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Focus turns to House hearings. TRANSCRIPT: 3/25/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Berit Berger, Michael McFaul, David Jolly

PETE BUTTIGIEG, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  It means you can organize for a fair day`s work, fair day`s pay, fair day`s conditions for a fair day`s work.




BUTTIGIEG:  Don`t let anybody tell you Democratic side is the party of freedom.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg gets tonight`s LAST WORD and that word is freedom.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight Robert Mueller`s work is done.  He submitted his report, but until we can see it both sides are left to debate a four-page letter that tells us how Trump`s attorney general sees it.

Tonight, Trump defenders claiming the President`s been cleared, they are going after the media, even demanding apologies while others are offering a reminder of what else is out there.  The investigations now under way still spooling out into the President, his business, family, campaign and inauguration.

And still unsolved, what have we decided to do about Russia`s involvement in our election.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Monday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 795 of the Trump administration.  And there is a legal term for exactly what it is we`re witnessing right now.  It`s a mess.  It is tempting to label this coverage of the Mueller report, but it`s not.  We haven`t seen the Mueller report.

So this really is coverage of a letter that Bill Barr wrote, the four-page letter from the Attorney General, describing and interpreting what he read in the Mueller report.  Barr writes, among other things, "The Special Counsel`s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign."

It`s important to note that Mueller did not draw a conclusion about whether or not the President obstructed justice.  Barr directly quoted Mueller`s report that said, "while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him."

Barr went on to say that he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein concluded, "the evidence developed during the Special Counsel`s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction of justice offense."

The President immediately seized on Barr`s summary of Mueller`s report claiming complete and total exoneration.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  There was no collusion with Russia.  There was no obstruction and none whatsoever.  And it was a complete and total exoneration.

It`s a shame that our country had to go through this.  To be honest, it`s a shame that your President has had to go through this.


WILLIAMS:  Trump also addressed the Russia investigation, and whether or not the full Mueller report should be released at the White House.


TRUMP:  We`re glad it`s over.  It`s a 100 percent the way it should have been.  I wish you could have gone a lot sooner, a lot quicker.  There are a lot of people out there that have done some very, very evil things, very bad things.  I would say treasonous things against our country.

We can never let this happen to another president again.  I can tell you that.  I say it very strongly.  Very few people I know could have handled it.  We can never, ever let this happen to another president again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you want the report to be completely released?

TRUMP:  It`s up to the Attorney General but it wouldn`t bother me at all.  Up to the Attorney General.  It wouldn`t bother me at all.


WILLIAMS:  And now the Democrats bear down on their fight to release the Mueller report with deep secrets redacted so we can all read it and many of them want to talk to everyone involved here.  NBC News reporting that House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York has contacted the Justice Department to set a date for William Barr to testify on the Mueller report.

Also today, six Democratic Committee chairs, including Nadler, Elijah Cummings, Adam Schiff, sent a letter to Barr demanding that he submit Mueller`s full report to Congress by April 2.  The lawmakers told Barr his summary was not sufficient for Congress.

Peter Baker of the "New York Times" writes that the President is "emboldened and angry after Barr`s summary" and adds this, "Not indicted or not impeached may not have been much of a bumper sticker in times past, but in today`s polarized political environment, each side sees these issues through its own lens."

This, as Maggie Habermann of the "Times" is among those pointing out that even though Mueller`s investigation is complete, a legal threat will continue to loom over Trump`s presidency with federal and state investigations.  "Most of the investigations focus on President Trump or his family business or a cadre of his advisers and associates.  They are being conducted by officials from Los Angeles to Brooklyn with about half of them being run by the United States attorney`s office in Manhattan."

Many legal analyzes have said that the Manhattan office of the Justice Department, the Southern District of New York, poses the real threat to the President.


CHUCK ROSENBERG, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY:  To use a march madness basketball analogy, the court on which the Southern District is playing is longer and wider, right?  And we don`t know everything that`s there.  They have much more freedom, much more room to roam than Mueller did.

And that, if I were President Trump or one of his kids or somebody who worked in the Trump organization were writing checks so they could be sort of cashed by Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, I`d be worried.

FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY:  The Southern District of New York I`ve been saying for months is the more dangerous for the President and his team because they have no restrictions on them.  Mueller has the restrictions, it`s Russia and Russia -related items.  And that`s it.  Southern District has no restrictions --


WILLIAMS:  On that note, let`s bring in our lead off panel for a Monday night, Chuck Rosenberg, we just heard from him, former U.S. Attorney, former Senior FBI Official.  Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at CIA and Pentagon, former Chief Counsel at House Intel.  And Berit Berger a former federal prosecutor with both the Eastern District of New York and Southern District of New York, welcome to you all.

Chuck, I note your time working for and with Robert Mueller, and I`m sorry that you`ve been something of a Mueller whisper around here.  I also know that Marine Corp Captain Mueller is all about chain of command.  And sending this to the Attorney general was in keeping with the chain of command.  The question to you that may require conjecture, why do you think Mueller punted, in effect?

ROSENBERG:  That`s a hard question.  He is a chain of command guy. As well, Brian, the federal regulations that govern the office of special counsel say very clearly that ultimately it`s the Attorney General who decides what happens to the Special Counsel`s cases.  It`s crafted so the Special Counsel has day-to-day independence but it`s the Attorney General who decides why did he punt on the question.  And Berit and I were talking about that before we came on your set.

That`s a hard thing to know.  It might be because you just cannot charge a sitting President, and so, therefore, perhaps -- and this is a capital p perhaps -- you, therefore, do not lay the stigma of uncharged conduct on that same President, but I really don`t know.

WILLIAMS:  So Berit, to that point, if that theory is correct, that would be powerful wording for us all to read to what end if we go with the DOJ memo that the President can`t be indicted?

BERIT BERGER, FMR. ASSISTANCE U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  That`s exactly right.  And that`s sort of even more reason why the public deserves to see the entirety of the report.


BERGER:  Because as we all know there`s much more to a story than just the conclusion.  Certainly the various details, the evidence that underlie that conclusion, all of that is going to be important as we try to figure out what exactly happened.  And while it`s useful to know what the attorney general`s ultimate conclusion was, it certainly doesn`t tell us why he reached that conclusion.  And it doesn`t tell us about these various obstructive acts or potentially obstructive acts that caused Mueller to say that the President was not fully exonerated.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy Bash, I know you spoke to one of our producers and wanted to make a point specifically on conspiracy.

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Well, Brian, look, I think what the Barr letter says is Mueller found that the Russians actually offered help to the Trump campaign.  And we know, of course, that the Russians did interfere.

So, here is basically what I think basically that Mueller found, that the Russians interfered, they informed the Trump campaign that they were interfering, they said what they wanted in return, the Magnitsky Act relieved, sanctions relieved, and then in fact, they got exactly what they asked for in terms of a very pro-Putin, pro-Russia foreign policy.

All that Mueller appears to have found with respect to conspiracy is that the Trump campaign didn`t assist the Russians in their interference, but they didn`t need the assistance of the Trump campaign to interfere.  The Russians did fine on their own and the Trump campaign benefitted from it.  So I think it`s a narrow read upon which the Mueller team appears to have said no laws were broken.

WILLIAMS:  But Jeremy, you raise what may be the issue at the crux of this.  If and when we get to see the text, again with, you know, secrets redacted, so no one gets exposed, you may read it as an entirely different document than the sitting attorney general, who is now out on something of a limb because we have seen his interpretation.

BASH:  That`s right.  And I think fundamentally what Bob Mueller was looking at, and I think what Bill Barr was looking at, was were federal criminal laws broken.  And of course, this started as a counterintelligence investigation, a national security investigation.

And I think when this moves to phase two, phase two being, of course, Congress` review of this matter, I think Congress is going to take a broader lens, a broader aperture.  They`re going to look at was the foreign policy of the United States suborned subject to Russian foreign policy?  And why did the President of the United States appear to have done that.

WILLIAMS:  Berit, I have to ask you about your old shop, and that is the Southern District of New York, which for clarity, I keep calling in effect the Justice Department`s Manhattan bureau.  It is more than that and quite sprawling as no one needs to tell you.  Does anything about what has just happened in the last 24 hours change or diminish potential plans the Southern District might have?

BERGER:  No.  I actually don`t think these impacts the Southern District`s investigation or the investigation of other prosecutors` offices at all.  And if you think about it, that`s how it should be.  I mean, just because somebody didn`t commit one crime doesn`t mean they didn`t commit a fully separate crime.

So they`re going to continue doing their investigation the same way that they have this entire time.  They`re going to interview witnesses.  They`re going to look at evidence.  I don`t think that whatever conclusions the Special Counsel`s office reached on the very limited issues that they were looking will have any impact on the Manhattan prosecutors.

WILLIAMS:  Chuck, there`s not graceful way to ask this, members of the resistance today have been pretty bummed out all day, thinking that -- they thought the President was going to be in greater legal peril.  We heard from you earlier in the broadcast, do you stand by the point you were making about the latitude and the power of the Southern District?

ROSENBERG:  I do.  And Berit knows that office better than I, I know it by reputation.  But they have a broader mandate.  They get to look at all sorts of conduct, financial fraud, Trump organization, Trump inaugural committee, Trump foundation in ways that Bob Mueller simply could not, because his review (ph) was narrow, it was Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether or not anybody on the Trump campaign conspired with those Russians.

So, I think and I`ve been saying this for a while, and occasionally I`m right, that the really important work is going to be going on in Manhattan from here forward.  And I think Berit is spot on, nothing that happened with respect to the Mueller investigation will undermine that work in the Southern District of New York.

WILLIAMS:  And Berit, your old shop, the Southern District has already labeled the President individual one at the Cohen sentencing.  We learned that crimes were directed by individual one.

BERGER:  Right.  So this is often what we call either a speaking indictment or times where you can speak in court through your papers.  So the Southern District of New York does not have the same mandate as Mueller to prepare a report they`re going to submit to Congress or submit to the Attorney General.  But this is often times how you hear them speaking, through the court papers, through the filings.  And labeling somebody as individual one is about as powerful as you can get from a prosecutor`s office like that.

WILLIAMS:  Now Jeremy, to you, duo question, what do you think in terms of peril from Congress for this President and the same question to you about the potential peril that exists at the Southern District of New York?

BASH:  Look, I think, Brian, ultimately Congress will engage in a wide ranging set of investigative actions.  I think they were prepared to do that before the Mueller report.

As far as the Southern District of New York, I think it obviously will look at the finances of the Trump organization, which is, of course, fundamentally what Donald Trump said was a red line.

And I want to loop back one more time to the Barr letter.  Because Brian, I think it`s also important to note that the main conclusion that Bill Barr reached in that letter, that four-page letter was basically the same conclusion he reached in his audition memo.  And I`ve gone back and read this 19-page memo he wrote before he was nominated to be attorney general.  And he has this line, it`s really important.  He says the Constitution places no limit on the President`s authority to act on matters which concern him or his own conduct.

Really, no limit?  The Constitution plays no limit on the President to do anything?  I mean, that`s the theory of Bill Barr`s case and that`s the theory we saw echoed in this four-page summary.

WILLIAMS:  The no less illegal mind and Neal Katyal, Jeremy, has branded that memo cookey.  It was not solicited.  It came in over the transom.  It was widely distributed in Washington and cynics look at it and say, "Yes, it was his job application to be Donald Trump`s attorney general."

BASH:  That`s right.  And again, the legal conclusions are basically the same conclusions that he landed on in the four-page memo.  The four-page memo, you know, to chuck`s point, the Attorney General has a responsibility for making a prosecution or no prosecution decision with a Special Counsel case.  But actually the Attorney General went further, he said "I`m basically exonerating the President.  I looked at the evidence, I looked at the law and I conclude he did nothing wrong."

Well, first of all, that`s not his role.  Second, substantively, that`s exactly what he concluded in the 19-page memo that a President can`t be guilty of corrupt intent because all corrupt intent when you`re president is presidential intent.  And presidential intent, according to Bill Barr, is perfectly constitutional.  It`s the same exact argument.

WILLIAMS:  And Berit Berger if you -- if I gave you one question to ask Robert Mueller as unfair, a question is that may be, what do you think it would be?

BERGER:  I guess the one question would be do you think that this is a leader who was fit to lead our country right now?  Based on everything that you learned, based on all the evidence that you had a chance to see, do you think this person should be leading us?

WILLIAMS:  Wow, you don`t fool around in your choice of one question to Robert Mueller.  Chuck, same question to you and I add this, how do you think -- do you think he`s satisfied with the depiction of him?  This is not a guy who was obsessed with his public depiction, but do you think if he could hear and see all of this in the media, he would think it`s unfair?

ROSENBERG:  I don`t think Bob Mueller paid attention to the praise, and I don`t think he`s going to pay attention to the criticism.  Bob Mueller is fundamentally a Marine and a prosecutor.  And this, I am sure, and from his perspective is a tour of duty that has now ended.

I can tell you that he, in my experience working with him, working for him, working by him, has always tried to do what he thinks is right.  That type of person, by the way, is not well understood by the political types.  He`s not motivated by personal gain, he`s not motivated by publicity, he`s motivated by doing what`s right.  And I don`t think he`s really going to pay attention to us.

WILLIAMS:  You have told me he`s known to ask an ironically to his employees, what have you done for your country today?

ROSENBERG:  What have you done for your country today?  And that`s sometimes when you get a note on your chair saying where are you at 5:30 a.m.

WILLIAMS:  Sorry.  Just not a morning person, that sounds funny.

Chuck Rosenberg, Jeremy Bash, Berit Berger, can`t think of a better panel to start us off on this Monday night.  Appreciate it very much.

And coming up for us, the Trump White House on the offensive now, now that Robert Mueller has wrapped up his work.  Tonight what they are claiming this four-page letter means.

And later, the members of Congress in both parties that have a few questions about this Mueller report, starting with, when do we get to see it?  We have two Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists standing by to join us as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting under way on a Monday night.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, do you think Robert Mueller acted honorably?

TRUMP:  Yes.  Yes.


WILLIAMS:  New reporting from "The Washington Post" tonight reveals President Trump is planning to use the apparent conclusion of Robert Mueller`s report to attack his foes real and perceived.

One of our next guests, Ashley Parker, reports, "All signs indicate a Trump operation seeking vengeance and accountability from critics it says maligned the President over the investigation into whether his campaign or associates conspired with Russia to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.  An adviser who talked to the President said Trump has an appetite to see his critics investigated."

Well, with us for more tonight two top reporters from "The Washington Post," the aforementioned, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House reporter and Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief.  Good evening and welcome to you both.

Ashley, indeed, I watched between two and three hours of Fox News and Prime Time tonight, so much of it centered right at the news media.  A demand for apologies, a kind of relitigating of all the points that have been made over two years.  Talk a bit more about the President potentially using this as a political weapon recognizing, again, we`re all reacting to a four-page letter thus far.

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, it`s a political weapon in the eyes of the President and his allies in a couple of ways.  Number one as they plan to use it heading into 2020 and they`re going to say that for two years now the President has been saying no collusion, no collusion, this is a witch hunt.  And according to this summary of Mueller`s report that`s what they found, that there was no collusion.

So for any future investigation, for any ongoing investigation, and there are some, and Congress is about to launch a number of investigations and for even any future bad behavior by the President potentially, they`re just going to point to Mueller`s findings or what they now believe his findings to be and say, "We told you this was a witch hunt and now we`re telling you this new thing is a witch hunt and now you have reason to believe us."

WILLIAMS:  And Phil Rucker, to your reporting on the extent to which the President is newly emboldened.

PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF:  Yes, Brian, this is a huge political victory for the President right now and he feels emboldened and empowered.  And we`re going to see him try to get on the offensive here.  He`s planning to go tomorrow to Capitol Hill to take a victory lap with a lunch with the Senate Republicans there.  And then Thursday, he`ll be heading up to Michigan for a campaign rally where we can expect he`ll be talking a lot about this.

And he`s not a President who`s going to, you know, just be pleased with how this turned out and focus on governing and bipartisanship, rather he`s seeking revenge, he`s seeking retaliation, he`s naming his enemies.  We saw him in the Oval Office today saying that there are people who did evil things to him and to the country, and that their acts were, in fact, in his view, treasonous.  So he`s not going to let this go and he`s going to be digging in for some time trying to seek out recourse.

WILLIAMS:  Ashley, in the interim, if, in fact, the newspaper up here in New York was right in their headline today that a cloud has been lifted from the Trump presidency, will the Trump presidency now see an opening to push an agenda?  Your reporting would certainly indicate no for now, thank you very much, they`re very much focussed on the people who have done them wrong.

PARKER:  That`s right.  It`s funny.  There was some talk among White House officials before we got the summary on Sunday saying, "Look, if this report is as we believe it to be, good for the President.  We want to move on, we want to turn the page, we want to focus on the agenda."  But the truth is as much as even in conversation today, they mentioned the President`s trade policy and other agenda items.

What they want to do is hold people accountable.  And as Phil said, seek vengeance.  They are already going through -- they`re blaming the media broadly and they`re going through and they are finding specific statements from Democratic lawmakers so far of them accusing the President of collusion, of going out and what it now looks like getting ahead of their skis.  And they are putting those in memos.  They are calling as you saw Kellyanne Conway, one of the President`s senior advisers, calling on Adam Schiff to resign.  And they are going to use this to hold all of these people accountable and they are not going to let them forget it.

We didn`t see the President turning to a new infrastructure plan, for instance.  What we saw was call for his enemies, his rivals, his critics to pay a price.

WILLIAMS:  And, Phil, you mentioned Michigan.  The President is going to Jerry Ford`s old Congressional district, a deep red spot on the map.  Do you expect him to kind of relitigate the last two years and report, obviously, the highlights as he sees them of the four-page letter?

TUCKER:  I mean, Brian, there`s nothing President Trump loves more than relitigating the past, especially when he thinks he got the upper hand.  So, yes, I anticipate he`ll talk about some of this at that rally on Thursday.

And one thing that`s important to keep in mind I think is he`s not out of the woods yet.  Eventually, we don`t know when it will be, but eventually we expect that the public will be able to see a good deal of this Mueller report and it could, in fact, contain very damaging information about President Trump even though he was not found to have done any criminal wrong doing.

And part of what President Trump is doing right now is taking the summary conclusions in that Bill Barr letter as a headline for him to try to just say over and over and over again, exoneration, no collusion, no obstruction.  And blanket over any details, inoculate himself from what could eventually come out in the Mueller report and also what could be coming out of the Southern District of New York in that investigation as well as the investigations on Capitol Hill.

WILLIAMS:  After another day of great deadline journalism, our thanks to both Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker.  Thank you both for coming on tonight and helping us out with this story.

And coming up, reaction from the Kremlin to the Mueller investigation ending, and the confirmed counter terror intelligence threats that have not gone away.


WILLIAMS:  Welcome back.  Investigating Russian interference in our presidential election was the main directive of the Special Counsel`s investigation.  Proof of its existence is something Robert Mueller apparently made very clear in his report.  We`ll let you know when we see it.

According to the Attorney General Barr, "The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection to those efforts"  Despite those findings, the Kremlin is acting as if vindicated today and doubling down on its denials.

The New York Times reporting, "There was crowing in Russia on Monday that the Special Counsel`s investigation did not find coordination between Moscow and the Trump campaign in 2016."  A Kremlin spokesman told Russia state TV, "Even the brief information specified in the summary from the Mueller report has no basis.  And added, it is difficult to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if it`s not there."  Wow.

With us to talk about it, Michael McFaul, the former US Ambassador to Russia, and Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence who in the past has worked for Robert Mueller.

And, Frank, Point of personal privilege, I`d like to go with you first to hear you out on Bob Mueller, why you think he punted on this central point but also please follow-up with the counterintelligence part of this investigation, the Mueller report that we haven`t been able to see yet.

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  Certainly, Brian.  So I`m as perplexed and puzzled as the guests you had on earlier, but knowing Bob Mueller and how he works, there`s a couple possibilities here.  There`s probably more than a couple possibilities.

But one of them is that he had a strategy that was aimed at giving Congress the opportunity to take care of business because he may have firmly believed that it was not his province to do so with regard to a president and regard to a shaky call on a criminal matter.  The other is that somehow he made it crystal clear to the Attorney General that he wanted to do something or had a strategy but the Attorney General took that and turned into the summary we now have.  And I think we -- none of us will know really what was going on unless Bob Mueller testifies on the Hill and we see the entire unvarnished report.

Speaking of the entire unvarnished report, I think the Russians are celebrating and making claims a little bit too early because I predict that if we get to see a declassified report from Mueller, we`re going to see strong evidence pointing right to the Kremlin and even perhaps to Putin himself as in directing the assistance, the interference with the campaign, the hacking, the social media propaganda.

I think that`s going to be a fascinating counterintelligence story that we need to hear, and more importantly, Brian, the Senate and the House need to hear.  Because one of the worst things that could happen from fallout and outcomes from this summary and the ultimate report for people to claim this is all over and we can go home now when, in fact, what we found through this inquiry is that the Russians are targeting us, they`re still doing it today and we`re about to head into another presidential election.

WILLIAMS:  Ambassador, indeed, you get to watch the Russian media as someone who understands the language.  So you`re probably picking up on things we`re missing, what can you add to what Frank said and do you concur with him that it`s probably premature?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER US AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA:  Well, Brian, with respect to the news today out of Moscow, yes, they`re elated especially commentators close to the Kremlin, this was all much ado about nothing.  And they`re skipping the part in the Barr letter that says that they were indicted.

And let`s remember, we already know a lot from two indictments from Robert Mueller about what the Russians did, particularly what the Russian military intelligence officers did in terms of stealing data and publicizing it, weaponizing it, and we know what the internet research agency did because of a fantastic indictment that Bob Mueller also put out where they were putting propaganda onto our platforms.

I hope we`ll learn about other operations, what did Russia today do, what did Sputnik do, what about those alleged 21 states where we saw Russian activity on our electoral infrastructure right before election day.  These are all questions I hope will also be answered once we see to see the final report.

WILLIAMS:  Ambassador, how would we be treating them today, for that matter, were these normal times in our relationship? 

MCFAUL:  Well, Brian, as you know, we`ve been on this -- we`ve been talking about this for a long time, because somebody has been shouting collusion very loudly for the last two years.  We`ve been stuck.  We have not talked about this in terms of national security.  We didn`t have a bipartisan commission like we did after we were attacked on September 11th to not only discuss in detail what the Russians did, and I`m still hoping that the Mueller report will provide more details on that, but we haven`t even started the conversation about what needs to be done to prevent it from happening in 2020.

So what do the social media platform companies need to do to reduce amplification?  What do we need to do to enhance cybersecurity in our campaigns and in our electoral infrastructure?  And how do we deal with making sure Russians don`t buy ads to influence voters?  All of those are big policy questions and we have only begun to talk about them, that is two years lost in my opinion.

WILLIAMS:  And, Frank, this is your world and your life`s work, how concerned are you that we`ve allowed a giant backslide and we have not kept up with a threat that`s more than going to keep knocking at our door, it`s in our house already?

FIGLIUZZI:  Yes, I`m deeply concerned about the next election cycle because the evidence is already there.  Not only by the way from Russia but other nation states and actors may attempt to also do what they think is in their best interests.  And here`s why the Senate and House need to pay attention, and the White House as well.

This may have gone their way this time, but the goal of the Russian government and intelligence services, first and foremost, is to split us and cause disarray and chaos.  So the next election cycle if they choose to back another candidate from another party, it will -- they`ll be screaming bloody murder in the Senate and from the White House, but they need to understand, it`s their time that`s coming and that`s why everyone needs to pay attention and demand action on securing our next election.

WILLIAMS:  Well, we hope everyone is listening to a point like that.  Frank Figliuzzi, our thanks.  Mike McFaul who gets to go somewhere in Palm Springs after this, you got it the best of all three of us, I think.  Gentlemen, thank you both.

And coming up are we about to enter the season of hearings in Washington?  Is this only just the start?  A form House member and former Republican is here with us next on what to expect from both sides of the aisle.



ERIC HOLDER, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I would say he`s acting in a way that`s inconsistent with the best practice.  It would seem to me having received the information in the way that he did from Bob Mueller, that Attorney General Barr should have taken that information and then, you know, packaged it in the appropriate form and sent it to the House for consideration.


WILLIAMS:  That right there is likely something William Barr will have to address when he next appears on Capitol Hill.  We reported earlier that House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has contacted the DOJ to set a date for the Attorney General to testify on Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s Russia report.  That rolls off the tongue.

Barr is already scheduled to testify before Congress on April 9th, but that`s something else.  That`s a House Appropriations Committee hearing.  The Democrats, of course, are going to seek to question him there nonetheless.

With us tonight, David Jolly a former Republican member of Congress from the state of Florida who has since left the party.  A point of order here, Congressman, I woke up to social media this morning and I saw photos of you and a new member of the Jolly family.  You guys had a baby on Saturday.  What in God`s name are you doing on basic cable tonight or did we get you out of the house?

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN:  I`m planning on being up all night tonight.  We brought little Carolina Claire home, so I`ve got the late shift, I`m starting with you.

WILLIAMS:  Well, we welcome her to the world and our congratulations and best wishes to you and your wife.  At some point when she`s old enough she`ll learn how to pronounce Robert Mueller, which is the subject of our interview tonight.  Do you think Congress will be successful, do you think we will see Robert Mueller raise his right hand in a public hearing and swear in to be questioned?

JOLLY:  You know, look, I think there`s a possibility.  It would be very negotiated.  The reality is there will be highly classified information in the Mueller report.  I think Democrats are right to demand that Barr testify about the conclusions he drew, and I think they`re right to demand that the full report be given to Congress and as much released as possible.  But we know there will be highly classified information, and if we do hear from Mueller, I think it would be under negotiated terms, negotiated topics.

WILLIAMS:  This could be a really dicey period we have coming up here.  As I said at the top of the broadcast what folks are arguing about is not the Mueller report, it`s a four-page letter.  Do you think the Democrats especially are going to have message discipline in this period where what we don`t know exceeds what we do?

JOLLY:  I think if you look at the midterms and frankly a lot of credit should be given to their top leader, Nancy Pelosi, we likely will see some message discipline.  It is important to fight for transparency, to demand answers from Bill Barr about his conclusions, how he drew those conclusions.  But I don`t think they need to cross the line and begin to question the report itself, Bob Mueller`s findings.

The reality is Bob Mueller`s integrity is as strong tonight as it was throughout the past two years.  I do think Democrats have other areas of traditional oversight, we will see investigations into emoluments violations.  AOC has some real questions about the President`s taxes, questions of security clearances.

But if you look at the midterms, the midterms were not won by Democrats on the Russia investigation, and neither will 2020.  There are stark policy contrasts tonight between the two major parties just as there were in the midterms in November of 2018.

WILLIAMS:  As you know well, this President says very little by accident.  So when we heard him today say pointedly twice, no president should have to go through this, some folks theorized maybe he`s looking at a change in Special Counsel rules down the road, some folks theorize maybe that`s a glancing blow toward the subject of pardons or executive privilege down the road.  Did any of that strike you as you watched? 

JOLLY:  Look, I think that`s giving the President a lot of credit for a competence he hasn`t exhibited in the last two years when it comes to his messaging around this investigation.  The President suggests he`s been exonerated, he has not.  We know that.  There`s been some vindication tonight, and history will recall this vindication.

But nothing in the Mueller report exonerates his behavior Helsinki, nothing exonerates his behavior misleading the American people about the timeline around the Trump Tower-Moscow negotiations, about the topics discussed in the New York meeting, nothing exonerates him in the Southern District of New York matter as you discussed either.

But there is some vindication, and this is where it is important I think for Democrats to accept a bit of that vindication and move to talk about this President in policy terms.  This is a president whose immigration policies have continued to put kids in cages.  He has offered healthcare repeal without replace, a tax plan that favors corporations not individuals.  Democrats have plenty to run on in 2020.

WILLIAMS:  Congressman David Jolly taking time out from his sleep deprivation program to talk to us.  Again, great -- good wishes to you, your wife and your new daughter.

JOLLY:  Good to be here.

WILLIAMS:  And coming up for our audience tonight, one of the president`s most outspoken critics in a legal battle of his own.



GEOFFREY BERMAN, US ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: Today we announce criminal extortion charges against Michael Avenatti.  The charges are based on Avenatti`s scheme to extract more than $20 million in payments from a public company by threatening to use his ability to garner publicity to inflict financial and reputational harm on the company.  By engaging in the conduct alleged in the complaint, Avenatti was not acting as an attorney.  A suit and tie doesn`t mask the fact that at its core, this was an old fashioned shakedown.


WILLIAMS:  That`s the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York.  This news was stunning, even more so when you remember that Michael Avenatti recently traveled to Iowa and New Hampshire when he was exploring a run for president.

Tonight, Michael Avenatti, the lawyer who roared the public attention while representing a porn star in a suit against the President was arrested today in New York.  He`s facing felony charges in two separate coast-to-coast federal cases.  The Southern District of New York of all places has charged him with attempt to go extort over $20 million from Nike in just the recent weeks.

He`s accused of demanding the cash by threatening to damage the company`s image and reputation.  He even previewed it on Twitter this afternoon announcing we will be holding a press conference to disclose a major high school college basketball scandal perpetuated by Nike that we have uncovered.

According to reports, just minutes later he was arrested while meeting with lawyers representing Nike.  Avenatti appeared briefly in court in New York this evening.  He was released on $300,000 bond.  He did not enter a plea but said this on his own behalf.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY:  I am highly confident that when all of the evidence is laid bare in connection with these cases, when it is all known, when due process occurs, that I will be fully exonerated and justice will be done.


WILLIAMS:  As the man on TV says, but wait, there`s more.  His alleged coconspirator in the New York case is celebrity lawyer Mark Geragos, and tonight CNN has severed its relationship with Mark Geragos.

Meanwhile prosecutors in California are accusing Avenatti of embezzling money from a client to pay for his own expenses.  He is also charged with bank fraud for using false tax returns to obtain over $4 million in loans.

Another break for us tonight and coming up, a big name in Washington breaks his silence about something a lot of people wish they had known a week ago.  That when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight.  If you`re old enough to remember last week, then you remember a simpler time before the Mueller report had been handed in, before the Barr letter set everyone`s hair on fire.  Last week for a time, the big story you`ll recall was Donald Trump`s withering attack on a straight-up American hero, former senator, former prisoner of war, John McCain.

The President was bothered by John McCain for years.  Just days ago he renewed his attack.  And at an event at a military contractor in Ohio before a mostly silent crowed, he detailed what angered him so much about John McCain.  He said he blamed McCain for handing over that colorful dossier to the FBI.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES:  John McCain received a fake and phony dossier.  Did you hear about the dossier?  And John McCain got it.  He got it.  And what he did he do?  He didn`t call me.  He turned it over to the FBI hoping to put me in jeopardy.

I endorsed him at his request, and I gave him the kind of funeral that he wanted, which, as president, I had to approve.  I don`t care about this.  I didn`t get a thank you.  That`s OK.  We sent him on the way, but I wasn`t a fan of John McCain.


WILLIAMS:  That was the President on Wednesday.  This is Lindsey Graham in a conversation with CNN today and we quote, "I told the President it was not John McCain.  I know because John McCain showed me the dossier.  And I told him the only thing I knew to do with it, it could be a bunch of garbage, it could be true, who knows?  Turn it over to somebody whose job it is to find these things out, and John McCain acted appropriately.  John McCain did not give it to anybody in the press.  He talked to me just as soon as he got it and he turned it over to the FBI and that`s exactly what he should have done."

Some background here, Lindsey Graham has always described John McCain as one of his closest friends in the world.  In fact, they traveled the world together on Congressional trips, and along with Joe Lieberman, the three of them were known for years on the Hill as "The Three Amigos."  This means that Lindsey Graham knew all of this while the President was attacking his good friend, John McCain, and while McCain`s family members were being forced to hear it all and react to it.

Now, we learned that dossier that the President traces so many of his problems back to, it was Graham`s idea to turn that over to the feds.  Not John McCain.

Well, that is our broadcast for this Monday night as we begin a new week.  Thank you so much for being here with us, and goodnight from NBC News Headquarters here in New York.

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