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Texas school sets dress code for parents. TRANSCRIPT: 4/23/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: David Jolly, Hakeem Jeffries, Andrew Sullivan, Eric Tucker

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, President Trump have spoken to "The Washington Post" about his standoff with Congress saying there`s no need for former staffers to testify because it`s all in the Mueller report.  Robert Costa is standing by with details of his phone call with Trump tonight.

Also Jared Kushner today said the Mueller investigation was worse for this country than the Russian attack itself, which he tosses off as a couple of ads on Facebook.

Andrew Sullivan is here tonight to tell us why he believes Donald Trump is more dangerous than ever before.

And what we`re still finding that`s not getting news coverage inside the Mueller report.  All of it 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 824 of the Trump administration and this White House is fighting back on two fronts, pushing back against the Mueller report while also resisting House Democrats` efforts to investigate this President.

Tonight "The Washington Post" reports that Trump not surprisingly is opposed to having current and former White House staffs testify before Congress.  Most especially his former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, who has emerged as one of the stars of the Mueller report.

Robert costa of "The Washington Post" spoke with the President tonight by phone.  "The Post" quotes Trump as saying and we quote, "There is no reason to go any further and especially in Congress where it`s very partisan, obviously very partisan."

And again Costa and his colleagues also report, "The White House plans to fight a subpoena issued by the House Judiciary Committee for former White House Counsel Don McGahn to testify.  The administration also plans to oppose other requests from House committees for the testimony of current and former aides about actions in the White House described Mueller`s report.  White House lawyers plan to tell attorneys for administration witnesses called by the House that they will be asserting executive privilege over their testimony."  More on that in a bit with a very good lawyer.

Earlier today we heard Trump`s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner launch his own attacks on the Mueller report.  In his first public comment since the report`s release, what you`re about to hear is Jared Kushner diminishing the Russian attack on our election.


JARED KUSHNER, SR. WHITE HOUSE ADVISER:  The whole thing`s just a big distraction for the country.  And you look at, you know, what Russia did, you know, buying some Facebook ads and try to sow dissent indurative, it`s a terrible thing.  But I think the investigations and all the speculation that`s happen for the last two years has had a much harsher impact on democracy than a couple of Facebook ads.


WILLIAMS:  That right there intentional on Kushner`s part is an insult for a lot of people.  For starters to the federal investigators who compiled the Mueller report, it`s also insulting to the Russians who hacked into our political system and our elections so effectively.

Just a reminder here, a quote from the mule report, "The Russian government interfered in the 2016 presidential election in sweeping and systematic fashion.  By the end of the 2016 U.S. election Russia`s disinformation organization had the ability to reach millions of U.S. persons through their social media accounts."

In the wake of revelations about the Russia campaign and Trump`s exhaustive efforts to control and end the inquiry, several prominent Democrats as you know have voiced their support for impeachment hearings.  Today again, House speaker Nancy Pelosi stressed she was not ready to take that step.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA HOUSE SPEAKER:  Impeachment is a step that you have to take that is bringing the American people with you, again, without prejudice, without passion, without partisanship, but with a presentation of the facts.

I don`t think there`s big division in our caucus about this.  There are some people who are more eager for impeachment, many more eager to just follow the investigation where it is.


WILLIAMS:  As the Trump White House tries to down-play what we learned in the Mueller report, it is openly defying House Democrats.  As we said the Treasury Department missed today`s deadline to turn over Trump`s tax returns.  That request came from the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The law is pretty plain.

In a 10-page letter Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin, outlined his concerns that the request was politically motivated, he said he`ll give his final answer May 6th after consulting with the Justice Department.  House Oversight Committee is now considering holding former White House Personnel Security Director, Carl Kline in contempt after he failed to show up for hearings on alleged security clearance lapses at the direction of the White House.  Questions for him would naturally include how is it Jared Kushner got his security clearance.

That same committee has also had to push back its deadline for a subpoena of Trump`s financial records after Trump sued to block that request.  Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland spoke earlier on this network about the President`s effort to stop Congressional inquiries.


REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS, (D) MARYLAND CHAIRMAN OVERSIGHT CMTE.:  When we allow these things to happen, basically what the Congress is doing and negative the Republicans in the Congress allowing President Trump to take away our power and in turn take away the power off our constituents.


WILLIAMS:  There is also news tonight about the only person convicted thus far in the Mueller investigation.  One, Paul Manafort, he is now officially a federal prisoner.  We learned today he`ll do his seven plus years at the federal penitentiary at Cannon Township, Pennsylvania.  The Bureau of Prisons says he was transferred late last week from a jail in Virginia.  His expected release date, that would be Christmas day of the year 2024.

Time now for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday night, the aforementioned Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post," moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS.  Maya Wiley, the aforementioned really good attorney, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now with the New School here in New York.  And David Jolly, a former member of the Republican Party as a member of Congress from the State of Florida. He has since left the GOP.  Welcome to you all.

Robert, I`d like to begin with you.  You were doing what reporters do, working on a separate story, and I have my guesses as to what that was, dialing for dollars, looking for quotes and confirmation.  You called the White House and asked to talk to the boss.  He gets on the phone and after you dispense with the topic in chief, you get him going on some other topics.

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  That`s correct. President Trump weighed in on a topic everyone`s been trying to report today at "The Washington Post" and elsewhere.  Is this White House actually going to assert executive privilege and prevent former officials and current officials, people like Don McGahn the former White House counsel from going before the House Judiciary Committee putting their hands up in the air and starting to testify about his conduct?

The White House officials has been signaling all day this is where they were going, but then the President went on the record to articulate that strategy moving ahead.

WILLIAMS:  Maya Wiley, it can be fairly asked and it will be the President, if McGahn testified for over 30 hours to the Feds, what`s to be gained in testimony before the House.  My question to you, however, is if he waived privilege and agreed to be questioned for 30 hours they can`t is suddenly say, "Oh no, we`re not taking any questions," can they?

MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  Well, let`s start with the second part of your question first because Donald Trump tweeted, if you recall, that he gave permission to Don McGahn


WILEY:  -- to talk to Robert Mueller and his team so he explicitly and very publicly waived it.  So I think it`s pretty clear, not to mention that the executive privilege is a qualified privilege.  That means it`s not blanket.  There`s a balancing test that the courts would look at to see if in fact the interests of the President in protecting his communications outweigh or not the interests of Congress.

And here this goes back to the first part of your question.  Congress has an interest in determining whether it should exercise its power and authority.  And that falls into two categories, right?  One obviously is whether or not it would pursue impeachment.

And one of things that Nancy Pelosi is very clearly saying is you don`t go there until you gather all the facts and see if the people are with you.  And that`s their job.  That`s very explicitly their job under the Constitution.  And Robert Mueller made very clear that he thought Congress should take this up.

But I think the second part of it is they can legislate.  There`s a lot of questions that are in Robert Mueller`s report that they should get to interrogate to determine whether or not they want to propose legislation on laws.  That`s also their job under the Constitution.

WILLIAMS:  David Jolly, I don`t want to put words in your mouth, but did I hear you with Nicolle Wallace this afternoon saying that in effect in your humble opinion the Democrats have been caught a little bit flat-footed by the arrival of the Mueller report, the tonnage in it and the counter --


WILLIAMS:  -- argument which is just short phrase allegory from the President?

JOLLY:  Yes, I don`t think they`ve embraced the urgency of the moment.  I mean, Nancy Pelosi was overseas, we haven`t seen proof of life (ph) at Chuck Schumer, and Steny Hoyer said, "Eh, the reports, the report, we`ll have an election in 18 months."  Contrast that with if they have framed it by being on Capitol Hill to receive the report and express to the American people we believe the President`s broken the law and we need to hold him accountable to find and frame the issue for the American people.

But, Brian, I think what`s going on today, Donald Trump is telling the American people he`s terrified of being impeached.  And this conversation about executive privilege it`s interesting they told Robert they haven`t determined it.  Because I believe his lawyers are saying he won`t succeed.

Every president has claimed their executive privilege at one point or another.  Going back to George Washington, as Maya said there`s a balancing test.  Is the information in the public interest?  Washington claimed it over some national security military excursions, ultimately gave the information to Congress.

But in the two cases most similar to this, Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton.  They did not want to cooperate with Congress` request for information and ultimately federal courts said, "Mr. Nixon, you have to turn over the tapes" and they resigned.  The courts told Bill Clinton, "You have to testify" and he did and he ended up impeached.

WILLIAMS:  Robert Costa, you told Rachel tonight and I was greatly interested in this that after you hung up with the President you were texted by members of the administration asking in effect what did the boss say to you, and you gave it as an example of just how top-heavy and top down an organization the West Wing is, if you can call it that.

COSTA:  The White House, people inside of it, they know they`re about to mount a political war in the coming weeks, fighting inch by inch with Congressional Democrats about these requests.  What they wanted to see inside this West Wing was a signal from the top, a signal from the President.  Is he prepared to mount a legal war coupled with a political war with House Democrats?  Is he willing to throw this whole discussion to the federal court and have a protracted legal battle?

And tonight he said that he is willing to do so.  He underscore that he has not made a, "final, final decision" and that`s because as the Congressman said his lawyers are debating and deliberating how this would play out in the federal court.  But he believes he can make a case to the country and in the federal court.

And at the end of the day, talking to top White House officials, they say if they do fight in the court it buys them time, that`s what the President want as he fights that political war.

WILLIAMS:  Bob you`ve been around them a lot over the years.  He even famously let you witness his hair process which caused unending envy by reporters while you were traveling on what was his plane years ago.  So, that being said, having had a lot of contact with him, how did you find him tonight?  What kind of mood was he in?

COSTA:  This is a president who is defiant as ever, and he`s prepared today have a constitutional battle.  I mean, this isn`t a dramatic moment for the country.

You have a President who really wants to fight not only about asserting executive privilege but fight Congress at every juncture, at every request.  And you look at "The Washington Post" report tonight, it`s not just about Don McGahn`s possible testimony, it`s across all these fronts that House Democrats are sending letters to the White House.

And the President on the phone tonight was the same kind of person I first encountered as a reporter years ago.  This is someone who actually relishes these kinds of fights but now this is so different than the early days of the presidential campaign or New York or business.  This is Constitutional questions being challenged, and we`re entering a new period in this presidency has he confronts all of that.

WILLIAMS:  David Jolly, let`s back up to the point you just made.  I watch a lot of cable news.  And tonight on more than one occasion I heard reporters say we`re going to court and we may be headed for a Constitutional crisis, and that puts a lump in your throat if you love this place as I do?  But why am I hearing that from journalists?  Does it feed back to your point about the Democratic messaging?

JOLLY:  It does.  Recall what happened when the Starr report was delivered, volumes, dozens of volumes.  And the Republican Congress isolated four different incidents and said "these are the charges we`re going to levy against the president."

I believe if Donald Trump doesn`t want his team to testify, fine.  I think Democrats in the House have enough information to call for a vote right now.  And I think what they should do is isolate one or two moments, the Don McGahn moment being probably first and foremost.  Did Donald Trump tell him to fire Bob Mueller, and did Donald Trump instruct staff to demoralize a denial of that action is prima facie obstruction of justice.

And I think that Democrats in the House should say, "this is the issue, we`re going to vote it up or down, whether or not McGahn testifies or not."

WILLIAMS:  Maya Wiley, you are probably over qualified as a lawyer for this question, but I`ll ask it anyway, your reaction to hearing a senior advisor to the President, son-in-law to the President today dismiss the Russia matter as a couple of ads on Facebook.

WILEY:  Business as usual for this White House is to refuse to assert national security interests of the nation to defend their own narrow interests.

So, remember when the Facebook -- just Facebook, right?  So remember, this is social media platforms included, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, it wasn`t just Facebook.  But Facebook alone were efforts to tell black voters and Latino voters not to vote or to confuse them about where to go vote.  It was things like ads saying, you know, honor the badge and, you know, prevent the invaders from coming.  I mean it was divisive.

The intent was to divide the country. And that is something that no one who is in the White House or frankly no one who resides in this country should tolerate.  And the fact that you have a Jared Kushner who is in a meeting in Trump Tower in July 2016 actively trying to get e-mails from Russians, from foreign nationals known to be connected to the Kremlin, I won`t go on because it`s all in the Mueller report.  Now comes forward and suggests that none of that matters is very self-serving.

Secondly, the only other point I think is so important to make here we should not lose is this is the same Jared Kushner who was part of a campaign that was told in the summer of 2016 by the FBI that Russians were going to try to interfere in the election and please tell them about any contacts with Russians.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  Let the transcript reflect that Maya Wiley at that point stopped talking and looked her colleague David Jolly.  Our thanks to our guests Robert Costa, Maya Wiley and David Jolly for starting us off in fine fashion this Tuesday night.

Coming up, imagine having the job of trying to hold the Democrats in the House together as a caucus.  The job of cat herder would be easier.  And in a moment we will talk to that very man.

And later, Andrew Sullivan is here to explain why he thinks the Mueller report is a textbook definition, in fact, of high crimes and misdemeanors as THE 11TH HOUR gets started, tiptoeing through the tulips as we do on a Tuesday night.



PELOSI:  I do believe that impeachment is one of the most divisive forces, paths that we could go down to in our country.  But its effects, the path of fact finding take us there, we have no choice.  But we`re not there yet.

Congress will not be silent in terms of using our Constitutional power to find the facts for the American people.


WILLIAMS:  The Speaker today encouraging patience over how the Democrats in Congress should handle revelations in the Mueller report.  Problem is a lot of Democrats are running out of patience.  And that`s fueling tension within the party especially between Democrats on Capitol Hill and the 19 or so Democrats who are running around the country running for president.

In spite of the party split over impeachment things are heating up for the President and some of those around him.  Democratic leaders have launched a series of aggressive investigations including, as we mentioned, hauling in Don McGahn before the House Judiciary Committee, but tonight the President tells "The Washington Post," "he opposes cooperation with House Democrats who he claimed are trying to score political points against him."

Our next guest is one of those Democrats and a proud product of Brooklyn, New York, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, sits on the House Judiciary Committee and more importantly these days he`s the party guy in the House majority.  He is the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.

Congressman, thank you for coming on.  How do you think you are going to decide whether or not to pursue impeachment and is one way to just proceed with hearings that are -- except for the title, impeachment hearings in name only?

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES, (D) NEW YORK JUDICIARY CMTE.:  Well, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has laid out a clear standard for how to proceed and it`s a standard that the overall majority of the House Democratic Caucus embraces.  That is that the case for impeachment must be compelling.  The evidence must be overwhelming and public sentiment around impeachment must be bipartisan in nature.  So we`re going to go down the course where we will gather the necessary evidence so that we can then evaluate it and present it to the American people.

First, we want access to the entire Mueller report, not the redacted version because the Attorney General cannot be trusted to provide an accurate portrayal to the American people, and who knows whether the redactions were legitimate or not.

Second, we want the underlying documentation connected to Mueller report.

Third, we want to make sure that Bob Mueller testifies before the House Judiciary Committee so he can tell his story to the American people.  Once we have gone down that road, then we can evaluate where we stand in terms of the best way to proceed.

WILLIAMS:  You have a new left flank, however, within your caucus as I don`t need to remind you.  Some of it New York based, some of it freshman based that is going to say to you what more are you waiting to learn about obstruction?  What magic document is going to leap out of the Mueller material before you proceed?

JEFFRIES:  Well, there are 10 instances that are very troubling that have been laid out in the Mueller report as it relates to obstruction of justice.  It is now the Judiciary Committee`s responsibility to evaluate each and every one of those instances as well as other information that may be presented.

We are united behind the principle that the House is a separate and coequal branch of government.  We`re united behind a principle that we don`t work for Donald Trump, we work for the American people.  We have a Constitutional responsibility to serve as a check and balance on an out of control executive branch.  Donald Trump right now is out of control.  We want to present those facts to the American people, and then we can proceed.

Jerry Nadler has said "we`re going to look at abuse of power, we`re going to look at the culture of corruption and its costs on the American people, and we`re going to look at obstruction of justice."  That`s the starting point for our journey.

WILLIAMS:  Well, let me take the other side and ask you about when White House argument.  What do you intend to learn from Don McGahn that didn`t come out in 30 plus hours of testimony before the best in the business, the investigators who worked for Bob Mueller?

JEFFRIES:  Well, I think it`s important for him to tell his story fully to the American people.  Live testimony where he can be cross examined by my colleagues on the other side of the aisle and ask probative questions about the nature of working in this White House, the culture of corruption that we believe exists is Donald Trump`s intentionality in terms of obstruction of justice and the possibility of abuse and power.  And then the American people can evaluate for themselves whether there is a troubling situation that`s festering at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue that will correctly need to address.

WILLIAMS:  Against the unmistakable backdrop of McCarran Airport and the MGM Grand telling us that you`re lucky enough to be in Las Vegas, the Democrat from the state and city of New York, Hakeem Jeffries, thank you Congressman very much for being on with us tonight from Las Vegas.

And coming up, our next guest says Russia conspiracy or not Donald Trump still poses a threat to this nation.  But he says Robert Mueller offered a road map on how to defend this nation.  We`ll talk with the author and journalist Andrew Sullivan after this.


WILLIAMS:  Tonight`s arguments for Trump`s impeachment are also coming from beyond Washington.  Andrew Sullivan makes his case for the President`s removal in New York magazine.  In a piece titled, "There was no Russia conspiracy.  But Trump is more dangerous than ever."

He writes and we quote, "The conspiracy question is far less important than what Mueller discovered on obstruction of justice.  It`s a textbook definition of high crimes and misdemeanors.  It is the story of a president assaulting the rule of law, attempting to manipulate the justice system."

"This disgusting man is not just a cancer in the presidency, his presidency is a cancer in our constitution and way of life.  How long do we let this metastasize even further?  How long before we take a stand."

"Mueller has given us the road map.  He has done his duty.  Now it`s our turn to do ours and support and defend the constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic.

With that build up and with more tonight we welcome back Author and Journalist Andrew Sullivan.  You can find his column as usual in New York Magazine.

And, Andrew, here`s my question.  You have the tonnage and density of 448 pages of the Mueller report versus the benal (ph) and wrong marketing of no collusion, no obstruction.  So considering your audience, your intended audience as the American public because they have got to be onboard, how do you convince the public to go ahead with this?

Most people believe you`ll never get two thirds of Mitch McConnell`s Senate.  We had a guy on here last night who said if you impeach Trump he will raise $200 million as a victim with his base and he`ll stroll the re- election.  You have the floor.

ANDREW SULLIVAN, WRITER, NEW YORK MAGAZINE:  We have no choice, Brian.  The Mueller report actually proves and spells out 10 separate cases of clear obstruction of justice.  The question you have to put to the country at large is do you believe the President is above the law?  Is he completely immune to any legal restraint or constitutional restraint upon him?  Is he able as Mueller said to threaten the integrity of the justice system and still be allowed to continue?

The fact that Democrats are wavering on this is a huge -- well, the only word to call it is appeasement.  I don`t think you appease power hungry people who have abused their powers quite plainly.  And you are telling us all the time they intend now to continue abusing them.  He will not tolerate or recognize the constituently right of the Congress to oversee the President and the executive branch.

He calls that harassment.  That is a king and a monarch speaking.  It`s not a president of the United States.  This guy told people to lie.  He tampered and attempted to tamper with witnesses.  He intimidated witnesses.  He dangled pardons in front of people.

This is the most outrageous breach of constitutional law and constitutional ethics that I`ve seen in my lifetime.  It`s far worse than Nixon.  It was in Clinton.  I mean, imagine Lindsey Graham impeached Bill Clinton on obstruction of justice for perjury in a civil trial over sexual harassment.  That was enough for the Republicans, and you have ten cases of obstruction of justice, proven by a rock-ribbed Republican, and they don`t want to do anything.

You know, we deserve the republic we get, and we are busy abolishing this republic in favor of imperial presidency above the law forever, independent.  And I think that`s a terrible moment in this country`s history.

WILLIAMS:  The last time we did a dramatic reading of your column was on the topic of immigration, and it deeply upset the left, A, that your finding was we have a genuine crisis at our southern border, and then, B, when you invoked Europe and immigration.  And for those Americans who only see as far away as their phone, while it`s a pet topic of mine, remind our viewers what immigration has brought Europe in terms of trouble and governments wavering.

SULLIVAN:  It`s bringing about the possibility, even the likelihood of neo- fascist governments across the continent.  You see this rise of neo-Nazis in Germany in the actual Parliament.  You see Marine Le Pen coming very close in the second round anyway to overturning the existing order.  Macron is failing.  Other people will fill that gap.

In Britain, this country I came from, pragmatic, moderate, easily compromising has been brought to a standstill over this question.  And the truth is that right now in the last month something like 10,000 undocumented migrants arrived at the border of United States, and because we have no resources to detain them, no resources to adequately determine if their asylum claims are valid, they have to be let into the country.

So we`re going to have about a million migrants come into the country this year, and we look at what`s happening in the broader political area and we see that Trump used immigration as an issue to continue his assault on the constitution and to enhance his power, as all the far right is doing throughout Europe.

And I just simply believe that we do need to show that we can have orderly and peaceful and legal immigration.  And I think if we don`t, if we simply have what are in effect, and I said in effect open borders because only 2% of the people who actually enter the country ever get removed from it who enter it, then we`re going to have -- be stoking the fires of populism for a long time and white nationalism and white supremacy.

And now, I don`t believe in caving into those forces but I do believe in seeing where they`re getting their strength and trying to cut it off.  And I think the Democrats` inability to be strong and clear about legal, safe, humane but real immigration enforcement is a terrible liability in the coming election.  I think they must win.

WILLIAMS:  We will keep, I was just going to say, notable British-born American citizen, immigrant to this country.  We will keep reading your material if you keep coming on our broadcast.  Thank you so much for joining us on this Tuesday night.

SULLIVAN:  Thank you so much, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up for us, 448 pages is a lot, which is why we are still uncovering details buried inside the Mueller report.  Stay tuned for tonight`s batch.



SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT):  Have you ruled out anyone in the campaign that you can disclose? 

JAMES COMEY, FORMER DIRECTOR, FBI:  I don`t feel comfortable answering that, senator, because I think it puts me on a slope to talking about who we`re investigating.

BLUMENTHAL:  Have you ruled out the President of the United States?

COMEY:  I don`t -- I don`t want people to over-interpret this answer.  I`m not going to comment on anyone in particular because that puts me down a slope of because if I say no to that, then I have to answer succeeding questions.


WILLIAMS:  According to the Mueller report, President Trump was not impressed with James Comey`s testimony, and back on May 3, 2017, we should tell you right here that tonight we`re beginning a series of regular reports called "Uncovered", designed to dig into the Mueller report and all its volume and draw out and highlight some of the mountain of information that may have thus far gone virtually uncovered.

For starters, Eric Tucker of the Associated Press outlines some of the lesser known events surrounding Comey`s firing as revealed in said Mueller report.  He points to a meeting detailed in the report.  In the afternoon after of Comey`s testimony with President Trump, Don McGahn, Jeff Sessions and Sessions` Chief of Staff Jody Hunt and we quote, "The President asked McGahn how Comey had done in his testimony and McGahn relayed Comey had declined to answer questions about whether the President was under investigation.  The President became very upset and directed his anger at Sessions."

According to notes written by Hunt, the President said, "This is terrible, Jeff.  It`s all because you recused.  Attorney general`s supposed to be most important appointment.  Kennedy appointed his brother.  Obama appointed Holder.  I appointed you and you recused yourself.  You left me on an island.  I can`t do anything."

The report goes onto recount this interview with former White House Strategist Steve Bannon, and we quote again.  "Bannon recalled that the President brought Comey up with him at least eight times in 24 hours on May 3rd and May 4th, 2017.  According to Bannon the President said the same thing each time.  He told me three times I`m not under investigation.  He`s a show-boater.  He`s a grandstander.  I don`t know any Russians, there was no collusion."

According to the report the following weekend at Trump`s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, Trump said he wanted to remove Comey as FBI director.  And days later on March 9th indeed Comey was fired.

Back with us tonight is Eric Tucker, Justice Department Reporter for the Associated Press who has covered the Mueller investigation since its original origins.  And, Eric, I don`t know if you can put this into words, exactly how determined was this boss to get rid of Comey and find fault at every turn?

ERIC TUCKER, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS:  I think, Brian, the one consistent refrain that we get from all of these witnesses is that there is one thing that the President is looking for, and that is some sort of claim of public vindication from the FBI director.

He wants a statement from Jim Comey that we are not investigating the President of the United States.  And that is not something that Jim Comey is prepared to do publicly even though he communicated that privately.  And so we see that anger building up and up over the course of several weeks up until the firing.

WILLIAMS:  By the way, I`m told I just said March 9th.  Of course he was fired on May 9th.  You`re not a partisan individual, and this is a question that requests analysis on your part.  What could the Democrats, what could a good federal prosecutor do with just this vignette inside the Mueller report?

TUCKER:  You know, one thing that I think is really interesting is there is this mystery as to why there was this memo that the White House produced on the day Comey was fired that attributed the firing, essentially towards cancelling the Hillary Clinton e-mail investigation.  And of course that made no sense, why would Donald Trump be upset with the FBI over actions that effectively benefitted him.  And one thing that the Mueller report really makes clear is this was all about Russia from the very start, so you do have a pretext here in this memo.  And I think that`s probably pretty damaging for the President, frankly.

WILLIAMS:  I want to read you something else.  You`re more than familiar with this already.  Our audience may not be.  Again, just a line or two from the Mueller report, this is on the former chief of staff to Don McGahn, Annie Donaldson, her notes from May 9th, 2017.

Donaldson also wrote "is this the beginning of the end" because she was worried that the decision to terminate Comey and the manner in which it was carried out would be the end of the presidency.  Eric, more than one writer has in the past few days said that Don McGahn may have saved the Trump presidency.  Is that hyperbole or is it based in something accurate?

TUCKER:  There`s certainly multiple episodes recounted off throughout the report of Don McGahn refusing and declining to do things that Donald Trump wanted him to do both because he knew it would be politically damaging for himself and also he knew that it would get the President into serious trouble.  And so, there`s no question there are multiple White House officials who are involved in turning down or rejecting the President`s overtures and demands.  Don McGahn is certainly one of them.

WILLIAMS:  You covered the DOJ.  So what do you make of this hint that they may invoke privilege after McGahn sat there and testify for 30 plus hours?

TUCKER:  I think one of the real questions facing the White House right now and the Justice Department is what to do with all of these people who Congress` wants to talk to.  The problem that we have actually from the outside is it`s not clear to what extent any of these individuals actually really want to come to Congress including and especially Special Counsel Mueller.

WILLIAMS:  That`s a great point and we`d like permission to call upon you again.  Again as we continue to take these strings and pull-on them from deep within the Mueller report, our great thanks for joining us tonight, Eric Tucker returning to our broadcast.

Tucker:  Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  And coming up for us, thousands of pro-Trump twitter bots suddenly disappeared on Easter Sunday.  We`ll look at the disinformation, the bot network is accused of spreading, and the surprising suspects that are said to be behind this particular now shutdown campaign.  That story when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  NBC News broke the story today of the over 5,000 pro-Trump twitter bots suspected of pushing a Russiagate hoax narrative.  This was shortly after the Mueller report came out.

Our own Ben Collins writes it this way, "These bots, however, did not appear to come from Russia.  Instead the bots had ties to a social media operation that previously pushed messages backing the government of Saudi Arabia and were connected to a person who claimed to be a private social media consultant.

We should note it`s not clear whether these fake accounts had any official connections to the Saudi government.

So back with us on the broadcast tonight is NBC News reporter Ben Collins, while not a person with a dark personality, his job is to watch the darkest corners of the internet for us and keep us surprised.  First of all, I asked you to bring bot examples because we always do stories like this, and the folks who are users of social media don`t always know what we`re talking about.  So show us a bot.

BEN COLLINS, NBC NEWS REPORTER:  Right.  So they repeatedly said the same sentence over and over again.

WILLIAMS:  That`s bad. 

COLLINS:  That`s usually a good tip, right?  And it wasn`t even their sentence, they stole it from a ring-wing Twitter account.

WILLIAMS:  So that`s it?

COLLINS:  Yes, you can see it there.  You know, they always talk about, you know, conspiracy, extremists, or Russia, they called it the Russiagate hoax over and over in this tweets, and they compared it, they compared the mainstream media Alex Jones, that was their big thing.

WILLIAMS:  Oh boy.  So you can look at that verbiage and you know it`s not someone savvy on the sophistication scale it`s down here.  Why someone with a Saudi background?  What are they looking to do?

COLLINS:  So, first of all, the point of this whole thing, it`s not just to get one single tweet out there.  It`s not to look particularly official.  In fact, they looked horrible.  They were using stock photos with a water mark over their faces as their profile pictures.

WILLIAMS:  You just can`t do that.

COLLINS:  Right, exactly.  Anybody would figure that out, right?


COLLINS:  The point was to get the volume of tweets up so when the Twitter algorithm looked for stuff to trend, it would say Russiagate hoax instead of the Mueller report.  All these were activated three months after they came up.  So they existed for three months, didn`t do anything, and then the hours after the Mueller report came, these are some sort of hoax.

WILLIAMS:  Corollarily, how good was the Russia effort during 2016 when they were looking to pick off set groups against each other in this country, pick off votes in Wisconsin or Pennsylvania, whatever?

COLLINS:  This was (inaudible) with the Russians were so much better at this.  And that`s -- we`re better at finding the Russians now, but this is some, really, this is some D grade stuff I would say, like they are just getting into this sort of thing.  And that`s the thing.

Like there`s -- like you said, you can`t tie this directly back to the Saudi government.  This was tied back to a specific Twitter account called Arabian Veritas which was supposed to spread the truth about Saudi Arabia.  They renamed their whole operation to this thing called "The Globist" which is supposed to be like a news operation last week and it coincided with this whole button that happening.

WILLIAMS:  Why are we an easy mark?  Is it the cost of good intentions that were basically good people?

COLLINS:  Honestly that`s the point of this thing is to show, the fissures in really open democracy, right?  We`re not going to, like after the New Zealand shooting for example, they shut down all these websites, the government did.  They shut them down.

You know, in Sri Lanka, they did it with Facebook and Snapchat all those things.  So we`re not going to do that.  And these places understand this.  They understand, you know, that the Russians try to find these holes in the best parts of our democracy and exploit the worst parts of our id, the worst parts of what makes us us.

And that`s it`s devastating and terrible, but we just all we need to do, all we going to do societally is learn about this and figure out, like, it`s called "media literacy."  That`s what we going to do from kids to everybody else on up.

WILLIAMS:  And what do you imagine was discussed in the Oval Office today when Jack Dorsey of Twitter went to see their most famous customer and sat in the Oval Office with him.  That`s him on the far right with apparently no necktie to wear to the Oval Office but go ahead.

COLLINS:  Right.  So there are reports saying from "The Washington Post" specifically saying that they talked about why he keeps losing followers, and the reason he keeps losing followers is because when you`re a bot, you follow the most famous accounts and the most famous Twitter account I can think of is probably Donald Trump.

So when these purges of all these bots, when the bot detection stuff figures out, you know, this isn`t a real person.  They get rid of thousands, sometimes even millions of accounts at a time.  And that`s what he`s seeing, but he thinks there`s some sort of censorship going on.  There is, unfortunately for him, that`s not really a thing.  It`s not real.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you for always explaining the stuff.  We appreciate it.

COLLINS:  Absolutely.  Thank you. 

WILLIAMS:  Appreciate your work, Ben Collins with us again tonight.

Coming up, think about what you wore the last time you picked up a kid at school.  It`s important for reasons we`ll fill you in on: fill you in on.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, the principal of a high school in Houston may have stepped in it.  And if she did it may will be the cost of good intentions.  Her name is Carlotta Outley Brown, veteran educator, good reputation.  She is the newly appointed principal of James Madison High School where she is also a graduate.

And she has issued a dress code.  Not for her students.  They already have one, but for their parents.  Quoting from the Houston Chronicle, "The school will turn away parents if they show up at the school wearing bonnets, pajamas, hair rollers or leggings, among other clothing items.

It`s all right there on the front page of the school`s Web site where the principal says in part, "Parents, we do value you as a partner in your child`s education.  However, please know we have to have standards, most of all, we must have high standards."

To which one Madison High School parent, Tamiko Miller (ph), says, "I`m almost insulted.  I really think it was discriminatory, the language that was used.  It was demeaning.  And I`m African-American, as is the principal, by the way, and if it`s misty outside and I have a hair bonnet on, I don`t see how that`s anyone`s business."

And while a whole lot of parents are going to agree with that sentiment, no comment thus far from the Houston Independent School District.  The issue of how parents dress when visiting school has come up at schools across this country, but perhaps not quite as acutely as this.

And on that note, that`s our broadcast on a Tuesday night.  Thank you so very much for being here with us.  Good night 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