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Trump renews warning about migrant caravans. TRANSCRIPT: 3/29/19.

Guests: Brian Bennett, Michael McFaul, Annie Karni, Jon Meacham, EvanThomas

KATY TUR, MSNBC ANCHOR:  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the Attorney General has issued a clarification.  We are now told the Mueller report is several hundred pages long.  He says, we, the people, can expect a redacted version by mid April.  The problem is, that`s not going to cut it for Democrats in Congress.

Plus, a former ambassador to Russia is with us to talk about what it was like in front of Adam Schiff`s House Intel Committee when the political divide burst wide open.

And the President begins another Florida weekend claiming he been exonerated and threatening to shut down our southern border.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Friday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC headquarters here in New York.  Day 799 of the Trump`s administration.  And it may be proof that our Attorney General has a working television and has seen some of the coverage of the last words he spoke to an anxious American public.  His four-page letter on Sunday which is, after all, all we have to go on absent the actual Mueller report.

Today, after six-day of non-stop coverage, the anger among Democrats who aren`t allowed the see the report.  The President declaring himself exonerated.

We have heard, yet again, from the Attorney General.  He corrects the record a bit given the reaction given the reaction to his last letter, which he now seeks to remind us was not an exhaustive recounting of the special counsel`s investigation.  Barr goes on to say he plans to release the Mueller report by mid April if not sooner and he doesn`t plan to give Trump an advance copy for review.  He says it is nearly 400 pages long and that he is available to testify to Congress about it in early May.

In Florida today, the President was asked about it.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I have great confidence in the Attorney General.  And if that`s what he like to do -- i have nothing to hide.


WILLIAMS:  The response was a bit more subdue than the message he sent out a few hours later.  And we quote, "no matter what the radical left Democrats get, no matter what we give them, it will never be enough.  Just watch, they will," and some capitals here, "harass and complain and resist.  So maybe we should take our victory and say no, we`ve got a country to run."  More on that a bit later.

Perhaps the most notable part of Barr`s new letter about Mueller`s findings involves what we will not see.  He writes that he`s working with the Special Counsel.  So Robert Mueller after his job is done is still consulting to identify and redact or omit the following, material subject to federal rule of criminal procedure 6-e which can`t be made public.  More about that in a moment.  Material compromising intelligence sources and methods.  Materials affecting ongoing investigations including those referred by Mueller to other DOJ offices.  Materials infringing on privacy or reputation of peripheral third parties.  And that could mean a whole lot of people.

About that criminal procedure rule 6-e, here is how Fox News`s legal analyst, Andrew Napolitano, explains its relevance to the content of Mueller`s report.


ANDREW NAPLOITANO, FOX NEWS LEGAL ANALYST:  6-e says if there is information in there negative to a person who was not charged, that information can not be released.  Now that`s what the Democrats want.  And so I think Adam Schiff is right.  There are materials out there that point toward guilt.  There are just not nearly enough of them to the reach a level of proof beyond a reasonable doubt.


WILLIAMS:  For his part, Rudy Giuliani said tonight he still wants the full report to come out adding this grace note and we quote, "If we have a few nasty facts in there, I`m ready to slam it down their throat."

Barr`s letter was sent to the chairman of the Judiciary Committees, House and Senate.  The man running the House committee, Jerry Nadler of New York, responded in a statement that read in part, "Congress requires the full and complete Mueller report without redactions as well as access to the underlying evidence by April 2nd, that deadline still stands.  It is critical for Attorney General Barr to come before Congress immediately to explain the rational behind his letter."

"Washington Post" reports that House Democrats are gearing up to accuse Barr of the cover up if the findings he releases aren`t complete.  One House staff member told the "Post ", "If he does not include grand jury information in the summary or report or redacted report or whatever he gives to Congress, that amounts to a cover up.  We do not want anything in the words of the Attorney General.  We want to see Robert Mueller`s words."

One of the Key questions many hope that Mueller`s report will answer is why Trump was able to avoid an interview, a sit-down interview with the Special Counsel.  You recall he was allowed to submit written answers instead.

Here is how his former White House lawyer, Ty Cobb responded when asked about that by Kristen Welker today.


KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Why didn`t the President ever sit for an interview with the Special Counsel?

TY COBB, FORMER WHITE HOUSE ATTORNEY (via telephone):  Other presidents have proceeded by written questions and none of them provided have actually provided the degree of cooperation that this White House did.  And I think it was a good compromise for each side to be able proceed by written questions.

It prevented a nine to 15 months court battle that wouldn`t have generated much information.  So I think that there were concerns at some point that based on the negotiations that they had to get the scope to a reasonable point in order to be confidence so the President can answer the question factually.


WILLIAMS:  Our contributor, Frank Figliuzzi, who happens to be former FBI assistant director for Counterintelligence told Nicole Wallace this afternoon where he believes we may learn the real answer to that question.


FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  I think the answer is in the appendixes and here is why, from what I know about how Mueller works on these very sensitive issues is he will memorialize this for the record.  But it`s not likely that it`s in the body of the report.


WILLIAMS:  Let`s with that bring in our lead-off panels on a Friday night, former U.S. Attorney, Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor.  Brian Bennett, Senior White House Correspondent for Time Magazine.  And Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon, also happens to be former chief counsel of the House Intel Committee.

And Jeremy, I`ll start with you, what was the headline of that letter today in your mind?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Well, I think first of all, with respect to the material that will be withheld because it could compromise Intelligence sources and methods.  Of course the Congressional Intelligence Committee, the committee led by Adam Schiff and the Senate committee as well can`t have access to that because, of course, anything in the possession of the Intelligence community can go to the Hill.  So, I think Congress will see that, I don`t know how much of that will ultimately be made public.

But the other headline, I think, Brian, was the notion that the Attorney General is going to make a decision about protecting "peripheral third party."  And that could be anybody.  That could be Don Jr., it could be Jared or Ivanka, it could be other campaign staffs, it could be other people in the Trump inner circle.

And I think it will be more prudent.  And I think the public interest will be better served if Bill Barr actually wasn`t the person doing the redacting.  He is a presidential appointee, he was hand picked by Donald Trump for this role.  It will be better if the career professionals at DOJ did those reductions and not the political appointee.

WILLIAMS:  Joyce Vance, I know the phrase in our language isn`t that the devil is in the appendixes, but in this case it might as well be.  Let`s take Frank Figliuzzi`s point about Mueller likely memorializing all the fact gathering he did.

Dan McGhan spent -- just to take one witness -- spent 30 hours talking to the Mueller folks.  You talk for 30 hours, type it out with legal spacing that dozens, if not hundreds of pages right there.  Imagine how many attachments and appendixes this case has.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  You know, I think a big part of the news -- excuse me -- a big part of the news today, it wasn`t very sexy but it was finding out how many pages were involved in Mueller`s report, learning it was almost 400 pages and that that didn`t include the exhibits and the appendixes that they were in addition to that.

When the FBI does these investigations, they write down a report of the interview for every witness that they talk to, it`s called an FBI 302.  And it`s a pretty complete restoration of the conversation.  That could be thousands upon thousands of pages of additional evidence.  We don`t know if that will be transferred to Congress as part of the Mueller report, but it will be critical for Congress to have access to all of that raw data to aid their investigation and to permit them to engage into oversight.

WILLIAMS:  Brian Bennett, is this not risky by House Democrats to put their foot down and insist on April second.  Doesn`t the A.G. have the ability to kind of call them together and say, "Look, you don`t want me to do this?  There are names in here, it`s not ready.  Let me go through the process and we`ll talk about it then?"

BRIAN BENNETT. TIME MAGAZINE SR. WH CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the Attorney General, William Barr, he has shown himself to be this big umbrella over Donald Trump.  And he is planning to take his time and look at the report and make redactions.  He`s going to be under tremendous pressure to lead us much in the report as possible in the hands of Congress.  But we`re going to have to see how that plays out.

I mean, Jerry Nadler has said "I want to see the report on Tuesday and you should come and testify immediately about this."  And Barr is saying, "Look, I need to do a responsible job for addressing all these concerns and make sure that the report is handled in an appropriate way."

I mean another thing that he will be redacting or looking at redacting, considering redacting is information that deals with cases that are ongoing.  So if he does hand over report to Congress that has a lot of redactions, that could be an assumption that that means that there`s a lot of other cases that overlap with the Mueller`s case.

WILLIAMS:  And Joyce, as this date gets more real, as we can really envision when we`re going to get our hands on whatever is left of the 400 pages.  Do you anticipate the President and his lawyers, again Rudy Giuliani as late as tonight, said, "Let it out.  Let`s release the report."  Do you think it they`re going to still be that brave as the date approaches?

VANCE:  I think it`s unlikely that they`ll continue to put up that brave front.  You know, the President has never hesitated to shift courses midstream when he thinks it to his advantage.

And as this date looms larger, the idea that, for instance, the Don McGahn interview that you reference or that Bob Mueller`s conversation with Hope Hicks, that all of that material or at least most of it is going to go up on the Hill and maybe have public release.  That`s going to increasingly weigh on the President.  And we`ll see if he perhaps tries to exert executive privilege down the road.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy, the great thing if you ask the President about his rallies and the crowds attracted to them as no one stands up and interrupts.  And fact-checks, so when he said as he did last night that he was completely exonerated, the collusion, delusion, there was no one there to object.  Does this letter today change anything about the parameters surrounding Donald Trump`s contention?

BASH:  Yes.  And I think this is the President`s essential problem here is that he had his best headline and the entire episode already passed from last Sunday.  It`s only going to go downhill from here as we and the public learn more of the facts of what`s in the report.  After all, the report wasn`t sort of a binary question, you know, who shot J.R., was it person x or person y?

This is a report about a body of information -- a body of evidence, so I think Mueller will show a lot of trouble and conduct, a lot of suspicious conduct, a lot of conduct that may -- we may think is unpatriotic or even shameful, wrongful.  But it`s in a rise to a level of a criminal violation of the federal election stature.  That doesn`t mean it`s going to look very good on the President once this is all made public.

WILLIAMS:  Thanks by the way for dating (ph) us all with the J.R. reference.

Hey, Brian, another way of making the point Jeremy just touched on, do the days get worse by necessity from here on out for the President as this gets more real, maybe it is a much more flimsy thing that he says he`s been totally exonerated?

BENNETT:  Look, overtime more and more details are going to come out about what`s in the report.  And that means more and more focus and attention and narrative about what connections there were between Russia and the Trump campaign.  A lot of that is already in the public domain but the next several weeks causes a moment for that to be dredged backup and rehash.  And that is not good for the President.

And what`s happening here is that, there`s a demand for information that Mueller found out to go into the public domain.  Why?  Because we have an election coming up in 2020 and voters need to know what their sitting President did during his campaign and fill in the details and the gaps between the information that that`s already come out during the Mueller indictment.

WILLIAMS:  Joyce, can I close with you with a stunningly naive question?  Is Robert Mueller going to let bad things happen to his work product?  Is there private of authorship?  Is there a sense of being protective over the last two years of his life?  He does have a seat at the table now during the editing and redaction process.  He`s likely to be called before Congress as well.

VANCE:  Mueller has a very simple job here.  It`s a prosecutor`s job.  It`s not a political job.  He`s not a historian.  He`s not a savior.

His job is to conduct an investigation and then to make a prosecutive decision about whether people should be indicted as a result of that investigation.  The decision maker here who needs to think about his legacy and about the American people is William Barr who was hired after submitting this 90-page memo to the President that really preanswered questions that the President wanted to have answered about obstruction of justice in a way that the President wanted to see those answers.

And now we`re about to find out is Barr the President`s lawyer or is he the people`s lawyer.  He`s supposed to be the people`s lawyer.

WILLIAMS:  Well, we seem to say this every Friday, what a year it`s been this week.  We`re much oblige to Joyce Vance, to Brian Bennett, to Jeremy Bash, thank you to three of you so much for starting us off on this Friday night.

And coming up for us, our next guest has a front row sit to one of the big confrontations on Capitol Hill this week.

And later, President Trump warns he`s not playing games, he threatens to close down our southern border.

We`ll have our two best journalists tell us what they are hearing about this political strategy post-Mueller as "The 11t Hour" is just getting started on a springtime Friday night.



REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHAIR:  Bill Barr in his confirmation said, "I will be as transparent as possible as much as the law or policy would allow."  If he was true to those words as Jerry Nadler said, he wouldn`t be saying, "I`m cutting all the grand jury material."  He would be saying, "Congress, I`m going to the court tomorrow to seek permission to send it all to you."


WILLIAMS:  That was in this very studio tonight, the House Intel Chairman, Adam Schiff, speaking to Rachel Maddow.  Chairman Schiff has become a favorite target for the President and Republican members of Congress following the conclusion of the Mueller investigation.

On Thursday Republicans straight up called for his resignation during a hearing.  Congressman Schiff immediately made clear he would not resign and laid out what he sees as a deeply troubling pattern of conduct from Trump and Trump`s associates related to Russia during the 2016 campaign.

Just tonight, it was brought to our attention that Schiff t-shirts are for sale on the official Trump campaign website, depicting him with clown features.

Our next guest witness this weeks partisan outburst.  He was sitting in the hearing room and he was there to testify about Vladimir Putin`s influence in our world and our elections.


SCHIFF:  You can you use your five minutes to speak.  You attacked me in your opening statement.  And I`ve responded --

REP. MIKE TURNER, (R) OHIO:  I have not had an opportunity to respond at all, especially to your statements of what we think.  Because no one over here think that.  No one over here --

SCHIFF:  Mr. Turner, you`re not recognized.  Ambassador McFaul, you`re recognized.



WILLIAMS:  And that man is with us now.  Mike McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia.  I am happy you can smile now.  Tell us why you were there, Ambassador, what it was like to be there?

MCFAUL:  First, that was quite an introduction, right, after all of that argument he --


MCFAUL:  -- putted (ph) it to me to end it all.

I was there, you know, to testify about Putin`s use of money on the oligarchs and Intelligence to influence political outcomes abroad, that was our assignment.  I got a very detailed letter from the Intelligence Committee staff asking us to address those certain questions and that`s what I was there to do.

WILLIAMS:  And then the Republican, Devin Nunes, who had of course before the Democrats won the House been the chairman of the committee opened up an interrogation of you.  He asked you questions about Carter Page, about Fusion GPS, about the Steele dossier.  What was he getting at?  Was he trying to infer you are working for the other team?

MCFAUL:  I guess so, Brian.  I mean, I have testified many, many times over decades in the U.S. Congress.  I`ve never been interrogated like that.  The insinuations was somehow I committed some wrong doing.  Of course, I had nothing to do with all of those people.  And I said that.

Although I did say, when he asked me had I ever met Ambassador Kisliyak, I said "Yes, I met him many times because I worked at the White House as you know for three years.  I dealt with Kisliyak on diplomatic issues and then I -- he was my counter party."  So that was also odd, like I surely a member of Congress would have known that.  It`s easy to Google and find images of us.

But I think he wanted to link me to this conspiracy that they are trying to connect dots to of somehow corruption around the Steele dossier and the FISA process that led to the monitoring of Carter Page.  But that`s my theory, I actually don`t know.  It was a very bizarre experience to be interrogated that way.

WILLIAMS:  Because of your unique portfolio, your life`s work, you bring a unique view of this whole case as we have discussed with you in realtime for the better part of two years.  What do you, Mike, McFaul, want to see what aspect of the Mueller report are you waiting to, thumb to and read?

MCFAUL:  So, I want to remind your listeners -- your viewers, Brian, that if you go back and you look at his two indictments of the Russians, both the GRU, the Russian military intelligence officers and then the internet research agency, the group that was putting propaganda and falsely appearing as Americans on websites and even in person.  We learned an incredibly amount about the Russian operation to influence voters in 2016.  But those weren`t the only two things that Russians did.

And I suspect Mr. Mueller now is the most expert person in the world on what Russia tried to do in terms of influencing voters in 2016.  I hope he documented it all in that report so that we can diagnose what happen with respect to the Russians so that we can then move to the prescriptive phase and make sure it never happens again especially in 2020.

WILLIAMS:  Do you look at him as the one guy walking around today who maybe has the standing and moral authority and experience and resume to calm the waters and his word can be the closest thing we have in this debate to gospel?

MCFAUL:  I hope so.  You know, I hope the report will be as detailed as I would expect it to be.  I used to work with Bob Mueller when I was in the government.  He was a very thorough guy.

And the main thing I would hope and I said it at the hearing yesterday.  I am so tired of Americans polarizing which should be national security issue.  You know, I used to work for the National Security Council.  I didn`t work for the Democratic Security Council.  There is no such thing as Democratic or Republican security.

Other policy issues, there are, right?  There`s winners and losers you can support that.  But when we are attacked, our foreign enemies are not attacking one or another, we -- our nation is attacked.  And so I hope that the report will help to cut and get us back together to deal with the prescriptions because we`ve done next to nothing to prevent a similar attack from happening in 2020.

And remember it`s not just the Russians, everybody is watching now Putin`s play back.  Lots of other actors could be doing the same thing.  We`ve got to come together as Americans to protect our national interest.

WILLIAMS:  Our former Ambassador to Russia, Mike McFaul, Ambassador, thank you as always very much for coming on tonight.

MCFAUL:  Sure.  Thanks Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up tonight, new reporting on how the Trump campaign plans to use the Mueller report to win a second term.



TRUMP:  All of the current and former officials who paid for or promoted and perpetuated the single greatest hoax in the history of politics in our country.  They have to be -- I am sorry, they have to be accountable.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Lock them up!  Lock them up! Lock them up!


WILLIAMS:  Anybody else there get a hint of revenge served call, that was the President`s message at last night`s rally in Michigan.

According to new reporting, Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman over at the New York Times, "Mr. Trump is focusing on vengeance after the end of the investigation led by the Special Counsel, and his campaign aides are indulging him, attacking the Democrats who have sought to investigate him and the reporters who have written about it."

Earlier today, Trump resurrected yet another favorite.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES:  We have right now two big caravans coming up from Guatemala, massive caravans walking right through Mexico.  So Mexico stop -- they can stop them but they chose not to.  Now they`re going to stop them.  If they won`t stop them, we are closing the border.  We`ll close it and we`ll keep it close for a long time.  I am not playing games.


WILLIAMS:  Interesting.  See, Marco Rubio nodding in agreement there for a moment and to be clear.  This would mean shutting down all trade with Mexico which amounts to almost $2 billion a day.

Back with us tonight, Jonathan Allen, our National Political Reporter and Annie Karni, White House Reporter for the New York Times.

So, Annie, there is no other way to put this.  Is this an all base all the time?  It is not a great way to win new customers but we`ve been wrong about that in the past, I guess.

ANNIE KARNI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Yes.  The President has showed very little interest in winning new customers.  And this is a tension that`s going to play out with his campaign.

His 2020 campaign which Maggie and I toured this week writing that story you just mentioned, it is a real operation, a real traditional operation building a huge field operation and much more real campaign that they had in 2015.  What hasn`t changed is the candidate they are working with and they will acknowledge that they don`t have any control over the message of this campaign.

And so what we saw last night was a good preview of what`s going to happen.  He did, you know, his vengeance against Mueller and he even started the drain the swamp Trump, kind of trying to harken back to that outsider, the sticky head last time around, which he doesn`t have as an incumbent president who controls the entire apparatus of the Republican Party.  And he`s going to hit this Mueller probe as a way to even -- they said that it`s useful to even in the playing field in terms of credibility, which the President is low in terms of all fact-checks we`ve done for two years.  That this can mean that the media`s credibility and Democratic opponent`s credibility is also low.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Jon, I know you the phrase "there`s always a tweet."  In this case, I`m talking about a Rick Wilson tweet.  He has just passed 500,000 followers this week.  And not for nothing, this was Wednesday.  "Aren`t we due for a caravan?  Maybe we should ask Rick who wins the final four to place our wagers now.   It`s Friday, we have two caravans, Jon, what are we going to do with this?

JONATHAN ALLEN, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Well, there are no shortage of new customers for Rick Wilson on tweeter.  So he can continue expanding his field of potential supporters.

You know, the caravans are, you know, something that President Trump continues to turn to.  He`s a president and a candidate who talks in terms of nostalgia.  So harken back to yesteryear a little bit and say that this campaign is looking a lot like fear and loathing on the campaign trail.  You`re getting fear about the caravans. You`re getting loading of his political opponents.  This attempt to undermine Adam Schiff, Jerry Nadler, the media, basically anybody who could operate as a check on him or pursue the leads that Robert Mueller has uncovered, that we will see uncovered I think when we finally see this report.

But the caravans are something that`s important to him and something that he is going to continue to distress.  He`ll talk about building the wall.  We`re going to see him going to the border he says, and show him building the new wall with the money that he re-appropriated from Congress, even is that fight is going in the courts.  So, you know, buckle up, we`re going to get a lot of the same but maybe at a higher speed.

WILLIAMS:  And, Annie, I note that you and Maggie buried a little IED toward to end of your story when you reported that the President been tired, quoting aides that say he was pushing back against the addition of a campaign stop.  That`s not going to go over well.

KARNI:  That`s not going to go over well.  And, you know, that might be a line in there that, that the President doesn`t like to read and reacts to, and gets out there on the road, who`s to say.

Yes, there`s been some, you know, this unstoppable candidate who used to do at the end of last cycle, four rallies a day has not, has had been forced to do it.  And we`ve talked about this rally that they wanted to do that he may end up adding back.  But it`s notable that it`s only because the campaign is trying to push him to do it.  It`s not that he wants to do it.

So there`s a little exhaustion, that again, that could change.  He did a lot of campaigning before the midterms, just to the caravan point.  And he did a lot of talking about the caravans before the mid-terms.  And that message did not, you know, help the Republicans keep the House.  Maybe it`s different when Trump actually on the ballot if -- that he seems to be ready to go with the same message.  But for now, he`s not dying to get out there to do three rallies a day.

WILLIAMS:  I wonder if anyone will call him low energy.  Hey, Jon, considering the President converted a four-page letter containing sentence fragments from Mueller into total exoneration, did he have about the best week he could have had in current time?

ALLEN:  Yes, I don`t think there`s been a better week for the President since he took office in terms of having an opportunity free and clear given to him by his attorney general to go out and make the case that he`s the victim as he did last night of what he said was a left wing deep state conspiracy to deny the legitimacy of his election, to prevent his agenda from moving forward and to prevent him from becoming a two-term president now.

That was the four-page letter of the attorney general, the attorney general already starting to soften as he talks again to Congress about what`s forthcoming.  We will see what the Mueller Report actually shows, the way the President has describe what Barr said in his first letter is untrue.  It`s not a total exoneration even though fragments of sentences that you talked about do not talk about total exoneration in fact say the opposite in terms of obstruction of justice.

And there are two presidents who have been impeached by the House of Representatives.  And I am not saying the House will impeach President Trump, but two have been impeached by the House of Representatives who would tell you that impeachment does not necessarily have to be done in conjunction with things that the President would be held accountable for in a criminal court.  President Bill Clinton was not convicted of any crimes but was impeached.  Andrew Johnson was impeached, again, did not serve any prison sentence.

WILLIAMS:  With big tips to the hats of both Hanna Thomson (ph) and Maggie Haberman, our thanks on a Friday night.  To Jon Allen and Annie Karni, two of our returning veterans, appreciate it very much, guys.  Thank you.

And coming up for us, we ask two of the most widely published historians of our time, if there`s any hopeful of what one of our guests describe as a new age of enlightenment in this post-Mueller era.  That when we come back.



TRUMP:  The crazy attempt by the Democrat Party and the fake news media right back there.  And the deep state to overturn the results of the 2016 election have failed.  The Democrats have to now decide whether will continue to frauding  the public with ridiculous bullshit.


WILLIAMS:  So that happened in Michigan last night.  That`s new in our public discourse and the rest of it yet another example of the President`s unique embrace of tribalism as attacks on the other, everyone, anyone who is going against him are not new.

But one of our next guests suggests each side view of this moment in history as a learning opportunity.  In an article for time, Jon Meacham writes, "We tend to assess events not in the light of reason but with the flames of partisan passion.  What we make of a given moment is govern less by merits and details, and more by the mores and demands of our particular political tribe."

We welcome to the broadcast tonight, Evan Thomas, Editor-at-Large at Newsweek. His new book is "First: Sandra Day O`Connor", an Intimate portrait of the first woman Supreme Court justice, our discussion on that forthcoming.  And our returning champion, the aforementioned Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning Author and Historian.  His latest work, coauthored with Tim McGraw is "Songs of America" due out June 11th because it had been a couple of week since Jon`s last.

Jon, you need to do first.  Let`s talk about mores.  Is this a thing now?  Are we going to have to put language warning on our President`s speeches?  FDR didn`t talk like this, 41 didn`t talk like this or Obama didn`t talk like this.

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  Yes, we are.  And that`s been evident I think for three or four years to look now to the presidency for the kind of moral guidance that we`ve been used to looking for is a point was exercise.  Hopefully this is a temporary passing thing.  But there`s no doubt in my mind that President Trump is defining the presidency down.

We know that the presidency hasn`t changed him.  What we don`t know yet is whether he has changed the presidency with any kind of permanent -- to any kind of permanent effect.

WILLIAMS:  Evan, same question.

EVAN THOMAS, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, NEWSWEEK:  Well, that is -- the question, has he degraded -- is he made it normal to be profane in the presidency, as in normalize degradation.  You know, hope not.  This country come back from a lot, Jon Meacham is the expert on this.  But we -- it`s been, you know, we`ve had a lot of bad periods or people misbehaved, and each time broad low in office, and each time somebody come along to make it better.

WILLIAMS:  And, Evan, is that going to be the force you think, will it be an individual who gets us back to true north in this hazy future we`re talking about or will it be a public longing for standards and mores and the way we used to be?

THOMAS:  Usually it`s a crisis, something terrible happens and somebody comes forward.  FDR, you know, there lots of examples, Lincoln.  Somebody rises to the occasion.  America has wonderful gift for finding leaders in low time who make it better.

I don`t know what the crisis is going to be, I don`t know who the leader is going to be.  But I have faith that if the crisis comes, somebody will arise to it.  Not more than one person.  The country arise to it but true leadership. 

WILLIAMS:  Jon, what about the drum beat of crisis.  We have not one but two new caravans heading to the border that the President is threatening to shut to ourselves.

MEACHAM:  Right.  I think to go to the leadership-followership point, and this goes straight to the President`s attempt to find the enemy even if there isn`t one to invent or exacerbate threats and to create this sense of urgency that we would then presumably need him to resolve, even though he`s creating it.  Leadership is really only possible in a democracy when followers make it so.

We`ve undertaken the most complicated kind of human experiment in American for two and half centuries now and it continues to go forward.  We are the most human form of government.  You would think offhand that a monarch would be, because it`s human being in government.  But in fact, beginning with Plato running all the way through Machiavelli and James Madison, a republic is in fact the most human undertaking because our disposition are harden mind, yours and mine, matter in the public`s square.

  And the presidency has been most effective, not when a president has come down like Fortinbras or like Marvel super hero from the sky.  But when someone in power has truly reflected the voices of the powerless, and so when the president of United States curses in front of X number of thousands of people, he`s really reflecting a broader degradation of the culture.  So it`s up to us to make possible to incentivize leaders to try to return to a certain kind of dignity and a certain kind of reason.

Do we really believe?  Does reason tell us that there are caravans coming to take away what we have?  If it does, then there`s a rational political respond, you can support the president.  If that seems to you over heated and perhaps might be convenient, it probably is.

And my argument is, one of the essential elements of citizenship is to take data, weigh it, and don`t just reflexively follow one person or another but actually make up our own minds, and then figure out what`s the best vessel to make that broader experience come to past.

WILLIAMS:  To our audience, both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us as we fit in a break.  And when we come back, we`re going to talk about someone very important.  The trailblazing woman whose place in US history and US jurisprudence are assured who we are now seeing in a whole new life when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Evan Thomas and Jon Meacham remain with us.  Fans of old school journalism will note both gentlemen, while still young men, are veterans of Newsweek, the old original Newsweek and only word I left out of Evan`s title of Editor-at-Large was former.  Both are widely published historians.

As we noted, this is one of the odd weeks in the calendar year when Jon Meacham doesn`t have a new book out and Evan does.  And what a book it is.  It is in my hand.  It is called "First: Sandra Day O`Connor", an intimate portrait of the first woman Supreme Court justice.

Evan, I`ve got to say I am enjoying every page of this.  I am up to let`s call it Pillowgate, something I remember from contemporary history, which we won`t explain, we`ll force people to buy the book and understand what the Pillowgate is.  I have one question that swerves in and out of my reading of every chapter.  Could she be confirmed today?

THOMAS:  Probably not.  She`s too moderate.  She`s too reasonable to use Jon Meacham`s criterion, and she`s not doctrinaire ideological.  She was confirmed 99 to nothing.  You don`t find that today.  She was a person of the center.  She value that.  She value common sense and reason.  She really didn`t like doctrine or she didn`t like rigid doctrine.  She was somebody who could make a deal, even on the Supreme Court, a principled deal but a deal.

WILLIAMS:  I just came across a scene two readings ago where she`s taking a winter walk as she liked to do with her clerks and staff.  Someone goes to steady her elbow, and in effect she swats away their hand, which speaks to her cantankerousness and her independence.  The portrait you draw let`s us believe that absent her upbringing and humanity she wouldn`t have been who she was.  She wouldn`t have been the jurist she was.

THOMAS:  She grew up on a ranch, you know, 160,000 acres, really taught her self-reliance, taught her to be an independent thinker.  She could be ornery.  She could be tough but she could also be loving.

One of the stories I really like in the book is what Clarence Thomas told me, Justice Thomas, was that when he came on the court after the Anita hearing, the Anita Hill hearings, which were pretty harsh, he said, Justice Thomas said, "I felt hammered."  And Justice O`Connor walked with me and said, "You know, those hearings, they were really damaging."

And Thomas didn`t know what to say.  You know, damaging to him, well of course.  But the next day, Justice O`Connor walked again with Justice Thomas and said, "You got to come to lunch."  And the next day, "You got to come to lunch.  You got to come to lunch."  She made him come to lunch and he said it changed everything for him.  He didn`t feel alone.  He didn`t feel like an outsider anymore.  He felt part of a group.  He told me that she was the glue that kept the court together.

WILLIAMS:  Jon Meacham, I thought of you today because Jim McGrath, former Bush 41 spokesman, tweeted, "Closing the office of George H. W. Bush after 26 years, 9,000 plus days of service to the greatest man and women, any of will ever know.  What an honor, truly, and to serve with such loyal devoted colleagues made it all the more special.  Of course the cause goes on."

What you and Evan have in common is Sandra Day O`Connor`s family opened up diaries.  They had no secrets.  And you had that same access to 41, whose death kind of bookends this period we`re in. 

MEACHAM:  It does.  And I`m glad you showed that.  No greater man was ever served by a greater group of people there in Houston.  And one of the things that is so remarkable about Evan`s book, and I was lucky enough with as you say with President Bush, is you actually get inside the private thoughts of people who wanted you to think a lot of the time, they didn`t have any private thoughts.

And one of the things about President Bush was as he used to say nobody wants to hear the president of the United States whine all the time.  Gee, that seems somewhat relevant.  You know, you`ve climbed the highest mountain in the world.  People don`t want -- people want -- they look to you for calm in a storm.  And I think the same is true with Justice O`Connor.  And what Evan`s done so brilliantly here is given us this complicated portrait of a woman who I think wanted us to see as this tough westerner, as this pragmatic person.  But like all of us is an immensely complicated figure, and the fact that she was truly the first.  Before Ruth Bader Ginsburg, before RBG, there was SOC.

And the value of this book is you find this wonderfully complex woman who changed American history, the first woman on the Supreme Court.

WILLIAMS:  This is the book in my hand appropriately titled "First" the author, Evan Thomas, with us tonight, as is our friend Jon Meacham.  Gentlemen, thank you both so much for coming on on a Friday night.  We really appreciate it.

And coming up, even entire societies sometimes need to be reminded what makes them great.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight.  There were people in the streets and parks and squares of London today, another perilous day for the United Kingdom where everything but civil order and tea service appear to have fallen apart.

These are terrible days for one of the great nations on earth.  Parliament has been through more Brexit votes than we can reliably recount here.  Originally this was supposed to be the night of the British exit from the EU.  That`s gone by the boards.

The Prime Minister has offered to resign and she likely will have to soon, but it`s almost immaterial at this point.  No one knows where Britain is headed.  It`s a terrible spectacle for the whole world to watch.  So we thought it might be high time to remind Great Britain why it`s great.  And who better to do that, really, than one of their own, former Prime Minister Hugh Grant.


HUGH GRANT, ACTOR:  We may be a small country, but we`re a great one too.  A country of Shakespeare, Churchill, The Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter, David Beckham`s right foot, David Beckham`s left foot, come to that, and a friend who bullies us is no longer a friend.  And since bullies only respond to strength, now onward I will be prepared to be much stronger and the president should be prepared for that.


WILLIAMS:  That is what British greatness looks like right there.  And it was a message you`ll know president Billy "Bob" Thornton needed to hear.  A sentiment we hope Great Britain keeps in mind facing as it is, this great challenge ahead of them.

That is our broadcast for a Friday and for this week.  Thank you so very much for being here with us.  Goodnight from NBC News Headquarters here in New York.

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