tv The 11th Hour With Brian Williams MSNBC March 17, 2018 6:00pm-7:00pm PDT
ridiculous bragging about lying to the prime minister of canada, something we should all be apologizing to our neighbors to the north. there is so much other things of importance and the people of america can hardly keep track from day-to-day of what is important -- >> jill wine banks gets the lord word. thank you all. thank you all for joining us and thanks to barry mccaffrey at the beginning of the hour. 11th hour with brian williams starts now. the breaking news on this friday night, the attorney general has fired trump nemesis andrew mccabe, the former fbi director. also breaking, in a new court filing trump's lawyer is going after $20 million from the porn star stormy daniels. that news coming hours after her attorney dropped a bombshell on t.v. "the 11th hour" on a busy
friday night gets underway. >> good evening once again. day 421 of the trump administration and we actually have two lead stories as we begin here on a friday night. the attorney general, jeff sessions has just fired the former deputy fbi director, andrew mccabe a little more than 24 hours before mccabe was set to retire after over two decades as a federal employee. president trump was highly critical of mccabe, attacked him a number of times. as "the washington post" reports mccabe has become a lightning rod. and political battles like the russia investigation. mccabe's firing was recommended by the fbi disciplinary office over misleading investigators about conversations he had with the media about an investigation into the clinton foundation. additionally tonight we have a major development on the stormy
daniels front as the president's lawyers have come out with an all-out attack looking for $20 million from the porn star, a first for a sitting president. but first, the dismissal tonight of andrew mccabe. it is very clear tonight he is not taking this dismissal lightly, nor is he going quietly. in a statement he says here in part, for the last year and a half my family and i have been the targets of a unrelenting assault on my reputation and my service to this country. articles too numerous to count have led of any false defamatory and degrading allegation against us. the president's tweets has afternoon tied it all. he called for my firing and striped of my pension after 25 years of service. and all along we said nothing, never wanting to distract from the mission of the fbi. no more, here's the reality. i'm being singled out and
treated this way because of the role i played, the actions i took, and the events i witnessed in the aftermath of the firing of james comey. with that let's bring in jeff bennet, white house correspondent. danny zavala a legal attorney former attorney general joyce vance. jeremy bass former counsel to house intel. and with us by phone, "new york times" reporter matt appuzo. he spoke to mccabe. matt it's your by line on the story breaking the news. you have spoken to the acting director of the fbi. did we characterize it
correctly that he does not plan to go quietly or softly? >> obviously he's -- you're seeing unequivocal and blunt. he's saying he's being fired as part of a career assassination in effort by the trump administration to undermined his credibility because -- and this is important -- because he is a potential witness in the special counsel's investigation into whether the president obstructed justice. that is a bold allegation. he's saying that this is part of the president's war on the fbi, war on the special counsel. and obviously we haven't seen the inspector general's report that we are told accuses mccabe of showing a lack of candor and that is a kiss of death at the fbi. lack of candor and official interview, there's really no coming back from this. this is all playing out under extremely political back drop.
and andrew mccabe is upset obviously, and he is saying this is a political decision. >> matt, let's balance this out. what were the forces internal who had concurred with this firing? what are the mechanisms, career people, not trump appointees who looked at all the evidence and came to the conclusion that he should go prior to his retirement date? >> absolutely. there was an inspector general report which has not been made public that was done by a hold over from the obama era that faulted him for a lack of candor. and that was taken by career people in the fbi's office professional responsibility, that's the disciplinary office, those are career people. the recommendation was termination. under the rules he can appeal that to the attorney general, which we did. this played out, i will say this
played out unusually fast. the disciplinary process is not known for great speed at the justice department. one of the thing i'm quite interesting in is why did this happen so fast. and mccabe's lawyer says they were only given days to respond to this. it does appear that the justice department wanted to get this done quickly and i'm not exactly sure why. so that -- while career people definitely were involved and they did the recommendation and that appears to have all been above board the speed of it is certainly interesting. >> matt, please remind us have he yet been called in to talk to robert mueller? of course their careers intersected at least once in life. >> we don't know if he's been in to testify, but as someone involved in the russia
investigation. >> before it was mueller investigation, any notes that we had, anything that he wrote down, anything that would have corroborated comey's allegations that would have been longed to the fbi and mueller would have had access to that. whether he's interviewed yet, i don't know, we do know he has access to all of the work product. >> matt, without going near editorialization, which i know is not a danger for you, as we try to let you enjoy what's left of a friday night in your life after having written this piece for "the new york times." what else in your experience should we know about andrew mccabe? >> i've known him for a long time, he was a rising star of the bureau. it was very clear that he was being groomed for big things. he's a lawyer, he's a duke undergrad graduate. very was well respected at the
justice department and elsewhere in the intelligence agency. he had his -- he had his friend and he had his detractors among the line agents in particular because he did rise so quickly, and because he has that law degree. but he was also seen as a real -- maybe a new model for that number two position. not a sort of traditional line agent personality, somebody whose make a little bit more intellectual managerial than somebody whose lock them up, cops and robbers kind of guy. >> i heard him once described as a g-man but circuit 2018, a modernized version. do you concur with that? >> yes, this is not the fbi of pre-9/11.
this is a complicated agency that is a big part of the intelligence infrastructure of the united states. as the deputy attorney general, he was in the front and center of the heart of that. >> tonight is why we always tell folks to look for your by line. matt apuzzo who is at the crust of news. if not a friday night massacre, certainly a friday night take down in washington. matt, thank you for making times for us. >> thanks, brian. >> let's go to joyce vance. joyce, tell folks perhaps how they should feel about this news. >> i think matt makes a key assessment which is the speed of this process is very troubling. i've watched this process before wen people have been disciplined and it's never a process that moves at lightning speed. you never have someone interviewed by the decision maker and then have a decision the next day.
so, we know that we have a president whose called repeatedly on twitter for mccabe's firing. earlier in this week in the white house press briefing, sarah huckabee-sanders was characterizing mccabe as a bad guy. on the other hand we have career people in the department, folks like michael horwitz, he's worked for both administrations, a straightforward kind of guy and the folks in the office of professional responsibility. people in the deputy attorney general's office who really look at these issues with the long view. consistency in the department across a long period of time. what we have is a conflict of that professional process with this very political context. there's no reason that the attorney general had to fire andy mccabe tonight on a friday night at 10:00 at night.
in fact, this whole idea that this firing was done this late on a friday night makes it look very rushed, very politicized. it might have been wiser for the attorney general simply to let the time clock run out to avoid making the justice department look like a place where the president can go to condemn his political opponents. it's a deeply troubling development. >> jeremy barber if you need more proof we're in differing time, the story after we conclude this is a sitting president's lawyer is trying to get $20 million out of a porn star. we'll put that out as the background. before i show you this on the screen, think about the -- the christmastime that the mccabe family had around their tree and in their house, because on december 23rd, the president of the united states took to twitter to say this about andrew mccake.
how could and rue mccabe and leaky man or the fake hillary clinton investigation be given $700,000 for his wife's campaign by clinton puppets during the investigation. just for clay clarity it was a terry mcauliffe political action committee. next frame which says, fbi deputy director andrew mccabe is racing the clock to retire with full benefits. 90 days to go? three exclamation points. jeremy bass out if america, if a defendant gets a bad dose of publicity a talented lawyer will move for a change of venue, get it out of there and then try it in a nearby community. you can't go anywhere in this country with a president who has openly attacking a civil servant on twitter. >> that's right, brian. and for you to believe that andy mccabe's firing is on the level, you have to believe it was
entirely coincidental that he was fired by jeff sessions 24 hours before he was able to retire after a career of distinction with honor and it is entirely coincidental that the two thing are happening at the time. and then of course, nobody in america believes that. it is clear as day that the president of the united states directed the attorney general to fire andy mccabe to undermined him as a witness in any upcoming proceeding in which mccabe can corroborate james comey testimony that the president of the united states obstructed justice. >> it is mccabe and not trump who knows and worked with comey and mccabe who has worked with mueller who also knows the quality of his work product. if you are mueller, and the 16 or 10 co-counsel on mueller's
team, how are you looking at this tonight? >> there are a lot of implications. in every situation like this you have to think about obstruction of justice, just off the bat. to what degree could you make a case that the president by firing people or removing anybody as he perceives as add -- adverse airily -- >> how about trolling them publicly on twitter? >> patrolling them publicly, which also could infringe on their free speech. anything. if nothing else, exceedingly quickly end a situation like this because we know that investigations generally move slowly. there may have been a good cause to terminate mccabe but the speed at which it's done alone raises the doubt. ultimately obstruction, even if it's not a criminal action is always an impeachable offense.
you do not need an impeachable offense to be a crime at all. these are thing that special counsel is going to look at, especially with the shadow of obstruction hanging over this. >> geoff bennett, let's show our homework since we work for the same news organization. we have a broadcast done and written and it was written in our lead story was after this legal case pending the president's lawyer against the porn star to the tune of $20 million. i had written something to say at the top of the evening like, we have made it through a friday night with no further personnel changes and jeff, here we are, sir. >> and here we are. i'll tell you based on our conversations in the white house booth with white house officials they couldn't tell us for sure if anyone would be fired by the end of the day or who that person might be. but i'll tell you that i was particularly struck by something in andy mccabe's statement where he mentioned the
unrelenting assault he was subjected to at the hand of the president. you mentioned the tweet the president sent back in december where he said time's running out for mccabe to leave with full benefits. joyce mentioned the fact that sarah sanders referred to him as a bad actor this past week without any evidence. and as we reported earlier, the president directly and private asked mccabe who he voted for in the 2016 election. in a separate instance, the day after the president fired comey, he called mccabe to ask why comey was allowed to fly back from los angeles to d.c. on a fbi plane and when the president wasn't satisfied with his answer, he said ask your life what it is like to be a loser. he was referring to the -- to his wife and she was running as a democrat. the president often points to that as a fact suggesting that the fbi or mccabe is somehow biased in his role. although, the facts don't
support the president's theory in that mccabe has already described to friend as a life long republican. >> joyce, same questions i asked danny. you know something about the dynamic in a building commandeered by mueller and his team and then how everyone sign out. they have been free of any leaks, watching this unfold on a friday night, reading this statement from a proper mccabe, what are you thinking if you're the special counsel? >> to go about it in a deliberate way. they'll look at the inspector general's report. we haven't seen that yet so we
don't know what's in it. and then they'll look again at what andy mccabe says, his justification for his conduct and i suspect that they'll make a sort of baseline decision as to whether they think the firing was warranted. it's important to so many people to not have noted that even if the firing was justified, its this political context that was force the special counsel to contemplate whether this is more evidence of obstruction. mccabe was the person that jim comb my came back to and shared his impression and initial meetings with the president, with mccabe. mccabe will be a key witness of comey as the mueller investigation moves forward. the president with this consistent twitter against mccabe is perceived by special counsel as an effort at the white house to marginalize a
witness, to destroy a witness's credibility this again will be another act of this obstruction that we watched play out over the past few months. >> jeremy, the last thing i knew the attorney general had recused himself, something that was applauded in the legal community, had recused himself to the president driven to distraction by that decision from all things dealing with russia. this against mccabe not only bumps up against the subject of russia, it kind of collides with that subject so is there anything big enough to supercede a recusal, even if you are the boss. >> this is entirely a question by the attorney general, i don't there is anything to supercede it. i think the career was recounted open with the fact that he began his kier investigating russian organized crime.
so, almost dangled a hit if this was connected to the russian matter, the attorney general should not have ruled on this matter or not ruled in the fashion that he ruled tonight. you have to believe in coincidences. brian, there used to be a show on tv called "that's incredible" to be this iss entirely a could -- a coincidence do with the events of the russian investigation. >> you were nodding your head as jeremy spoke. >> absolutely. i have a teary that statement was drafted weeks ago because it was very well written to begin with. second the direct references to russia and other things that are relevant today, even though they are how mccabe started out his career, those were no accident listing as his accomplishments and career, russia and other thapgs that we're talking about
now. >> everything that we cover on this broadcast night in and out has to be considered against a back drop of politics and against a back drop of the contemporary history we are making and witnessing. there is one guy we wanted to talk to tonight since this word broke and that's bill crystal, a veteran of the ray ban and bush -- ray began and bush administration. bill, how do you feel about your country and this administration about this news tonight? say nothing of the story we have yet to get to. >> hi, brian not great. i've been trying to think and this has been a very good discussion i think. let's assume sessions hasn't gone ahead and fired mccabe, despite a report claiming that he lacked candor that he be fired which is pretty weighty. i believe trump would have fired session and said look at this, the career people of the fbi and doj says mccabe should be fired
i was right all along. sessions has been captured by the building and the deep state. i'm going to make pruitt or something like that the tornado -- the attorney general and that he would have gone ahead and fired mueller. it is at least possible to me that sessions felt he was doing what he had to do to prevent himself from being fired and mueller from being fired that he felt with the career officials recommending the firing. it may be unfair and unjust to mccabe, this will be litigated argued out in the court of public opinion in a couple of weeks. i don't think it's impossible sessions thought he was -- protecting not just himself but mueller at this point. in the reporting, it was yesterday --
it came out that kelly called pruitt and told him to stop campaigning for session's job. it is hard to believe he did this today without talking to kelly. i wonder if kelly and sessions and again i'm not defending either of them are trying to work together to prevent trump from firing mueller. it looks ridiculous. unless sessions really felt this was a moment of crises, and even if he felt it, i don't know what he felt about mccabe, that he had to do this to protect and to protect mueller. i'm being generous here, i'm worried in a sense that makes it clear, if i'm wrong trump is politicizing justice and sessions is carrying out trump's
orders, then he is -- is carrying out trump's orders. if i'm right, sessions and kelly are worried that trump does want to fire mueller and doing their best to prevent that and slow that down. >> jeremy bass and joyce, in that order. your thoughts on -- knowing my friend bill he's not a paid spokesman of sessions, lord knows, but that cooler heads might have thought this was a reverse bank shots of taking a bullet for better thing to happen in the country? >> no, that's totally unethical, it's unethical to fire someone that served for distinction because they wanted to protect themselves or insolate the president from doing something that would be deemed politically damaging. that is improper. >> all right, joyce? >> you know i agree here with jeremy very strongly. the attorney general is not supposed to decide that the
situation here is so unusual, so out of bounds that he has to break the rules to head off danger. that's really a perilous road to go down. i think bill's comments is interesting one and may be calculated that sessions engaged in, if he did i think it is the wrong one. you follow the rules, support the institution. you fire someone if it's appropriate, you don't fire someone if it's not appropriate. and here with the president calling for a politically motivated firing and then he would have been let the clock run out and let mccabe retire on sunday afternoon. >> fascinating. geoff bennett, we note the president's public schedule is out for the weekend. he is in washington, he's not in florida. there's nothing on his publicly posted schedule. you've been at this a long time in your life of course, reporting for npr before nbc
news. what does that mean to you? >> what it means is we can expect the president to be up early tomorrow morning on twitter, giving us realtime peak to what's on his mind, probably a reflection of what he's seeing on cable news tomorrow morning. that's what happens when the president spend time over the weekend not in mar-a-largo holed up at the white house. i will tell you based on my conversations with diehard trump supporters that the developments tonight will only embolden them as they take aim at their next target who happens to be the deputy attorney general rod rosenstein who was overseeing the entire counsel russia investigation. remember that gop memo that was released by republicans on the house intelligence committee detailed the purported abuses in the warrant process which could give the president a pretext if he so choses to fire rosenstein. that is something i'm looking for in the morning.
>> and bill crystal back to you for a moment. if talent's story was reporting say the dismissal of rosenstein, the dismissal of mueller, question we all get asked a lot that you may have some wisdom on. do you trust that there is a common core in both houses of congress of common sense republicans and democrats who would do something, switch mueller the next day to a special prosecutor statute, continue to work without dropping a stitch? would they save the day in terms of the investigation that a lot of people have said will speak to the future of our democracy. >> i hope so but i can't be confident based on the performance so far. i agree with jeremy and joyce that sessions may have been wrong if he calculated as i think he might have, i'm not saying he did. might have. but i'm just saying that that might actually have been what he was thinking. but that's what i -- my scenario
is not a happy one, that means sessions and kelly is sitting there thinking that trump is looking for an excuse to fire rosenstein, presumably sessions, rosenstein and mueller. i think this is a moment for republicans on the hill to say, if they want to say it seems like -- they won't opine on deliberations and from the inspector general and this is a good time to say we need to let this investigation go forward and what mccabe has been fired for is a lack of candor about something irrelevant to this investigation. it is about matters having to do the investigation of hillary clinton from october of 2016. so, i think this is a moment for republicans on the hill and for others to press republicans on the hill to say the mueller investigation needs to be allowed to go forward. what just happened happened, it was an internet justice department matter. it may be unfair, unseemly or wrong. in any case --
this is the moment people need to step up and say mueller has to be protected. >> for folks who have not gone near their devices for the last 40 minutes it may be hot to the touch when you get to it because as you can imagine social media is also blowing up. i'm going to ask all my guests to stay in place while we widen this conversation and bring in another member and that is cathry lucy. white house reporter for the associated press. one of the things i wrote to say on this broadcast tonight, earlier tonight in a far simpler time was that the west wing has escaped a friday evening perhaps had escaped the week without another departure. there have been several and shaken up for a lot of what passes for the veterans that have been there since day one. what can you say about the stress, chaos, lack of cohesion and the staff, kind of this goolish game going on wondering who's going to be next.
>> the staff is anxious. the white house tried to push back on stories today that more departures were coming. there was a lot of speculation that there was be firings or exits in some fashions today. we didn't see that in the west wing during the day. but, what i hear from people inside is that you know, people are looking over their shoulders. it's nearly shakespearean. people wonder who's going to be out of there next. i know the younger staffers, the junior staffers were rattled this work by the president's personal assistant being removed from his job. so people at different levels seem to be joking instead of a macabre way about whose going next. >> i've known that job and it is
gender specific because they have been men but referred to as the body man. they get to know everyone on the staff. a few people get to know the president better or spend more intimate time. it is been gender specific because to put it in maybe english, they sometimes have to follow the boss into the restroom, especially in a holding area on the road to keep talking or showing documents or get something signed or hand them a phone. to see that person, who is the day-to-day go between the members and the staff, that must shake a lot of people to the core. >> people are rattled, and you're absolutely right. that's a person who is with the president a lot, can read the president's mood. offer access to a conduit. can let people know if this is a good or bad time to come in. to see that person well liked by the staff to be let go have
let a lot of people feeling shaky. >> katherine thanks for making time to join the conversation. here is what is going to happen. it's 31 minutes after the hour. we're going to fit in our fist break of this broadcast. when we come back we've been calling it our other lead story as attorneys for the president of the united states are trying to change a court jurisdiction and get $20 million out of a porn star. we'll continue right after this. ♪ ♪ ♪ (vo) you can pass down a subaru forester. but you get to keep the memories. love. it's what makes a subaru, a subaru. (avo) get 0% apr financing on all new
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we are back. let's reset our conversation and on to what is our second lead story this evening. also a legal matter, also surrounding this president and the people around him, members of president trump's legal team have now publicly engaged in a big way in what is at heart a toddry case. they have chosen to fight hard to keep the porn star, stormy daniels silent over the intimate relationship she has alleged to have had with donald trump before he was president. the white house has denied that. trump's lawyer michael cohen has accused daniels of violating a nondisclosure agreement 20 separate times. he's seeking $20 million in
damages from stormy daniels as a result. tonight stormy daniels' attorney michael avenatti wrote on twitter quote, the fact that a sitting attorney is pursuing $20 million in a bogus damages against a private citizen who is trying to tell everyone what happened is remarkable. likely unprecedented in our history. we are not going away and we will not be intimidated. how can president trump seek $20 million in damage against my client based on an agreement that he and his attorney claim mr. trump was never a party to and knew nothing about. as we've reported that daniels is suing over the alleged relationship with the relationship and that settlement is valid because donald trump never signed the agreement. she claimed it is invalid. forgive me. thank you for the correction to
our control room because donald trump's signature never appeared. the white house has repeatedly denied that trump has a relationship with stormy daniels. this is after extremely busy 48 hours in this saga. this week we learned her 60 minutes interview is slated to air on sunday, march 25th. just this morning, her attorney made some explosive new charges that she was threatened with physical harm to keep silent about her alleged relationship with donald trump. >> was she threatened in any way? >> yes. >> was she threatened physical harm? >> yes. >> was he life threatened? >> i'm not going to answer that. people have to tune into 60 minutes on march 25th. >> can you tell whether it came from the president? the physical threats. >> i will not answer that. >> will you deny that the threats came from the president?
>> i will not confirm or deny. >> the brief came from the white house meeting as you might imagine with phil rucker leading things off with this question. >> attorney for the porn star stormy daniels said this morning on a television interview that she was physically threatened to stay silent about her affair with president trump. i'm wondering if you talked with the president about that. if he knows who might have threatened her and more generally is he concerned about women being threatened in that way. >> obviously we take the safety and security of any person seriously. certainly would condemn anyone threatening any individual but i have no knowledge of that situation and would refer you to the president's outside personal attorneys. >> all right. so our panelist remain with us. jeff bennet. jeff zavala, joyce vance, and jm bash. my belated thanks to bill crystal for joining us and having an opinion there.
danny, home fie-- home field ha its advantage. i've used the expression change of venue in a different context at the top of the broadcast. in a way this is a form of that i guess. what just happened today, why are they trying to move the court jurisdiction where this is going to be heard? >> this is a classic defense maneuver. i've removed cases, any attorney who has had court on the defense side have likely to move cases. what it is, it is a federal law it allows defendants from different state and have enough -- if you have enough money involved and the people are from different states, a defendant with drag a case out of state court and up to federal court. it's automatic. this is not a motion, this is not a request.
once a defendant files this notice of removal the case is now in federal court and its incumbent upon the plaintiff to get it back down to state court, which is not an easy thing to do. why do defendants do this? strategy, home field advantage, take the plaintiff out of their choice of courthouse and bring them up to federal court. maybe they don't spend a lot of time there, or there may be some chief advantage to federal procedure that makes the case better for the defendants in federal court. but sometimes, brian, it's as simple as the defendant sticking it to the plaintiff's attorney and throwing them off their game. >> joyce vance, we were led to believe that michael hoe wen from his -- cohen from hi home loan line of credit paid stormy daniels that money. there is a fictional name that is said to represent the president in court documents. does this now out donald trump as being a participant in this case, there's no coming back from this?
>> there are now court papers where donald trump has entered the fray here and has also been identified by the alias name that's used in the nondisclosure agreement for him. so, it seems that for better or worse he's bought this litigation and bought the stormy daniels none disclosure agreement. >> joyce, i heard some legal experts tonight saying this is probably a crafty move on the part of my cohen at all, because this may force this into arbitration and keep it from ever coming out into open court. >> that's their real strategy here. the way miss daniels' lawyer filed this case in state court was claiming that the nondisclosure agreement wasn't valid. he's asking the state court in essence to declare it's invalid and they're not bound by the
arbitration proceedings. the president on the other side and of course his lawyer like for this to occur outside of the public eye. the way that they get there is by successfully proving that the nondisclosure agreement is valid. its mandatory arbitration is valid. so, to the extent that miss daniels want to oppose the none disclosure agreement in any way, her only form is this private arbitration that occurs not like our courts do in the public view, but rather sort of beneem this opaque veil where people won't know what goes on in the arbitration proceeding. >> jeremy bass, what do you make of this tonight? >> i think we're seeing the negative inducement, the threat of the major lawsuit against the adult star actress. i think what we're not seeing is possibly an attempt to pay her off and settle the case. to try to give her millions of dollars and hope that she
actually ask "60 minutes" to take down this interview and withdraw these allegations against the president. no one would be surprised if we wake up tomorrow morning and she's gone away and paid off and told to keep her mouth shut. >> danny, i have heard that this could mean that the trump team is aware that she brought some things with her to the 60 minutes interview. already wrapping and editing the tape to see what they have -- that people have become aware of how much evidence there is in this case. >> they have implied that there's some concrete evidence. just reading the tenure of daniels' attorney on air on t.v., he seems confident that he has the facts on his side and pounding the facts. and he's pounding the facts. the problem is for them is that the law may be on the trump side.
there's pretty substantial law favoring in both federal and state courts, arbitration clauses. federal and state courts will send those cases right back down to arbitration. but in a case like this, trump's loss may not be in court, it may be when the information reaches the light of day. you cannot unring that bell. >> jeff, we were saying a few days ago when the white house spokesperson talked about arbitration that brought the story into the white house. nothing brings the story into the white house quite like this story tonight. so are they just going to have to continue to try to deflect on this? >> it appears that will be the case, brian but here's the thing. throughout his scandal the president has used the media masterfully. he has a megaphone bigger than most to use as a cud jill
he's use it to beat his opponents into silence. but, here you have stormy daniels, who dare i say as a consequence of her profession, cannot be shamed into silence, and instead of staying away it's clear she and her attorney are relishing it. as the white house continues to say over again, that harass no relationship between stephany clifford, that's her real name, and president trump and that trump wasn't aware of this payment, they're deal being a story that's salacious and there could be campaign finance at play here if this payment is deemed to be from the trump campaign. federal law allows a person to directly contribute $2,700 to a campaign and this payment was never reported to the federal election commission.
>> jeremy, that kinds of duck tails of what i want to know from you. what is mueller east interest between the president and the $20 million and the porn star. >> i don't think there's a direct connection. i think mueller's going to stay focused on the russian election in the campaign. it is possible if there is a federal investigation that this could could then come up in his investigation into michael cohen, the trump organization's counsel, someone who has kind of been the back man for donald trump. someone whose paid funds and moved money around for the president and moved negotiations around for the president. and generally knows more about -- than anybody else about trump's financial and person issues. >> our great thanks to the panel for helping us navigate through both of topics that have served as our lead story tonight. another break for us. when we come back we are going to look at the explosive
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we're back again and this next, part is important as well. a wild week of russia headlines is prompting an uncharacteristic response from someone you will no doubt recognize from our on-air family of contributors. today retired four star u.s. army general barry mccaffrey, a decorated combat veteran in vietnam wrote this in twitter, quote, reluctantly i have concluded that president trump is a serious threat to u.s. national security. he is refusing to protect vital u.s. interests from active russian attacks.
it is apparent for some unknown reason he is under the sway of mr. putin. four combat tours, a bronze star, three purple hearts, multiple combat wounds, two silver stars, two distinguished service crosses, graduates of phillips academy and west point. he's the former commander in chief of southern command. he's the former u.s. drug czar. just this week great britain expelled 23 russian diplomats over that nerve agent attack on british soil prompting the u.k.'s closest allies to formally condemn the kremlin. the white house announced it would finally impose sanctions on russian and admitted that russia cyber attacks threatened u.s. nuclear power plants.
and robert mueller has subpoenaed documents from the trump organization. the president has said little about any of these developments as he heads into the weekend, as we mentioned, with no public events scheduled. with us our white house correspondent from bloomberg, jeremy bash has agreed to stick and and presidential historian and author john meacham. teluo, let's start with you. it was said on this broadcast and elsewhere the u.s. was nudged in kind of appropriate behavior, behaving as we used to long ago, two years ago where it concerned russia. >> if you look at all of the various things that both president putin and the government of russia have done, attacking the u.s., meddling in our elections and in our infrastructure and our power grid and attacking one of our closest allies allegedly with
the nerve agent attack in britain and we have not heard very much from the president in terms of a response. we finally did see some sanctions this week but even those were seen as a sort of very minor response given all of the various things that russia has done and both sides of the aisle, both republicans and democrats, are calling for the president and for the administration to do more to really step up to russia. this is a president who is willing to talk tough against our enemies and talk tough against some of our allies, but when it comes to putin, there seems to be this blind spot where he does not want to say anything negative about the president of russia or about the government of russia saying he wants to get along with them, saying that he thinks he can make deals with russia. it's clear whatever tactics he's using to get russia to act in the best interests of the united states have not worked so far and it's starting to wear the patience thin on both
republicans and democrats on capitol hill. >> thank you, toluse. jeremy, given your time in the structure, if you don't know barry mccaffrey personally, talk about him reputationally and what would have led a man with as many decorations on his chest, as many administrations he's worked for, what would have said what he did. >> one has to admire his dedication to country, his patriotism and his spot-on analysis of what's threatening american national security and his deep concern the russian federation has unexplained leverage off the president of the united states and that is compromising the president's ability to defend our country against russian attacks and to stand side by side with a critical ally when russia attacks that ally. we have to heed his warning tonight.
>> john meacham, in earlier times, like 9:00 p.m. eastern, we had the back end of the broadcast to have a thoughtful conversation about what we've just witnessed. we'll have to put that off until 2019. but for now, what have we just witnessed today in this administration and how it differs from any known norms? >> well, it does differ from any known norm. on general mccaffrey's point, i'm reminded something associated with jim baker said if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck and swims like it duck, it just might be a duck. at some point, common sense kicks in with the president and his relationship with putin. the one thing that i think links the stories, russia, director mccabe, the stormy daniels business is what the greeks taught as you long time ago. character is destiny.
and as michelle obama said really brilliantly in 2016, the presidency doesn't change who you are, it reveals who you are. and the one thing that links all of these stories is that we have a president who is entirely running things on what is best for him and what he thinks will get him through a particular moment. he has raised brazenness to a governing philosophy. and that's the world we're living in. >> am i right to say that if not a friday night massacre, what we've seen with mr. mccabe is most certainly at minimum a friday night takedown? >> absolutely. it will raise huge concerns about rule of law. that's why presidents doesn't get into these things, they're not supposed to get into these things. the justice department is like all institutions, it's a human institution, it's got its failings, but it really began its modern life as an arm of the federal government to fight the
ku klux klan during reconstruction. it's on institution that was created to enforce law and stay as removed from politics as possible. what the president's done, again because to him this is all paint ball, it's all media paint ball, he's just decided this is a useful target for him today. i must say it will stun me and whenever we make predictions at this point, we have to remember donald trump is president and what the hell do we know, but it will surprise me if that some evening we see some strike against robert mueller. >> in 30 seconds of brilliance, steve schmidt's favorite word is rigor. he keep saying that the lack of rigor in public life right now from this administration right now in appalling to him. >> well, it's mad max.
it's not real, except it is. another way of putting it is washington seemed to be acting like a reality show, it didn't seem to be taking the concerns of the people as seriously as it should and so the right number of voters in the right number of states and electoral college system sent a reality tv star there. but be careful what you wish for. anyone who was paying attention during 2016 should not be surprised about what's happening right now. that doesn't mean it's acceptable. it means we have to stay as united as possible and try to insist on those norms against all odds. >> we're in your debt, my panel. gentlemen, thank you so much. this was an on-the-fly hour of television as we're reacting to these dual breaking news stories and then some. and that is our broadcast on a friday night. and to conclude this week, as always, thank you so very much for being here with us. have a good weekend and good night from nbc news headquarters here in new york.
>> hi, everyone, it's 4:00 in new york. are the wheels and the guardrails coming off or is donald trump shaking his staff to dominate the headlines and show everyone who is in control? the answer depends on who you ask, when you ask them and whether they believe they are being recorded or quoted. there are fresh rumblings from inside the national security establishment that the manner in which rex tillerson was summarilily dismissed on twitter was particularly upsetting to his allies in donald trump's orbit, namely the generals that donald trump likes to call my generals. that would be chief of staff john kelly, national security advisor h.r. mcmaster and secretary of defense james mattis. the three men are said to harbor growing concerns about the