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G7 summit at Doral TRANSCRIPT:10/21/2019, The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Carolyn Ryan, Malcolm Nance

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: October 21, 2019

  BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight with the talk of impeachment articles approaching in becoming more real and with those all around him under fire.  The President goes after the Constitution as part of a torrent of false claims and complaints and says Republicans should fight harder for him.

Meantime, his policy plays out in human terms on battlefields far away.  The Kurds feeling abandoned.  Lashed out the retreating Americans in their armor.  The President says we owe them nothing.  We`ll have a live report from the region.

Plus, Bernie Sanders says he`s back, but will his numbers come back up?

And Hillary Clinton back in the news on two fronts and no, this isn`t 2016 as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Monday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York, day 1,005 of the Trump administration.  And including the jeopardy currently being faced by those closely around him, this President is under intensifying pressure now.  Just this morning, Speaker Pelosi distributed a fact sheet outlining what her office calls a grows abuse of presidential power regarding Trump`s dealings with Ukraine, calling it a shakedown, a pressure campaign, a cover-up.

A few hours later during a cabinet meeting, Trump was back on the attack armed with a handwritten note that read, in part, "no quid pro quo."


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  So this is phony investigation.

Republicans have to get tougher and fight.  We have some that are great fighters, but they have to get tougher in fight because the Democrats are trying to hurt the Republican Party for the election.

They`re vicious.  And they stick together.  They don`t have Mitt Romney in their midst.


WILLIAMS:  Kind of went on like that.  Trump also fired a broadside towards Republicans who don`t support him.


TRUMP:  Those people might be worse than the Democrats.  They`re never- Trumpers.  The good news is they`re dying off fast.  They`re on artificial respiration, I think.


WILLIAMS:  The aforementioned Mitt Romney, one of the few Republicans to publicly hint that he might consider impeachment today repeated his concerns.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY, (R) UTAH:  I think most people are looking at what`s going on in the House with interest, obviously with concern.  But ultimately we may well become a jury.

Holding up funds to a foreign nation particularly one that`s under military threat in order to fulfill a political purpose is a real problem.


WILLIAMS:  Not even a full month since we learned of the Ukraine call, investigators have now issued 12 subpoenas and have heard 53 hours of closed-door testimony from six witnesses.  Tomorrow they hear from U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Bill Taylor, that gentleman, the man who raised alarms about the White House holding back military aid to Ukraine.  On Wednesday they`ll hear from Laura Cooper, the Pentagon official overseeing Russia and Ukraine.

Two officials working on the impeachment inquiry tell NBC News that another State Department official, Ambassador Philip Reeker, is expected to testify in a closed session this coming Saturday.  One thing Democrats won`t get is a response to a subpoena issued to OMB, the Office of Management and Budget.  Acting Director Russell Vought declared this morning, "As the White House letter made clear two weeks ago, OMB officials, myself and Mike Duffey will not be complying with deposition requests this week."

One more note from the Hill.  Tonight, the House voted along party lines to table or kill a Republican resolution to censure Adam Schiff for how he handled the impeachment inquiry as chair of the Intel Committee.  We`ll have more on that later on in the broadcast.

Trump`s impeachment battles have been compounded by the uproar over his bid to hold the next G7 summit at his Doral golf resort near Miami.  He abruptly reversed the decision over the weekend.  NBC News reports that during a conference call with House Republicans Saturday, they were actually urging him to move the summit to another location.  That doesn`t happen often.  But today Trump was still promoting his resort as he addressed a number of related grievances.


TRUMP:  It`s new, it`s been totally rebuilt.  Everything is good.  Got massive meeting rooms.  Right next to the airport, Miami Internation, one of the biggest airports in the world.  But the Democrats went crazy, even though I would have done it free.

But I give away my presidential salary.  They say that no other president has done it.  I`m surprised to be honest with you.  They actually say that George Washington may have been the only other president to do it.

I don`t think you people with this phony emoluments clause -- and, by the way, I would say that it`s cost me anywhere from $2 billion to $5 billion to be president, and that`s OK between what I lose and what I could have made.


WILLIAMS:  Before we go any further here, the emoluments clause is real.  Article 1 Section 9 of our constitution, under it, presidents are not permitted to use office to enrich themselves.

As "The Washington Post" points out, "Trump said the presidency was costing him $2 billion and $5 billion, though there is no evidence for such a claim, and his own disclosure show he has continued to profit while in the Oval Office.  The President said only George Washington had given away his salary, like Trump does, although historian say John f. Kennedy and Herbert Hoover donated their pay as well."

And no matter what a lot of people are saying about the airport in Miami, it`s 15th on the list.

Tomorrow may bring fresh hell for this administration as the cease-fire expires and now nothing will hold Turkish forces back.  As U.S. troops were pulling out of northern Syria, civilians and Kurdish areas there hurled vegetables and insults.  They`re angry that they`re fighting partners, the Americans, are leaving them.  At the White House, Trump had this response to the Kurds.


TRUMP:  Where is an agreement that said we have to stay in the Middle East for the rest of humanity, for the rest of civilization to protect the Kurds?

They`re no angels.  We helped the Kurds and we never gave the Kurds a commitment that we`d stay there for 400 years to protect them.


WILLIAMS:  And tonight "The Washington Post" is reporting that a limited number of troops will indeed remain in Syria to secure the oil as the President puts it.  And this afternoon Secretary of State Pompeo seemed to indicate, get this, the President might be willing to commit to military action in the region if it becomes necessary.


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE:  We prefer peace to war.  But in the event that kinetic action or military action is needed, you should know that President Trump is fully prepared to undertake that action.


WILLIAMS:  Here for our lead-off discussion on a Monday night, Philip Rucker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR, Boston`s NPR News Station, and Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times."  Good evening, gang.  Welcome to you all.

Peter, I`d like to start off with you. I`m going to ask the same question of your colleague, Mr. Rucker.  Do you believe based on power of observation that the President feels he`s in control of any of this narrative?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, look, you know, he dominates our conversation like nobody else.  If anybody can control a narrative, it would be him.  But right now I think he`s in a position he hasn`t been through most of his presidency.  He is in a position where he is, in fact, seeing other actors on the stage, in this case, the House Democrats, you know, putting out more information each day.  He`s making his own mistakes as he did with the G7, Doral idea which he quickly retreated on in the face of not just Democratic and media criticism, but Republican criticism.

And the Syria conversation, the Syria decision where he basically abandoned the Kurds who`ve been American allies hurt him with his own Republican base, the people he needs right now more than ever in order to defend himself against this impeachment effort.

WILLIAMS:  Phil, the same question.  He`s casting about-- he`s using some well-worn talking points, some new ones.  At one point on the Miami airport thing today he said there are some people who believe it`s the number one biggest airport in the United States.  It`s not.



RUCKER:  no. He is not in control right now.  In fact, I`d say this as a season of weakness for him on a number of fronts because he`s got Republicans on the Hill who are speaking out about his Syria decision.  He`s got his own administration officials who are defying his wishes by going up to the Hill to testify as part of this impeachment inquiry.

The polling is not in his favor here.  Growing numbers of American people and in many polls, majorities of American people now believe this impeachment inquiry is appropriate, support the inquiry, support the investigation.  The courts have been ruling against the President on a number of fronts, including over his tax returns, and he has no control over the media narrative.  He doesn`t even have control over Fox News right now.  We`re seeing more and more commentators on the air and hard news reporting at Fox that is insufficiently pro-Trump in the President`s mind.

WILLIAMS:  Kim, you might know this feeling. I`m sitting here thinking where did I read a brilliant piece on this season for the President this weekend?  Oh, it`s Rucker`s from "The Washington Post" over the weekend.

Hey, Kim, the President is now going after Romney.  Mitt Romney appears to have gone to loosening up, finishing school over the past few days.  He appears to many people to be a different man.  Is he affected by the incoming attacks from the President do you think?

KIMBERLY ATKINS, WBUR SR. NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, he really isn`t, not in the same way that other Republicans on the Hill are.  Mitt Romney is somebody who is -- he`s already been a presidential nominee.  He will never be on a ballot with Donald Trump.  He is popular in Utah where the President is a lot less popular, especially for a red state.

So he is in a position where he feels that he has the bandwidth to speak out against him and folks who -- Republicans who I talked to over the weekend says that he really sees this as a moral duty.  Now, recall when Senator Romney came to Washington, it seemed really unclear.  He made -- he did an op-ed saying that he would speak out to Donald Trump sometimes.  But if he agreed with him, he wouldn`t.  And we didn`t know what role he`s playing here.

Now he seems to be through interviews, through his actions, through statements, really setting out a space for himself as somebody who could lead a GOP insurgence.  The question is, will there be anyone other GOP troops behind him if he leads that to do enough to make the President change his behavior or were to vote to impeach him.

WILLIAMS:  Peter Baker, you just coauthored a book on the subject of impeachment.  You and I lived through one of them.  The House today, the Democrats appear to be narrowing in informed by the relative failure of the messages of Mueller to come through clearly, narrowing in their impeachment case on something finite and perhaps more understandable.  Is that about how you read it?

BAKER:  Well, I think it`s about right exactly.  I think Robert Mueller`s report in many ways was pretty damning about the President but it wasn`t presented in a way that had the kind of political kick, the Democrats hoped it would, right?  He didn`t present it as an impeachable offense.  He said that`s basically up to another part of government, which -- by which he meant, of course, the House of Representatives that didn`t actually -- if that was meant to be a subtle message, it didn`t get through.

So now you see, you know, political professionals taking the lead in this case, and then therefore, they risk looking partisan.  That`s always a problem for an opposition party taking on the President in the White House.  But they`re framing it in a more, you know, digestible way for the American public.  They`re creating a narrative that the public can understand a little bit better about abuse of power, about going to foreign governments in order to help against the enemy, political enemy at home.  And I think that that has been their, you know, their main strategy.

The question for them is do they leave it at that?  Do they eventually draft articles of impeachment strictly along the lines of the Ukraine matter or do did they try to wrap in anything else?  So a lot of other issues that some Democrats would like to include.  That to me I think is yet to be have (ph).

WILLIAMS:  Phil, Kim raises such an important issue.  Mitt Romney is one of the most politically bullet proof politicians in modern-day America.  Two things could happen here.  The resistance could attach all of their hopes and dreams to him like a Christmas tree, but also he could give skittish Republicans, people who have some mileage on them, and perhaps our safe back at home some air cover to actually speak their mind here.

RUCKER:  He certainly can.  Mitt Romney feels liberated, clearly, to be able to say what he wants to say during this moment.  Trump has tried to throw every arrow at Romney and Romney is still standing.  He`s still the senator from Utah.


RUCKER:  He very well could get re-elected as the senator from Utah.  So, he doesn`t really care what Trump is going to say about him.  And therefore, he can make arguments both publicly in the media but also privately in those lunches the Republican senators have in favor of impeachment, in favor of a conviction explaining the sort of historical choice that could potentially await the senators as jurors.  And there are a number of other senators who are, you know, why they may not say so publicly, are close to Romney.  They o decks (ph) to Romney.

Romney campaigned very hard and raised money for people like Martha McSally in Arizona, Joni Ernst in Iowa, Cory Gardner in Colorado.  And you could potentially fast forward a couple of weeks and see a Romney coalition emerge within that Republican Senate conference.

WILLIAMS:  Did the Doral reversal surprise you?

RUCKER:  It did because we almost never see the President fold in the face of public criticism.  His instinct is to dig in.  And I just assumed that this decision was final when it was announced by the acting White House Chief of Staff last Thursday.

But the pushback from Republicans was so fierce.  It wasn`t all that public, although some spoke out publicly.  But it was very intense in private calls to the White House staff, messages that were relayed to the President that this was a big mistake, he had crossed the line here.  They`re not able to defend him because in their view, choosing your own property to hold international summit is frankly indefensible.  And so the President have to fold these curves.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Kim, can you handicap the chances that Mr. Mulvaney will hold his current job by the end of this week in four business days?

ATKINS:  I think that`s tough.  I mean, I never know exactly what the President will do.  I think we have a sign from the fact that Mick Mulvaney`s title is acting chief of staff.  That is not a Senate-confirmed position.  The President can choose who he wants to, so he purposely always had that hanging over Mick Mulvaney`s head to say you are not safe in this spot.

He did have people rallying around him from within the administration today.  Mulvaney did.  So, but we know this President wants to have the people around him who he is comfortable with.  The people who he thinks are succeeding.  And so I think there`s a big question mark over Mulvaney right now.

WILLIAMS:  Peter Baker, tell us what the State Department discovered about Hillary Clinton`s emails and can we just assume from that the President will regard it as a lost cause and move on?

BAKER:  Well, the answer to the second question is no.  The answer to the first is they put out a report after all these years investigating, saying that there were some -- people at the State Department who were culpable of introducing classified information in an unclassified server inappropriately, but they didn`t find any evidence of a systemic disregard for the security rules.  In fact, they basically were saying, you know, no harm, no foul.  In effect, things shouldn`t have been done this way, but there wasn`t some grand conspiracy to expose the nation`s secrets.

That doesn`t the President will accept it.  He will take, no doubt, the critical parts of this report and there are critical parts of it and highlight those and no doubt bring those up.  Just the another night I was with him as was Phil in Dallas where he raised this issue again with his supports.  Remember the e-mails, he said, and yes, they did.  They remember the e-mails.  So, even those years -- in the past this point, I think that you will continue to see this being a talking point for the President.

WILLIAMS:  Straight up all stars, the big three who started off a new week for us, Phil Rucker, Kimberly Atkins, Peter Baker, our sincere thanks.

Coming up for us, Democrats are said to be narrowly focusing as we said on this impeachment inquiry, being careful not to overreach.  Tonight, how they might go about building a case of abuse of power.

And later, a battlefield veteran of the Middle East is here tonight to talk about the site of Americans leaving the fight and what we may be looking at down that road as the THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Monday night.


WILLIAMS:  New reporting is giving us an inside look at Democratic strategy when it comes to impeaching this President.  Our own Heidi Przybyla reports that according to multiple people familiar with deliberations, and this is important, House Democrats are, "zeroing in on a framework for their impeachment case that will center on a simple abuse of power narrative involving the President`s actions regarding Ukraine."

The report goes on to say, and we quote, "Still under debate is whether leaders will roll potential obstruction charges related to Mueller`s investigation into the same article that deals with Ukraine."

One person we wanted to talk to about this tonight turns out is available.  Former U.S. Attorney, Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor.

Joyce, talk about this because it seems directly informed by the density and complexity of the Mueller report.  No less a document, but it just wasn`t digested and understood by the American public.  It`s a sacrilege, but I`ve been saying that, had it been a Twitter thread of 20 items, people may have come away with a greater understanding of it than that.  And also talk about the temptation as they say about legislation, when they start adding amendments, it becomes a Christmas tree, the temptation to throw other stuff in the hopper.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  So I think one of the issues that we need to think about now is strategy and pragmatic engagement when you`re drafting a charging document like articles of impeachment.  The American public has a lot of emotional engagement with the topic of the President`s behavior on both sides of the equation, right?

But from a prosecutor`s point of view, and that`s what will happen when Congress drafts articles of impeachment, the House will be acting as prosecutors.  You need to draft an effective document, and that often means crafting a simple narrative, a narrative that people can readily understand and seize onto.  Every prosecutor knows horror stories about a public corruption case or a white-collar case that was over indicted, that became too complex for the jury to understand.

So the best path forward here will be one that in many ways, as you point out, Brian, avoids the pitfalls of the Mueller report, avoids the level of complexity that came overwhelming and confusing, and adopt an almost Trump- like strategy of stringing together some readily understood bumper stickers.

WILLIAMS:  What do you say, though, to members of the caucus who say, no, look, over here, these things he did here are much worse?  This charge over here that we`re leaving on the side is much worse.  You try to tell them that it`s best for the whole to go under this one banner?

VANCE:  So this will be, I think, a fiercely negotiated process.  The abuse of trust narrative is very easy to understand.  We don`t trade our national security for political favors for a president, and with that as the centerpiece.  It will be possible to add some additional pieces.

I think likely contempt of Congress or obstruction of Congress plays in, perhaps an emoluments clause charge.  But the challenge will be to remember that the Democrats if they`re playing for keeps have to pick up votes in the Senate from Republicans.

And even though we hear this statistic now that more Americans than not favor impeachment, that statistic doesn`t hold true in every state.  So in states like Alabama, for instance, where Trump is still very popular, there will have to be a narrative that`s compelling enough for people who aren`t predisposed to believe it to catch on because ultimately senators from those states, Republican senators will not change their votes in favor of impeachment unless they feel comfortable that the people that they represent are on board.

WILLIAMS:  Joyce --

VANCE:  That`s what makes simplicity and clarity critical.

WILLIAMS:  I want to spend a word here talking about Rudy Giuliani.  This is the reporting from "The New York Times," "The Justice Department distanced itself on Sunday from Rudolph Giuliani, President Trump`s personal lawyer, declaring department officials would not have met with Mr. Giuliani to discuss one of his clients had they known federal prosecutors in New York were investigating two of his associates."

A lot more pictures have become public thanks to "The Wall Street Journal" reporting showing the closeness between Rudy and these guys and the whole circle of them.  What does this say about potential trouble for Rudy Giuliani?

VANCE:  This situation really boggles the mind because typically DOJ has a strict policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations.  DOJ doesn`t acknowledge that investigations are under way except in very rare cases, primarily involving civil rights.  So doing this is tacitly acknowledging that Giuliani is under investigation.  I appreciate that there`s been reporting and coverage on that, but DOJ will typically not weighing in to preserve the rights of those who under investigation.

The entire situation though speaks of a lot of dysfunction.  This notion that we the lawyer for the President of the United States who`s in the hauls of DOJ trying to negotiate cases for his clients while the folks perhaps that he`s negotiating with have this understanding of his relationship with the President of the United States is really unfortunate.  It really brings a bad light to bear on DOJ`s integrity.

WILLIAMS:  Joyce Vance, it`s always a pleasure.  Thank you for being with us and taking our questions on all things legal tonight.

Coming up for us, a look at the six swing states that could determine this next election.  Importantly, though, where the voters in those six states stand on impeachment when we come back.



WILLIAMS:  New polling from six important states in the next election shows voters there back the impeachment inquiry, but not so much removal from office.  Fifty percent of voters in Pennsylvania, Florida, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Arizona support the Democrats` impeachment inquiry while 45 percent oppose the investigation.  Only 43 percent of voters in those states support impeachment when coupled with removal.  53 percent oppose it.

Nate Cohn of The New York Times points out, "The results suggest that the President continues to be stronger in the top battleground states than he is nationwide.  This is keeping his narrow path to re-election alive and insulating him and his party from national political opinion, to an extent".

Here with us again tonight is Carolyn Ryan, Assistant Managing Editor for The New York Times.  Thank you for coming back.


WILLIAMS:  I ask this of all our political guests.  A, if I gave you construction paper, a map of the U.S. and crayons, could you find a path to re-election as of right now tonight for Donald Trump and the electoral college, a, and b, what excites you or bores you about these new poll numbers?

RYAN:  Well, I mean, I think the poll is fascinating.  Yes, I could find that path, but there`s a lot of rich data in here, and I think you have to look at this as a continuum.  People -- Even though there`s not a majority, unlike in the Fox poll and other polls --


RYAN:  -- for impeachment as in removal, there is movement toward both support for the inquiry and towards support for removal.  So there`s a very small sliver of people who are for an impeachment inquiry, meaning go investigate him, but they haven`t yet decided Trump should be removed.  Who are those people?  They tend to be young, they tend to be low-information voters, they`re very cynical about politicians in general.  They think this is how people in public office act and they`re not surprised by what Trump is doing.

So if the Democrats want to convince that group of people and I think they need to in those states, they have to show that this is atypical, aberrant, extreme, misbehavior.  It`s not run-of-the-mill political misconduct.  And that`s the challenge that they have.

WILLIAMS:  Bernie Sanders this weekend New York City on a beautiful afternoon declared himself back.  Drew a crowd of 20 plus thousand, drew an endorsement from AOC.  What`s it all convertible to out in the wider world, out and across America?

RYAN:  Well, the real question for Bernie Sanders right now, and this is what you hear from our reporters in the field, is there is excitement, you know there`s passion, but the support is not growing.  If you go to events in Iowa, it`s sort of the same people who were there in 2016.  What are the new cohorts that Bernie is going to attract?  They`re not emerging.

So AOC is exciting.  She`s exciting to young people.  And let`s not downplay the significance of both that crowd in that moment in terms of turning the page and his election after a very serious medical event.  But the question is, especially in Iowa, can he reach out, can he organize, and can he bring new people to his movement?

WILLIAMS:  What is Hillary Clinton up to?  She put out a kind of a jokey fake JFK letter that was, however, his real signature, this weekend.  A takeoff on the President`s correspondence with Erdogan of Turkey.  She came out after Tulsi Gabbard.

RYAN:  Right.

WILLIAMS:  She came out after Jill Stein, and you know something is up when the President then defends Jill Stein and Tulsi Gabbard.  What do you think is going on here?

RYAN:  Look, every day she wakes up knowing she lost to Donald Trump.  That`s not an easy thing for her to carry.  I think that`s a very painful thing.  I think it shapes her view of the world.  I think the Russian interference shapes her view of the world.  So I think it`s not easy for her to kind of let go of the very raw feelings from that loss.  And from a human level, you can understand why.

WILLIAMS:  Also, she`s on book tour and people are asking her for comment wherever she goes.

RYAN:  Yes.  But I would say -- I think that`s exactly right, but she is freer now than, say, she was as a candidate.  She was an extremely cautious candidate.  And now the way that she talks about Tulsi Gabbard and sort of the jokey personality on Twitter is very different from what we saw when she was running for office.

WILLIAMS:  Come by anytime.

RYAN:  I will do that.

WILLIAMS:  Great pleasure to have you.  Great to see you.  Carolyn Ryan of The New York Times.

Coming up, President Trump says our relationship with the Kurds is good.  So we have that going for us.  That might just ignore, however, what we`re seeing from the Kurds on the ground.  We`ll go to the region live when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  It is early morning right now along the Syria-Turkey border, but in a matter of hours at the end of the day there, the tenuous so-called ceasefire there is scheduled to come to an end.  The pictures into us today are demoralizing, and especially for those who have worn the uniform.  These are Kurds throwing rocks and potatoes and tomatoes at armored U.S. troops who are retreating from Syria and leaving the Kurds targeted and on the run.

The Kurds anger is not at our troops per se as individuals.  Their anger is directed at the policy that led to their departure.  Some of the Kurds held up signs including one that read in English, "To the U.S. Army who are leaving northeast Syria, tell your children that the children of the Kurds were killed by the Turks and we did nothing to protect them".  According to the U.N., some 160,000 Syrian Kurds have now fled their homes, many making the days-long journey across the border into northern Iraq.  That number includes an estimated 70,000 children who are on the run.

It`s also where we find our own correspondent, Matt Bradley, Foreign Correspondent for both MSNBC and News, with us tonight on the ground from Iraq.  Matt, is there a, as they say, a palpable sense of foreboding there as these last hours tick by?

MATT BRADLEY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, MSNBC:  Yes.  Brian, you know, not necessarily here in Iraq.  I`m next door to what`s going on in Syria, but those refugees are still flowing in.  You know, there`s something like 150,000 to 300,000 of them coming in by the day.  And that`s despite this so-called ceasefire that`s set to expire.  You know, this has been going on now for four days.

And I talked with these refugees in a camp just near to where I am here in Dohuk.  And they said that there is no ceasefire, there is no peace, there`s still a lot of fighting.  And that`s why for a lot of them, the ceasefire means nothing.

And, you know, even -- Brian, just being an American reporter talking to these people, there was a lot of hostility, but mostly just despair.  They were just saying how America betrayed them, how Donald Trump himself was so duplicative, how they turn their back on the Kurds and how, you know, the U.S. and the Kurds used to fight hand in hand.  And you mentioned those children, this camp that I went to was filled with hundreds of small children running around, all of them wearing just the clothes they had on their backs.  And the parents that I talked to were just so distressed about the future of their children because they feel as though they can never return to Syria.

Here`s some of them that I spoke to just earlier today.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (Speaking Foreign Language).


BRADLEY:  So she says that she is -- everything she has what she`s wearing right now and her house was destroyed by artillery fire.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  (Speaking Foreign Language).

BRADLEY:  She says she`s grateful to her children are with her, but she has no money and she doesn`t see a future for herself.  She`s got nothing now.


BRADLEY:  And, again, you know, it was a lot of palpable anger about America.  And America is ruling all of these.  They really just feel so deeply betrayed, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Matt, I know members of the military are not as a routine matter supposed to speak to members of the media, but we usually find ways to make other arrangements.  Have you had any contact with members of the U.S. military?  I just can`t imagine how they are feeling.

BRADLEY:  Actually, no, because here in Iraq they drove right through northern Iraq.  You know, they flashed some peace signs at us as they were driving through.  They didn`t get the same kind of rage here in northern Iraq.  They didn`t have as many people throwing things at them as they did in northern Syria.  Those images you saw with people throwing vegetables and rocks, there was a little bit of that in nearby Erbil, which is the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan.  But, you know, it`s just was still among the people, among the refugees.  That anger is not going to go away, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Where do you put -- this may call for a judgment on your part and then I`ll let you go.  Where do you put the chance that things will deteriorate so badly or cross, a, an imaginary line enough to recommit Americans coming the other way on those same highways?

BRADLEY:  I think what it would take, Brian, is a reformation of the Islamic state.  And that`s really why the Americans aren`t going home.  You know, Donald Trump initially said that these American troops are going to be headed back to the states.  They`re coming here to Iraq to fight Islamic state which, again, that Jihadi (ph) former empire, that Donald Trump so proudly boasted not so long ago, that he had entirely defeated.  Well, that mission isn`t over and they`re here fighting Islamic state.

There are something like 60,000, 70,000 Islamic state fighters and their families in prisons in Syria.  If they`re released through all this chaos, they could reformulate that so called caliphate, and then that mission would spill back over the line from Iraq, into Syria and we could once again see the Islamic state come thundering back that murderous regime that terrorize the region for so many years.

WILLIAMS:  Matt Bradley in Dohuk, Iraq for us tonight.  Matt, thank you for your reporting.  Be safe in your travels.  We appreciate it very much.

And coming up, our next guest who has fought on battlefields in that region is making some alarming predictions tonight about where this policy blunder could take us.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  They were fighting ISIS.  You know, they hated ISIS, so they were fighting ISIS but we never agreed - - where is that agreement that said we have to stay in the middle east for the rest of humanity, for the rest of civilization?  To protect the Kurds?  It never said that.  And we have protected them.  We`ve taken very good care of them.  And I hope they`re going to watch over ISIS.


WILLIAMS:  To that point, The New York Times has this reporting tonight.  "Analysts say that Mr. Trump`s pullout has handed the Islamic state its biggest win in more than four years and greatly improved its prospects."

With us tonight from Paris is Malcolm Nance, Veteran of Naval Intelligence, Special Ops, Homeland Security, 35 years working in the fields of counterterrorism and intelligence.  He`s our analyst in this area for a reason.  His forthcoming book is, "The Plot to Betray America: How Team Trump Embraced Our Enemies, Compromised Our Security, And How We Can Fix It".  Malcolm, what is it you fear we`re looking at as a result of this policy and this pullout?

MALCOLM NANCE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, TERROR ASYMMETRIC PROJECT:  Well, what I fear is that we are looking at the salvation of the Islamic state.  You have to understand that the Islamic state was sort of like a ball of mercury.  Even though the caliphate had been quashed by the Kurds, many of these forces had moved to other places, Yemen, Somalia.  They are very, very well entrenched in north Africa and in Afghanistan.

But as the caliphate itself was crushed and those forces were pushed to the south, the United States and its allies managed to maintain them from keeping a nucleus that would allow them to reform.  Donald Trump has saved ISIS.  There`s no other way to put it because now that nucleus let around their leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, who was never captured now has an opportunity to bounce back, start taking Syrian weapons and make itself known on the international stage again.

WILLIAMS:  Malcolm, as someone who wore the uniform for years, how did it affect you to see the video of the Kurds pelting our armored vehicles based on nothing the soldiers had done?

NANCE:  You know, that must break the hearts of those soldiers who were in that special operations task group.  These are men and women who fought side by side, elbow to elbow with the Kurds, trained them to become the most capable combat force the United States had in place since the Vietnam War.  And asymmetrically, they have been the biggest force multiplier that we`ve had quite honestly since World War II.

This force that the United States had one soldier for approximately every 1,000 Kurds went out there and destroyed the Islamic state.  So to be told, you`re going to get your weapons, you`re going to get your personal effects, you`re going to go over to your MRAP, your armored vehicle, you`re going to get in it.  And you`re going to leave them and abandon them to their fate because the President of the United States is too incompetent to listen to his commanders and doesn`t understand the strategic depth of what we were doing, that will break the hearts of these soldiers.

WILLIAMS:  What did you make of today`s reporting that there are plans being drawn up at the Pentagon in case the President`s next ask is a rapid drawdown from Afghanistan?

NANCE:  It`s utterly impossible to believe.  I understand that the Pentagon has to maintain contingencies.  We always maintain contingencies, there`s always a plan out there, but this belief that the President of the United States is willing to abandon every U.S. interest from south Asia all the way across the Middle East with the exception of his friends in Saudi Arabia, who have money and oil, he has seems to have no problem putting U.S. forces there to protect the Saudi oil sheiks, but he loses everything that we have fought for since 9/11.

Let me tell you something, been to Afghanistan, ISIS is not only in Afghanistan.  Al-Qaeda, main force, as it has existed since 2001, remains in Afghanistan, and so does the Taliban.  If we cut and run from Afghanistan, we not only have despoiled or disgraced the deaths of the almost 5,000 U.S. service men and women who died there to make that place a safe place so that terrorist groups will not form there, that country will become an Islamic state under Taliban control with ISIS operating from there within a matter of months.

WILLIAMS:  Malcolm Nance in Paris, 5:52 a.m., Arc de Triomphe just faintly in the background.  Malcolm, thank you as always for joining us tonight, morning your time.

Coming up for us, we deconstruct the drama that turned two big-name Washington figures into now sworn enemies.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight.  What`s behind Trump`s antipathy toward Adam Schiff, other than the fact that the California Democrat chairs the Intel Committee and has been the public face of impeachment of late.  Trump has been livid at Schiff and this started with Trump Republicans in the House and in the media.  Ever since Schiff attempted what he called a parody version of Trump`s Ukraine phone call.

While Adam Schiff plainly shares nothing with Mickey Spillane or Robert De Niro, he started a hearing a month ago now with a hockey interpretation of what the Ukraine called would sound like if it were a mob movie.


REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CHAIRMAN INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, CALIFORNIA:  This is the essence of what the President communicates.  We`ve been very good to your country, very good.  No other country has done as much as we have.  But you know what?  I don`t see much reciprocity here.  I hear what you want.

I have a favor I want from you, though.  And I`m going to say this only seven times so you better listen good.  I want you to make up dirt on my political opponent, understand?  Lots of it.  On these and on that and, by the way, don`t call me again.  I`ll call you when you`ve done what I asked.


WILLIAMS:  So hat bit right there set off the people around Trump who sensed that maybe Schiff had overplayed his hand.  They said Schiff was misquoting the summary of the phone call we were all given, and they set Trump loose on Twitter.  Some quotes here, to wit, "When do we depose Shifty Schiff to find out why he fraudulently made up my phone call a brazen and unlawful about of fabricating, making up a total phony conversation.  Schiff fabricated phone call, a crime".

Again, Trump`s hobby horse is Schiff`s dramatic reading of that phone call for which we have notes and no actual transcript.  We presume the takeaway here is, one should not dramatize a conversation that actually took place.  Question, that rule against dramatizations, does that apply to the famously star-crossed lovers, Peter Strzok And Lisa Page of the FBI whose text traffic to each other has been published verbatim?  We`re guessing something like that should never be dramatized.


TRUMP:  Peter Strzok.  Remember he and his lover, Lisa Page.  I love you, Peter.  I love you too, Lisa.  Lisa, love.  Lisa.  Lisa.  Oh, God, I love you, Lisa.

And if she doesn`t win, Lisa, we got an insurance policy, Lisa.  We`ll get that son of a bitch out.


WILLIAMS:  A dramatic reading from the President to take us off the air tonight.  That is our broadcast for this Monday evening as we all start a new week together.  Thank you so very much for being here with us and 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