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Senate confirms William Barr. TRANSCRIPT: 2/14/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Clint Watts, Matthew Miller, Toluse Olorunnipa, Kelsey Snell

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, revelations from Andrew McCabe, the aftermath of Comey`s firing, the discussion of removing Trump from office from stunning details from what it`s like on the inside?

Plus, Robert Mueller has a new immediate supervisor freshly sworn in, Attorney General William Barr.  So why is the top conservative ominously warning tonight Mueller will be gone soon?

And President Trump will fund the government but will declare a national emergency, we`re told, in order to get his border wall.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Thursday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 756 of the Trump administration.  Tonight, Congress passed a spending bill, meaning we won`t be covering a shutdown tomorrow night.  Speaker Pelosi added her signature a few hours ago, now goes onto the President who apparently plans to declare a national emergency to help build that long promised wall.

But that hasn`t quite over shadowed the other big news of this day.  A former acting director of the FBI is speaking out for the first time about his decision to authorize an investigation into the President`s ties to Russia.  Andrew McCabe is opening up about the chaotic eight days between May 9th, 2017 when Trump fired McCabe`s boss, the FBI Director, James Comey, and May 17 when Special Counsel Robert Mueller was appointed.

McCabe`s forth coming book is called "The Threat," it details his decisions to launch a counter intelligence and obstruction inquiry the day after that firing.  In an excerpt published in the Atlantic, McCabe describes his first encounter with Trump on the day he took over at the bureau after Comey`s departure, "The president said, people are really happy about the fact that the director is gone and it`s just remarkable what people are saying.  Have you seen that?  Are you seeing that too?"

McCabe tells CBS News 60 Minutes, Trump then wanted to meet with him in person and that he was summoned to the Oval Office.  In that interview, McCabe recounted his concerns about Trump and the need to protect the larger Russia investigation.


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR:  I was speaking to the man who had just run for the presidency and won the election for the presidency and who might have done so with the aid of the government of Russia.  Our most formidable adversary on the world stage, and that was something that troubled me greatly.

I was very concerned that I was able to put the Russia case on absolutely solid ground in an indelible fashion that where I removed quickly or reassigned or fired that the case could not be closed or vanished in the night without a trace.  I wanted to make sure that our case was on solid ground.  And if somebody came in behind me and closed it and tried to walk away from it, they would not be able to do that without creating a record of why they made that decision.


WILLIAMS:  Scott Pelley of 60 Minutes also revealed today what McCabe told him about conversations during those eight days, again, May 2017, among top Justice Department officials about Trump and his fitness for office.


SCOTT PELLEY, CBS ANCHOR:  There were meetings at the Justice Department in which it was discussed whether the Vice President and the majority of the Cabinet could be brought together to remove the President of the United States under the 25th amendment.  The highest levels of American law enforcement were trying to figure out what to do with the President.


WILLIAMS:  Pelley added that McCabe confirmed "The New York Times" report last year about such conversations and that the Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, had suggested wearing a wire in meetings with Mr. Trump.  Today Rosenstein`s office issued the following response, "The Deputy Attorney General never authorized any recording that Mr. McCabe references as the Deputy A.G. previously has stated based on his personal dealings with the President.  There is no basis to invoke the 25th Amendment, nor was the Deputy A.G. in a position to consider invoking the 25th Amendment."

Andrew McCabe also writes about his discussions with Rosenstein about protecting the Russia investigation at large.  In a conversation on May 12 of 2017, McCabe says he told him "I feel strongly that the investigation will be best served by having a special counsel."  Robert Mueller, of course, was appointed five days later on May 17th and the world changed for Donald Trump and many others.

McCabe`s thoughts on Trump`s leadership and personality are evident in this book.  He write, "People do not appreciate how far we have fallen from normal standard of presidential accountability.  Everyday brings a new low with the President exposing himself as a deliberate liar who will say whatever he pleases to get whatever he wants.  If he were on the box at Quantico," the FBI polygraph, "he would break the machine."

Trump attacked McCabe repeatedly for months and while also raising questions about the credibility of federal law enforcement, McCabe was ultimately fired last year on the eve of his retirement for not being forthcoming with officials about his disclosures to the media.  Today, Trump responded with McCabe -- to McCabe`s revelation with this quote, "He was a big part of the crooked Hillary scandal and the Russia hoax, a puppet for leakin` James Comey.  McCabe is a disgrace to the FBI and a disgrace to our country."

All of this unfolded on the same day William Barr, the President`s choice to lead the Justice Department, officially took over.  Barr was sworn in the Oval Office late this afternoon which means he`ll now be overseeing the Mueller investigation.

Let`s bring in our lead off panel on a consequential Thursday night.  Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times."  Clint Watts, a former FBI Special Agent and Author of "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World og Hacker, Terrorist, Russians, and Fake News."  Barbara McQuade, Veteran and Federal Prosecutor, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan.  And Matthew Miller, former Chief Spokesman for the Justice Department.

Clint, I`d like to begin with you given your FBI experience, do the extreme measures that freak us going on inside, does that read true to form to you?

CLINT WATTS, FMR. FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  Yes.  It`s interesting how many ways they explored to deal with the situation.  Do we do a special counsel, yes or no?  Do we pursue the 25th Amendment, yes or no?  Do we take a memos, do wear a wire?  There is something going on in those days after Comey was fired.

Were they were that concerned that they needed to do something quickly, something that was unprecedented, something that you have not seen before.

And what I also find interesting is these two individuals, Rod Rosenstein, Andrew McCabe were put in unprecedented situations.  You know, we`re going to evaluate this here tonight.  We`re going to see a lot of new stories about this.

But think about being those two individuals, Rosenstein who maybe thinks he got set up is the guy that sort of either fall guy for getting rid of Comey.  And at the same McCabe watching his boss get fired, knowing the Russia investigation is going on, they have been looking into it for months, seeing him come in and say, then, on T.V., "Well, I did this because, (INAUDIBLE) , I did this because of Russia."

What else are you to think?  You know, you`re put in an unprecedented situation.  So I`m curious what the Mueller report, if we get to see it, what it will show about what those days were like.

WILLIAMS:  Forgive the in ain`t (ph) T.V. question, but how does it make you feel?  These are your people at the FBI, the men and women you work with.  You can see the kind of urgency in McCabe`s eyes as he speaks.

WATTS:  Yes.  It must have been a shocking turn of events where everyone is trying to figure out what`s the appropriate thing to do, I have a very small time to respond.  There`s other bizarre things that happen.  An unsecured phone calling the President to Andrew McCabe.

WILLIAMS:  Don Trump.

WATTS:  Yes, from Don Trump, highly unusual.  At the same time, if you ever work on intelligence, you`re wondering, who else is listening to my phone call right now.  The President just called me on an unsecured line.  Everything is abnormal.

And to think the stress that these people are under in this organization with the President who either doesn`t know what he`s doing or does know what he`s doing for bad purposes.  It is really remarkable.

WILLIAMS:  All right, Barb, to our other former fed, how real does it read to you this perceived urgency talk, locked down, clamped down and protect the integrity of the investigation?

BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY:  I think that part of the story rings very true.  The firing of James Comey, I think, really rattled the FBI, contrary to President Trump`s statements, the people I know in the FBI very much admired Jim Comey.  And so his termination was a startling turn of events.

And it also makes me wonder what else Andy McCabe and others knew about this investigation that is not known to the public.  Of course, they had access to foreign intelligence surveillance and other information from the intelligence community.  That is not known to the public.

And you know, sometimes we refer to these books like Andy McCabe has written, and Jim Comey has written as tell-all books.  But when you work for an FBI or an organization like that, it`s really were of a tell some book because you`re not permitted to disclosed classified information even in your book and they are subject to review by the FBI.  And so, I think that they were startled, what is known publicly was startling, but it`s quite likely that they knew even more facts that caused them to be so startling.

WILLIAMS:  That is a great point.  And the expression tip of the iceberg does come to mind.

Matt Miller, in the same vein, you are communications guy.  That Rosenstein statement talk about a tough spot, it was notable for what it didn`t say the next in that you rephrase is non-denial, denial with a hot tip to Ben Bradley does come to mind.

MATTHEW MILLER, FMR. JUSTICE DEPT. CHIEF SPOKESMAN:  Yes, the statement denied a bunch of things that weren`t alleged.  The, you know, what And Andy McCabe said in his interview today and what the "New York Times" reported a couple months ago was not that Rod Rosenstein had authorized anyone to wear wires if they are discussing.

It wasn`t that he believes today that the 25th Amendment was appropriate.  It was that he had discussed it in that meeting.

And I think, you know, the spot Rosenstein is in, I`m a little confused actually why he`s still continuing to have this fight over that conversation.  He`s by all accounts of his last day of the Justice Department.  He`s going to be gone soon, so it`s audience one that he had to play two for a while to the President would appear to be in his last days.

But, I think what, you know, what we really get from those eight days is this tension between the FBI and the Justice Department and the deputy attorney general who in some ways was kind of just, I think, cracking a bit under the pressure.  He had seen himself be used by the President.

I think, you know, a little bit naive by him to write this memo, but also hid it to some extent, knew why the President was firing Comey and to some extent let himself be used.  And he saw his reputation, you know, really tattered.  And so also being attacked by people he cared about, former alumni of the Justice Department, inside the building people were attacking him.  And he really didn`t know what to do to restore his reputation.

I think ultimately, the thing he did was to decide to appoint the special counsel and that helped rebuild him somewhat.  But during that period, you really see not just the tension between the FBI and the Justice Department and between the political leadership, the new political leadership and the career people at the Justice Department.  But you also see a deputy attorney general who was really straining under the pressure and trying to figure out what he should do to go forward.

WILLIAMS:  Which brings to you, Peter Baker, no love lost between McCabe and Mr. Trump?  Trump fired him 26 hours before his retirement kicked in.  that was not a love letter on Twitter this morning, yet, what it`s going to be like, Peter, when the President has to endure -- this book tour hasn`t started yet.  It kicks off Sunday night on "60 Minutes" and goes -- he`s coming out on a number of broadcast on this network for starters.

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, that`s exactly right.  And of course, the President is trying to under cut Andrew McCabe`s creditability from the start in order to make him a discredited figure.  Remember, he called him disgrace on Twitter today.

And what he`s referring to, of course, is that the predicate for Andrew McCabe being fired was finding by the Justice Department that he was not candid with investigators looking into leaks of information to reporters prior to the 2016 elections.  So because in effect he was fired for not being fully honest, his own credibility is an issue.  And I think you`ll hear a lot about that from the President in the coming days.

And also, of course, always focusing on the fact that Mr. McCabe`s wife ran for office in Virginia, ran for the state House delegate, I think, or maybe state Senate as a Democrat and received hundreds of thousands of dollars and campaign contribution from Terry McCall who, of course, is the former governor now of Virginia and the friend of the Clinton`s.  That in Mr. Trump`s mind is evidence that this is a biassed person.

I think what Andrew McCabe is doing, though, a year later is having a chance to finally tell the story on his own terms and people can judge for them selves.  They`ll watch him on "60 Minutes", they`ll watch him on this network, and they`ll be like, you know, take your own measure of him rather than just read what I said about him on the newspaper or in Twitter.

WILLIAMS:  I also have to ask you about this other vignette that has emerged from the book.  In a book review, this is Jeff Sessions over -- at the FBI talking about the bureau.  "The FBI was better off when you all only hired Irishmen.  Session said in one diatribe about the bureau`s workforce.  They were drunks but they can be trusted.  Not like all these new people with nose rings and tattoos.  Who knows what they are doing."

Peter, how do we process that little vignette?

BAKER:  Well, it`s obviously a pretty dark and colorful scene.  I don`t know about the context.  But it`s hard to portray the people who were involved in this particular scenario as being people of nose rings and so forth.

You know, Jim Comey, Andrew  McCabe, all these people at the top of the FBI who were involved in the investigation to Russian collusion are long time veterans of the bureau, very, you know, straight, you know, straight arrow types or at least that`s the perception that they had and the career prior to all this.  You know, white shirts and suits and ties and knotted up to the top.  These are not, you know, young characters like that.  These are traditional FBI agents.

Now, again, the Trump people are going to make them out to be biassed individuals, but people who have known them for many, many years talk about their long careers and professional investigation.  And I think that, you know, whatever -- for Jeff Sessions meant by that, it couldn`t certainly apply to them.

WILLIAMS:  Barb, I have to ask you, what`s the chance the attorney general, the new real attorney general, Mr. Barr, has an 8:00 a.m. staff meeting in a soundproof skiff at DOJ tomorrow where he`s going to be sharing the keys to the kingdom.  Everything that he`s known thus far about this President on this matter, how is that going to work because that`s going to instill him with certain knowledge that will make this continually interesting.

MCQUADE:  Yes.  I think that`s a safe bet that one of his first orders of business is to get a full briefing on what`s going on in this case.  You know, no doubt that the public knows a fair amount about the case, but there is likely exponentially more evidence that Robert Mueller has uncovered.  And I think he would -- it would be part of his responsibility to find out what is going on in this investigation, what is Robert Mueller`s plan, making sure they have a good working relationship and how they`re going to go forward.

And so no doubt, William Barr, has a lot on his plate as he begins his new job as the attorney general.  But this, I`m sure, will be among his top priorities.

WILLIAMS:  Clint, not for nothing, Barr and Mueller have been friends for decades, attending weddings of each other kids, that kind of thing.  What happens, did Mueller`s life get anymore confusing, did it get easier today with the raising of the right hand of the new attorney general.

WATTS:  I think it`s about competence probably.  They will trust in each other`s abilities.  I don`t know if it got easier, but maybe at least the pathway forward.  There will be some sort of structure that is laid out between the two of them.  This is the way the investigation will go.  These are steps, this is what I want to see, and these are the decisions that are made.

The entire Whitaker period was just a lame duck attorney general situation where nothing was really going to move forward or advance very aggressively.  I think we`ve seen that with the investigation.  So I`m hoping we get clarity and we get decisiveness and we get some sort of certainty to the public that will be carried through properly.

WILLIAMS:  So, Matt Miller, what do you think Matt Schlapp is talking about tonight in this tweet that broke globally?  Matt Schlapp, veteran GOP conservative type, happens to be married to one of the leading comp advisers to this White House.  Mueller will be gone soon.  Why do you think he would say a thing like that?

MILLER:  You know, it`s been a tough couple days on Twitter for White House spouses.  Yesterday you saw the spouse of White House Communication`s director, serve and engage in, you know, vaccine conspiracy theories.  And now you see a deputy communication director spouse out, you know, seeming to link the arrival of the new attorney general with the end of the Mueller investigation.

You know, I guess the best spin you can put on that is that he`s reacting to public report, Matt Whitaker among other saying that Mueller appears to be at the end.  But I will say, I think the President probably thinks that that`s what Bill Barr is there to do.  I don`t believe that`s what Bill Barr is there -- I don`t think he`s there to end the Mueller probe.  I don`t think he`s there to clamp down any appropriate way.

But I do think that`s why the President hired him.  I think the President was obviously aware of the memo that he had written, he was aware of some what an aggressive stand that Barr had taken on the obstruction of justice theory.  He believed the special counsel was pursuing and that`s why he got the job.

I think he`ll be mistaken in his interpretation.  But I do think there are still questions about whether Barr is going to allow the release of either Mueller`s final report to him or some version of that report that he then writes for the public.

If he gets into a fight with the White House or the White House wants to claim executive privilege or the White House wants to take some other aggressive view of their powers, you know, that`s a place where Barr, you know, pledges to Congress to be transparent, are going to come up in opposition to his long standing views of presidential power.  And, you know, we`re going to have to see how that shakes out.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Peter, I try never to ask you to express a judgment, but do you have any sense that the investigation has entered any kind of new phase?  Did anything change effective today or this week?

BAKER:  Well, look, I mean, I think that the difference between Bill Barr and Matt Whitaker in terms of overseeing the investigation probably, you know, are not terribly significant.  And you know, once it matters one of this investigation left Rod Rosenstein`s hand, I think that`s a bigger change.  Bill Barr, obviously the Senate confirm attorney general as supposed to an acting attorney general presumably has more authority and more, you know, more cloud in making a decision like the one we`re talking about right now.

But I think Bob Mueller`s office has been aware of the, you know, the sort of darkling (ph) has been hanging over them for quite a while.  And I imagine that they are rushing to get what they can and done in whatever timely passion they can and that they have taken some sort of precautions, or some sort of plan b evolved in case they find the plug pulled on their operation.

WILLIAMS:  Our thanks to our consequential group on a consequential Thursday night.  To Peter Baker, to Clint Watts, to Barbara McQuade, to Matt Miller, really appreciate it.  Thank you all.

And coming up, we`ll have the latest on the other big news of this day.  That funding deal that prevents another shutdown.  Two reporters right now in the thick of it will join us tonight.

And later why some very smart people are asking out loud whether Paul Manafort could be a Russian agent.  If you were watching us last night, you witnessed this moment of what it all could mean for Donald Trump as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this consequential Thursday night.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER:  I just have an opportunity to speak with President Trump and he -- I would say to all my colleagues have indicated, he`s prepared to sign the bill.  He will also be issuing a national emergency declaration at the same time.  And I have indicated to him that I`m going to prepare -- I`m going to support the national emergency declaration.


WILLIAMS:  Emergency declaration sounds like a great idea.  The Majority Leader Mitch McConnell turned some heads on the Hill today when he announced it.  Again, you heard him say Trump would sign the agreement to avoid another shutdown and -- oh by the way he`s going to declare a national emergency to fund his border wall.

As of tonight, both the Senate and the House have now passed the funding bill.  And the White House says, the President is going to sign it.

We learned tonight he plans to hold an event tomorrow morning 10:00 a.m. Eastern time in the Rose Garden on the broader topic of border security.

Our friend, Peter Baker, of the "New York Times" who we were just talking to reports tonight, "The emergency declaration combined with the $1.375 billion in the spending measure dedicated to fencing and reprogram funds would allow the President to put together $8 billion for barriers along the border according to an administration official, but more than the $5.7 billion he had been seeking from Congress."

Some law makers quickly push back on the news that Trump intends to declare this national emergency.  House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she may file a legal challenge, accused the President of making around Congress, that not much as obvious enough.  She also said, a President with different values might offer a much different emergency declaration.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA, HOUSE SPEAKER:  I know the Republicans have some unease about it no matter what they say, because if the President can declare an emergency on something that he has created as an emergency, an illusion that he wants to convey.  Just think of why the President -- what different values can be present to the American people.

You want to talk about national emergency, let`s talk about today, the one year anniversary of another manifestation of the epidemic of gun violence in America.  That`s a national emergency.  Why don`t you declare that emergency Mr. President?  I wish you would.


WILLIAMS:  With us tonight two of our returning veterans, Toluse Olorunnipa White House Correspondent for the "Washington Post" and Kelsey Snell, a Congressional Reporter for NPR.

And Toluse, I`d like to read you something from your newspaper.  "Senate Majority Leader McConnell was on the phone with Trump at leas three times during the course of the nerve-racking day pressing him to stay the course and asserting that Democrats had actually lost the spending fight, two people familiar with the conversation said.  We thought he was good to go all morning and then suddenly it`s like everything is like off the rails, said one senior Republican aide."

So, Toluse, is the chance that somebody got him on the phone is that how much of a razor`s edge we`re on here?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Yes, that story about my colleague just to conveys how mercurial and impulsive this President is you don`t know what he`s going to do from one moment to the next.  You have multiple people trying to get the President on the phone and trying to make sure they`re the last person that speaks to him before he makes the final decision.

And you heard these vigorous negotiations going on today even after the bill had been negotiated, after Democrats and Republicans had ironed out all the details that they wanted.  They did not know whether or not the President was on board.  They believed he was onboard and then at the last minute he maybe heard from some people on talk radio or some of his conservative allies that were saying that the bill was not as conservative as it should be, did not give him enough money for the wall as it should.

And he was starting -- and that`s why the Senate Majority Leader had to get the President on the phone, give him some assurances.  Say that he, himself, Senator McConnell would support the national emergency declaration, something that he had been opposed to in the past in order to get the President to sign this bill and make sure we do not have another government shutdown.

So this was a very harrowing day in Congressional negotiations with the President really poised to blow everything up at the final minute.  But the Democrats and Republicans were able to make sure that the President was onboard with what they had put together.  And that looks like we`re going to avoid the government shutdown, but we going to have that national emergency declaration which could be a political crisis of its own.

WILLIAMS:  So, Kelsey, over to you, we did our checking and it looks like the first recorded talk of a national emergency that we can find was January 4, so that would make this a kind of slow rolling national emergency, was there eye rolling among Republicans that you could sense today who just can`t own this intellectually, they can`t be honest about it.  They really would like nothing to do with this.

KELSEY SNELL, NPR CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER:  And not just eye rolling.  There was some real concern from a number of Republicans that I`ve talked to.

Now, we`ve been asking them about this for weeks since the beginning of January as you mentioned.  And many of them were warning from the jump that they didn`t think that declaring a national emergency was the right way to handle this.

Now, a lot of them, even the most urban opponents the concept were a little cautious today.  They largely were saying things like we need to see exactly how the President is going to structure this, we need to see exactly what powers he`s going to call on.  But there were people like Senator Rand Paul who explicitly said there are separations of powers in the Constitution for a reason.

And allowing somebody to declare a national emergency about anything at all means that those lines start to get blurred.  And there was something that he was particularly concern about and he wasn`t alone.  I talked to over a dozen Republican senators today and really I could only find one or two who says that they could see a way that this might be OK.  The rest were found other ways to hedge around the fact that they were not comfortable of this concept.

WILLIAMS:  We`re going to -- both of our guests have agreed to stay with us.  We`re going to sneak in a break here.  When we come back, we`re going to have Toluse take on the comments of Anne Coulter today about that.  That is at least a partial border Barrier on our southwest border.  That and more when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  We are back with our journalist, Tolu Olorunnipa of "The Washington Post" and Kelsey Snell of what we like to call a National Public Radio, because her voice reminds us to say that every now and again.

And, Tolu, as promised, I want to read you the words from Ann Coulter today.  Let`s talk about the President`s right flank.  "National emergency won`t help.  It is over if he signs this bill."  And the second tweet she writes, "There`s no coming back from this.  No emergency or presidential powers will allow him to build the wall, ever.  After he signs this bill, trump has just agreed to fully open borders."  So, Tolu, the question is, how does he handle the base with talk like that out there?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Yes.  The White House is sensitive to some of the conservative pundits and conservative talk show hosts there, out there.  Some of them are being very vocal against this bill like Ann Coulter, some of them are holding their fire even though in the past they`ve talked negatively about this bill.  But the White House has actually done some work to try to make sure that they do not have negative headlines from the conservative base and from the conservative media.

And there are some that are deciding to go rouge and go ahead and go against the script, but there are others that are holding their fire saying that they are going to wait for the President to declare a national emergency, and give them some space to maneuver on this, because the President cares about what`s happening in the conservative ecosphere, especially on the media side.

And this is something that has driven the President in the past to either veto bills or to tell Congress that he s no longer in support of bills that`s what led to the 35-day shutdown that we had last month.  And this is something that White House was sensitive to.

And it`s not yet clear that the President has this conservative group on his side so far, they`re willing to wait and hold their fire and see what he`s going to do tomorrow about the national emergency.  But a lot of them are not happy with the bill.

There are some pieces of the bill.  There are some legislative texts that immigration restrictionists are very unhappy with.  Not only the dollar amount, not having enough for a bull to build the wall but also some rules and some restrictions that Democrats put in that make it very difficult for the President to carry out his immigration agenda.

So as some of those headlines get written and some of those stories get flushed out, you could see the president sort of starting to fume over some of the things that are in the bill and even pushing his national emergency further in trying to build the wall faster because of the restrictions that are in this bill.

WILLIAMS:  And, Kelsey, I know you don`t just cover Republicans but I want to continue in this lane.  Charlie Sykes was among those reminding us today, there`s always a tweet, and that had us looking back to when Donald Trump said this about Barack Obama, "Republicans must not allow President Obama to subvert the constitution of the US for his own benefit and because he is unable to negotiate with Congress."

Charlie Sykes went on today to say this will haunt Republicans and conservatives for decades.  It`s not only that, Kelsey, it`s not subversion thing.  It`s the article one problem of appropriations that you don`t have to be a constitutional scholar to understand. 

KELSEY SNELL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR:  Yes.  That is something that I heard not always on the record but a lot today.  Republicans are really worried about the idea that Congress was supposed to say how the government spends money, the White House makes request that goes to every single year in the budget process.  The White House goes to the agency and asks them what they need and sends the request to Congress.

Congress is the body that decides what money gets spent, how it gets spent.  And it`s back and forth between the White House and congressman.  At the end of the day, Congress holds the first strings.  And members of Congress like to remind us supporters of that all of the time.  That Article 1 power is one of the biggest things that Congress holds over, making sure that the government runs and have checks and balances.  And losing those checks and balances through an emergency declaration may seem like it is a finite thing.

But there are a lot of Republicans that I`ve talked to, Democrats too, who worry that it is a finite, that this starts the ball rolling if they can`t stop.

WILLIAMS:  And, Kelsey, in 30 seconds of brilliance, when the President announces this tomorrow, is it stillborn?  Does it run right up against any immediate legal challenge?  Will we ever see it happened in other words?

SNELL:  Well, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra says that he`s ready to fire a lawsuit right way.  And there are other people who have been preparing for this.  So yes, I would expect that there will be lawsuits immediately and it will be up to court whether or not there will be an injunction that goes along with that to prevent the President from actually enforcing this.

WILLIAMS:  Well, we appreciate you both taking time out from your very busy beats today and tonight, to talk to us.  Tolu Olorunnipa and Kelsey Snell, thank you both very much.

And coming up for us, why more people are wondering out loud about whether some in the President`s circle might be working under the sway of that man, when we continue.



MIMI ROCAH, FORMER ASSISTANT US ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  I really think it`s almost beyond a doubt in my mind that Manafort conspired with the Russians.  It`s still a question of who is he protecting by lying, if anyone, and why?

JEREMY BASH, FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF, CIA:  Manafort had become a de facto Russian agent himself.  And so respects, when the Trump campaign and even the candidate himself, conspired with Manafort about foreign policy outcomes and Trump presidency like sanctions release like under (inaudible) in a set Trump was conspiring with a Russian agent.


WILLIAMS:  Two people there, sober-minded people, both former feds and know a lot about the Russia investigation.  On this very broadcast during this very hour last night, they were reacting to the conclusion of that federal judge that Paul Manafort lied to prosecutors after agreeing to cooperate, potentially adding years to his prison sentence.  The obvious question is why Manafort lied and whether those lies are part of the connection between Donald Trump, his campaign, and the Russians.


Former CIA Director John Brennan offered his theory on this network earlier today.  If you weren`t the sitting president of the United States, would you think he was a Russian asset or agent, or an unwitting Russian asset?

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR, CIA:  There are individuals that the Russians have been able to manipulate and exploit because individuals are concerned about what the Russians might expose that could embarrass and discredit them and hurt them.

And those are individuals who aren`t assets or agents, witting around witting.  They are ones who cooperate and collude because of the potential damage that the Russians can do if the Russia decides to come out against them.


WILLIAMS:  Let`s talk about it tonight with Malcolm Nance, veteran of Navy Intelligence Special Ops and Homeland Security with 35 years working in the field of countering terrorism and intelligence.  He`s also the Author of "The Plot to Destroy Democracy: How Putin and His Spies Are Undermining America and Dismantling the West", which makes him something of an expert on this topic.  Malcolm, do you view this as established fact, this question about Mr. Manafort?

MALCOLM NANCE, MSNBC ANALYST:  Oh, I do, think that that is established fact.  Paul Manafort, the funny thing is, I have a new book coming up and the chapters are entitled "The Agent."

Paul Manafort is a Russian asset.  And we know that because he has been under contract for pro-Moscow governments in the Ukraine, since 2003 at the earliest.  He has been working in their interest including and we`re finding out during the 2016 campaign, when he brought himself a gut, brought one to the Trump campaign.  He was working for the Russian oligarchy including promising to give briefing about the Trump campaign.

We understand now that the Special Counsel is focusing on a meeting that he had, understand of Cigar Bar, in Jared Kushner`s 666 Fifth Avenue in which he may have had a clandestine meeting where he might have passed on possibly, you know, information from the Trump campaign.  This makes him an agent of a foreign power.

And I don`t mean agent as in trade representatives.  Agent as in an intelligent asset who may have been openly, wittingly or unwillingly manipulated as John Brennan said it earlier, because he owes a debt or because he was being coerced into doing it, or he willingly did it under contract.

WILLIAMS:  Next, I want to ask what you make of this.  This is from Washington Post book review of McCabe`s book just to be clear.  And it read, "Inevitably, the book includes disturbing new detail about Trump`s subservience to Russian President Vladimir Putin.  During an Oval Office briefing, July 2017, Trump refused to believe US intelligence reports that North Korea had test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile, a test that Kim Jong-un had called the 4th of July gift to the arrogance Americans.  Trump dismissed the missile launch as a hoax," McCabe writes.  "He thought that North Korea did not have the capability to launch such missiles.  He said, he knew this because Vladimir Putin had told him so."  What do we make of that, Malcolm Nance?

NANCE:  You know.  We --

WILLIAMS:  Oh man, they have silenced Malcolm Nance.  See that?  See how that works?  We`ve obviously -- we`ve lost our satellite connection to Malcolm.  Nothing more sinister than that.  However, let`s take a break and come back.  We`ll try to reestablish.


WILLIAMS:  We have reestablished communication with our friend, Malcolm Nance.  Malcolm, you were saying about the President and Vladimir Putin.

NANCE:  Well, first off, every intelligence officer watching this program understands the phrase "lost the link," right?


NANCE:  In case SATCOM goes down.  But what about Donald Trump in this information on North Korea.  First off, US intelligence is brilliant, brilliant at determining ballistic missile launches, their capability, and where they have taken all from it, where they`re going.

From the moment of boost to the moment of impact, we have 100% tracking of these things.  We have the ability since we created intercontinental ballistic missiles.  The ability to determine what is and what is not right down to the pop rivet.

The fact that Donald Trump will believe Vladimir Putin just speaks to his utter obsequiousness, that`s slavish devotion that he has to the ex-KGB officer.  That is going to have to be adjudicated through the Special Counsel.  And God knows, we just hope that the President of the United States is not under this way of the Russian leader and is just misguided.  I doubt it but we should hope.

WILLIAMS:  Malcolm, I`m going talk, toss in a topic from outer left field.  And it was mentioned earlier on our broadcast, the controversy over vaccinating are children.  Over the past 24 hours, a former national security aide in the Obama administration said on CNN that she would not be surprised that this too, has fallen under the umbrella of the Russian bots and Russian efforts to foment division in our country.  That there`s nothing really that they wouldn`t get their hands on to foment something that would drag me apart from you and other people in our lives.  Is it plausible to you?

NANCE:  It`s not only plausible, it`s true, and I know everything in my world apparently comes out to Russia, Russia, Russia.  But in this case, we have seen enormous effort, not in the United States, but in Western Europe by Russian influence news media, Sputnik, Russia Today and their subsidiaries, and followers in Eastern and Western Europe pushing the anti- vax campaign, the anti-vaccination campaign.

These are efforts which started way back in the `50s, `60s and `70s, understanding the Russians understand that, you know, when you have a healthy society and a thinking society, you will stand up to any adverse condition and any adverse opponent from, you know, from an opposite side.

But when your society is sick and the ignorant, and believing in all the tropes and memes which have no basis in scientific fact, like anti- vaccination, you weaken that society.  You know, a lot of people say, well, you know, Russia is a rich nation now.  It is operating close to the west.  It is not a rich nation.  It is a very poor nation.  But what they have is they still have all the systems and resources of the former Soviet Union in creating this disinformation bubble, which creates the disreality that we are dealing with now and anti-vaccination is just one of them. 

WILLIAMS:  Powerful words from our guest, Malcolm Nance, tonight.  Malcolm, thank you, as always, for coming on the broadcast.

NANCE:  My pleasure.

WILLIAMS:  And for joining us tonight.

We want to get in another story that took place today.  If you were watching local news here in the New York City area tonight, this is what you say at 6:00 Eastern Time.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Almost three months to the day after Governor Cuomo and Mayor De Blasio announced the blockbuster Amazon deal to much fanfare that company abruptly did an about-face.


WILLIAMS:  For good reason it is the lead story tonight here in New York City, where the city has pulled off the once unthinkable.  They have scared off the biggest company on the planet.

To be candid, a good many of us were surprised that Amazon was willing to expose its employees to New York`s decrepit subway, crumbling infrastructure and housing challenges.  But amazon chose to come to New York and promised to deliver, though maybe not overnight, 25,000 jobs with them.  And the jobs all, those people would further generate.

New York offered 3 billion in incentives and some real estate we`ll refer to as prime, and then the opposition went to work, and today they won.  Amazon has pulled out, and now a festival of second-guessing will make New York politics even more toxic.  And that`s hard to do.

Here`s how NBC News Correspondent Tom Costello reported the story tonight.


TOM COSTELLO, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Tonight, the world`s biggest company is saying "no thanks" to the world`s financial capital.  Amazon had announced it would bring 25,000 jobs to New York`s Long Island City as part of its HQ2 initiative, splitting 50,000 jobs with Northern Virginia.  But almost immediately it faced stiff opposition.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison):  Amazon has got to go.

COSTELLO:  Opposed to the potential impact on traffic, housing, schools and the financial agreement Amazon struck with the city and state.  Now, three months later, the company is pulling the plug on its New York plans.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D), NEW YORK:  It shows that everyday Americans still have the power to organize and fight for their communities, and they can have more say in this country than the richest man in the world.

COSTELLO:  Amazon blames politicians who will not work with us to build the type of relationships that are required to go forward with the project.  Among locals, both regrets and relief.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  This is basically Amazon picking up their toys and leaving the sandbox.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  This was a revolution for Queens` economy.  This could have been something outrageously awesome for us.

COSTELLO: Amazon`s canceled order means a loss of 25,000 jobs and billions of dollars in economic impact.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think the protesters are going to realize long-term that while they won the battle, they lost the war.

COSTELLO:  Tonight, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio says you got to be tough to make it here in New York.  He says Amazon had an opportunity here but it chose to walk away, and throw that opportunity away.

For its part, Amazon says it is not restarting the discussions about where HQ2 will go.  Northern Virginia will still get the bulk of those 25,000 jobs.  Nashville will also get some.  Brian?


WILLIAMS:  Tom Costello reporting the story for us tonight.  Tom, thanks.

And coming up, the results are in.  What the President`s doctor had to say about the President`s health when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight is the President`s health.  Today we learned more about his physical exam a week ago, and in some areas his stats match up with that of a college athlete.

At 6`3", weighing in at 243 pounds with a resting heart rate of 70 and a BP of 118/80, those are numbers a lot of people would love to have.  And yet to go with all of the other firsts we`ve been covering during the era of this presidency, the coverage of the President`s results has been peppered by doubts, expressed publicly and openly, even by some experts questioning everything from his basic height and weight, and beyond.  And there is reason for this.

First, there was the Trump personal physician here in New York.  Remember this guy?  Dr. Harold Bornstein who famously declared Trump, "Will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency."  Which, of course, was not only patently false, but the doctor later said that Trump himself had dictated the statement.

Then there was the over the top assessment of the President`s White House doctor, an active duty admiral, which was perhaps, to use a medical term, ebullience on steroids.


DR. RONNY JACKSON, FORMER TRUMP PHYSICIAN:  The President`s overall health is excellent.  His cardiac performance during his physical exam was very good.  He continues to enjoy the significant long-term cardiac and overall health benefits that come from a lifetime of abstinence from tobacco and alcohol.

I feel very confident that he has a very strong and a very probable possibility of making it completely through his presidency with no serious medical issues.


WILLIAMS:  So bottom line, the President has gained a couple of pounds and they`ve upped his dosage of his medicine for cholesterol.  But it`s very important to someone to say what the doctors said, the president is in very good health.  That is our broadcast for this Thursday night.  Thank you so much for being here with us.  And good night from NBC News headquarters in New York. 

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