LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: The Honorable Elijah Cummings gets tonight`s LAST WORD." "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight the White House Chief of Staff goes before the press core and completely reverses what the President had been saying about Ukraine. Hours later he attempts to mop it up, but the damage is done, part of a bad day for Donald Trump.
Overseas, despite perhaps his most serious face ever, Vice President Pence gives Turkey virtually everything they wanted in a deal that assures the end of Kurdish lands. But back in Washington, Mitt Romney roars to life, tore into the Trump administration. Now people are wondering if we`ll hear more of that.
Meanwhile, another insider tells Congress what he saw and another Cabinet secretary is leaving, part of an 80 percent turnover at the top as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Thursday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 1,001 of the Trump administration. It was a bad day for the Trump administration.
And in plain English here is why. The President`s Chief of Staff speaking out loud in front of the press core in the White House briefing room reversed everything the President has been saying about the call with Ukraine. He said military aid was held up over politics, said they do it all the time, said we should get over it. He confirmed Rudy Giuliani has been all over U.S. foreign policy. He said the President`s own golf resort has been selected as the host location for the next G7.
While at the same time the Vice President was overseas in essence giving Turkey what they want and cementing the end of the Kurdish homeland.
But let`s start at the beginning. Here is Mick Mulvaney who enjoys the title Acting Chief of Staff confirming what we`ve seen happen, the President holding back aid to pressure Ukraine into investigating the Democrats.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WH CHIEF OF STAFF: Did he also mentioned to me in the past that the corruption related to the DNC server, absolutely. No question about that. But that`s it. And that`s why we held up the money.
Now there was a report --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the demand for an investigation into the Democrats was part of the reason that he wanted to withhold funding to Ukraine.
MULVANEY: The look back to what happened in 2016 certainly was part of the thing that he was worried about in corruption with that nation. That is absolutely --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Withholding the funding?
And I have news for everybody, get over it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Clearly, what you just described is a quid pro quo. It is funding will not flow unless the investigation into the Democratic server happened as well.
MULVANEY: We do that all the time with foreign policy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Mulvaney`s remarks undercut what his boss has been saying all along.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was no quid pro quo at all.
There is no quid pro quo.
There was no quid pro quo.
There was no quid pro quo, unlike Biden.
There was no quid pro quo. There was nothing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Now, keep in mind, Mulvaney also runs the Office of Management and Budget and had a hand in blocking the aid to Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MULVANEY: -- was involved with the process by which the money was held up temporarily. OK? Three issues for that. T he corruption in the country, whether or not other countries were participating in the support of the Ukraine and whether or not they were cooperating in an ongoing investigation with our Department of Justice. That`s completely legitimate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Not long after that briefing, a senior Justice Department official told NBC News, "If the White House was withholding aid from Ukraine with regard to any investigation by the Justice Department, that`s news to us."
Trump`s counsel also distanced himself from Mulvaney saying, "The President`s legal counsel was not involved in Active Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney`s press briefing."
NBC News reports one Trump ally called Mulvaney`s news conference, "an unmitigated disaster."
This evening, Mulvaney pivoted away from his comments issuing a statement saying in part, "Let me be clear, there was absolutely no quid pro quo between Ukrainian military aid and any investigation into the 2016 election. The President never told me to withhold any money until the Ukrainians did anything related to the server. There was never any reason on the flow of the aid related to the matter of the DNC server." All of that would be fine, what he just said there, had he not said all of that aloud in front of the press core today?
Trump told reporters he didn`t see Mulvaney`s briefing, but "The Wall Street Journal" reports Trump, "agreed on the need for Mr. Mulvaney to walk back his comments and personally approved his chief`s statement and blamed the media`s handling of the press briefing, not Mr. Mulvaney."
Trump did give Mulvaney his endorsement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think he`s a good man. I have a lot of confidence in him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was it.
On Capitol Hill impeachment investigators spent over nine hours interviewing Gordon Sondland, Trump`s ambassador to the E.U. who was also tapped to help deal with Ukraine. Sondland`s opening statement indicated Giuliani had a direct role in carrying out Trump`s policy on Ukraine, a decision he said he disagreed with but carried out nonetheless.
However, some House members told NBC News that while Sondland did have some gaps in his recall, he did corroborate much of the whistleblower`s complaint.
Today we also learned Trump will host the 2020 G7 summit of world leaders at his Doral golf resort near Miami. We`ll have more on this just ahead.
And amid all of this, the administration is now congratulating itself for a five-day cease fire they say they have negotiated with Turkey and its attack on the Kurds in Syria. An exceptionally stern faced Mike Pence negotiated the agreement with Turkish President Erdogan in which the White House conveniently agreed to hold off on imposing new sanctions. The Kurds were not part of those negotiations. The deal essentially gives Turkey what it wants, control over that land.
As our own Richard Engel put it tonight, Trump just gave away the Kurdish homeland to the Kurds sworn enemy.
This afternoon, Senator Mitt Romney who opposed Trump`s decision to pull U.S. troops out of Syria, had clearly had enough. He went to the Senate floor and suggested the administration may have been bullied into this deal.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (R) UTAH: It`s been suggested that Turkey may have called America`s bluff, telling the President they were coming no matter what we did. If that`s so, we should know it. For it would tell us a great deal about how we should deal with Turkey now and in the future.
Was there no chance for diplomacy? Are we so weak and so inept diplomatically that Turkey forced the hand of the United State of America? Turkey?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Here for our lead-off discussion on this consequential Thursday night, Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor over at POLITICO, Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff of the CIA and the Pentagon, former chief counsel to House Intel and Greg Miller, National Security Correspondent for "The Washington Post," also happens to be the author of "The Apprentice: Trump, Russia, and the Subversion of American Democracy."
Greg, I`d like to begin with you. What did Mick Mulvaney just admit to today?
GREG MILLER, THE WASHINGTON POST NATL. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: So, you know, between his two statements, I mean, at the outset, he basically admitted from the White House podium what the White House has been insisting was not the case for weeks now, that there was a quid pro quo that the United States government was withholding $400 million in aid from a country that desperately needs help in fending off aggression from Russia on the condition that Ukraine have to investigate what amount to conspiracy theories at this point relating to the election interference of 2016. It was an astonishing thing to watch.
WILLIAMS: Anita Kumar, why do you think a guy like Mulvaney would walk into that briefing room and in effect light himself on fire on live television?
ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously he was sent out there with a specific message, the message was about the Trump -- the G7 being at Doral -- Trump Doral next year. But he knew he would get questions about Ukraine. And he was briefed and ready for those questions. And he was supposed to stick to that message, the message we`ve been hearing for weeks. But he had a lot of questions and a lot of, you know, relentless questioning and eventually said this. And of course we saw him quickly backtrack on that.
And, you know, I think that initially I had heard that from a lot of people that Trump was initially pleased with how he had done. He liked his attitude. He was sparring with reporters, talking back, saying it doesn`t matter, who cares. Get over it is the line he used.
But then when he saw the publicity that this was getting and realized what had happened, obviously he was the one who said he needs to go back there and fix this and clean this up. But as you said, the damage is done and you`ll bet members of Congress are going to be using that statement in the coming weeks.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, because of what we saw transpire today, because of what we heard with our own ears, did impeachment just take a giant step forward?
JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: I think it did, Brian. Essentially what Mick Mulvaney said today was, we did it, get over it. So, in essence by admitting the quid pro quo, by admitting this, I think we see now the outline of a four main articles of impeachment that the House would likely consider.
First is soliciting foreign interference in the U.S. election. Second, undermining American national security by withholding military aid to pressure foreign interference in an United States election. Third, lying to the public about it based on the clips that you showed of President Trump denying the quid pro quo. And fourth, obstructing a congressional investigation. And I think those four issues are going to be the main issues in some way, shape or form as this heads to the House within a matter of weeks.
WILLIAMS: And Jeremy, I`ve got to ask you. Did it just get easier for Republicans to consider impeachment? And did Mitt Romney give some folks some air support today with his comments?
BASH: Well, that`s hard to know, Brian. It`s a little hard to know the way this is going to all shake out on Capitol Hill. But, I do think that Senator Romney`s quite principled statements today, particularly his statements about the Syria situation will, I think he`s going to give voice to others on a bipartisan basis to really say to the President, Mr. President, you`re undermining American national security. You`ve done it in the context of this Syria discussion. We are gravely concerned about how you handled the Ukraine matter. And there is cause and reason to believe that this abuse of office, if left unchecked will continue.
WILLIAMS: Greg Miller, this White House is now left off balance after what we witnessed today. Is there every possibility they will send someone up to pay the price?
MILLER: There appears to be, you know, suggestions that that could happen. People are already coming out of this White House and quite enthusiastically pointing fingers at others inside the administration. We had the E.U. ambassador, Gordon Sondland, in -- before the impeachment probe today basically saying that Trump and his lawyer were put in charge of U.S.-Ukraine policy and that America`s diplomats were to take their orders from Giuliani in their discussions with Ukraine. So there is an aspect to this story now where you are seeing people turn on one another in a very direct way.
WILLIAMS: Anita Kumar, Susan Glasser has just posted a piece in the "New Yorker" tonight that is a reminder. Aside from what happened today and in a way it was a big shiny object. Yesterday`s dust-up in the Cabinet room with the speaker of the House, this slow march of testimony continues on in Congress, wracking up some real tonnage by now.
KUMAR: Yes. I mean the thing that we`re seeing despite finger pointing and, you know, people saying slightly different stories here and there who is to blame, the big picture is the same. Largely a lot of what the whistleblower has said has come to fruition.
We`ve also seen that largely the President`s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, was directing Ukraine policy. So some of those big issues are there. Everybody is seeing the same things that we`re seeing. So, this is creating a picture for us about what has happened over these last few months.
WILLIAMS: Jeremy Bash, because of your experience at the Pentagon, I wanted to mention the piece written for "The New York Times" by Admiral McRaven, former head of all Special Operations in this country, the guy that presided over the mission to get Osama bin Laden. The headline itself is so bracing given who this guy is and his history with our country, "Our republic is under attack from the President." Jeremy, what should people take away from this?
BASH: I urge everybody to read Admiral McRaven`s searing indictment of the President and his approach to the presidency. I have worked with the Admiral McRaven. He is among the most decorated, most principled, most fearless and heroic leaders of our country`s military.
And what he says in this piece is really jarring. He basically says that the way the President has approached the presidency is that he has abandoned the ideals of America. He has decided he does not want to stand with our friends. He does not want to stand with our allies. And so doing, he`s undermining the very reason why people would join the military. The reason why people would fight and defend our country. And if nobody joins the military, who is left to defend us?
WILLIAMS: Our great thanks to you to our initial three guest on tonight`s broadcast. To Anita Kumar, to Jeremy Bash, to Greg Miller, thank you all.
And coming up for us, Trump invites the G7 leaders to one of his places down in Florida, but don`t worry, the White House insists the Trumps won`t profit from it. Rachel Maddow is here with us to talk about it tonight.
And later, the news we woke up to this morning, that a lion of the House, Congressman Elijah Cummins is gone. THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Thursday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there any value sending a message to the world, specially given that all that`s happened with foreign interference and attempts of foreign interference in our country, that this President and this country is not open for the kind of self-dealing that happens in other countries? Is that not an important message to send when you`re inviting the world to come here to the United States?
MULVANEY: No. Do you have a question?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Well, what are the chances the White House has chosen President Trump`s own golf resort in Doral Florida to host next year`s G7 summit of world leaders? The White House insisted of course the President would not profit from the meeting.
David Fahrenthold with "The Washington Post" shares a by line on the report that says Trump`s Doral club is a major part of his portfolio. "The Post" reports, "It provides him more revenue than any other hotel of gulf club, and he look out $125 million in loans to buy it. But in recent years, this keystone property has fallen into decline with profits falling 69 percent in three years. An expert hired by the Trump Organization blamed the drop on Trump`s politicized brand." That`s a euphemism.
We are pleased that our good friend Rachel Maddow is here with us on the late shift. She happens to be the author of the new book "Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth." Our conversation about the book is forthcoming. First of all, welcome.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST, "THE RACHEL MADDOW SHOW": Thank you, Brian. Thank you for having me.
WILLIAMS: Did things get different? Did things changed today do you think?
MADDOW: Today it felt -- I don`t know if you saw the opening of my show today at all, but it came out differently than I intended it. Like I sort of intended it for to come out like I got a normal lay block running through what happened. By the end of it I actually sort of rattled myself a little bit. I do feel like the wheels are coming off.
For the Energy Secretary to resign, we have two Cabinet secretaries resigned during the course of the impeachment proceeding already. One of whom, the current one resigning tonight, the Energy Secretary does appear to be involved in the scheme, at least a couple of different levels.
We`ve got the White House Chief of Staff who was sent out today not only to make the, yes, it was quid pro quo, yes we did it, what do you going to make of it article which was bracing, but then to take it back, simultaneously announcing this self-dealing, which is something more blatant than we`ve ever seen from any president in U.S. history.
WILLIAMS: I want to read you Walter Shaub, the former watchdog of this kind of thing on Twitter tonight. "In case it`s not clear from my freaking out, this G7 thing is an escalation. It may look from the outside like it`s been corruption all along, because it has been, but participating in a contract award to yourself is different by orders of magnitude. This is a red line crossed.`
Do you think we will see commensurate public reaction? Or is this, as I keep describing it, that frog boiling experiment that is still kicking around YouTube?
MADDOW: You know had they never said they were going to do this, had the President not previewed this? I mean, he floated this as a trial balloon weeks ago talking up Doral and saying that it was the only property in America that should be hosting this. I mean, this is -- the summer at the G7 he was already floating this, and you saw the response, right. The response was people thought, oh, he`s kidding. The President`s supporters always kidding, he doesn`t really mean it. Democrats and other critics saying, that would be a terrible thing if he did it.
To float it, to have that reaction and then to go for it feels like both an act of desperation and an effort to just sort of blow through what we otherwise might expect to be the envelope here. I do feel like this is a, you know, make me do it kind of situation for this President.
And to force the White House Chief of Staff out there to explain it, President Trump announces a lot of things himself. To instead make the White House Chief of Staff go out there and there`s been reports that he may be the person being blamed, he may be in trouble for some of these things internally in terms of how this impeachment is being mishandled so far by the White House, to make him go out there and announce it, yes, it`s going to be at Doral, no, we`re not telling you about the other properties that were vetted. Trust us, it`s the best one in the country. And no, he`s not going to profit from it. He`s just going to do this at cost.
I mean, that is -- I mean, you see that like in mob movies, right?
MADDOW: Like when you make somebody go out and use their face like that. It usually doesn`t end up well for the person who gets used in that way. But it`s a sign that they have to do it.
WILLIAMS: You and I spend so much of our air time describing the qualities that are behind the stories we`re describing that night. What would make Mulvaney walk into that briefing room today and set himself on fire like that? Is it an Uber kind of gaslighting? Is it the Trump reaction where he often wants to own the very worst thing so it doesn`t seem like the very worst thing two years from now? And for Mulvaney to come back and say it was misconstrued. It was construed.
MADDOW: It was construed. I mean, for him to specifically say we did not make the aid contingent on the DNC server, what his exact phrase was, yes, the DNC server, that`s why we held back the aid.
WILLIAMS: What is that?
MADDOW: That, I mean, I am assuming that Mr. Mulvaney was essentially told to walk the plank. I do not think that Mr. Mulvaney didn`t understand what he was saying when he first went out there and said, yes, we did it. It`s a quid pro quo. What are you going to make of it? Get over it.
I think they maybe thought that this would be effective in the same way that the President is sort of bragging about the things, the worst things he`s been accused off sometimes does work for him. It`s not going to work for somebody other than the President. It`s not going to work for the President much longer.
And I think in order to stay close to this President, you have to show that you`re willing to sort of proverbial kill for him. You have to show that you`re willing to put your own skin in the game, you`re willing to stick your neck out for him and essentially commit to the same kind of things for which he is being accused.
I just don`t think that it works for anybody other than this President. And you saw that when Mulvaney had to pull it back. And you see that in the hallowing out White House, the hallowing National Security Council, the hallowing out upper echelons, even the Cabinet -- the State Department, the sorts of folks where you otherwise have other people who brought other equities to bear. And they`re just not there anymore. They`re just gone.
WILLIAMS: To our viewers, Rachel has agreed to stay with us over the break.
And when we come back, put it this way. "The New York Times" nonfiction best seller list is a tough neighborhood. Demi Moore is at eight. Bill O`Reilly is at four. But when we come back, we will talk to the author of the number one book on that list.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: All roads seem to lead to the Putin, the President, though. Isn`t it so?
And I have concerned about all roads leading to Putin, which again all roads lead to Putin. The list goes on and on.
I also pointed out to the President I had concerns that all roads seem to lead to Putin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: In fact, Nancy Pelosi believes that is the very point she was making when she stood up to the President prior to walking out in the now famous photo that, while it might have been tweeted out by our President, has certainly broken the other way in terms of public opinion. Just look at the men at that table and their unambiguous body language. But we digress.
Back to Vladimir Putin and specifically the question of what motivates him.
Rachel Maddow explores that in her new book and makes a compelling case that the oil industry is a huge part of the answer. In industry she notes, "Is essentially a big casino that can produce both power and triumphant great gobs of cash, often with little regard for merit. That equation invites gangsterism, extortion, thuggery, and the sorts of folks who enjoy these hobbies".
The book as we mentioned is "Blowout" happens to be number one on The New York Times nonfiction best seller list. The author is here with us. Talk about the business networks, talk about ROI, like we`re all walking around using those three letters, return on investment. Talk about the initial Russian investment in screwing up our elections, how cheap it is, how vulnerable we remain right now tonight.
RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: That was why I ended up writing this book. I had no native interest in the oil and gas industry. I was not setting out to write a book about a particular industry of any kind or any business. I remain stuck having spent so much time covering the Russian attack. Really ended up stuck on why it made sense for them to do it, why the risk and reward balance made sense.
And it was a very strange attack, right? It was very sort of MacGyvered together thing. This guy who is an oligarch who has catering contracts and also runs mercenary armies in Syria for Putin sets up a weird social media factory in St. Petersburg that where whole bunch of people get paid to pretend their Americans. And then there`s a military intelligence hacking effort targeting Democratic institutions and then they invent Guccifer 2.0 to send them out and then they joint up with -- I mean, it was a really weird thing to do. It`s also very, very cheap.
It also was a very desperate thing for them to do. Had Hillary Clinton won and all impressions that the Russians have given us is that they thought that Hillary Clinton was going to win as much as people in this country did. Hillary Clinton was already a hawk on Russia coming into this. If she had been elected President after Russia had taken this wild swing at her in her presidential election campaign, I mean, imagine what that would have meant in terms of the cognitive power that a U.S. -- and administration, a new U.S. president could direct Russia`s way. But yet they still saw it as worth it.
And I think the reason it was still worth it for them is because they were so desperate. And the reason they were so desperate is because their economy is such a disaster. And the specific way in which their economy is a disaster is about oil and gas and it`s worth it to them almost to try anything to get out from the U.S. sanctions that have precluded western oil majors from helping them drill what they need to drill to keep their economy going.
WILLIAMS: I always say the economy of Texas is larger than the economy of Russia.
MADDOW: Yes, that`s exactly right. I mean, Russia is 150 million people, gigantic country. Their economy is smaller than Texas, smaller than Italy, smaller than South Korea. They`ve got one industry, and that was a Putin decision because he really wanted to use oil and gas as a weapon. And so he allowed -- he didn`t want it for a diversified economy. You`d need sort of a real country in order to have that. He preferred to let this be there one industry. He consolidated it`s all within its own power. And that`s fine for a while, but eventually you run to the end of the economic road there and that`s where they are.
WILLIAMS: Devil`s advocate. In a world addicted to dinosaur juice, oil and gas, how should oil companies be? Oil companies wake up every morning to fulfill our addiction to oil and gas. What should they be doing? How should they be behaving that they have not been?
MADDOW: The thing that is interesting to me in the big picture for this book is that I think we really underestimate oil and gases geopolitical influence. Like, for example, magic one, if you can imagine the climate activists get everything they want, America and every other big economy on earth says, you know what, we`re turning off oil and gas. We`re going to renewables. This industry is going to shrink magnificently. They`re going to lose all their market share, lose a lot of their power. I think that we should see the boundaries of countries change.
The oil and gas industry is propping up despotic governments and terrible governments all over the world. And it`s because the way they operate, which is convenient for them is nontransparent, often brings out the worst in democracy and often is counter Democratic because it works for them. If U.S. regulations on oil majors that either operate here or are headquartered here, force them to be corporate citizens, they would be bribing fewer despots (ph), propping up fewer terrible governments around the world. And they`d be -- everywhere they operate in the world, they`d be working in government environments that were more -- that were answering more to their citizens and less to the industry.
Those kinds of changes are within our grasp. They`re within our grasp if we change regulations here in the United States. We`ll have a global impact.
WILLIAMS: But it is not like we`re naming oil company CEOs to Secretary of State or anything.
WILLIAMS: Something I heard you say in an interview recently in effect that you still have not gotten over --
MADDOW: No. I mean, Rex Tillerson is an amazing character. But he did a half trillion dollar oil deal with Russia that was put on ice because of U.S. foreign policy. Putin gave him a medal. Putin elected the next U.S. president arguably. And then even though Donald Trump and Rex Tillerson had never met other and didn`t get along, all of a sudden, Rex Tillerson ended up being the next guy in charge of U.S. policy. It`s a really, really weird thing that we still don`t actually have a great explanation for, even as good as I got to know Rex Tillerson over the course of writing this book.
WILLIAMS: Thank you, friend.
MADDOW: Thank you, my friend.
WILLIAMS: Good to see you.
MADDOW: Thank you so much for doing this.
WILLIAMS: Thanks for hanging out later than your normal shift.
MADDOW: It`s all right.
WILLIAMS: Here is the book. It is called "Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and The Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth." Nothing to see here, obviously. Its author has been kind enough to hang out with us tonight.
Coming up, there are already cracks in the announced cease fire in Syria. We`ll talk with a Retired Four Star U.S. Army General who has called this President`s actions a, quote, impulsive, arrogant, betrayal of our Kurdish allies, when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: I do not think, however, this is going to end the conflict. I think it might be a pause. It will end the conventional phase of this war. But I think afterwards, you can see a long, protracted ground floor, a long protracted civil war, an ethnic war that I think will follow this period.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: This announced cease fire today following President Trump`s decision to pull U.S. troops out of part of Syria is under fire tonight from both parties. Vice President Pence said this agreement would end the violence. But The New York Times is reporting tonight, "Turkey`s foreign minister immediately contradicted the description of the agreement saying it was not a cease fire at all but merely a pause for our operation. He added that as a result of our President`s skillful leadership", meaning Erdogan, "we got what we wanted."
Indeed, it appears that is what has happened here. There are already reports tonight that the bombardment by Turkey has continued. Any pause is simply time for the Kurds to try to run before the slaughter continues. Today, Trump said Turkey needed its border cleaned out. He used that phrase. Just tonight in Texas, he said as a result of what happened today, quote, Turkey is going to be happy, the Kurds are going to be happy.
Back with us again tonight, Retired Four Star U.S. General Barry McCaffrey, a decorated Army combat veteran of Vietnam, a former battlefield commander in the Persian Gulf who knows the region well. He is also an MSNBC Military Analyst. General, what just happened today, or should we take Turkey`s word for it that they got what they wanted?
BARRY MCCAFFREY, MSNC MILITARY ANALYST: We`re in an astonishing situation. Mr. Trump seems to have single handedly and unilaterally precipitated a national security crisis in the Middle East. And at the end of the day, he green lighted the Turkish invasion. The five-day pause is probably a good thing. Maybe it will reduce the number of people murdered by Arab militias following the Turkish army. If the Kurds time to run for their life, where they`re supposed to go is beyond me.
But, you know, the instant take on this is you allow Assad to re-enter the Kurdish areas. You allow Iranian dominance in the region and you let the Russian military occupy abandon, hastily abandon U.S. military outpost. It`s an astonishing outcome. What did Mr. Trump think he was getting out of all these? Why didn`t he move an additional 500 U.S. soldiers into the northern region and tell Erdogan don`t cross the border, you`d be attacking a NATO ally. This is inexplicable behavior.
WILLIAMS: If we can`t protect the Kurds, if we`re unwilling to do that on the ground, it seems to me, if we were the country, we were five years ago or even a month ago, wouldn`t we be trying to air lift Kurds out of harm`s way.
MCCAFFREY: Well I think we could have deterred Turkish advance. I don`t think there`s any chance if we had said, look, we`re going to maintain our presence there. It`s backed up by the U.S. Air Force, a naval air. I doubt seriously that Turkey would have considered the option of encountering in combat U.S. forces. And if they did, the Russians attacked us last year and we killed several hundred of them. So, the point of military power at its best is deterrence, and that`s what Mr. Trump took away.
Well, the Kurds have nowhere to go now. They`re beleaguered by the Turks, they`re -- the Iraqis tortured them for the last three generations. They`re in a terrible fix. And, again, to remind our viewers, they were the essential part of dismantling the ISIS threat to Europe and the United States. They took massive casualties supported by U.S. special operations and air power. So, we have thrown them to the wolves and we didn`t get anything for it.
WILLIAMS: Death toll of 11,000 at our sides the entire time. General, I want to show this headline again from Admiral McRaven, former Head of all U.S. Special Operations. And run a little bit of what he said to CNN this afternoon about this piece he`s written.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN (RET.), FMR. HEAD OF U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS COMMAND: I`ve had the privilege and the honor of working for a lot of presidents. And I didn`t always agree with him. But I always believed that they were men of principle. They were trying to do what was right by the country. They didn`t always get it right, but they were trying to do what was right. I don`t see that in this President.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: General, I want to underscore for our audience, you gentlemen who`ve had multiple stars on your shoulders don`t do this. You don`t willingly or readily pop off about your commander-in-chief. This is no ordinary time. What McRaven is saying is what you have said this week on a damn near daily basis about this President. I know you don`t come to it quickly or easily.
MCCAFFREY: No, that`s right. Look, Admiral McRaven I`ve known for 15 years. He is one of the most heroic figures in the U.S. Armed Forces, along with Jim Mattis I might add. You know, near universal worship levels by the combat forces of the U.S. Armed Forces. So for him to make this very categorical statement underscores a growing sense among national security and foreign policy experts that Mr. Trump is placing us at significant risk.
Brian, I can`t get over the letter to Erdogan. You know, it wasn`t the fact that it was sixth or seventh grade English. It was an example of the muddled thinking, of the impulsivity, of the lack of foresight, of the lack of focus on U.S. national security interests on Mr. Trump. So, again, this is a very tricky situation for the Armed Forces.
I`m not quite sure what Mr. Trump is -- has as his goals. His -- Somehow his deference to Putin is astonishing. You know, Rachel Maddow mentioned it. They`re basically a second or third tier country. Their Armed Forces have no strategic power except for 9,000 NOKs (ph) and a lot of oil and gas. What is he doing? He`s offended almost every alliance we have.
NATO being the centerpiece of U.S. national security, the Japanese, the South Koreans. He has been just a blowtorch on U.S. partnerships globally while catering to these thugs, North Korea, Philippines, and Mr. Putin for sure.
WILLIAMS: To our audience, General McCaffrey has agreed to stay with us over a break. When we come back, more on where U.S. foreign policy might stand tonight. Here we are 1,001 days into this administration.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Without spilling a drop of American blood, not one drop of American blood. We`ve all agreed on a pause or a cease-fire in the border region of Syria. And it was unconventional what I did. I said they`re going to have to fight a little while. Sometimes you have to let them fight a little while. Then people find out how tough the fighting is. Sometimes you have to let them fight. Like two kids in a lot, you got to let them fight and then you pull them apart.
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WILLIAMS: One man`s view of combat tonight. That was the President at his rally in Texas.
We remain with General Barry McCaffrey. So General, when you commanded the 24th and you were fighting Saddam`s forces, is it accurate to say you were like two little kids who had to be pulled apart after you fought for a while?
MCCAFFREY: Well it`s a remarkable statement. If you probably can`t find a place on the face of the earth that has seen more blood shed more clearly understands the consequences of warfare than Syria, Iraq, Jordan, the Israelis. Assad has killed a half million people in Syria. The Kurds understand that they`re facing not just ethnic cleansing, but Assad people are going to go door to door and find out the leadership of the Kurds (INAUDIBLE) army and kill them sooner or later.
So, this is sort of a childish understanding of the brutal realities facing our allies, the Kurds. And again, the question in my mind is, what caused Mr. Trump`s behavior toward Turkey? Why would he agree to something so egregiously harmful to our own national security interests? And that question needs to get asked.
But I think, look, our Armed Forces have been at this for a long time now. They`re pushing a generational warfare. They`ve had 60,000 killed and wounded. And so for Mr. Trump to be making these sort of impulsive gestures to include in Afghanistan as opposed to coming up with a strategy using diplomacy and covert action to get us out of there, it`s just astonishing. The Armed Forces have had a heavy burden to be dealt with in this manner.
WILLIAMS: General, you have pointed out to our audience so many times that Jim Mattis is one of the great soldier scholars of our time. He served with distinction under Donald Trump as Defense Secretary. Tonight, he was the keynote speaker at the Al Smith white tie charity dinner here in New York City. To our audience, one reminder, he is not a headliner at the comedy store, but tonight he held his own talking about the contrast between Donald Trump and himself. Here`s a part of that.
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GEN. JAMES MATTIS, FMR. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Some of you were kind during the reception and asked me, you know, if this bothered me, to have been rated this way, based on what Donald Trump said. I said, of course, not. I earned my spurs on the battlefield, Martin, as you pointed out and Donald Trump earned his spurs in a letter from a doctor.
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WILLIAMS: So, that was after the General pointed out that the President had called him the most overrated general in the world. And General McCaffrey, we can`t underscore that man`s resume enough.
MCCAFFREY: Yes. You know, it`s sort of interesting. I think Mr. Trump warmed to him because of his, quote, mad dog, you know, moniker and --
MCCAFFREY: -- he`s very ferocious tactical military commander with a lot of combat time. But mostly, Jim Mattis is a defense intellectual. He`s a very thoughtful guy. You know, he understands the value of allies, he -- more importantly understands the value of American character. And so he ought to be off limits to Mr. Trump. This isn`t going to come out well.
WILLIAMS: Generally Barry McCaffrey, it`s always a pleasure having you on. Thanks very much for helping our conversation along here tonight.
Coming up for us, remembering the man who was thrust by his life`s work and the 2016 election into a powerful position of holding people to account.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. We learned this morning that Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings had died overnight. In life he was often called as if it was part of his title, the powerful Chairman of the House Oversight Committee. And while many people urged today that we remember his life independent of any mention of Donald Trump, the truth is the President aggressively trolled the Congressman and his congressional district. It`s also true that despite his ultimately fatal health challenges, what Congressman Cummings saw as the outrages of Trump policies, both enraged and invigorated him.
And this exchange came to mind with the head of Homeland Security on the subject of family separations and the treatment of migrant children at the hands of the United States.
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REP. ELIJAH CUMMINGS (D), MARYLAND: You feel like you`re doing a great job, right? Is that what you`re saying?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We`re doing our level best in a very --
CUMMINGS: What does that mean? What does that mean when a child is sitting in their own feces? Can`t take a shower. Come on, man. What`s that about? None of us would have our children in that position. They are human beings. And I`m trying to figure out -- and I got tired of folks saying, oh, oh, they just beating up on the border patrol. Oh, they just beating up on Homeland Security. What I`m saying is I want to concentrate on these children, and I want to make sure that they are OK.
I`ve said it before and I`ll say it again. It`s not the deed that you do to a child. It`s the memory. It`s the memory. And so -- and I told head of border patrol the other day, I said I want to know what`s happening in the meantime. We are the United States of America. We are the greatest country in the world. We are the ones that can go anywhere in the world and save people, make sure that they have diapers, make sure that they have tooth brushes. Make sure they`re not laying around defecating in some silver paper. Come on. We`re better than that.
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WILLIAMS: Indeed, Elijah Cummings believed until tend of his life just this morning that we are better than that. He was 68 years old.
That is our broadcast for this evening. Thank you so much for being here with us. Goodnight 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