IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

House committees probe Trump finances. TRANSCRIPT: 3/5/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Shannon Pettypiece, John Gerstein

REP. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  Thank God you did that, because impeachment is not about punishment.  Impeachment is about cleansing the office.  Impeachment is about restoring honor and integrity to the office.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Unfortunately for Lindsey Graham, there is no Senate process for restoring the honor and integrity of Lindsey Graham.  That`s tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian William starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight the mounting pressure on Donald Trump from Mueller, the Justice Department, from his home state of New York, from Congress, and now we`ve learned Adam Schiff has made a critical hire, someone well known to viewers of this broadcast.

Plus, as new polling shows, Americans trust Michael Cohen over Donald Trump despite Cohen`s own admissions.  The President`s former lawyer going back for another round.  He is set to testify again tomorrow.

And exclusive reporting tonight on the action that North Korea took within hours of the failure of the summit with Trump.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Tuesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters in New York.  Day 775 of the Trump administration.  And just for good measure, here are some other numbers tonight.  There are 686 days remaining in the President`s four-year term.  And for good measure, it`s been 36 days since the last White House press briefing.

The news tonight is not good for this White House.  On top of all the other investigations they face, it`s Democrats in the House who are now applying the pressure, so far going after 81 separate people, agencies, entities who have had contact with the Trump family, business, campaign and presidency.

The President today went right after the pertinent committee chairman, "Nadler, Schiff and the Dem heads of committees have gone stone cold crazy.  A big fat fishing expedition desperately in search of a crime when in fact the real crime is what the Dems have done.  Presidential harassment."

This afternoon he was asked about the House investigations.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  The witch hunt continues.  The fact is that I guess we got 81 letters.  There was no collusion.  That was a hoax.  There was no anything.

And they want to do that instead of getting legislation passed.  It`s a disgrace to our country.  I`m not surprised it`s happening.  Basically they started a campaign, so the campaign begins.  But instead of doing infrastructure, instead of doing health care, instead of doing so many things that they should be doing, they want to play games.


WILLIAMS:  Those 81 letters Trump mentioned, a reference to the House judiciary committee`s request to all those individuals and entities with the focus on investigating possible obstruction of justice, public corruption and abuses of power.  The House Financial Services Committee has also opened up its own inquiry.  They`re in the game now.

Chairwoman Maxine Waters whom the President has of course publicly targeted numerous times is looking into how Trump secured loans from Deutsche bank when other banks refused to loan him money.

Then there`s the President`s former friend and personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, has another appearance at a hearing tomorrow behind closed doors under questioning from the House Intelligence Committee.  They say, they`ll let us see a transcript of that before too long.

A new Quinnipiac Poll gives us an early read on the impact of that day, of televised testimony from Cohen just last week on Wednesday.  Fifty percent of American survey now say they believe Cohen more than they believe the President.

We also learn today that the House Intel Committee has made a new hire to help with its investigation, and he`s someone we know, former Federal Prosecutor Daniel Goldman, who during his career had overseen prosecutions of Russian organized crime and other criminal networks.  Goldman has spent a lot of time in this studio and on this broadcast.  He was, until recently, a legal contributor to this network.

And we now know this exchange between Michael Cohen and Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez from last week`s public hearing may have triggered yet another new inquiry.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D) NEW YORK:  To your knowledge, did the President ever provide inflated assets to an insurance company?


OCASIO-CORTEZ:  Who else knows that the President did this?

COHEN:  Allen Weisselberg, Ron Lieberman, and Matthew Calamari.

OCASIO-CORTEZ:  And where would the committee find more information on this?  Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?

COHEN:  Yes, and you would find them at the Trump org.


WILLIAMS:  Today NBC News reported New York State regulators have issued a subpoena to the Trump organization`s insurance broker as part of investigation into the President`s family business.  State officials are already looking into various aspects of the Trump organization in addition to the ongoing investigation by the Feds here in New York.

Meanwhile, the White House is resisting House Democrats demands for documents concerning security clearances for Jared Kushner and others.  Oversight Chairman, Elijah Cummings renewed his request after "The New York Times" reported that Trump overruled top officials and ordered them to give Jared Kushner a top secret clearance.

But the administration may not be able to resist for long.  Democrats now have subpoena power.  The A.P. is reporting the White House has been preparing for this, "White House officials describe their plan for addressing the mounting requests as multi-layered.  Lawyers in the counsel`s office plan to be cooperative, but are unlikely to provide the Democrats with the vast array of documents they`re looking for.  In particular, they intend to be deeply protective of executive power and privilege.

And tonight, "The New York Times" had report about Trump`s reimbursements to Michael Cohen for hush money payments.  Makes this observation about 2020 and we quote, "Indeed some people close to Mr. Trump have privately predicted that he will ultimately choose to seek a second term in part because of his legal exposure if he is not President.  While there is no legal consensus on the matter, Justice Department policy says that a President cannot be indicted while in office."

With that let`s bring in our leadoff panel on a Tuesday night.  Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon, and importantly, former Chief Counsel to the House Intelligence Committee.  Shannon Pettypiece back with us as well, White House Correspondent for Bloomberg.  And Josh Gerstein, Senior Legal Affairs Contributor for Politico.  We welcome all of you back to the broadcast.

And Jeremy, because of your committee experience, what does it tell you that they have hired Dan Goldman on that committee?  What`s his job likely to be?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Well, they want someone with prosecutorial experience, someone how to follow a trail of facts, someone who knows how to put witnesses under oath and question them, someone who knows how to triangulate information and hone in on the relevant details for an investigation, ultimately someone who knows how to unpack subpoena documents and try to figure out if there was nefarious or illegal activity.  And that is really something that prosecutors do.

Congressional staff sometimes does it, but when you`re in investigative mode and you`re posturing your stances to really go after potential wrongdoing criminal activity, it really helps to have a prosecutor like Dan on your team.  I think people who received these 81 letters from the Judiciary Committee and others have to worry, first and foremost, that they preserved all documents.  Once the letter request goes out, you know you are under notice, that an investigation is underway.  And even deleting things like texts and e-mails can get you in significantly hot water.

WILLIAMS:  Shannon Pettypiece, we heard Joe Digenova on Fix News last night saying to everyone who is a recipient of these letters, don`t cooperate, take the fifth and so on.  What level of cooperation do you think we can expect where the White House is concerned?

  SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  They sent a pretty clear signal today, actually last night in a letter to the House Oversight Committee which is investigating these security clearance documents, essentially saying that they`re not going to hand over the documents that the committee has requested, specifically documents related to Jared Kushner and other senior aides` security clearances.

And one of the lines of argument they used in that, which I think we will continue to hear, is questioning Congress`s authority over this issue.  And so, in the area of security clearances, for example, saying, what oversight rule does the House Oversight Committee have on this because security clearances lie in the Executive Branch and the Executive Branch has the authority to issue security clearances.

So there is going to be this back and forth where the White House is not just going to hand over documents, and to be fair, no White House really ever just hands over documents to Congressional investigations being led by the opposing party.  They`re not going to hand over these documents, and there is going to be this back and forth of the White House challenging Congress` authority, and then Congress pushing back and saying, "You know, we are a co-equal branch of government and we do have oversight and the President is abusing his powers and that`s why we have a right to this."

Basically there will be a back and forth that could go on for months until the Democrats finally decide they are going to fight this in court.  They`ll issue a subpoena.  And then it could be years of litigation of that subpoena until we actually have any documents turned over if they do actually ever get turned over.  And you know, just look at the fast and furious examples, one of the most recent one of one of these examples that went on for six years, I believe.

WILLIAMS:  Well, that`s exhausting.  And Josh, back in social studies or civics days, I don`t recall one of the reasons people run for president to be -- to avoid indictment.  But it is part of the work of our friends Baker and Haberman tonight and it`s something you hear more and more.  It`s one way to look at reasons to run for a second term?

JOSH GERSTEIN. POLITICO SR. LEGAL AFFAIRS CONTRIBUTOR:  Yes.  I mean, I suppose the President`s legal situation is simpler if he remains in office, and he definitely now sees all these forces out there arrayed against him very starkly with the letters coming in and the prosecutions.  Not just from Mueller, who I do think is winding down his investigation, but as we`ve discussed many times, the Southern District of New York, the other federal prosecutors and now the state prosecutors as well.

And it`s always worth keep in mind state prosecutors are not bound by that Justice Department policy that says the President cannot be indicted.  They can go ahead and take a shot.  We`ve already seen those issues kind of previewed in some of the civil suits that are filed in state courts over the President over some of the sexual allegations.

WILLIAMS:  And wasn`t it New York State that shut down the Trump family foundation already?

GERSTEIN:  Yes.  So there is a warning shot or maybe more than warning shot against the Trump family right there.  And it`s pretty clear that the Trump organization is under rather intense scrutiny from a variety of New York State officials, both the attorney general`s office and regulators looking into a number of these different issues raised by Michael Cohen and others.  And it seems like they have a fair amount to dig through.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy Bash, as we mentioned, Mr. Cohen goes back before your former committee tomorrow.  Closed door proceedings.  I want to play for you what our friend, a veteran of the FBI, Frank Figliuzzi said to Nicolle Wallace about his first go-around.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  This was essentially a mob informant talking about the capo (ph).  And I would be surprised if Southern District or some other arm is not seriously approaching this as a RICO.


WILLIAMS:  So, Jeremy, we`re hearing this more and more as well.  The RICO charge.  Can you bring our viewers in on what RICO stands for and what it`s used for?

BASH:  Both statute used to prosecute criminal organizations under the racketeering theory that the criminal enterprise and all of its tentacles are culpable.

But, look, I think also, one thing that`s very important here is that when the House Intelligence Committee is probing into a matter, it also wants to understand the way the foreign adversary, the Russian federation is operating and how it has leverage over our President and over our foreign policy.

So, I suspect that a major focus area for tomorrow is going to be the committee drilling into what Michael Cohen knows about Trump Tower Moscow and other Trump business ties, whether it involves Felix Sater, Bay Rock Capital or other entities that could influence the Trump organization or the President.

WILLIAMS:  Shannon, in our time we have heard the President talk a time or two about his polling numbers.  Not so much since reaching the presidency, but a lot during the campaign.  I`m going to put two of them, most recent polling numbers on the screen, and ask you how this might be going over in the West Wing.

Has Trump committed crimes as President?  Yes, 45 percent, no 43.  Do you believe Trump committed crimes before becoming President?  Much larger margin there, 64 -- 24, yes.  I`m guessing, Shannon, those numbers won`t go over well internally.

PETTYPIECE:  Yes.  But I know one number, I think, he just tweeted it out.  Today was his approval among Republicans.  So, you know, he is able to find bright spots in all this.

And I mean, the fascinating thing, when you go back to that famous line he gave about being able to shoot someone on Fifth Avenue, I guess the question everyone will have to answer in 2020 for themselves is, you know, maybe two-thirds of people believe he has committed crimes.  Well, does that outweigh other issues that they might like about him, like how he`s doing in the economy or foreign policy?  Would they be willing to elect someone who they believe has committed a crime for someone who, you know, whose policies or politics they like, and I think it`s going to have to do a lot with their opponents?  Or still, you know, who the opponent is, who the democratic opponent is.

So, we`re still a little ways from that to look at poll numbers.  But, yes, I think that, you know, the President is still very confident in his messaging and his strategy and his political instinct.

PETTYPIECE:  Josh says the NYPD assures us it`s safe to walk on Fifth Avenue.  I want to take you to your day job and your beat.  The President nominated a new number three at the Department of Justice.  Tell our viewer about this woman.

GERSTEIN:  So, Jessie Liu is currently the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.  She`s been in that position for about a year and half for almost two years.  She spent, I think, four or five years as a line prosecutor in that office under the George W. Bush administration and then had several high level Justice Department roles.

One of the interesting things about her attaining that position as a U.S. attorney is that she was personally interviewed by Trump in 2017 before he nominated her to that job.  And we immediately heard from a lot of former Justice Department officials at that point who said, "Hey, that`s not at all uncommon for a president to interview a candidate for a United States attorney position.  That`s normally done perhaps by the White House counsel`s office and people over at the Justice Department."

So that`s an interesting resume or background experience now being tapped for this number 3 slot which the administration is under some pressure, I think, to fill at this point.  It`s been vacant for more than a year since Rachel Brand left, I think, in February of last year.

WILLIAMS:  And for folks watching, does the number 3 job at Justice require Senate confirmation?

GERSTEIN:  Yes, it does require senate confirmation.  But also it`s going to be interesting to see, you know, how they delegate the responsibilities for that.  It`s not typically a job that has oversight over a lot of criminal prosecutions.  She has had that responsibility.

And remember, she`s also vacating a job that will be taking over much of the remainder of the Mueller investigation.  A lot of those prosecuted matters, indicted matters that are going to continue on for months into the future, maybe even the case against Roger Stone, there are signs in the teams of attorneys that have been brought together, the hybrid teams, if you will, from Mueller`s office and the U.S. attorney`s office that they`re going to hand those off.

So, who will take the helm of those cases if Jessie Liu is elevated to this Justice Department position?

WILLIAMS:  So much to talk about on this Tuesday night.  And our thanks for our big three for starting our broadcast with us, Jeremy bash, Shannon Pettypiece, and Josh Gerstein, thank you all so much for coming back on.

And coming up, some unexpected observations about the Mueller investigation from a former White House lawyer who knows what it was like to deal with them.

And later, just a few days ago, the President was reassuring this country about North Korea and their nuclear aspirations.  New pictures, however, seem to tell another story.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on this Tuesday night.


WILLIAMS:  The Trump administration has produced and attracted a number of characters.  And tonight we are hearing from a man who, for a time there, was in the news every night.

Washington, D.C. attorney Ty Cobb grew up in Kansas, the son of a legendary Kansas broadcaster named Grover C. Cobb.  Ty went on to Harvard and Georgetown law, and along the way became a mustache enthusiast.  He is named for a distant relative, the baseball hall of famer with the same name.  That Ty Cobb was known as a tough, if not thoroughly dirty player who often slid into base with his cleats up high.

Ty Cobb the lawyer is a seasoned Washington veteran who took on as a client one Donald Trump who went on to trash the Mueller investigation as a witch hunt, and the investigators as a bunch of, "angry Democrats."  But Ty Cobb, the now former Trump lawyer, doesn`t seem to agree with that assessment.

In a new ABC News podcast, Cobb now says he never had a bad interaction with Robert Mueller or his staff and went on to offer his praise of the special counsel.


JOHN SANTUCCI, ABC NEWS:  What do you think of Bob Mueller?

TY COBB, FORMER WHITE HOUSE LAWYER:  I think bob Mueller is an American hero.  I think Bob Mueller is a guy that, you know, even though he came from an arguably privileged background, you know, has a backbone of steel.  He walked into a fire fight in Vietnam to pull out one of his injured colleagues and was appropriately honored for that.

I`ve known him for 30 years as a prosecutor and a friend.  And I think the -- I think the world of Bob Mueller.  He is a very deliberate guy.  And he -- but he`s also a class act.  And a very justice-oriented person.


WILLIAMS:  Ty Cobb also spoke about current Trump lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his efforts to discredit this Russia investigation.


COBB:  I was there for the White House.  Rudy is there to represent the individual.  But keep in mind that, you know, that you can criticize the strategy.  It wouldn`t have been my strategy.  You know, I don`t feel the same way about Mueller.  I don`t feel the investigation is a witch hunt.

Rudy and the President have been effective in a way that, you know, would not have been preferable for me.  But they have ratcheted up the public`s concerns about the investigation and its legitimacy.  I object to that approach, but it`s his choice.  He`s the President.  And it`s what Clinton did to Ken Starr.


WILLIAMS:  With us to talk about all of this, Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI official as well.  And Matthew Miller, former Chief Spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice.

And Matt, I understand you knew Ty Cobb in a previous life.  Anything there surprise you?

MATTHEW MILLER, FMR. JUSTICE DEPT. CHIEF SPOKESMAN:  Not really.  I did work with Ty in the private sector.  We shared a client a few years ago.

I think, you know, if you look at what Ty said about Bob Mueller, it`s what you would expect anyone in his position in Washington to say.  I mean, Bob Mueller has been respected for a long time --

WILLIAMS:  An American hero.

MILLER:  American hero.  It only sounds so unusual because it`s not in keeping with who that Ty Cobb worked with in the White House, from the President on down.  It`s not what you hear from the President.  It`s not what you hear from his new outside counsel, well, not new anymore, but new when Ty Cobb left, Rudy Giuliani.  It`s not what you hear from his spokesperson.  So it`s this odd thing where remarks that are in keeping with what you would expect from any seasoned member of the defense bar just sound bizarre because that`s not what you hear from this President.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, do you also subscribe to that view?  This is what you would hear from an established Washington lawyer about Mueller and the investigation.  Is it possible that counsel to this President often make their public utterances about an audience of, one, their client?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Yes, 100 percent, Brian.  Look, as well as being part of the legal establishment in Washington, Ty Cobb grew up in the United States Department of Justice.  He was an assistant U.S, attorney in Baltimore.

And for those of us who grew up that way professionally, we know a couple of things that bob Mueller is an icon in our Department of Justice.  And as Ty said, and I know him as well, and I think he`s a decent fellow, Bob Mueller is also a class act.

And so Ty is probably a little bit more free now to speak honestly than he was when he was employed by Mr. Trump.

WILLIAMS:  Chuck, I also want to play this for you.  This is a separate from the same interview.  This is Ty Cobb on his former client, the President, Donald Trump.


COBB:  He is a very direct, forceful presence.  He wants to get stuff done.  He hates obstacles and he reacts strongly in the face of obstacles to try to move them out of the way or find somebody who will move them out of the way for him so he can do things.  It`s a challenging environment and it`s not for everybody.  But it was a fascinating task.


WILLIAMS:  Chuck, do you think the President`s current legal team hears that and they are nodding yes?

ROSENBERG:  Oh, I`m sure it was a fascinating task.  It seems to be damning with faint praise, Brian.  You know, what Ty is saying about the President`s dislike of obstacles has to be read in context.  Those obstacles are legitimate inquiry, a legitimate investigation by federal prosecutors and federal agents looking at whether or not Russians interfered with our election.

I hate to think of that as an obstacle.  I think of that as something that must be investigated, must be examined, something that -- it would be an absolute abdication of responsibility for United States Department of Justice for the FBI not to look at that.  And the President considers that an obstacle.  That`s deeply unfortunate.

WILLIAMS:  Matt, I`ve got about 30 seconds.  I`ve got to catch a break.  Do you think the use of the word obstacle was kind of a euphemism?

MILLER:  Yes, an understatement, maybe.  Look, every president doesn`t like obstacles, every strong leader, every CEO doesn`t like obstacles.  The question is, how you handle them.  And I think what Ty was probably alluding, what he was to understand is the fact that this President handles him, in a lot of ways, the most inappropriate fashion possible.

And I think what he`s especially referring to are the attacks on the special counsel, the attacks on the investigation that he`s talked about earlier in that interview.

WILLIAMS:  Lawyers and the words they use.  Chuck and Matt have agreed to stay with us.  We`ll fit in a break here.

And coming up, tough words today from a federal judge, and again, they are directed at this one man, Mr. Stone, who has for now avoided jail time.  We`ll talk about it when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Federal judge Amy Berman Jackson clearly not pleased with Roger Stone over the re-release of a book he wrote that features a new introduction about Robert Mueller`s Russia investigation.  The title of this book may explain why Stone is in hot water, all of it.  It`s called "The Myth of Russian Collusion."

The judge ordered Stone to explain by the 11th of March why he believes the book doesn`t violate her partial gag order from February 21st.  Just yesterday Stone`s lawyers argued he should be allowed to publish the book in large part because it was written pre-gag order.

Well, to that Judge Jackson wrote today, "It does not matter when the defendant may have first formulated the opinions expressed or when he first put them into words, he may no longer share his views on these particular subjects with the world."  She goes on to say, "Roger Stone deliberately waited until public sales were not only imminent but apparently ongoing to inform the court of the publication effort that had been underway for weeks."

Our own justice correspondent, Pete Williams, wrote today, "If Jackson concludes that Stone violated her partial gag order, she could extend the order, barring him from making any public statements at all on any subject, or she could go even further and revoke his bail which would require him to be held in jail awaiting trial.

Chuck Rosenberg, Matt Miller remain with us.  Chuck, I`ve also heard a theory, and there is one more piece of evidence we`ll put on the screen.  Roger Stone posted and then took down on social media this weekend this graphic cute enough under the guise under the guys of Roger Rabbit who frame Roger Stone.  But it has a meaning and it`s a probably de facto violation of the gag order as well.

There`s one theory that he somehow either judge shopping or hoping to buy time, hoping perhaps in some bizarre way she tosses him behind bars.  He can then argue that he should have another judge at trial.  Do you buy into any of that?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY:  If that`s his theory, that`s a complete and abjekt failure, Brian.  This judge has shown remarkable patience.  Remember, in the indictment there is an allegation against Roger Stone that he threatened to kill another person, another witness.  He said, be prepared to die, expletive.

And so a lot of judge in front of whom I practice would have put him in jail, would have revoked his bond.  On that basis alone, and this judge I think is playing a long game.  Roger Stone is playing a short game.  You`re not going to get a judge recused if she makes a decision well within her discretion to revoke someone`s bond for failing to abide by her orders.  She issues orders, she does not issue suggestions, and it doesn`t seem to me that Mr. Stone gets that just yet.

WILLIAMS:  And Chuck, you believe that the graphic, you know, who framed Roger Stone, even that message, however cartoonish in the way it looks, that is a message that a lot of people believe was prohibited in the gag order.

ROSENBERG:  Look, the gag order didn`t make any exceptions as far as I know.  It said, stop talking about this subject, this case right now.  It`s a simple thing to follow, and he didn`t.  And I think she`s showing remarkable patience.

One day, Brian, Roger Stone will be a convicted felon, and this judge will be the one who decides how long he goes to jail.  He`s playing a short game, she`s playing a long game.  She`s been remarkably patient, but one day he`s going face her at his own sentencing, and I think he`s going to be sorry for all his nonsense.

WILLIAMS:  Well, Matthew, in addition to being happy as we are every day, we never face Chuck Rosenberg in federal court.  Let`s talk about this.  The pretrial troubles of adults in every other way with names like Manafort and Stone, who, oh, by the way, happen to be long-time partners in politics.

MATTHEW MILLER, FMR. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT CHIEF SPOKESMAN:  Yes, it`s remarkable that the two of them have the same problem and that they both can`t say to behave like normal defendants and just shut up and be quiet in a events of trial and do the things that they`re supposed to do.

Remember, Manafort violated his gag order and got a warning by the same judge, eventually was jailed after he went ever further and tampered with a witness as the special counsel alleged and eventually convicted him.

Stone is having many the same problems.  I don`t know if Stone will be jailed over this violation, but I do suspect that by the time he eventually makes it to trial, it won`t be as a free man.  He`ll have the same problems that Manafort had.  He just can`t seem to kind of keep his nose clean.

And I think one of the reasons that happens is these are two people have been acting impunity for decades, kind of like the president I think, acting with impunity, doing whatever they want and now they`re in the situation where they have to play by rules, rules they don`t like.  They just can`t make themselves do it.

WILLIAMS:  Chuck, I love asking you, this take 30 seconds and answer the latest iteration of this question.  When this is all said and done, what is your hope that people watching this broadcast, watching this story closely take away about the power of a federal judge who is appointed for life by the President of the United States?

ROSENBERG:  You know, the judges is in front of whom I practice don`t mess around.  They`re serious people, whether they`re appointed by Democrat presidents or Republican presidents.  They believe deeply in the rule of law.  Their courtrooms are places where the rule of law flourishes.  They`re careful, they`re precise, they`re exact and they`re serious people.

And as Matt Miller just pointed out, Roger Stone is none of those things.  I would love for people to be able to go into Judge Jackson`s courtroom and watch how dignified and how staid those processes are.  They would be proud of the American citizens inside that courtroom, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Well, we`re fortunate to have both of these gentlemen part of our conversation tonight.  Chuck Rosenberg, Matthew Miller, thank you both so very much.

And coming up, NBC News exclusive reporting.  We`ll show you what North Korea is working on right now despite a refrain that our president likes to repeat now and again.  We`ll have that story when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  We mentioned this before the break and we have exclusive reporting from NBC News tonight including satellite photos that show that less than 48 hours after those nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea fell apart, Kim Jong-un was already rebuilding one of his missile sites.  Experts say the satellite images show work being done on a launchpad for long-range missiles, among other things that are capable of hitting the United States.  This is a site that`s been dormant largely since last August.

According to analysts, "This renewed activity, taken just two days after the inconclusive Hanoi Summit may indicate North Korean plans to demonstrate resolve in the face of U.S. rejection at North Korea`s demands at the summit to lift five U.N. Security Council sanctions and enacted in 2016-2017".

This is what President Trump had to say about his conversations with the North Korean leader.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  As you know, we got our hostages back.  There`s no more testing.  And one of the things importantly that Chairman Kim promised me last night is, regardless, he`s not going to do testing of rockets and nuclear.  Not going to do testing.  So, you know, I trust him and I take him at his word.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So can you just give us a little more detail.  Did you get into the question of actually dismantling the Yongbyon complex?

TRUMP:  I did.  Yes.  Absolutely.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And does he seem willing ultimately to take all of that out?

TRUMP:  Sure, totally.


WILLIAMS:  Let`s talk about that tonight with General Barry McCaffrey, retired U.S. Army four star general, heavily decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, U.S. ground commander in the Gulf War and former U.S. drug czar, also a man with a lot of experience in this part of the world.

So, general, this President who was alone in his affection for this dictator, alone in his level of trust of this dictator, was he also alone in not being able to see this coming?  Have they ever not been working on their nuclear program?

GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  It`s a remarkable situation.  By the way, up front, Brian, obviously we ought to applaud the administration`s willingness to engage, to negotiate, to talk to the North Koreans.  No question.

But when you sort of back off, I followed the North Korean issue for 25 years now.  It`s a remarkable history.  They have never lived up to what they said they would do.  It`s always a provocation followed by a dialogue followed by another provocation.

So, you know, as you look at what actually is going on the ground, it`s amazing what`s available through unclassified commercial satellite photography.  They never stop making fizol (ph) material.  One estimate is they were able to do six more nuclear devices during 2018.  They never stopped manufacturing intermediate range ballistic missiles.

We now think they have a prototype for an ICBM.  And there is no reason to believe that the research and development didn`t continue at a pace also.

I think they walked to the launch site up to the edge and then see what they can get for it.  So, again, we`re being played by the North Koreans and President Trump is negotiating with himself.  I mean, giving up the military exercises in South Korea, calling our presence there provocative, it`s just an astonishing failure of diplomacy.

WILLIAMS:  Let`s back up one second and talk about those exercises.  The President now openly referring to them as war games.  It is possible he did not know that that phrase existed till now.  You know them as exercises.  You know them well as a veteran of the U.S. Military.  He sprung that on his commanders that he wanted to stop our participation in them.  What is lost when we don`t do them?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, look, at the end of the day, South Korea, this incredibly rich, vibrant, democratic, economically successful nation can defend itself on the ground pretty ably.  I have no doubt about that.  The U.S. military present, there`s 28,000 some odd troops on the ground, naval and air power, the forces in Okinawa in Japan, in Guam and Hawaii are there for deterrence.  They are there to ensure that there isn`t a war on the Korean Peninsula.

So the whole notion of giving that away up front is just hard to understand what he`s thinking.  Why would he use the language of the Chinese and North Koreans?

WILLIAMS:  Talk about how much hard work has gone into deterrence.  The President talks about his predecessors as failures on this front.  And it ignores the work during the Cold War and later to keep the peace.

MCCAFFREY:  Well, I think so.  Look, it`s been remarkable over the course of action.  My dad fought in Korea from 1951 to `53.  It`s astonishing we managed to go lo these many decades with the incredible commitment and sacrifice and dedication of the armed forces and the political leadership of the region and the United States without there being another conflict.  Of course, legally that conflict remains in place.

So, I think that the notion that the others were failures overlooks what has been one of the most successful deterrent operations imaginable.  We haven`t had a war with the North Koreans and we don`t want that.  That`s what we`re up to.  The notion is deterrence.  Now, we have to face this nuclear issue.  If they get ICBMs deployed in numbers that can threaten the United States, I would view that as an unacceptable condition.

WILLIAMS:  On those words, we`ve asked General McCaffrey to stay with us.  We`ll fit in a break.  When we come back, something else the President has apparently done an about face on.  We`ll talk about that after this.



TRUMP:  We`ve been fighting for a long time in Syria.  I`ve been President for almost two years and we`ve really stepped it up, and we have won against ISIS.  We`ve beaten them and we`ve beaten them badly.  We`ve taken back the land.  And now it`s time for our troops to come back


WILLIAMS:  That was under three months ago when the President shocked everybody, including his own Pentagon commanders and members of Congress, by announcing the U.S. was coming home, pulling out of Syria.  It now appears the President has had something of a dramatic change of heart.  Here`s how we know this, because he wrote it in Sharpie across a letter from Congress, a bipartisan group of lawmakers had written in support of leaving the troops there in place.

Trump wrote back right on that same letter, Agree 100%.  All is being done."

General Barry McCaffrey remains with us.  General, I also have to share with our audience this headline and the "The Washington Post." "Trump vowed to leave Syria in a tweet. Now he agreed to stay with a Sharpie."  What do you think is going on?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, you know, I think there`s an awful lot of impulsive unilateral decisions coming out of the White House.  There is no connection with the national security process, deliberative, listening to the intelligence, coming up with a strategy on what we`re trying to do.

You know, I got to admit, Brian, there`s no question that Syria is an irredeemable mess.  Nobody`s putting it back together.  Not Assad.  Not the Kurds.  Not the Iranians.  But it could get worse.  And it`s amazing to me what  CENTCOM, General Joe Votel and largely special operations and lots of U.S. air power has been able to accomplish, but announcing publicly we`re leaving, throwing our allies under the bus, ceding the terrain to Erdogan struck me as a foolhardy decision.  It`s hard to understand what he was thinking.

And now leaving, announcing publicly 200 to 400 troops will stay in isolated patches in Syria strikes me as totally irresponsible.  I don`t like to see symbolic use of U.S. military power.  We had to fight and kill a couple hundred Russian mercenaries in Syria a year ago.  This is a very dangerous ground.  The President should not be determing head count.  He`s supposed to do strategy.

WILLIAMS:  And can`t we assume, general, that if the head count is 400 and if it`s General Votel who has decided who stays and who goes, those are essential personnel.  We`re conducting air strikes.  We were overnight with American aircraft.  That needs forward air controllers.  That needs air crews on the ground somewhere. 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, exactly.  Thank god for the U.S. Navy and Air Force strike options.  That`s been a huge part of the hammer we`ve been using.  We actually had U.S. Army and Marine artillery units in country also operating very small elements.

But, look, we don`t want the White House determining the optics of military operations.  We want the White House to sort out what the political strategy is and approve military objectives.  And, again, I think announcing that there`ll be small bands of U.S. military personnel deep in the heart of Syria is a gross misjudgment.

WILLIAMS:  General Barry McCaffrey, it`s always a pleasure to have you on the broadcast.  Thank you so much for joining us again tonight from Seattle, Washington.

MCCAFFREY:  Good to be with you. 

WILLIAMS:  And coming up for us, it`s fast becoming a best-seller and that`s exactly what has people concerned about what`s going on, on the website of shall we say a major Seattle-based employer.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight could be called the cost of good intentions if we believe Amazon`s intention was simply to be the planet`s largest book seller.  Maybe not including the book that is inching up its rankings.

Amazon can`t seem to stay out of the news these days, and tonight`s story is about a book of conspiracy theories that is taking its place alongside the actual work of experienced authors on the Amazon best-seller list.  Did you know, for example, that some Democrats eat children?  That`s in this book, and you may be seeing the problem here. NBC News correspondent Gadi Schwartz filed this story on it just tonight.


GADI SCHWARTZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over):  From signs at political rallies to online forums filled with talk of mind control and lizard people, the dark web movement called Qanon once only found in the fringe parts of the internet now on Amazon`s best selling book list.  Outranking authors like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dr. Seuss.  Unanimously written, the book contains compilation of unproven radical conspiracy theories suggesting high-ranking Democrats are part of a cult that eats children, claiming the government created aids and saying it`s also behind the movie "Monsters Inc."

This part of the government plan it claims to collect children`s blood and give government officials a more youthful look.

JACOB WARD, NBC NEWS TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT:  Anyone can publish anything.  On the one hand, that creates some amazing opportunities but it also means that some really toxic stuff can get out there. 

SCHWARTZ:  The book is getting five-star reviews, including several from people who admit they haven`t even read it.

(on camera):  But Amazon`s algorithm seems to unintentionally reward that.  Pushing the book up the best-seller list and in effect promoting base baseless conspiracy theories.  The use of misinformation on social media has past let other tech companies to take action.

(voice-over):  YouTube restricting  recommendations for some anti- vaccination videos, Facebook exploring ways to handle conspiracy content.

WARD:  This kind of really powerful conspiracy theory emotionally-laden stuff, it`s just, you know, it`s pretty irresistible to a huge swath of people and that is how a lot of these companies make money.

SCHWARTZ:  Amazon hasn`t responded to NBC News`s request for comment and wouldn`t give specifics on how the algorithm works or how much it could get from sales.  For now the unfounded and dangerous conspiracy theories lifted from the dark web one of Amazon`s best-selling books.


WILLIAMS:  Our thanks to Los Angeles-based correspondent Gadi Schwartz for that story.  And that`s going to wrap up our broadcast for this Tuesday evening.  Thank you so very much for being here with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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