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Tom Steyer joins 2020 race TRANSCRIPT: 7/9/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Guest: Jessica Roth, Anita Kumar, Christopher Dickey

JOHN BRENNAN, FORMER DIRECTOR OF CIA:  Oh, absolutely.  And I don`t think they`re going to pull him right away, but I think, you know, he has served now for three and a half years.  And so, you know, four years would be about the right time.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  John Brennan, thank you very much.

BRENNAN:  Thanks Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  I really appreciate it.  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight the President tries to distance himself from an old friend, a New York financier and sex offender who`s facing new charges while Trump sympathizes with his Labor Secretary who`s under fire for his handling of the initial case.

Plus, the Democrats are papering Washington preparing to issue a dozen subpoenas to witnesses in the Mueller report including some big names.

The President has gone after the Brits again labeling Prime Minister May "foolish" and the British Ambassador to the U.S. a "pompous fool."

Oh, yes, and the 2020 race changed again today.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Tuesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News head quarters here in New York.  Day 901 this was of the Trump administration and the prosecution of a high profile lurid sex crimes case has the President in a tough spot over an old friend.  This is the case of Jeffrey Epstein, arrested Saturday night when his private plane arrived in the U.S. from Paris.  His home was raided concurrently.  Epstein has been charged with sex trafficking involving young women and underage girls.

Now, over a decade ago Epstein was under federal investigation in Florida for alleged crimes involving sexual exploitation of minors.  Then U.S. attorney Alex Acosta approved a deal allowing Epstein to plead guilty to a lesser state charge of soliciting and procuring a minor for prostitution.  The problem is Acosta is now this nation`s Labor Secretary.  And so these latest charges against Epstein have renewed outrage over the first agreement there, and sparked calls for Acosta`s resignation as Labor Secretary.

Today we heard from Acosta for the first time since Epstein`s arrest over the weekend.  And we read, "The crimes committed by Epstein are horrific and I am pleased that New York prosecutors are moving forward with a case based on new evidence.  With the evidence available more than a decade ago federal prosecutors insisted that Epstein go to jail, register as a sex offender and put the world on notice that he was a sexual predator.  Now that new evidence and additional testimony is available, the New York prosecution offers an important opportunity to more fully bring him to justice."

Well, today President Trump expressed a sympathetic view of Acosta.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I met Secretary Acosta this first time I know when I made the deal to bring him on into the administration.  I can tell you that for two and a half years he`s been just an excellent Secretary of Labor.  He`s done a fantastic job.

If you go back and look at everybody else`s decisions whether it`s a U.S. attorney or an assistant U.S. attorney or a judge, you go back 12 or 15 years ago or 20 years ago and look at their past decisions, I would think you`d probably find that they would wish they maybe did it a different way.

We`ll have to look at it carefully.  But, you`re talking about a long time ago and again, it was a decision made, I think not by him but by a lot of people.  So we`re going to look at it very carefully.

I feel very badly actually for Secretary Acosta.


WILLIAMS:  Well, tonight "The New York Times" reports, "White House officials said Mr. Trump regarded Mr. Acosta as a loyal and until now no drama member of his Cabinet.  Mr. Acosta has not spoken with the President about the Epstein case recently."

According to "The Washington Post," "officials at the White House are nervous that Democrats will encourage women allegedly abused by Epstein to testify publicly before Congress drawing attention to Acosta`s work on the plea deal."  They add, "There was no substantial vetting done on Acosta until after Trump decided to nominate him."

Democrats and Congress, and as you might imagine, 15 of the democratic presidential candidates are pressing for Acosta to step down or be fired.  Republicans have yet to join in.  There is growing pressure from other Trump allies to move against Acosta.  This is telling. NBC News reporting tonight that officials inside the administration including Acting Chief of Staff Mulvaney have had concerns about Acosta`s performance in his day job, his Cabinet job, particularly his perceived lack of urgency on an acting deregulation.  Is this a foreshadowing of something?

Politico reports, "Mulvaney told Trump on Monday that the continuing drip of damaging information surrounding the 2008 agreement, Acosta struck to keep Jeffrey Epstein from a heavy jail sentence would hurt the administration."

Indeed tonight Mulvaney gave NBC News this response to questions about Acosta.  And we quote, "I push all of the Cabinet Secretaries on the deregulatory agenda as it is a top priority of the President.  That in no way should be interpreted as displeasure with any Cabinet member including Secretary Acosta."

Trump`s relationship with Jeffrey Epstein is coming under intense scrutiny for years, in plain English, the two men socialize together both in New York and Florida.  In 2002, Trump told New York Magazine he`d known Epstein for about 15 years and that he was a terrific guy.  The A.P. reports, "Epstein`s personal address book copies of which have been included in legal findings list multiple private numbers for contacting Trump, his wife, Melania, daughter Ivanka, as well as Trump`s butler, executive assistant and security staff."

Back in 2015, the now shuttered website Gawker, published what it reported was Epstein`s "little black book" showing an entry for Donald Trump with all kinds of numbers in New York and Palm Beach.  Today Trump made an effort to distance himself from Epstein.  There was no more talk from Trump about his friend being a terrific guy.


TRUMP:  Well, I knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him.  I mean, people in Palm Beach knew him.  He was a fixture in Palm Beach.  I had a falling out with him a long time ago.  I don`t think I`ve spoken to him for 15 years.  I wasn`t a fan.


WILLIAMS:  Here for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday evening, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at CIA and the Pentagon, former Chief Counsel for House Intel, and back with us here in New York, Jessica Roth, former assistance U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who is now a professor at the Cardozo School of Law in Yeshiva University here in New York.  And welcome to you all.

Peter, I note that tonight, Chris Ruddy, the head of Newsmax and a long time Trump friend and whisperer went on CNN in about the last hour and after making clear he and the President had not discussed this, he straight up said it`s not going to be long concerning Acosta`s time remaining as Labor Secretary.  Where do you see Acosta`s future?  Where do you see the President`s exposure in this case?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes.  That`s a great question.  Look, you know, we`ll see how this plays out.  But this has the whiff of danger for Secretary Acosta for obvious reasons.  President Trump doesn`t particularly like it when his top advisers come under this kind of scrutiny.  It`s a distraction from his point of view.

He`s going to be asked questions about it.  His own relationship with Epstein is going to be brought into scrutiny.  My colleagues Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman have a story tonight about a party in 1992 when President Trump, then Donald Trump, and Epstein had a party down in Florida with 28 women and just the two of them.  Young women who were provided to them for the purpose of this party.  So that kind of story is the kind of thing he`s not going to want to see continuing to rise, and that`s going to probably continue if Secretary Acosta remains in his post.

WILLIAMS:  Let me indeed back you up with a dramatic reading of the writing tonight of Annie Karni, Maggie Haberman in "The Times."  "It was supposed to be an exclusive party at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump`s member`s only club in Palm Beach, Florida.  But other than the two dozen or so women flown in to provide the entertainment, the only guests were Mr. Trump and Jeffrey Epstein.  Through a mutual appreciation of wealth, women, and years of occupying adjacent real estate in Palm Beach and on Page Six, the lives of the two men routinely intersected for decades.  In those days, if you didn`t know Trump and you didn`t know Epstein, you were a nobody, said Alan Dershowitz, the long time Harvard University Law School professor who later served on Mr. Epstein`s defense team when he was charged with unlawful sex with minors in 2006."

Peter, this is, indeed, more proof the President lived the life he lived as a civilian to the fullest before we even thought of Donald Trump in the realm of the presidency.

BAKER:  Yes.  We tend to forget that.  We tend to forget, you know, what kind of, you know, a swinging lifestyle in effect he had.  He went on Howard Stern and bragged about, you know, his exploits with women, and he, you know, obviously on his third wife, and he was not the traditional model of a president or a future president working out.  That`s never stopped him in political life.  He`s managed to do what other politicians have not been able to do and sort of move beyond that kind of, you know, sensational lifestyle.  It would have been enough to stop any other political career.

So in that sense, you know, it`s something that he has managed to handle.  But this is a special case.  This is a case involving young women below the age of consent.  This is not a situation where you can talk about consenting adults.  This is, you know -- and it involves somebody that he at least for one period of his was close to.

Now, he did seemed to have a falling out with Jeffrey Epstein, hasn`t been close to him for years.  What he said today seems to be true about that.  And there are other certainly who have been close to Jeffrey Epstein like Bill Clinton, who obviously are going to face scrutiny as a result of this.

But this is a particularly, you know, dangerous area for this particular President.  We just had an allegation about couple weeks ago by, you know, by an author who says that he sexually assaulted her in the dressing room of a clothing store.  The more of this kind of focus is out there, the more it`s distracting him from the things he wants to do as he heads into an election year.

WILLIAMS:  Counselor, rescue us and take us back into the legal realm.  What do you make of the deal that Acosta as U.S. attorney agreed to in Florida that led in many ways to this case we`re talking about tonight?

JESSICA ROTH, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  It was an extremely unusual deal, both the content of it, if you will, and the process that led to it, being put into effect.  The content is unusual because it`s extremely lenient.  Notwithstanding the fact that his office had apparently prepared a draft indictment of over 50 pages with serious federal felony charges, that indictment wasn`t filed.

And instead what the deal provided was that Acosta -- excuse me, Epstein would plead guilty to Florida state charges that resulted in him serving, I think it was 13 months in prison.  It turned out most of that he was on essentially work release and he would register as a sex offender.  That`s extremely lenient given that they were considering such serious federal charges as I understood it could have led to life in prison.  So that aspect of the content is unusual.

It`s also unusual that they agreed as part of the deal to keep it secret including from the victims in violation of a statute, the Crime Victims Rights Act.  In addition it provided immunity from named co-conspirators but also unnamed co-conspirators.  That`s extraordinarily unusual to provide in the context of that kind of non-prosecution agreement with one individual.  Immunity for unnamed, essentially, anybody who could have been conceivably construed as a co-conspirator.  So that`s the content of the deal that`s unusual.

The process was extremely unusual as well because as I understand it has been laid forth in the documents in some of the Florida litigation, Acosta was meeting privately with the defense attorney for Epstein off site, right?


ROTH:  Not in his office.  Both aspects of that are very unusual.  And so it raises a lot of questions that I think Acosta`s going to have to answer in some context whether it`s if he`s called before Congress to give testimony or there`s an ongoing Department of Justice Office of Professional Responsibility investigation into this as well, and that happens to be the piece that, as I understand, Barr, Attorney General Barr, is still saying he was recused from.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy Bash, here we are again.  We as a nation were promised the best people.  The President tonight as Rick Wilson keeps pointing out, has three friends in jail.  I know I don`t.  I don`t imagine you do.  That`s rather unique.  And it`s another distraction.  It`s another personnel problem to say the least.

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Yes, we`ve had three White House Chiefs of Staff, two Secretaries of Defense, two Secretaries of State, three Homeland Security secretaries, two attorneys general, we`ve had two Cabinet secretaries at HHS at interior resign under a cloud of scandal.  And now this scandal could sweep in two more Cabinet secretaries, the Secretary of Labor and the attorney general.  And so, when the President promises that he surrounds himself with the best people, you got to ask your question, ask the question, was Acosta vetted?  Were these decisions that were undertaken in the southern district of Florida in the Epstein matter actually reviewed by the incoming administration and if they were, why did they conclude that Acosta was fit to serve as one of the law enforcement professionals in our nation as Labor Secretary who is responsible for combatting human trafficking?  Something doesn`t add up.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy, what do you make of the rather unabashed clumsiness of the President`s effort to distance himself from Epstein, the folks were -- who were around during this period, the 1990s in New York, openly referred to these two guys as running mates.

BASH.  When the time the President says I hardly knew him, I barely can remember his name, or something to that effect, it`s usually a tell that he`s exceptionally close to that person.  We saw that in the Manafort case.  We saw that in the Cohen case.  And also when he says something snide or derogatory like in the case of the sexual assault that Peter referenced earlier, where he said she`s not my type, that usually is evidence of some guilty consciousness by the President.

WILLIAMS:  And Jessica, by dent of the connection to the President here, remind us, remind the folks watching tonight why we should take this case against Epstein so incredibly seriously.

ROTH:  Well, we should take the case against Epstein incredibly seriously even if there weren`t any connection to the President.


ROTH:  I mean, the allegations are so serious as a U.S. attorney Jeff Berman said, it shocks the conscience what`s alleged here.

WILLIAMS:  It does.

ROTH:  So -- and I think the case here is extremely important to the victims in this case, and it`s also important in the broader context of prosecution of child sex exploitation cases more broadly.  I thought of the commitment to the victims and to pursuing these cases regardless of the wealth and power and political connection was made clear in the press conference.  And so hopefully this will encourage more victims to come forward in this particular case, given the hot line that was established and in future cases.  And send a powerful message of deterrence to those who could consider getting involved in this kind of conduct thinking perhaps that they might be protected by their political connections.

WILLIAMS:  And indeed apparently more people have come forward as a result of that public plea.  Our thanks on this Tuesday night to our big three for starting us off, to Peter Baker, to Jeremy Bash, and to Jessica Roth, thank you all three of you.

And coming up, new reporting this evening on the Justice Department`s 16- hour interview with the former British spy at the center of the Mueller investigation after all.

And later a day after the first Democrat gets out of the race, another one gets in today.  So much for thinning the herd.  But there is another race of interest to update you upon this evening as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Tuesday night as President Lincoln looks on.


WILLIAMS:  What an interesting story today.  New reporting revealing that U.S. Justice Department lawyers flew to the U.K. while President Trump was last visiting the U.K. and while they were there, they spent 16 hours interviewing this man, Christopher Steele, the former veteran British spy who was famously the author of the controversial dossier that bears his name and will forever, the original document that alleged those links between Trump associates and Russians between -- before the 2016 election.

A source told Reuters news agency Steele`s information was deemed sufficiently credible enough to extend the investigation of the inspector general back here at home with the Justice Department.

Meanwhile former Trump business associate Felix Sater was questioned by House Intelligence Committee today about the Trump Tower Moscow project following his close door testimony.  Sater spoke to reporters.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What were you able to reveal about the deal, the Trump Tower Moscow deal?

FELIX SATER, FMR. TRUMP ASSOCIATE:  I revealed everything, all the knowledge I had about the deal I revealed to the committee as well as to every other committee that I`ve testified in front of fully and completely.  I answered every question that was asked of me.


WILLIAMS:  Well, let`s wait a minute right there.  In fact, the House Intelligence Committee didn`t exactly agree with Mr. Sater`s self-assess there.  A spokesperson released a statement that read impart, "While we do not typically comment on closed interviews, we must correct the record. Mr. Sater has not fully cooperated with the Committee and he will remain under subpoena until he does so."  That gets your attention.

Today we also learned the House Judiciary Committee will vote Thursday to authorize a dozen subpoenas as part of their obstruction of justice investigation.  The list includes some big names like Flynn and Kushner and Rosenstein and Sessions.  And a reminder, we`re just eight days away from Mueller`s scheduled testimony on the Hill.

So, to talk about all of it, back with us tonight is Chuck Rosenberg, former U.S. attorney, former senior FBI official who served as counsel to Robert Mueller for a time.  Also happens to be presently the host of the MSMBC podcast called "The Oath".

And Chuck, hat do you make of the Steele story?

CHUCK ROSENBERG, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY:  Well, interesting.  First, Brian, I should tell you that the office of inspector general at the Department of Justice and the Inspector General Michael Horowitz have good reputations, fair, nonpartisan, professionals.  That`s good news.  You can trust their report.

Second, Mr. Steele didn`t have to cooperate with this.  He`s a foreign national.  He doesn`t work for the Department of Justice.  He never did.  And so he sat down with them voluntarily, which is a good sign.  He wanted to tell the story and he wanted to make sure that the inspector general had all the facts at his disposition before he wrote his report.  So that`s helpful to the inspector general and then ultimately will be helpful to us.

WILLIAMS:  Well, you may recall how media on the left held up the Mueller report as being the big document they were waiting for.  I`ve noted media on the right have held up this inspector general`s report as what they have been waiting for.  Do you think something that never happens these days will happen if he is the man of good repute that you report he is, both sides will respect his findings?

ROSENBERG:  I sure hope so.  Look, both sides should respect the report that Mueller wrote.  Both side should respect the report that Horowitz writes.  He is a good man and he runs a good office.  It`s an incredibly important one, right?

The Department of Justice is made up of human beings.  Human beings are fallible, they got stuff wrong from time to time.  It`s the job of the inspector general to figure out what went wrong and make recommendations to fix it.  So I don`t see it as a left or right issue or right issue, it`s a good government issue and we should look at the report in that way.

WILLIAMS:  Now, Chuck, into some dicier territory.  What do you make of what the attorney general has said in the last 24 to 48 hours about Mueller`s testimony?  He at first said he had no problem with Mueller testifying and now kind of using a double negative if Mueller didn`t want to testify, he would support that as well.  He used the expression public spectacle.

First, do you think it`s still a slam dunk that we will hear public testimony on live television on this network and others in front of two congressional committees from Mueller?  Second, adjust people`s expectations for said event.

ROSENBERG:  Sure.  I think it`s more likely than not that we`ll hear from Bob Mueller next week.  He said he didn`t want to testify.  It looks like it`s going to happen.  Stranger things have happened in the last two and a half years, Brian, as you well know.  But right now as we sit here, I think we`ll likely hear from him.

In terms of telling you what to expect, Mueller told us what to expect.  Mueller said he`s not going to go beyond his report.  I work for the man.  I would take him at his word.  If he says he`s not going beyond the report, he`s not going to go beyond the report.

So, I think it raises another question, which is how do you question Bob Mueller, right?  What are the things you ask him to elicit the most helpful information?  That`s going to be tricky, I think for the Democrats.

WILLIAMS:  Well, give us some examples.

ROSENBERG:  Sure.  Happy to.  When I was a federal prosecutor, conducting a cross examination, we would ask only questions that we knew the answer to.  And we would do it in sort of short declarative sentences.  Meaning, Brian, I`m sitting on your show tonight and I`m talking to you.  Isn`t that true?  And you would say yes.

And so in the same vein I could imagine members of the House asking Mueller, I`m going to read a paragraph to you.  Pick out a real salient, interesting paragraph from the Mueller report.  I`m going to read this to you Mr. Mueller.  Having read it to you, did I read it correctly?  Did anything change?  Is that what you wrote?  Do you have any reason to think that`s no longer true?

I mean, there`s a way to take him through the report and elicit answers that will be helpful and illuminating.  I worry that the Democrats and the Republicans are going to try and go far field and Mueller simply won`t go there with him.

WILLIAMS:  Cluck, don`t make any travel plans for the next 10 days.  This is why we should all listen to Chuck Rosenberg when he comes on broadcast like this one.  Thank you, sir, for doing so again tonight.

And coming up for us, the man reviled by Democrats, the Republican who embraces the label of legislative grim reaper gets a challenger back home who says, "He is everything that`s wrong with Washington."  She wants to start to change in Kentucky.  The story when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Well, for all those who were waiting, billionaire Tom Steyer is in the 2020 race. He`s a late entry in the Democratic presidential primary contest even though the first one of those is until February.

He made a fortune in finance.  If you recognize the face, it`s because he spent a fortune plastering the airways with his own commercials calling for impeachment for months now.  Rather than donating to other Democrats, he figures he`s now the best candidate to beat Trump.

As for the Democrats, the math is simple, to win the Senate and appoint their own majority leader.  They have to make winning the Senate a priority.  Absent that, they can try to defeat the current majority leader and indeed, Mitch McConnell now has a challenger in a very red state of Kentucky.

He is being taken on back home by a marine, retired fighter pilot Lieutenant Colonel Amy McGrath.  She announced today, she intends to deny him a 7th term.


AMY MCGRATH, AMERICAN FIGHTER PILOT:  Everything that`s wrong in Washington had to start someplace.  How did it come to this?  That even within our own families, we can`t talk to each other about the leaders of our country anymore without anger and blame?

Well, it started with this man who was elected a lifetime ago, and who has bit-by-bit, year-by-year, turned Washington into something we all despise.


WILLIAMS:  Back with us tonight to talk about all of it, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for the Washington Post, Moderator of Washington Week on PBS and Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor over at POLITICO.  Good evening to you both.

And Robert, what should we know about this challenge to Mitch McConnell?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST:  This challenge is the latest effort by National Democrats to really try to take the Senate back in 2020.  They`ve recruited Ms. McGrath and main.  They`ve recruited the main house speaker to run against Senator Susan Collins.  They know Republicans have some vulnerabilities but it can`t just be a referendum on President Trump.

My conversations with top Democrats today say they also want to make it in 2020 a referendum on the majority leader.  In a similar way to how the Republicans targeted then House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2010 when they tried to recapture the House.

WILLIAMS:  Anita, how do the Democrats avoid what we`ll call the Beto Abraham Syndrome of hopes and dreams in what our after all red states?  And do you see the Democrats as pushing more energy into this notion of picking up Senate seats since it`s been argued half of the Democratic field would make perhaps dandy Senate candidates if they would return to their home states?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO:  Right.  You`re definitely right about that.  I mean, they`re definitely still pushing but you`re right.  This is a very uphill battle.

Remember, this is, you know, a top-tier candidate, a top-tier recruit for the Democrats.  But remember, she lost last year in a House seat by several points on something that where other Democrats and other states had won obviously.  The Kentucky is a very tough race for her.

But, you know, they do feel like that the military background that she has is a very good attribute.  They hope to really push that.  They have -- of the people that came into the House, the new members, many of them have a military background or intelligence agency background and they feel it`s a very strong for them.

But, you`re right.  This is tough.  And I felt like her add or her video today was very interesting.

She`s actually saying that Mitch McConnell is standing in the way of getting things done including President Trump`s agenda, which clearly that`s not the case.  What`s happening there is divided government is standing in the way of President Trump`s agenda and Mitch McConnell has been working hard to get that passed through.

WILLIAMS:  Robert Costa, tell me about the Democrats right now.  A lot of people believe what they`re seeing especially in the House is just stasis.  I noticed this on social media today from Bakari Sellers of South Carolina.  He wrote, "The fact we are not having daily wall to wall live hearings on impeachment is mind boggling."

Now, we did just run an item about subpoenas going out.  But at the same time, another battle taking up a lot of oxygen in our occupation is the speaker of the House battling freshman members of her own party who don`t have skin in the game in terms of national politics as she sees it.

COSTA:  Brian, when I spoke to confidant of Tom Steyer, the billionaire Democratic donor over the weekend and asked why is he jumping into the presidential race, it`s because of the sentiment you just outlined.

He, along with many Democrats, both in the Congress and outside are frustrated by the pace of proceedings on Capitol Hill.  They want to see a move to impeachment against President Trump.

And they also want to see the leadership back away in the House especially from dealing with President Trump.  Even when it comes to trying to address the migrant detention centers, there`s a small group within the House that wants to do almost nothing when it comes to the Trump administration.

Most Democrats voted with Speaker Pelosi when it came to that House version of border bill trying to work with her to get money to those children and families but some Democrats like Representative Ocasio-Cortez say you have to take a hard line.  That`s the tension.  Not to oppose President Trump but how far to go in opposing him.

WILLIAMS:  Anita Kumar, no polite way to ask this.  Does Tom Steyer have a snowball`s chance in you know where?

KUMAR:  Well, it`s hard to see how.  I mean not only is he coming in late and he missed the first debate.  It`s hard to see how he makes the second debate at this point, but really he`s coming in as someone who has this populous message, but he it`s -- but he doesn`t have the populous background, right?

He`s a billionaire.  He is someone who can`t really talk about income equality from his personal background.  He doesn`t have the generational, you know, -- he doesn`t -- he`s not younger as some of the people are looking for.  But there`s also no -- he`s not a diverse candidate in a party now that seems to be looking for diversity both gender and racial.

So he has a lot of strikes against him.  You saw some of the other Democratic candidates kind of talking about how they are not looking favorably on a billionaire coming in who`s going to spend a lot of his own money.

WILLIAMS:  And, Robert, again, to speak English, we have talked often about the Democrats` unique ability to eat their own young.

COSTA:  And the question for some Democrats now talking to national strategists and leaders is whether some of the young, you mention, in the presidential race like Beto O`Rourke, the former Texas congressman, will they switch now to Senate races in key states across the country?  Could John Hickenlooper, the former Colorado governor, run against Cory Gardener?  Most political analysts say it`s one of the most vulnerable Republicans.

Eric Swalwell of California just getting out of the race.  This summer Democrats say could be a reckoning for their party, who`s really going to run for Senate and who is going to take the lead in the presidential race.

WILLIAMS:  Two great reporters who tonight leave us with great questions to ponder.  Robert Costa, Anita Kumar, thank you friends for coming on, really appreciate it.

And coming up, Donald Trump continues to put the special in our special relationship with the UK.  We`ll ask a veteran foreign correspondent how it`s going over, over there.



JEREMY HUNT, UK FOREIGN SECRETARY, PRIME MINISTER CANDIDATE:  Sometimes things that you have to say to your friends that you rather not say like I said to President Trump today because I think his comments about Theresa May were unacceptable and I don`t think he should have made them.


WILLIAMS:  British lawmakers showing British resolve there in the face of attacks on their prime minister and upon their ambassador to the US by the President of the United States.

Here`s our President just today.  "The wacky ambassador that the UK foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy."

Trump also again criticized the outgoing prime minister`s handling of Brexit writing, "I told Theresa May how to do that deal but she went her own foolish way, was unable to get it done, a disaster.  I don`t know the ambassador, but have been told he is a pompous fool."

BoJo, that would be Boris Johnson who like Jeremy Hunt wants to be Britain`s next prime minister today would not rule out firing the UK ambassador to Washington, stopped short of direct criticism of the American president for trashing his fellow Brits.


BORIS JOHNSON, UK PARLIAMENT MEMBER, PRIME MINISTER CANDIDATE:  He was dragged into a British political debate in a way he sometimes is, I don`t think that`s necessarily the right thing for him to do as Jeremy has said.


WILLIAMS:  The President`s anger toward the UK ambassador erupted after those confidential cables leaked on Sunday portraying the Trump administration as, "Inept, clumsy and completely absorbed by infighting and chaos."

Just yesterday, Trump said the US will no longer deal with the ambassador.  Today a State Department spokesperson said the US will continue to deal with all accredited individuals who are here until further instructions arrive from the White House.

As Daily Beast Columnist Christopher Dickey wrote recently, "US-UK relationship status, it`s complicated."

And that man, in fact, is with us for more.  Christopher Dickey, veteran foreign correspondent in the Paris based world news editor for the Daily Beast.  He has been kind enough to get up at 5:30 in the morning as the sun rises above the Arc de Triomphe and Sean`s Alizee.

And, Christopher, let`s establish the UK is a mess.  Let`s establish we`ve never had an American president attack Brits quite this way.  How is this all being covered in Europe?

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, THE DAILY BEAST WORLD NEWS EDITOR:  Well, I think people here in Europe generally think that President Trump is a lose cannon.  I don`t think they`re terribly surprised.  I can tell you the French are kind of amused to see the British and American leaders going at each other this way, especially the commentaries by Sir Kim Darroch, the ambassador.

Basically what Kim Darroch was saying in those cables was exactly what everybody in Europe believes, especially the people in the know who`ve had to deal with Trump.  So the feeling is that Trump is being Trump, and he`s nuts.

WILLIAMS:  And let me ask you about what may be the origins to use the word of the moment, of these leaked cables.  The argument being made here is after a while we will view Brexit, perhaps, as early experimentation by the Russians.  We will view the Trump campaign, perhaps, as early experimentation by the Russians.  Why isn`t this -- why doesn`t this bear their hallmark because they`re all about fomenting ill will between allies?

DICKEY:  It could be the Russians.  It could be the Iranians.  It could be the Chinese.  All of them have various reasons to try and foment divisions among the allies.  The Daily Mail which originally published the excerpts from these cables actually tried to imply that Sir Kim Darroch, the ambassador, might in some way have been behind these leaks.

Clearly, the problem here is the leak more than the substance because what we were saying.  The substance is what everybody knows and a lot of people think about President Trump.

WILLIAMS:  Two men joined by boisterous hair, Donald Trump and Boris Johnson.  Does the special relationship survive men like these?

DICKEY:  Well, you know, Boris Johnson in addition to being wildly eccentric is an incredible hypocrite.  Back in 2015 when Trump was first running for president, and was talking about a Muslim ban and also talking about what a terrible place London is.

Boris Johnson, mayor of London, said he was stupefyingly ignorant and completely incompetent, and should never be president of the United States.  Now Boris is Trump`s buddy.  This is the kind of hypocrisy that we expect from politicians like Trump and Boris Johnson.

WILLIAMS:  Christopher Dickey, I can`t thank you enough for getting up so early to talk to us about all these questions in your area of coverage over there.  Thank you very much.  Good to see you as always, Chris Dickey from Paris.

And coming up for us, remembering a man who played a big part in creating the era we are living in today, when we come back.



ROSS PEROT, AMERICAN BUSINESS MAGNATE:  I was Texas born and Texas bred, and Texarkana raise.  And when I die I`ll be Texas dead.


WILLIAMS:  Back in the day and for the purposes of this conversation by that I mean back in the early to mid-`90s, most people over the age of about six at least tried to do a Ross Perot imitation.  He spoke in a kind of clip chirp infused with a twang of Texarkana, Texas where he was born in the middle of the Great Depression.

He was the model of a self-made American man of his era, a billionaire who made a fortune in the data processing business, Eagle Scout, Annapolis Grad, Navy veteran who never suffered a single moment of self-doubt.  He had more down home expressions that Will Rogers while channeling Harry Truman and harkening back to a simpler time and a mightier country.

And in 1992 in his first run for office, Ross Perot came out of nowhere and got 19 percent of the vote, and when Clinton beat Bush 41 that year, Republicans were convinced that Perot had handed that election to Bill Clinton by being in the race.

Ross Perot died today at the age of 89, and we have asked Peter Baker of the "New York Times" to rejoin us tonight because apparently as a child reporter he covered Perot the presidential candidate back in the `90s.

And Peter, let`s start there.  Your memories of that campaign, and let`s remember, 41 came into that campaign I think kind of expecting a coronation.  He had, after all, just won the Gulf War.

PETER BAKER, COVERED ROSS PEROT AS A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Yes.  It`s a great way to remember this.  People forget that today.  And I didn`t actually cover this campaign but I`ve been re reconstructing it lately as part of a book I`m writing on James Baker the former secretary of state who ran President Bush`s campaign that year in 1992.

And you`re right, they remember Perot very, very bitterly.  They think Perot took the election away from them.  But the numbers don`t really show it.

If you look at the polling results he took a lot of votes away from Bill Clinton, took a lot of votes away from George Bush.  He wasn`t even in the race for several months at a time when in fact George Bush was still losing.  But he shaped that race in a way.  He helped channel this anti- establishment resentment that we saw manifest itself in a more fulsome way in 2016 back then in 1992.

He represented this disenchantment with the two-party system, the idea of sort of a populist billionaire was invented by Ross Perot, not by Donald Trump.  And if there was a swamp to be drained, he was the one who said he wanted to do it in 1992.

WILLIAMS:  Now, that`s where I was going to go.  Can you draw a line between Perot in that race to the era we`re living in considering one of his most famous quotes was the giant sucking sound as he put it of jobs going south to Mexico and his intense criticism of NAFTA just for starters?

BAKER:  Yes, absolutely.  You definitely can.  I think the direct line as you put it from 1992 to 2016.  Now, these are two very different guys in a lot of ways.  You know, Texas and New York.  Perot, you know, came out of nowhere.  He built a life and a business for himself in a way that was very, you know, distinctive.

He didn`t practice the politics of division in quite the same way that President Trump does.  He wasn`t a, you know, a foe of immigration in quite the same way.  That President Trump is.

But to the extent he represented something different, the idea that we were unhappy with the way the system worked, he in fact does sort of, you know, represent the beginning of a wave that crested about 20-some years later.  And he did it from outside of the system, right.

He tried to do it as an independent.  He got 19 percent of the vote, as you pointed out, but we learned the limits of being independent in a two-party country.

Donald Trump learned from that.  He ran for president first in 2000 on a Reform Party ticket.  That was the party that Ross Perot left behind before he dropped out.  But then he learned the lesson from that.  Lessons you can`t actually beat the system from outside.  So he beat it from inside.

What Donald Trump did was rather than trying to create a third party is he kind of took over one of the existing parties, in this case the Republicans, and he used that to kind of, you know, overturn the existing order in Washington.

So yes, there is a lot of similarities.  You point out the protectionism issue, the idea of jobs being sucked to Mexico as being one of the most prominent ones, the idea of reform, the idea that Washington was broken and needed somebody to come in and be a bull in a China shop.  Both of them sort of presented themselves in that way.

And I think that, you know, it`s an interesting argument whether there would be a Donald Trump if there had not been a Ross Perot.

WILLIAMS:  He was a lot of things.  He was a patriot first and foremost.  He made a ton of money.  He also gave away a ton of money, a philanthropist, very charitable man.  Peter Baker, thank you very much for hanging around to talk about the passing today of H. Ross Perot of Texarkana, Texas, we appreciate it.

When we continue after one final break, our president says he`s come up with a plan for managing our natural world that`s taking off like wildfire.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight is something we wanted to show you that our President said yesterday.  He gave a speech at the White House on the environment.  At one point he diverted from his text, as he is fond of doing, to mention last year`s fire season in California.

As he did, he delivered a brief aside on the importance of keeping our forests clean, specifically making sure our forest floors are as clean as a whistle.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES:  I went to the fires in California, and I said it`s also management, it`s a lot of things happening, but it`s management.  You can`t have dirty floors.  You can`t have 20 years of leaves and fallen trees.  After the first 17 months they say the tree is like a piece of tinder, you have to be very careful.  So you can`t have that.  That`s why you have so many fires.

And I will say this.  I spoke with the governor of California, spoke with many people and the process of cleaning is now really taking precedent.  A lot of people are looking at forest management.  It`s a word that people didn`t understand last year, and now they`re getting it.  And you don`t have to have any forest fires.  It`s interesting.

I spoke to certain countries and they said, "Sir, we`re a forest nation."  I never thought of a country, well-known countries.  We`re a forest nation.  I never heard of the term forest nation.  They live in forests.  And they don`t have problems.

One was telling me that his trees are much more susceptible to fire than what they have in California but they don`t have fires because they manage, they clean, they do what you have to do.  There`s not so much to burn.  And we`re going to start doing that.

And it`s called -- remember, management.  It`s called forest management.  So it`s a very important term.  When I went to California, they sort of scoffed at me for the first two weeks, and maybe three weeks, and not so much four weeks.  And after about five weeks they said, you know, he`s right.  He`s right.

So I think you`re going to see a lot of good things.  It`s a lot of area, it`s a lot of land.  But a lot of tremendous things are happening.


WILLIAMS:  There`s a lot there.  Our President on a system of forest management that he has apparently developed, lessons learned from our neighbors, the well-known forest nations that are apparently free of such fires.

That is our broadcast for this evening.  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