IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Democrats divided over impeaching Trump. TRANSCRIPT: 5/21/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Val Demings, William McRaven

JULIAN CASTRO, 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have plains. We have security cameras. We have helicopters. We can maintain its security. But we don`t need to separate little children from their parents.  We don`t need to put people in cages.  We don`t need to have five children die in a few months under our watch.  We can do better than that.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Julian Castro gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  And thank you very much for joining us tonight, I really appreciate it.

CASTRO:  Thanks a lot.

O`DONNELL:  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight after Don McGahn`s no show, the House Democrats fire off new subpoenas for McGahn lieutenant and former Trump`s spokeswoman, Hope Hicks.

Meanwhile, the rumbling is growing among Democrat who are increasing their talk of impeachment.  We`ve got a member of the House Judiciary Committee standing by to talk about just that.

"The Washington Post" on the board tonight with a big story about the President`s tax returns that the President may not like.

And we`ve got Steve Kornacki at the big board with a new look at how two dozen Democrats are dividing up the poll numbers and the long march toward 2020.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Tuesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 852 of this Trump administration.  Two things are happening in equal amounts this evening.  While there`s more talk of impeachment among rank and file Democrat, especially in the House, the President is stepping up his attacks on their efforts.  More on all that in a moment.

We want to begin with the latest news in the battle to get Trump`s tax returns.  "The Washington Post" is on the board tonight with a story that a secret IRS memo, secret no more says Congress can see Trump`s tax return unless he exerts executive privilege which he has not done.

"The Post" says, "The memo contradicts the Trump administration justification for denying lawmakers request for President Trump`s tax returns exposing fissures in the executive branch."

It was just on Friday last that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin rejected a subpoena from the House Ways and Means Committee to turn over the records.

While the President has refused all requests for his tax returns, he has yet to invoke executive privilege.

Today, former White House Counsel, Don McGahn, ignored his subpoena as he was directed to do by the White House.  As you can see there he was a no show at his reserve sit to testify before the House Judiciary Committee.  The chairman, Jerry Nadler, went on to insist it would not stand in the way of his obstruction investigation.


REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK, CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Let me be clear, this committee will hear Mr. McGahn`s testimony even if we have to go to court to secure it.  We will not allow the President to prevent the American people from hearing from this witness.  We will not allow the President to block Congressional subpoenas putting himself and his allies above the law.


WILLIAMS:  Chairman Nadler is now challenging the President on another front today.  He issued subpoenas, as we mentioned at the top of the broadcast, to former White House Communications Director, Hope Hicks, former Deputy Counsel, McGahn Deputy, Annie Donaldson.  The Judiciary panel wants both women to produce documents by next month.  They also want Hicks to testify at a public hearing while Donaldson has been asked to give a deposition instead.

Hick`s, you`ll recall, one of Trump`s closest aides throughout the campaign and during the first year in the White House.  She was present for a lot.  She saw and heard a lot, including the effort on board Air Force One, the story is told to craft a cover story for why the Trump Tower meeting happened.

Congressman Eric Swalwell, Democrat of California, questioned her about that back in 2018 when she spoke with members of the House Intelligence Committee.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) CALIFORNIA, INTELLIGENCE & JUDICIARY CMTES.:  She has a very, very deep memory and recall of everything the President has done.

The question that I asked her on the House Intelligence Committee and she refused to answer which is, did the President ever tell you to lie for him and did you ever lie for him?  And that was very -- I would say it was a flash point in the interview.  She asked to step outside for 10 minutes and then she came back inside and refused to answer the question.  And then I asked if Donald Trump Jr. had asked her to lie and she refused again.


WILLIAMS:  Ex-deputy White House Counsel, Annie Donaldson, worked directly under the aforementioned Don McGahn.  The Mueller report documents her meticulous daily note taking during some of the most contentious moments in Trump`s West Wing.  Such as when Trump fired James Comey in May 2017, "Donaldson also wrote "is this the beginning of the end?"  Because she was worried that the decision to terminate Comey and the manner it was carried out would be the end of the presidency."

Shortly after these subpoenas for Hicks and Donaldson were announced, Trump was on social media with this message and we quote, "The Dems were unhappy with the outcome of the $40 million Mueller reports and now they want to do over."  He later added, "It doesn`t work that way.  So bad for our country."

Tonight we`re also learning House Democrat efforts to get Mueller to testify are running into more road blocks.  "Washington Post" again reporting that negotiations have stalled over how much of the special counsel`s expected Congressional testimony would be public and how much would take place in private.

As we mentioned earlier increasing numbers of Democrats in the House are pushing to begin an impeachment inquiry against the President.  Speaker Pelosi has been resisting those calls, has stressed that any consideration of impeachment be bipartisan.

Tomorrow at 9:00 a.m., she holds a closed door meeting with her increasingly discordant Democratic caucus to give them an update on the subpoenas and the investigations and how they might differ from actual impeachment proceedings.  Then later in the day she and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will go to the White House for a meeting with President Trump to talk about, wait for it, infrastructure.

With that as our starting point to our lead in discussion on a Tuesday night now, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times."  Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor.  And Anita Kumar is back with us, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor for Politico.  Good evening and welcome to you all.

Joyce, I`d like to begin with you.  Why these two women, what is the chance they`ll actually show up?  And part three of my first question to you is, where does the Democrats actual power reside?  If they don`t have the power to say to private citizen, "Wait a second, you respond to subpoenas and you appear before us."

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  So last part of that question, first, Brian, this is this foundational rule of law question, right?  Do we still have a rule of law in this country?  Does the White House have to follow it?

If Congress can`t issue a subpoena and expect to have it enforced whether in the courts or because individuals do their duty then we really don`t have much of a constitutional republic left.  But I would expect to see the courts enforce the subpoenas.  I would expect to see them enforced them swiftly.  There is not much of a question here about whether Congress is entitled to hear testimony from these witnesses.

The White House made a pass at this immunity argument this morning, but there`s no law, no cases that support that and some authority although it`s not binding to the contrary.  So then we have the question of why these two witnesses.  And I think that there are different rationales.

Annie Donaldson`s notes are very important.  They back up Don McGahn.  They are not interested in her testimony, though.  As you point out, she`s been subpoenaed for a deposition.  Once she authenticates her notes, then they can be used with other witnesses like McGahn.

But it`s Hope Hick who is sort of the blockbuster witness who can appear, who can tell the story, who can convey to the American public what`s in Mueller report with a birds eye view.

And that clip from Representative Swalwell is very telling.  Because if she, in front of the entire country, refuses to respond to the question of whether or not the President ever asked her to lie for him, then I think the public will know what the answer to that question is.

WILLIAMS;  Yes, that will be a story, if and when it happens.

Hey, Peter Baker, is there any reason to believe these two women will take a course, not taken by McGahn, and actually show up and are we going to look back on this period as kind of the treading of water?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, it`s great question.  Are they going to have the same response that Don McGahn have.

Don McGahn didn`t have to accept the President`s instructions.  He chose to.  He has a lot of reasons to, certain degree of loyalty obviously to a former boss.  He works for a law firm that gets a lot of business from the Republicans.

He might feel some obligations as a lawyer even though attorney-client privilege wouldn`t apply here.  But that doesn`t necessarily mean that Hope Hicks or, you know, Annie Donaldson is going to want to -- take the same route.  We don`t know that.  They`re not currently under the government`s, you know, conundrum in that sense.  And they may choose to do something different.

But I think they`re going to wait and see if they can put it off long enough to see what the rulings are when it comes to McGahn.  That will actually determine the course for them and a whole lot of other potential witnesses who might get called to this point.  When the courts weigh in and say that the House can or cannot subpoena people who work for the President but don`t -- do not work for him any longer, that will answer the question for us.

WILLIAMS:  Anita Kumar, I guess we all have honorary degrees in psychology by now.  I don`t know if you believe in the theory of foreshadowing, but can you read anything into what the President has said on Twitter.  He seems to have ramped up and made a bit more specific his attacks on the Democrats.

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I think he has been saying and thinking something very similar for now for weeks.  And if you talk to Republicans who are close to the White House they are saying it too, which is sort of bring it on, right?

They are hoping that the Democrats go down the path of impeachment.  They think it will work in their favor.  They think that they, you know, there aren`t the number there aren`t the numbers there to actually impeach him.  And so they think it will work in their favor politically, you know, in 2020 in -- for House Democrats, you know, for House Republicans.

So, I think politically they think it`s good for them.

You know, there`s no reason to believe from anything we`ve heard that the White House is going to be treating anything very differently here when the House investigations keep ongoing.  There`s no reason to believe they`re turning over documents or telling people that they should testify.  They`re not even really negotiating on some of these documents.

We`ve heard -- you know, we`ve seen them say that they are trying to do that on a few occasions but mostly they have been steadfast for the last few months and just not giving much of anything.

WILLIAMS:  Joyce to this "Washington Post" story tonight, a one time secret letter within the IRS leaked to "The Washington Post".  We all read "The Washington Post."  It says, "Really there`s nothing stopping the President`s tax returns from being put on a hand truck and driven across town to Congress unless and until he declares executive privilege."  Why doesn`t -- why wouldn`t he do that at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow morning?

VANCE:  You know, this is I think one of the most stunning and really surprising parts of this entire situation.  This is a statute that says that the IRS shall turn these items, these tax records over to the chairman of Ways and Means on a demand.  That is law that is very clear.  There is no path out of it.

There`s no type of executive privilege or immunity or other legal doctrine that can Trump this statute, if you`ll forgive the pun.  It simply says what it means and means what it says.

So the President could perhaps try to assert this but it would be unavailing.  And what I find to be so surprising here is we`ve all talked about it will be the end of the rule of law if the President disobeys an order from a court.  But here we have him clearly disobeying a law that couldn`t be any plainer on its face and not a single Republican has expressed outrage over this.  So, I don`t really care what he does in this regard.  Congress is entitled to those tax returns and should get them.

WILLIAMS:  And Anita, indeed, Joyce is right.  I know for a living you look for cracks in the red wall and really one House member from the State of Michigan subsequent attacks on him, including but not limited to a primary opponent.  The red wall holds as of tonight, does it not?

KUMAR:  I mean it really does.  You saw Senator Lindsey Graham, obviously, a friend and ally of the President, sort of making fun of that and saying we`re not going to see.  That`s not going to -- you know, we`re not going to see other people follow suit.

So, no, we haven`t really heard that much.  And we have no reason to believe that it`s going to go that way.  We are seeing, as you said, more and more Democrats get on board but they definitely need Republicans particularly if the Speaker holds true to what she is saying which she thinks there should be a bipartisan effort if they go towards impeachment.

WILLIAMS:  Peter Baker we got a member of the committee standing by and I`ll ask her these questions too.  But you know the argument on impeachment.  Rick Wilson was on this broadcast a while back.  Said if they impeach the President, it fails in the Senate.  Donald Trump raises $100 million off portraying himself as a victim of a coup and gets re-elected.

On the other hand, is the remedy for law breaking an election day?  And on the other hand have the public been invested enough in this story as written, as protected, as released to the public and as we`ve all kind of muddled through it what we know as the Mueller report?

BAKER:  Yes, no, that`s a great question.  And that`s what really gets to the heart of what impeachment is supposed to be about, right?  So the framers put it in the House of Representatives.  Not in the court, not in independent, you know, prosecutorial force but in the House of Representatives.  That does suggest that politics does play a part.

It`s not a judicial thing per se.  A President doesn`t have to break a specific law to be found guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors.  Clearly, politics was envisioned as part of this process.  So it`s not unreasonable perhaps for the House Democrats to say, "Well, let`s not go forward if we`re not able to actually sway, you know, a sizable number of the -- majority of the public and include people of the opposite party.

One thing we`ve learned from past impeachment is, unless it`s bipartisan, it doesn`t work.  And only 37 percent, I think, in one poll I saw of the American public supports the idea of impeachment at this point.

Having said that, there are consequences if they don`t go forward, right?  The consequences are, do we set a precedent in which we say all of things that President Trump has been accused of, if he in fact, were found to be guilty of them, do not constitute impeachable offenses because we didn`t impeach him in this case, we didn`t even try to, we didn`t even have that debate.  If we don`t have that debate, does that mean future presidents have greater latitude to do all kind of things that we used to think were not the kind of things a president should do?

So there are consequences either way.  In the short term political consequence and there`s the long term, you know, sort of like jurist prediction, you know, governance kind of consequence.  And I don`t know where that will fall, but that`s what`s going through the mind, I think, of a lot of people in Congress right now.

WILLIAMS:  Great thanks to our big three for starting us off on a Tuesday night.  To Peter Baker, Joyce Vance, Anita Kumar, we really appreciate it.

And coming up, a Democratic member, as we said, of the House Judiciary Committee is standing by to take our questions on this delicate balance between subpoenas and no shows and angry letters and actual articles of impeachment.

And later, the decorated architect of the raid to take out Osama bin Laden who took on President Trump.  That man will be with us live in our studio.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on this Tuesday evening.



NADLER:  Mr. McGahn did not appear today because the President prevented it.  Just as the President has said that he would, "fight all subpoenas," issued by Congress as part of his broader efforts to cover up his misconduct.


WILLIAMS:  House Judiciary Committee moving full speed ahead at their pace at least, as the White House tries to hamper the effort as we reported.  The committee has now subpoenaed two new witnesses in the Mueller report.  They are Hope Hicks and former White House Counsel Don McGahn`s Chief of Staff, Annie Donaldson.

Congresswoman Val Demings, Democrat of the State of Florida is a member of the House Judiciary Committee.  We welcome her back on this broadcast tonight.

And Congresswoman, do you see -- do you get the Pelosi argument that this should be, ideally, a ground swell, something bipartisan, the public should be on board?

REP. VAL DEMINGS, (D) FLORIDA JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Hi Brian.  First of all let me say it`s good to be back with you.

And let me just begin here, you know, I didn`t come to Congress to impeach the President.  I came to Congress to work on health care, on criminal justice reform, the reduction of gun violence, immigration, developing a comprehensive immigration reform package, but this is the hand that we`ve been dealt.

And if you read the Mueller report, there are clearly, at least, 10 incidents where the President either attempted to obstruct justice or obstructed justice.  Since the Mueller report has been released, the President has continued to obstruct justice by totally disregarding lawful subpoenas that have been issued to him or persons in his administration or persons who are no longer with the administration.

Clearly, I understand the speaker`s views on this.  I have the utmost respect for her.

But as a former law enforcement officer, when we see wrong doing, and clearly the President has been engaged in wrong doing in private and in public, we take action.  And I just believe that we`re at a point where we`ve run out of options and I think we should begin impeachment proceedings.

WILLIAMS:  So if a hearing is called, House Judiciary Committee or a hearing is called House Select Committee on impeachment, what guarantees better attendance rate by the Trump officials than we`ve been seeing thus far from the empty McGahn chair today?

DEMINGS:  Well, you know, and with Attorney General Barr not showing up a couple of weeks ago and now the former White House counsel not showing up, it`s very disappointing because I believe everybody on the Judiciary Committee both Republicans and Democrats should want the truth.  Should want the entire truth and should want to get to the bottom of exactly what happened.

But of course, as our chairman, Chairman Nadler, has indicated, we will utilize the judiciary.  I would certainly hope, I think we got a good indication within the last 24 hours whether the judiciary stands that Congress is entitled to documents and testimony.  I would hope the President would not then, he has a total disregards for an equal branch of government, the legislative branch.  I would hope we would not add the judiciary branch to that list.

WILLIAMS:  I was shocked earlier today to hear that you guys aren`t all getting along up there on the Hill.  I want to play what the ranking Republican on your committee said.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


REP. DOUG COLLINS, (R) GEORGIA:  Everything that we`re looking at today, even gaveling in today`s hearing without a witness is theatrical.  The cameras love spectacle.  And we have majority loves to chants to runt against the administration.  I just am glad to see we don`t have chicken on the dais.

The chairman orchestrated today`s confrontation when he could have avoided it because he`s more interested in a fight than fact finding.


WILLIAMS:  Leaving the chicken aside, which was a bad look during a period when the committee actually had something of a moral upper hand in the argument, it`s been well established.  What about his last charge there that the chairman is interested more in fighting than fact finding?

DEMINGS:  I totally disagree and I`m very disappointed in the ranking member who I do have a lot of respect for as a colleague.  But Chairman Nadler had been very strategic.  He`s been very careful.

WILLIAMS:  Sorry.  I heard the chairman too.


WILLIAMS:  He`s not with us.  I promise.  You can continue.

DEMINGS:  But he`s written multiple letters, made every opportunity to get cooperation from the Attorney General prior to his no show as well as Mr. McGahn.

And so for Ranking Member Collins to say that the chairman is more interested in theatrics, I know for a fact that is not true.  And I wish the ranking member and the members of the Judiciary would snap out of whatever state they`re in and rise to the occasion that we are currently facing in our nation.  Nobody up to and including the President is above the law.  And we`re going to do our job.

WILLIAMS:  Former big city police chief turned member of Congress, Congresswoman Val Demings, Democrat of the great State of Florida, thank you very much for coming on our broadcast again tonight, we appreciate it.

DEMINGS:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up, as the President continues to direct most of his outgoing fire at Joe Biden, the former vice president is holding his own in the polls.  But we know none of this is official until Steve Kornacki weighs in.  Thankfully, that man is here live in our studio and standing by.


WILLIAMS:  Eight months, eight months until the first primaries and caucuses.  Eight months, a year and a half until Election Day.  It`s fair to say the entry and performance of Joe Biden and the Democratic race remains a big story.

Back at the big board tonight, to make it official with the latest numbers, our National Political Correspondent, Steve Kornacki.

Steve, we can`t say eight months often enough.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATL. POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There is a lot of time to go in this -- it is early and yet, you know, we do, we`ve had a number of polls here coming out, showing there was a bigger bounce for Joe Biden than maybe some folks were expecting and so far at least early.

Perhaps a little bit more sustained than people were expecting.  Here is your latest piece of evidence on that front Quinnipiac National Poll today of Democratic race, you see Biden continuing to lead now almost 20 points over Bernie Sanders in this poll.  Today, Biden out in front nationally, 35%.

The other thing that I think might catch some people`s eyes though in this new poll today.  Look at this, Elizabeth Warren double digits, third place, close to Sanders.  Now we haven`t seen her doing quite this well in the other national polls we`ve seen.  Is this an outlier for Warren or is there really some traction that she might be starting to get.  So that could be something to watch going forward in the next round of polling.

Biden has established himself as the clear leader in this thing right now.  We`ll see if that lasts.  But also, is there going to be movement for second place here?  Is Warren going to start to move up?  So that`s one question to look I think going forward.

One of the reasons Warren might be moving up a bit in this poll, you can see it here.  Where is she drawing her strength?  It`s from this type of voter in particular.  Folks who call themselves very liberal.  There you go.  Warren is actually running in first place there.  Biden actually back in third place among self-described very liberal voters in this primary.  Somewhat liberal, Biden starts to get into the lead you see only by four points but why is Biden so far out in front, it`s because this group of voters.  This is a big group of voters actually.

Folks who call themselves moderate.  Who call themselves conservative.  Who call themselves somewhat liberal -- I should say liberal in the Democratic Party.  This is a big group and Biden you can see here leading by almost 40 points.  So that`s really the source of his strength there.  One other interesting thing to look at here they polled Democrats, Republicans, Independents nationally to give a sense here these Democratic candidates with all voters, potential voters in the general election.  How do they stand right now?  Favorable, unfavorable.

What`s interesting here is again, you see Biden with that 10 point spread, 10 point favorable, 49 favorable, 39 unfavorable.  You see Sanders falling under water in this poll, 41, 48.  Warren is under water.  Harris is under water.  Booker is under water.  You`re getting down to the lesser known candidates.  The key number I think to keep in mind here is this, on election day, in 2016 when she narrowly lost to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton`s number was 43-55.  43, favorable, 55, unfavorable.  When you look at Donald Trump`s approval rating, you look at his struggles politically, one of the right ingredients he needs in any winning recipe in 2020 is to get the Democratic nominee down into that territory.

So that`s a number to keep in mind when ever you see the Democratic field measured favorable or unfavorable.  And I think when Biden and his campaign play up that idea of electability, if, if, if this number can sustain itself, that`s what they`re going to point to him and say that`s why he`s electable.  That`s the number, that unfavorable number that Trump and Republicans have to drive up there for him.

WILLIAMS:  So interesting, really good stuff tonight.  And I want to ask you about New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio who in my adult life is probably the one candidate who the most people have said please don`t run.  He`s in the race anyway, woke up today, learn he is polling at 45, but it`s not a good kind of 45.

KORNACKI:  45 is the number for Bill de Blasio as in unfavorable.  This is -- we just showed with all voters nationally, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, he has an 8 percent favorable score and a 45 percent unfavorable score needless to say that`s off the charts bad.  That`s the worst we see of any candidate in this race.  I will tell you this though, I said this -- is this the worst I`ve ever seen?  Is this the worst we`ve ever found in a poll?  I went back and I looked, I think it`s probably the worst in terms of the ratio but I found one that might actually give it a run for its money.  It`s from a couple years ago in the same poll at the same time.

WILLIAMS:  I had an idea.

KORNACKI:  It was Donald Trump.  Look at that, 20% favorable, 69 unfavorable.  Again that`s May of 2015.

WILLIAMS:  Wow, unbelievable.  The numbers again where they are snapshot, eight months till the first primary.  Year and a half to we`re actually in this room at this for keeps.  Steve Kornacki, always such a pleasure having you on, thank you very much --

KORNACKI:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  -- for working late with us.

Coming up here, the man who ran the mission that took down Osama bin Laden.  Live with us here in the studio on what he sees going on right now.



PATRICK SHANAHAN, ACTING DEFENSE SECRETARY:  Our biggest focus at this point is to prevent Iranian miscalculation.  We do not want the situation to escalate.  This is about deterrence, not about war.  We`re not about going to war.


WILLIAMS:  So that right there is your acting defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and the current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on the Hill to brief the House and Senate on escalating tension in Iran.  To be honest, members of both parties been concerned that forces around this President were somehow pushing us, sliding us into some sort of conflict with Iran.  Democrats went as far as to hold their own briefing today inviting members of the Obama administration who negotiated the original Iran deal to talk to them on the Hill.

And so it is a good night to have our next guest here with us, but first some background.  As a young man he had a chance to really excel but he turned it down.  You see, he graduated from UT Austin, Hook `Em Horns with a degree in journalism.  But then for reasons all his own, decided to volunteer for Navy seal training.  We don`t know how Bill McRaven would have improved journalism but a grateful nation can thank him for 37 years of service that included jumping out of a lot of perfectly good airplanes and being involved in the capture of in no particular order Saddam Hussein, the rescue of Captain Phillips and the biggest mission he run, the biggest of our time the one behind that picture, the raid to get Osama bin Laden.

Admiral William McRaven retired with four stars.  Military acronym fans, please note he ran JSOC as part of SOCOM in plain English, all that means the secret and spooky stuff that we civilians aren`t supposed know about.  He commanded all U.S. Special Forces.  He`s here tonight as the author of "Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations" which went on sale just today.  We`re awfully happy to have you here in our studios.

ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN, U.S. NAVY (RET.):  Thank you very much.  Good to be here.

WILLIAMS:  As a man with your experience, when you hear people right now talking almost cavalierly about stand by plans for up to -- but perhaps more than 120,000 of our very best in a fight with Iran, how do you react to that?

MCRAVEN:  Yes, I`m actually not overly concerned.  And the reason I`m not is because we`ve been dealing with the Iranians for decades.  And the fact matter is if there`s a threat out there, and I think that obviously the Department of Defense has got some sort of specific intelligence that concerns them, we know how to deal with those threats.  So I mean the military will heighten their forced posture, the fleet will pay attention to what`s going on in the Persian Gulf.  I think Secretary Shanahan had it right.  The only thing we have to worry about are miscalculations, miscalculations on their part or miscalculation on our part.

The fact of the matter is the President doesn`t want to go to war in Iran and the Iranians certainly don`t want to go to war with us.  So I`m hoping that when all the rhetoric begins to die down, this will get back to a kind of a normal equilibrium.

WILLIAMS:  Talk to an audience made up mostly of civilians about chain of command and why we hear civilians so frustrated wondering who is the first big name military person is going to push back on this President.  And really push back and let him have it.  And why in your view, we`ll live a long life without ever seeing that happen?

MCRAVEN:  Yes, I don`t know that you`re not seeing it happen.  I mean -- I mean they`re great --

WILLIAMS:  In their own way.

MCRAVEN:  In their own way, that`s right.  I mean the face to matter is the military will follow the commander in chief`s orders unless they are unlawful order.  And you have some magnificent military leaders out there.  I mean the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Joseph Dunford, one of the finest officers I`ve ever worked with.  You`ve got Frank McKenzie down running U.S. central command.  These are -- these are terrific officers.  They will provide the President the best advice and counsel they can.

Now again, they are going to follow the President`s orders unless they deem it to be an unlawful in that point in time they always have the option to resign.  But I think the President will listen to his military advisers and I know that this doesn`t seem like it would be a normal occurrence for the President.  But the fact matter is, he will listen to Pat Shanahan.  I think he will listen to Mike Pompeo and he will certainly listen to uniformed officers.  I am concerned that the rhetoric has gotten a little too heated and hopefully we can bring that temperature down a little bit.

WILLIAMS:  Has there ever been a time in your view of U.S. history when we have had this number of really experienced warriors, especially given the kind of combat they have been fighting, the battle tempo they have been fighting on and off for 18 years?

MCRAVEN:  Yes, I think if you look throughout history, I`m not sure any force throughout the history of mankind has fought for this long.  This long of a sustained fight.  When you can go back to the roman legions and find, you know, battles that go on for a hundred years, but not everybody was fighting in that fight.  I mean we have special operation warriors that have been fighting since 9/11 and before continuously.

But I would tell you that I believe that this is the finest military in the history of the world.  Because one unfortunately, because of the tragic events 9/11, we have been at war for 18 years and we`ve gotten very, very good at fighting.  And the heroism and the sacrifice of (INAUDIBLE) men and women is absolutely incredible.

WILLIAMS:  37 year career, how many times did you move your family?

MCRAVEN:  18 times.

WILLIAMS:  18 times.  Is that about average for a Naval officer?

MCRAVEN:  You know, that`s -- that is about average.  I mean that`s -- that`s not beyond the parallel (ph).  I know some Army officers and Air Force officers and Marine officers as well as us Naval officers, that have moved a lot more than that.  So we were fortunate we only to move 18 times.

WILLIAMS:  Do you bemoan what has happened since World War II?  We had such high percentage involvement in that conflict.

MCRAVEN:  Right.

WILLIAMS:  Of course we had a draft, but these days what you just said about moving your family 18 times will come as such a shock to so many civilians who luckily have been able to avoid 18 years of fall on --

MCRAVEN:  Yes, but I will tell you, it`s an all volunteer force.


MCRAVEN:  The men and women that volunteer do so out of a sense of service and sacrifice to the country.  They are honored to do it.  They are happy to do it.  The moves come as part of the job and they understand that going in.  And I don`t think they would trade it for anything.

WILLIAMS:  You don`t worry that we`re becoming military families and civilian families?

MCRAVEN:  Well I do worry that there is becoming a warrior class, if you will.


MCRAVEN:  Because to your point, a very small percent anlage of those within United States really move into military service.  And certainly the good trend is you begin to see a lot of those veterans moving into Congress.  And I think that`s good for the nation.

WILLIAMS:  The most harrowing account of the death of bin Laden I have read anywhere is in this book.  I`ll show you the picture again from the situation room.  The President ended up in a small folding chair in the corner of the room.  You were a little busy when this still photo was taken.  What feelings does this conjure just seeing what the end looked like?

MCRAVEN:  Yes, well this is great iconic photo.  I think it was taken by the Peter Souza, the president`s photographer.  And this is interestingly not enough not the situation room.

WILLIAMS:  It`s a little side room.

MCRAVEN:  It is a side room.


MCRAVEN:  The gentleman there in the middle is General Brad Webb.  He was my deputy that I have sent to the White House to be my liaison.  And right about this moment, of course, I believe when the helicopter came into the compound and had a hard landing, and obviously, there`s a little bit of concern on the faces of most of the people sitting around the table there.  But frankly, we had plan B and plan C and plan D.  So I wasn`t particularly worried as long as I knew the guys were safe and I could tell from the radio calls that while the helicopter landed hard, the boys were safe and we were moving on to plan B.

WILLIAMS:  And indeed they all got out of there.  The Admiral has agreed to stay with us over a break.  When we come back, we`ll talk a bit more about the current commander in chief when we continue.



MCRAVEN:  Start each day with a task completed.  Find someone to help you through life.  Respect every one.  Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often.  But if you take some risks, step up when the times are the toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden, and never, ever give up.  If you do these things, the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.  And what started here will indeed have changed the world for the better.


WILLIAMS:  Retired Navy Admiral William McRaven remains with us.  His new book is "Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations."  To find that much scrambled eggs you`d have to go to a waffle house.  Do you -- when you see yourself in your dressed whites, what -- now that you`ve enjoyed civilian life for years, what happens?

MCRAVEN:  You know, it`s great how many uniform because you knew what you`re going to put on every morning.  Now the dress whites was a little different but now, I have to worry about what color of time I`m going to grab.  I decided that blue is going to be my color.  I`m going to wear it every morning.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, it works for most of us and some derivation of it.  I also want to read people -- Admiral McRaven`s most quoted speech which became a book was about the simple life lesson of making your bed.  He goes on further in the area of thought and philosophy in this book.  If I may quote, "If a nation is to survive and thrive, it must pass on the ideals that made it great and imbue in its citizens an indomitable spirit, a will to continue on regardless of how difficult the path, how long the journey or how uncertain the outcome.  People must have a true belief that tomorrow will be a better day, if only they fight for it and never give up."

Further, "Most of all, I learned that for all his faults, man is worthy of this world.  For every reckless belligerent who seeks war, there are thoughtful wise men and women who strive for peace.  For all the unbridled hatred that abounds, there is an even greater amount of unconditional love."

I don`t think in our society we are used to our warriors being thinkers and academicians.  Our viewers may not know you were chancellor of the University of Texas System.  In all those helicopter rides, I guess you had a long time to think about and write about the human condition.

MCRAVEN:  Well, you know, you see the human condition every day.


MCRAVEN:  And dealing with young men and women that are serving with you.  And the first quote you put up there was in a chapter where I talk about three, you know, remarkable -- two soldiers and a sailor that I spent time with.  And they were part of this kind of millennial generation.  I say the oft-maligned millennial generation.  And I think people would be surprised to find that I`m one of the biggest fans of the millennials you`ll ever meet. 

WILLIAMS:  You are.

MCRAVEN:  I am because the fact of the matter is, you know, these are the young men and women that stepped up after 9/11, that served as our first responders, that are teaching in our inner city schools, and that obviously are soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines.

And if you think they`re entitled and soft you`ve never seen them in a firefight in Afghanistan or trying to make a better life for themselves going to school in Texas.  This is a remarkable generation, and frankly it gives me a lot of hope in the midst of these kind of troubling times.

WILLIAMS:  What can we learn from a guy who over the course of his career operating under the flag of the United States has taken a lot of lives and broken a lot of things about people who need hope right now, about the survival of their beloved democracy?  What have you got?

MCRAVEN:  Yes.  I`m not worried.  I am hopeful because I have spent time with the young men and women.  And the young men and women of this generation -- and they will be I think the 21st century`s greatest generation.  We talk about the greatest generation of World War II.  I was raised with my parents were part of the greatest generation.

WILLIAMS:  Your dad was a spitfire.

MCRAVEN:  My dad was a spitfire pilot in World War II and my mother was a teacher from East Texas.  They grew up as, you know, children of the depression and all the men went off to World War II.  This generation today will take us through these troubling times.  These millennials will find a way to preserve the democracy and I think will pave the road for a bright future. 

WILLIAMS:  Here is the book.  Everyone at home.  Admiral William McRaven.  Thank you again.  It is called "Sea Stories: My Life in Special Operations."  Great pleasure.

MCRAVEN:  Thanks very much, Brian.  Pleasure to be here.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you very much.

Coming up, the major figure who years ago predicted that we Americans would indeed be witnessing a president under investigation as we indeed are right now.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go on a Tuesday night.  In light of the President`s complaint tonight that the Democrats are on a fishing expedition, as he called it, looking for a do-over, as he continues to call it, we offer this reminder tonight that Donald Trump warned of an instant and ongoing investigation just as soon as this presidential term started.  Problem here is a minor distinction.  He was talking about the presidency of Hillary Clinton.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Real change also means restoring honesty to government.  First thing you should do is get rid of Clinton.

Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to seek the office of the presidency of the United States.

Hillary Clinton will be under investigation for a long, long time.


If she were to win, it would create an unprecedented constitutional crisis.

Hillary Clinton will be under investigation for a long, long time, for her many crimes against our nation, our people, our democracy.

Probably concluding in a criminal trial.

Likely concluding in a criminal trial.

And ultimately a criminal trial.

The investigations into her crimes will go on for a long, long time. 

We could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment. 

Hillary is likely to be under investigation for many years, probably concluding in criminal trials.

Her current scandals and controversies will continue throughout her presidency and will make it virtually impossible for her to govern or lead our country.

I am the law and order candidate.

I am the law and order candidate.

In this race for the White House, I am the law and order candidate.


WILLIAMS:  Well, not everything he talked about there came true.  But an estimated 29 different investigations did sprout up.  Many are under way.  And that is the world we find ourselves living in as we enter the summer of 2019.

That is also our broadcast for this Tuesday evening.  We thank you so 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