MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: President Trump`s obsession with protecting Putin when I don`t think it`s even in the President`s own personal interest. And as a result of that, he is now going to likely face articles of impeachment tomorrow.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: Ambassador Michael McFaul, thank you very much for joining us. Really appreciate it.
MCFAUL: Thanks for having me.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight as the Democrats promise to make more news on impeachment in the morning after a day spent showing their homework in the case against Trump, the report that the President told us could reveal a coup, an overthrow of our government and the deep state effort to spy on him, it didn`t say any of that.
Plus, why was Jim Comey uninvited from tomorrow`s edition of "Fox and Friends?" And what happened to his former boss, Rudy Giuliani? Tonight, we`ll talk to someone who knows.
And even today, more Republicans are pushing Russian disinformation with a straight face, passing along conspiracy theories when they know the truth. Why one reporter said tonight it felt like truth itself was on trial as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on this Monday evening.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. This was day 1,054 of the Trump administration. We have breaking news tonight about the news that is coming tomorrow morning. Both Politico and "The Washington Post" were first to report that committee chairs plan to announce the articles of impeachment during a press conference in the morning.
Politico reports Democrats, "plan to unveil at least two articles of impeachment on Tuesday, charging President Donald Trump with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The Judiciary Committee plans to vote on the articles on Thursday.
NBC News has also confirmed these latest developments, and this comes after another marathon hearing on the Hill in which Democrats and Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee faced off over the evidence compiled thus far against the President.
During the hearing, Republicans made a point of bringing up the repeatedly debunked theory about Ukraine meddling in our 2016 election. As you watch this, remember this is Russian disinformation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE CASTOR, HOUSE INTEL & JUDICIARY COMMITTEE REPUBLICAN COUNSEL: A systematic, coordinated Russian interference effort does not mean that some Ukrainian officials, some Ukrainian officials, did not work to oppose President Trump`s candidacies.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Republican lawyer Steve Castor was later pressed on the extent of the President`s repeated contacts with Russians.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) CALIFORNIA INTELLIGENCE & JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Take a wild guess, Mr. Castor. How many times has President Trump met with Vladimir Putin or talked to him?
CASTOR: I don`t know the number.
SWALWELL: It`s 16.
SWALWELL: How many times has President Trump met at the White House with President Zelensky? It`s zero. And who was President Trump meeting with at the White House tomorrow? Do you know?
CASTOR: I`m not -- I`m not --
SWALWELL: It`s Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The conspiracy theory about Ukraine, this Russian disinformation even got an airing this weekend from Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz who will be a juror at any Senate impeachment trial.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHUCK TODD, NBC NEWS HOST: Do you believe Ukraine meddled in the American election in 2016?
SEN. TED CRUZ, (R) TEXAS: I do, and I think there`s considerable evidence of that.
TODD: You do?
CRUZ: Chuck, let me point out a game that the media is playing. You know, a question that you`ve asked a number of people is you`ve said to senators, sort of aghast, do you believe that Ukraine, and not Russia, interfered in the election? Look, on the evidence, Russia clearly interfered in our election. But here`s the game the media is playing, because Russia interfered, the media pretends nobody else did. Ukraine blatantly interfered in our elections.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Also today, the Justice Department watchdog delivered that long awaited report on the FBI`s Russia investigation. Trump has insisted the intelligence community was spying on him and his campaign as part of the, "deep state conspiracy."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They were spying on my campaign and it went right up to the top.
How did it start? You had dirty cops, people that are bad, FBI folks.
Before I even announced, they were spying.
I was spied on. What they did to me was illegal.
They spied on our campaign. Who would think that`s possible?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Today, the Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz issued his nearly 500-page report that found no evidence to support those claims. "The FBI had an authorized purpose when it opened cross fire hurricane, the investigation into the Trump campaign to obtain information about or protect against a national security threat or federal crime. We did not find documentary or testimonial evidence that political bias or improper motivation influenced the decisions."
The IG`s report find, "serious performance failures, along the chain of command to the investigation. Trump responded today with a misrepresentation of the findings while the investigation now being carried out by U.S. Attorney John Durham at the direction of Attorney General Bill Barr.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This was an overthrow of government. This was an attempted overthrow and a lot of people were in on it. And they got caught. They got caught red handed. And I look forward to the Durham report, which is coming out in the not-too-distant future.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Let`s do this again. The bottom line here, the President has for months said he was the victim of a spy ring from inside our government, an illegal conspiracy, and attempted coup as you heard him say again there, an attempted overthrow of his government. And this, of course, was none of that. Durham for his part weighed in on the IG`s report today with a statement that read in part, "While our investigation is ongoing, last month we advised the Inspector General that we do not agree with some of the report`s conclusions as to predication and how the FBI case was opened. That brought this report from James Comey, FBI director for and during the early stages of the bureau`s Russian inquiry.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: What is he doing talking about his work? He`s supposed to be a professional. If you must investigate, go get facts and then show them to the American people. But don`t be part of a sliming of the IG and the department as a whole. Do your work.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: For good measure, Attorney General Barr drew this conclusion from the same IG report we just talked about. "The Inspector General`s report now makes clear that the FBI launched an intrusive investigation of a U.S. presidential campaign on the thinnest of suspicions that, in my view, were insufficient to justify the steps taken." There you have it.
And here for our lead-off discussion on a Monday night, Nancy Cook, White House reporter for Politico, Katie Benner, Justice Department reporter for "The New York Times," and Robert Costa, national political reporter for "The Washington Post" and moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS.
Robert, let`s start with what`s happening tomorrow morning. These articles of impeachment we`ll work our way back. Number one, how did they narrow it down? And number two, is it enough? Is it sufficient to take the caucus and keep it together all the way through?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Based on my conversations with House Democratic aides tonight, it will be sufficient to get the support of the House Democratic conference, Speaker Pelosi believes and our lieutenants believe they have the votes for abuse of power, possibly contempt of Congress. But you see Chairman Nadler at the Judiciary Committee on "Meet the Press" on Sunday now -- on Monday meeting with these members, trying to articulate in private conversations exactly how to keep this narrow and focused so they can move forward this week.
WILLIAMS: Nancy, another first is coming for this president and that could be his reaction to seeing actual articles of impeachment come out. Just yesterday he tweeted or retweeted 101 times, it was just a Sunday. What could the reaction be in this case?
NANCY COOK, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, I think that the White House, you know, today was feeling really good about the fact that Republicans have been so united against impeachment and they were feeling really good about polls that show that impeachment is not necessarily playing well in battleground states. But I keep it`s an open question how the President reacts tomorrow morning when the Democrats unveil what the actual articles of impeachment will be.
I think President Trump tends to take these things very personally. He tends to feel very attacked. And despite the White House aides` best efforts to say that the President is focused on policy or that he`s busy working, we can see from his Twitter feed that he is obsessed and consumed by impeachment. And I think that we`ll just see more evidence of that tomorrow. I think it will be fascinating to see how he reacts on Twitter, how he reacts on his conversations with the press in the Oval office, you know, and what the day with the White House is like as he tries to go about his business while he feels personally under siege.
WILLIAMS: Katie Benner, back to your beat and the report that came out today. I saw former federal prosecutor Elie Hong wrote tonight that in the old days, an attorney general who had accused a government of spying on a presidential candidate might resign on the day when the counterevidence comes out. Obviously not going to be the case here. I did note Devin Nunes on Fox News tonight speaking unchallenged about a spy ring as if nothing happened. What happens now?
KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TIMES JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER: OK. So yes, just quick top line, the report indeed was a mixed bag. It does say that there was no illegal spying. It says that this was predicated lawfully and of course it says that there was not political bias in the opening of this investigation. Of course, we also see that the FBI certainly, you know, broke rules later on in its application to wiretap Carter Page.
I think going forward what we`re going to see, because the President has already said that he believes another investigator John Durham is going to give him the results he wants, that Bill Barr has already said he believes that spying happen and he`s still trying to figure out whether it was legally predicated and because he decided to backed down one of the main conclusions of the report that came out today saying that the FBI acted lawfully.
We`re now going to see a situation we have a federal prosecutor basically under tremendous pressure to deliver results of an investigation that has been prejudge not only by his boss, the attorney general, but by the President. And that`s going to be a very tricky situation for him to navigate. It`s going to raise questions as to whether or not this investigation could be fair. And to his credit, John Durham has a great reputation as somebody who is generally fair. So that`s one thing we need to look for.
Also we need to keep in mind that the muddying of the waters, one that we saw on Congress today when people were saying what`s true, what`s factual, what we`ve seen with this re-airing of conspiracy theories around Ukraine that have been largely debunked and are unfounded is that this also has an impact. So when you see these arguments, you see people trying to attack facts, we see the results of that. And one of the results is that we`re not probably going to see an article of impeachment around the Mueller report. This huge investigation that turned up all sorts of very damning evidence against the President in part because the waters were so muddied, it might be difficult to get the votes on it to make a credible argument.
WILLIAMS: Indeed, Robert Costa was your mutual friend, Peter Baker of "The New York Times" who wrote tonight that it was as if truth itself was on trial today. The Republicans were working very hard in that hearing room on the House side. In your talks, Robert, with sources in the Republican Senate, the next chamber in all of this, is confidence running as high?
COSTA: There is a belief inside the Senate cloak room, the Republican cloak room that President Trump maybe has a few retiring Republicans to worry about, some of the names floated to me by several senators and aides include Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. But he remains quite mum whenever I confront him in the Senate hallways. He says he remains a juror. He doesn`t have anything else to say at this point.
And you see the Republican Party watching President Trump drawing 20,000 people in Florida. President Trump will be in Hershey, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday, and they wonder even if they broke, what would be the reward for themselves politically as they look toward reelection in 2020? I know many people think it`s only about conscience at this point, but for so many of the people I cover, it`s about power and politics as well.
WILLIAMS: Nancy Cook, as Robert just said, the President has a rally in Hershey, PA tomorrow night. Might we be safe in assuming how to put this and it will be impeachment infused?
COOK: I would say that would be a huge understatement. I was with him last week or two weeks ago, excuse me, at his Florida rally in Sunshine -- Sunrise, Florida, excuse me, right before Thanksgiving. And that was, you know, about 90 minutes and half of it was all about impeachment. He seemed quite angry at the rally. The crowd was giving him a huge response. They were really cheering him on as he ranted about impeachment. And that was before the actual articles of impeachment came out.
And so I think it`s a good bet to say that this rally tomorrow night will be very impeachment focused in part because I think the White House sees it as a very positive talking point for them in these key battleground states like Pennsylvania.
WILLIAMS: And, Katie, listening to your assessment of the branch that you cover over at the Department of Justice, an IG report like the one that came out today could be simplifying. It could have a cleansing effect on an institution, but I`m getting the view that it will complicate things for the way you laid it out.
BENNER: Of course. When your boss decides that part of your conclusion is not correct, it`s going to complicate things because then people have validate reason or, you know, defenders of the President say that they now have validate reason to attack this report. One thing that we should not forget, though, is that Chris Wray, the director of the FBI, he has said that he accepts all the conclusions in this report, including some of the extremely searing criticisms the Inspector General had for the FBI. These are valid criticisms about actions taken by the FBI in its efforts to wiretap a former Trump campaign associate.
You know, Chris Wray has said that he is going to take remedial action. He`s going to look at all the employees who are involved in this decision- making. So you`re right, this could have been a very cleansing moment for the FBI. It could have been a moment where the FBI gathered itself together after a few very difficult years and moves forward. And we can hope that that still does happen. It`s important that it happens because we are going into another election in which there is bound to be election interference or we`ll see foreign government interference, and we need to have faith in this institution that it can help arrest that problem and investigate it.
WILLIAMS: Bob, before I let you go, we`re going to do an entire segment on Rudy Giuliani coming up in this broadcast, but I have to ask, are Republicans saying to you in the nooks and crannies along the hallways in the Capitol that in their view Rudy has become whatever the opposite of an asset is to this President?
COSTA: So many Republicans I`ve pulled aside at the Capitol feel like it`s not just Rudy Giuliani who`s been swept into the rip tide of this Ukrainian conspiracy. It`s they themselves, rank-and-file Republicans, who feel compelled to speak out, citing different articles about Ukrainian officials taking in opinion in 2016 and framing that as interference, even as FBI Director Chris Wray states explicitly in an interview today that Ukraine did not interfere. There is no evidence of the FBI that Ukraine interfered. So it`s Giuliani symbolizing where so many Republicans have now found themselves in a position arguing against the position of the FBI without much room to maneuver and with no plan to get out of that space.
WILLIAMS: Three of the very best in the business. We never take your long hours for granted. Nancy Cook, Katie Benner, Robert Costa, thank you, the three of you, so much for starting us off tonight.
And coming up, former FBI Director James Comey speaks out after today`s IG report. He explains why his appearance on the President`s favorite morning show might have been canceled.
And later, yet another Ukraine report in the works, this one being put together by that guy as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Monday night in view of the Washington monument and the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: It was all made up. Two years of sitting silently at the FBI while you`re lied about and finally the truth is out. It was lies. There was no treason, there was no conspiracy, there was no tapping of Trump`s wires, there was no putting informant in the campaign. It was all nonsense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Put very succinctly, President Trump fired the now former FBI Director Jim Comey back in 2017 for his handling of the Russia investigation. Today current FBI Director Chris Wray stood by the institution he now leads while acknowledging some changes are needed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: It`s important that the Inspector General found that in this particular instance the investigation was opened with appropriate predication and authorization. But the Inspector General did find a number of instances where employees either failed to follow our policies, neglected to exercise appropriate diligence, or in some other way, fell short of the standard of conduct and performance that we and that I as director expect of all of our employees. But again, we are and I am ordering 40 -- over corrective actions to address all those things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: With us tonight for more on all of this, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance who spent a quarter century as a federal prosecutor.
Joyce, John Durham a standing U.S. attorney today commented on an ongoing matter, gave us a status report. Is that something you did as a U.S. attorney enjoying the same rank as he has? And is that any better or worse than what Comey did with Hillary endearing him to so many Democrats?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: So, Brian, that`s not something that U.S attorneys do. We don`t comment on ongoing investigations except in very carefully enumerated situations. Often we`ll comment, for instance, on opening a civil rights matter so the community understands that DOJ is looking at it.
But to make this sort of a comment, qualitative comment on the investigation to say that his results are different than the Inspector General`s results and to talk about the fact that that`s due to his access to other kinds of witnesses is extremely unusual. It`s extremely inappropriate. And I think you`re right, we have to look at this sort of obvious comparison that will be drawn between what he did and what Jim Comey did.
If there`s one lesson that we can learn from Jim Comey`s discussion of the Clinton e-mails investigation, it`s the -- there are s good reasons behind this DOJ policy that prohibits talking about an investigation prior to indictment because often -- because we`re human, we get things wrong. Information can be misleading and incomplete. And when it happens in conjunction with an election or with our political process, it can have a damaging impact on the country.
WILLIAMS: Because we are the news media, everyone tonight is spinning up cable news gate. Here is Jim Comey talking about his rescinded invitation on "Fox and Friends" tomorrow.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COMEY: I offered to go on "Fox and Friends," which I gather is a very important program for supporters of the President, and they agreed last night to book me at 8:00 tomorrow. I figured I can`t change the minds of Fox viewers of President Trump but I can change their minds, I hope, about the FBI by giving them actual facts. And after the report came out, they canceled my appearance. They must have read the report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: All right. So, Joyce, all kidding aside and all cable aside, does this matter and is DOJ missing an opportunity to kind of steady the ship and say, all right, we`ve all read it in black and white, the IG report is now out?
VANCE: You know, so many sort of spin-offs from that whole process, right? If Trump -- if Comey does, in fact, go on Trump, which I suspect he`ll do tomorrow, one hopes that the headline or the chyron would read there was no deep state because that`s what the Inspector General`s report concludes.
I think that that probably won`t be the case. And Comey will want to discuss information that might not fit in with their native, but it`s important, I think, for all of us to expose ourselves to narratives that are contrary to what we might believe upon occasion. This is an opportunity.
As far as DOJ goes, really their handling of this whole situation is mystifying, Brian. It is very hard to understand. And I think it seems safe to say that the Attorney General`s assessment of the Inspector General`s report is about as accurate as his summary of the Mueller report was. The American people are smart and savvy. As they have the opportunity to read at least the executive summary of this report, they`ll see that it`s different from what the Attorney General is pedaling. Hopefully people will ask questions about why that`s the case and what they`re trying to hide.
WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance, it is always a pleasure. Thank you for coming on and explaining all of this after another eventful day in the news. Appreciate it very much.
And coming up for us tonight, the close Trump associate that Bill Barr is reportedly calling a liability behind the scenes. We`ll have more on that story when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did Rudy Giuliani tell you why he was going to Europe? And do you approve?
TRUMP: Well, I just know he came back from some place that he`s going to make a report I think to the Attorney General and to Congress. He says he has a lot of good information. I have not spoken to him about that information. I hear he`s found plenty.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: It came back from someplace. The President`s personal lawyer today announced he`s almost ready to tell Congress all about his trip to Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, PERSONAL LAWYER TO TRUMP: I was going to do an outline of it and try to present it at the convenience of the Republicans in Congress and the Attorney General at the end of this week. I should probably have it ready on Wednesday or Thursday. I don`t know exactly when it will be made public, but it should be ready by then. I worked on it all weekend.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So we have that to look forward to. New reporting from The Washington Post this weekend indicates Trump`s closest allies are warning him about Rudy`s actions overseas and we quote, "In several conversations in recent months, Attorney General William Barr has counseled Trump in general terms that Giuliani has become a liability and a problem for the administration according to multiple people familiar with the discussions". The conversations, "In one discussion, the Attorney General warned the President that he was not being well-served by his lawyer, one another person with knowledge of the episode said".
For more, we are very happy to welcome to this broadcast Political Consultant and a Veteran Political Journalist, Andrew Kirtzman, he has written the book on Rudy Giuliani, there it is, "Rudy Giuliani: Emperor Of The City" about his years as mayor. Now we are happy to announce he is working on a new book on Rudy Giuliani, also happens to be the head of his own public affairs communications firm. First of all, thank you for coming in and welcome.
ANDREW KIRTZMAN, RUDY GIULIANI BIOGRAPHER: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
WILLIAMS: They`re on my book shelf at home is your original book, and I picked it up the other day and live through it, having read it contemporaneously. I know you get asked. What do you think happened to Rudy? We`re going to add to that question, were there people in his life who saw this coming?
KIRTZMAN: Well, you know, I think he`s made a lot of choices about how to use his fame from 9/11 that he may end up regretting. But, I mean, he`s in too deep right now. I mean, he`s in this moment where -- I mean, this is almost a surreal moment where the President of the United States is on the brink of impeachment, and Giuliani is, you know, in Ukraine still looking for dirt on Joe Biden. And it`s almost as though everything has come down to this moment for Rudy Giuliani. Like, he needs to come through with the goods on Biden just as the U.S. attorney is thinking about indicting him. This is an extraordinary moment.
WILLIAMS: For people who don`t live in the New York area who are watching tonight, and didn`t know much from Rudy Giuliani, I think your title, "Emperor of the City" would have been a consensus title --
WILLIAMS: -- pulled New Yorkers. Remind people how big he was at that time and his hold over this city at that time.
KIRTZMAN: Absolutely. I mean, this is even pre-9/11.
KIRTZMAN: I mean, Giuliani took over New York at a time when things were kind of spiraling out of control, when the streets were kind of, you know, given over to crime and also just a sense of anarchy, and Giuliani kind of came in there, it`s like very firm in his moral beliefs and said this is right, this is wrong, right? People do not have a right to urinate in the street. And it`s so kind of anarchic (ph)was the situation that even such a self-evident comment was like a -- kind of like a revelation to New Yorkers. And there was a case in which he kind of used his bombast for a good reason, and he helped clean up the city in a very kind of authoritarian way.
WILLIAMS: His reputation as a prosecutor was this, walking guys out in front of their coworkers --
WILLIAMS: -- while wearing cuffs. He was a hard liner. What about the irony of the fact that he is being looked into at his old shop where his portrait hangs as a former U.S. attorney Southern District of New York.
KIRTZMAN: Right. Well, I mean, it`s unbelievable. The fact that he is facing potential indictment by the same office he used to run, is -- I mean, you couldn`t make this up. It`s why I`m writing a second book. Who knew this would be kind of another chapter in Giuliani`s life? But, you know, in 25 years of covering him, I don`t think I`ve ever seen Giuliani apologize for anything, say I made a mistake.
And, you know, you`re not going to see it now. I mean, he`s made plenty of mistakes, right? I mean, he wagered his fame from 9/11 on a disastrous run for president and then when that fell apart, he kind of lost his 9/11 halo. And then he kind of took a very strong right word turn and he`s been kind of heading right word ever since the point where he`s kind of on the far fringes of kind of Trump ideology and trying to prove this conspiracy theory that he may never be able to prove.
WILLIAMS: And the need for money, the desire for money, the -- what Paul Simon calls the open palm of desire, the venality, the ego, all of these predicated on the "Emperor of the City" you wrote about.
KIRTZMAN: Right. Right. I mean, Giuliani was 56 years old on 9/11. He`s 75 now. People change. People evolve. I mean, obviously somewhere along the line someone who never cared about money, it was just a whole kind of - - it was -- M.O. was always power. Somewhere along the line money became very, very important to Rudy Giuliani. I mean, he own something like six houses, he`s in the middle of an expensive divorce.
You know, he took on kind of sketchy clients from, you know, authoritarians around the world and made a lot of money. And somewhere along kind of the equation got a little complex, I mean, to the point where right now people in the White House don`t know who his clients are. And when he comes in and talks to Trump, they don`t know what his agenda is. He`s kind of created this kind of vortex that is confusing even to the White House.
WILLIAMS: Let`s go ahead and tell all of Rudy`s friends you`re going to be from Andrew in the days to come. Are his friends worried about him that you know of?
KIRTZMAN: He`s -- Yes, his friends are concerned. I mean, a lot of people have a lot of respect and admiration for such an accomplished person, such smart, even brilliant man. They kind of are concerned about kind of where he`s gone, where his life has led him, the fact that he is on the brink of indictment potentially, the President is on the brink of impeachment. I mean, you know, who knew that the trajectory would lead him here? There are a lot of people scratching their heads, but also, you know, in fairness there are a lot of people who still respect Giuliani for, I mean, for a larger than life career that he`s led.
WILLIAMS: Always great to have a fellow veteran of New York local news. Congrats on your second book and good luck.
KIRTZMAN: Thank you very much.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. Andrew Kirtzman, our guest here tonight.
Coming up, did our government intentionally mislead the public on the war in Afghanistan? We`ll talk to someone who once wore four stars on his shoulder.
WILLIAMS: In reporting what`s being compared to a modern-day version of the Pentagon papers, The Washington Post has obtained thousands of pages of government documents that appear to reveal that our government wasn`t always telling us the truth about the war in Afghanistan. The post-gained access to the confidential documents after a three-year legal fight over a freedom of information act request. They include 2,000 pages of previously unpublished notes of interviews with people who played a direct role in the war, including our generals, diplomats, Afghan officials.
The Post Craig Whitlock reports, "Several of those interviewed described explicit and sustained efforts by the U.S. government to deliberately mislead the public. They said it was common at military headquarters in Kabul and at the White House to distort statistics to make it appear the United States was winning the war when that was not the case". NBC News has not independently verified the documents and interview notes as obtained by The Washington Post.
The Military Times asked senior U.S. military leaders about this report. They put it this way, "Army Command Sergeant Major John Troxell, the senior enlisted adviser to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army General Mark Milley, told reporters that he had not fully read The Washington Post`s "Afghanistan papers" story. He disagreed with assertions that either the troops or public had been manipulated into believing a certain narrative about the war. "I`ve been to Afghanistan 10 times in the last four years in this job, and I feel that we`ve never been lied to and we are continuing to move forward," he said."
Back with us again tonight, Retired Four-Star U.S. Army General Barry McCaffrey, decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, former battlefield commander in the Persian Gulf, these days our military analyst. General, there are so much to talk about. The war in which you served in Vietnam was of course that was the origination of the modern talking point to throw off American opinion. Body counts, K-I-A-S, wounded in action, et cetera. You advised the Pentagon on this report in `06. You`re quoted in The Washington Post story. This was, to many, the original war post 9/11. No Iraqis knock down our buildings on that day and yet why are we still there?
GEN. BARRY MCCAFFREY, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: Well, that`s the question at hand, isn`t it? You know, when you look at this war, Brian, it`s been a giant endeavor gone on for a generation. Three-quarters of a million American troops have served there. It`s a real war. We`ve had 23,000 killed and wounded in U.S. forces, never mind our allies and the Afghans.
And one could argue that it`s on the verge of collapse right now. My trips in and out of there, and I came in under the auspices of both a NATO commander from Europe and I go over there under the legitimacy of the SIMCOM commander. I`d see the whole country, I`d talked to battalion and brigade commander, I talked to the Afghans Hamid Karzai down to village chiefs, and I come back with a pre-distinct impression that the war that at the tactical level was being fought brilliantly. I mean, these battalions, engineer battalions, infantry, special operations forces are just incredibly competent, courageous.
At the operational level, you know, the ambassador, the senior generals in country, they change out every year or two, so there was no consistency of what they were trying to do. And then I think at the strategic level, the president of the United States, three of them, there never was a time where they wrote down their political objectives. We simply didn`t know what we were doing. It wasn`t even mission creep, it was mission fantasy. We were creating a democracy in a shattered country of Afghanistan.
WILLIAMS: And how could you be candid with the about to be second lieutenants who you looked out on in your classroom, your lecture hall, teaching at West Point after having returned from Afghanistan?
MCCAFFREY: Well, you know, again, from the military perspective, if you give a military unit a mission and the resources to accomplish it, they`re going to get in there and --
MCCAFFREY: -- the entire time they`re going to remain positive. I mean, they`re going to tell you what, you know, misled the American people, I think it`d be more likely to be concerned about it general level where we are misleading ourselves into seeing success, glacial progress. And by the way, there were some, you know, things happening, Kabul went from a bombed- out city like Hamburg in 1945 to a place with television stations and universities and a parliament building and, you know, an army and a police force.
So, sort of the trappings of a modern state were appearing, but at the central government it was a corrupt, incompetent, tribal mess. And by the way, the other thing was we ignored this gigantic opium poppy crop growing up all throughout southern Afghanistan. It`s like 84% of the world`s supply of heroins coming out of that country. That was a gusher of corrupt money fueling the Taliban and corrupting the government forces.
WILLIAMS: There is that. While thanking the general for his candor, his agreed for reasons known but to him to stick around and spend another segment with us. So we`ll do that.
And coming up, we`re going to talk about the latest in this triple murder also being described as an act of terrorism at a U.S. Naval Air Station by a member of the Royal Saudi Air Force. We`ll talk about that when we come back.
WILLIAMS: We are learning more about the shooting at the Pensacola Naval Air Station that left three sailors dead. Authorities say Mohammed Alshamrani, a second lieutenant in the Saudi Air Force gunned down sailors Friday morning before being killed by police. The gunman was a visiting trainee at the base. FBI is now investigating the shooting as an act of terrorism. Navy says all three victims were students at the Navy Air Base 23-year-old Ensign Joshua Watson, 19-year-old Airman Muhammed Haitham, and 21-year-old Airman Apprentice Cameron Walters.
On Saturday President Trump spoke about the shooting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I spoke with the king of Saudi Arabia. They are devastated in Saudi Arabia. We`re finding out what took place, whether it`s one person or a number of people. And the king will be involved and taking care of families and loved ones. And I think they`re going to help out the families very greatly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Back with us is retired U.S. Army four-star general, Barry McCaffrey. And Barry, before we talk about these young men, just to that moment we just witnessed, Ben Rhodes, NSA staffer during the Obama administration said this on Twitter. Very strange watching Trump and Pompeo essentially issuing statements on behalf of the Saudi government. General, the extent that every day every day is all new territory for us, that is certainly new territory.
MCCAFFREY: Yes, it sure is. Look, it was an enormous tragedy. The Saudis have a very shaky regime. You know, the CI population despises the ruling family. The Sunni Muslims, many of them have been radicalized either overseas or in Saudi Arabia. There`s a constant terrorist threat inside the country. MBS has terrorized his own members of the royal family turning into a dictator. So Saudi Arabia is a very shaky place. But back to this issue, the foreign training program of the armed forces is vitally important to the United States. There`s several thousand, 5,000 or so, trainees here.
We teach them not just mechanical skills, hand-eye skills, tactical training, how to fly an aircraft. They`re in our schooling system all the way to the top. I had a Greek army lieutenant colonel as my partner at the Army work (ph) all at years ago. We get enormous amount out of it. And by the way, the biggest threat normally we face in this population is they defect and hide here rather than go back to their home country. We had to terminate the Afghan program because they weren`t going back to fight. So it`s extremely important. They`ve got to go relook the vetting process particularly with a thousand some odd Saudis we got here.
WILLIAMS: And General, here we are two weeks to go until Christmas, the pictures of these three are heartbreaking. They are kids as no one needs to remind you. These are the kids who fight our wars.
MCCAFFREY: Yes. No question. It`s a great loss. To be killed at home by of, you know, an officer from an allied service. But again, to underscore the fact that we do need the Saudi military to be a partner in Middle East deterrence of the Iranian menace in the Persian Gulf. So, there`s no question that the Saudis buy all of their technology from us, Army, Navy, Air Force. Their officers get trained here. U.S. civilians maintain much of their equipment, and that`s a benefit to U.S. National Security. Because there`s no question.
WILLIAMS: Thank you for stressing that, General Barry McCaffrey. Always a pleasure having you on. Thank you very much for taking --
MCCAFFREY: Thank you (INAUDIBLE).
WILLIAMS: -- our questions tonight.
Coming up for us, one of the narrators of childhood in America.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, aficionados of a good Massachusetts accent always saw it as a point of pride that Big Bird sounded like he was Waltham, Mass. That may be because Caroll Spinney was from Waltham, Mass. Caroll Spinney was a U.S. Air Force veteran who became a puppeteer extraordinaire. And from 1969 all the way to 2018, he was the distinctive voice of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
Caroll Spinney died this weekend at the age of 85, and tonight Harry Smith has our look back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIG BIRD, SESAME STREET: Come on. La, la, la.
HARRY SMITH, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Caroll Spinney was a remarkable man, a puppeteer of immense talent, who`s most important character was a bird.
CAROLL SPINNEY, PUPPETEER, SESAME STREET: He happened to be a kid that`s a bird 8 feet 2.
SMITH: A giant bird whose voice was tiny. A voice of innocence. A voice so pure and true that it could not help but be heard.
BIG BIRD: You mean that`s the alphabet?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That`s right.
BIG BIRD: La, la, la.
SMITH: Spinney himself was a gentleman who loved his craft and took pride in his creation.
BIG BIRD: Well kids, are you all set for a little Christmas story?
SMITH: He knew quite well that Big Bird had a big influence on a tender audience. He knew his bird would never betray them, make fun of them, trick them.
SPINNEY: This awfully nice to be able to have a job where you`re doing just what you want to do when you`re a child and that`s what I do for a living.
SMITH: On the other hand Spinney was also the hand and voice that sprang from a garbage can.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oscar?
OSCAR THE GROUCH, SESAME STREET: I`m not home.
SMITH: Oscar the Grouch, was a comically across (INAUDIBLE), who complained and contradicted many-a-happy moment on Sesame Street.
SPINNEY: Oscar is kind of cool. You see, it`s fun to play somebody very different from yourself.
SMITH: He was the glass half empty to Big Bird`s overflowing heart. Spinney did both. Yes, remarkable.
BIG BIRD: Why did people make their houses so small?
SMITH: Big Bird`s costume was massive and making Big Bird work from the inside out was no small thing. It took energy and strength and resilience that Spinney did this until just a few years ago is remarkable too. We had the opportunity to see him on the job a few times.
BIG BIRD: Hello?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello Big Bird.
BIG BIRD: Oh hi there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How are you?
BIG BIRD: I`m OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey Big Bird, good to see you.
SMITH: His care and concern and dedication were always more than abundant. It takes a special person to become the caretaker of something or someone so treasured.
SPINNEY: I`m a lucky man. I`m a lucky bird too.
SMITH: That special person was Caroll Spinney.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And that is our broadcast for a Monday night as we start a new week. Thank you so much for being here with us and good night from our NBC headquarters here in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END