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Khan-Trump feud heats up. TRANSCRIPT: 6/4/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Carol Leonnig, Mieke Eoyang, George Will

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Another day, another impeachable offense.  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, while Donald Trump is in London, the battle continues back home.  Hope Hicks has turned down a subpoena from Congress.  Congress may try to hold the attorney general in contempt.  There are even cracks among some Republicans who fear Trump might actually jeopardize our economy with tariffs on Mexico.

Also tonight, could Paul Manafort be headed to Rikers Island?  The violence sprawling in legendary New York City lock up.  Tonight, the latest reporting on the next charges that await him.

And it all comes down to crowd size.  Donald Trump claims thousands were in the streets of London supporting him.  We will hear from our correspondent who was also in those streets as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Tuesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  This was day 866 of the Trump administration and while the President remains in the U.K., tonight here in the U.S. a familiar name from his administration is back in the news.  Perhaps because she started out as a student modeling for Ralph Lauren and then built a career that earned her the tittle of White House Communications Director at the age of 28, Hope Hicks was the subject of a lot of fascination, a lot of press coverage early on in the Trump presidency.

And her name came up again during the investigation as she was called to testify based on all that she witnessed, all that she saw and overheard in that job.  Hope Hicks is back in the news tonight because she has said no to a Congressional subpoena because she was told to by the White House.

Hicks along with another woman, Annie Donaldson, former chief of staff to, one time White House Counsel Don McGahn, have chosen not to cooperate with subpoenas from the House Judiciary Committee.

The committee`s chairman, New York Democrat Jerry Nadler had requested materials from both women as part of his committee`s investigation into possible obstruction and abuse of power by the President.  They were due by 10:00 a.m. today.  That didn`t happen.  Instead the committee got a letter from the current White House Counsel Pat Cipollone who invoked executive privilege and added that the former aides, "do not have the legal right to disclose the White House records to third parties.  And that Acting Chief of Staff to the President Mick Mulvaney has directed Ms. Talley," that`s Annie Donaldson`s married name, "and Ms. Hicks not to produce documents."

Chairman Nadler responded with his own statement, which read in part, "Federal law makes clear that the documents we requested, documents that left the White House months ago are no longer covered by executive privilege, if they ever were.  The President has no lawful basis for preventing these witnesses from complying with our request."

Hicks has already turned over some documents related to her time on the Trump campaign.  She faces another big test as she and Donaldson have been summoned to testify before the Judiciary Committee in person.  Nadler was asked about that earlier today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you expect Annie Donaldson and Hope Hicks to appear for these hearings?

REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK, CHMN. HOUSE JUDICIARY CMTE.:  Well, they`re do to appear.  Let`s see.


WILLIAMS:  That was the scare (ph) for that.  For now the latest white house move effectively blocks the Democrats` access to some of the key witnesses related to the obstruction aspect of the Mueller investigation.

You may recall the white house also stopped Don McGahn from cooperating with a subpoena to submit documents and to testify.  Next week, the Full House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on holding him and Attorney General Bill Barr in contempt of Congress.

Barr has refused to comply with a subpoena for the full unredacted Mueller report.  The Justice Department had asked the House call off the vote on respect to Barr in exchanged for continued negotiations over the report.  But tonight Nadler rejected that overture.

All of this has Democrats now working overtime to find ways to convince this man, Robert Mueller himself in the flesh to testify.  He has already made it quite clear he has no desire to testify.  Some members of the House Judiciary Committee now say it`s time for Chairman Nadler to demand his testimony.


REP. DAVID CICILINE, (D) RHODE ISLAND, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  He has to come before the committee.  If he doesn`t come voluntarily, that`s the final determination he makes then I have confidence that the chairman will issue a subpoena that will compel his attendance and that he`ll comply with that subpoena.


WILLIAMS:  That man, Congressman Ciciline, a Democrat from Rhode Island is one of 12 Democrats on that committee who are now in favor of opening an impeachment inquiry.  In total 58 House Democrats, still just one Republican are in favor of such a move.

There is also news tonight in the case of Michael Flynn, Trump`s former national security adviser who pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his phone conversations with a former Russian ambassador.  The federal judge handling the case had ordered the transcripts of those discussions between Flynn and Ambassador Kislyak be made public.  And on Friday prosecutors had refused saying there was no need to file the transcript.  Tonight, that same judge has agreed and said nothing else was needed.

This is all unfolding as Trump, of course, is in London on the second day of his state visit.  Trump waded a little further into British politics today talking about Brexit in a news conference with Prime Minister Theresa May and meeting with its most vocal supporter, Nigel Farage.

There was also a new escalation in Trump`s feud with London Mayor, Sadiq Khan.


SADIQ KHAN, LONDON MAYOR:  And going to result to responding by name calling.  This is sort of behavior I would expect from an 11-yearold.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He`s a negative force.  He is not a positive force.  And if you look at what he said he hurts the people of this great country.  And I think he should actually focus on his job.


WILLIAMS:  Here for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday evening, Carol Leonnig, Pulitzer Prize-winning Investigative Reporter for "The Washington Post," Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR, Boston`s NPR new station and Mieke Eoyang, Veteran Washington lawyer, former staffer for the House Intelligence and Arms Services Committees.  Welcome to you all.

Carol, I`d like to begin with you.  What will the Democrats lose by not getting the testimony of these two young women, assuming they say no to that subpoena, as well?

CAROL LEONNIG, THE WASHINGTON POST POLITICAL INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER:  Well, I think, Brian, your opening was perfect in describing what they lose.  Both of these people are insiders in the most dramatic way in the Trump White House.  Annie Donaldson because she kept basically a diary, a running diary of important things that were being said by the President that were ultimately used as potential evidence of obstruction of justice by the President, efforts to throttle the probe.

Hope hicks, as illustrated by your b role is also a compelling figure, a person who is by the President`s side whispering in his ear what she thinks he should do and him responding that he`ll wither agree with her or no, he wants her to do something more dramatic and more worrisome.  And also some of what she saw was used as potential evidence of obstruction of justice in the Mueller probe.

Really, Brian, what the Democrats are trying to do is bring these people to television so that they can speak and give voice to the Mueller report which is lengthy and dense and lawyerly and not everyone has read it.  Although, I should have worn my button from "The Washington Post" which said I have read the Mueller report.  Not everyone has.  And the Democrats want to bring that into the living rooms of American citizens because they`re not feeling that the American public is in agreement that what the President has done is worrisome.  That it rises to the level of either intense scrutiny or potentially impeachment in their view.

WILLIAMS:  Mieke Eoyang, in all of these cases, Jerry Nadler follows up with an angry letter.  And all the letters seem to be some version of why I ought to.  What leverage do the Democrats have at this point?

MIEKE EOYANG, FMR. HOUSE INTETTLIGENCE COMMITTEE STAFFER:  So, they can go to court to try to seek enforcement of their subpoenas if they issue subpoenas.  There are other places where they can try and get to collateral witnesses who may be able to shed light on things that may have been happening.

There are other places where witnesses might be able to compel to sit at the table if they try to assert various privileges to not actually speak.  That could be useful if they read to them the sections of the Mueller report that are about them while they sit there and then ask them to respond to silence.

There are other things that Nadler could be doing.  He could be calling witnesses to talk about the importance of obstruction or of holding presidents accountable.  There are other ways of trying to explain to the American people, as Carol says, to bring it into their living rooms why these things matter.  That may not necessarily require Hope Hicks to say what she saw on Air Force One or what she heard the President talking about in the Oval Office.

WILLIAMS:  Kimberly, there are aspects of this while we are dealing with civilized people, most of them with advanced degrees that are right out of a mob movie.  The latest plot line is the Department of Justice says, "Look, you make the contempt of Congress vote on our guy go away, we`ll show you a little bit more of the Mueller report that was paid for by taxpayers."  This is kind of an unbelievable development.

KIMBERLY ATKINS,WBUR SR. NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  It really is.  I mean, it`s really extraordinary that this document that was created to get to the bottom of Russian interference in the 2016 election is now being used as a bargaining pawn between the Justice Department and House Democrats in terms of how much information comes out, whether contempt of Congress charges are brought.

It really is extraordinary, but it shows just how dug in both sides have become.  I say both sides.  I put the Justice Department on the side of the White House which by and large has been, you know, has stuck with the position that there is nothing to see here.  This investigation is over and no obstruction, no collusion.  And Democrats in the House disagree.

And so, I think those are the battle lines that have been drawn.  It`s a political battle.  Of course, ultimately impeachment is a political exercise by its very legal nature.  And that`s what you are seeing here.  You`re seeing the President believing that he won`t be impeached, that he shouldn`t be impeached and he is pulling out all the stops including ordering private citizens, at this point former White House officials not to cooperate and Democrats becoming increasingly frustrated by this, increasingly alarmed when even, you know, those who have read the Mueller report finally saw Bob Mueller speak publicly.

Those two things sort of converge in its -- we are seeing an increasing number of Democrats say at the very least they want to open an impeachment inquiry even if not already on board to voting in favor of impeachment.

WILLIAMS:  Kim, I`m glad you mentioned that.  I got one more for you.  This is our friend Susan Page at USA Today.  "Former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, who as recently as last month cautioned Democrats about the perils of pursuing President Trump`s impeachment now says the House should open an impeachment inquiry that might or might not lead to a formal effort to remove Trump from office.  "It`s not the right thing to do nothing," Reid said in an interview."

Now, respectfully, Kim, when this came out today, I heard people saying it couldn`t be easier for Harry Reid to say this.  He is -- he is in the chief sits now and he doesn`t have skin in the game anymore.

ATKINS:  Right.  I mean, that`s a fair point.  You know, he doesn`t have skin in the game.  He was in the Senate even when he was here and that`s not where this decision is made to bring these charges.  But it`s really remarkable in the past about two weeks or so the number of Democrats who I have spoken to off the record who have said that their process is shifting, that they are shifting to this place of, you know, supporting at least the opening of this inquiry, at least the ability to move forward.  That will increase their abilities to do things like issue subpoenas, use the courts and really compel the kind of testimony.  Of course, Bob Mueller`s testimony would be the absolute best thing.

And they say, look, when Watergate happened, it wasn`t that the information about Watergate that this break in immediately changed the mind of the public.  They largely ignored it until you had hearings that were brought to the televisions of Americans that really shifted the opinion about Watergate.  They want to create that same thing with these hearings, with this impeachment inquiry.  They think that can change the mind of Americans and really shift this.

WILLIAMS:  Carol Leonnig, if we can shift this conversation a bit to the Flynn case, something you are more than familiar with.  Were you surprised that this judge changed his tune, this federal judge.  We all -- we in the media thought that we were going to be the purveyors to the public of a transcript of Mike Flynn actually having a, we now know, surveilled phone conversation with Ambassador Kislyak.  The judge has suddenly thought better of that.

LEONNIG:  I was surprise, Brian, this came about because "The Washington Post" filed a motion with the court seeking for a series of documents in the Flynn case to be unsealed.  The case is done.  Flynn is just going to be sentenced.  He has pled guilty.

"The Post" argued that many of the records in this needed to be unsealed.  The government agreed to release some.  And then the judge on his own ordered that this transcript of this very controversial call and a very dramatic one according to national security experts who had to review it, that it should be made public.  The public should hear what the judge loosely described in court as, you know, the moment when he believed Flynn had sort of sold -- he said, you know, "I think you sold your country out, sir."  And he wanted the public to hear this.

For him to now accept that the government doesn`t believe it`s relevant to sentencing, doesn`t believe it`s necessary to sentence Michael Flynn is very, very surprising to me.  And I wonder if perhaps the government has had a conversation about explaining maybe the sensitivities of this conversation, that there is something else that Kislyak says else or that there`s some precedent that would be set by sharing an intercepted phone call in its entirety.

I don`t know the answer.  I hope we will know it soon, but I do find it surprising, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Mieke Eoyang, do we not think the judge would have said in some verbiage I`m not going to let this out because portions of it shouldn`t be in the public domain because it exposes something?

And second, how do you think this came about?  Do you think someone just made a very compelling argument to this federal judge and he thought better of it?

EOYANG:  Yes, it`s a little bit tricky because there`s not very much in the public record here.  So what it looks like is that the government went in and made some kind of ex parte or sealed argument to the judge about the sensitivity of the transcript or their concerns here and then the judge agreed with that.

Often times when judges hear classified information they hear it ex parte, they hear it secretly and the public may not ever know that.  There may not be a record of that in the courts.  Perhaps sometime further on they will declassify those records, but for now we don`t get to see what was argued to the judge.

WILLIAMS:  Kimberly Atkins, about this President you cover, as presidents do just like, oh, FDR and LBJ before him, the President at 1:00 a.m. London time called Schumer a creep.  I`m kidding about the prior presidents.  And then attacked Bette Midler around 1:30 in the morning.  This is the night he had dinner with Prince Charles.


WILLIAMS:  How are we supposed to process this?

ATKINS:  I`m not sure the answer to that, Brian, quite frankly.  I mean, I had to enroute to coming here sort of figure out exactly what Bette Midler had said, which I didn`t anticipate having to do today.

This is a President who is, you know, he loves venting on Twitter.  It doesn`t matter the hour.  It doesn`t matter the propriety of the fact that he is overseas, meeting head of state and members of the royal family, bringing his entire family along to do that.  It really doesn`t matter.  He doesn`t seem to need to sleep very much.  He needs to tweet very much.  And today is no different.

WILLIAMS:  Well, just when you don`t think attacking Bette Midler should be on the list of tasks taking on by a U.S. President, he surprises us again.

Our great thanks to our initial big three guests for starting off our conversation on this Tuesday night.  To Carol Leonnig, to Kimberly Atkins, to Mieke Eoyang as always, thank you so much for coming on.

Coming up for us, the Paul Manafort edition of lockup.  Are they really going to transfer Paul Manafort from his federal prison to one of the toughest city jails in this country?

And later, is conservatism dead in the age of Trump?  And if so, can it be revived?  Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, George Will, will tell us what he thinks and share with us the one word he purposefully left out of his new book.  THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Tuesday night.


WILLIAMS:  Well, there he is.  If you have ever flown into LaGuardia Airport here in New York, then perhaps you`ve seen it out the window, Rikers Island, home to about 10,000 inmates give or take at any given time, part of the jail system in the city of New York.  Like LaGuardia only worse, Rikers is a place to avoid at all costs.  While it was never designed as a four star facility, it`s teaming and grim and dangerous, approximately 100,000 individuals a year cycle through it after their arrest, most of them awaiting trial.

So New Yorkers especially were surprised this morning to wake up and hear a report that Paul Manafort was perhaps heading to Rikers Island while facing state charges in New York.  He is already doing time in a federal prison.

It turned out there was more to the Rikers story, however.  And here with us for that more is the Jonathan Dienst, Chief Investigative Reporter for our New York station here WNBC in addition to being a contributing correspondent for NBC News.

Jonathan, first of all, we don`t think it`s happening in a week.  Second of all, we think Rikers is one of an array of choices the Feds have?

JONATHAN DIENST, WNBC CHIEF INVESTIGATIVE REPORTER:  That`s correct.  Mr. Manafort faces 16 counts here in New York.  He has to come to New York to face a judge.  His lawyer said the earliest it`s going to happen is sometime next week but perhaps later this month.

And then once he gets here to New York, he has to appear before the judge and then they`ve got to decide and argue this out in front of the judge what happens to him next.  Does he go to Rikers which is the majority of places where inmates wait awaiting trial in New York?  Does he get special treatment and get put in a federal facility here in New York?  Is he allowed to go back to his Pennsylvania prison which is a five, six hour drive from here where the marshals would have to fly him back and forth most unlikely?

But the defense is certainly going to argue that, hey, Mr. Manafort in a federal prison, keep him in some sort of federal lockup.  The mayor of the City of New York tonight said no special treatment for him.  If he has security concerns, we will address those in a prison.  And the question is which New York City facility he will go to, most likely Rikers, but there are some other options.

WILLIAMS:  And what`s this debate about the nice way of calling it when you are in a cell alone as protective custody because it keeps you away from the rest of the population?  The pejorative is solitary confinement.

Sometimes lawyers for high profile clients ask that they stay alone.  It`s also an example of be careful what you wish for, meet your new room mate.  What is the case with Paul Manafort?

DIENST:  With officials we spoke with today it is not solitary confinement in New York.  That`s 23 hours a day of lockup.  You`re allowed out for an hour at a time --

WILLIAMS:  That`s punitive --

DIENST:  -- it`s a punitive --

WILLIAMS:  Yes, yes.

DIENST:  -- measure, that is not the case at Rikers for pretrial inmate.  What would likely happen is he would be put in the infirmary section because of his age and some of health issues or another protective wing where it`s eight inmates with extra guards because they are high profile like officers who were charged with crimes and could be at risk.  Someone like Mr. Manafort because he`s high profile.  But their cells are left open.  There`s a common T.V. area, there is outdoor exercise, et cetera.  So he would be around other individuals, just more close hold extra protection, extra security.  But still, no picnic being on Rikers Island.

WILLIAMS:  No, absolutely not.

And let me back up a step, the state charges.  He is already doing federal time, seven years and change.  Remind our audience why these state charges were billed as pardon proof.

DIENST:  Because on federal crimes, which Mr. Manafort was convicted of, the President could pardon him and he could be released from prison.  The President does not have pardon power over state crimes, so the Manhattan district attorney said, this guy we believe committed state crimes, fraud, tax evasion, et cetera, we are going to charge him here.  That way, if the President thinks he is going to pardon his friend and former campaign chief, we will prosecute him here and make sure he is held accountable.  That is what the Manhattan district attorney is doing and believes that there were state crimes that deserve and need to be prosecuted and that`s why they`re moving forward.

WILLIAMS:  So the bottom line on this story, there could be an inmate in the New York City system who is in for drug charges, who is in for murder, who is getting processed, looks over and there is every chance they`ll see a guy they have seen on the news, one Paul Manafort getting processed into the New York system?

DIENST:  They`ll see him getting process.  I doubt he`ll be housed with inmates with that given the high profile nature of them.

And again, is it going to Rikers?  It could be a place called "The Tombs," no pleasant (ph) place, but that`s a jail that`s right next door to the Manhattan courthouse.  He can be housed there.  Defense could ask for the MCC which is a federal facility two blocks from the state courthouse here in New York.

So there are various options.  Nothing is set.  It really will be up to the D.A., the defense and the judge to hammer this all out when he comes to New York.  It`s expected certainly in the next week to two weeks.

WILLIAMS:  Probably a good rule of thumb to avoid any jail nicknamed the tombs.  Jonathan Dienst, it`s a pleasure to have you.  Thank you very much.  You`ve explain the story from top to bottom.

Another break for us.  And coming up, Steve Kornacki, tonight, reporting on a place that is a mandatory stop on the road to the White House.  He`ll be here with us in the studio when THE 11TH HOUR continues.


WILLIAMS:  We are now just 22 days away from the first Democratic presidential debates here on this very network and we are continuing our new series of reports called the Road to Miami where Steve Kornacki breaks down everything we need to know about the critical states along the way along Interstate 95 from Maine to Florida.  Tonight we`re stopping in the Granite State, New Hampshire.  And back tonight is our national political correspondent, Steve Kornacki.  Hey, Steve.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Hey Brian.  That`s right. Well, we crossed the Patapsco river bridge from Kittery, Maine into Fort Smith, New Hampshire, made it into the Granite State.

And by the way, had to stop at an ATM machine, thought I would get cash in tax free New Hampshire for the rest of the trip.  I took out 100 bucks and then I realized I`m in New Hampshire and 100 bucks is a politician`s salary did you know n New Hampshire.  A state legislator, in the state of New Hampshire makes a salary of $100 a year.

In California and New York they get over $100,000 a year in this state legislature in New Hampshire.  This is the lowest salary you`re going to find in the country.  A member of the state legislature gets a 100 bucks a year.  SO that`s their salary in New Hampshire.

But of course, when we talk about the presidential race we talk about New Hampshire, we talk about the first in the nation presidential primary.  And, of course, the Democratic race will have the Iowa Caucuses and switch to New Hampshire.  This is the modern history of the New Hampshire primary here.  These are the winners on the Democratic side going back to last half century.

And what you see here Carter in `76.  Carter in `80, Dukakis in `88, Gore in 2000, Kerry in 2004.  Half the names you see here, half of the winners of the New Hampshire primary and sort of modern times have gone on to win the presidential nomination on the Democratic side.  Five for 10.  So that`s one thing.

New Hampshire winnows the field often but not always the winner of the New Hampshire goes on to win the Democratic nomination.

Here is something else to keep in mind in New Hampshire, though.  These names.  Ed Muskie, right here, Michael Dukakis, Paul Tsongas, John Kerry, Bernie Sanders.  What do they all have in common?  They won and they come from states.  They came from states that border New Hampshire.  This is another major factor in the New Hampshire primary.  And it`s going to be a factor in 2020.

Bernie Sanders running again, won it in 2016 from a border state.  Came into the race in 2016 already well known in New Hampshire.  Elizabeth Warren and Seth Moulton from Massachusetts, we will see if he makes the debate.  That`s another question.  But Warren in Massachusetts as well, well known in New Hampshire going into this campaign particularly southern New Hampshire.

The Boston media market.  What does that do?  It raises the bar for candidates from border states.  If they don`t break out, if they don`t have a strong performance in New Hampshire it is particularly tough for them to justify continuing with their candidacy.

So, New Hampshire it`s big for everybody, but it`s particularly big for candidates with that local connection.  Remember, again, Sanders got 61 percent of the vote in New Hampshire in 2016.  So how do things look at this early point in New Hampshire?

This is a poll from about a month ago.  This is the most recent one we`ve got.  Looks a lot like what we`ve seeing nationally.  You got Biden out there in front doubling up Bernie Sanders.  Again, Bernie Sanders the 2016 winner.  Buttigieg has gotten some early traction here.  Warren again if you looked at polls in New Hampshire, some of the early stuff a year or so ago Warren was doing better.  Warren in any scenario that gets her the nomination, she`s good and need to perform here in New Hampshire.  Again, it is a neighboring state for her.  A lot of folks there know her very well.

So, one thing to keep on eye on, New Hampshire winnows the field all the time and really for those border state candidates particularly important, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  And Steve Kornacki, just looking at that list of candidates, states aside, we`re watching that Biden number with some fascination.  And based on the political theory of Chris Matthews, the Democrats who get serious about electability, that might mean we see the Biden number harden or strengthen.  The Democrats who feel like the party is about something new.  It`s about the far left.  It`s about the younger politicians coming up, that`s when we will see the Biden number weaken.

KORNACKI:  And that`s the most fascinating thing we saw.  There was a batch of polling out nationally today as well.  One of the trends we`ve seen in this Democratic race is a massive divide when it comes to age.  There was a poll out from our friends at CNN today that showed Joe Biden is actually the Democratic nomination race right now in polls.  He`s losing Democrats under 45 years old to Bernie Sanders.

Democrats over 45 years old and there are a lot of Democrats over 45 years old.  He is not just winning, he is clobbering Sanders and he is clobbering the field.  And that is Biden`s strength right now.  That was the strength for Hillary Clinton ultimately age, older voters got her the nomination in 2016.  And that is a very big strength for Biden right now heading into 2020 and a vulnerability for him, younger Democratic voters

WILLIAMS:  All right.  Steve Kornacki, thank you so much.  We look forward to the reports every night.  Really appreciate it.

KORNACKI:  Thanks.

WILLIAMS:  Coming up, our next guest says conservatives in this Trump era are orphans in a cold world with no political party to call their own.  That man, the author of "The Conservative Sensibility", George Will here with us in our studio when we come back.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What do you think of Republicans who say that they may take action to block you imposing the tariffs?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don`t think they do that.  I think if they do it is foolish.  There is nothing more important than borders.  I`ve had tremendous Republican support.  I have a 90 percent -- 94 percent approval rating as of this morning in the Republican Party.  That`s an all-time record.  Can you believe that?  Is it something?  I love records.


WILLIAMS:  President Trump is counting on his support from his Republican base to keeping Republicans in the Senate from following through on a threat to block his plan to impose tariffs on Mexico.

As "The New York Times" reports it, Trump`s actions have and we quote, prompted some of the most serious defiance of the Republican ranks since the president took office.

We are so happy to have with us tonight, George Will, Pulitzer Prize winning conservative columnist for the "Washington Post", author of the new book "The Conservative Sensibility."  Thank you so much for being here.  I am old enough to associate curve conservatism with two names, Buckley and Goldwater, am I wrong?  And how do you define conservatism versus what it is we`re seeing today?

GEORGE WILL, AUTHOR "THE CONSERVATIVE SENSIBILITY":  The book you are holding is dedicated to the memory of Barry Goldwater for whom I cast my first presidential vote.  He lost 44 states but I think he won when they counted the votes at last 16 years in 1980 with the election of Reagan.

The argument in America today about conservatism is, is what we see represented in the 45th president whose name does not appear in the book or is it something that traces its pedigree to James Madison and our constitutional architecture of separated powers?  What you just showed on the screen there, the president aghast at the idea that the Republicans in the Senate might act as an independent vivalerous branch with an opinion of its own.

I believe it when it see it but it`s nice to see them at least talking about exercising their own judgment in opposition to tariffs, the least conservative policy you can imagine which is the government telling Americans what they can buy at what price and in what quantities.  Bossy government doesn`t get much bigger or bossier than it does with protectionism.

WILLIAMS:  Along the way, I was blown away by this that I found about half way through your book.  This is about who we were.  In 1951, when the average American ate 50 percent more than the average European, Americans controlled two-thirds of the world`s productive capacity, owned 80 percent of the world`s electrical goods, produced more than 40 percent of its electricity, 60 percent of its oil and 66 percent of its steel.  America`s 5 percent of the world`s population had more wealth than the other 95 percent and Americans made almost all of what they consumed, 99.93 percent of new cars sold in America in 1954 were U.S. brands.  That knocked me out, too.

By the end of the `50s, G.M. was a bigger economic entity than Belgium and Los Angeles had more cars than did Asia.  Such pell-mell economic progress produced soaring expectations.  This would be the new normal.  In 1950, 40 percent of Americans had never seen a television program, by May of `53, Boston had more televisions than bathtubs.

That should be read to every school child in America.  I come away from a paragraph like that wanting to ask George Will, what happened to us?  We can`t seem to build an airport or interstate highway or lord knows a train that goes over 60 miles an hour.

WILL:  If you read those figures to the president he say, you see when we`re not great anymore, I`m going to make America great again.  Actually, the decline of American dominance in all these areas was American policy is to bring back Japan and Germany and across straight (ph) Europe, and make them productive themselves as consumers of our goods but also as trading partners.

WILLIAMS:  We succeeded there.

WILL:  We certainly did and it`s a good thing, too.  Americans suffer generally from social hypochondria.  We always worried that things are bad and getting worse.  Things are not bad and they`re not getting worse.  In fact, in terms of the great enrichment that capitalism has brought about, we`re still on an upward trajectory.

But if this all depends on embrace of globalization and on embrace of the free market enterprise that does not try to wall ourselves off from the outside world.  Now, some people say and President Trump is elected in part in response to this anxiety, that globalization and economic (INAUDIBLE) are just too tiring and dangerous and frustrating and full of frictions and setbacks.  We don`t want to do it anymore.

I have news for the American people.  They have made so many promises to themselves through entitlement programs that they depend on rapid economic growth.  They can`t opt out now, that has to throw off the revenues to pay the bills for the promises we made.  They also depend on a continuing high level of immigration to replenish an aging workforce.  Very soon there will be only 2.4 workers for every retiree.  That`s unsustainable for the most popular government program social security.

WILLIAMS:  George Will has agreed to stay with us over a break while we all consume and think about what he just said.  Coming up, our guest will explain why he calls this new book a Summons to Pessimism.  There is a good reason for it.  We`ll talk about it when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Our guest George Will remains with us.  Of his new project he writes this and I quote.  This book is among other things, a summons to pessimism.  What is needed now and what is especially incumbent on conservatives to provide is intelligent pessimism that is more than a mere mood.  It should be a mentality grounded in philosophic tradition -- philosophic tradition, forgive me its late, that has a distinguished pedigree and is that is validated by abundant historical evidence for this proposition.  Nothing lasts.

Still with us, George Will, author of "The Conservative Sensibility."  That leads me to another question.  Does conservatism depend on a vital counterweight, a vital Democratic party, because that party has the chance to blow itself up with if they lose a second presidential?

WILL:  Yes, the Democratic Party seems to me someday determine to repeat its 19 -- it`s 2016 achievement of electing this president in the first place.  They made an indispensable contribution.  By pessimism, I do not mean fatalism.  I do not mean that there invalidities (ph) in this.  Nothing lasts but nothing is inevitable either.

By intelligent pessimism I mean things can go wrong in so many ways and democracy is not the normal default position of the world.  It is a complex structure depending on the civil society, rich in the kind of social prerequisites that don`t just sprout up like dandelion I August.  It takes work.

A free market itself laissez-faire is a government creation.  It requires courts and contracts, and fraud laws and adjudication and arbitration and all the rest.  It`s a complicated system we have and it will not run by itself unless we are constantly recurring and this is summons to recurring back to what the founders gave us.

Woodrow Wilson was the first great progressive and the first president to criticize the American founding which he did not do peripherally.  He did root and branch.  He said separations of powers was all right once but now we have this complicated country united by steel rails and copper wire and therefore we need a government to connect with dispatch, headed by a strong president who would be very much like Woodrow Wilson.

OK, you criticize the separation of powers, you`ve gone great I margin (INAUDIBLE) Congress, you get an emancipated presidency and you get what we have today.  Now, some people say, well, we loved Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Linden Johnson and this domestic incarnation.  And Republicans used to be skeptical of the presidency, too, healthily in my judgment.  They believed in congressional supremacy.

Then they had the heady and intoxicating experience of Ronald Reagan and they too fell in love with executive power.  This is summons among other things to the restoration of the equilibrium among our three branches of government which requires the beginning of a revival of Congress to quit spending off powers it has no right to spin-off.  We go right back to the first thing you showed in this segment as I came on the set, the beginning of a pulse in Congress that might resist the president`s unilateral, which is entitled to do because Congress gaining the power, unilateral imposition of taxes which is what tariffs are.

WILLIAMS:  We`re right back into the headlines tonight.  I`m watching people like Rob Portman of Ohio, a Republican who has been silent on so many issues of late.  I`m watching what he does --

WILL:  And Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.  Any number of them.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  George Will, it`s always a pleasure.  Thank you so much.

WILL:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  The book is "The Conservative Sensibility."  Our thanks to the author for staying up late with us and being with us here in New York.

Another break with us, our final one and coming up how a tale of two cities was litigated on live television earlier today.  When we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight.  We have never had a president who came directly from the television business, and it`s sometimes easy to forget, though, less though for us that he hosted a show that originated from this building for 14 seasons in a business where ratings are everything.

And we know Donald Trump has a well-established obsession with crowd size.  It was quite literally the opening argument of his presidency, and he was still at it today.  While some of London`s streets were clogged with roving protesters today, a creative lot for the most part, the president gave his own assessment during his press conference with the prime minister.

Perhaps not knowing our own Richard Engel would be fact checking him in real-time.  So here`s how that went.  First, the president and then Richard Engel who was appearing with Andrea Mitchell from the London streets live on this network earlier today.


TRUMP:  As far as the protests I have to tell you because I commented on it yesterday, we left the prime minister, the queen, the royal family.  There were thousands of people on the streets cheering.

RICHARD ENGEL, NBC NEWS CHIEF FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT:  There`s something deeply disturbing about President Trump claiming he saw thousands of people here who were celebrating him and welcoming him as a rival.

TRUMP:  Even coming over today there were thousands of people cheering.

ENGEL:  There weren`t tens of thousands of people or thousand o people out there greeting him.

TRUMP:  And then I heard there were protests, and I said where are the protests?  I don`t see any protest.

ENGEL There were several thousand protesters.

TRUMP:  I did see a small protest today when I came, very small.

ENGEL:  There were thousands of people on the streets.

TRUMP:  So a lot of it is fake news I hate to say.

ENGEL:  They were protesting Trump, not celebrating his arrival.

TRUMP:  But you saw the people waving the American flag, waving your flag.  It was tremendous spirit and love.

ENGEL:  Is that he really believed this?  Did he see these people and was told by his advisers oh, those people down below you are here to welcome you and celebrate you and they love you in this town.

TRUMP:  It was great love, it was an alliance.

ENGEL:  Or was he trying to convince the world that he got this heroes reception in the United Kingdom, which he clearly did not?

TRUMP:  So it was fake news.

ENGEL:  The fact that he can say these kinds of things with a straight face when they are so contradictory to the facts that lots and lots of journalists saw for themselves is troubling.


WILLIAMS:  A tale of two cities after a noisy day on the streets of London.  And with it our broadcast for a Tuesday night.  Thank you so very 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