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James Comey speaks out about Mueller findings. TRANSCRIPT: 3/27/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Bob Bauer, Robert Anderson, Eliza Collins

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, in a phone call with "Fox News", the president declares himself the most innocent human being and is still claiming repeatedly nobody`s been tougher on Russia, still saying he wants a great relationship with Russia, and says we`ve just witnessed an attempted takeover of the government.

Plus James Comey tells NBC News he`s confused by Mueller`s decision to punt on obstruction and hoping for transparency when it comes to the findings on conspiracy.

Among our guests, a former White House Counsel, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, and a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter on the Mueller beat.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Wednesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 797 of the Trump administration.  As the political world continues to react along with the public to a four-page summary letter by the Attorney General and amid increasing pressure to release the actual Mueller report, the President is building on his theme of total exoneration with an eye toward the coming battles perhaps with Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Tonight Donald Trump talked with Fox News host, Sean Hannity about Mueller`s investigation.  He called it a scam, said it was led by treasonous people.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone):  This was an attempted takeover of our government, of our country, an illegal takeover.  And if it were the other way around where I was doing it to President Obama or a Democrat it would be virtually the maximum sentence that you can find no matter where you look in whatever legal book.


WILLIAMS:  House Democrats in the meantime are staking out their positions.  Three lawmakers are telling NBC News that key Oversight Committees are exploring legal options including but not limited to the possibility of issuing subpoena to Special Counsel Robert Mueller.  That would mean bypassing the Attorney General William Barr.

Earlier today House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler of New York said he spoke on the phone with the Attorney General about the April 2nd deadline that Democrats have set for the release of the Mueller report.


REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK:  I asked him about the length and breadth of the Mueller report.  He told me it was a very substantial report, a very substantial report.

I asked him when we would see it.  And he couldn`t get specific.  He said weeks, not months.  It is apparent that the Department will not meet the April 2nd deadline that we set and I am very disturbed by that.

I asked whether the -- whether he could commit that the full report, and the unredacted full report with the underlying documents, evidence would be provided to Congress and to the American people and he wouldn`t commit to that.


WILLIAMS:  New polling from CNN meantime shows 57 percent of Americans want Congress to pursue hearings into the findings of the Mueller report, 43 percent want Congress to take no action and end the investigation completely.  Same polling showing 56 percent saying the President has not been exonerated of collusion while 43 percent say he has.

Amid these developments we are also hearing some -- from some big figures in the Russia inquiry.  Today Lester Holt sat down for an exclusive interview with former FBI Director James Comey whose firing, of course, launched the Mueller appointment.

Here`s what Trump said about that firing, you`ll recall, back then.


TRUMP:  When I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, you know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.


WILLIAMS:  Now back to Comey, here`s what he said today about that very admission from the President.


JAMES COMEY, FMR. FBI DIRECTOR:  I thought that`s potentially obstruction of justice.  And I hope somebody is going to look at that.

Again, the President appears to be saying -- I don`t know what`s in his head, which is why I can`t reach the conclusion.  What he appears to be saying is, "I got rid of this guy to shut down an investigation that threatened me."


WILLIAMS:  Next Comey was asked about Mueller choosing not to make a call apparently on whether Trump obstructed justice.


LESTER HOLT, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  Mr. Mueller decides not to make a judgment on that particular issue.  Does that alone surprise you?

COMEY:  It does.  The purpose of the special counsel is to make sure that the politicals, in this case the attorney general, doesn`t make the ultimate call on whether the subject of the investigation, the President of the United States, should be held criminally liable for activities that were under investigation.  And so, the idea that a special counsel wouldn`t reach the question and hand it to the political leadership doesn`t make sense.  I don`t -- I`m not prejudging it.  I`m just saying it doesn`t make sense on its face.


WILLIAMS:  Meanwhile, there`s been a rather surprising assessment of what evidence might be contained in the Mueller report.  And it came from Fox News Legal Analyst Andrew Napolitano.


ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST:  If there were no evidence of conspiracy and no evidence of obstruction, the Attorney General would have told us so.  He didn`t.  So there is something in there that the Democrats and opponents of the President want to see.  They will see it.  And they`ll make hay out of it.

And then they`ll second-guess Bob Mueller as to whether or not it is enough evidence to meet the legal standard of proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.


WILLIAMS:  On that point let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Wednesday night, Mimi Rocah, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now a Distinguished Fellow in Criminal Justice at the Pace University School of Law.  Michael Schmidt, Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Correspondent for the "New York Times."  And Sam Stein back with us, Political Editor for the Daily Beast.  Good evening and welcome to you all.

Mimi, I`d like to begin with you and with this question.  We`ve had a string of guests come in here and describe Bob Mueller as almost an egoless figure, though he is clearly not without pride.  What is the chance that Mueller is watching some of this, feeling that his work has been misportrayed and his decisions have perhaps been misreported?

MIMI ROCAH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  So look, I would never presume to speak for Bob Mueller.  I will say like everybody, you know, we`ve all watched him closely over the past 18 months.  And he`s obviously a patient man.  I mean, he didn`t react every time Donald Trump, you know, called him conflicted and called it a witch hunt and, you know, et cetera.

And I really have to believe that while there is a lot of misinterpretation at this point going on about what Mueller has or hasn`t said, right?  He has not said no collusion.  At least as far as we know through Barr`s own words.  That is not what Mueller said.  And so to the extent that is being repeated, that must be frustrating to him.

But he has a report, and we now at least have a clue that it`s a very substantial report, which could mean, you know, apparently less than 1,000 but clearly more than several hundred pages if it`s substantial.  And I think that he understands that that report will come out because it has to, because that is the only way that we are going to fully understand here what happened.

As far as we know, Bob Mueller took one thing off the table so far.  And that is the charge of a criminal conspiracy of Trump and other people around his campaign with the Russians to interfere in our election.  That is what we know at this point.  That leaves a lot on the table.

And every American on both sides, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, should want to know the degree of what else is on the table.  Is it nothing?  Is it something?  Is it a lot?  Because the only standard we know right now that Bob Mueller apparently said wasn`t met was proof beyond a reasonable doubt as to collusion -- as to conspiracy and obstruction, there`s something substantial there.  We know that.  We know that from Bob Mueller.

WILLIAMS:  Mike Schmidt, on the question of the Russians I want to play for you some of Comey wanting us to think about the Russians a little differently and insert a different country.  We`ll talk about this on the other side.


COMEY:  Close your eyes.  Again, change the names.  Let me make one up for you.  The Iranians, this is totally made up, the Iranians interfere in the election to help elect Barack Obama because they think they`ll get a better nuclear deal from him.  And during that election an Obama aide meets with the Iranians and talks about the dirt they have that will help Obama get elected and the FBI finds out about that.  We should not investigate that?  So the hypocrisy is revealed just by changing the names.  The FBI did what it absolutely had to do.


WILLIAMS:  So Michael, we have that there.  What`s on your list of the greatest unknowns about this report we -- none of us have yet to see?

MICHAEL SCHMIDT, THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT:  Well, for me the greatest unknown is on the question of obstruction because that`s where the President has the most exposure.  And where there is just documented a lot of things, some of the things that he did in public himself.

I think the issue here is that the Justice Department has a perception problem.  They had a special counsel to insulate the investigation from politics, and to insulate the result and give the public the confidence that the result was done by following the facts.

And in this instance the person that was there to do that didn`t do that.  And he left the decision to be exposed to the politics, to the appointed politicians or, you know, in this case the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General to make the decision.  And Bill Barr may have made the right call, you know, when folks go back and look at this and such.  But the perception of it is a difficult one because it looks like the guy who was there to follow the facts didn`t make the call.

WILLIAMS:  And Michael, let me add to that Bill Barr happens to have preopined on this subject.  Granted, he happens to have been appointed by Donald Trump since this started, granted.  But Robert Mueller, always the Marine captain, always all about chain of command, was in fact following his chain of command.

SCHMIDT:  Yes.  And what this did is it gave the Democrats an opening.  If Mueller had said -- look, Mueller says there`s not enough there for obstruction and Barr agreed with him.  Then the argument would be over.  There would be no wind in their sails.

But now they have this odd thing where Mueller says nothing, Barr three months, a few months in as Trump`s attorney general, makes the call.  And now Jerry Nadler says, "I need to see all the homework.  I need to see everything.  We have to have hearings on this to assess it."  Because it has a political tinge.

WILLIAMS:  All right, Sam Stein, so how do the Democrats handle this and how good a look will it be if they skip a step and subpoena Robert Mueller directly?

SAM STEIN, THE DAILY BEAST POLITICS EDITOR:  Well, from my conversations with Democrats there is sort of a weird internal divide in the caucus right now.  No one wants to tarnish Robert Mueller.  They think it in fact would be impossible after having spent months building him up.

The question really, divide really, is over whether they just move on from what`s happened here, whether to focus on different issues and leave the Russia matter behind.  And then of course there`s a part of it just simply won`t allow that, either because they are emotionally tied to it or also because they strategically think it`s unwise to do so.

And so what we can expect is that the committees, whether it`s Judiciary Oversight, is going to be calling up Bob -- sorry, Bill Barr first, in part because he is the one who made the decision and wrote the memo and they want to make sure they can get information out of him before they bring back Mueller who could potentially contradict what Barr has to say.

Again, keep in mind, all this is happening in this intense vacuum.  We`re operating off a four-page memo.  Little is known on the Hill.  There`s a rush to try to find out information but the information obviously is not being provided.  And so Democrats are trying their best to hold back and wait and see if they can get their hands on the report before any of this happens.  But of course as Nadler said today that could be a matter of weeks.  We just don`t know.

WILLIAMS:  Mike Schmidt, before we come back to Mimi Rocah, I want to play this for you.  This is from an ABC News podcast.  This is Mark Corallo, who had been the spokesperson for the legal team and was present and witnessed a portion of the composition of the cover story to cover for the Trump Tower meeting.  He`ll explain the legal peril here.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


MARK CORALLO, FORMER TRUMP AIDE:  I pointed out that the statement was inaccurate and that there were documents that I understood.  There were documents that would prove that.  Hope Hicks replied to me when I said "Look, there are, you know, there are documents."  She said, "Well, nobody`s ever going to see those documents."  Which, you know, made my throat dry up immediately.  And I just -- at that point I just said, "Mr. President, we can`t talk about this anymore.  You got to talk to your lawyers."

That you would say something like that in the presence of the President of the United States, that you would not be aware that that could be construed as obstruction.


WILLIAMS:  So Mike, this man who was electronically present at least on the other end of a phone call, yet this is just one close to peril point for this White House.

SCHMIDT:  Yes, it`s one of the obstruction questions.  It`s one of the incidents.  It was, was the Trump administration putting out false information about the Trump Tower meeting to send investigators off the scent of what they were looking into.

And that`s what the public or, you know, Congress really wants to see is on the obstruction issue, what are the things there.  Why was it that Mueller couldn`t come to a determination?  Was the behavior really bad but the law wasn`t there?  Was the behavior sort of middle of the road?  Why is it that this odd thing lined up here where this guy who the country and certainly Democrats and members of the media built up for the past two years as like, you know, Bob Mueller can take a tough stand, he can make a tough call, he can make a tough decision, in, you know, all the history of the Justice Department throws up his hands and says "I don`t know, you know, I don`t have an answer for you, here are the facts, you, Attorney General, make the call."

WILLIAMS:  Mimi Rocah, our formerly independent counsels perhaps were too walled off from the rest of the world.  Sometimes they reported to judges or panels.  This is special counsel.  These are the regs.

As we keep pointing out, Robert Mueller followed procedure.  He bounced it up to the Attorney General.  As Mike touched on, as you have touched on, the unfortunate part here is the A.G. had written an unsolicited memo about this case.  And the A.G., the ink is still fresh on his commission by the subject of this investigation.

ROCAH:  Yes, look, this is not a good look for the Department of Justice, right?  I mean, I am someone who believes in the integrity of the Department of Justice.  I`m an institutionalist as many are who I know off appeared on your show.  And it`s important for people to have faith in those decisions that are made at the Department of Justice.

I don`t see how anyone can have faith in what Bill Barr has done he had -- because -- not just because he`s a political appointee but because of that memo that he wrote and it was questionable that he ever, you know, shouldn`t have recused himself in the first place.

I will say one thing, though.  You know, we`re talking about Mueller, why did he do this, why did he leave it to Barr.  We don`t know that he left it to Barr.  I mean, we just don`t know.  What we know is that he --

WILLIAMS:  Right.  Good point.  Yes.

ROCAH:  -- didn`t make the decision himself.  He may very well have intended for this to go to Congress.  And you can debate if that was right or wrong.  But that is very different from saying "I`m going to now leave this to Bill Barr."


ROCAH:  And in fact, I think that Mueller -- all signs point to the idea that he wanted to leave it to Congress and not to Bill Barr.  And it is very plausible that Barr inserted himself.

Imagine how this would look if Mueller -- if what happened here is Mueller said not exonerating, not saying there`s enough for a crime, there`s things on both sides here, are the facts, and that`s it.  And we didn`t have Bill Barr`s conclusion.  This would be a very different conversation.  We would be having impeachment hearings, I think.  There would be much more pressure, momentum for it.

If you did not have someone like Bill Barr coming in and saying "No, no, this isn`t obstruction in a very questionable way."  So I think for the good of the country and the Department of Justice, we need to take that out of it and proceed as if Bill Barr did not say that.

WILLIAMS:  Sam Stein, the solution to the problem Mimi talks about is we`ll know, presumably --

STEIN:  Right.

WILLIAMS:  We`ll know in a finite period of time.  So the question to you is, the President didn`t slam the door on pardons tonight with Sean Hannity.

STEIN:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  These are days of recriminations on that network and other places as well.  Are these the salad days for the President and those around him?  Does it get worse when the text becomes clear?

STEIN:  Well, you know, talking to Republicans around the White House, that`s the fear, is that Trump is almost getting a bit ahead of himself, over his skis, celebrating the outcome here.

And one of the things that we haven`t really touched on this is that there is, you know, an ace in the hole here, which is Robert Mueller could speak up.  If Bill Barr is misrepresenting the contents of his report, Robert Mueller has within his power the ability to come out into the public and say in fact this is not the case.  So questions are remaining unresolved right now such as did he do this because he concluded you can`t indict a sitting president?  Those will be answered over time.

We will get hearings.  We will get a report, whether there`s a fight over redactions, it seems very likely.  But we will get some of the underlying material, the primary documentation.  We will have Barr up on the Hill to testify.  We most likely will have Mueller on the Hill to testify.

At some point in time the reality that we are living in right now may be contradicted by a more informed reality, and that point will be able to determine whether Trump is a little bit too, well, let`s say euphoric right now.

WILLIAMS:  Our big thanks to our big three for working so hard to take our questions tonight and start off our broadcast this way.  To Mimi Rocah, to Michael Schmidt, to Sam Stein, our thanks.

STEIN:  Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  And coming up, Bill Barr says some version of the Mueller report will be released in, as he put it, weeks, not months.  But could the President invoke executive privilege and keep some parts of it?  Former White House counsel is with us tonight for that part.

And later, the Trump administration on defense again tonight, what the Education Secretary wants to do that has some on both sides of the aisle hopping mad.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started as we like to say, on a Wednesday night.


WILLIAMS:  As we reported earlier, earlier today the House Judiciary Chairman, Jerry Nadler of New York said Attorney General William Barr told him the Mueller report is very substantial.

And this is interesting.  Two on-air people at Fox News in the last 24 or so hours have said the report is 700 pages in length.  And we don`t know yet how they know that.  We`re expecting Barr to publicly release some version of the Mueller report, again, in weeks, not months.

Many are now wondering if the White House might invoke executive privilege to try to keep parts of the report secret.  The "Journal" reports it this way, "Mr. Barr could elect to consult with the White House on issues of executive privilege in the report, but it isn`t clear whether he will do so."

Earlier today President Trump`s friend, Senator Lindsey Graham, South Carolina, was asked about Trump asserting executive privilege on the Mueller report.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR:  You said last night in an interview you spoke to the President.


Is he giving you any assurance that he will not be --

GRAHAM:  Just release it.

BOLDUAN:  So there will be -- executive privilege is not a question.

GRAHAM:  as far as I know. That`s what they said yesterday.

BOLDUAN:  And do you think the White House is going to see a copy of this before it`s released?

GRAHAM:  I doubt it.  I mean, they`re not going to claim executive privilege and -- they told me -- the President said release it.  He reinforced that last night that, you know, just release it.


WILLIAMS:  Joining us to talk about it tonight, a man with experience in this area, long-time Washington lawyer, Bob Bauer, who happens to be former White House Counsel to President Obama.

Counselor, so many questions there.  Does that mean when the President`s best buddy says there`s not going to be a privilege invocation, do you take that as gospel, number one.  Number two, just clue our viewers in to a working definition of executive privilege.  And do you foresee it being invoked?

BOB BAUER, FMR. WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA:  First of all, I wouldn`t take what Senator Graham said to the bank.  The President can say this today and he could say something else tomorrow.  The Attorney General could consult with him and tell the President that as a matter of sound executive practice the report really needs to be reviewed for executive privilege, that these are claims that the President shouldn`t lightly waive.  Who`s to say what will happen?  So I think we`ll know when we know.

As to your second question, executive privilege is designed to promote the confidentiality of certain communications.  Communications that are made directly with the President, other communications within the executive branch that are designed to support deliberation, due deliberation on issues.  There are also, by the way, other privileges, attorney-client privilege.  Privileges that relate to the confidentiality of the law enforcement process and of national security matters.

The first two are really the ones we`re most concerned with, presidential communications and deliberative process privileges.  And the notion there is that in order for the government to function there have to take place communications and the President himself or herself needs to be confident that their communications are ones that in the course of Frank and Candid discussions within the government will be protected or those conversations will never take place and the public interest will therefore in that sense not be served.

WILLIAMS:  On the legal question of whether you can have obstruction without an underlying crime, I`m not a lawyer.  I didn`t even stay in a holiday inn express last night.  Let`s listen to another lawyer, James Comey, and we`ll talk to you when we`ve heard this.


HOLT:  Is that a legal principle that you have always understood?

COMEY:  No, that`s part of my confusion.  I don`t think the A.G. said that was the justification.  He cited it as a factor.  And that`s just not been my experience as a prosecutor for decades.  Every day in this country people are prosecuted for obstructing justice to avoid embarrassment, to avoid harm to their business, to avoid threats to their families, where there isn`t an underlying crime that they committed.  And you wouldn`t want it any other way because if you had to always prove the underlying crime you would create incentives to obstruct because people get away with both if they successfully stop an investigation.


WILLIAMS:  Counselor, is that about how you see it?

BAUER:  Yes.  I mean, I think it`s fundamentally correct.  And he said so that the Attorney General couldn`t overstate the case.  It`s a factor but it`s not decisive.  There can be obstruction without an underlying offense or an established underlying offense.

Obstruction is designed to intend the integrity -- protect the integrity of the legal investigative and adjudicative process.  So I think he`s absolutely right about this.

In this case, I think the President`s lawyers are arguing.  There was, on the President`s part, perhaps a mixed motive.  He might have been concerned about legal danger to himself.  He might have been concerned about political danger to himself.  He might have as somebody -- as I think Mark Corallo in his interview suggested he might simply have been naive and not understood what it was that he was doing.  But it is certainly correct, I think, that it is not decisive, that there`s not an underlying offense.

WILLIAMS:  On shows like this lay people like me have been using the word "punt" since we learned what we learned on Sunday.  What do you yourself make of what we know thus far of Mueller`s decisions or decisions not to decide?

BAUER:  Eventually, Congress will probably ask Mueller to testify and explain it.  I think in the first instance, by the way, those questions will be put to Attorney General Barr.  I, for one, doubt very seriously that Mueller and -- we haven`t mentioned him so far, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, were not in communication in advance that Mueller was not going to reach a conclusion and that the matter would be if you will kicked upstairs.  And that conversation would have illuminated what the reasons were behind Mr. Mueller`s belief that that`s what he should do and what lay behind whatever his expectation was that Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein and the Attorney General, Mr. Barr, were going to essentially reach a decision together.

Barr cites Rosenstein as concurring in his recommendation.  He also says he engaged in the deliberation in the office of legal counsel.  I suspect all of that was known to Bob Mueller and that he communicated that that was his expectation, that that would happen because he himself was not going to reach this conclusion.

WILLIAMS:  Former White House Counsel, Bob Bauer, it`s always a pleasure to have you on.  Thank you for taking our questions tonight.  Appreciate it.

BAUER:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  And coming up for us, the other investigation, started by Mueller that is still going strong, though we`re in the post-Mueller era.  We`ll have that after this.



JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR:  It establishes I hope to all people no matter where they are on the spectrum, that the FBI is not corrupt, not a nest of vipers and spies, but an honest group of people trying to find out what is true. The FBI did what it absolutely had to do.  The American people should be glad it`s there and proud of it, and the rest it just lying and noise.


WILLIAMS:  A guy who might know as former director of the FBI on the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.  While that part is over, the grand jury that Mueller started is still going in Washington.  In fact, it was described as robust today.

Robert Anderson is back with us tonight.  He`s a long-time FBI veteran who`s worked as the Bureau`s Assistant Director of Counterintelligence and Executive Assistant Director.  He served under three different FBI directors, including both Robert Mueller and James Comey.

So as guests go he ticks all the boxes.  Robert, I`d like to read you a quote from Chairman Schiff that intersects with your life`s work.  This is according to the Daily Beast.  "At this point we don`t know whether any of the counterintelligence findings are part of the Mueller report."  He said, "We have initiated discussions with the intelligence community to make sure that we obtain whatever is found in the counterintelligence investigation, or whether that inquiry is still ongoing."  And, Robert, I presume that`s what you`d like to know as well.

ROBERT ANDERSON, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR OF COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  Yes.  I think it`s a great question, Brian.  And I think part of the oversight of the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committees is directly involved in any counterintelligence or counterespionage investigation that the FBI conducts.

And because it`s wrapped into this very complicated investigation that we`ve been talking about here tonight, I think it`s just question to have the FBI come up and answer some questions that if the investigation is still ongoing or if it`s wrapped into any of these other cases that we`ve talked about. 

WILLIAMS:  I want to play for you a bit more of your former colleague and at one point your former boss James Comey talking about why they got into it in the first place.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


COMEY:  I don`t know what people are thinking saying we shouldn`t have investigated, right?  Remember where this started.  In late July of the election year, we knew the Russians were engaged in a massive effort to hurt Hillary Clinton and help Donald Trump.  And then we learned that a Trump campaign adviser had spoken to a Russian operative about the dirt they had on Hillary Clinton, before any of us knew anything about it.  How on earth would the FBI leave that alone?


WILLIAMS:  Bob, is that in keeping with your understanding of the training and purpose of the FBI?

ANDERSON:  Well, I`ll tell you, Brian, in a lot of instances, in a lot of investigations, you go into them looking to see if any of the smoke or the different things that you`ve heard about even pan out to be anything real.  And I don`t think this case is anything different.

I think the good things about this investigation quite frankly if there is any is the fact that Bob Mueller and his team were allowed to do their job for a couple years and look through extensively what was going on with that.  And it appears in some regards that there`s no evidence of any large-scale collusion with Russia, which is outstanding.  I think the part that we`re all waiting on right now is to try to figure out what if any obstruction has occurred in this throughout the investigation.

WILLIAMS:  I assume Robert Mueller is going to take pains when we finally get to read his report to place the FBI in as good and positive and exhaustive light as he can.  You have been forced to sit back and listen to Rudolph Giuliani, a former US attorney after all, referred to FBI agents as storm troopers.  Are you hoping that some of the luster will be restored the more we get into this?

ANDERSON:  Yes.  I mean, I think the one thing people need to realize, and we`ve talked about it a little bit, but really the extensive amount of investigation that Bob Mueller and his team have done is unbelievable in just a couple years.  I mean, 2,800 subpoenas have been reported, 500 interviews.  It really would surprise me, Brian, if the report was only 700 pages long.  I would gather that would be the report without any appendices, because of all the different techniques they`ve used.

And I think we`re jumping to conclusions before probably Attorney General Barr gets before the Congress just on that short four-page memo he wrote.  That in my opinion was nothing more than an executive summary, which in a lot of these investigations because they`re so long you can`t put everything in.  So I think there`s much more to come on this, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  If I granted you one question to your old friend Bob Mueller, what would it be? 

ANDERSON:  I think the one question I would ask him is, what`s your thoughts on exactly how the investigation went?  And I`m positive that he provided a detailed just investigation to the Attorney General.

WILLIAMS:  Robert Anderson, our thanks as always for joining us again on this broadcast.  Appreciate it very much.

ANDERSON:  Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up as we continue tonight, the President today promising a healthcare plan far better than the one you see on your screen.  He`s promising his party will be the party of healthcare.  Why some tonight aren`t so sure about that.  We`ll have the story coming up.


WILLIAMS:  As we`ve been reporting, the President is going all in on health care again, but he needs Republicans to get on board with him.  Tonight the Washington Post is reporting Acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney is the one telling the President that supporting an end to Obamacare "will help him fulfill a campaign promise and could help lead to his re-election."  But Congressional Republicans worry he sent the President on a suicide mission.

For more on exactly that we are joined tonight by Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR, Boston`s NPR News Station, and Eliza Collins, Politics Reporter for USA Today who covers Congress.

Kim, in your travels, in your rounds, in your phone calls, have you found any coordination with Hill Republicans?  Is there a health care plan they have among Hill Republicans?  And is anyone on board with what the President is proposing?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, WBUR:  I have searched and have yet to find this plan that is coming from the Republican side.  It seems that the Republicans who are talking about this are thinking that if there`s going to be some plan to replace Obamacare should it be struck down by the court says, the Department of justice hopes that it will be now.  It will have to come from the White House.

Remember that republicans have been down this road before trying to negotiate with the White House, come up with a plan, only to have President Trump, you know, make it very difficult.  And in the end it went down just by a handful of votes, most remarkably by Senator John McCain.  That`s something that Donald Trump continues to talk about months after Senator McCain has passed.

So Democrats on the other hand see this as a gift.  Those on the Hill said they are the ones who have been vetting a number of bills ranging from Medicare for all to smaller bills that are aimed at addressing specific parts of health care to come up with a plan.  They said that the idea that Republicans now are the party -- is the party of health care, as Donald Trump says, is laughable, frankly. 

WILLIAMS:  Eliza, it`s quarter to midnight on the East Coast.  So we don`t blame people if the part of their brain that deals with civics has switched off.  So let`s remind everybody that in 2020 the entire House of Representatives is up for re-election.  It`s been reported in the last 24 hours that Kevin McCarthy, who leads the GOP in the House, on the phone with the President said, "In effect, this is a terrible idea."  The list can`t end with just McCarthy, Eliza. 

ELIZA COLLINS, POLITICS REPORTER, USA TODAY:  No, it absolutely cannot.  And Kevin McCarthy is minority leader in a large part because Democrats won back the House on health care.  Kevin McCarthy could have been speaker if they held on to their majority.

So walking around the Hill, there were certainly some voices, Trump`s allies, Mark Meadows, talking about repealing Obamacare.  But the majority of Republicans are really uncomfortable with this.  They just lost the House on -- Democrats ran on a message of protecting the Affordable Care Act.  Republicans are very honest that they needed to take back that narrative.

Like Kimberly said, there is no plan right now.  And the President frankly surprised them all.  He had just kind of been no collusion in the Russia report, the Mueller report, and he showed up on the Hill and said, "We`re the party of health care now.  We`re going to repeal Obamacare."

And republicans were like, "Wait a second.  Let`s keep talking about the victory and the Mueller report."  And what it did was it gave Democrats something to unite around because they are divided on health care, on how to fix the system, on how to go forward, whether it`s Medicare for all, whether it`s bolstering Obamacare, but they can all be united in keeping Obamacare in place, especially when Republicans don`t have a plan.

WILLIAMS:  And because their civics brains never switch off, both Kimberly and Eliza have agreed to stay with us as we sneak in a quick break here.  But when we come back on the other side, we`ll talk about this.  Of all the cuts in funding the administration could have chosen, the one they talked about today has struck a nerve.  We`ll play the moment for you when we come back.



REP. MARK POCAN (D), WISCONSIN:  I want to follow up on the thing Ms. Lee mentioned about the cuts to the Special Olympics.  Do you know how many kids are going to be affected by that cut, Madam Secretary?

BETSY DEVOS, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION:  Mr. Pocan, let me just say again.  We had make -- we had to make some difficult decisions with this budget --

POCAN:  OK.  This is a question on how many kids.  Not about the budget.

DEVOS:  I don`t know the number of kids.  I also know that I --

POCAN:  It`s 272,000 kids.


WILLIAMS:  Highlights from the grilling of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over a proposal to cut all $18 million of government funding for the Special Olympics.  The Washington Post pointed out that`s roughly five of the President`s trips to Mar-a-Lago.  And Mr. Pocan, the Wisconsin Democrat, continued pushing DeVos to answer why many other special needs programs face similar reductions.


POCAN:  I have two nephews with autism.  What is it that we have a problem with, with children who are in special education?  Why are we cutting all of these programs over and over within this budget?

DEVOS:  Well, sir, we have continued to the funding levels for IDEA.

POCAN:  I believe I brought up Special Olympics.

DEVOS:  I will address the broader question around supporting students --

POCAN:  Or if you could actually address the answer I asked.  That`s even a better way to answer a question.


WILLIAMS:  He also pointed out there Department requested a 15.5% increase in executive salary appropriations.  Education isn`t the only department making steep cuts to special needs programs.  Health and Human Services took an ax to the Autism Cares Act, the Autism Cares Act forgive me, which helps to fund autism research and training for professionals.  That program`s funding would go from $51 million to zero.

Still with us, Kimberly Atkins, Eliza Collins.  Eliza, you get to go first.  I want to point this out, that Senator Blunt over on the Republican side in the Senate quickly said today our Department of Education Appropriations Bill will not cut funding for the program, talking about the Special Olympics.

Eliza, it strikes me, Special Olympics has no critics, and on the other side of that, virtually all of us have friends or family members who are in the behavioral spectrum, if not with autism itself.  I don`t get where this is coming from.

COLLINS:  Right.  Senator Blunt is the person in charge of the subcommittee that would agree to the administration`s budget.  So it`s definitely dead on arrival.  It is bipartisan, you know, love for the Special Olympics, certainly.  And I`d like to point out that the administration`s budget proposal almost never goes anywhere in Congress.

Congress is actually who appropriates the money.  The President and his budget is just basically a messaging bill.  So it`s very interesting that they chose that that is part of the message that they want to send.  And as the Washington Post pointed out, it`s just a few trips to Mar-a-Lago for the President.

So it`s really miniscule in a larger budget, but it`s captured all of these headlines and scrutiny.  So it`s really interesting that that`s what the administration decided to focus on because it is dead on Capitol Hill.

WILLIAMS:  And, Kim, headline writers found it irresistible.  They branded the Education Secretary Cruella DeVos.  I saw a couple of those today.  Why even send your education secretary up to the Hill to float that?  Eliza`s absolutely right about the budgetary process.

ATKINS:  Yes.  And Secretary DeVos has been doing this for two years now.  And you would think that she would know what a bad headline feels like when she comes out of this hearing and still this keeps happening.

It`s especially bad because, as Eliza said, this bill has -- it`s dead on arrival.  We know that Secretary DeVos is known for her very controversial proposals like diverting more funding towards school choice, a proposal that is seen to benefit the wealthier more well-off students at the expense of those who are less fortunate, and just adding special needs kids to the mix for an amount that won`t even change anything in the budget if you`re concerned about cutting.  That`s not really helping you so much.  It just seems that a lesson`s not being learned here.

WILLIAMS:  I`ll keep looking for people who are anti-Special Olympics and anti-autism funding.  I`ve yet to meet them, however.  Our thanks for staying up late with us to Kimberly Atkins and Eliza Collins, really appreciate it, guys.  Thank you so much.

And coming up for us, a story for all those who are concerned, rightfully so, about the direction of our American politics when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight.  There`s a parliamentary term for what`s going on in the UK, and it`s a mess.  The front page of The Guardian nicely sums up what happened there today.  We`ll spare you the out loud dramatic reading of the word no that many times, but each no represents a no vote suffered by Prime Minister Theresa May, who play the ultimate card today and that didn`t work.

As The Guardian puts it, she promised to sacrifice her premiership if they back her twice-rejected Brexit deal.  The beleaguered Prime Minister whose authority has been shattered by the double rejection of her deal and the humiliation of a delay to Brexit day made the offer to Tory backbenchers at a packed meeting in parliament.

Normally we like to tell you what`s going on and where a story is headed, and other than the fact that the UK is letting the Brexit deadline slide, it was supposed to be this coming Friday, no one on earth, let alone in parliament has any idea what is going to happen next in one of the great nations on earth.

The UK is having a moment and there`s nothing good about it.  You don`t have to take our word for it.  Here is how local news covered it there tonight.  Here is Tom Bradby of ITN in London.


TOM BRADBY, NEWS ANCHOR, ITN:  After another dramatic day here at Westminster, the immediate future of this country remains very much in the balance.  The Prime Minister announced she would quit if her deal got through the Commons.  In unconnected news, Boris Johnson said he would now support her deal.  Plenty of other Tories followed suit, but some rebels are holding out.

One allegedly told a meeting in the Commons tonight, I could tear this place down and bulldoze it into the river.  We`ve put him down as a maybe.  But the DUP has said it will not support her deal, suggesting it really may now be dead.  MPs have meanwhile been carrying out the so-called indicative votes on alternative options.  So has a consensus emerged?

In a word, the answer is no.  MPs have just rejected all options, suggesting we are in a position of complete chaos.


WILLIAMS:  That is the news from London tonight, which nicely wraps up our broadcast on a Wednesday evening, and with that we thank you so very much for being here with us.  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