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

Debate over impeachment heats up. TRANSCRIPT: 5/31/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Susan Page, Elliot Williams, Eric Tucker, Stanley Brand, JonMeacham

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Jeffrey Rosen, it is my pleasure to see you tonight.  Thank you for joining us.  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams" begins right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, Donald Trump on the defensive getting still more cover from his attorney general as his Justice Department defies a court order concerning contact with the Russians.

Plus, as Democrats debate their next move, a look at the ways Congress could move forward in building their case.

Ahead for us tonight, some perspective on an eventful week that saw Robert Mueller break his silence with decidedly mixed results and saw the President attack a modern day American war hero.

Also an update tonight on the latest mass shooting in America.  The staggering death toll this evening in Virginia Beach, all of it as "The 11th Hour" gets under way on this Friday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 862 of the Trump administration.  And just quickly here, we`ll update this at the bottom of the hour, we have 12 dead now in Virginia Beach after a mass shooting by a longtime co-worker.  Four people hospitalized including a police officer.  The gunman is also dead.

First off, let`s begin our broadcast here tonight with those new developments that are still on this Friday evening emerging from the Mueller investigation.  This week, we heard Robert Mueller say he closed down his office but his investigation launched several others which are still ongoing including the one involving Mike Flynn who was briefly Trump`s first national security adviser.

You`ll recall he took a plea and copped to lying to investigators about his conversations with a former Russian ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak.  Those conversations took place December 2016 during the transition.  Earlier this month, a federal judge ordered the Justice Department to make public various materials related to that case.  That included transcripts of any audio recordings of Flynn including his conversations with Kislyak

Today, the Justice Department defied part of that order and refused to hand over Flynn`s discussion with Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.  Prosecutors also failed to release a redacted version of sections of the Mueller report related to Flynn that the same judge had ordered be made public.

Justice Department did provide one item the judge requested.  A transcript of a voicemail left by Trump`s former attorney for Michael Flynn`s lawyer.  Much of that information was already revealed in Mueller`s report, but there`s some new material and some context in this new transcript. We will read it out for you in just a moment.

Also, today, we heard more from Attorney General Bill Barr and his critiques of the special counsel`s work.  His friend of several decades.

In his CBS News interview this week on a trip to Alaska, Barr, again, made it clear that he`s standing by this President who appointed him.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  One of the ironies today is that people are saying that it`s President Trump that`s shredding our institutions.  I really see no evidence of that.  From my perspective, the idea of resisting a democratically elected president and basically throwing everything at him and, you know, really changing the norms on the grounds that we have to stop this president, that`s where the shredding of our norms and our institutions is occurring.

My experience with the President is we have a good professional working relationship.  I don`t think to tweets for -- I don`t look at them as directives or as official communications with the department.


WILLIAMS:  It was just days ago when Mueller broke his silence.  Barr was asked about the outgoing special counsel`s comments about not being able to clear the President.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  He said that he couldn`t exonerate the President. You looked at that evidence and you did.  I mean, what`s the fundamental difference between your view and his?

BARR:  We analyze the law and the facts and a group of us spent a lot of time doing that.  And determined that both as a matter of law, many of the instances would not amount to obstruction.  We didn`t agree with the legal analysis.  A lot of the legal analysis in the report, it did not reflect the views of the department.  It was the views of a particular lawyer or lawyers.  And so we applied what we thought was the right law.


WILLIAMS:  The attorney general`s now conducting what he describes as a review of the origins of the Russia investigation and Trump has granted his request for wide authority to declassify information.

Barr has testified he believes the Trump campaign was spied upon.  Something most legal professionals know, instead, as federal court-ordered surveillance.  Today he was asked about that new investigation.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  What have you seen?  What evidence?  What makes you think I need to take a look at this is?

BARR:  I had a lot of questions about what was going on.  I assumed I`d get answers when I went in.  And I have not gotten answers that are well (ph) satisfactory and, in fact, have probably more questions and that`s some of the facts that I`ve learned don`t hang together, things are just not jiving.


WILLIAMS:  In the meantime, in the days since, Mueller`s handling of the Russia investigation has become even more politicized now that it`s over.

A "New York Times" analysis entitled "Mueller Played by the Rules.  Trump Made New Ones," describes the special counsel`s dilemma.  "Mueller`s refusal to pass judgment on whether the President broke the law is one example of how the special counsel operated by rules ill fitted for the Trump era.  He said nothing and the President said everything."

Mueller handled the part of his investigation involving the President`s conduct in office with extreme care.  Yet, Mr. Trump portrayed the Mueller investigation as out of control.

At that point, let`s bring in our leadoff discussion group for a Friday night.  Susan page, Washington Bureau Chief for "USA Today" and author of the best selling new book the Barbara Bush biography called "The Matriarch."  Elliot Williams, former federal prosecutor who was also a deputy assistant attorney general and counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.  And Eric Tucker back with us as well, Justice Department Reporter for the Associated Press who notably has covered the Mueller investigation from the start.  Good evening, and welcome to you all.

Susan, what do you make of William Barr, his words, his behavior, his loyalty to this man who has just appointed him?

SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  Well, this is the attorney general that President Trump wanted from the start and didn`t have.  And he has now.  An attorney general who`s willing to make his case.  And you know, if we thought the Mueller investigation was over with Robert Mueller`s announcement that he was stepping down and closing up shop, that is not the case.

The Mueller investigation is going to be open for some time.  both like Democrats who want to explore more thoroughly what they found.  And also, apparently, by the attorney general who`s going to look back at the origins of that investigation.  This story is not nearly over yet.

WILLIAMS:  Elliot, when Barr says Mueller could have reached a decision on wrongdoing, that in looking at the same case, he could not help viewers through this.  How are people to understand the disagreement between these two equally titanic figures in the current law?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  And it`s clearly a disagreement, and it`s a profound one.  Here`s the thing, well, there`s a few problems going on here.  Number one, Barr never had to make a conclusion as to obstruction of justice.  Now, Mueller clearly made the decision not to go there, but Barr could have left the findings in the report as they were and passed it on to Congress.

I think a problem, though, exists in the fact that Barr for three decades has sort of -- has written and spoken about the primacy of the executive branch and not wanting to defer to Congress as a branch of government, even when it comes to adjudicating the President`s conduct.  So I don`t think he wanted to send it to Congress.

You know, so this is almost par Barr for the course, for lack of a better way to put it.  No, and I think that`s really it.  It`s -- you know, we`ve accepted as a matter of fact that because of the fact that Mueller did not make a determination then Barr ought to have, right?

But I also think playing into this is the role of the Justice Department guidance.  And, you know, Barr accepts at the Justice Department -- to be clear for your viewers, there is guidance that says that a sitting president can`t be indicted, right?

So, if a sitting president couldn`t be indicted and Mueller didn`t make a finding as to, you know, the President`s criminality, necessarily, the body that would have to adjudicate that would be Congress, right?  So if -- because assuming that Barr accepts the validity of the guidance that his own department put out.  So he, you know, it`s confusing but he`s created a bit of a muddle here and he should have just sent it to Congress.  That is the body that can adjudicate whether a president has engaged in wrongdoing.

And I think he probably, you know, in the -- in his desire to have the buck stop with him, as Mueller`s boss and as head of the Justice Department made that determination and I just don`t think he had to go there.

WILLIAMS:  Eric Tucker, take us over to the Flynn case.  When was the last time as someone who covers this line of work?  You remember the Fed saying straight-up no to a federal judge`s make-public order?

ERIC TUCKER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS JUSTICE DEPT. REPORTER:  It was a fascinating court filing because there wasn`t actually that much of a reason that was given for why the Justice Department was not going to comply with that order.

So it was striking and, of course, this is a judge who has made clear that he expects the parties who were before him to listen to him and abide by his orders.  But by the flip side, it`s actually not that surprising that the Justice Department took this position because they have never even confirm the existence of the Flynn wiretap to begin with, so the idea they would put onto the public docket a full transcript of this wiretap seemed unusual.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Elliot, there was a song in the time of our parents and grandparents called "Is That All There Is?" for people on the left side of the docket who are looking at the Mueller effort in the rearview mirror, wondering is that all there is.

Remind us as a percentage of what is known, as a percentage of this case, of the outgrowth cases, the spin-offs, that are still out there, what do you reckon percentage we don`t know yet?

E. WILLIAMS:  Well, then I`ll quote someone on the right side of the ledger, Donald Rumsfeld, which is that there are probably a number of known unknowns.  We know that there were several cases that were spun up, some of which were sealed and so on.

And look, as we`ve learned today, there`s information that`s alluded to or written about in the report that we just haven`t seen yet.  Now, this particular -- the voicemail that came up today between John Dowd, the President`s attorney and one of the attorneys for Flynn, you know, it`s alluded to and quoted in the report, but the extent of it and the full language we haven`t seen yet.  And I`m sure there`s plenty of that that is going to trickle out.

None of this, I think, is good for the President.  I think -- some of it`s not criminally chargeable, much of it is -- may not be criminally chargeable, but it is at best embarrassing information for the president of the United States and speaks to a pattern of wrongdoing.  Even the information today, you know, so getting back to this John Dowd voicemail --

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  Can I interrupt you with a dramatic reading especially for those who grew up in the New York area listening to Gambino recordings --


WILLIAMS:  -- in the Ravenite Social Club, The Bergin Hunt and Fish Club, people perhaps should listen to this, this way.  This is a voicemail left by John Dowd and you`ll forgive me because there`s stuttering written in as part of this.  "Hey, Rob, this is John again, maybe I`m sympathetic, I understand your situation but let me see if I can`t state it in starker term.  If you have -- and it wouldn`t surprise me if you`ve gone on to make a deal with -- and work with the government.  Uh, I understand that you can`t join the Joint Defense."  So that`s one thing.

"If on the other hand we have -- there`s information that implicates the President, then we`ve got a national security issue or maybe a national security issue.  I don`t know.  Some issue.  We`ve got to -- we got to deal with not only for the President, but for the country.  So, uh, you know, then, then, you know, we need some kind of heads up.  Just for the sake of protecting all our interests if we can without you having to give up any confidential information.  So, um, if it`s the former, then, you know, remember what we`ve always said about the President and his feelings toward Flynn and that still remains, but, well, in any event, um, let me know, and I appreciate you listening and taking the time.  Thanks, pal."

Elliot, what did we just hear?  What does all that mean?

E. WILLIAMS:  Oh, my goodness, that was a beautiful reading, by the way, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Thank you very much.  I worked on it most of the day.

E. WILLIAMS:  You do Mafioso very well.

WILLIAMS:  Thanks.

E. WILLIAMS:  So I think there`s a couple of things going on.  It`s number one, share with me the secrets of your client -- you know, national security, they`re hiding behind national security.  When in reality, what they were trying to do was just get their story straight.  And this is something we`ve seen from the administration more than -- look, we saw it this week with tariffs and immigration.  We`re using these natural -- pardon me, national security matters as an explanation for just trying to get information out there, right?  Number one.

Number two.  So I took a look at the Mueller report again today.  This an example of conduct that they thought was ultimately obstructive but they couldn`t find or trace the President`s intent to it partly because many of the communications between the President and Dowd that could have established the President`s intent that he intended to commit a crime were attorney/client privileged conversations, right?

So -- or they just couldn`t -- Neal said they couldn`t prove intent.  The fact that you couldn`t -- the fact that you couldn`t prove that he intended to obstruct justice doesn`t mean it`s not an obstructive act.  And that`s one of the things that Mueller made a note of in the report, you know, when citing to this particular thing.

And then also, finally, the last point, I know I`m rambling a little bit, they dangle a pardon and, again, the President`s pardon power is pretty absolute, but I don`t think the framers when granting the President clemency power intended for a president of the United States to be pardoning, floating pardons to people merely to sort of assure their silence or assure their testimony.  So there`s just a lot going on and it just speaks to poor judgment at a minimum, and at a maximum, criminal conduct by the president of the United States.

WILLIAMS:  Susan Page, I got one for you.  This is former Democratic congresswoman from Maryland Donna Edwards in the "Washington Post" today about how Democrats need to repackage Mueller report for T.V.  "It`s time for the Democratic leaders to repackage Mueller`s findings in a form that will be more readily digested by the American people.  The current approach of investigations is no fewer than six committees, multiple subpoenas, innumerable court proceedings and White House delay tactics, just creates more confusion.  It`s no surprise that few Americans are talking about the report over the water cooler.  The only voice that breaks through with a consistent, if mostly untrue message, is President Trump`s."

Susan, do you agree with that holding and do you think any Democrats will act on that?

PAGE:  Well, you know, Democrats -- some Democrats hope that by having Robert Mueller testify before their committees, that he would be the voice that would prove to be very compelling for Americans, who maybe didn`t tune in on all the details of the report didn`t bother to read the report.  That he would tell the story in a way that would engage more Americans in his findings.

But it`s clear that Robert Mueller does not intend to be that voice.  He thinks that he`s done the job that he was assigned to do and has announced to the -- for the world to hear that he has nothing else to say and if you call him up there, he`s just going to repeat what is written in the report.

So Democrats have this debate going on now, you know, there`s no question there`s going to be investigations that will continue into President Trump and the question is, will that include an impeachment inquiry that may pull them all together as former Congresswoman Edwards suggested -- suggests.  That is a -- that is a decision I think that is not yet made.  It`s one that`s going to be in the end up to Speaker Nancy Pelosi and she is clearly not there yet.

She clearly sees the risks to Democrats of impeachment and the risk to the country as greater than -- is -- ought to convey, ought to be the determinative thing.  She is not yet ready to move toward impeachment, although an increasing number of her members are.

WILLIAMS:  Absolutely.  Hey, Eric, among the list of known unknowns, we have the Gates sentencing hanging out there, we`ve got the Stone trial but also at the same time, by the way, the attorney general is investigating portions of the Justice Department, what can morale be like inside that institution you cover every day?

TUCKER:  Well, it`s a big institution, and so there are a lot of people who work there who actually are not affected by the day-to-day drama and turmoil caused by the Russia investigation and the leadership changes.  I think there`s uncertainty especially within the FBI as to what exactly is inspiring or instigating this Justice Department-led initiative of the origins of the Russia investigation because the Attorney General has not been especially clear as to what he`s troubled by and so people are sort of left to surmise what it is that happened that he thinks is so problematic.

And so for people who worked on that investigation, people who care about counterintelligence, I think people are trying to really ascertain what it is that that investigation is meant to accomplish and meant to do.  Obviously, there`s a parallel inspector general investigation, so there is confusion within -- certainly within the FBI as to why this is necessary.

We had an op-ed a couple days ago from Director Comey where he has repeatedly said I don`t understand what the Attorney General`s talking about when he says there might have been spying but I don`t mean it in a pejorative way.  And so I think there`s a lot to be sort of settled out and sorted out that does affect morale for sure.

WILLIAMS:  A holiday-shortened week that just feels longer than any other week.  Big thanks to our big three on a Friday night.  Susan Page, Elliot Williams, Eric Tucker, really appreciate the three of you starting us off this evening.

And still to come for us, still more Democrats call on Speaker Pelosi to begin those impeachment proceedings.  We`ll ask a former general counsel to the House of Representatives how that might work.

And later, a presidential threat of tariffs on Mexico, it sparks a sell-off on Wall Street and reports of division in the West Wing.  "The 11th Hour" is just getting started on this Friday night.


WILLIAMS:  So here`s where we are.  As of tonight, 53 House members support opening an impeachment inquiry.  There they all are.  They include one lone Republican, Justin Amash of Michigan.  House Democratic leadership still resisting this slide toward impeachment saying there would need to be a groundswell of bipartisan American support.

Earlier today, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler spoke about impeachment during a local New York public radio interview.


REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK, CHMN. HOUSE JUDICIARY CMTE.:  Again, you can`t impeach the President until the people support it.  And you -- also, it`s a political act.  You also don`t want to divide the country, so that half the country is bitter for the next 30 years saying we won the election, you stole it.  You have to develop if it isn`t there, if there is justification, which I think there certainly is, you then have to develop the awareness in the country and the -- and the agreement basically before you can take the real step of an impeachment.


WILLIAMS:  Here`s Politico`s take.  11 of the 24 Democrats on Nadler`s Judiciary Committee which has jurisdiction over impeachment have already demanded Democrats begin proceedings to remove the President and that number has risen sharply in recent weeks.  Nadler said he intends to confer with them and other Democrats next week to determine whether an impeachment inquiry would be an appropriate step."

For more, we welcome to this broadcast Stan Brand, a veteran attorney who was chief counsel to the United States House of Representatives under then- speaker of the Democrat, Tip O`Neill of the great city of Boston mass.

Counselor, great to see you.  It`s been a long time.  Thank you very much for coming on.  If you were invited by the speaker of the House to come speak to the caucus, what would your warning to the Democrats be?

STANLEY BRAND, FMR. GENERAL COUNSEL TO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:  Well, my warning would be that the bar for impeachment is obviously high.  The framers made it high for a reason, because while they certainly were concerned about checking abuse of power by the President, they placed a bunch of obstacles in the way.

In fact, that the constitutional convention when Governor Morris heard the term maladministration as being the basis for impeachment, he offered an amendment to substitute treason, bribery, and high crimes and misdemeanors because he thought that bar was too low.

So it`s a quasi-judicial process that occurs in a political branch, but it is a long involved one that requires a lot of hard work and a lot of preparation.

WILLIAMS:  You`ve worked with both Mueller and Barr over the course of your career.  Barr was certainly a member of the firmament of the GOP Washington legal establishment.  How surprised have you been at his behavior thus far?

BRAND:  Somewhat surprised on certain grounds.  Not on others.  I think in some ways he`s hued to institutional positions that the Department of Justice has taken over time.  In others, he seems to have broken new ground and been, perhaps, more active and more defensive than I would have expected.  Although, remember, and this goes not just for him, but for every attorney general, they`re appointed by the President and they`re subject to, you know, serve at the pleasure of the President.

So he`s not the first attorney general to march in step with the President.

WILLIAMS:  Do you concur with this argument just in the last couple of days that Mr. Mueller is, perhaps, a man out of time and adheres to a set of rules not recognized by the President and had Mueller spoken first, how would the world have changed?

BRAND:  I don`t know that it would have changed.  You know, to me, Bob Mueller represents the best of the tradition of the rule of law.  Someone who understands that the prosecutor speaks only through public indictments and charges.  In this case because of the special circumstances of a regulation that nominated him special counsel which required him to make a report, he made such a report.  But I think he harkens back to, you know, the old school which says that prosecutors don`t talk about their cases except through their indictments or through their court proceedings.

WILLIAMS:  And here we are living, of course, in a different age starting with the President on down.  And about the Attorney General, I guess most of the guests who come on this broadcast have complained that he`s acting like a man with one client when he is -- by the end of his job is supposed to be representing us all.  Do you concur?

BRAND:  Well, he has -- he has in a sense dual loyalties.  I mean, that`s - - that`s the way the constitution sets it up.  As I say for him or any other attorney general.  Article 2 permits the president to appoint Cabinet members.  He`s appointed by the Cabinet, by the President.  He serves at the pleasure of the President.

He`s certainly bound and controlled to a large extent by the statutes that Congress has drafted and by the precedents within the Department of Justice that control his activity.  So he is -- he is as all attorneys general are, walking a fine line.

WILLIAMS:  Stanley Brand, former counsel to the House of Representatives.  Thank you very much for being on tonight.

Coming up for us, the one thing that can create havoc on Wall Street and in the west wing at the same time, on the same day.  That would be the threat of tariffs against Mexico delivered via Twitter.  More on that story when we come right back.


WILLIAMS:  For any of you kids watching, if when you grow up you want to rattle the financial markets, threaten tariffs against Mexico and sure enough, the Dow closed down over 350 points after Donald Trump threatened a five percent tariff on all Mexican goods on June 10, unless Mexico slows the growth, the flow of migrants crossing our southern border.  President said, the tariffs would rise monthly to as high as 25 percent until the problem is solved.

NBC news reporting today the Trump`s tariff threat was opposed by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer.  For more, our go-to guy on economics, Ali Velshi, co-host of "Velshi & Ruhle" at 1 p.m. eastern weekdays.  He`s also a host of "MSNBC Live" at 3 p.m. eastern.  For good measure, he anchored the hour before this one.  We heard a rumor he was trying to get home, we wouldn`t allow that.

Jonathan Allen, the veteran political journalist who happens to be NBC News National Political Reporter is also joining our conversation tonight.

Gentlemen, before we begin, here is the President`s Trade Adviser Peter Navarro on CNBC on this topic.


SARA EISEN, CNBC ANCHOR:  Why raise American consumers` prices on all that stuff coming from Mexico?

PETER NAVARRO, PRESIDENT`S TRADE ADVISOR:  So this is one of the most misunderstood aspects of the Trump tariffs.  China, for example, bears a burden of the tariffs in the form of lower exports, lower prices for their products, lower profits for their companies.  The government of the China has going to the burden of those tariffs in the form of lower tax revenues and lower rate of growth.

EISEN:  But so is the American consumer.

NAVARRO:  Mexico -- But no --

EISEN:  Importers pay for it.

NAVARRO:  No.  The governments of China and Mexico will pay for it and the producers in Mexico and China pay for this.


WILLIAMS:  Ali Velshi, just once and for all, who pays for tariffs?

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC CO-HOST, "VELSHI & RUHLE":  Buyers of products.


VELSHI:  End of story.  The buyer of the product, the producer, the importer of a product from Mexico or China pays for it, whether it`s an air conditioner or bicycle, or fruit, or vegetables.  They -- unless they feel very charitable they ha a very rich year, they`re passing it on to you, the buyer.

So, if we get tariffs on, Mexico has them, and China has them, every body consumer pays for them.  The government doesn`t pay for them.  Buyers of products might pay for them.

WILLIAMS:  Why wouldn`t a nice man like that speaking with the in for matter of the White House on the North Lawn, tell the truth about some like that (ph).

VELSHI:  Well, because this is what the White House is using to sell this idea.  There are really valid reasons to have tariffs.  Some of them are that you make the price of goods more expensive, goods that are made in other countries forcing people to buy goods that are made in their own country.  That might be a goal but the idea is the price goes up and that`s what changes consumer behavior.

This White House is trying to convince people that when you put tariffs on, some other government pays some kind of tax and nobody actually suffers any pain for it.

WILLIAMS:  So, John Allen, while Mr. Navarro may have put on the Bill Barr cloak of invisibility today, is there other dissent within said West Wing?

JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  There is.  As our colleagues in NBC have been reporting, Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary outside the West Wing very close to it is dissenting on this.  I mean, this policy is coming as we learned today that the deportation -- I`m sorry, the detention centers at the border are overflowing, 76 people to cells that are intended for 12, and the President`s reaction to this driven by Stephen Miller, his senior policy adviser for immigration.  The responses that is to squeeze the Mexican economy in ways that are likely to produce more immigration, not less, and to slap American consumers with tariffs.  It`s the kind of policy that you would expect to come from possibly a public relations aide.  The experts on public policy here, the treasury secretary, the trade representative, they`re the ones that were fighting back on this.  They lost that argument.  And now they got to march out and as they did today, at least through their spokespeople, they got to march out and say that they`re on team Trump.

WILLIAMS:  So, John, what`s the chance this is a Twitter boredom shiny object sop to the base, here we are, after all, talking about the possibility of tariffs over a border where we do a billion dollars a day, give or take?

ALLEN:  You certainly can`t rule out the possibility the President Trump would reverse a policy on Twitter that he put out on Twitter at any time.  You know, I mean-- and Brian, to your point, and I appreciate you`re giving kids that are up at 11:00 o`clock tonight lessons on how to --

WILLIAMS:  I`m on a public service.

ALLEN:  How to destroy the stock market and take care of some other things all at once.  It`s certainly possible that would happen, but this President has tried very much to message to his base on policy regarding Mexico and other countries, particularly when it comes to trade and basically when it comes to anybody outside our country.

So, we see these policies discussed.  People say there`s no way he`s going to go forward with that then he goes forward with it, whether it was the travel ban, whether it`s the wall across, you know, along the border.  Or, in this case, you know, a tariff policy that a lot of people even inside his own administration don`t believe is one that makes any sense.

WILLIAMS:  Ali, will we ever see in your considered judgment these tariffs?

VELSHI:  So, I tell you, look at the stock market response today, set down over 300 points.  That`s actually smaller than it would have been if investors really believed it would happen.  So I think, some investors before they heard that Lighthizer --

WILLIAMS:  Like doubt into the market?

VELSHI:  Yes, I think you`ve got doubt baked in because Mexico is not a place where goods get on a ship and come to a port in America and you put duty on that, those goods and you buy them.  Mexico is fully intertwined with America in terms of trade because of the free trade agreement.

So a car, because of NAFTA, you know a car part, a component will go from the United States to Mexico.  It`ll get put into a part which will then come back to the United States that might be put into a dashboard that will then go to Canada and then it`ll go back into the United States.

So, this is not a ship of goods coming in, put five percent, 10 percent, 15 percent on it.  We are completely intertwined with Mexico in manufacturing, in agriculture, in automotives.  So this -- there are a lot of people saying this is very hard to do and it`s very damaging and it`s going to be very expensive.  As John Allen says, it`s going to hurt the Mexican economy, which is never good for if folks don`t like people coming across the border.  That`s never good.

So there are a lot of reasons why this doesn`t seem all that plausible.  And then you hear that Mnuchin and Lighthizer were not onboard on this kind of stuff.  So there are certainly some people who say this was a Twitter trade war, for the Twitter tariff, and it might end as a Twitter tariff.

WILLIAMS:  I`ve been told the network is going to allow you to go home.  Thank you very much.

VELSHI:  Jonathan, stick around, somebody you`ve got in there.

WILLIAMS:  To Ali Velshi to Jonathan Allen, two of our longtime friends around here, thank you gentlemen, very much for contributing on a Friday night.

Coming up for us, after a consequential week like we just had, what we might need is a Pulitzer Prize Winning Historian to help us sort it all out.  We will talk with such a man when we come back.



ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL:  If we had had confidence that the president clearly did not commit a crime, we would have said so.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He said, essentially, you`re innocent.  I`m innocent of all charges.  I think Mueller is a true never Trumper.  He`s somebody that dislikes Donald Trump.

WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Bob Mueller identified some episodes.  He did not reach a conclusion.  He provided both sides of the issue.  And he -- his conclusion was, he wasn`t exonerating the President but wasn`t finding a crime, either.


WILLIAMS:  Just some of what he witnessed.  So it`s, perhaps, no accident that the President chose to close out this week by letting us know on Twitter he`ll soon be officially announcing his, "Second-term presidential run."

This week has called on all of Trump`s message-shaping skills unencumbered by the facts with the helpful assist from his attorney general.

And so with us tonight, Pulitzer Prize Winning Author and Presidential Historian, Jon Meacham.  He`s the co-author of the recent book "Impeachment and American History and his latest work is out next month, co-authored with Tim McGraw, "Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest and the Music That Made a Nation."

Jon, we try to talk to you at last once a week.  And I`ve been thinking about you a lot this week because it strikes me that Robert Mueller is the kind of person historian`s love.  This guy of probity and rectitude, the bearing of a sphinx doesn`t say a word for two years.  Calvin Coolidge talked more than this guy.  And yet, is the star truth that historians will have to record that he might have been bested by a guy, a president, by the way, who adheres to no such rules of behavior?

JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN:  It`s funny, basically, our public life has become a bar fight, and who knew it would be the "Star Wars" cantina bar fight.  It`s unquestionably Mueller comes from an entirely different ethos than the incumbent president.  He comes from the world of George H.W. Bush from Dean Atchison, sort of the as you, as say, the figures who you can just absolutely imagine having two martinis at lunch and then deciding to project power across the world.  And that world had its limitations, but it had a compelling sense of public duty.

And essentially what we saw this week was the former director of the FBI, a man who`s given his life to protecting the country, arguing in an antiquated way, and it`s tragically antiquated, let me be very clear there, that he thought people should read his 400-page report.  And he basically, I said this with our colleague, Ari Melber, this week, he brought a knife to a gun fight.  And then Ari improved the line, he basically brought a book to a Twitter fight.

And so, I think when we look back on this presidency, this moment in our history, this is going to be, this exchange, this standoff between Robert Mueller and Trump, will be one of those iconic moments where you can see how passion and ideology have taken over from reason and probity.

WILLIAMS:  How will we know if Nancy Pelosi`s standard, ironclad support for impeachment is reached?  Do you have any other lever to pull other than us looking at public polling?

MEACHAM:  No, the only -- you know, when I heard that, I thought of Potter Stewart`s great definition of pornography, Justice Stewart, he said he knew -- you know it when you see it.


MEACHAM:  And by setting that standard and what is inherently a political process, the former General Counsel Atchison (ph) made this point exactly right.  Impeachment is not a judicial process.  It has the trappings of it.  The House is a grand jury, the Senate is a trial, the chief justice comes down and sits.  But the rules are very different.

And I think what Speaker Pelosi`s doing, and I personally as a citizen, disagree with it, respectfully, is she believes that if she were to proceed with this politically, that ultimately it would probably strengthen Trump because he would be able to run because he`s no -- you`re not going to get, what, 12, 15, senators-- Republican senators to vote to convict the guy.  That`s just not possible.

So he would run as if he had been exonerated.  There was a famous local politician in my hometown in East Tennessee, who was indicted, stood trial, and won, ran for re-election.  He was the Police Commissioner, by the way, ran for re-election on the grounds that he had been declared innocent by a court of law.  Have you ever been declared innocent by a court of law?  And that was the platform which propelled him forward.

And I suspect that Speaker Pelosi is there.  If I were a member of Congress, I would at least support opening House Judiciary Committee hearings so you could give Mueller`s reading assignment to the country a bit more of a chance, where you could adjudicate this.

WILLIAMS:  And I`m still not done.  I want to circle back to Mueller because you mentioned Atchison, you mentioned 41.  Let me also throw into the DNA pile.  He has some of the blood of chesty puller, the great marine, because let`s not forget the 74-year-old man who stood at that lectern this week, has a bullet wound in him from the north Vietnamese, and that makes him of different wiring.  The question is, will he be content with this as the after-action report on all of his hard work, on two years of his life that he thought was going to be private life?

MEACHAM:  Well, I thought it was extraordinary that he said anything at all.  And once he did, he basically also told us he never wanted to speak again.  Then that does seem characteristic.  There is this -- there is -- there was once upon a time in political life where reticence was a virtue.  That seems like Thermopylae now, so far away.

My own view of this is if we were writing this, this is -- you have two contrasting scenes, two contrasting people.  As you say, you have a wounded marine veteran who`s given his life to public service, who`s making a sober statement about what his report said that he, to a fault, perhaps, followed justice department guidelines, you know, that`s the mourning at the Justice Department.

And then classically, you would say on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue, Donald Trump was tweeting.  And that`s where we are.  And it`s not just about them.  I understand the focus on Mueller obviously.  But we have to figure out a way, the 51% of the country that tends to drive things needs to decide, is that level of behavior in the presidency what we want to endure?  And are you willing to set a president where a president gets away with the things that Mueller laid out?

And Bill, the attorney general can dismiss it all he wants, but the facts are there.  I think it`s a really interesting question about, if not now, when?  If you don`t proceed to impeach him or at least to have hearings and raise the question, not just about his fitness for office, this isn`t about that.  This is about his overt attempts to obstruct justice.  If you`re not going to do it now, Lord knows what you`d have to do to get a majority of the House of Representatives to precede.  It`s a very troubling moment.

WILLIAMS:  John, you`ve left us thinking again in large part because it occurs to me sitting here talking to you, you`ve either written or read every book on the shelf behind you.  John Meacham, the great historian, thank you for coming on at the end of this long though holiday shortened week.

Another break is in store for us.  We are back with more news in a moment but still ahead for us tonight, something to look for in the skies this weekend depending on where you live.  We`ll explain.


WILLIAMS:  Now briefly the update we promised you, it is with a terrible tragic numbness that we report the latest terrible and absolutely tragic mass shooting in this country.  It happened just after 40 Eastern Time this afternoon in Virginia Beach.  It happened at that city`s municipal building complex.  The gunman was apparently a disgruntled, emotionally disturbed, longtime town employee who was apparently well-known to the people he was shooting at.

As of right now, there are 12 dead, four hospitalized.  Police arrived and engaged the gunman.  He wounded a police officer before being shot and killed.  Here was the mayor of Virginia Beach tonight.


BOBBY DYER, MAYOR OF VIRGINIA BEACH:  Today is Virginia Beach`s darkest hour.  A senseless crime happened and imposed tremendous grief upon the people of Virginia Beach, the Commonwealth and this country.


WILLIAMS:  According to the gun violence archive, this brings the number of mass shootings thus far in our country in the year 2019 to 150.  We are back with more right after this.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, it`s one of those stories that suddenly make our world seem quite small.  This story actually has a practical application.  If you live anywhere from the Upper Mid-West to the Great Lakes, to the New York area, clear east to New England, you may see more dramatic than normal sunsets for the next few days.  You may see less of the sun than you normally would on a clear day during the first weekend of June and the reason for all this is quite remarkable.

In the Canadian province of Alberta, massive wildfires are raging, almost a million acres on fire, almost a dozen major fires in all.  Ten thousand Canadians have been evacuated and are on the run.  There`s enough smoke to turn day into night in the affected areas.  But here`s where we come in and the satellite imagery of this is stunning.  From Montana east to Maine, as far south as North Carolina, for days the smoke has been flowing down over the United States.

In the New York area for example if you know what to look for it is noticeable, it keeps the sky from becoming that deep blue marble on a sunny day and instead gives the sky a feint gray sheen.  It is more pronounced the farther North you go, it`s very pronounced at sunset.

Spare a thought this weekend for the Canadians in the fire fight and those on the run and suffering the effects of a mass of unhealthy air over the country.  It`s the kind of story that reminds us we are all in this together.  And on that note, that is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week.

Thank you so very much for being here with us.  Good night from our 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