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tv   The 11th Hour With Brian Williams  MSNBC  November 17, 2018 8:00pm-9:00pm PST

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white meat, say hello to gop's incoming freshman class. >> that is tonight's "last word." be sure to join me for my show saturday and sunday mornings from 10:00 a.m. to noon eastern time. "the 11th hour with brian williams" starts now. tonight, president trump says he's not agitated, he says he's answered robert mueller's questions all by himself. he just hasn't turned his work in yet. while everyone around him awaits mueller's next move. plus, the man with the steely but adoring gaze may seem like the most loyal sidekick, so, why this report today that the president has been asking around about the loyalty of mike pence? and news tonight from that georgia election. news on the recount in florida. and another democratic pickup in the house. steve kornacki will have all of it at the big board, as "the 11th hour" gets under way on a friday night. well, good evening once again from our nbc news
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headquarters here in new york. and you knew we would get here at some point. this was, in, day 666 of the trump administration, and tonight, as the president and his legal team await the next move of the mueller investigation, the president seemed to indicate he knows today it's coming to an end. >> the witch hunt, as i call it, should never have taken place, it continues to go on. i imagine it's ending now, from what i hear, it's ending. and i'm sure it will be just fine. and you know why it's going to be just fine? because there was no collusion. >> remember it was just yesterday, he called the inner workings of the investigation a total mess. the president's also been dealing with those written questions from investigators. "the washington post" spoke with trump's personal attorney rudy giuliani and reports this, quote, the president has met with lawyers nearly every day this week in sessions to review his answers, including a four-hour session wednesday and
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90 minutes wednesday night, according to people familiar with the sessions. the questions, roughly two dozen, focusing on five topics, all predate trump winning the 2016 presidential election. trump's lawyers have not yet agreed to answer a larger set of questions that relate to trump's time as president-elect and then as president, giuliani said. today, it was clearly important to this president to point out he has done all the work by himself. >> ah, my lawyers aren't working on that, i'm working on that. my lawyers don't write answers, i write answers. i was asked a series of questions, i've answered them very easily. very easily. i'm sure they're tricked up, because, you know, they like to catch people, was the weather sunny or was it rainy? he said it may have been a good day, it was rainy, therefore, he told a lie, he purr perjured himself. you have to be careful.
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but no, it's -- the questions were very routinely answered by me. by me. >> trump was then asked if he submitted the responses himself. >> i haven't submitted them yet. i just finished them. as you know, i've been a little bit busy. but it didn't take very long. they were my answers. i don't need lawyers to do that. you need lawyers for submittal, you need lawyers to go over some of the answers, but they're not very difficult questions. >> now, according to "the washington post," quote, giuliani said the special counsel has not imposed a firm deadline, but he added that trump's answers could be is up mitted friday. another person familiar with the effort said they expect trump to turn over the answers before thanksgiving. there is also new reporting tonight from the associated press, based on multiple sources about what concerns the president the most these days. quote, for months, trump has told confidants he fears that donald trump jr. perhaps inadvertently, broke the law by being untruthful with
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investigators in the aftermast of that june 2016 trump tower meeting with a kremlin-connected lawyer, according to one republican close to the white house. trump has also complained about efforts in the senate by his long-time foe, arizona senator jeff flake, to introduce legislation to protect the special counsel. additionally, trump has told confidants in recent days that he is deeply frustrated by widespread criticism of his choice of matthew whitaker for acting attorney general. the president also took note of news coverage of his former personal attorney, michael cohen, arriving in washington this week, potentially to meet with mueller's investigators. so, that's a lot. there is also the news we reported here last night that because of an apparent mistake on a court filing, we now know the justice department has filed charges against wikileaks founder julian assange. josh gerstein, who will join us in a moment, said the same, donald trump, quote, who declared his love for assange's
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website during the 2016 contest may have new concerns about whether the focus on assange has a connection to special counsel robert mueller's russia probe. in case you don't recall, here is some of what trump expressed about wikileaks in the closing weeks of the campaign. >> this just came out, wikileaks, i love wikileaks. this wikileaks stuff is unbelievable. it tells you the inner heart. you got to read it. they've got to start talking about wikileaks. the wonder of wikileaks. oh, we love wikileaks. wikileaks. they have revealed a lot. wikileaks. wikileaks. another one came in today, this wikileaks is like a treasure trove. i love reading those wikileaks. that came out on wikileaks. >> well, with that, let's bring in our leadoff panel. josh gerstein, from politico. joyce vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor.
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and daniel goldman, former assistant u.s. attorney general for the southern district of new york and fellow at the brennan center for justice at nyu school of law. joyce, i'd like to begin with you. do you take the president at scout's honor that this is all his work, that he just hasn't handed it in yet? >> i think it's unlikely that the president answered the questions. i suspect that particularly coming off the sugar high that he had from the premidterm election campaign rallies that he was doing sitting down to seriously, thoughtfully and methodically answer these questions was something that he didn't want to do. he might have drafted answers, but the important thing, brian, is he has adopted these answers as his own. he is on the record saying that these are his words and his thoughts and he didn't need any help, and if there's anything in those answers that mueller thinks has evidentiary value or is useful to him, they now belong to the president, who has
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formally adopted them. >> excellent point. and so, daniel, if you are representing donald trump, and you hear those words he spoke today at the white house, about this being his work product, just hasn't been submitted, what goes on within you? >> well, i think donald trump is trying to navigate this very carefully, as we've seen over the last many months when he's negotiating this. what's interesting to me is whether this is the first step or the last step. in other words, according to rudy giuliani, and we always have to be circumspect when he speaks, this was only pre-election collusion questions. it did not relate to obstruction of justice investigation, did not relate to anything within the transition period. and we know of a lot of meetings with russians, michael flynn's guilty plea related to that transition period for false statements. so, the question then becomes, is this all that he's going to be asked, is mueller going to
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accept this? or is he going to push for him to answer more questions with the threat of a grand jury subpoena on the back, on the heels of that conversation? >> also, joyce, one more quick one. if -- what's the chance that what we're watching is a president who has just come out of these sessions with his lawyers, who have told him in effect how bad it is and also his new guy is over at justice who i presume has checked in with the mueller investigation and may have told the boss how bad it is? >> you know, it's always been a mess, it's been clear from the point and time where trump fired then-fbi director jim comey that all was not going to go well with this white house. and so leaving aside for a moment any of this pre-election collusion, which mueller seems to be in the process of gathering some evidence about, whether it reaches the president or not, the president has in real time in front of the american public engaged in collusion, it's very hard to see
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how he doesn't understand that the only protection he has is to the extend that doj policy keeps mueller from indicting a sitting president. he may avoid formal indictment, but mueller can tell the story of trump's conduct through his indictments. he's issued these detailed indictments about hacking that have told a complete story. there's no reason to believe that trump might show up as an unnamed, unindicted but clearly identified coconspirator when mueller issues his final package of indictments. >> so, josh, you guys have led the way on the, let's call it the walls closing in reporting, there is, as i just kind of back referenced, a lot of evidence of that this week. >> oh, yeah, there's a number of indications that people who are or were close to the president could be facing indictment sh t shortly. i also began to pick up other indications from folks, officials close to the mueller
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investigation that it was working its way towards some sort of crescendo. i know that the president and the white house are describing it as moving towards a conclusion, and that's never exactly what i picked up. it was more along the lines that there was some sort of momentous kind of event expected in the weeks after the midterm elections, possibly an indictment, possibly a report. but as i said, i've never had anybody really give me firm indication that this meant that the investigation was coming to an end or a conclusion more that it was coming to what could be a very pivotal moment and a very awkward and unpleasant moment for the white house. >> daniel, what's the chance that these written answers are completely unimportant to mueller, that he's only asking out of a sense of duty and fairness to hear the president out and that he doesn't need the president to make his case? >> i think there's a good chance of that in the obstruction of justice investigation, because even as we sit here, we know most of what the acts are that
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he engaged in to potentially obstruct justice. the james comey firing, you know, orchestrating don jr.'s lies about the june 2016 meeting. that's all out in the open. if -- and part of the reason that mueller may decide, i'm not going to subpoena him, i'm not going to pursue this, is that on the obstruction angle, it really is just an opportunity for trump to explain his side, to give his defense, and if he doesn't want to do that, they're not going to force it. on the other front, on the conspiracy front, what we call collusion, i do think they want to know what he knows, because he doesn't use e-mail, so much of the evidence related to him at the top is going to be conversations, witness statements and one critical component of that is going to be what conversations did he have with paul manafort, who is now cooperating, was the campaign chairman. so, i think they would like to get those answers and maybe they
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just decided, let's short circut this, we're not going to go into months of litigation, going to the supreme court whether a grand jury subpoena is appropriate here. we'll do the written questions, which is incredibly unique and unusual for prosecutors to do, but we'll give him an opportunity to explain his story, but you raise a good point, because they're not building their case based on donald trump's testimony or answers to these questions. >> joyce, when he talks about the perjury trap, he sounds positively person yan at times. can an innocent man get caught in a perjury trap? >> you know, a purerjury trap i this sort of unicorn that defense lawyers chase after. no prosecutor that's worth his or her salt is in thuses it. it's a waste of time and resources and the sort of thing that doesn't help build a case. mueller's team, these are serious people. they want to build a case.
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there will be no effort to trap the president or play gotcha. what they'll actually be looking for here is evidence of his intent. it's exactly what dan says they're looking for. they're trying to see if the president has exculpatory evidence, information that indicates that he's not guilty or might counteract some of the statements and evidence their getting from people like paul manafort and rick gates, who are cooperating. every target is given this opportunity to go into the grand jury and tell his side of the story. rarely do they accept it. trump's status is sort of nebulous. he's not really a target, because of the protection that we've all talked about, but still, they're giving him this opportunity, and it's really up to him to decide whether to seize it or not. to the extent that he's a subject or a witness, mueller is entitled to subpoena him, so, we're going through this awkward proceeding where the president, again, underlines he inability to comply with the rule of law
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and insists upon his belief that he's somehow above the law and doesn't have to do what anioy other person involved in an fbi investigation would do. >> and josh, into this flies the julian assange hand grenade, mistakenly included in a filing last night, but here's the story in our laps. >> yeah, i mean, it revealed, apparently, due to a cut and pa paste error, there was court action, an indictment or other charges against julian assange that were put under wraps, kind of serendipitous, i guess, for certain folks that this would come out now, but also putting folks on both sides of the political spectrum in a bit of an awkward position. you have people that were against julian assange, who suddenly seem to be rallying to the side of wikileaks soshgts of like those clips you showed of the president during the 2016 election, and then, frankly, do have folks on the left, as well, who were sort of defenders of
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asapg, sa assan assange, who said, he's unconventional, but entithed to all those protections who are now out there rallying at the side of the mueller probe and suggesting everybody involved should be brought to account. and if assange really becomes a significant figure, gets indicted in the context of the russia investigation as opposed to something else, it may be awkward for those folks to, you kn know, suddenly make an about-face. >> in the meantime, we're told, don't place any bets as to whether or not we'll see him face justice in this country. josh, joyce, daniel, our great thanks for starting our broadcast awful on a friday night. coming up, why the president might be polling those around him about his own vp. and later, the president gets about as much wrong as you can get wrong about the california wildfires. he's preparing for his trip there. "the 11th hour" just getting started on this friday night. started on this friday night
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i want to thank you, mr. president. i want to thank you for speaking on behalf of and fighting every day for the forgotten men and women of america. because of your determination, because of your leadership, the forgotten men and women of america are forgotten no more, and we are making america great again. >> vice president mike pence has shown he knows how to love all over donald trump. with his words, yes, but often, with just a look.
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so, it was odd to read the reporting today from "the new york times" about donald trump starting to question the loyalty of mike pence. quote, in recent weeks, with his electoral prospects two years from now much on his mind, mr. trump has focused on the person who has most publicly tethered his fortunes to him in one conversation after another, he has asked aides and advisers a pointed question, is mike pence loyal? trump has repeated the question so many times that he has alarmed some of his advisers. the president has not openly suggested dropping mr. pence from the ticket and picking another running mate, but the advisers say those kinds of questions usually indicate that he has grown irritated with someone. a white house spokesperson said the president absolutely supports pence. so, what are we to make of this moment, from just a week ago, when the president was asked about his potential running mate in 2020. >> will the vice president be your running mate in 2020? >> well, i haven't asked him, but i hope so. where are you?
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mike, will you be my running mate? huh? stand up, mike, please, raise your right hand, no, i'm -- will you? thank you. okay, good. the answer is yes, okay? >> thank you, sir. >> that was unexpected, but i feel very fine. >> well, here to talk about all of it, anita kumar, white house correspondent fand jonathan alln from nbc news. jonathan, i didn't doubt the reporting when i saw it today. i found it curious. you being smarter than me took it seriously. why? >> well, you know, brian, i -- i don't agree with you on the -- your theory there about smartness, but i take it seriously -- this would be the trumpiest ma fiver of all time, to number one, publicly ask mike pence to be his vice president again and then a week or two later dump him. most presidents would look at something like that as an admission they made a bad
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decision in the first place, the public relations disaster would be a bad thing. but trump likes to fire people, or at least likes to have other people fire people. so, i think he might be looking for something to jazz up his ticket going into 2020. he obviously just got his hat handed back to him in terms of the house elections. he watched governor and senator races in those big key 2016 states of pennsylvania, wisconsin and michigan turn to the democrats. so, you know, this is a moment where i think he's looking for someone. the big question is, who would take that on? because it's a big risk for somebody with a future in terms of looking at their political career. the name nikki haley comes up. i think she's somebody who is seen as a likely lly potential republican candidate in 2024. >> and anita, there is this from politico. just another portion of the palace increase inside that west wing. john kelly working to convince the president that secretary of
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homeland security kirstjen nielsen is not to blame for a recent surge in arrests at the u.s.-mexico border that has enraged donald trump, according to two sources familiar with the conversations. nielsen also has other supporters, including secretary of state pompeo, whos have told trump that nielsen cannot control the border crossing rate. so, we have this going on and the president, anita, saying he largely likes the people in his cabinet. >> well, he does say that, but he also said that he was going to look at shaking up the cabinet or shaking up the staff once the midterms were over. and so, people have been kind of waiting. obviously, his firing of jeff sessions happened immediately after the election, and now there's this lull, and everybody's kind of looking at each other, wondering who is going to be next. with the dhs secretary, we've been hearing for months, for a long time, that the president has been unhappy with her, but she does have a lot of supporters in the administration, like, you know,
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number one, john kelly. so, she has stuck around and has been around, but everyone sort of feels like she's probably the next one, but you know, the president has said, he hasn't made a decision on it. so, now everybody is just kind of waiting to see what happens. >> and john, in the strange bedfellows, bedpersons area, we have one george conway, kind of univer universally agreed to be an esteemed attorney in washington, he was rumored to be taking a justice department role early on as the campaign became the presidency, he did not. he has said the following allowed, we'll talk about it on the other side. >> man, i'm thinking and i'm watching this thing and, you know, it's like, the administration is like a [ bleep ] show in a dumpster fire and i'm like, i don't want to do that. i don't know. and then it's like, then you've got the comey firing and then you got him going on tv saying,
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i had russia on my mind. and it's like, oh, no. and then it's like -- then you know, i'm driving home one day from new york and it's like, robert mueller appointed special counsel. and i realized, you know, this guy is going to be at war with the justice department. >> reminiscent of the classic friends of saddam sketch on "snl." john, what do you make of that? >> you know, first of all, obviously their marriage is between them. however, the point of tension here between kellyanne and george conway is interesting, because it points out something, which is, kellyanne understands politics as well as anybody in this country. george conway is an expert on the rule of law. and in this administration, those two things are in con sflikt. and one of the things that's protected our republic for generations is that politics and the rule of law have worked in
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concert. so, that tension point we spill out -- that spills out as we see these two characters working in the public sphere is something very important, i think, for americans to consider. >> a good point. well made. anita, you have been among those reminding our newsroom that the president is eventually going to go down to mar-a-lago. one is tempted to ask, what could go wrong, but explain to our good viewers what tends to happen when the president is in mar-a-lago. >> yeah, this is a precarious time, time of year, really. so, next week is thanksgiving. he's going to go to mar-a-lago for five-plus days, where he will be with some aides, but not nearly as many aides as he's with at the white house. he has the flight down and the flight back. next, he's going to go, right after that, he's going to go to argentina, so, the long flight down there for a quick foreign trip. and then he's back at mar-a-lago for two-plus weeks around the holidays. so, this is a time where he's
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going to be in the plane, he's going to be away from his aides, he's going to be thinking about his staff what he wants to do, had's going to be fretting about things and he's going to be tweeting. so, anything can really happen in the next few weeks. >> as we say, what could possibly go anita, jonathan, thank you for joining us. coming up, ten days after the midterms, and the georgia's governor race has been called. steve kornacki back at the big board tonight with that and the races that remain wide open. wid.
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let's be clear, this is not a speech of concession. because concession means to acknowledge an action is right, true or proper. as a woman of conscience and faith, i cannot concede that. but my assessment is the law currently allows no current viable remedy. >> the democrat stacey abrams announcing earlier tonight that she is ending her campaign to be governor of georgia, but refusing to go quietly. in an at times fiery speech, she accused her opponent, brian kemp, of pinning his hopes for victory on voter suppression in georgia. and it should be noted, in fairness, that as georgia's secretary of state, he was in a position to do just that. nbc news has since called kemp the apparent winner of this
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race. president trump congratulated kemp on his victory in what we'll call an atypically man nag mouse message. quote, congrats to brian kemp on becoming the new governor of georgia. stacey abrams fought brilliantly and hard. she will have a terrifically political future. brian was unrelenting and will become a great governor for the truly wonderful people of georgia. it appears tonight that the florida senate race nearing the end of the road there. back at the big board again for us tonight, steve cokornacki, o national political correspondent. hey, steve. >> yeah, brian, and we may finally have clarity in the sunshine state. so, in this recount now, the manual recount in this senate race playing out. of course, nelson has been trying to overcome that 12,000-vote gap against scott. the manual recount statewide going to continue until sunday. they won't release a final total until then, but today it finished, it started and finished in the critical county
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of broward county. heavily democratic, massive broward county. and again, the issue we've been talking about in broward county, it is the ball game in this senate election. if you look at the senate race in broward county, total number of votes that were cast in broward, if you looked at the governor's race, same bat lollo. that's an undervote of more than 26,000. the contention from the nelson campaign, there was suspension in this race was, they said, hey, there were 20,000 plus votes in the race that the machine didn't read. in the manual recount, they said, would catch that. the other possibility was the ballot design. the senate race being buried under this column of instructions, did some voters just miss it? well, they opened the ballots today, they looked at the undervotes, and guess what? basically people missed the race. they did not vote in this race, they were true undervotes, and so, therefore, it looks like when this is certified, that giant leap in votes that the
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nelson campaign had been banking on, just not going to be there for them. and we mentioned this, you say, this race was missing, keep this in mind. the federal commission that gives advice to states on how to run their elections, they said in their report that vertical instruction treatments cannot share column space with contests on ballots. in other words what broward county did, the federal commission that gives best practices and guidelines, said do not do this, because people will miss the race. it looks like, though, that's the bottom line there in florida. meanwhile, quickly, on the house side, there is one more call we can tell you about tonight from nbc news, more votes coming in in the 45th district of california. republican incumbent mimi walter thes, he's fallen short, she's been unseeded. katie porter wins that seat. the net gain for democrats in the house, 36. 36 is the current net gain for democrats, brian. and it could still climb higher. >> unbelievable, all of it tonight from florida all the way
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out to california. steve cokornacki, thank you for coming on. coming up for us, the cia reaches a conclusion on the killing of jamal khashoggi. we'll talk to one of the reporters who broke this story tonight about what could happen next. we're back with this after this. . i've always been amazed by what's next. and still going for my best, even though i live with a higher risk of stroke due to afib not caused by a heart valve problem. so if there's a better treatment than warfarin... i want that too. eliquis. eliquis is proven to reduce stroke risk better than warfarin. plus has significantly less major bleeding than warfarin. eliquis is fda-approved and has both. what's next? reeling in a nice one. don't stop taking eliquis unless your doctor tells you to, as stopping increases your risk of having a stroke. eliquis can cause serious and in rare cases fatal bleeding. don't take eliquis if you have an artificial heart valve or abnormal bleeding. while taking eliquis, you may bruise more easily and it may take longer than usual for any bleeding to stop.
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after a scratch so small rocket you could fix it with a pen. how about using that pen to sign up for new insurance instead? for drivers with accident forgiveness, liberty mutual won't raise their rates because of their first accident. ♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪ welcome back. our cia has formally concluded what intelligence officials had long suspected, the sowdy crown prince ordered the murder of journalist jamal khashoggi. that is according to a source briefed on the assessment. "the washington post" broke this story and adds this detail, quote, the cia examined multiple sources of intelligence, including a phone call that the prince's brother, the saudi ambassador to the united states, had with khashoggi, and that khalid told khashoggi he should
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go to the saudi consulate in istanbul and gave him assurances it would be safe to do so. khashoggi wud murdas murdered a immediately after he entered the consulate and that his body was dismembered. according to "the post," the cia does not know the location of khashoggi's remains, according to the people familiar with the agency's assessment. the saudis have denied crown prince mohammed bin salmannecte. with us to talk about it, one of the reporters that broke this story, greg miller, national security correspondent for "the washington post." he is also the author of "the apprentice: trump, russia and the subversion of american democracy." greg, welcome back to the broadcast. give us the overview. what leads the cia to this assessment? >> well, i think that it's important to note that this assessment isn't just based on what we have been seeing coming out of turkey and the turkish
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government for several weeks now. there is independent intelligence that the cia is weching into its own assessment here, its own collection efforts. the material gathered by other governments, as well as its profile of mohammed bin salman and the way he operates, and the way an operation like this would have to go down in a system like the saudi government. so, it's a combination of all these things, and i think it's interesting and important that the cia attaches high confidence to this assessment zblchl on top of your crucial work and your beat and your life's work, what have you learned in reporting this story about our eyes and ears, including that of our allies overseas, about our intelligence capability? >> you know, so, there's -- one of the interesting things, and we try to get at this in the story here, is that the u.s.
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intelligence agencies had information in their databases that they were able to pull up, able to surface after khashoggi disappeared that let them go back and find conversations that nobody had taken note of at the time, that showed that the saudi royal family was trying to lure khashoggi back to riyadh, trying to bring him back into the kingdom. when that failed, they truurnedo this alternate operation, which led to his death on october 2nd in the consulate in turkey. >> and let me just raise a hypothetical. if the white house is not excited about drawing heat on the crown prince and they want to find some wiggle room, can the cia stand behind this finding of high confidence, is that their way of saying, we're about as sure as we can be? >> it is. i mean, that's a -- that is exactly what that language is intended to signal, and you're
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right, this puts the white house and it puts president trump in a very difficult position, i think, because they have been trying to find ways to minimize this, to try to minimize the possibility of mohammed bin salman's direct involvement in it. but the agency is also in a tough position, right? this is what it has learned, this is what its analysts believe, and this is what those analysts have told congressional committees just this week. they can't taylor that message to congress and have a different version go to the white house, so, they've told trump these very same things and it will be interesting to see how the white house reacts in the coming days. >> in our closing seconds, having read your book, i'm just so curious to hear from you, having written the book on all things russian, what it is your looking for, listening for, waiting for, perhaps in the coming days? >> oh, i just -- i'm -- i think that we're just -- we're waiting
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to learn so much from robert mueller. every indictment that we've seen from the special counsel has told us something really new about russia's interference in 2016 and its relationship to figures in trump's inner circle, and i just think that that will continue and we're bound to learn remarkable new things as the new timindictments arrive. we thought it would happen this week and it hasn't, but i expect we're going to see those sooner than later. >> greg miller of "the washington post," thank you for returning to our broadcast. we appreciate it. and coming up, the president preparing to visit california after a tragedy that he has blamed on california, when we come back. come back. do you want to take the path or the shortcut? not too fast. (vo) you do more than protect parks when you share the love.
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california, your trip tomorrow. >> just to see the firefighters. nobody's ever seen what's going on over there.
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and now they're saying it could be as many as 600. this just came out before we met, could be as many as 600 people killed, up by 400. it's incredible what's going on, and burned beyond recognition. they can't even see the bodies. it's incredible. >> president trump heading to california tomorrow, as you said, just to see the firefighters, in his interview with chris wallace of fox news to air sunday. the president confuses there the number of missing people, which had stood at 600, with the number of fatalities, which, sadly, now stands at 71. since that interview, the number of missing has now grown to over 1,000. he also returns to his theme of blaming california. it was, after all, his first response to these fires, remember, he's apparent lly bee led to believe it's bad management of state lands. today, he seemed to blame the fires, at least in part, on a lack of preemptive rakes of
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underbrush. >> i was watching the firemen the other day and they were raking areas, they were raking areas, when the fire was right over there and they're raking trees, little trees like this, little bushes that you could see are totally dry. weeds. and they're raking them, they're on fire. that should have been all raked out -- >> what about the argument -- >> you wouldn't -- >> what about the argument that it's climate change, it's drier, it's hotter and that's contributing to it. >> maybe it contributes a little bit. the big problem we have is management. >> that should have been all raked out in advance. we should note the head of the firefighters union called the president's mismanagement charges irresponsible, reckless and insulting. and their pasadena local told the president directly, you are wrong. only 3% of california woodlands are run by the state of california. it's just one chapter in the presidency, but it's enough to discuss tonight with the pulitzer prize-winning author
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and presidential author john meacham. his latest work is "the soul of america." talk about presidents and empathy. i heard sara huckabee sanders interviewed by her dad tonight on fox news say that this trip to california, this was notable, she said, this will be one of the hardest trips of the presidency thus far, as if she was trying to apply qualities of emotion and empathy to her boss. >> yeah, i -- you know, i've always been careful not to rush to judgment and to say that there's no way the president will change or grow in office, because our greatest presidents have, in fact, changed and grown and you never want to be -- shut yourself off from the possibility of redemption and growth, but i think we're pretty much past the possibility of redemption and growth here. the presidents who we remember,
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the ones we want to commemorate, the ones we want to emulate are the ones who have, in fact, signaled that they cared about what was unfolding in the country, what was happening to our people, and also, those who were able to learn from experience. wo woodrow wilson said before he became president that the president of the united states by law and custom has the capacity to be as big a man as he can. and president trump has repeatedly turned out to be as small as he possibly can. he points fingers instead of opening his arms, he fails, i think, repeatedly to rise to the occasion. he never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity and i suspect this weekend will fall into that pattern. >> you know the story and i've discussed it with michael beschloss on this broadcast, pos post-hurricane louisiana, no power, lyndon johnson climbs on a berm with a flashflight in his
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hand, shines it up from his chin and says to the people within the sound of his voice, this is your president, and that was a kind of -- the custodial role, the bigness of the job, in a small venue. >> johnson also said that nothing opens the soul of a man the way the presidency does. that all the concerns, all the cares of the people become his cares and his concerns. george w. bush really became president on that friday in september, after the attacks, he gives that very formal, remarkable speech in the cathedral and then he flies to ground zero and he's standing on the rubble and is among those first responders, and if you talk to president bush about it, it was very much about wanting to prove to those men and women who were covered in the soot of death, that he was with them.
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and he found his voice. president trump has simply -- i don't even think he's really tried, honestly. there's certainly no evidence he has. he may simply be incapable of performing that empathetic role. >> and what if he becomes defined by and cannot outrun or outgrow a basic fear of what's coming? >> well, it's -- it's going to get worse. it's as if king heleer had an iphone, but that may be unfair to king leer. i think -- >> i think he had an android, but i'm not sure. >> or core dedelia did, anyone. they didn't take it away in time. you know, we're entering a fascinating phase here. director mueller is out there, clearly part of the drama of the past eight days or so is that the president's team received these interrogatories, so, they got the first sense of what director mueller might have.
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mueller showed his cards for the first time privately, and we've seen even more erratic behavior, so, i don't think it takes a great deal of genius to guess that we're in for an even rougher ride. >> jon meacham, thank you so much for adding your voice to our friday night broadcast. coming up for us, an honor only the president gets to bestow. today, it was donald trump's turn to do the bestowing, when we come back. when we come back here we go.
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♪ liberty. liberty. liberty. liberty. ♪ last thing before we go tonight is about one of those honors a president gets to bestow. the presidential medal of freedom was established by john f. kennedy, and while it's presumably supposed to speak for all of us and award those consensus people who deserve awarding, it pretty much gets to be the president's choice, because, as we always say, elections have consequences. the rules are pretty close on who gets to qualify at an awardee. those who have made a mare or the use contribution to the security or national interests of the united states, world peace, cultural or other significant public or private e endeavors. trump's first class today included dr. marian adelson.
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former nfl players roger staubach and minnesota state supreme court justice allen page. senator orrin hatch. and some people who aren't around. elvis, babe ruth and justice scalia. it was interesting, at times, most notably, when the president ad libbed, whether it was about orrin hatch, about antonin scalia in front of his widow, or finally about elvis presley. >> senator orrin hatch, a friend of mine, a great friend of mine. he liked me right from the beginning and therefore, i like him. that helps. that's the way life works, right? the second recipient we honor today is one of the greatest, truly was one of the greatest jurists ever to serve our country, supreme court justice antonin scalia. joining us for this ceremony is his wife maureen and their nine
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children and jean, john, katherine, mary claire, paul, matthew, christopher and megan. you were very busy, wow. i always knew i liked him. our final medal of freedom, the king of rock and roll, the true king, and you have to say that, elvis aaron presley. ♪ ♪ >> that was mine. i said, give me a little song. i'd like to hear the rest of the song, but i don't know why they cut it off so short. they have no promotional ability, that's why. >> our promotional president of
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the united states to end our week. that is our broadcast on a friday evening. thank you so very much for being with us. have a good weekend, and good night from nbc news headquarters here in new york. "the beat" is back in new york tonight. it's a busy friday. a federal judge appointed by trump handed him a big loss overruling trump's attempt to ban a reporter from the white house. also tonight, new developments in the growing blue wave. we'll get you up to speed. and a leak suggesting the feds may try to indict julian assange. that case has all kinds of implications. we begin with bob mueller is clearly rattly trump, who made some actual news when he spoke to reporters today, revealing for the first time, after months of negotiations, which you've certainly heard of by now, donald trump is taking mueller's questions on collusion, saying he's now written up his answers to mueller and stressing he did it all by himself. >> my lawyers aren't working on that. i'm working on that. i write the answers. my lawyers don't write answers. i write answers.


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