Trump responds to audio of McCarthy discussing Jan. 6. GOP Rep. Greene denies insurrectionist charge in court. More audio of McCarthy in days after Jan. 6 release. DeSantis signs bill revoking Disney`s special status. Russia seeks to control Ukraine`s east, south. Macron and Le Pen face off in French election. Republican silence on leaked McCarthy audio critical of Trump after January 6th.
CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, will there be consequences, Kevin McCarthy on the defensive after lying about telling the truth when he said in private that nobody can or should defend the former guys actions on January 6.
Then, with the war in Ukraine about to enter month three, Russia shifts focus to the south and east as more atrocities are discovered in the besieged city of Mariupol.
Plus, we wrap up a week and saw Republicans on the attack, caught in lies and still declaring loyalty to a twice impeached former president with one of our favorite historians, as the 11th Hour gets underway on this Friday night.
Good evening, once again, I`m Chris Jansing, in for Stephanie Ruhle. There are developments tonight in the war in Ukraine, which is about to enter its third month and we`ll have details on that in just a moment.
But first, we begin tonight with Donald Trump`s response to that leaked audio of House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, saying he would urge Trump to resign in the days after the January 6 riot. Trump told The Wall Street Journal tonight, his relationship with McCarthy is not damaged.
The Journal reports, "Trump said, he wasn`t pleased to learn Mr. McCarthy`s comments in the House leadership call. But he said the California Republican had never ultimately advised him to quit. He said that Mr. McCarthy quickly changed his stance when he found out the facts and embraced him fully a few weeks after the January 10, 2021 call."
The Wall Street Journal goes on to report, "I think it`s all a big compliment, frankly, Mr. Trump said of Mr. McCarthy and other Republicans who initially criticized him after January 6, and then said they would still support him. They realized they were wrong and supported me."
NBC News reports that one person close to Trump said McCarthy called the former president and apologized. And earlier tonight, we heard from Kevin McCarthy himself.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Congressman, have you spoken with President Trump recently? Did you speak with him last night?
KEVIN MCCARTHY, HOUSE REPUBLICAN LEADER: I know, I spoke to him twice a day. I just spoke to him an hour ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How was your conversation? Did you talk to him about the New York Times report? And the conversation you had about --
MCCARTHY: Oh, the conversation is very good, because the conversation here is what they what they said we did, we never did. I mean, I never asked President Trump to resign. We both talked about that. We`ve talked about --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you spoke with him about resigning?
MCCARTHY: No, let me be very clear, you miss -- I have never asked the President to resign. So what the book said was not true. I never asked the president to resign. We talked about the ability to win the majority back in Congress.
JANSING: We should point out, the book -- this will not pass, says that on a January 10 call with House GOP leader`s quote. He envisioned telling Trump of an impeachment resolution. I think this will pass and it would be my recommendation you should resign.
The authors of that book, Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin shared even more of that January 10 call.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: I`ve had it with this guy. What he did is unacceptable. Nobody can defend that, and nobody should defend it."
(END AUDIO CLIP)
JANSING: Liz Cheney, who was then part of Republican leadership, and Steve Scalise, were both on that call. They deny recording or leaking that audio.
The Times reporters also released part of a January 11, 2021 phone call during which McCarthy tells the full Republican caucus that Trump admitted some responsibility for the attack on the Capitol.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
MCCARTHY: Let me be very clear to all of you and I`ve been very clear to the president. He bears responsibilities for his words and actions, no ifs, ands, or buts. I asked him personally today, does he hold responsibility for what happened? Does he feel bad about what happened? He told me he does have some responsibility for what happened. And he needs to acknowledge that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
JANSING: Now, in tonight`s interview with the Wall Street Journal, Donald Trump was asked about those comments saying, "No, that`s false. I never claimed responsibility."
Meanwhile, Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene testified for nearly four hours today, during an extraordinary hearing stemming from a lawsuit to keep her from running for office. That suit was filed by a group of Georgia voters accusing her of being involved in the insurrection disqualifying her they say from being in Congress. She has denied that accusation. But during today`s testimony, she seemed unable to remember many of her actions.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, (R) GEORGIA: I don`t remember.
ANDREW CELLI: So you`re not denying it. You`re just saying you don`t recall.
GREENE: I don`t recall. I`m not answering that question. I don`t remember. I don`t remember. I don`t recall making that tweet. I don`t know anything about this. I`ve never seen it before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: With that, let`s bring in our experts, Nicholas Wu, Congressional Reporter with Politico, former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor and Charlie Sykes, Editor-at-Large of the Bulwark and MSNBC Political Analyst.
So, Charlie, we`ve heard from Trump now we`ve heard from McCarthy. What do you think? Do you buy that everything is good between them? Is this an uneasy truce? What`s going on as you see it?
CHARLIE SYKES, THE BULWARK FOUNDER AND EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Well, the one thing that Kevin McCarthy understands is that his fate is totally at the whim of Donald Trump. I mean, this is an indication of where this Republican Party is that the fact that he was caught lying, his hypocrisy, his toadying, none of those are disqualifying. The only thing that will cost him, the speaker`s gavel if the Republicans take the majority is if Donald Trump wants him out.
And Donald Trump actually, I do buy this because Donald Trump does like to humiliate his opponents and have them come groveling to him. And he has Kevin McCarthy, right where he wants him. Utterly and completely dependent on the goodwill of Donald Trump. So, again, it`s quite a commentary on what counts and what does not count in the modern Republican Party and where the power is.
JANSING: Yeah. And Nicholas, Congress comes back or at least starts coming back from recess on Monday. I mean, are we going to get a better sense of McCarthy`s standing among House Republicans or is this standing whatever Donald Trump says it is?
NICHOLAS WU, POLITICO, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Next week is going to be a test in a lot of ways of McCarthy`s leadership within the House Republican Conference. I mean, every week for example, they have a conference meeting on Wednesday. And this next week`s conference meeting could be kind of awkward for McCarthy EPS to field questions from the more MAGA aligned parts of the caucus who would do take umbrage to what he said privately on this call.
JANSING: I want to play what 1/6 committee member Jamie Raskin said tonight about the McCarthy tapes and the Capitol riot. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMIE RASKIN, (D) MARYLAND HOUSE SELECT COMMITTEE ON JANUARY 6: There a vivid reminder of what was clear to everybody who was caught up in the violent insurrection in the attempted coup against Congress and against the constitutional order, which is that the President was deeply involved in these events. He was at the center of these events. And everyone believed at the time that there were constitutional crimes and statutory offenses committed.
Minority Leader McCarthy`s words that were captured on that tape in a discussion with the Republican conference, just reinforce everything we`re finding, which is that this was an orchestrated, premeditated assault on our system of government.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Do you think, Joyce, that these tapes could help the January 6 committee? And what about the Justice Department?
JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: There is no doubt that these tapes begin to give us a fuller picture of what`s going on. And Chris, it`s what you said. These were people who had to lie about telling the truth. That was how much control Trump was exerting. There are some other interesting statements on these tapes, perhaps most interesting one is when McCarthy indicates he doesn`t want to have a conversation with the former president about pardons when they get on the phone together. And of course, he obviously has some reason to be concerned that that topic could come up, typically the kind of people who want to get pardons or people who are concerned that they`ve committed crimes. And so, to the extent that ultimately for the Justice Department`s purposes proving Trump`s intent, and knowledge that crimes were being committed as critical. Sure, these tapes could play large for the January 6 Committee. The big challenge will be getting the public to listen to these tapes as part of a cohesive story of what went on. And finally succumbing to the outrage that so far seems to have really eluded the country at large from sustaining overtime.
JANSING: Yeah, let me ask you to about something we just learned literally minutes ago, Jackie Alemany of The Washington Post, who is on this program just last night, tweeted about this that the January 6 committee has filed a motion to file an oversize memo in the meadow suit to block a subpoena from the committee explain what that is, and isn`t important?
VANCE: So the committee has filed this 248 page document late on a Friday evening, arguing that there are no material issues of fact, when Meadows has challenged their ability to subpoena him for testimony and for documents, and that they`re entitled to go ahead and obtain that testimony. They`re asking that court for a ruling and summary judgment against meadows in this case where he`s sought to interfere with their proceedings.
So on all fronts now the committee is pressing ahead to get these final pieces of testimony, these key documents that it needs as it heads into what we`re now hearing, will be June hearings.
JANSING: The word oversized to describe that memo sounds like it`s an understatement. But thank you for helping us to understand what that is.
If I can go back for a second, Charlie, to McCarthy, I mean, look, the nights had already been out when it comes to his hopes of becoming speaker, should the GOP take back control of the House. So it`s interesting to me what you`ll be watching for now, and we all know we talked about it last night, worth mentioning again, there are more tapes.
SYKES: Well, that`s what`s interesting about this is that clearly the January 6 committee has a lot of material, including tapes, I mean, the fact that we would have an audio tape revealed this late in the process is an indication of what they might have in their back pocket.
But, you know, Kevin McCarthy is in this very strange position of very clearly having had an attack of conscience understanding exactly what had happened on January 6, what his constitutional duty was, what his oath of office require. And now, he has to scramble to save his political future by saying, but I got over it, but I -- but, you know, it passed very, very quickly.
So what I`m going to watch for is what does that MAGA caucus do? Are there elements in the right-wing media that decide that he`s too much damage? Because the one thing about Donald Trump is that Donald Trump`s loyalty is, you know, has an expire by date. He`s changed his mind. He`s throwing people under the bus repeatedly. And if he gets the sense that there is weakness, with McCarthy that McCarthy is in fact some kind of a loser. If he thinks that the base is turning against him, he could certainly pull his support. So watch what happens with the conservative media, watch what happens with the hardcore MAGA caucus, you know, the Matt Gaetz`, the Marjorie Taylor Greene`s, the Madison Cawthorn, who have lots of reasons, by the way, would like to change the subject to something else, when they come back into session next week.
JANSING: And we`re going to get to Marjorie Taylor Greene, in just a second. But Nicholas, I want to ask you first, is there any political opportunity and all this for the Democrats?
WU: That`s certainly one of the central questions looming over all of what the committee is doing. I mean, it -- the final report for this whole investigation could come right before the midterm elections. And although that`s not the stated goal of the community, the goal of the committee is investigate what happened, the timing of that is something that could have a major political impact if the committee concludes in its report, for example, that the former president did, in fact, break the law. This is something that could come as the former president is gearing up to run again for another presidential bid. And as Republicans are looking, are really gearing up to try to take the House and Senate this fall.
And so, you know, the Committee could put this out there. What Democrats do with it ends up being the bigger question, will they decide to run on the findings of this committee and try to run on its recommendations for addressing what happened that day and the security breakdowns and the constitutional issues? Or is this something that will be more of an undertone of this year`s election season?
JANSING: So let`s talk about Marjorie Taylor Greene, Joyce. She was on the witness stand today about four hours. She seemed not to remember a whole lot of stuff. What was your takeaway?
VANCE: Ultimately, I think this proceeding won`t produce results. This is an effort by some of Greene`s constituents to knock her off of the ballot. It comes very late as Georgia`s within weeks of having its primary season. And these voters who are trying to get Greene off of the ballot bear the burden of proving in this hearing in front of an administrative law judge that Greene participated in an insurrection.
It seems like they came up a little bit short. Her memory was bad. Some of her comments that she`s made over time, are reprehensible. But whether or not they proved insurrection itself, I think, is a very tough call. This Administrative Law Judge will ultimately kick the decision to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who`s involved in a reelection campaign for the office that he now holds, it seems very unlikely that he would be willing to get at odds with the former president by ruling against Greene and putting her off of the ballot. So politics and the law commingle in this space. And ultimately, it seems that Greene`s fate will be in the hands of the voters, not the courts.
JANSING: And in the commingling of politics and business, Charlie, Governor DeSantis made good on his promise today to revoke Disney special status in Florida over the company`s stance on the so called Don`t Say Gay bill. What is DeSantis doing? Is this simply a preview of 2024? What happened here?
SYKES: No, this is very much a preview of 2024. The way that he is leaning first of all into the culture wars, but also into this sort of pugilistic he fights, willingness to retaliate against the political critics.
Look, Disney`s special status is not unique. There`s more than 1000 special independent districts in the State of Florida, including the villages, including Daytona Speedway, including the Orlando International Airport, there`s no public policy issue involved in what they just did to when they -- what they just did to Disney, it is all about revenge, is all about punishing a private company, for taking a political stand that he disagrees with. This is the most nakedly authoritarian move you have seen by a state government in a very, very long time, but it`s an indication of the new tune in many of the Trumpist politicians around the country.
This desire to not only, you know, flip politics on its head that Republicans used to be in favor of business, you know, argued that, that corporations were people and they had free speech rights. Now, they are very, very overtly saying, if you cross us, if you disagree with us, we will punish you, we will come after you in a very specific way. And I think this is a very, very dangerous precedent. It`s going to be interesting to see how strongly Disney pushes back on this. What the courts say about this because this is viewpoint discrimination. And the fact that Ron DeSantis is using this to springboard himself to the presidency is really kind of an ominous development, because it is working for him in Republican circles.
JANSING: Yeah, Charlie Sykes, always good to see you, Joyce Vance, Nicholas Wu, thanks for being with us on a Friday night.
And coming up, Russia is ramping up its offensive in the east as a Russian general lays out what`s next. Why one of our next guest says, with the right support Ukraine can defeat Russia.
And later, historian Jon Meacham is here to discuss the whole, the former president still has on his party. And what`s next for the current Republican Leader in the House. The 11th Hour just getting underway on a Friday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We`re not going to be able to get inside of Mr. Putin`s head perfectly and know exactly what his long term objectives are. Even his medium-term objectives. It is clear to us that he wants to focus on the east and the south. What we do know is that they are putting more enablers in there and they are adding more troops, even over the last 24 hours. That`s why we`re focused on getting the Ukrainians, the kinds of systems and capabilities that we believe and more importantly, they believe are going to be useful to them in that fight.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Tonight, that fight has Russia ramping up offensive operations in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine as the war approaches its third month. One Russian military general said Moscow was aiming to capture all of the southern region in this new phase of the conflict. But NBC News reports, "It was unclear if the comments reflected official policy for Russia`s objectives since launching the new Eastern offensive."
With the Kremlin potentially broadening its assault, NBC`s Matt Bradley gives us a glimpse into the toll this grueling war is taking on Ukraine`s people.
MATT BRADLEY, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: We spoke with this Mariupol resident who says she was arrested with her husband and held for a month in Russian captivity. She`s too frightened to show her face or let us use her name.
They didn`t let us sleep. They didn`t give us food or water or let us use the bathroom, she says. She described being beaten and forced to recite pro-Russian propaganda on video. Tonight, she fears for her husband who`s still in captivity. From her cell, she could hear her husband being beaten.
You heard your husband`s voice screaming out? The last time I heard him he was screaming, begging for help, she said. Then I think that he had a heart attack because the Russians tried to scream for medical help.
Steal more pain in a city that`s become a symbol of suffering.
JANSING: Our thanks to Matt Bradley for that report.
Let`s bring in Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for The New York Times, he spent years as the Moscow Bureau Chief for The Washington Post, closely watching the rise of Putin and William Taylor, former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. He`s also the United States Institute of Peace vice president for Russia and Europe. Thank you both for being here.
You know, Ambassador after nearly two months, you do wonder how much more suffering the Ukrainian people can endure. And yet we have a general suggesting a broader aim to capture the South. What do you make of the general`s comments and potentially this new objective?
WILLIAM TAYLOR, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO UKRAINE: Because I don`t think it`s a new objective. I don`t put much credence in this minor general if there are such. And saying something about new objectives, this is not his job. He`s not known to be in the strategic business. So I`m not, I`m not so concerned about that. And the Russians are in trouble. The Russians don`t have the capability right now, they don`t have the people. They don`t have the manpower. They have the soldiers to do what he`s talking about doing.
That`s why you hear Matt Bradley talking about this the suffering that he`s seeing, and because they have been tied up at Mariupol, and they`ve got to take those people away, move them into the real effort, which is the east exactly as Admiral Kirby just said. And so this business about going towards Moldova? It just -- I don`t put much credence.
JANSING: You know, there was a headline, I think the article was posted yesterday in the New Yorker asking whether or not it`s possible, the Russian military is a paper tiger. I mean, do you think there -- that could be a possibility? Could Ukraine still win this, Ambassador?
TAYLOR: Of course, the Ukrainians could clearly still win this there. They need resources. And they`ve got the will. You asked earlier if they can continue to bear this burden? And the answer is yes. They`ve borne it amazingly. They`ve surprised us all. The will is there. And interesting the will is not there on the Russian side. I mean, the conscripts, the troops that they`ve got that the Russians have that they`re trying to assemble, have been beaten up. They`ve been beaten up around Kyiv, the morale of the Ukrainians is very high, they won in Kyiv. They sank that ship, that flagship. They`ve -- Mariupol is a hero city, so they`ve got that. The question is resources. And we can do that. The United States and NATO, the rest of NATO, they can provide -- we can provide the resources to the Ukrainians and they can win.
JANSING: Well, in fact, Peter, last hour on this network, our Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel showed us the resilience of the Ukrainian people in his new special, Ukraine freedom or Death. And I want to play a moment for one Ukrainian soldier who had to make the difficult decision to stay and fight. And so had to say goodbye to her six year old son. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wonder what the Russians would say if they saw this film?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They would say "What a strong nation."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The world has the phrase "Never Again." It`s bullshit because everything happened again and because one crazy guy who wants to be the king of the earth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: One crazy guy who wants to be the king of the earth. Peter, you`ve covered Putin for a very long time, given what we`re seeing on the ground. What do you expect to see next?
PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think first of all, Ambassador Taylor`s probably right to be skeptical of the general comment`s today. We forget the comments, don`t pay attention to what they`re saying, remember these are the same people who told us they were assembling a large invasion force that weren`t planning to invade, of course they did.
So, I think what we should do, obviously, is just focus on what we actually see on the ground. That`s the most important indicator of Russian intentions. And the indicators right now are they are focused on the east, they are focused on sort of carving off this part of Ukraine that has been historically more Russian than the West. There are more Russian speakers in eastern Ukraine, the theory has always been in Moscow that that was more friendly to Russian, you know, designs. I think that that reality has been that there hasn`t been, that they -- the Russian aggression here has pushed even Russian speakers, even Russian sympathetic Ukrainians into opposition against Moscow that they do not want the Russians to come, "save them."
So what you`re seeing, I think, is the Russians trying to find a way to save face by carving off part of the country hoping that the world will then basically go away, that they`ll simply accept this new lines on a map the way that the world basically did in 2014, when they seize Crimea, and essentially seized in some ways, Luhansk and Donetsk to begin with.
Whether that`s possible, you know, it`s a whole different ballgame in 2014. Zelenskyy has shown -- President Zelenskyy has shown that the Ukrainians have a great deal of determination, resilience, as you said, they`re not going to accept the carving up from their country, and they`re going to continue to fight in a way that has made this, you know, inflicted a real cost on Russia that they clearly didn`t expect.
JANSING: You know, the President said yesterday, and I thought this was interesting, he said Putin is banking on Americans losing interest, is the White House concerned about that, that there will be pressure to stop giving the help, to stop pumping in billions of dollars? You know, as the ambassador just said, the desperate need from the Ukrainians and they`ve been very vocal about it, they need that help?
BAKER: Yeah, they`re -- you know, that`s a real danger. I think no question about it. A recent poll I saw this week showed that the percentage of Americans who want the United States to play a major role has dropped by about 10 percentage points in the last few weeks. That doesn`t mean that they`re in favor of Vladimir Putin. It doesn`t mean that they like what`s happening there, with the notion that America should be, you know, a major player and that is something that President Biden has to contend with in the American public.
There is a strong, you know, sense out there, why is this our war? Why do we care, and that he has to explain to them why he cares, why this matters to the United States? He`s tried that obviously for two months. But after a certain amount of time, there is a fatigue factor. We move fatigue, with our own wars, much less other people`s wars. And I think that the longer this drags on Putin, you know, he is counting on the short attention span of the West to find other issues to focus on. And there are other issues that President Biden does need to focus on, inflation and COVID and so forth, were the home of the midterm elections coming up. But, you know, in the end, you know, Putin has gone so far, so far beyond this sort of smaller wars. He`s launched over the last one years, that I think it`s going to be harder for the world to turn away at any point and simply allow this to go on without continuing to support them the way Ambassador Taylor is talking about.
JANSING: Peter Baker, Ambassador William Taylor, thank you both very much.
And coming up, the high stakes in this weekend`s French presidential election, why the outcome could affect the war in Ukraine when the 11th Hour continues.
JANSING: Brexit and the election of Donald Trump cautionary tales. With us tonight, Gerard Araud, former French ambassador to the United States, also a distinguished fellow with the Atlantic Council.
Mr. Ambassador, thank you for being with us. What is at stake for the European Union if Le Pen is elected on Sunday, what about NATO and for that matter, the world?
GERARD ARAUD, FORMER FRENCH AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Actually, you know, Marine Le Pen in the campaign of 2017, when she was already, you know, against Emmanuel Macron was in favor of Brexit, you know, leaving the European Union. But she has understood that it was very unpopular with the French voters. So this year, she says that she wants to stay in the European Union, but she wants to change it radically. She wants to transform it into what she calls an alliance of sovereign nations. In other words, you know, it`s Brexit without saying it. It`s leaving really leaving the European Union.
On the top of that, as you have said, Marine [ph] with Putin are very strong. And even she -- if she has condemned the invasion of Ukraine, of course, she was obliged to do it, she has said that after the war, she wants to have an alliance with Russia.
JANSING: The leaders of Germany, Portugal and Spain maybe for all the reasons you just stated wrote an op-ed column in a national French newspaper publicly backing Macron. I don`t know that I`ve quite seen anything like it. Isn`t this kind of intervention unusual? And do you think it could have an impact?
ARAUD: I think it`s unusual. Of course, you know, really she represents, as I have told you, in fact, the end of the European Union, because it`s not French bragging but if we can think of the European Union without the United Kingdom, you can think for geographic reasons of the European Union with our trends. And when all the continent is facing the major challenge of the war in Ukraine, to have elected in one of the most important European countries, from somebody who is close to Putin is, of course, a very frightening prospect for all our partners.
JANSING: Frightening in what way? I mean, let me just give you an example that today, France announced that it would be sending heavy artillery to Ukraine, Macron saying, France would continue on this route, specifically, what do you think a Le Pen victory would mean for Ukraine?
ARAUD: Now, first, I have to remind you, I think your audience that the party of Madame Le Pen got a loan "$10 million" from a bank, which is linked to the Kremlin, and which allowed my call during the presidential debate, to tell Marine Le Pen, you know, Putin for you is your banker. And it`s a fact. She said that as for the war in Ukraine, that she would immediately stop the delivery of weapons to Ukraine. So -- and I think in the framework of the European Union, also, we are talking about, you know, of sanctions on oil and gas, and it`s obvious that she will oppose it. You know, she`s saying that she will try to work with Hungary and you know that Hungary is very close to Putin.
JANSING: Let me ask you finally, because we mentioned this that Macron said, listen, he wants obviously people to come out and vote. He said there`s Brexit. There`s the election of Donald Trump. This matters, people need to come out. What is your feeling right now? What do you think turnout will be and are you confident of the re-election of Emmanuel Macron?
ARAUD: No, I was the French ambassador in Washington when Donald Trump was elected. So I remember the night of the eighth of November 2016 So it means that even if all the polls are saying that you will win that I don`t forget that France like the United States, like the United Kingdom and like a lot of Western democracies are -- really are leaving a moment when there is a toxic atmospherics that some of our citizens are revolting, rebelling against the system, they want to toss the table.
So again on -- I will really be reassured only on Sunday at 8 p.m. Paris time. I think that there is still 20%, 30% chance that she may win.
JANSING: Wow, Ambassador Gerard Araud, thank you so much. It was great talking to you tonight.
And coming up, our next guest says this week`s developments offer even more evidence of the tension between conscience and convenience. Historian Jon Meacham will explain what he means when the 11th Hour continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, (D) U.S. PRESIDENT: This `ain`t your father`s Republican party, not a joke. All you got to do is look what has been played on, played this morning about the tape that was released, anyway. You know, but all kidding aside this a MAGA party now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: Joe Biden clearly following the release of audio recordings that had House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy telling colleagues, he asked Donald Trump to resign. The immediate question was what it might mean for McCarthy`s well known ambitions to be House Speaker and how Trump would react.
Well, as we reported at the top of the hour, the Wall Street Journal tonight has an interview with the former president who says he wasn`t pleased at first, but McCarthy ultimately never advised him to quit after in Trump`s words, he found out the facts.
We`ll see if anything changes at Trump`s rally for Senate candidate J.D. Vance in Ohio tomorrow.
Let`s welcome historian Jon Meacham, Rogers Chair in the American presidency at Vanderbilt University, and occasionally advises President Biden on historical matters and major speeches.
It`s been a while Jon, it`s great to see you. What does the Kevin McCarthy situation tell us about the state of the Republican Party?
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: All too much, I`m afraid. You know, I`ve never run for office. So I offer this from the sidelines. But at a certain point, you have to decide why you`re in this business. Why are you in the arena? Why are you seeking the votes of the people in order to take an oath to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic.
And at a certain point, if it`s just about the getting of votes, and the amassing of power, and the remaining in place, then it enables, and even encourages the kind of behavior we saw this week, because of Jonathan Martin, and Alex Burns` book and the hearing down in Georgia with Marjorie Taylor Greene, you saw with McCarthy and with Greene, the wages of power being the central motivator, as opposed to a principle and an attempt at service. That sounds self-righteous. And I apologize for that. I don`t mean it to be. But I do think it`s a question.
If you`re just in this to be in office, and therefore you`re willing to base yourself again, and again, you`re willing to traffic in the craziest kinds of conspiracy theories, the weirdest things you can imagine, then, that turns the country, that turns the democratic lowercase the experiment into an arena simply for power, simply for the strong to take things away from the weak, as opposed to enacting this idea that we were founded on that we`re all created equal. And we have to find a way to perfect this imperfect union, which is imperfect because you and I are imperfect. You may not be but I am. So that`s what -- that`s what the democratic experiment is supposed to be. It`s not that today in the Republican Party.
JANSING: Well, it`s also about knowing that you`re imperfect, right? I mean, accepting responsibility, saying when you`re wrong, and I wonder if you put into that category, when you talk about the Kevin McCarthy, Trump, Marjorie Taylor Greene, J.D. Vance, he made plenty of disparaging remarks about Trump and yet, for weeks he pled he wanted the President`s endorsement. He finally got it. I mean, should we be surprised?
MEACHAM: No, nothing is surprising anymore. I say that with trepidation. But after January 6, we are now at a point, I believe that the fundamental democratic experiment is in as grave a situation as it anytime since Fort Sumter, because we never had an American president who decided to lie about and promulgate lies and distrust about an election in an attempt to hold on to power. So people like me who traffic in precedent, oh no, Chris, you know, John Tyler said, you know, that`s what people like we`re supposed to say.
John Tyler never did this, you know, and so we`re in a -- we`re in a different place and I think the great test is, are we up to this? As imperfect creatures driven by appetite and ambition, are we able to keep this experiment and self-government going? That may sound grandiose for a Friday night. But I think is pretty much a fundamental question, because we`re seeing one of the two major parties, a party that I long respected. I`m George Bush`s biographer, you know, the party of Eisenhower, and Reagan, and Bush. And I know there are lots of your viewers in particular, who think that the seeds of all this were laid long ago, I actually have a different view of that, which is that part of the reason for the Trump phenomenon is that Republican presidents would say one thing when they were running for office, get into office and govern functionally from the center, more or less. And so there was a pent up outrage about that.
We have to have two functioning parties to make the Constitution work, if only because of the electoral college, that`s why we have to have it, because it`s impossible, almost impossible to get to 270 electoral votes. If you have a -- we have three major contenders going for it. So we need a rational two party system. And we don`t have one right now.
And it`s an unfair question to ask you with only a minute left. But I was so struck with the former French ambassador to the United States that he thinks Marine Le Pen still has a 20%, 30% chance of beating Emmanuel Macron and I wonder when you look at the past and Macron himself said Brexit, Donald Trump look at those things. But what do you think about?
MEACHAM: Well, President Biden has talked about this from the campaign trail forward that the defining struggle of the generation is democracy versus autocracy. It`s free government versus -- self-government versus authoritarian -- trend toward authoritarianism. I was struck by your guests saying that, I love that he`s points out, I was ambassador when Donald Trump won. So I couldn`t believe anything. That was functionally what he was saying.
So we, again, it`s not that we -- shouldn`t be surprised, I don`t mean to be world weary or cynical about it. But this is a global phenomenon. And the current conversation, you know, there are elites that are out of touch. There is income inequality. There`s an enormous amount of work to do to make promise and possibility real for everybody. But the way to achieve that is not to trend toward autocracy.
JANSING: Jon Meacham with a very important conversation and a Friday night is as good as any other because -- to have these conversations. Thank you so much, my friend.
Coming up, celebrating Earth Day from the ground is one thing but we`ll take the observance to new heights when the 11th Hour continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EDDIE VEDDER, ROCK BAND PEARL JAM SINGER: Stations, it`s Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam. How do you hear me?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have you loud and clear, Eddie.
VEDDER: Wow, this is quite an honor.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: The last thing before we go tonight and out of this world Earth Day. Now, it all began back in 1970. Because Wisconsin Democratic Senator Gaylord Nelson wanted to prove that people really do care about the planet. And as part of this year celebration, NASA enlisted the help of Eddie Vedder who wanted to grow up to be an astronaut, but ended up in the superstar band Pearl Jam instead, to make a very long distance call to the International Space Station. The astronauts share their perspective on the very planet, they`re now orbiting 250 miles above.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAJA CHARI, ASTRONAUT: I think one of the lessons learned is that there`s no borders up here. And so it`s actually surprisingly hard to figure out where you`re out over the earth, because it`s all land and water. There`s no recognizable lines. And so for us, it`s a great reminder that we`re all on one earth all working together.
VEDDER: Your perspective is one that is so incredibly rare.
MARK VANDE HEI, ASTRONAUT: Outer space doesn`t feel separate, that thin layer of atmosphere, that`s all that separates us from outer space. So when you`re standing on the earth, and looking up, you are in outer space, you`re just at the bottom of this little puddle of air, and it`s so important to protect it and take care of it.
MATTHIAS MAURER, ASTRONAUT: The rainforest in Brazil, for example, is getting smaller and smaller in the area where people live. And well you can see from up here that there`s agriculture is getting bigger and bigger. And the border between you see flames and, you know, like people are burning down again, the rain forest and then on the other side of the country, you see rivers being completely flooded, and probably lots of villages and are taken down. And so people suffer. And that is also a consequence of the climate change. Or this is very visible from up here in space.
KAYLA BARRON, ASTRONAUT: Well, thanks so much for your interest in the space program Eddie and your support of NASA.
VEDDER: I knew I was excited about this. I didn`t realize how emotional it was going to be. I think because I want you to be an astronaut ever since I was a good to, you know.
BARRON: It means so much to us that you took the time out of your day to speak to us and that you`re helping carry our awesome message for exploring not only our own planet but the Moon, Mars and all the awesome research we`re doing, so thanks for your time.
VEDDER: All right. Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JANSING: The message all on one earth all working together to take us off the air on this Earth Day. On that note, I wish you a good night. From all of our colleagues across the networks of NBC News, thanks for staying up late and have a great weekend.