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Roger Stone to appear in court tomorrow. TRANSCRIPT: 2/20/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: John Brennan, Nicholas Kristof, Mieke Eoyang, Nancy Cook


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR:  I knew with this book I had the opportunity to give the American public the rare chance to peek behind the FBI curtain to understand who does this work, why do we do it, and how do we do it.  How do we make these decisions?  Where this incredible organization is going to go and what we`re going to do?

It`s not the story that you`ve heard from the President.  It is not the story that you`ve heard from his supporters on the Hill.  It is the actual story of how work is done in an institution that is crucial to the health of this democracy.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Andrew McCabe gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  THE 11TH HOUR with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, increasing talk and official reporting predicting Robert Mueller`s time is coming to an end and the special counsel investigation may soon wrap up and hand its findings over to the new attorney general.  This while other investigations will continue that could be more damaging to the President.

Andrew McCabe, who ran the FBI after Trump fired Comey, says on this network today that the President and his circle display "classic criminal enterprise behavior."

And today in Moscow, Putin threatens the U.S. while avoiding criticism of the American President.  THE 11TH HOUR on a Wednesday night starts now.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 762 of the Trump administration and new reports tonight now indicate Special Counsel Robert Mueller could present his long-awaited report on the Russia investigation within the next few days.  Let`s just take a second here and put it another way.  This is a big change for one of the focal points at this network, on this broadcast, and for millions of Americans each day.

What will it be like not looking at this same chain of pictures every evening?  We`ll have more on all of it in just a moment.

But we begin with a related topic, the latest revelations from former acting FBI director Andrew McCabe.  Earlier on this network he talked with our colleague Nicolle Wallace, who is among those standing by to join us, and for the first time he described seeing a letter President Trump purportedly drafted himself as an attempt to justify the firing of former FBI Director James Comey may of 2017.


MCCABE:  Something that I haven`t discussed before and I`m very careful, I have to be careful in the way that I talk about this.  But I have seen the letter that the President wrote purportedly himself justifying the firing of Jim Comey.


MCCABE:  In a rambling four-plus pages it goes through all the different reasons why he is firing the director of the FBI.  Now, I`m not going to go through all those with you but I will tell you that one of them is he claims he wanted to fire the director of the FBI because of his failure to fire me.  That was a letter written long before the I.G. had concluded their investigation and drawn their, I believe, false conclusions in that report.


WILLIAMS:  That letter was eventually not used to publicly explain why James Comey was fired.  As Nicolle mentioned, the White House used a memo instead written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.  But Trump`s focus on Andrew McCabe started long before Comey`s firing.  You may recall McCabe helped to oversee the investigation into Hillary Clinton`s e-mail use.

A "Wall Street Journal" article October 2016 reported on donations from a Clinton ally to McCabe`s wife, who was running for a state Senate seat in Virginia.  With a big boost from conservative media that was all candidate Trump needed to hear.  He zeroed in on that, referring to it during his own campaign.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The man who was in charge of the investigation of Hillary Clinton accepted essentially from Hillary Clinton $675,000 that went to his wife.

But the man that was investigating her from the FBI, his wife runs for office and they give her more than $675,000 to run.  And it just came out.  They just figured it out.

The Clinton crew gave more than $675,000 to the wife of the deputy FBI director overseeing the investigation into Hillary`s illegal server.


WILLIAMS:  You forget how big a talking point McCabe was to Donald Trump in the closing days of the campaign.  Well, today in the Oval Office the President was asked about Andrew McCabe`s comments about the Russia inquiry and about his decision to open a counterintelligence investigation into Trump.


TRUMP:  Andrew McCabe has made a fool out of himself over the last couple of days and he really looks to me like sort of a poor man`s J. Edgar Hoover.  He`s -- I think he`s a disaster.

And what he was trying to do was terrible, and he was caught.  I`m very proud to say we caught him.  So we`ll see what happens.  But he is a disgraced man.  He was terminated not by me.  He was terminated by others.


WILLIAMS:  McCabe was in fact fired March 2018, hours before he would have been able to retire with full pension.

As we mentioned, there are new indications Mueller may soon be ending his inquiry.  Tonight NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams tells us several government officials have indicated the special counsel`s work is nearly done and that Mueller will present his report to the new attorney general, William Barr, perhaps, perhaps as early as next week or so.

"Washington Post" also reports the Justice Department is "preparing for Mueller`s report in the coming days."  According to the "Post," and we quote, "An adviser to President Trump said there is palpable concern among the President`s inner circle that the report might contain information about Trump and his team that is politically damaging but not criminal conduct."

Today Trump was asked if he thought Mueller`s report should be released.


TRUMP:  That`ll be totally up to the new attorney general.  He`s a tremendous man, a tremendous person who really respects this country and respects the Justice Department.  So that will be totally up to him.


WILLIAMS:  Probably worth noting because we`ve witnessed such a newspaper war of late, "The New York Times" has not matched all this reporting on Mueller wrapping up.  That man, the attorney general, Barr, has refused to commit to publicly releasing the report in its entirety.

Meanwhile, former Trump adviser Roger Stone will find out tomorrow whether a federal judge will impose a more sweeping gag order on him or even send him to jail.  On Monday this image of the judge with crosshairs up and behind her head appeared on Stone`s Instagram page.  The image was eventually replaced with just her photo, and Stone filed an apology to the court.  On Tuesday the judge scheduled tomorrow`s hearing.  So we`ll know by this time tomorrow night.

There`s also news about Michael Cohen.  His public testimony is back on.  He will testify apparently in public in front of the House Oversight Committee next Wednesday, February 27, though fair warning, we`ve heard this before.  A judge has also delayed the start of his prison sentence.  Cohen had been scheduled to report to prison March 6.  Today the judge granted him a two-month extension.  He`s now to report May 6th.

With all of it to talk about let`s bring in you are lead-off panel on a Wednesday night.  Fresh off her interview today with Andrew McCabe, Nicolle Wallace revisits the night shift.  And because I love my introductions, she is of course a veteran of the Bush 43 White House and host of "Deadline: White House" at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time weekdays on this network.  Maya Wily, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, now with the New School here in New York.  And Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize Winning White House Bureau Chief for the "Washington Post."  Welcome to you all.

Nicolle, since you are the extension of the woman of the hour, your takeaway from your gripping interview with McCabe today, especially in light of the Mueller news we`re talking about tonight.

WALLACE:  What`s interesting to me is how much unpacking of the false narrative that Trump and his allies have put in place McCabe has to do on this book tour.  The counterintelligence investigation that looked at whether or not the President was a Russian agent was a full investigation but it was something that was launched almost a year after -- more than a year after the investigation into Donald Trump`s campaign had begun.  So the counterintelligence investigation that commenced because of the shady bizarre contacts of people like George Papadopoulos --

WILLIAMS:  What were all these Russians doing wandering around?

WALLACE:  Right.  That started in the summer of 2016.  So, that in May the President`s conduct mirrored the shadiness of those characters.  It`s still extraordinary, but it`s often taken out of context and sometimes examined as though it happened in a vacuum.  We also have the intelligence community that was looking at Russian meddling.

So, Andy McCabe is singled out by design.  It is a strategic play to thrust him.  And I`m glad you aired those clips.  He was a talking point.

Ironically, I saw one of the dates.  October 25th was one of the dates where the President was railing against McCabe and sort of piecing together this deep state conspiracy.  Three days later the deep state sent a letter up to the Hill saying they were looking at Anthony Weiner`s computer.  So Donald Trump in sort of within 48 hours of making those attacks was by his own admission the beneficiary of their conduct around the Clinton e-mail probe.

WILLIAMS:  Maya, I want to show you something from a fellow former Fed of yours.  That`s tough to say.  And it speaks to a point Nicolle just made.  The President`s weaponization of Comey, off and on Rosenstein, and certainly McCabe, here now what Joyce Vance had to say to Nicolle this afternoon.


JOYVE VANCE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY:  Along the way at various steps what we see here is the institution held.  The institution was stretched.  There were problems.  There were challenges.  But the people and the institution held.


WILLIAMS:  I am guessing as a former Fed you concur.

MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  I not only concur.  I think part of what was so critical about Nicolle`s interview and that I think the panel that Joyce was on after the interview made clear, is there has been a fundamental assault by President Trump on the independence of law enforcement counterintelligence in this country.  The fact that the institution, as Joyce pointed out, actually had to figure out how to survive.

WILLIAMS:  And how to hide some stuff.

WILEY:  And how to construct investigations in order to ensure that they could continue, right?  What Andrew McCabe, the picture he made even clearer today, I think than he had before, was how much he recognized, how imperiled the independence of the institution was, to Joyce`s point, and the degree to which he had to figure out how with his -- the fact that he might imminently be fired because he as a 29-year serving public servant who was a Republican, is a Republican, who was appointed by Donald Trump, was going to be fired for not being loyal to Donald Trump.  Had to figure out how to embed the investigations in order to protect the independence of -- think about that.  So our new normal, our new normal today is the old criminal.

WILLIAMS:  Wow.  All right.  Powerful words.  Phil Rucker, I don`t have anything deeper for you other than to observe this book tour is just starting.  The book`s been out one day.  How must this be going over in the West Wing?

PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF:  Well, Brian, it`s interesting that the President is clearly paying attention to Andy McCabe`s series of interviews.  He`s reacting in real-time on Twitter.  And his advisers see it in a way as an opportunity.  I mean, they clearly don`t like all of this, you know, you could all it dirty laundry being aired about the President`s attacks on the institution of law enforcement.

But they also see it as a chance to try to paint and tar McCabe as a liar, as a disgraced, fired public servant who`s selling a bunch of lies.  That`s the way the President and his surrogates are tacking about it.  You saw Kellyanne Conway go on television last night to give a full-on assault of Andrew McCabe and in a way they see it as feeding the narrative that the President has tried to paint for his supporters of the deep state conspiracy out to get him.

We`ve seen the President on Twitter talking, you know, quoting Fox News personalities who are calling this an attempted coup on the President using very strong language as a way to incite his supporters to see that, you know, the FBI, that these institutions of law enforcement in the country and counterintelligence in the country are out to get the President in an unfair way.

WILLIAMS:  Now that I think about it, correction, the book`s been out two days.  Tomorrow will be the third.

Phil, is the fear of political damage from this investigation that we read is wrapping up on the part of Mr. Mueller, leaving so many other investigations circling, is the fear of political damage, is anyone voicing the fear about criminal damage or God forbid damage to the institution?

RUCKER:  Well, Brian, to put it in a perspective, the very best case scenario in the Mueller report for President Trump would be severe political damage.  I mean, we know just based on the news reporting of the last two years on what Mueller has been finding, what witnesses are telling him, what the evidence shows, that there`s a clear pattern by the President of bad behavior.

The question is whether that reaches a criminal level.  The President`s lawyers and advisers that I`ve spoken to don`t believe that it will reach that level, but they`re prepared for that, they`re prepared for there to be a very damaging report that could potentially, you know, inspire Democrats in the House of Representatives to begin impeachment proceedings.  But they`re hopeful that the report will simply be sort of a political blow and they can put Rudy Giuliani sort of the television surrogate lawyer out on T.V. to attack the report and attack Mueller and Trump takes to Twitter and, you know, maybe after a week or two people forget that it all happened.  That`s the best case scenario, but that seems unlikely.

WILLIAMS:  Nicolle, President comes to office having run a family business.  I think it`s fair to say first president without a deep veneration of the office and the instruments of power and the institution.  You`re an institutionalist.  You`ve worked in that building.  Who do we see about the institution and the damage it`s taking?

WALLACE:  Well, I mean, the bet they`re making is that their base is so stupid they won`t figure out that Rudy Giuliani used to work alongside.  I mean -- and it`s out of a bad joke.  Three Republicans walk into a bar and hatch a deep state conspiracy.  It`s so stupid.  And it assumes something you should never do in politics.

You never assume voters are stupid.  Voters aren`t stupid, they`re smart.  And they get to the bottom of things.  And if they`re going to bet the whole House on the stupidity of their base, that their base is going to buy that three Republicans, Robert S. Mueller, Jim Comey, and Andy McCabe walked into some DOJ clubhouse where they were all alone and they hatched a plan -- and that`s the whole -- and Rudy Giuliani is the one who`s going to sell, Rudy whose sort of claim to fame last year was stumping Sean Hannity on Donald Trump`s actual role in the hush money scheme which was to direct it and reimburse him.

I mean, the whole thing is an exercise and a giant bet.  He`s betting his whole presidency on the stupidity of the Trump base.  It`s risky.

WILLIAMS:  Maya Wiley, I am guessing that in your time federal judges had a way of focusing your attention and respect in the courtroom.  What do you think by this time tomorrow night Roger Stone will have learned about the power of a federal judge?

WILEY:  Well, first of all, I think he`s already learned it because he`s already sweating.  And he should be.  Because the combination -- so what he is going to hear from this judge I think is that she is going to curtail him further.  Something judges do not like to do.

But when you go as far as putting a federal judge in a photo with crosshairs and to a base -- by the way, because he used the term "deep state" in that tweet -- in the posting.  And what`s so important to understand about this is that there have been people who have believed the deep state conspiracy who have shown up to do violence to other people.  Whether it was after Infowars published Pizzagate on Hillary Clinton and a man showed up at that actual pizza parlor with an assault rifle.

To Dylann Roof at Emmanuel AME Church.  To Charlottesville.  The actual propaganda of deep state and for those who deeply fear government, it actually has propelled people to violence.  And I think that`s a really important point for us to stop on.  When we understand what that Roger Stone posting met.  It wasn`t just the crosshairs.  The words he used to communicate to people who would hear that dog whistle of a potential call to violence has not been theoretical in the country over the past few years.

And so he is going to see a judge who`s going to take very seriously whether -- as she already has, and cautiously but very seriously protecting the integrity of the judicial process.

WILLIAMS:  Powerful imagery.  Nicolle, you`re on the air in about 16 hours.  What do you think the disposition will be that you`re covering for Roger stone tomorrow afternoon 4:00 p.m. Eastern?

WALLACE:  I think, you know, I think the drinking game would, you know, is he more corrupt or more stupid.  I mean, you know, he`s someone who`s sort of bad to the bone by his own admission.  But I think he`s sort of crossed a threshold into sort of epic stupidity with his -- and it`s all about fund-raising.  I mean, it`s all about playing on sort of the ignorance and the gullibility around this deep state narrative and trying to get them to send money to his defense fund.  So was his short-term greed short-sighted?  And will it land him in jail?

WILLIAMS:  With that as our last words, to Nicolle Wallace, to Maya Wiley, who we got to see on "Real Time" with Bill Maher last week, and to Phil Rucker, three of our friends.  Thank you so very much for adding so much to our conversation on this consequential Wednesday night.

And coming up, the day Andrew McCabe was fired, our next guest had this message for the President, and we quote, "You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America."  That would be former CIA Director John Brennan, who joins us next.

And later, the President says border wall construction is running ahead of schedule.  Others, however, we should tell you beg to differ.  THE 11TH HOUR is truly just getting started on a Wednesday night.



WALLACE:  Did you ever investigate a mob organization where Uncle Sal and everybody told the same lie but the person at the top didn`t know about it?

MCCABE:  No.  No.  You know, this is classic kind of criminal enterprise behavior, right?  You have a strong leader who rules by force of will and personality, who demands unquestioned loyalty from those people around him.  That is an act of self-preservation.

That leader knows that he`s got to have that loyalty, he`s got to be sure that people are on his side, if you`re not on his side you`re against him.  And if you don`t have that it`s a threat to his very existence, his or her very existence.  Those are some of the same traits that I saw interacting with the President and the folks in his administration.  Some of them.


WILLIAMS:  Unmentioned thing he`s talking about there, that would also be the architecture of a potential Rico charge, as has been mentioned.  More there from the former FBI acting director, Andrew McCabe, with Nicolle Wallace during that interview 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time here in the studio today.

McCabe`s book, again, has been out for two days.  His book tour just started on Sunday night.  And his comments are generating so many headlines.

Earlier tonight McCabe told Chris Hayes it`s possible Donald Trump has been compromised by Russia.  Hours earlier the former assistant director for Counterintelligence at the FBI, Frank Figliuzzi, said McCabe was playing chess at the highest level during his time on the inside with his handling of the Russia investigation.


FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  Between your conversation with Andy and ours in the green room with Andy we`ve learned something.  We`ve learned --

WALLACE:  I love it when that happens.

FIGLIUZZI:  Yes.  He didn`t open a separate case on the President.  He added the President to the already predicated, already long-existing case on Russia meddling with the campaign.  Why is that important?  That case was a full counterintelligence investigation.

What does that mean?  You have specific and articulable facts that someone is or may be an agent of a foreign power.  He felt he had enough to add Trump`s name to that existing case.  That`s big news.


WILLIAMS:  That was a genuine moment on that show this afternoon.

And back with us on the broadcast tonight we`re pleased to have former CIA Director John Brennan.  Also happens to be our Senior National Security and Intelligence Analyst.

Director Brennan, Mr. McCabe is out there talking about our President as a possible Russian asset.  Some people watching no doubt hear this and chalk it up to crazy talk and perhaps they have heard the attacks on Mr. McCabe from the conservative media, from the President.  I wanted to get your take on the possibility that our President is a Russian asset.

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR:  Well, I worked closely with Andy McCabe for several years, and he always impressed me as a very serious, hard- working, and competent senior official of the FBI.  And I do think he handled the investigation very adeptly and carefully.  And if he decided at that point, of the ongoing investigation, that he needed to include Donald Trump as a potential target for the Counterintelligence investigation, I do believe there was a sufficient basis, again, based on my knowledge of Andy McCabe he wouldn`t do something like that without a sufficient predicate.

Now, I don`t know what has happened in that investigation since I left government in January of 2017.  But I know that there was a lot of information that was available when I was there about Russian engagement in the interference in the 2016 election.  And also, you know, a lot of questions about Mr. Trump`s actions, his statements, and his behavior and those around him.

So I do hope that Bob Mueller is going to bring this to conclusion and let us know exactly what the evidence has been able to uncover about Russian engagement as well as the role of U.S. persons in this intrigue.

WILLIAMS:  So Andy McCabe in real time on the air and in the greenroom in this building today kind of added to what we know.  He said publicly and to Frank Figliuzzi that he in fact added Donald Trump to an already open and bulging file of a Counterintelligence investigation based on things that during the Trump campaign looked hinky to investigators and not thoroughly American with this many Russians crawling around.

So a technical question to you.  When Donald Trump gets added to that investigation, and that means everyone in his orbit, I know you`re not going to give up sources and methods.  How much of someone`s life can you then read through and listen to if they are worth investigating?

BRENNAN:  Well, Counterintelligence investigations are done very carefully and thoroughly.  And you want to make sure you have access to whatever information might give you some insights into what might be going on.  So from the standpoint of financial records, past activities, whether it be in business or government, the individuals that you interact with.  And I don`t know what was initiated then at that point in terms of any type of collection of past information as well as ongoing information.  So it`s up to the FBI officials that would be responsible for the case to decide how extensive and how deep that investigation should go.

WILLIAMS:  I want to play you a clip from Mr. McCabe.  At the end of this he poses a question which we`ll then pose to you.


MCCABE:  Just ask yourself, have we ever had an administration that had this volume of connections with our most considerable, most formidable adversary, and gone to such extents to cover those connections up?  These are things that prompt questions in investigators` minds.  We get back to that why, why is this.  Why would the President tried to potentially obstruct justice and negatively impact our investigation into Russia?

Why are his associates and the people around him and people in his key positions lying about their contacts with Russians?  These are very concerning questions and things that need to be investigated.


WILLIAMS:  Director Brennan, you want to take a whack at any of that?

BRENNAN: Well, I don`t disagree with anything that Andy said.  This is a very abnormal situation where you have Donald Trump as well as those around him who continue to do things that raise eyebrows among counterintelligence professionals in terms of how he has interacted with Mr. Putin, the types of things that he and others have tried to conceal, what are they hiding.  These are the things that raised very appropriate suspicions and concerns.

The Russians are very, very capable when it comes to cultivating relationships and getting people to cooperate with them.  And again, sometimes it`s done in an unwitting fashion, but sometimes they get individuals into compromising situations where they then can intimidate the individual in many respects to help them rather than have something be exposed publicly.  I think that`s what Andy was alluding to there.  There is just a lot that we don`t know in terms of what the Russians were able to do and what they`ve been able to do with U.S. persons.

WILLIAMS:  Final question.  At this critical time in this administration and for our country how alarmed should Americans be if we wake up one of these mornings and Trump has fired Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence?

BRENNAN:  Well, I think we should be very concerned just like we were very concerned when he fired Jim Comey.  And clearly to try to put an end to the Russia investigation.  I worked closely with Dan Coats when he was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.  He is an individual of integrity as well as of principles and ethics.  And that is why Mr.  Trump apparently does not like him, because he is not going to give Mr. Trump the loyalty that Mr. Trump expects.

And so I do think we see this unraveling of Mr.  Trump in terms of what he is doing, trying to take whatever step he can to prevent the truth from coming out, whether it be about this investigation or whether it be about North Korea, Iran, Russia, and other matters.  This is something that I think we all should be concerned about.  This is a very abnormal situation with a very abnormal individual who is in the Oval Office and who has our prosperity and our security in his hands.

WILLIAMS:  Former CIA Director John Brennan, always a pleasure.  Thank you, sir, very much for coming on the broadcast again tonight.

BRENNAN:  Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up for us, Russia`s leader warns of retaliation in a renewed arms race of sorts, at least in theory, with the U.S. while avoiding any mention of Donald Trump.  We`ll talk about that when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  You can be forgiven for checking your calendar when I say Russian President Vladimir Putin is threatening to aim missiles including nuclear weapons at the United States if the U.S. moves any of its own into Europe.  The threat came during his annual equivalent of the State of the Union Address, glossier edition.  Putin claims to possess a hypersonic missile that can evade American detection and a nuclear powered underwater drone that can travel thousands of miles at nine times the speed of sound.

Please note, weapons experts in this country don`t give credence to either claim.  No Americans should lose any sleep over either weapon, real or imagined.  They ramped up saber rattling and it`s in response to the U.S. decision to pull out of the decades-old Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.  It was signed during the Reagan years.  It`s considered one of the most important nuclear treaties in history while not entirely unflawed.  But Russia has long been in violation, as our Secretary of State Mike Pompeo explained, or tried to earlier this month.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  Russia has jeopardized the United States security interest and we can no longer be restricted by the treaty while Russia shamelessly violates it.


WILLIAMS:  We are lucky to have back with us tonight in our studio Nicholas Kristof, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist for the "New York Times."

First off, I did some deep research and according to Wikipedia, when have they ever been wrong, you and I were born eight days apart.


WILLIAMS:  And so I know that this talk of new Russian weapons and we`re going to aim at you and we`re coming for you stirs in you as it stirs in me old Cold-War era USSR juices even though this is a vastly different time.

KRISTOF:  Memories of practice drills under the desk at school.

WILLIAMS:  Sure, absolutely.  And I don`t know how to process that.

KRISTOF:  Yes.  So -- I mean I don`t think that we should be particularly worried about Putin`s threat now.  I think it`s largely an empty threat.  I mean, after all, he`s already targeting us with missiles.

WILLIAMS:  And we had Brezhnev, who looked the part.

KRISTOF:  He did.  He did.  And so -- I mean he brings up these new weapons, which he may or may not have.  There`s a lot of skepticism.  He`s not going to find a place near the Americas to put some kind of new intermediate range missile.  But I do think a legitimate reason to be concerned is that what this represents is the fraying of the arms control regime more broadly.

I mean since about 1980, there was this determined effort to reduce intermediate and long-range missiles.  And now the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the INF, is being dismantled by the U.S. because Russia is cheating.  You know, both sides I think bear responsibility.

And the long-range missile treaty is in -- there are grave doubts over whether it will be renewed in 2021.  And so -- and the U.S. is talking about developing a low yield nuclear weapon as well.  Sort of one area after another.  There`s a sense that the area of trying to dial back the danger has ended and now systematically, from intermediate-range missiles to strategic missiles to the low yield weapons, it`s going another direction.  We`re going to be spending half a trillion dollars over 10 years in modernizing our strategic missile arsenal.

WILLIAMS:  Because we have no other economic priorities in this country.  I want to read a quote from your paper.  "Mr. Putin did not criticize President Trump, instead suggesting as he has in the past that a secretive deep state hobbled the American president."  This is an every night talking point on Fox News.

KRISTOF:  You know, there is this odd symmetry where the Putin administration is quite tough on the Trump administration and the Trump administration is quite tough on Russia as a whole but Trump and Putin themselves are all playing footsie.  And today -- I mean this was a real example of that once more.

WILLIAMS:  We`re a week away from the summit with Kim Jong-un, about whom Donald Trump seems to hold the only warm view in our entire government.  How do we process what we`re about to see in Vietnam?

KRISTOF:  Well, given that President Trump announced in June that the North Korean nuclear threat is over.


KRISTOF:  So it`s hard to beat that.  I mean -- and obviously what happened last June with that summit, I mean, it did not end the nuclear threat.  North Korea has been continuing to develop nuclear fuel, has -- I mean the North Korean nuclear threat is with us.

I do think that Steve Biegun, the U.S. official who was trying to negotiate a deal with the North Koreans, I think he is a very credible person.  I think the hopeful outcome would be that North Korea would agree to continue to halt testing of nuclear weapons and missiles.  If that continues, that would be a good thing.  But look, I don`t think that anybody outside of the White House Oval Office thinks that North Korea is actually going to dismantle its nuclear arsenal anytime soon.

WILLIAMS:  I don`t think there`s anyone alive at all who thinks that.  Nicholas Kristof, to our viewers, your job is to read the work of Nicholas Kristof.  And to you, your thanks for coming in.

KRISTOF:  Sure.  Good to be back with you, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you very much.

And coming up, the President says it will be up to his newly seated attorney general, the real one, whether the Mueller report is released to the public.  But what`s really being said about this report behind closed doors inside Donald Trump`s White House?   More on that after this.



SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN, (D) CALIFORNIA:  Will you commit to making any report Mueller produces at the conclusion of his investigation available to Congress and to the public?

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  As I said in my statement, I am going to make as much information available as I can consistent with the rules and regulations that are part of the Special Counsel regulations.


WILLIAMS:  So here`s the conversation we`ve been having tonight.  The Special Counsel`s report, we`re being told, could be heading to that man, the attorney general, as soon as next week.  When asked today, the President appeared to be relaxed about the findings becoming public.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Should the report become public, you think?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES:  I guess from what I understand, that will be totally up to the attorney general.


WILLIAMS:  So here with us tonight to talk about all of it, Mieke Eoyang, veteran Washington Attorney, former staffer for the House Intelligence and Armed Services Committees.  And Nancy Cook, White House Reporter for POLITICO.

Nancy, I don`t want to be cute about this, but I guess this is going to be another test for the folks watching tonight, the folks who were watching us when we did Barr`s confirmation hearing.  That this nice man with horn- rimmed glasses who has been attorney general once before in our history, is going to keep to his word and be the American people`s advocate in the Justice Department and do as he thinks is right and release whatever he thinks is right.

NANCY COOK, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO:  Absolutely.  But I do think that he made it clear if you listened to what he said in his confirmation hearing.  You know, he said he would do whatever he thought was laid out by the law.  But that doesn`t necessarily mean that he has to make the report public.  It means that he has to issue a report to Congress.  That report could end up being confidential.

So there`s no guarantee that the public will get the full Mueller findings.  And I think that`s important to be very clear about that.  And just, you know, another thing that will be interesting next week is that if the Mueller report is given to Barr, it will be happening while Trump is around the world in Vietnam at this summit with the North Korean leader.

So next week is just going to be a fascinating sort of split screen of how the President is going to handle this potential news while he is on this major important international trip.

WILLIAMS:  On the other hand, Nancy, won`t there be outcry and outrage?  The American taxpayers have paid for this investigation.  We have talked about this for two years.  Members of Congress are going to go crazy if they get a redacted, edited or, God forbid, confidential report from the attorney general.

COOK:  I think that there will be, but you have to keep in mind that there has been outrage over so many things that has happened during the Trump administration during the last two years, and we have in part become used to some of it.  And then in part the new cycle moves so furiously that people move on.

People were up in arms about separating migrant children from parents.  People were up in arms about the commerce secretary potentially lying about citizenship questions.  There have been ethical lapses, numerous cabinet officials.  You know, Trump himself has lied.  So there has been outrage after outrage.  The question is, is the outrage, if the report is not made public, is that sustained?

WILLIAMS:  All right.  Mieke, into your life`s work we go, and I want you to join us in watching something Jill Wine-Banks said on this network, whose first rodeo this is not.  Jill of course is a veteran of Watergate.  We`ll talk about it on the other side. 


JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR:  One of the things that helped so much in Watergate was before we brought indictments, before there was an impeachment vote, before there were articles of impeachment, there were public hearings.  And people already understood the facts and so they could accept the results in a way that they wouldn`t have.

The facts were out enough that the public rose in protest after the Saturday night massacre.  That`s why we need public hearings right away, even if Mueller`s report is made fully public.


WILLIAMS:  Mieke, your opinion to that.

MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE STAFFER:  I agree with that.  I think that public hearings, to lay out the factual predicate for any action that Congress is going to take, is very important.  And what you see is a coordinated effort across many congressional committees.  Financial services, intelligence, oversight, even judiciary, to look at the different aspects of this.  They`ve started calling some witnesses, but I would expect that we are going to spend much more time on congressional hearings even after the Mueller report is public.

WILLIAMS:  What do you make, Mieke, so far of what Andy McCabe has said?  Recognizing this is part of tour, recognizing he is under constant fire from the President of the United States.

EOYANG:  I think what he`s describing is a situation in the Department of Justice that was very shocked and very concerned as to -- with the President`s actions in the firing of Jim Comey.  No one has said otherwise in that.

And in fact, we`ve seen documentary evidence in the form of FOIA requests of people inside the Department of Justice who were also very concerned.  But he is explaining how that manifested at a very high level.  And I think if that`s the level of concern they were feeling inside the FBI and the DOJ, there are many, many people who are incentiveized to try to do the most thorough report that they can into potential criminal activity and counterintelligence concerns against Russia, and the President, and his campaign. 

WILLIAMS:  I need to keep you both to about ten-second predictions, starting with you, Mieke.  Is it possible that Barr gets the report from Mueller while the President is overseas?

EOYANG:  I think he`s likely to get an interim report, not a final.

WILLIAMS:  And, Nancy, the same question.  I know you touched on this earlier.

COOK:  Yes, absolutely.  And I think it will be fascinating to see how distracted he is during that very important negotiation.

WILLIAMS:  Nancy Cook, ever the journalist, Mieke Eoyang, ever the lawyer, thank you both, two of our returning veterans for coming on the broadcast with us tonight.  We`re back with more right after this.


WILLIAMS:  We`re back on the air just for a second here with a very quick reminder for you, especially for our time shifting viewers.  You can watch us any time you please by downloading the MSNBC app on your phone.  If you`re on the move, you can listen live every night on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, Channel 118.  We`re also available as a podcast.

So as we like to say, there is really no reason why you`d ever need to miss a single broadcast of THE 11TH HOUR.

Another quick break and we`re back with something interesting.  It was something the president tweeted out today that looked familiar to a member of our extended television family.  We`ll have that after this.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight.  It looked official.  After all, it was sent out by the President of the United States.  Here`s what we`re talking about, the time-lapse video of steel-slat construction that the President tweeted out today.

Sharp-eyed viewers noticed the logo of the Army Corps of Engineers in the lower right-hand corner and that gives it something of an official government imprimatur.  The President said on Twitter, "We have just built this powerful wall in New Mexico, completed on January 30, 2019, 47 days ahead of schedule, many more miles now under construction."

Our TV station out in Albuquerque, KOB Television immediately recognized the video from Santa Teresa, New Mexico and set us straight.  They said it`s replacement of existing fencing authorized by Congress back in 2017 and not the wall as we`ve come to know it.

Daniel Dale of the Toronto Star, the official fact checker in this area, told us in this very studio last week that no new wall construction is under way.

That is our broadcast on a Wednesday night.  Thank you so very much for being here with us and goodnight from NBC News headquarters here in New York.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Happy to have you with us.

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