11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: October 18, 2019
KATY TUR, MSNBC HOST: Nicholas Kristof, thank you so much for joining us on this Friday night. That`s "Tonight`s Last Word." I`m Katy Tur. "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts right now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight it`s been a month since the whistleblower and the chaos is reigning down. On top of all the insiders telling Congress what they saw on the inside, the President`s own guy has now confirmed the Ukraine story. We know that because he said it in front of cameras.
Plus, Turkey is ready to start the pounding again and they will soon resume their attacks on the Kurds. The President says the Kurds will be happy. A retired four-star Army general says that makes our President sound stupid. In fact, one of our journalists will join us tonight to answer the question, are these indeed the worst days of the Trump presidency thus far? All of it as "The 11th Hour" gets under way this Friday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 1,002 of the Trump administration and a punishing week is about to come to an end. Tonight Energy Secretary Rick Perry of Texas, who has announced he is leaving, is also refusing to comply with subpoenas for documents about Ukraine. Perry, along with White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney, were supposed to respond to subpoena deadlines by the end of today. The end of today is rapidly approaching.
Mulvaney is expected to defy his subpoena. And he`s going through a tough time this weekend because it was Mulvaney, speaking out loud with his voice in front of reporters and cameras, who yesterday straight up confirmed the Ukraine story as told by the whistleblower. He has since taken it back, but the video lives on, and that`s the problem for him. Today his boss was asked about yesterday`s self-immolation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, do you mind clarifying what Mick Mulvaney said yesterday? Was the aid --
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think he clarified it.
This is the witch hunt, you know, they`re crooked.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: One Republican congressman is now going public with his concerns about what Mulvaney said as well as about Trump and impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. FRANCIS ROONEY, (R) FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Whatever might have been gray and unclear before is certainly quite clear right now, that the actions were related to getting someone in Ukraine to do some of these things.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that an impeachable offense?
ROONEY: That`s something I really can`t answer.
I don`t know. I don`t know. I want to study it some more. I want to hear the next set of testimony next week from a couple of more ambassadors. But it`s certainly very, very serious and troubling.
I don`t think this is as much as Richard Nixon did, but I`m very mindful of the fact that back in Watergate, everybody said, oh, it`s a witch hunt to get Nixon. It turns out not to be a witch hunt, it was absolutely correct.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Serious and troubling, we`ve been hearing a lot of that this week. Despite the administrations refusal to cooperate with the impeachment investigation all week long, people on the inside have been coming forward to share their stories with Congress behind closed doors.
Our friend Ashley Parker of "The Washington Post" lays out the impact of their testimony in her latest piece. She writes, "a clear portrait has emerged of a president personally orchestrating the effort to pressure a foreign government to dig up dirt on a potential 2020 political rival and marshaling the full resources of the federal bureaucracy to help in that endeavor."
This week current and former foreign policy officials testified that Rudolph Giuliani`s shadow foreign policy alarmed top national security officials inside the White House that career professionals were sidelined, that ambassadors were used to advance the President`s political goals, and that Trump himself put his personal lawyer in charge of his Ukraine agenda.
Next week, lawmakers expect to hear from seven more witnesses, including the current acting ambassador to Ukraine, that man, Bill Taylor. He`s the one who raised questions about this pressure campaign.
Trump is also now facing a precarious situation of his own making in the Middle East. One day after the so-called cease-fire agreement, fighting continues to erupt in Syria between Turkey`s military and Kurdish forces once allied with us. It`s now widely believed that Mike Pence went to Turkey and gave the Turks everything they wanted. And of course it all started with Trump pulling our troops out. That was a green light to the Turks.
Well, today at the White House the President talked up the agreement.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: There`s a cease-fire or a pause or whatever you want to call it. There was some sniper fire this morning. There was mortar fire this morning. That was eliminated quickly. And they`re back to the full pause.
We`ve taken control of the oil in the Middle East, the oil that we`re talking about, the oil that everybody was worried about. We have, Isis totally under guard. Sometimes you have to go through some pain before you can get a good solution but the Kurds are very happy about it. President Erdogan in Turkey is satisfied with it. And we are in a very strong position.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, rather, excoriated Trump late today in a "Washington Post" opinion piece. This was unusual to look at. He writes, "Withdrawing U.S. forces from Syria is a grave strategic mistake. It will leave the American people and homeland less safe, embolden our enemies, and weaken important alliances."
Another Republican, Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who served in Iraq, had this warning for Trump about this cease-fire.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM KINZINGER, (R) FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Keep in mind, by the time this expires, Erdogan and Putin are meeting. So the question is, are they going to have a meeting and carve up Syria for themselves.
And a cease-fire isn`t success. It`s basically saying we`re going to take a pause. What we hear about it is it`s actually allowing the Kurds to withdraw, which is what Turkey`s intention was in the first place, evident by the fact that we had to bomb our own military base. It was a hasty withdrawal and it reminds me a lot, frankly, of what we saw unfortunately in Somalia when we just beat feet and took off.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With that, here for our leadoff discussion on a Friday night, the aforementioned Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House reporter for "The Washington Post," Susan Page, the veteran Washington Bureau Chief for "USA Today" and Maya Wiley, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now with the New School here in New York. Good evening and welcome to you all.
Ashley, do you have the perspective, at least I`m hoping you do, a month out now, since your paper first reported the whistleblower, do you have the perspective to total up the damage thus far on this administration?
ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, the President is certainly facing the most vulnerable moment in a presidency that has been pretty tumultuous thus far. And what we`re seeing, just taking the impeachment inquiry and Ukraine, is that the more we find out, a lot of it in closed door testimony, and then some of it in public view, with what we saw with Mick Mulvaney, is that the President is at the heart of this. It wasn`t just his personal attorney gone rogue. It was the President of the United States deliberately trying to form a shadow government, asking a foreign country to meddle in U.S. domestic politics, and enlisting a number of aides and government officials in a way that made even some of them deeply uncomfortable.
And so if you look at this just so far in two weeks since the testimony has started, it`s ensnared two Cabinet officials. The Acting Chief of Staff, a bevy of career diplomats, Rudy Giuliani, and Trump himself. This is not a good moment for a White House that has faced a number of not good moments.
WILLIAMS: Susan Page, no one needs to tell you, Republicans are, one thing, they will either come around or not. It was interesting to read those words from the majority leader today. But let`s look at public opinion. Public opinion is on the move in a way it wasn`t after Mueller. Is that just because this story is more understandable, this comes from the real world of telephone calls?
SUSAN PAGE, USA TODAY WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: I think there are a couple of differences. One is, President Trump is president during this episode. It`s not he wasn`t a candidate. It involves him personally, it wasn`t some shadowing and others.
It`s an easy-to-understand narrative, right? It`s the President saying -- the President of Ukraine says we need these missiles and the President of the United States says, we want to ask you for a favor, though. This is not something that is difficult to understand. It is the President encouraging a foreign government to get involved in our politics. And I think that`s what`s made this so damaging for the President.
Republicans, you know, you can still count on one hand the Republicans willing to really criticize him for this. But you do see changes in public opinion and you do see Republicans, so many of them declining to talk about it. It`s hard these days to get a Republican to talk about these accusations against the President.
WILLIAMS: Maya Wiley, in the meantime, as no one need remind you, your old shop is breathing down Rudy Giuliani`s neck. Is it from now on, what we see on "law and order," that they just try to flip his former associates at this point?
MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: It`s the way it works. That`s why we saw two of his -- four of his former actually, right?
WILLIAMS: Yes, four. Yes.
WILEY: There are four people now, currently. And all signs pointing to the fact that this is -- these are the rungs of the ladder, that they`re taking the steps up to get to Giuliani.
Now, Rudy Giuliani has a problem. There`s no question from just what we have seen publicly and what he has publicly stated relating to whether or not he`s been engaged in crime. But remember, this is also the second personal attorney for Donald Trump, who is maybe facing criminal indictment. That`s substantial, because we don`t have a lot of Presidents whose lawyers, in doing the work that the President has directed them, have faced potential indictment. And there`s even a new news story now about a -- about Firtash, who is also, right? We are trying to --
WILLIAMS: We need a white board for all this --
WILEY: We need a white board for all the people who -- now it looks like they were working to influence -- pay and influence Rudy Giuliani in order to carry favor with, to get help with their criminal investigation. This is exactly the type of corruption that folks were worried about with emoluments, but it has gone very deep and central.
And I think just to go back to your other question about what makes this different from Mueller, one, I would say Mueller actually helped prepare us for this, because one of the things that the Mueller report did was educate the public about campaign finance crimes. And at the center of what we`re hearing about the Ukraine, include campaign finance crimes. And so there was an education of the public that I think is relevant here. But we also should remember that there was evidence in the Mueller report directly linking Donald Trump to obstruction of justice. That kind of behavior is the same kind of behavior we`re seeing now around the Ukraine that is coming forward with the moon walk back from telling the truth about what happened and then trying to say, wait, wait, wait, we don`t mean we did anything illegal here.
So that`s really kind of shocking. And we should be shocked about what we`ve heard this week because it doesn`t only include career diplomats. It includes Donald Trump`s own employees and appointees who talk directly to him, which is one of the things that in the Russia probe, we didn`t have related to Russia conspiracy. We`ve got that here.
WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker, to put the picture of those two guys arrested at the airport back up on the screen, it was shocking the day they were picked up. Someone at "SNL" last weekend had the good sense to call them the two shreks. This is now connected to the President of the United States. Others have called these guys bag men. Can it be put this simply, that had Trump held his friend Rudy in check, we wouldn`t be having this conversation tonight?
PARKER: Yes, potentially. And that`s another thing we found in this testimony. Originally Rudy came out, sort of starting in May, and was pushing a number of Ukraine conspiracy theories. And it seemed like it was just Rudy Giuliani engaging in an extracurricular passion project. And what we`ve learned and what Rudy himself has said publicly, is that I was doing this at the behest of my client, the President of the United States of America.
And you can go back even further. This basically starts with Giuliani during the Mueller probe, a little bit trying to look into Ukraine. And so all of these things are connected and it`s basically a cascade that has gotten out of control but that was very much directed in some ways, and when it was not directed, at least tacitly green-lighted by the President himself.
WILLIAMS: Maya, back to the law, can a guy like Rick Perry, can a guy like Mulvaney, just say, especially now to the Democrats, you know what, I`m not having it, I`m not going to participate? And as a subset of my question, do you think we`ll look back on Corey Lewandowski in effect dancing on the witness table that day in front of the Nadler committee as the low point for the Democrats` effort?
WILEY: It was -- so the short answer is, nothing prevents any of these witnesses from testifying, right? The fact that the administration has asserted a privilege way beyond anything that the law supports, just an absolute -- Congress has no oversight over us --
WILLIAMS: You`ve been saying that from the beginning.
WILEY: It`s just astounding. But particularly when they`re leaving the administration, the administration really can`t stop them as private citizens from doing what they want to do if they choose to do the right thing. They certainly -- and if a court gets a hold of this, it`s very hard to imagine a court that that doesn`t compel their testimony.
The Lewandowski example was a low point because he wasn`t even ever a member of the administration. He was never an employee of the White House. He was a campaign employee. He was a private citizen. He was being asked to engage as a private citizen. None of those privileges can apply in that sense.
So, actually Rick Perry, for example, he`s a few more arguments than a Lewandowski. I think what was so critical in that testimony when Lewandowski testified that people need to understand is it`s not so easy for Congress to use its inherent authority to hold someone in contempt. It`s so underutilized, there`s not a lot of case law around it and it would be quite explosive.
But I think what we`re seeing now with the Ukraine probe is they don`t have to wait anymore. They have articles of impeachment. They could vote now, just from what we`ve seen in the public sphere in terms of evidence. There is such evidence for impeachment right now.
WILLIAMS: Susan Page, you and I have been around for a minute, and we`ve seen and covered a few stories. Two-part question for you, number one, can you please describe among your friends and contacts, in, "official Washington?" What this Syria decision has done? How badly it has gutted people, especially institutionalist, the people with the expertise? And second, tell us what happened when "USA Today" set out to find American opinion on what has just happened.
PAGE: Well, it has opened a breach with the President and Republican officials that is new, a breach that we haven`t seen on other issues. Even Mitch McConnell, who has been a great protector of President Trump, writing this op-ed that doesn`t mention Trump by name but definitely the policy (INAUDIBLE) in Syria.
You know, we have -- we did this poll on Wednesday and Thursday about what do Americans think about this. And what we found was really a unanimity of opinion. Most Americans say this decision has hurt the reputation of the United States as a trusted ally around the world. Most Americans say that we have an -- the United States has an obligation to the Kurds that includes 60 percent of Republicans.
And most Americans say that the flight of Isis fighters who have been held in prisons guarded by the Kurds will result in a new terrorist threat to the United States. So Americans see this as a really serious issue, at odds with longstanding policy.
We see -- you know, there are those we polled who say this is the President delivering on his promise to get the United States out of endless wars. But most Americans see this as a damaging decision and one that has, in a way, united Democrats and Republicans in -- on an issue unlike we see on things like immigration, for instance, or other issues that are more divisive.
WILLIAMS: Yes, we don`t add quickly enough, we have 60,000 Americans over in that region as it is. Three of our very best to start us off on this Friday night at the end of yet another consequential week. To Ashley Parker, Susan Page, Maya Wiley, our thanks. Have a good weekend, all.
And coming up for us, what Trump`s foreign policy decision looks like from across the Atlantic. Our man in Paris, and yes, we have a man in Paris, will be with us live with the latest.
And later, consider this a test of the people we send to Washington. Are your U.S. senators going to go along with Donald Trump holding a G7 summit of world leaders at his own golf resort? Will this actually happen? "The 11th Hour" is just getting starred on this Friday night.
WILLIAMS: As we said, tonight in northern Syria fighting continues along the border with Turkey despite yesterday`s announcement of that so-called cease-fire. And the President`s insistence that the Kurds are "happy."
NBC News chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel is on the ground for us there.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT: We`re talking to Kurdish leaders, we`re talking to Kurdish people. And frankly they are listening to President Trump, they are listening -- hanging on every word, because they know their fate right now is still in the United States` hands, and they are disgusted. They think that President Trump is treating what is happening to them like some sort of joke. They have been insulted. They have had this entire conflict brushed off as some sort of two kids fighting in a sandbox. The Kurds here right now, they say they are facing ethnic cleansing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Of the President`s actions, our next guest put it this way, and we quote, "Donald J. Trump, trying to bluster his way through the most disastrous foreign policy debacle of his presidency seemed to spit on the graves of more than 10,000 Kurds who died fighting to defeat the so-called Islamic state.
Back with us today is Christopher Dickey, a veteran foreign correspondent and journalist and author. He is the Paris-based World News Editor for the "Daily Beast."
Christopher, tell us about the reaction to this in Europe which, let`s not forget, will be impacted by this.
CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, THE DAILY BEAST WORLD NEWS EDITOR: They certainly will be impacted by this. Europe has always been the first objective of Isis terrorists once they move outside the Middle East. As in fact Trump seems to know because he said, you know, it`s Europe`s problem, all those escaped Isis fighters escaped to Europe and they`ll have to deal with it.
So, in fact, there`s not a lot of sympathy with Trump`s position. There`s a lot of scrambling. Here, France is trying to negotiating with Iraq to take French Isis prisoners out of Syria and put them in Iraq, I don`t know how that`s going to work out. But there is generally consternation here in Europe about yet another example of what has been seen for a along time as the insanity of the American President.
WILLIAMS: I want to play for you now what Trump said on the Kurds followed by reaction from retired for-star U.S. General Barry McCaffrey.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I want to thank the Kurds, because they were incredibly happy with this solution. This is a solution that really -- well, it saved their lives, frankly, it saved their lives. So we`ve done a great thing for our partner. If we didn`t go this unconventional, tough love approach, they could have never gotten it done. They`ve been trying to do this for many, many years.
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, U.S. ARMY (RET.): It`s simply absurd. It`s cruel. It makes him look stupid. It makes him look as if he is completely misses the point of ethnic cleansing.
It ignores the fact that we abandoned our allies who fought for our purpose against Isis in the Arab areas of Syria. It`s simply an appalling statement.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Chris Dickey, how do you explain over there words from our President like "a tough love approach"?
DICKEY: He`s delusional. That`s the kind of tough love approach applied by a husband beating his wife.
The -- look, I think we need to turn back the clock for a minute to 2014 when Isis seemed to be unstoppable. It had rolled into Iraq. It had rolled over a third of Syria. It was moving in on the Turkish border at the town of Kobane.
The only fighters who stood in its way, who held their ground against all odds, were exactly the same Kurds that Trump just betrayed. They held out from September to January, eventually with substantial American support. But everybody else had fled. The Iraqi army had fled in Iraq. The Syrian army wasn`t fighting them. In fact Bashar al-Assad had released a lot of them from prison in the first place. All that have happened and only the Kurds held out.
If they had not held out in Kobane, the entire course of that war would have gone in favor of Isis. And what`s happening now? Trump is saying to the Kurds, you give up Kobane because the Turks want it now.
WILLIAMS: And Chris, when you were here in New York, what, no more than three weeks ago, our conversation was about the general crumbling of alliances that you hear on a first wave basis over there. Is this part of that plot line?
DICKEY: Of course it is. This is a question of whether you can trust the United States. You go, you fight side by side with American troops, with support from American troops, putting your own life on the line, and then the American President betrays you because he has had an embarrassing conversation with the President of Turkey. We have absolutely no standing.
I was in Abu Dhabi last weekend and I was talking to leading people from all over the Arab world. All of them feel that it`s impossible now to trust the United States, to have confidence in the United States. And the proof in that pudding is that Vladimir Putin was just welcomed like a conquering hero in Abu Dhabi this week.
WILLIAMS: Chris Dickey, at 5:27 a.m., high above the Champs-Elysees in Paris, always a pleasure having you. Thank you very much for joining us on this Friday night.
And coming up, lucrative trades made around the same time as certain events in the Trump administration. They have some people suspicious because they made a lot of money. Stephanie Ruhle is here to explain why, when we come back.
WILLIAMS: A new report out from Vanity Fair this week is raising concerns over possible insider trading when it comes to Trump`s trade war. Here`s how it goes. The veteran business writer, William Cohan detail some suspicious trades that made people billions. One trade in June generated $1.8 billion in profit for someone who just bought future assets just before President Trump announced trade talks with China were back on track, which at that point was known to no one. We should note this reporting has received substantial pushback from some outlets.
With us here tonight, Stephanie Ruhle happens to be a veteran of the investment banking and business world. See what we did there? She is, of course, host of the 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. hours on this very network. Stephanie, the other way of asking this is, is someone really that lucky?
STEPHANIE RUHLE, CO-ANCHOR, "VELSHI & RUHLE", MSNBC: Is someone really that lucky, is someone really that smart, is someone really that dumb? It`s too soon to tell. What Bill Cohan is pointing out is no -- or they think about this. We have a President who has been moving markets from the get-go. And the dates that Bill Cohan is pointing out are noteworthy. While markets are embroiled in all of these negative worries and talks that were in this trade war that won`t get resolve with China, someone comes in and buys a huge amount of the market, meaning they`re going long, they believe in the market.
And then just a few days later, the President, boom, we`re back up and running which China which was a lie. That caused the market to shoot up, making over a billion dollars. That`s noteworthy.
Now, you`re taking that and cherry picking that trade or those trades. You have to put much bigger perspective. There`s a whole lot of trading going on. You don`t know who is on the other side. But it`s noteworthy enough that after Bill Cohan wrote this piece, and it`s gotten a lot of attention, you saw slate, business insider, had said they don`t feel good about it.
But some Members of Congress have said hold on a second. Congressman Ted Lieu and others are calling on the SEC to simply investigate this. It doesn`t say there`s definitive wrongdoing. They`ve got names and dates. But when you`ve got people making big, big sums of money right before news announcements, and it`s enough for some people to say, we need to look into this.
WILLIAMS: Before setting himself on fire on Ukraine yesterday, Mick Mulvaney came into the White House briefing room to break to the nation the fact that the Trump Doral golf resort turns out to be, in his estimation, organically, just sitting there, the best possible place to have a G7 summit of world leaders. That was provision number one. There`s no better place that we can find. Number two, was the President will not profit from said G7. You happen to disagree with Mulvaney on both counts. Why?
RUHLE: I woke up this morning to calls from former administration officials and hotel developers that said, I can`t listen to this for one more minute. For Mick Mulvaney to say the President is not going to profit, he`ll be doing this at cost. What does at cost mean? In the month of June, you tell me, are you vacationing at a golf resort in Miami? Miami is absolutely dead in the month of June. Costs are already sunk.
The President and his business are paying a whole lot of money to keep that resort open and no one is staying at a golf resort in Miami in June. So they`re already losing money. Now in the G7 summit will take place there and they will make a whole lot of money. So for Mick Mulvaney to say the President is not going to be making money, they`ll be doing at it cost, is absolutely disingenuous. Come on.
WILLIAMS: And you believe taxpayers will end up footing some of the cost anyway.
RUHLE: Without a doubt. To even say that, well, the G summit is just for a couple of weeks, they`ll be making money then. The former administration official said to me, you will see this hotel packed for 50 to 100 nights if you figure in all the logistics, the advance teams, all the preparations, and the people who will need to stay there ahead of the summit. You`ve only got two presidential suites in the whole resort.
Do you mean to tell me that world leaders are going to be staying in a standard room with two double beds and a min fridge? Come on. And think about the buildings that are going to need to be constructed, all the security, just for this event. And when the event is over, they`re going to have to put it back to normal. So when they put, for example, helipads down on the golf course, they need to be removed after. And when they`re removed, guess what`s going to need to happen? Renovate that golf course, paid for by taxpayers.
WILLIAMS: Stephanie Ruhle, enjoy your weekend, unless you have other plans.
RUHLE: I`m right here all the time.
WILLIAMS: OK. Thank you.
Coming up, what it felt like extraordinarily taxing week. Our next guest is here to help us make some sense out of the chaos. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss is with us next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I`m speaking with myself, number one, because I have a very good brain and I`ve said a lot of things. I know what I`m doing and I listen to a lot of people. I talk to a lot of people, and at the appropriate time I`ll tell you who the people are. But I speak to a lot of people. But my primary consultant is myself and I have, you know, I have a good instinct for this stuff.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That`s back when he was a candidate in 2016, not much has changed almost three years later. Just like week, the President reminded us of his great and unmatched wisdom as he threatened to totally destroy and obliterate the economy of Turkey, something he claimed to have done before but for the life of us, we can`t find any evidence of that.
We are, in either case, so happy to have back with us tonight Michael Beschloss, our presidential historian around these parts. His latest book is, "Presidents of War: The Epic Story from 1807 to Modern Times." I`ll get it, right? Michael, for the President to have arrived at the series of decisions that have motivated our broadcasts these past couple of nights, as you and I have discussed, think of the rigor and expertise that must be cast aside. The entire system that is set up to help him with such things.
Has it ever been done this way? And you can go back, you know, throw out Buchanan and Pierce, if you wish. Has it ever been done this way?
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, NBC NEWS: James K. Polk, as a matter of fact, I think had a similar sense that he knew his own mind and knew what he wanted to do. But the differences, Brian, what this reminded me of is the fact that a modern president has so much power, almost single- handedly, over matters of war and peace. You know, however the framers might have wanted to make have presidents make these decisions hand in hand with Congress or let Congress take the initiative on matter of war and peace, think about the fact that the last time Congress declared war was 1942, when Franklin Roosevelt asked them to, not long after Pearl Harbor.
WILLIAMS: What other weeks come to mind when looking at what we have just witnessed these past five business days?
BESCHLOSS: Well, there has been so much news. And maybe one standard for that, I always think of, is January of 1973 during, one, 72-hour period, you had Richard Nixon was inaugurated for a second term, the Vietnam War ended with a Paris peace accord, and Lyndon Johnson passed away. Awful lot of news in three days in those days.
WILLIAMS: Talk about the President`s standing going into what appears to be an impeachment process. And we haven`t had this happen that much in American society. What are benchmarks you look for and what are the caveats as we look at polling prior to anything formal on impeachment?
BESCHLOSS: Well, you showed a little bit earlier in the broadcast, Brian, align where people are somewhat more supportive of impeachment. But I think there`s a difference between this and the period of Richard Nixon. Richard Nixon in 1974, his Gallup poll approval rating plunged. The Senate was in Democratic hands.
And among the Republicans, there were liberals, moderates, and conservatives. They never had the kind of support for Richard Nixon that Donald Trump now has over the Republican Party among voters, which is reflected in the intensity of support that you still see in the Senate despite the fact that you`ve seen some criticism of this Syria decision this week.
WILLIAMS: Michael, let`s talk about the letter to the President of Turkey that the President rather proudly released this week. A lot of people, their first instinct was that it wasn`t real, it was a fake. And to be perfectly honest, letters like this from leader to leader are often dull, and boring, and dry affairs because they go through, part of the rigor of the process, so many pairs of eyes in the foreign policy shop. No one had any problem believing that this was the President`s own work product.
BESCHLOSS: That`s exactly right, and it shows how Donald Trump has changed the way that a president communicates, not only with the American people through Twitter and other forms, but also obviously with other heads of government. It`s going to be awfully interesting for people in my line of work later on to see other letters he`s written to leaders of other countries.
WILLIAMS: Michael Beschloss, our thanks as always for joining us on a Friday night, again, at the end of another consequential week in this administration.
BESCHLOSS: Long week. Thank you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Michael, thank you.
Coming up for us, 1,002 days into this administration, how Donald J. Trump is redefining the presidency on the fly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s much easier, being presidential is easy. All you have to do is act like a stiff. Look.
Ladies and gentlemen of Texas, it is a great honor to be with you this evening.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Peter Baker of The New York Times writes about that moment from last night`s rally, adding, quote, "By now, the notions of what is Presidential and what is unconventional have taken on new meaning, long since divorced from anything that came before. If to the outside world it looked like his presidency was unraveling and the President himself melting down as Speaker Nancy Pelosi said this week, to Mr. Trump, it was just another day in the never-ending battle with convention".
And indeed, yesterday felt different to people. The President trying to toss some big business to his own resort. His own Chief of Staff confirming the Ukraine story. The steady march of insider testimony increasing the pace of impeachment on the Hill. And his Vice President, in effect, giving Turkey everything it wanted in its drive to kill the Kurds.
With us for more here tonight, our own veteran, Jonathan Allen, NBC News National Political Reporter. Jonathan, do we pretty much have it right on what this week felt like, what today felt like, what yesterday felt like in the life of this administration?
JONATHAN ALLEN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, NBC NEWS: I mean, the solace of today, Brian, is that tomorrow will undoubtedly be more chaotic. Throughout this administration, we are on day 1,002. 1,003 will be more hammering to the country in terms of convention, as Peter Baker was writing about. We`ve seen any number of things that we`ve never seen before. The White House Chief of Staff walking out and just tossing out impeachable offences.
ALLEN: Unbelievable, at least three that I could count. You had the quid pro quo. You had the impoundment of congressionally appropriated funds. You had the investigation into a political opponent that he admitted to. That was unbelievable yesterday. You`ve got, as you were saying, the Vice President going and sort of turning loose turkey.
These are things that in and of themselves would be a year`s worth of news happening in the span of a day. And so it is -- this is a situation where you see a White House snowballing. There have not been any net positive days for this White House in terms of public relations in a long, long time, in terms of policy victories in a long, long time, and in terms of political victories in a long, long time. And I think for the country, there hasn`t been a lot of victory in a long, long time. You can look at measures like economic growth has been stable, but we`re not talking about a time when there`s a lot for the White House to be bragging about.
WILLIAMS: This President has turned some big name Republicans into straight up supplicants. And you and I spend a good deal of our time talking about the red wall, talking about the GOP firewall. What if the President is weakening that firewall with his own words and actions, wouldn`t that be the ultimate irony?
ALLEN: I think it is happening, Brian. You know, what we see on Capitol Hull right now is a group of loyalist to the President who have come out and rather defending the President, they`re attacking the process that Democrats are going through in terms of their impeachment investigation. They`re not coming out and saying what the President did was right. They`re not saying that it is morally unimpeachable.
What they`re saying is the Democrats aren`t running a great investigation. What we are not hearing is the broad group of Republicans defending the President. We`re not hearing what we used to. We`re not seeing Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, pound a lectern and talk about how righteous the President is. We`re seeing him essentially stick his head in the sand.
And we are seeing Republicans attack the President on his Syria policy, one after another after another. People who would have been afraid to go after him on anything just a few days ago are now telling him that he`s wrong, dead wrong on this, grievously wrong on, at the risk of America`s reputation in the world, about the risk of its allies in the world. This is a different moment in time right now. And does that mean they`ll all going to vote to impeach him or remove him in a couple of months? It doesn`t mean that. But does it mean that the President is in a different place politically today than he was a couple weeks? You know, absolutely.
WILLIAMS: But it means they can spin off maybe a couple votes.
ALLEN: I think it is bad idea to predict what Republicans are going to do or not going to do as go forward, because they`re going to be confronted with evidence. It`s being collected behind closed doors right now but they are going to be confronted with evidence of the President doing things that are unsupportable, that are inconsistent with the faithful execution of his duties.
We have seen a lot of it. And they`re going to have to make a decision about whether that`s impeachable in the House and in the Senate, whether those are things for which he should be removed. And they`re all going to be judged by history and they`re going to be judged by their constituents. And what we`re seeing in polling right now is that the public is moving.
WILLIAMS: Is it your testimony here that as a nationals fan you`d rather have the Yankees than the Astros?
ALLEN: I would rather have the Yankees than the Astros.
WILLIAMS: On the record, on live television, Jon Allen on a Friday night after a consequential week, thank you. Always a pleasure to have you.
Coming up, two women make history and then they have to deal with a phone call from the President. We`ll show you the entire drama from the Roosevelt room, after this.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. There they were 254 miles above home, orbiting the earth at an undetectable 17,000 miles an hour, repairing the international space station as people do. They were not the first females to walk in space but the first team of two women to do so in tandem. They are, thankfully, American astronauts and they did their jobs of course with no problem. Things only got complicated today when the President called, because it just could be that space and space travel is a fraught topic for Donald Trump. But here is how it went.
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TRUMP: Station, this is President Donald Trump. Do you hear me?
JESSICA MEIR, NASA ASTRONAUT: We can hear you.
TRUMP: That`s great. I was starting to get worried about you. This is the first time for a woman outside of the space station, the first ever female space walk to replace an exterior part of the space station.
MEIR: First of all, we don`t want to take too much credit, because there have been many other female space walkers before us. This is just the first time that it`s been two women outside at the same time.
TRUMP: This is a first step because we`re going to the Moon and then we`re going to Mars. We`re launching from the Moon, most likely. They seem to think that`s the best way of doing it, Jim. So we`re launching from the Moon. First the Moon and then we go to Mars. Thank you both very much. Have a good time.
JAMES FREDERICK BRIDENSTINE, ADMINISTRATOR, NASA: I`m wondering if we might have lost the link at this time.
TRUMP: Maybe they didn`t like my message. We have the space force happening, that`s going along very nicely, as you know. We`re creating a new force and it`s called the space force, and that`s big thing. So that`s beyond going to the Moon and Mars. That`s also defense of our nation --
BRIDENSTINE: That`s right.
TRUMP: -- which is very important. Well thank you very much, everybody, that was very exciting.
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WILLIAMS: One more thing here. We haven`t seen plans yet on the Moon base or the Moon launching pad. But just reminder, starting from the Moon saves you about three days travel time. Conservatively, the flight to Mars will take every bit of six months. Something to consider as you head into the weekend, perhaps.
That is our broadcast for a Friday night and for this 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