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Mueller report expected Thursday. TRANSCRIPT: 4/16/19. The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Peter Baker, Kimberly Atkins, Jessica Roth, Jeffrey Cramer

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  -- lie.  When your children and grandchildren ask you, "What is the worst lie that Donald Trump told?"  You can send them to "The New York Times" archives, but you might also want to have your personal list.  A list that includes the time the man who apparently has no idea what human suffering is stole all of the suffering of 9/11 for himself.  He became a thief of grief.

We owe it to history to not let that remain Trump`s lost lie.  That`s "Tonight`s Last Word."  "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST:  Tonight the mood inside the West Wing, a little under 36 hours away from the release of the redacted Mueller report.  Tonight we have new reporting on what Trump insiders who are also Mueller witnesses fear the most.

Plus, is he a real threat or a distraction.  Bill Weld talking about his challenge to President Trump for the 2020 GOP nomination.

And where so much was lost much was also saved.  The President of France issues a bold challenge to his country.  It now means moving quickly to raise a new Notre Dame from the ashes as "The 11th Hour" gets under way on a Tuesday night.

And good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 817 of the Trump administration.  Just one day to go now before the release of the Special Counsel`s redacted report.

Tonight new reporting from our NBC News colleagues reveals heightened anxiety among some former and current White House staff about what those findings might be, "Officials who cooperated with Special Counsel Robert Mueller are worried that the version of his report will expose them as the source of damaging information about President Donald Trump."

Those staffers fear, "how Trump and his allies will react if it appears to be clear precisely who shared information with Mueller.  They got asked questions and told the truth, and now they`re worried the wrath will follow, one former White House official said."

One source describes, "breakdown-level anxiety among some current and former staffers who cooperated with the investigation at the direction of Trump`s legal team at the time.  There is also concern that new facts in the report could be disclosed that do not reflect favorably on the President."

Many of the White House staff members who spoke with Mueller`s team would most likely have been questioned about obstruction including but not limited to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, the pressure on former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to step down.  The attempt to get rid of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

Some of the top officials who were in Trump`s close orbit and who also spoke to Mueller include but aren`t limited to White House Counsel, Don McGahn, former Calms Director Hope Hicks, and the two former chiefs of staffs Reince Priebus and John Kelly.  Even current White House officials, like Jared Kushner, Sarah Sanders, Stephen Miller took part in interviews with the Special Counsel.

Muller also interviewed James Comey, Jeff Sessions, former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, a lot of names here.  But former White House Counsel Don McGahn might be the most potentially dangerous witness for the President.  He reportedly met with Mueller`s team for over 30 hours of testimony and witnessed some of the events that led to concerns about possible obstruction including efforts to get rid of Mueller and Sessions and the Comey and Flynn firings.

Last year as Mueller was in the middle of his inquiry McGahn had this to say about his current job.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON MCGAHN, WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  I advise the President on a rage of issues from constitutional law, executive power, whether or not we can go to war, judicial selection, administrative law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And that involves you in just about everything?

MCGAHN:  Unfortunately, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes.  Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  And Axios recently reported on what McGahn had to say to about 40 senior Republican Senate aides earlier this month, "I spent the last couple of years getting yelled at, and you may soon read about some of the more spirited debates I had with the President."

Axios goes onto say "McGahn didn`t explicitly mention Mueller`s report but sources in the room said they understood him to be referring to it when he said this."

Today`s reporting that White House staffers are worried about what`s about to be revealed takes on a new dimension given Trump`s continued attacks on the Special Counsel inquiry.  Law enforcement veterans say this continues to remind them of what they`ve heard from organized crime figures.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JPYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  This doesn`t feel like a President looking at an investigation to me.  It reminds me of a case I that did as a prosecutor, a Dixie Mafia case.  As witnesses came into the government and truthfully testified he in one case put a hit out, in other cases sent back his displeasure.  And the President is acting much more like a mob boss than he is like a president to the extent that he is questioning people in his organization who truthfully testify when they`re called in front of a grand jury or speak with federal prosecutors.

HARRY LITMAN, FMR. DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL:  It just says so much about the mob mentality of the President and the White House that people are scared about exactly as Matt says, just doing what they had to do under the law.

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  we have an attorney general who seems to be serving as a consigliere for the mob boss, the President.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Our NBC News White House unit tells us Trump`s attorneys met again today to prepare for this Mueller report.  A source says relevant White House staff will continue to meet ahead of the Thursday release.  And the President continues to try to shape public opinion as he waits for whatever new revelations may be on the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It`s a total phony.  I don`t have to say that -- I mean, you just take a look at the conclusion.

I heard it`s going to come out on Thursday.  That`s good.  And there can`t be anything there because there was no crime.  There was no anything.

The crime was committed by the other side.  This crime was all made up.  It was all a fabrication.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  On that, let`s bring in our guests on a Tuesday night.  Kimberley Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR Boston`s NPR News Station.  Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post" and moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS.  And Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times."  Good evening gang and welcome to you all.

And Robert, I`d like to begin with you.  We`re at the eve of the eve of the release of this report.  Give me some color, some atmospherics, some moods from inside the Trump White House including the President himself.

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Talking to White House officials, witnesses for the Mueller probe, attorneys for witnesses who went inside, listened to all the questions from Robert Mueller`s team, there is anxiety.  And it is anxiety that goes all the way back to that original decision by the President`s former lawyers John Dowd and Ty Cobb to cooperate, to not use executive privilege to try to prevent these interviews or testimony before the grand jury.

And because of that decision years ago now all of these people in the President`s orbit they`re wondering tonight what about the President`s conduct and possible obstruction of justice will be detailed in this report.

WILLIAMS:  Peter Baker you have a report on "The Times" website tonight about how the President has led as the leader of his people not necessarily all people, I`ll read you back part of your work, and you really ought to consider becoming a writer.

This reads, "The old-fashioned idea that a President once reaching office should at least pretend to be the leader of all the people these days seems so, well, old-fashioned.  Mr. Trump does not bother with the pretense.  He is speaking to his people, not the people.  He has become or so it often seems the President of the united base of America."

Peter, the problem with that is all the people are going to read at least part of what comes out on Thursday.

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, but we`re in an era of polarization where we`ve seen time and time again that people are pretty locked into their views, right?  This is President who has shifted in his public approval rating outside of his band of about 10 points since the beginning of his presidency for about 35 or sent to 45 percent.  People have already decided.

And I think what you might see here is a lot of people will find validation in their view in the Mueller report one way or another.  There`ll be people critical of the President who will pick on -- pick out particular episodes or facts and revelations in this report and say "ah-huh this shows what we`ve been saying all along."  And there are people who on the President`s side are going to say. "Well, they don`t have the goods, this is all just part of this made up thing the President has been talking about."

So the question is whether the Mueller report changes that dynamic.  Right now, you know, after two years of the Trump presidency we haven`t seen a lot of indications that people are open to moving one way or the other.

WILLIAMS:  Kimberley I have a two part for you.  Part one is this, this is the President on Twitter dog days of August 2018 about his White House counsel.  "I allowed all White House Counsel Don McGahn, and all other requested members of the White House staff to fully cooperate with the Special Counsel.  In addition we readily gave over 1 million pages of documents.  Most transparent in history.  No collusion, no obstruction.  Witch hunt."

And then five days later I`m going to play you this from an interview with Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  People make up stories.  This whole thing about flipping, they call it.  I know all about flipping for the 30, 40 years I`ve been watching flippers.  Everything is wonderful and then they get 10 years in jail and then they flip on whoever the next highest one is or as high you could go.

It almost sort to be outlawed.  It`s not fair.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Kimberley, never minding the fact that what we have right there makes him the first sitting president in history to question turning states witnesses being an illegal act and what that has done for prosecutors over the years.  Is this the behavior those Feds at the top of our broadcast were talking about?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, THE BOSTON HERALD CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER:  It definitely is. I mean this is President who above all likes to protect himself and wants the people around him to protect him.  He`s really made no secret of that.  Think about the entire tenure of former Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It was the President lamenting the fact that Jeff Sessions recused himself and essentially blamed him for this whole investigation through Twitter in a very public way until he finally was ask to resign.

So, the folks have seen how the President reacts to people who don`t protect him, who give information that is detrimental to them even if that -- even if they were doing so while under oath and while -- and telling the truth to federal prosecutors.  I don`t think that matters that much to the President.

I think one thing that I`m looking out for and we`ll see when this report comes out is just how Attorney General Barr is perform in the President`s eye.  Will there be a lot of redactions?  Will he try to minimize the amount of potentially embarrassing information or negative information that is contained in this report?  I mean that certainly will spur a fight certainly with the Democrats in Congress.  Or will he release a fairly transparent report that contains a lot of negative information and how the President will react to him after we saw the way he treated Jeff Sessions.

WILLIAMS:  Robert Costa?

COSTA:  Here is why Don McGahn matters.  Based on my reporting the President is searching for his so-called Roy Cohn leaned on Don McGahn at many times in the White House hoping he would act as almost the President`s personal lawyer.  But of course McGahn, who`s a White House counsel, was a lawyer for the institution of the presidency.

And when he sat down with Robert Mueller he was walking through all of the President`s behaviors and conducts throughout the time he was with him, with regard to his interactions with the Department of Justice.  What McGahn detailed for Robert Mueller will be the utmost importance for Congress as they read this report.  Does it rise to the threshold of impeachment?  Does it become obstruction of justice in their eyes even if the Department of Justice chose not to prosecute?

WILLIAMS:  Robert, I do marvel at the show you host, "Washington Week," because at some point you have to blow the whistle and declare each given week over.  That having been established, talk to me about this "Washington Week."

Will this still be an overwhelming topic on Friday?  Will this still dominate Monday, the day after Easter Sunday?  Is this going to have unlimited shelf life anyway or is it content dependent?

COSTA:  You have to pay attention to not just what happens after the political bomb of this report, at least the version that we`re going to see is dropped.  What happens after it matters just as much, especially in the Republican Party.  Of course the President will have his defend, there is Mark Meadow and Jim Jordan and other members of Congress.

But for example, next Tuesday, Larry Hogan the governor of Maryland heading to New Hampshire.  Bill Weld, just jumping into the presidential race.  Are there any Republican cracks as they look at new examples of the President`s conduct and the possible impeachment on the horizon, or do they all fall in line with the President?  Are they with him for a political war in the days ahead?

And for the Democrats, do they really want the make the choice with Speaker Pelosi to focus on this through the rest of 2019?  Or do they want to also to focus on economic issues?  Speaker Pelosi has a choice to make about how to proceed.

WILLIAMS:  And Kim, you know what`s going to happen either way.  By Thursday night all eyes are going to be focused and a lot of questions are going to be tossed to the Democrats in the House.

ATKINS:  Oh, absolutely.  I mean, I think what we mentioned earlier, what Peter said earlier about this being in some ways very much a political document.  We know that Nancy Pelosi set the bar really high for impeachment.  And we know that Robert Mueller did not make any recommendation that charges be brought even in obstruction, whether is some evidence that could prove that.  So what we`re going to see are the Democrats and the White House take this report and use it to further their own political messages in large part.

We will see investigations spur from any information that comes out of this as well.  So this is just the beginning of what would be a very difficult week.  I don`t envy Bob having the job of calling when the week is over.

WILLIAMS:  No, that makes two of us.

Hey, Peter Baker, I`m going to give you the last word.  I need you to make a bold faced political prediction because you have summed up presidencies for a living.  Will this be the defining document?  Will this be the defining day for this presidency?

BAKER:  It`s a great question.  Look, it is certainly the most anticipated report I think Washington has seen or at least waited for in probably 20 years, probably since the Starr or during the late Clinton era.

Whether it becomes, you know, just one more, you know, big day among many big day is hard to know.  The problem for making a prediction like that is we don`t know what action will follow, right?  The report itself may be revelatory, may tell us things we don`t know.  But we`ve had two years, three years really and all sorts of them remarkable revelations at various points that then sort of got overwhelmed by the next days rather extraordinary news.

The question is whether this report, does it need to change the dynamics?  Not just for the Democrats but with the Republicans.  Does it change any Republican minds on Capitol Hill?  Because if it doesn`t, then, you know, then there is no point talking about impeachment and that`s what Nancy Pelosi was saying.

So, you know, that`s the one to watch for on Thursday.  Not just what the Democrats say, but what do the Republicans say?  Do they look at this with any concern or they agree that with the President that this is good enough for exoneration?

WILLIAMS:  That`s why we`ll be talking to all three of you along the way.  As I say we`re in the eve of the eve of the reading of the report.

Kimberley Atkins, Robert Costa, Peter Baker, much obliged to the three of you for starting off our conversation on this Tuesday night.

Coming up for us, as those close to Trump prepare for this Thursday release of the redacted and color coded report, the risks that those other people may face.

And later as donations for the restoration of the Cathedral of Notre Dame pour in, we`re learning more about what was saved and what sadly has been lost to those flames forever.  "The 11th Hour" is just getting started on a Tuesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  While some White House staffers are as you heard us say, waiting for the Mueller report to drop with what`s being called breakdown level anxiety, Trump`s legal team is gearing up for this fight.  According to Politico Rudolf Giuliani sent a text to their White House reporter, Darren Samuelsohn at 2:54 a.m. today about the length of the President`s counter report saying it was, "Now at 34 or 35 pages.  The more concise, the better.  Four hundred pages is a novel."

Politico is also reporting on the rapid response strategy from the Trump lawyers, "Jay Sekulow said he`ll have a team of five to six people in place, each assigned a key section to read in parallel.  The goal is preparing the quickest possible response to blast out to reporters as well as to brief him and Rudy Giuliani as they fan out to talk more at length in media interviews.  If it were just one analyst reading, he said, we`d be talking to you the next day, far too late for crisis management."

Well, let`s talk about it with our guest, Jessica Roth, a former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, these days a professor at the Cardoza School of law at Yeshiva University.  Also back tonight, Jeffrey Cramer, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and former Manhattan Assistant D.A., now with the Berkeley Research Group.  Good evening to you both.

Jessica, I`d like to begin with you. How do you write a counter report without having seen what you`re countering?

JESSICA ROTH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  So that`s a great question.  I imagine that they are preparing much as one might prepare as a prosecutor to make a rebuttal after your closing argument and then the closing argument by defense counsel.

WILLIAMS:  Do you relitigate everything and retell the story?

ROTH:  Absolutely not.  And in fact you get less time to do your rebuttal than to your primary closing.  But you know in advance what the key issues are that you anticipate the defense is going to raise and you know what your key issues are.

And so similarly here, I imagine that the defense team knows what the points of the narrative are that they want to hit most clearly and that they`re going to talk about no matter what`s in the report and then the things they`re going to be looking for as they go through that report.  And if those are hit upon they`re going to want to make sure that they hit back so that they get their counter narrative out.

So they`re in a sense going into their reading primed for the things they are looking for.

WILLIAMS:  I don`t mean this to sound snarky but I heard the President and so did you say he was completely exonerated.

ROTH:  He did say that.  That is not apparently what apparently Mr. Mueller said in the report.  And so I gather there`s going to be -- one assumes, at least, some information disclosed on Thursday that`s not flattering to the President and that is not consistent with a total exoneration.

WILLIAMS:  So Jeffrey, if we are to believe all the reporting that the White House has not received, a, the document, b, a summary, or c, a heads up on major findings, there has to be a healthy organic amount of fear in that Trump legal team, whatever the 35 to 40 page document they`ve prepared.

JEFFREY CRAMER, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS:  I think that`s right.  And I think Jessica`s spot on when she gives the analogy of a rebuttal.  You can prepare some things and those things are being prepared in stock answers.

And then there is a little bit of leeway they`re going to need to fill in the gaps.  But there is fear of the unknown.  Specifically what is the Attorney General going to redact, grand jury material, national security material, things that touch on other investigations, and also he said things that could hurt another individual`s reputation, which is obviously pretty broad interpretation.  So they don`t know exactly what`s going to be in this.  It may only be 250 or 300 pages of the original 400.  So they`re going to be counter punching a little bit.

WILLIAMS:  Jessica, this President is, shall we say, different.  So it is - - it`s human nature to have specific concerns.  If you went before Mueller and his team and you said things that were actionable, you said things that became eyewitness testimony and maybe spoke to obstruction of justice, will the report out people by name?  Will the report go out of its way to try to cloud their identity?

ROTH:  We don`t know how Special Counsel Mueller wrote the report in terms of whether he`s going to be explicit about witness identities or if he`s going to cloak them a little bit.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.

ROTH:  It`s pretty easy to cloak the identity of witnesses if it`s important to do so.  And we saw that for example in Special Counsel Mueller`s indictment against Roger Stone, where members of the Trump organization were referred to obliquely as senior members who directed Stone to get in touch with WikiLeaks.  So that`s the kind of thing you can do to make reference to somebody without identifying them specifically by name.

And prosecutors take witnesses` concerns seriously.  And it`s often a concern of witnesses when they provide damaging information about people, especially people to whom they were once loyal.  They are concerned about anger and retaliation of all kinds.  And prosecutors take that so seriously that sometimes prosecutors are willing to enter into a plea agreement with the defendant before those witness identities have to be disclosed so they can continue to protect those witnesses.

What`s unusual here is not that the witnesses are concerned about retaliation but that we`re talking about the President of the United States and what kinds of retaliation he might be capable of, individually and because of his office.

WILLIAMS:  And if memory serves retaliating against a witness is a federal crime.

ROTH:  That is a crime.

WILLIAMS:  Yes,

ROTH:  We`d get back into the quagmire of whether a sitting President can be indicted, however.

WILLIAMS:  Oh, boy.  Jeffrey, how worried should members of the Trump family be?  I`ve seen many an attorney go to their cable grave predicting that deejay T.J. Don, Jr. was going to get indicted.  How could this report, and all of us reading references to them, which I assume we`re going to be in it, how could this change their fortune?

CRAMER:  It depends if any of those data points that lead a possible case have been referred to in another district, either Virginia or New York.  Certainly the Cohen case where he was talking about lies that were told about the Moscow-Trump project, well others told the same lies to Congress.  So, you`d think Don, Jr. and others are having some sleepless nights.

However, to be frank, you`d think they`ve been having sleepless nights for a while if they`ve been worried about this.  So it may just be water off a duck`s back.

I think the interesting point also as an addition to the family is the investigation or are the investigations going on about the Trump organizations and the Deutsche Bank subpoenas?  I think that`s going to hit the family members a little bit harder than this might.

WILLIAMS:  I can offer you 10 seconds each, starting with you Jeffrey, do you think by this time, Thursday night, a lot of it questions and concerns people have had about Robert Mueller will be answered?

CRAMER:  I think some of them will be answered, but absolutely not all of them.  I think this report may end up looking like Swiss cheese.  There`s going to be a lot of unanswered question.

WILLIAMS:  Jessica, you get the last word.

ROTH:  I agree there will be a lot of unanswered questions.  I`m curious to see what the color coding looks like and the relative amount of material in each color because that will frame the battles going forward.

WILLIAMS:  Boy, that makes two of us.  Our thanks to two terrific former Feds, Jessica Roth, Jeffrey Cramer, thank you both for coming on and explaining so much.

Coming up, as we count down the hours to this release of the Mueller report, the President is stepping up his attacks on whatever it says really, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  President Trump is revving his attacks up on the Russia investigation ahead of the Mueller report release.  He woke up this morning, fired off some vintage no collusion, no obstruction tweets and called the investigation the greatest scam with a capital "S" in political history.

The editors over that the Bulwark one of which joins us in a moment posed these questions.  If the report includes no evidence of wrongdoing why the renewed attacks on Mueller, why the disquiet among the president`s inner circle?

Here with us tonight Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winning White House bureau chief for "The Washington Post" and the man who can and does use the word disquiet in a sentence.  Bill Crystal, a veteran of the Reagan and the Bush administration, director of defending democracy together, and editor- at-large of the aforementioned Bulwark.

Bill, I`d like to just start you off with a very general question.  It`s Thursday night already.  Where do you see this going?  What kind of magnitude do you expect in this report?

BILL CRYSTAL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE:  It strikes me what the president and his team seem to be expecting.  It was 3 1/2 weeks ago Bill Barr released his summary which is says wasn`t the summary but his letter.  And the President and his team I think reasonably from their point of view just so to play it as victory.  No collusion, as he says.

WILLIAMS:  Complete vindication.

CRYSTAL:  Yes, complete exoneration and vindication.  And, you know, they took their victory lap.  And people slides (ph) a little bit.  Their allies rally to them.  If they didn`t think this report had a lot of pretty damaging stuff in it, wouldn`t they just have stuck to that?  Didn`t they find out something between the Barr letter and today that has made them go back on the offensive against Mueller, against the report, preparing the counter report with people being quoted on the record. Jay Sekulow the thing you just played, you know, we`re going to assemble and we`re going to get out our stuff.

Because that seems like a bunch of people are confident they`re going to be exonerated or vindicated or whether they`re going to have to desperately fight back?

I do think there were some reporting with Bill Barr had at least orally briefed the White House counsel --

WILLIAMS:  Rod Strokes (ph).

CRYSTAL:  Rod Strokes (ph) and the Mueller report.  And I do think it was after that suddenly the White House went back into attack mode.  So I think there`s some pretty damaging information in that report.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, are they hoping for the cover and the distraction starting with Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, passover, all the while that this holiday weekend will bring?

PHILIP RUCKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF:  Yes, well, Brian, it certainly is helpful timing for the President for this report to be falling on a holiday weekend.  And we shouldn`t put it past him to try to create other distractions.  We`ve seen this before when a damaging news story will occur, President Trump will often try to shift the spotlight to the left or to the right or follow down some rabbit holes to distract and pull attention away.

But clearly there`s anxiety in the Trump orbit.  And clearly there`s a calculation that this report cannot possibly be better than that Barr letter because you can`t get any better than that Barr letter.  So inevitably there`s going to be something here that`s more nuanced if not truly derogatory and damaging for the president.

WILLIAMS:  Bill, I`ve asked other guests this before.  There must be some genuine pain in this for you.  In that, here before (ph), Bill Barr was part of the aristocracy of the Republican Party.  He was a Bush era and Bushian Republican rule of law guy, and now we see what appears to be an alley-hoop.  He has tossed the ball up where it`s just poised for a jam.  He has giving the President a favor of allowing the president to campaign on, you know, being totally clear.

CRYSTAL:  yes, I think his view is that he stays within the four corners of the law I suspect it would be.  But it was allowed to give his own interpretation.  You see attorney general and he did that.  He`s a loyal member of the president`s cabinet so he did that.

But I would say this, if the report is there intact and minimally redacted, reasonably deducted, I think I would give him a fair amount and I think it won`t matter much.  The letter will come out in an obscure footnote in his history pretty quickly if we have 300 pages or 400 pages with some names and other things obscured, but basically the real contour is what happened.  I think -- and especially on obstruction of justice.

I mean, Mueller, we know that Mueller himself have sufficient evidence of obstruction to be uncertain as to whether it would support a criminal charge, you can`t charge the President so it with go to Congress presumably.  He just chose to leave that to Congress.  Barr just chose to (INAUDIBLE) himself to give us a little judgment of those two paragraphs.

But nonetheless think about how much evidence that must be obstruction for a cautious prosecutor like Bob Mueller or at least I`d say very responsible prosecutor like Bob Mueller to say, you know, this report does not exonerate the president.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, like the White House Counsel`s Office, all of our news organizations are going to be reading this in teams --

RUCKER:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  -- so we can get an early sense of just what`s in it.  How soon on Thursday do you expect the kind of collective focus especially if the Washington based media to go to the Democrats on the Hill?

RUCKER:  Pretty soon.  I think it depends, Brian, on how much toner we use in our copy machines to print out this report.  And what I mean by that is how many redactions there are.  I think if this is heavily redacted and you can`t really pull behind the curtains so to speak in reading this report, then there`s going to be immediately be a fight on Capitol Hill with the Democrats demanding more information, demanding the full report from the just department.

However, it`s worth noting that Congress will be out of session.  So the sort of fight with Capitol Hill is going to take a little bit more time to percolate and to develop simply because the members are not going to be here in Washington.  It`ll be more difficult for the leaders, for Pelosi and Schumer to really coordinate a consensus opinion within the ranks of the Democratic Party.

WILLIAMS:  Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us through this break.  When we come back, Bernie Sanders and Bill Weld.  And that maybe the last time you hear those two names together.  We`ll explain after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I guess on Fox News you said that I benefited from Trump`s tax bill.  Did you tell people that I voted against Trump`s tax bill?

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Sure, you did benefit from it.

SANDERS:  OK.  But I voted against it.  I have to say this is not a criticism of Fox.  This is criticism of media in general.  There`s too much focus on individuals and not enough focus on the American people on what they need for.

BAIER:  I do want to say we understand and we`re very grateful that you`re here.  We are giving you an hour of substance and talk on your air ways, so we can get over the Fox thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  That was very interesting.  Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum are nice people.  They are not lion and lioness yet it felt like a man had walked into the lion`s den and President Trump could not seem it get over the Fox thing as he called it after Bernie Sanders became the only Democratic primary candidate so far to spar with Fox News hosts in a in a town hall setting.

Trump lamented it this way on Twitter.  "So weird to watch crazy Bernie on Fox News.  Not surprisingly, Bret Baier and the "audience" was so smiley and nice.  Very strange, and now we have Doona Brazile?"

Trump`s use of we there did not go unnoticed.  As NBC`s Hallie Jackson pointed out the president`s words seem to echo of those of his favorite Fox News personality.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  We turn our attention to our Hannity Watch on the radical socialist Democratic Party.  Heading into the 2020 election, you saw crazy Bernie on the air tonight.  That was hard to watch.  Bernie Sanders for two hours.  Wow.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  So you see there.  And late tonight more complaints from Donald Trump including this.  "Many Trump fans & signs", some rare capital letters there, "were outside the Fox News studio last night  in the now thriving, thank you President Trump, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the interview with crazy Bernie Sanders.  Big complaints about not being let in-stuffed with Bernie supporters.  What`s with Fox News?"

Remaining with us tonight Phil Rucker and Bill Crystal.  Bill, this one is going to go to you.  First of all, Bernie tweeted back after montage of crazy Bernie tweets from the leader of the free world.  Bernie tweeted back tonight, "It looks like President Trump is scared of our campaign, he should be."

First of all did Bernie do the right thing in going inside the confines of Fox News?  It`s reported today Buttigieg is considering air time on Fox News.  Should the Democrats not be scared of those friendly confines?

CRYSTAL:  Yes, I think Bernie did pretty well from what I`ve seen of this.  And that suggest that at least Bernie was right not be scared.  I think what are democratic primary voters looking for?  Someone who can stand up to Trump.  What`s the closest you can do now to stand up to Trump, stand up to Fox News.

I think Sanders helps a lot.  You know, I don`t think personally Sanders would be the best Democratic nominee, but, you know, if you`re looking for a fighter and someone who can hold his own, you`re thinking to that debate stage, watching Sanders handle Bret Baier and Martha MacCallum and the crowd coming out on Sander`s side on some issues I think you think, gee, you know, sanders did pretty well there hostile.  What was presumed to be hostile environment.  And obviously Trump thinks Sanders did well otherwise why he so upset in his tweets.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, anything beyond usual den stand out to you about this social media tirade?

RUCKER:  Yes, Brian.  I think it shows that President Trump is threatened by what happened on Fox News last night and for a couple of reasons.  Not only is Bernie Sanders going onto Trump`s preferred network, sort of the state media network for the Trump Organization but he`s going in -- Trump state Pennsylvania.  It`s the big industrial state Trump carried in 2016, it`s the one that he feels an emotional connection to.  It`s the one he`s determined to try to win a again in 2020.

And there is Bernie Sanders in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, with Fox News getting a very favorable response from the crowd that was assembled there at the meeting.  It tells us two things.  It tells us that Bernie Sanders is trying to compete for Trump voters, for those white working class voters who lifted Trump to the top with that populous message and shows that Trump is worried about it.

WILLIAMS:  I want to play for you, Bill, an interview tonight with a Republican in the primary race against the president.  This is Bill Weld just tonight. We`ll talk about it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL WELD, (R), FMR. MA. GOVERNOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I think a lot of permanent damage is being done to our country if nothing changes the ark of the last two years.  If we have six more years of spending ourselves into bankruptcy without a thought about it and insulting our allies and eroding our military alliances abroad and cozying up to dictators and insulting everyone who`s part of our latticework of defense, there`s no limit to the damage that can be done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  So Bill Crystal, a couple points here.  73 years old, last won a political race 25 years ago during the Clinton administration.  Those points, if you close your eyes were points a traditional Republican used to make before the era of Trump.  Would he have been the Republican you would have drafted to primary the president, or does he open the door and say come on in, the water`s fine, you can survive this?

CRYSTAL:  He turns to the cold-water and I think he would expect that if the water does get a little finer, if he shows some vulnerabilities of Trump, the economy and the Mueller report and foreign policies (INAUDIBLE), others would be stronger candidates presumably a current governor like Larry Hogan, current members of Congress like Will Hurd and Mike Gallagher could get in, I think that will be fine with Bill Weld.

He`s basically said that -- I`ll tell you as someone who`s wanted a Republican challenger to challenge Donald Trump -- just as you said it introducing (INAUDIBLE) and now there`s a Republican challenger of Donald Trump, my heart gave a little hippity-hop there.

And I don`t think that`s -- it is a real variety that this is someone like me can go around for three months saying related groundwork for Republican challenges, it`s more duel (ph) than you think.  I think someone might do it, but even if Bill Weld isn`t, you know, the ideal candidate to do it, the fact that he`s doing it I think may mean something.  And let`s see what happens in New Hampshire.  Let`s see when he gets a little momentum, get some contributions, gets some crowd, gets under some Trump`s skin or get some of the skin of Trump supporters in New Hampshire.  I think this end up a little more significant than maybe some other people think.

WILLIAMS:  And Phil Rucker to Bill`s point there, is this -- the White House will pay attention to this because the president is being primaried per se because it`s Bill Weld or because it could lead to more?

RUCKER:  I think for all three reasons, Brian.  Bill Weld will have a very difficult road to actually winning the Republican nomination, but this is something we know Trump and his advisers are paying close attention to.  There`s an effort under way by the Trump re-election to campaign -- to stack these party committees into states in advance of the nominating convention in 2020 in the summer of 2020 to make it so much more difficult for any kind of challenger to rest a nomination from President Trump, to sort of establish these bureaucratic roadblocks.

And that`s because there are concern in the Trump orbit about a primary challenge.  I think they would more concerned if there were a more sort of current candidate than Bill Weld to get into the race.  But Bill Weld will have a platform certainly and there will be some sort of audience out there for him and New Hampshire is probably the best place of any for him to start.

WILLIAMS:  Bill an I join you in being shocked that kind of thing happens in modern day politics.  To these two gentlemen, our thanks for this conversation tonight.  We could easily fill an hour.  Philip Rucker, Bill Crystal, thank you both so much.

Coming up, there are two ways to look at yesterday`s fire that robbed the modern world of a landmark for the ages. The French president has chosen his way of looking at it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  Church bells sounded across the world today in solidarity with the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.  With daybreak today and now the next daybreak tomorrow and about an hour in Paris, it became clear that there are two ways to look at the fire at Notre Dame.

For starters the aerial pictures are down right sickening because they show a global treasure now burned and wide open to the elements.

But then there are the pictures from ground level showing what was saved, what endured and what remains including the interior.  Back to those two ways of looking at it.  There`s the tragedy of what was lost, not just to Paris or Catholics but to our civilization.  But there`s also the realization that it could have been a lot worse.

Right here we owe a big thanks to Mike Allen from Axios who found and flagged before and after images.  The cross in the main alter are intact, many artifacts were saved.  The famous bells will sound again, and the church organ among some of the oldest musical instruments in the world appears to have largely made it.

We don`t yet have a tally on what`s gone and can`t be replaced, but we know it includes this.  The church attic, timbers dating back to the year 1200.  Then there are the firefighters.  Some heroic videos surfaced on French media today as did the tragic detail that a fire alarm first sounded inside the cathedral 23 minutes earlier, and after a fire official on site found no problem initially, it wasn`t until a second alarm sounded that there was visible fire that could then not be stopped.

The cause is still listed as accidental.  They are still gathering evidence.  French President Macron today called for the replacement to be built in five years time.  And make no mistake, that would be a Herculean near miracle effort.  He said today translated from the original French, we can do this.

There is a 3D laser scan of the cathedral that was done by a historian who has since passed away.  The gift he left behind will at least help.  So will donations which will no doubt top a billion dollars by weeks end.  That includes a pledge of $100,000 from Notre Dame`s namesake here in the U.S.  The University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana.  Another break for us.

And coming up, responding to a global consensus that there`s too much bad news one of our colleagues here has gone and done something about it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  The last thing before we go tonight, for those of you who don`t know the story of our friend and colleague Katy Tur and because she`s a veteran television reporter, here`s the television version.  So a couple years back she`s a foreign correspondent for NBC News based in London.  She flies back to New York basically on a day trip invited by the Make-A-Wish Foundation to fulfill the wish of a sick child.

While she`s back here in New York the boss spots her and sends her a few blocks down Fifth Avenue to interview to Donald Trump.  At this point in television where time is of the essence we would fast forward to Katy Tur staying in this country covering the Trump campaign, never going back to London except to get her stuff.

Trump gets elected, the campaign`s over, Katy finds indoor work.  She meet a guy named Tony and she falls in love.  They get a house, they marry, one thing leads to another that brings us today.  News of the happy arrival of Theodore who will be known as Teddy.  And we couldn`t be happier for Katy, for Tony, and for Teddy, and special thanks to our friend Katy for quite literally delivering some great news around here.

That is our broadcast on this Tuesday night.  Thank you so much for being here with us.  Good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.

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