind of things our governments do out of sight every day.
Well, with us tonight we have a man who would know, Robert Anderson, Former FBI Assistant Director of Counterintelligence, Former Executive Assistant Director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch. Bob, let`s start very basically. An American tourist flies to Moscow, you`re staying at either the Kempinski or the Ritz Carlton, you log on to hotel Wi-Fi. Is that hotel Wi-Fi or Russian Wi-Fi you`ve just logged on to?
ROBERT ANDERSON, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Yes, great question, Brian. The answer is just about everything you just logged in to is gone. In that hotel and in Russia and Moscow, all of those facilities are basically open access for intelligence, Russian services, whether it`s the SVR, SFB or any of the intelligence services there. They have full access in to all of those types of Wi-Fi, cellular data or anything that you`re going to connect to.
WILLIAMS: So having established that, what do you think is going on here with this experiment? Do you believe it?
ANDERSON: Well, I believe it. I don`t think they can do it. I think there a long way off from being able to do it especially nowadays with all the different technologies to actually log in to the internet. But I think there is something here that the Russian government and the President is actually trying to do. I think it`s an intelligence related operation to funnel all the communications that are coming out of that country through specific areas in their network so that they can monitor them.
I mean, I think it`s a classic intelligence gathering information of what`s going on inside their country. And don`t get me wrong, as you said earlier, I think all nation states are going to try to protect themselves especially in sophisticated war type scenarios nowadays around the internet. But I truly believe this has a much more open-ended thing when it comes to the intelligence gathering of his country.
WILLIAMS: It`s kind of human nature to look at this and say are we doing enough on this front? We just said what keeps Dan Coats up at night. What on this front keeps you open -- up at night and what potentially aren`t we doing?
ANDERSON: Yes. Well, Mr. Coats is absolutely right. And I have briefed plenty of his predecessors in the dame office he sits in about threats like this. And when we talk about SCADA system attacks which you were eluding to earlier or turning off the electrical grid or opening up dams, that is something, thank goodness, that our government and the United States intelligence services, all of them, have been engaged in for a very long time. It doesn`t mean that you can`t do more. But I think it`s good for people to understand that the threats like that are looked at very carefully by the United States intelligence community.
WILLIAMS: I also have to ask you given your background about the central story that we cover on this broadcast every night that is the Russian investigation and today`s news, especially, that Mr. Manafort lied to the Feds, lied to the Mueller investigation, he lied to the grand jury. He lied to your beloved FBI. What do you make of today`s news that this kind of thing could happen to a guy who had flipped and was cooperating with the home team as they call it?
ANDERSON: Well, unfortunately, Brian, this isn`t something if you`ve been in the business as long as I was, that, you know, is not routine. Some people think that they`re smarter than the people that are actually investigating them. And the one thing that you and your guests earlier were right on the money about is once those cooperation agreements are made, and the government is relying on your truthful testimony, when you divulge information that is absolutely led to mislead the government, that is unbelievably fronded upon.
And when I saw what I saw being report about the Mueller investigation and him, it`s unfortunate but unfortunately it does not surprise me. I`ve seen it before.
WILLIAMS: And a final question to you, as I asked Mimi Rocah, we throw around the term Feds every night. When this is over, wherever it ends, what do you hope people learn about the Feds?
ANDERSON: I think it`s clear. I mean, people don`t care in this type of investigations, what party you are affiliated with. They don`t care if you are a Democrat or Republican. They don`t care about anything other than the factual allegations regarding the law. And what the law says, and in most of these cases, and if you look at just about every case that`s involved in the Trump investigation, most of the people get in much more trouble trying to lie than just tell the truth, Brian.
WILLIAMS: We always look forward to being able to talk to you. Thank you for always answering the bell. We hope you`ll come back. Robert Anderson, always a pleasure.
Coming up for us, what Trump did this weekend that may have reignited interest in one of his potential 2020 opponents, when we come right back.
WILLIAMS: We covered it here, the President`s rally in Texas on Monday, it may have caused a reaction that the Trump campaign did not want or anticipate. By picking the hometown of El Paso native Beto O`Rourke, some argue the Trump event actually elevated O`Rourke`s standing in the 2020 race with split screen coverage like that. Days before headlines were hinting that the t rising star may have missed his window of opportunity to hop in to 2020, but now this headline from "The Dallas Morning News" editorial team asks the question, "Did Donald Trump just launch Beto`s presidential campaign?" Well, he`s yet to formally announce anything, but our own interpret Garrett Haake caught up with O`Rourke Monday to find out where the potential candidate stands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BETO O`ROURKE (D), TEXAS: This is powerful, this is positive, this is peaceful, this is the best of the country.
GARRETT HAAKE, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, MNSBC: We`re walking fast but I hear a lot of people chanting about running. I mean, where are on you that decision?
O`ROURKE: I ran t this morning about three miles and feel awesome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: O`Rourke told Oprah last week and, yes, he`s big enough to be interviewed by her. He`ll decide by the end of the month. And while he mulls that over, Democrats may be growing impatient waiting for past candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders to answer the question, will they or won`t they.
Well, with us tonight to talk about all of it, Todd Gillman, Washington Bureau Chief for "The Dallas Morning News" and the proud product of the state of Texas, our own interpret Garrett Haake is back from covering that event in El Paso. Gentlemen, good evening to you both. Todd, it strikes me you have the unique roll of covering Washington for Texas though if I were you I would stay in Texas. I guess I`m asking for your straight up prediction, do you think the guy is going to get in?
TODD GILLMAN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS: I do. I mean, if he is not going to run for President, I don`t really understand why he is showing so much ankle going on Oprah holding this rally. This was not really -- was a counter rally against President Trump but it was also a lot about Beto O`Rourke. He`s living his life out in public quite a lot for someone who isn`t running for president. So I would bet that he will run.
WILLIAMS: Though, Garrett, I have to say those who view politics traditionally, the guy lost and you heard Trump react that way on the stump. The guy lost his race. He gave up his House seat, he lost his race for Senate, yet Garrett, the event you covered really seemed to have as you mentioned a campaign feel.
HAAKE: Yes. I mean, look Brian, the last two presidents in the United States came from fairly nontraditional backgrounds too. So I don`t think the fact that he lost the Senate race is in and of itself disqualifying. I think if some time next summer, Beto O`Rourke is the Democratic nominee for president. We will look back on Monday night and say that was a huge part of the reason why.
This is somebody who had largely disappeared from the national stage since that loss in early November. And this was an opportunity to get back in the mix, the President came to his hometown, challenged him on his signature issue of immigration and O`Rourke held his own. He got punched in the mouth a little bit but he`s got that taste of blood in his mouth and he got something that presidential candidates and aspirants can`t buy. He got that split screen moment with the President of the United States, trading punches in prime time. It became the national political story for the next 24 hours, his back and forth with the President of the United States.
And if this was someone who was on the fence about whether or not he could do this at the high level, I think O`Rourke, and from my conversations with the people around him, all got a boost of confidence from this event Monday as they lean in to whether or not to press the go button on this decision.
WILLIAMS: Well, Todd, our friend Garrett makes a good case as he often does, and you couldn`t get a more diametrically opposite guy. Just, Todd, you look at his last road trip where he was journaling his feelings while on the road, don`t hear a lot of that from Donald Trump.
GILLMAN: No, very introspective, very poetic even and the kind of self- description that you absolutely never hear not just from Trump but really from anyone running for president. Beto was one of -- I think it was his first entry in this week-long road trip. Solo road trip was how he was in a funk because he lost to Ted Cruz and he was trying to get his head together. And then he goes into small town America, nothing to do with Iowa, nothing to do with New Hampshire, no apparent political agenda or calculus, just kind of retracing some of his roots and then just sort of getting to meet college students and going to Starbucks and posing for selfies.
He`s either recharging his batteries or he`s extremely needy of attention once he is off the campaign trail. But, again, this does look like somebody is preparing for President. And I think Garrett makes a terrific point. I think that if Beto lacked the fire in the belly, if he was really truly wavering on whether to run for president, this opportunity that President Trump gave him by coming to the border, and the one issue that Beto is really passionate about, is the border is not as unsafe as Trump says it is, and the wall is a dumb idea. This is Beto`s signature issue, it really got him juiced up.
WILLIAMS: And, Garrett, let`s talk about your home state. I don`t know if during your flight in it appeared out the airplane window to be anymore purple than usual, but I say that because Senator Cornyn is coming up or reelection. Number two in the GOP management structure in the Senate, he is a big target. And Chuck Schumer would very much like Beto O`Rourke to run for Senate again, in Texas. And take some of that -- his ability to raise $70 million out for spin again as opposed to adding to a crowded field for President, correct?
HAAKE: That`s correct. But I think it`s highly, highly unlikely, Brian. In all of my conversations with people close to Beto O`Rourke since he lost that race, not one time, not a single time, has anyone connected with O`Rourke mentioned to me the possibility of him running for Senate again. I mean, the idea of taking on Ted Cruz, someone who is such a polarizing figure, everybody within Texas, even within the Republican Party is one thing. But O`Rourke actually has some degree of respect for John Cornyn who is a much more middle of the road Republican. I think it`s a lot harder to get fired up to do the same thing again against the guy who you actually kind of think is OK, despite the fact that he`s a member of the other party.
I think if O`Rourke is going to get in to this based on my conversations with people around him, and with folks in Texas, it will be in that presidential race. Now, there are plenty of people in El Paso, plenty of people who followed O`Rourke`s career who think maybe he`s not ready. Maybe he should take another run at the Senate race, or wait a couple of years, and run for governor. But I think just from getting to know him in the people around him, the idea of getting that fired up to do the same thing again against the guy who they find much less disagreeable, doesn`t hold a lot of water.
WILLIAMS: Wow, two guests who came to play tonight. Our thanks to Todd Gillman and Garrett Haake. Great conversation, we`ll do it again with you both. Thank you so much.
And coming up, an unusual story happened today. The President`s personal lawyer, that guy, shows up at an anti-Iran event in Poland as Israel`s leader talks of war and then thinks better of it. We`ll explain all of it with the help of Andrea Mitchell right after this.
WILLIAMS: We mentioned this before the break tonight. Our Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent Andrea Mitchell is in Poland because of the number of other prominent Americans who are in Poland right now, including our Vice President, our Secretary of State and the President`s lawyer Rudy Giuliani. There in Poland. This is billed as a Middle East security conference co- hosted by the U.S. and Poland in Warsaw. And its goal of pressuring Iran is unambiguous.
To neoconservatives, especially in Washington, Iran has long been the enemy. So this appears like a gathering of kindred spirits. And here is our report from there that aired earlier tonight.
ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, MSNBC (voice-over): This is Andrea Mitchell in Warsaw. As the Vice President leads the first Arab-Israeli summit largely aimed at pressuring Iran.
(on camera): Some of our biggest allies are not sending top diplomats here, France, Germany, England.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We begin to work, not just among Arab nations, but Arab nations and Israel working together with the United States and our allies to isolate Iran economically and diplomatically.
MITCHELL (voice-over): But tonight, Israel`s prime minister set off alarms, tweeting they were there to advance the common interest of war with Iran. Then within the hour, taking out the word war and writing instead, "to advance the common interest of combatting Iran."
Adding to the tension, "The New York Times" report that the U.S. may be secretly sabotaging Iran`s missiles and rockets. And an anti-Iran rally here by a group represented by the President`s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
(on camera): You`ve got the prime minister of Israel using words like combat Iran or war against Iran interchangeably or most (ph).
RUDY GIULIANI, TRUMP`S PERSONAL LAWYER: Right.
MITCHELL (on camera): You`ve got the President`s personal lawyer here speaking out against Iran. Is its coincidental?
GIULIANI: Absolutely. And totally in line with what I`ve done for 11 years.
WILLIAMS: Rudolph Giuliani in Warsaw tonight. Andrea Mitchell adds to that reporting this evening that Iran is calling this gathering a circus and that at the start of tomorrow`s session in Poland, Vice President Pence is expected to deliver a tough speech attacking Iran. We`ll continue to watch for it.
And when we continue here tonight, so long and farewell to a hearty public servant going to its reward 34 million miles from home. Who is a good rover? When we continue.
WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go tonight. The unique emotions we are left with when there is really no one to thank after an act of courage, selflessness and sacrifice, made even more complicated when said act of conspicuous gallantry takes place roughly 34 million miles from where you are watching this tonight. We`re going to put a series of images on the screen to show you what we are talking about by way of passing on our thanks to the Opportunity rover on the surface of Mars.
After slipping the surly bonds of our planet, it traveled for six months and somehow landed safely on the surface of the red planet and then it went to work. It was built to last 90 days. Its life has come to an end after 15 years of service. Opportunity leaves us with a whole new understanding of another place. No sign of Matt Damon, but in its search for signs of life, it showed us everything else while it was traveling and digging around there while surviving hills and ridges and sand pits and dust storms and bitter cold.
Opportunity is the kind of science that goes on over our heads, literally and figuratively. While we can`t seem to get out of our own way down here, there are scientists among us who really care about what`s up there and what`s out there, and we get so busy, even the bright dot of the international space station orbiting us every 90 minutes hardly gets a notice on a clear dark night in our modern world. So when the word came that this was the end for Opportunity, it made us sad here on earth. "I`m sorry, I just found out the last message sent by the Mars rover was, "my battery is low and it`s getting dark." So now I have to spend the rest of the day watching "Wall-E" and sobbing. "Spent the evening at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory as the last ever commands were sent to the Opportunity rover on Mars. There was silence. There were tears. There were memories and laughs shared."
We`ll directly to Opportunity. We will see you again some day, Opportunity. We will come find you and thank you in person. Maybe we will even fly you back here so school children can visit you and see what a brave explorer looks like in person.
That is our broadcast for tonight. Thank you so much for being here with us. And good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR: Happy to have you with us. Lots going on tonight.
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