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Trump disputes findings of Mueller Report. TRANSCRIPT: 6/17/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Jill Colvin, Tim O`Brien, Chris Megerian, Elliot Williams, ChrisMegerian, Kelly Magsamen

CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Special thanks to (INAUDIBLE) Hardball in Dane (ph), Ohio.  Thanks for being with us.  "THE 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS" starts right now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight, the President on the eve of his re- election kickoff and in Trump fashion, he is claiming polls that show him losing including his own are fake then he fired some pollsters.

Plus, a big name in the House makes it 67th for impeachment but most of their Democratic colleagues are not for impeachment nor is their and leader Nancy Pelosi and her vote counts more than most.

And the breaking news tonight of 1,000 American families are learning that a family member is deploying to the gulf because of the tensions with Iran.  Now that the U.S. has assign blame in the latest attack on two tankers, all of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Monday night.

We start a new week.  Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York, day 879 this was of the Trump administration.  And any poll showing Donald Trump behind pretty much anywhere must be a fake if you ask him and that`s where we are on this, the eve of the President`s re-election launch which he previewed for ABC News.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR:  What`s your pitch to the swing voter on defense?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES:  Safety, security, great economy.

Frankly, I think we`ll do tremendously now with African-Americans and Asians, with Hispanics, because they are the lowest earn blaming numbers they ever had in the history of the country.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So that`s the pitch?

TRUMP:  No, I can`t -- I have no pitch.  You know, what I have?  The economy is phenomenal.  We rebuilt our military, we`re taking care of our vets, we`re doing the best job that anybody has done probably as a first term president.  I think I`ve done more than any other first term president ever.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  It`s a big car with a very small backseat.  We mentioned polling, here it is and these are real on new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, shows Trump`s approval rating at 44.  Same polls also found 52% of all voters more than half say they are very uncomfortable by voting for him in 2020.

University of Texas, Texas Tribune poll also real found 39% of all the registered voters and the red state of Texas would definitely reelect Trump but 43% would definitely not.  At the same time, same poll finds 26% of independent voters would definitely reelect Trump while 45% would definitely not.

A Fox News poll and do they get anymore real show some head to head numbers for this President among his most likely Democratic opponents.  There is 10-point lead for Biden, nine points for Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg, all have a one to two point lead over Trump who supports top south at 41%.  Again, in this Fox News poll.  Trump had this response to that poll tonight on social media and we quote, "Fox News polls are always bad for me.  They were against crooked Hillary also.  Something weird is going on at Fox.  Our polls show us leading in all 17 swing states".

This all comes as we learn over the weekend that the Trump campaign fires some of it pollsters after internal polling from March leaked, it was also the real kind of polling.  The leaked poll show the President trailing Joe Biden by double digits in Virginia, Maine and Minnesota states that Hillary Clinton won in 2016.  Trump however also trailing and Biden in North Carolina, Georgia, Iowa and Ohio.  All states he won three years ago.  That internal polling also show Biden with a double digit lead in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Florida.  They get your attention because the President won them in 2016.

As "The New York Times" put it in an article about the now former pollsters quote, "The internal poll number while not predictive painted a bleak picture of the current state of the race for Mr. Trump at least against Mr. Biden when they were taken in March".  In a message earlier this morning, Trump wrote quote, "Only fake polls show us behind the Motley Crew".  And here`s what he told ABC News.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Even your own poll show you`re behind right now don`t they?

TRUMP:  No, my poll shows that I`m winning everywhere.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  And we`ve all seen these reports that 15 out of 17 states, you spent 2 million on a poll and you`re behind in 15 out of 17 states.

TRUMP:  Nobody showed you those polls because those polls don`t exist.  Those polls don`t exist.  But I just had a meeting with somebody that`s a pollster and I`m winning everywhere.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  Meanwhile "Politico" is reporting on Trump`s plan try to win in 2020 while facing an onslaught of investigations though fair warning here, we have heard this before and often on this broadcast, they write quote, "In total, Trump faces at least 15 criminal or civil inquiries by nine federal state and local agencies into his business, his charity, his campaign, his inaugural committee and his personal finances.  Trump doesn`t plan to avoid talking about the investigations.  He hopes to use such charges as part of a strategy that he hopes will help win him re-election.  While Congressional investigations have garnered most of the splashy headlines in recent months, it`s these outside investigations that are more dangerous politically."

Again, echoes of weeks ago, echoes of months ago.  And on that time to bring in our lead-off discussion group on a Monday night as we start a new week.  Jill Colvin, White House reporter for the Associated Press.  John Heilemann, veteran journalist, our national affairs analyst, co-author of "Game Change", co-host of "The Circus" on Showtime.  And Tim O`Brien, executive editor of Bloomberg Opinion, he`s also the author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald".  Good evening and welcome to you all.

Jill, I like to begin with you on this kickoff of the re-election.  How do you play the status of his campaign, is there any way to view it absent the status of his presidency or are the two directly and inexplicably linked?

JILL COLVIN, WH REPORTER, ASSOCIATED PRESS:  I think that you are certainly undeniably linked.  What`s interesting about this presidential kickoff, is that the President actually filed, you know, his paper work for re-election back during his inauguration day.  And the President has been holding his campaign style rally is basically since the day that he was elected into office even a ton of them ahead of the midterm elections.  He`s continued to do them with for usual campaign signage.

So it`s very hard for the campaign to actually differentiate this event from the typical campaign rally that we`ve been seeing.  You know, they`re trying to hype it as much as they can.  The President`s wife, the first lady will be there, Vice President Mike Pence will be there.  They`re trying to kind of hype up the crowd ahead of time with this little fair they`re doing outside of the venue, with food trucks and concert and performers really trying to hype it up and make it something different.  But its unclear at this point whether the messaging will be anything other than what we typically hear at the Trump rally.

WILLIAMS:  John Heilemann, with the attention this polling story is getting, you would think it was infrastructure week.  That is to say the President keeps breathing new air into a bad lead for him.

JOHN HEILEMANN, MSNBC NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST:  Yes, I mean that this is not unique.  He does this fair amount or like -- just its feeling -- it`s sort like, I went to the barber a couple of days ago I mean informed me that I was bold and so I fired him because I didn`t really want to hear that from him.  I don`t know why he does this?  He`s not -- I mean he does this all the time.  I don`t think in the end it matters whether you`re breathing this and this instance, this is not a story, the story of your polls standing is not ultimately politically damaging.  What`s damaging is the fact that your poll standing is what it is, right?

So Trump talking about it is foolish but -- and it continues this the tendency of us all talking about the thing is not helping him.  But I think, the real work he has to do is not firing pollsters and not even staying off the story, but do something about these numbers which are not the interim numbers are consistent with all the other numbers.

This is where he is right now which is losing to -- not just Joe Biden, but losing to many of the Democrats, even second tier Democrats in a lot of states he`s got to win.

WILLIAMS:  And Tim, look at where we all are right now.  Joe Biden is not the nominee.  Presidents John Edwards and Scoop Jackson would underscore how not the nominee he is right now and yet he seems to have a profound and untoward influence on the President`s thinking.

TIM O`BRIEN, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, BLOOMBERG OPINION:  Well, I think, when, you know, when Trump sees Joe Biden, he thinks Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.  I think he`s a survivor and he knows what Biden represents.  I think Biden in Trump`s mind and in polls is a much serious threat in those states.  They also -- there`s also the reality that 2020 is going to be a reckoning or a referendum on what Trump said in 2016 in Trump Tower when he began that fall from Trump Tower into the Oval Office, he promised he`s going to take a wrecking ball to the bureaucracy in Washington and that was going to drain the swamp.

He filled the swamp with larger alligators, bureaucracy remains and there`s a lot of promises he hasn`t delivered yet on jobs to all those workers in those states that counted him to do something for them.  And so you`ve got a period of time we now, you know, in next summer where he`s going to have to really deliver in a tangible way to those people.  I think that that`s what John was getting and he shouldn`t be focused on the numbers.  You the folks so we need to, to turn those numbers around and some of those things are going to be out of his control.

WILLIAMS:  Hey Jill, if memory serves our last President taught a little bit of constitutional law, our current President taught or tried to about an element of the constitution, I`m going to play this exchange for you on Article II powers, we`ll talk about what`s wrong with it on the other side.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP:  Look, Article II, I would be allowed to fire Robert Mueller that was not assuming, assuming I did all the things I said I want to fire him.  Number one, I didn`t.  He wasn`t fired.  OK, number one, very importantly.  But more importantly, Article II allows me to do whatever I want, Article II would have allowed me to fire him.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  So it`s not that --

TRUMP:  I wasn`t going to fire him, you know why?  Because I watch Richard Nixon going around firing everybody and that didn`t work out too well.  So very simply, Article II would allow me to do it.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  Jill, what do our viewers need to know right there?

COLVIN:  Well, Article II of the constitution does not say quote "Article II allows me to do anything that I want."  That is the President`s interpretation on a very, very liberal expensive interpretation there of the power of the presidency to control the executive branch, obviously does not give him the power to obstruct to justice or does not give him the power to break the law even though there was this, you know, DOJ interpretation saying that we cannot indict a sitting President, that`s a matter of interpretation, that`s not something that`s actually written in the constitution and I imagine the constitutional scholars will have quite the field day with this answer there.

WILLIAMS:  Tim O`Brien, we have one for you.  This is a deconstruction of Donald Trump`s view of the Mueller report and the truth including but not limited to Mueller`s view of the Mueller report

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TRUMP:  I have a phony witch hunt which is just a phony pile of stuff.

ROBERT MUELLER, SPECIAL COUNSEL:  The Russian military launched a conservative attack on our political system.

The indictments alleged and the other act duties in our report describe efforts to interfere our political system.

TRUMP:  Mueller comes out, there`s no collusion.

MUELLER:  There was insufficient evidence to charge a broader conspiracy.

TRUMP:  Are you trying to say now that there was collusion even though he said there is no collusion.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  You didn`t think there --

TRUMP:  He said no collusion.

MUELLER:  Insufficient evidence to charge --

STEPHANOPOULOS:  I don`t think that`s in (INAUDIBLE), we don`t have time for that now, we`ll talk about --

TRUMP:  That is (INAUDIBLE) -- excuse me, he found no collusion and didn`t find anything having to do with obstruction.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Did examine collusion, he laid out evidence of stretchable --

TRUMP:  Well are you trying to say now that there was collusion even though he said there is no collusion.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  He didn`t think there`s --

TRUMP:  He said no collusion.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  He said he didn`t look at --

TRUMP:  George, the report said no collusion.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  Did you read the report?

TRUMP:  Yes I did, and you should read it, too.

STEPHANOPOULOS:  I will --

TRUMP:  Come on, let`s get out of the car.

(CROSSTALK)

MUELLER:  Under long standing department policy, a President cannot be charged with a federal crime.

TRUMP:  Because they made a ruling based on his findings and they said no obstruction.

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

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  Tim O`Brien, it said no collusion.

HEILEMANN:  You got to do it with the hand.

O`BRIEN:  Let`s get out of the car.

HEILEMANN:  No collusion.

O`BRIEN:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  What are we witness, someone who has written about this man, what if (INAUDIBLE).

O`BRIEN:  And so this is vintage Trump.  He did the same thing with the polls, he did the same thing with tariffs on Mexico, he`s on the same thing with the Mueller report.  He`s saying to the American public, are you going to believe me or your lying eyes.  And I think he really believes that if he stays on message and he repeats time and again that there was no collusion and they found no obstruction, therefore he did nothing wrong that people will buy that.

The reality is, his base probably will most people haven`t read the Mueller report including I believe probably the President himself even though he says he has.  The thing to remember here is that Bob Mueller had in his report very clear evidence of obstruction.  Bob Mueller thought it was up to Congress to decide to do something about that not him.  Trump doesn`t want to live with the reality of that and he`s got an attorney general who`s healthy and come up with the narrative to support that and he`s not going to stray away from that?

WILLIAMS:  Who`s going to be the bar of the Democrats?  The attorney general equivalent of the Democratic Party which is face now with an opportunity some would say a necessity to retell the Mueller report in understandable English.

O`BRIEN:  Well, I think -- I think that`s the power of Congressional hearing.  At the event narrative is going to come to play in a public form its going to probably have to happen first through hearings.  I think if they walk right up to impeachment.  There`s going to be too many Americans who don`t understand yet why it`s happening.  I think that`s what Nancy Pelosi is afraid of.

On the other hand, this party has got to be on the right side of history.  I don`t think there`s much question once you`re done reading Mueller report, whether or not there were laws broken by this President.  There`s clear obstruction of justice.  And Mueller didn`t look at collusion, Mueller looked at whether or not there was a criminal conspiracy.  He said he didn`t have the evidence to pursue that.  But he certainly indicatively there was obstruction.

WILLIAMS:  John, cutting back and forth between those two men, the bomb bast gap takes your breath away.

HEILEMANN:  It does.  And I there are couple of things I wish -- I thought this interview is incredible and I thought that George managed to get so much great -- like just this revealing stuff from Trump that I hesitate to criticize.  I do wish when Trump said that Article II lets him do whatever he wants, but George would simply have said Article II of what because I pretty sure he has no idea what Article II is even connected to.  And the second thing is I would love to have him, be -- actually had to read, force him to read a part of the Mueller report where Mueller writes, we did not discuss collusion in this, we discuss criminal conspiracy.  And I`m not sure what would have happened in that scenario.

I`m guessing as you put the plain words in front of Trump, it said you must read these words in the page.  He would say, no collusion, no obstruction and you`d say that was those word say.  And he would still insist that it does.  Because as Tim say, this has been -- in the narrow sense politically of keeping it base together and creating a solid chunk of 38, 39 , maybe 40% of the electorate who believes there is no obstruction, no collusion, that`s what the Mueller report says.  He`s been effective if that`s his goal, it`s a narrow goal, it`s not that to get him re-elected, but on -- on what he`s trying to achieve, he`s achieved it by repeating that add (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS:  Hey Jill Colvin, what is the kind of bumper sticker message tomorrow as you understand it?

COLVIN:  I think it will be, I`m going to win again.  I think that`s the message that he`s trying to convince his supporters as he tries to rile them up, as he tries to move past.  But was this really, really, messy, misstep by the campaign of just, you know, walking all over themselves, first denying the polls existed then insisting that in fact it was just not a useful poll.  You had all of this infighting coming out that we recognize from the 2016 campaign, that we recognize from the early days of the White House.

Really seems that even though you know, you may transport this Trump campaign from their former, very Spartan headquarters at Trump Tower and you put them in this big shiny building, you know, on the river, you give them all of this money, you give them all of this resources, it still feels like the same old Trump campaign.  And it seems like we`re going to be continuing to talk about the same things that we have now for four years.

WILLIAMS:  And John, you get to coverer campaigns and when Showtime network allows you to play with their stuff, you get to do it on television.  So what -- what is the cinematic -- if you`re down there with the crew tomorrow night in Florida, what`s the cinematic opening shot and what`s the print opening graph as far as we know right now?

HEILEMANN:  Well, I think that what you want to see I think is you want to try to capture to see what I want to see whether it`s different now from when 2015 or 2016.  Yes, I was in Trump Tower broadcasting from Trump Tower the day that he came down that escalator and we covered him on the "Circus" at a number of Florida rallies which were some of the places where he goes, Pensacola places like that.

He goes back to those places because he generally gets big crowd, ruckus crowds.  You know, he will get another one tomorrow night.  But I want to see mostly and I would want to caption for television or if I was writing about it, the thing that Tim said a little while ago, I think your going back, Trump must know that he can`t win this election if it`s a referendum on his performance, on his the promises he has not kept on the draining of the swamp and those matters.  Like many troubled incumbents he must understand that the only way to win is make it a choice.

And I think you will probably you will see tomorrow and henceforth just an extraordinary effort to make whatever Democrat is running against and the party in general unacceptable to enough Americans that he kind of another victory.  Its going to be a -- I mean, we have seen negative campaigns before.  We`ve never seen anything like the degree of detrital and the kind of negativity that`s going to come out of Trump campaign, because it is the only way for him to win.

WILLIAMS:  All righty.  On that note to Jill Colvin, to John Heilemann, to Tim O`Brien, our thanks we never promise a happy conversation.  Just an opening conversation.

Coming up for us on this Monday night, measuring the support for impeachment.  If you`re a Democrat in Congress, it`s probably the most consequential decision you will ever make.  The Speaker of the House feels that same way, too.

And later, American troops being sent to the Middle East for something called forced protection.  Its never good news, it was the announcement tonight from the acting defense secretary as things with Iran have only heated up further.

THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Monday night with the West Wing in sight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

REP. KATIE PORTER, (D) CALIFORNIA:  After weeks of study, deliberations and conversations with Orange County families, I`ve decided to support an impeachment investigation of the President.

I`ve reached a point of clarity in my decision.  Congress must continue to work of special counsel Mueller.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WILLIAMS:  That was just tonight on social media, freshman Congresswoman Katie Porter who represents as you heard her say constituency in Orange County decidedly a swing district in California as she became the 67th House member to get on board with impeachment.  She joins a growing number of Americans calling on Congress to act.

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 27% of people say they support impeachment hearings.  That`s a 10 point bounce from just last month and while that number is even higher among Democrats at 48%, Nancy Pelosi have said, the support for it would have to be overwhelming.  There would have to be consensus, there is not.

Right now just 28% of her own Democratic members support it.  And it has "The Washington Post" writing that quot, "Pelosi has demonstrated the firm grip she wheels over her caucus.  It is a command that colleague say is drawn from a deep well of respect for the political wisdom of the most powerful woman in American politics and fear that challenging her comes with the risk of grave cost to one`s career."

Here to talk about it, Chris Megerian, a reporter for the "L.A. Times", Elliot Williams, former federal prosecute who was also deputy assistant attorney general and counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Gentlemen, welcome back to the broadcast.  Chris, I mean this only in positive terms, Katie Porter is the darling of the new kind of progressive left.  She is a single mother of three, Phillips, Yale, Harvard law school, does that give her choice any further weight and what people are missing is the 27% of the U.S. public backing impeachment, only 28% of Pelosi`s caucus says the same thing.

CHRIS MEGERIAN, REPORTER, L.A. TIMES:  Well, what I would say it gives her decision the most way is not her personal background, but the district that she represents.  She represents as you mention before swing district, she was just elected.  You know, she was part of the wave that sent Democrats back to power in the House.

So if Democrats want to tout their ability to take that this swing districts, and one of these members is pushing for impeachment, that seems to just, you know, maybe they feel it more political, you know, momentum behind them pushing for this.  If somebody who might be at risk of losing their seat is also back in impeachment.

WILLIAMS:  And Elliot, you know the argument.  Some Democrats say this is a moral imperative, others say we have to live with the politics in the morning?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FMR FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  Look, members of Congress, when they come in, they swear an oath to the constitution, not even to their constituents or not the polls or anything like that.  And so if they believe there`s a constitutional violation to some extent they do have an obligation to act.  But here`s the thing, Chris -- Brian, they`re elected officials and elected officials have electoral consequences that they have to think about.  Now, what`s interesting, this is piggy backing of what Chris said.  What`s interesting about Katie Porter`s district, is -- it is sort of the canarian (ph) the coal mind of the Democratic caucus.

You know, it sort of what`s called the plus three Democratic district, so its Republican districts.  So it`s just barely leading Republican but represented by a Democrat.  And so it could be an interesting sign sort of -- supporters are snow balling within the Democratic Party, but the question is does it become an avalanche?  And that`s the point.  And I think that`s where the speaker -- yes I think she`s right.  You know, she needs to have the support of her entire caucus and the support the American people, its just not -- there is a vocal minority or perhaps larger than that plurality in the country calling for, but it`s a strong minority or majority the Democratic caucus is calling for.  And it`s just not clear it is there yet.

WILLIAMS:  And Chris, of course Katie Porter as a personality, her standing was kind of codified recently sitting next to Bill Mar on her appearance on that show, for all the reasons Elliot mentions about her district.  Maybe I put the question wrong.  Do you think Nancy Pelosi fellow California Democrat will give any greater standing and think, oh, Orange County?

MEGERIAN:  Maybe?  I think she has her mind somewhere else rather than any districts or even, you know, where her fella California stand.  I think she`s sticking what is the best message to have going into the election year.  Do we want to have impeachment running simultaneously to Democrats running against Donald Trump for the presidency?  And, you know, she`s kind of made that calculation, you know, I can`t say sitting here whether it`s the right one or the wrong one.  But I think she`s trying to think, you know, what`s that set us best to remove him from office next year.

WILLIAMS:  Both of these gentlemen have agreed to stay with us.  We`ll take a quick break here and coming up more on this national debate or is it anything close over the possibility of impeachment.

That when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Look, the Republicans in the Senate, every single one of them that I see know this is a witch-hunt.  They get it at 100% and that`s what matters.  The Democrats are going to do it only because they may think it helps.  I think it can actually hurt them in the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  So the President seems fairly confident that impeachment would be a bad political play by Democrats.

Still with us are Chris Megerian and Elliot Williams.  So, Elliot, here we stand.  And if we call it impeachment-light and if -- as our parents used to say the House Judiciary Committee can prove that they can handle responsibility.  So this means no KFC, no empty chairs.  This means perhaps talking a witness or two into appearing in public session and not behind closed doors.  What do you think can be accomplished walking up to but not over the threshold called impeachment?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FORMER COUNSEL TO THE SENATE JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Every single time a witness testifies, particularly a witness that is closed to the President and simply repeats the facts that were laid out in the Mueller report, it`s damaging to the President and it keeps this in the headlines and builds a case even stronger.

Look, there`s a case, there`s a baseless that exists for impeaching the president of the United States if you read Volume 1 of the Mueller report.  I think what complicates the political question here which you have to wait on top of it is the -- you know, the President is not going to be removed from office by the Republicans in the Senate as the Senate is currently constituted.  So you got to decide, is impeaching a President merely putting an asterisk next to his name in the history books really worth it, really worth it as a political matter?

But what they can do, what the Democrats can do is build an evidentiary record and again it`s the hearings.  It`s -- and frankly, if Robert Mueller testifies and again simply reads from the facts that were noted in Volume 1 of the report, it keeps this in the headlines during the campaign season and is profoundly damaging for the President.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Chris, the elegant and essential Todd Purdum has given us this through The Atlantic, "The biggest lesson of the Clinton impeachment proceedings, the one that`s surely not lost on Pelosi, is the purely political one.  They didn`t ruin the public`s opinion of the President.

And, Chris, assuming Todd is right there Todd who covered the Clinton`s presidency, there is that, is it baked into the cake question?

CHRIS MEGERIAN, LOST ANGELES TIMES REPORTER:  I think a lot of this is baked into the cake.  I think people have made up their minds largely how they feel how the President has handled Russian interference in the election.  But, you know, there might be some people in the middle that you could hold one direction.

I think the question I would have is how would President Trump react?  I mean President Clinton`s big push during impeachment was, I`m going to say focus on the business of legislating, getting things done for Americans.  You know, President Trump often gets side tracked on to personal issues on, you know, you talking about how he`s always under attack, you know, drawing himself into these battles with other people.  Can he make it look like he`s still working on American issues while he`s, you know, facing this type of assault.  And that will be tough for him.

WILLIAMS:  A lot of people would suggest infrastructure just for one.

MEGERIAN:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  Chris Megerian and Elliot Williams, gentlemen, we always appreciate it when you come on.  Thank you very much for coming on with us tonight.

And coming up for us, this dangerous escalation of tensions in the Middle East and the deployment of more American troops.  We`ll talk about it and the potential consequences when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan said tonight roughly 1,000 additional American troops will be deployed to the Middle East for defensive purposes, force protection as they call it in the military.  This is because the U.S. has already blamed Iran for attacks on two tankers last week in the gulf of Oman as covered on this broadcast.  Today, the U.S. military released new color imagery.  It shows Iran`s revolutionary guard removing an unexploded mine from the side of the Japanese tanker.  This image apparently shows a portion of the mine that was left behind.  Iran has denied it was responsible for last week`s tanker attacks but the Trump administration says otherwise.  Here is Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  It`s unmistakable what happened here.  These were attacks by the Islamic Republic of Iran on commercial shipping on the freedom of navigation, with the clear intent to deny transit through the strait.

There`s no doubt the intelligence committee has lots of data, lots of evidence, the world will come to see much of it, but the American people should rest assured we have high confidence with respect to who conducted these attacks, as well as half a dozen other attacks throughout the world over the past 40 days.

We don`t want a war.  We`ve done what we can to deter this.  The Iranians should understand very clearly that we will continue to take actions that deter Iran from engaging in this behind some kind of behavior.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Iran also threatened -- excuse me.  Iran also threatened to violate key part of the 2015 nuclear deal today which President Trump backed out of last year.  The country`s Atomic Energy Organization said it expects to surpass the low and rich uranium stockpile limit set in deal in the next 10 days.  Iran also left the door open to enriching uranium to higher levels.

With us tonight, we welcome back to the broadcast, Kelly Magsamen, a veteran of the Pentagon, the State Department and the National Security Council under Presidents 43 and 44, that would be Bush and Obama, as SNC director for Iran `08 to `011.  She was responsible for coordinating the U.S. policy on Iran.  These days she is vice president for National Security and International Policy at the Center for American Progress.

Kelly, thank you for coming back especially on a night like this.  And how do you analyze the Iran threat versus how we know the administration analyzes it?

KELLY MAGSAMEN, FORMER MEMBER OF THE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL:  I am no stranger to the challenge that Iran presents to American interest and the interests of our allies in the region.  I do worry though that we are in a potential path to escalation and I`m not exactly certain where the administration is actually trying to land this plane.

You know, I think this is a sign of a failed policy frankly when the President tore up the Iran deal, he tore up the working Iran nuclear agreement that was prevented Iran from having a nuclear weapon for at least 10 to 15 years, had cut-off all the pathways to a nuclear weapon.  It was an international agreement that all of our allies were on board with.  And now, we`re in a situation where we`re divided from our international allies.  The Iranians have absolutely no interest in negotiating with the United States nor do they trust that the Trump administration is going to pursue credible negotiations.  And we`re potentially on the path to a conflict where Iran`s behavior in the region is actually getting worse and not better under the Trump administration.

So I`m worried about where this is headed.  I`m also pretty certain that this shows that the policy isn`t working.

WILLIAMS:  Let`s talk about Mike Pompeo, our secretary of state.  Tomorrow he is to visit U.S. Central Command, which would be absolutely perfectly normal if he were the secretary of Defense.  The problem with the story is he`s the secretary of state begs the question to someone like you, what on earth could he be up to?

MAGSAMEN:  Well, right.  We have an acting secretary of Defense right now, so part of me thinks this is a little bit of a powerplay by Secretary Pompeo.  He likes to remain in the headlines, he likes to have President Trump see him being active on these issues.  So part of this I think is Mike Pompeo saying I`m the man in charge and I`m the one who`s driving this policy.  It`s not John Bolton.  It`s not anyone else.

It`s also very abnormal as you said for a secretary of state to go and receive a briefing on military options without the Secretary of Defense presence.  So this is very strange.  I think it`s a clumsy attempt at a messaging campaign vis-a-vis the Iranians.  But again it adds to this drum beat of war that is very concerning.

WILLIAMS:  Do you agree that the U.S. probably has incredible imagery of whatever the pictures we`ve been shown color or black and white?  And do you agree that it`s quite possible they have their culprits and that at the end of the day, Iran or elements of the revolutionary guard did this?

MAGSAMEN:  We have very excellent intelligence on Iran.  Actually, during the Obama administration, this was actually a high priority for us in terms of improving our intelligence picture on the Iranians.  So I tend to believe if the intelligence community says this is an Iranian backed attack, I think that`s probably likely true.  However, the fact that the American people and our international allies are asking serious questions about the situation shows that President Trump and his administration do not have the credibility to take this country to war again.

WILLIAMS:  I like the picture where they`re actually looking up at the drone myself.  Hey, I want to read you from this "New York Times" piece about Russia that made justifiably so many headlines for those paying attention on Father`s Day.  This is escalating -- U.S. escalating attacks on the Russian power grid, something both countries we should make clear have been probing back and forth for years.  "Two administration officials said they believed Mr. Trump have not been briefed in any detail about the steps to place implants, software code that can be used for surveillance or attack inside the Russian grid."

"Pentagon and intelligence officials described broad hesitation to go into detail with Mr. Trump about operations against Russia for concerns over his reaction and the possibility that he might countermand it or discuss it with foreign officials, as he did in 2017 when he mentioned the operation in Syria to the Russians foreign minister."

This is incredible stuff, Kelly.  As I heard it described earlier today, it`s the ultimate good news/bad news story.  Good news is the home team is in the game.  The bad news is they just can`t tell the coach.

MAGSAMEN:  That`s right.  I mean call me old fashion but I actually think it`s a very bad thing and a very worrying thing that the president of the United States is not up to speed or being briefed on these kinds of operations.  These are serious operations, offensive cyberoperations are very similar to military operations.  It can escalate in the cyber domain.  We don`t really know how our adversaries are going to react in the cyber domain.  There`s no such thing -- no one has define what a cyber active war is.  So there all these open questions about cyberwarfare that are unanswered frankly in the national security community.

So these operations are inherently risky and the President of the United States should have a command of them.  He is the commander in chief.  He should know that his government is deploying these kinds of operations and he should know that in great detail.

WILLIAMS:  We`re very grateful to you for coming back on the broadcast as I said especially given the stories we`re discussing here tonight.  Kelly Magsamen, thank you very much for joining us from Washington.

MAGSAMEN:  Great to be here.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up for us as we continue, our next stop on the road to Miami, the first Democratic presidential debate is there after all.  Takes us through our third commonwealth of our long journey.  Our journey man, Steve Cornacki, is back with us in the studio tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  We are now only nine days away from the first Democratic presidential debates on this very network and we are continuing our series, the road to Miami, the one where Steve Kornacki tells us what we need to know about the key states all along the busy and bustling 195 from Maine clear south to Miami.  You may recall on Friday night Steve was in Maryland.  Tonight he`s crossing into the commonwealth of Virginia and if you`ve done the drive, then you know, I-95 gets complicated where Washington, D.C. is concerned.  Like so many things where Washington, D.C. is concerned.  But in both cases, we turn to Steve Kornacki for an explanation in the midst of his journey south.

Hey, Steve.

STEVE KORNACKI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Hey, Brian.  And that`s right.  Well, I guess let me start then by this.  Let me count to three.  One, two, three.  In basketball that`s a three-second violation.  On our trip to Miami that`s a trip through Washington, D.C. on Interstate 95.  You`re looking at the Woodrow Wilson Bridge and there are 300 feet of this bridge that connects Maryland in Virginia.  There`s about a 300-foot portion that technically cuts through the southernmost sliver of the District of Columbia traveling at 68 miles an hour, which is about what we`ve been doing on this trip.  It takes you three seconds to get through the D.C. portion of 95.  So consider D.C. done at this point.

We can now move on to the next part.  And you see it right here at the end of the bridge.  See that sign?  Let`s zoom in.  We are heading into the commonwealth of Virginia.  And what you notice right away?  You noticed that slogan.  How long have you been hearing and seeing that slogan?  Virginia is for lovers, the official motto, the official tourism slogan for the commonwealth of Virginia, so long standing, so famous.  In fact, there was a survey a couple years ago of some marketing writers, some marketing professionals, they said, what state has the best from a marketing standpoint slogan?  And they said number one, they ranked it Virginia is for lovers.  They also love the old I love -- I heart New York campaign.  Nevada, a world within, a state apart.  Texas, Wyoming, they also registered on this.  Did not make the list, by the way, but we thought we`d give an honorable mention to Nebraska which said last year, their tourism board said, hey, we`ve got some challenges and they came up with a new one.

Here`s what they came up with.  Nebraska, honestly it`s not for everyone.  Not making that up.  Nebraska last year, the tourism board voted to make that distinct tourism slogan.  Hey, I got to mention down here.

So anyway, we`ve made our way into Virginia.  And in years past, in the very recent past, that would mean we are heading into the quintessential presidential swing state.  But things have been changing in Virginia rapidly and dramatically when it comes to presidential politics.  So we can show you in the 2016 election in Virginia, nationally here`s a way to look at it.  Nationally Hillary Clinton won the popular vote.  She didn`t win the Electoral College but she won the popular vote by 2 points in 2016.  She won Virginia by 5, right?  So Clinton did 3 points better, the Democrats did 3 points better in Virginia in 2016 than they did nationally.

Look at this trend has changed.  In 2012, when Barack Obama got re-elected, Virginia was the perfect bellwether, 4 and 4.  In 2008, Obama carried the state.  Didn`t do -- carried the nation.  Did not do quite as well in Virginia, see, in a 1 point Republican lean.  Go back to 2004, George W. Bush, look at this, the state was 5 points more Republican than national.  Go back to 2000 when Bush originally won.  Remember, Al Gore barely won the popular vote.  Bush easily won Virginia in 2000, an 8.5 swing.

So you see, this has become a state that swings, that leans hard toward the Republicans to one that`s become competitive to one that may now be trending in the other direction and certainly in the Trump era between the governor`s race in Virginia in 2017, the congressional races we talked about last year, Democrats flipping seats, it seems that trend is continuing.  They used to call it a red state?  They called it the quintessential purple state.  They`re starting to call this one a blue state, Brian.  We`ll see if Republicans can pull a rabbit out of the hat there in 2020.  But Democrats haven`t felt this confident about Virginia in a long time.

WILLIAMS:  And the south and then the deep south yet to come.  Steve Kornacki, so many waffle houses to go on your journey, thank you so much.  We`re loving it.

Coming up here in just a moment, the moment heard round the world.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight, the many hours that George Stephanopoulos and ABC News spent with Donald Trump yielded a lot of news, a lot of comment, a lot of moments.  The one we`re going to close with tonight did not yield the most news value of the visit, but it did serve as something of a window on the world of Donald Trump.

A few things to note before we roll this for you.  Note what the President is saying, for starters it`s not rooted in truth.  That then brings us to the event that caused this clip we`re going to show you to ricochet around the internet over Father`s Day weekend.  The cough.  The President`s acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, coughs while the President is talking in the Oval Office.  But then following his banishment for coughing, Donald Trump does this TV thing.  Certain newsmakers we interview have a point to make, they feel they`re on a roll, and sometimes if they get interrupted or think of a better way of saying what they`re saying, they believe themselves to be media savvy enough to dictate and edit.

They just say stop followed by a corrected version of what they were just saying.  They pick up right there.  TV people do this when we`re taping something, but that`s another thing, because that`s our thing.  So this moment, what to watch for here is a TV guy turned president who hosted a show out of this building for 14 seasons, and to him, this was like any other taping.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  They`re after my financial statement, the Senate, they`d like to get my financial statement.  At some point I hope they get it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You`re going to turn it over?

TRUMP:  No, at some point -- I might.  But at some point I hope they get it because it`s a fantastic financial statement.  It`s a fantastic financial statement.  And let`s do that over, he`s coughing in the middle of my answer, I don`t like that, you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Your chief of staff.

TRUMP:  If you`re going to cough, please leave the room.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`ll come over here --

TRUMP:  Actually -- you just can`t cough, OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Sorry, Mr. Trump.

TRUMP:  All right, do you want to do that a little differently, then?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, we just changed the angle, yes.

TRUMP:  So at some point -- so at some point I look forward to, frankly -- I`d like to have people see my financial statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  He restarts there not once but twice.  There has been speculation that Mulvaney was doing the old cough to save the boss from himself trick, probably a good time to repeat, Mulvaney`s title is acting chief of staff.

That is our broadcast on this Monday night as we start a new week.  Thank you so 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