The State of the 2020 democratic race. TRANSCRIPT: 9/6/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests:
Anita Kumar, Franco Ordonez, Rick Wilson, Tom Bevan, Rick Wilson, Matt Apuzzo
Transcript:

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, a stormy week comes to an end with

Donald Trump wrestling with the national media and the National Weather

Service.

 

The good news, Alabama was spared by the hurricane.  The problem for Trump

may be more about economic numbers and polling numbers.

 

Plus, this is why our military and their dependent families apparently

can`t have nice things.  The wall Mexico refuses to pay for, instead will

come out of the Pentagon budget.

 

And in case you`ve missed them, if there`s been something missing from your

life these past six weeks, Congress returns on Monday as we look back at

this summer of our discontent as the “The 11th Hour” gets under way on a

Friday night.

 

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New

York.  Day 960 of the Trump administration.  That means we are 40 days from

the 1,000-day mark, which is equal parts mythical and meaningless, and

around here it means, by the way, this broadcast first came on the air

three years ago tonight.  But I digress.

 

This nation and our Bahamian neighbors spent this week tracking and dealing

with and running from Hurricane Dorian.  It also consumed our President`s

week, though, not in the usual way.  He has spent days trying to prove he

was right in warning that Alabama was in the path for impact from the

hurricane.  And it`s very important to him.  He`s returned to it about a

dozen times on social media.

 

Then there was this, of course, in the Oval Office, the map, the work of

government storm forecasting professionals with an added hand-drawn loop to

extend the cone of uncertainty to include, you guessed it, Alabama. 

“Washington Post” reports that according to a White House official it was

Trump who used a Sharpie to mark up the map, though NBC News has not

matched that particular bit of reporting.  Trump was asked about the

alteration earlier this week.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And that map you showed us today, it looked like it

almost had a Sharpie –

 

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I don`t know.  I don`t

know.  I don`t know.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  Tonight, it appears the White House has found someone within the

Commerce Department willing to give the President air cover though not by

name.

 

Tonight, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which

includes the National Weather Service, has release an unsigned statement

saying that the information provided to the President through Monday

demonstrated that at least, “tropical-storm-force winds from Hurricane

Dorian could impact Alabama.”  By the way, they had the same chance of

hitting the White House as they did Alabama.

 

While Trump remains fixated on this issue, several reports this week

indicate he`s about to enter a more intense period of campaigning.  He has

a rally set for Monday in North Carolina, another set for September 16th in

New Mexico.

 

Latest Gallup polling shows his approval rating at 39 percent while 57

percent disapprove.  This week a poll of voters in the battleground State

of Wisconsin show Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders running ahead of Trump while

he was tied with Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris.

 

Trump has also been under increasing pressure to lead the way on new gun

control legislation after a series of mass shootings in Ohio and Texas

claimed 38 lives.

 

On Monday Mitch McConnell said in a radio interview he`d bring new gun laws

to the Senate floor if Trump showed his support.  This week Trump seemed

all over the place on his commitment.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Been having a lot of phone discussions and some meetings with

different people in the Senate and in House of Representatives.  And we`ll

be making some pretty good determinations pretty soon.

 

I support safety for our citizens.  I support keeping guns out of the hands

of sick people, mentally ill people.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If it took closing some of the loopholes in background

checks and maybe even extending the waiting period, would you support that?

 

TRUMP:  We`re going to take a look.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you think– will you get backlash from the NRA,

sir?

 

TRUMP:  Maybe.  The NRA wants to do what`s right, too.  I really believe

that.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  Meanwhile, Trump made a controversial end run around Congress to

get the Pentagon to pay for the border wall.  The wall was a signature

campaign promise.  This week he tried to justify the move.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  I think Secretary of Defense spoke with members of Congress and

explained it to them.  And I think he felt very good about it.

 

We have thousands of people who tried to rush our country, I think that`s

national security.  When you have drugs pouring into our country, I view

that as national security.  And he had very good conversations with various

members of Congress.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  Today, one member Democratic member of Congress from a border

state made it clear how she felt about it.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

REP. VERONICA ESCOBAR (D-TX):  We have a President who is absolutely

obsessed on feeding red meat to his supporters.

 

We all know that a wall, which is incredibly fiscally irresponsible, does

not stop asylum seekers.  It does not make our country any safer.  In fact,

the words of this President are what makes our country unsafe.  The

rhetoric, the policies, and diverting money away from national defense.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  Amid all of this as we said, get ready, Congress comes back next

week and gearing up to resume investigating the President, including a

crush of new inquiries, more than 60.  Here they all are, ranging from

abuses of power and impeachment to a new look into whether Trump used his

position as president for private profit.  This comes after revelations

that Vice President Pence took a 180-mile detour to stay at Trump`s hotel

in Doonbeg, Ireland.  House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler, Oversight Chair

Elijah Cummings, Democrats from New York and Maryland, respectively, are

demanding documents from the White House, Mike Pence, Secret Service, the

Trump Organization, all by September 19th.

 

This week, Trump was asked about Pence`s stay at his themed resort.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can you speak to your involvement in the Vice

President`s plans to stay at a Trump property in Ireland?

 

TRUMP:  Well, I had no involvement other than it`s a great place.  It`s

Doonbeg, I own it.  It`s in Ireland.  It`s beautiful.  It`s wonderful.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You didn`t suggest that he –

 

TRUMP:  No, I don`t suggest anything.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  And that brings us to our lead-off discussion on a Friday night

after the week we`ve had, Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent, Associate

Editor for POLITICO, Franco Ordonez, White House Correspondent for NPR, and

Rick Wilson, veteran Florida man, veteran Republican strategist whose views

about our President are best expressed by the tittle of his book

“Everything Trump Touches Dies.”  Good evening and welcome to the

broadcast.  Welcome all of you back to the broadcast.

 

Anita, I`d like to begin with you.  As the man on T.V. says, but wait,

there`s more.  And it comes from of all places, POLITOC tonight.  And here

is the story.

 

“In early spring of this year, an Air National Guard crew made a routine

trip from the U.S. to Kuwait to deliver supplies.  What wasn`t routine was

where the crew stopped along the way, President Donald Trump`s Turnberry

resort, about 50 miles outside Glasgow, Scotland.  Since April the House

Oversight Committee has been investigating why the crew on the C-17

military transport plane made the unusually stay, both en route to the

Middle East and on their way back to the luxury waterside resort, they have

yet to receive any answers from the Pentagon.  The inquiry is part of a

broader previously unreported probe into U.S. military expenditures at and

around Trump property in Scotland.”

 

I`m going to ask the control room, Anita, while we have our conversation to

rerun that scroll of existing and proposed investigations.  When I ask you

what comes of the toll of all of this, just tonight`s story added on top of

the pile?

 

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, I mean, this is

something we really haven`t talked about.  You`re scrolling through these

other investigations.

 

What we`ve continued to hear about Trump properties for the last two years

is this thing called the emoluments clause, the foreign emoluments clause

that the President should not be taking money from foreign governments. 

What we`ve barely heard about is the think we`re talking about tonight,

which is President of the United States is not supposed to get any other

money, profits from the taxpayers besides his salary.

 

So all these times that Mike Pence and his children and himself stay at

these properties, Secret Service, the military, other agencies are right

there along with him and putting money into Trump hotels.  This is a whole

another line of inquiry that we haven`t really seen much about but these

members of Congress want to start looking.

 

WILLIAMS:  Franco, there`s further reporting tonight that these air crews

were walking around this resort feeling ill at ease because they had the

clothing they had and they were certainly not dressed for the surroundings. 

Will anyone, Franco, in the White House be surprised by just tonight`s

latest story?

 

FRANCO ORDONEZ, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I mean I certainly think

that today`s story regarding the airmen is going to, you know, raise some

eyebrows, even in the White House.  But as Anita is saying, this is not

something that`s new.  It`s not just the airman, it`s not just Mike Pence. 

You know, watchdog groups have been conducting FOIAs since the beginning of

the administration requesting thousands of documents that show receipts and

documents of all these type of incidents.

 

You know, Secretary Ross has been at the Trump hotels more than 20 times. 

Pence has been more than 20 times.  Secretary – you know, several

different Cabinet members as well as family have been there raising

questions, as Anita said, about the domestic emoluments charge – clause. 

And this is something that is really going to continue, I think, to the –

more questions are going to come.

 

WILLIAMS:  Rick Wilson, it`s unabashed.  It`s happening seemingly in plain

sight.  And this is why our friend Chris Matthews at least one night a week

refers to the Trump family appending seemingly in plain sight. This is why

our friend Chris Matthews at least one night a week refers to the Trump

family as the Romanovs.

 

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  They are, Brian.  And I tell you one

thing.  Look, it`s been a minute since I was in the DOD, but I can tell

you, it`s part of regulations in the DOD that air crews are not to stay

overnight at civilian facilities unless it is mission essential.  They`re

supposed to go from military to military facilities, and I`m pretty much

sure that staying at a Trump golf resort is never mission-essential for a

U.S. Air Force or Navy crew heading over to the Middle East to the active

theater of combat in the Middle East.

 

This is some other element of the Trump grift.  It is some element of the

Trump scam.  These are people who have obviously managed to corrupt folks

down the chain and sent the signal that at the minimum to send a signal,

that if you stay at Trump resorts maybe he`ll like you more.  And I think

it`s an extraordinary moment where, you know, we`re seeing it in real time

that they`re forcing these airmen to land their C-17s off military

airfields somewhere close to a Trump resort in order to stay there.  It is

an unbelievable level of corruption.

 

WILLIAMS:  And Rick, you do remind me we have a network of air bases with

names like Aviano, the air basis.

 

WILSON:  We do, indeed.

 

WILLIAMS:  We have maintained along with Brits, and the French, and the

Germans for exactly this type of thing.

 

WILSON:  Indeed.  And I think – I don`t know the exact number right now. 

I think it`s five in Britain that would handle the C-17 right off the top

of my head.  So, somehow I`m thinking that landing at a Trump golf resort

is not like landing at Hertfordshire for instance, or Bentwater, or

wherever we got still bases operating in the U.K.  It`s very much a symbol

of a corrupt and corrupting administration.

 

WILLIAMS:  I`ll see you`re hurt for (INAUDIBLE) add you in Mildenhall,

which I think is still up and running.

 

WILSON:  You will indeed.

 

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Franco, this also brings us to the story of the wall, which

also involves the U.S. military, i.e., not getting construction projects

they were counting on.  Now, some Republicans have whispered this week what

political malpractice this is.  Some of these programs are in red states

with 2020-eligible senators.

 

We have named a few here on the screen.  This is pork barrel politics 101. 

Military construction programs in your district, in your state, that`s what

makes politics go round.  And what are you hearing about the wisdom behind

this?

 

ORDONEZ:  No, absolutely.  I mean, you`re talking jobs, you`re talking

positions.  This is very important not only to – for all parties,

Democrat, Republicans.

 

What I`m hearing from my sources, if you`re in the administration, this is

something that Trump – President Trump has talked about doing for a while,

taking money from other parts of the government to do this.  But, look,

this is – and Democrats, as you know, are calling this, you know, this is

hurting U.S. forces.

 

This President has shown that this is an issue that is important to him,

it`s a priority and he`s willing to take from other aspects of the

government.  The criticism of that is that it`s raised vulnerabilities that

are not there – that were not there before.  DHS, he`s movingly money from

FEMA and other organizations, raising vulnerabilities.  And now he`s taking

from the military.  So there are going to be a lot of questions about

whether he is putting the United States in other danger by taking these

moves and focusing so much of the priority on the border and immigration

enforcement.

 

WILSON:  Yes.

 

WILLIAMS:  Anita, we have spilled gallons of ink, if we still use such a

thing, on how pliant and complacent beyond boot-licking, boot-laundering

Trump`s Republican Party members have become around him, yet I`ve heard it

theorized this week.  If you want to see a split among Republicans between

senators and this White House, this will do it because will them have

already bragged on the fact that they`ve brought these dollars back home

for military construction.

 

WILSON:  Right.

 

KUMAR:  Well, I don`t know.  There maybe a lot of times in the last couple

years where I said, “Oh, well, this is it.”  This is the time that we`re

going to hear Republicans speak up, and we don`t usually.  So I`m not going

to out on a limb on that.

 

WILLIAMS:  OK.

 

KUMAR:  But, yes, there are definitely Republicans that are not happy for

the reason that Franco just mentioned.  This is jobs and important

facilities back home in their districts, important things that members of

Congress have promised.

 

So, what you are going to see is a couple things, though, behind the

scenes.  You`re going to see, I think, lawmakers, Republicans talking to

the White House, talking to the President, complaining to him whether they

do that publicly, I don`t know.  But it`s also going to make it very

difficult for the President to go to Congress and ask for things.  And

that`s where we are next week when they return, right?  He has been pushing

them to pass the trade agreement with Mexico and Canada.  He will be

unveiling some gun – firearms legislation, whether that`s something that`s

strong or not, we don`t know yet, but he`s going to be asking them about

that.

 

He has other things that he`s going to be asking for down the road before

the end of the year.  And so this is going to make it very tough for them

to say to him, “Hey, we want to work with you,” when he did this.

 

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Rick, what do you make of the current state of the polling? 

I don`t know much, but 39 approve, 57 disprove doesn`t seem great?

 

WILSON:  Well, you know, look, basically the Republican Party dragged the

guy out from behind a waffle house.  He was pissing on the back wall.  They

would find a more popular candidate than Donald Trump in terms of the

overall national electorate.

 

But, you know, look, this is where Trump lives.  He lives in a boundary, a

low boundary in the high 30s, a high boundary in the mid-40s.  He`s going

to be always there depends on how crazy he is that day and how much damage

he`s done to the economy in any individual day.

 

But all those things, you know, that is a zone where Trump is actually

comfortable.  He`s okay thinking he can win with just the base of the GOP,

even though the things he`s doing are causing the party to have enormous

damage, even in red states that he should be doing well in.

 

Look, I mean, South Carolina, pulling military contractor money out of

South Carolina is just dumb, North Carolina, just dumb.  These Senate

seats, they`re going to be up in 2020.  He`s doing damage to these guys. 

And the fact they cannot speak out against him, that they must be silent,

is an enormous political risk for them coming up in the election.

 

WILLIAMS:  With that, to Anita Kumar, to Franco Ordonez, to Rick Wilson,

our thanks for starting off our conversation so well tonight.

 

And coming up for us, Democrats running for president to send on the

granite state this weekend to win over voters and endorsements.  We`ll have

the latest reporting from one of our reporters on the ground.

 

And later, the campaign promise that every American committed to memory we

have no choice.  Problem is, the President couldn`t keep it.  “The 11th

Hour” is just getting started on this end of week, Friday night.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  This campaign just can`t be about

beating Donald Trump.  It has to be a movement, grounded in American values

and ideals that define this nation best.

 

KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I see a great deal of

enthusiasm on the ground, and it is going to be a function of working hard

and earning the vote of everyone.  And that`s what I intend to do.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  So 19 Democratic presidential candidates will converge, all of

them at New Hampshire State Democratic Convention this weekend.  It`s a

chance for the contenders to pitch their cases to the first in the nation

primary voters.

 

The Real Clear Politics average of polls gives us a snapshot of where the

race stands.  Joe Biden slightly ahead with 21 percent in New Hampshire,

Senators Bernie Sanders 19 percent at second, Elizabeth Warren rounding out

the top three with 15 percent.

 

As we will remind you often, in New Hampshire, Sanders and Warren are local

candidates from neighboring states, so there`s a lot of voter familiarity

with them because they receive free media.

 

Back with us tonight, NBC News Correspondent, Mike Memoli who`s covering

the 2020 campaign for us and Tom Bevan, Co-founder and President of Real

Clear Politics.  Gentlemen, welcome.

 

And Mike, I want to take you back to the beginning of summer when you first

went out on the road.  The last time your suitcase had that new suitcase

smell.  How has the Democratic field changed as you`ve watched them?

 

MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, Brian, it`s a little bit

smaller now.  We talk about 19 candidates going to be on stage here in

Manchester for the convention tomorrow.  You know, that`s down 20 percent

from the bigger field that we started with just months ago.

 

But I think what`s interesting is as big as the field still is, by

historical comparisons, it does feel increasingly like a three person race. 

We have Joe Biden occupying that center, moderate lane, very much playing

up that electability argument.  And you have Elizabeth Warren and Bernie

Sanders clearly fighting for that progressive energy, trying to make the

case that this is more about the heart than the head in this Democratic

campaign, not just about who can beat Donald Trump.

 

And for these other candidates, it`s about really finally establishing a

rationale to stay in this thing, frankly.  And so tomorrow, it`s an

opportunity for some of these other candidates in front of a room full –

an arena full, frankly, of activist from across the state to make the case

for why in a state that has favored in the past, underdog candidates, that

has given a shot for those candidates who can maybe don`t have the biggest

resources compared to the front-runners, but still can surprise and win

over voters one at a time, that they still have a reason to be in this

race.  And that`s going to be, frankly, a daunting task.  But we`ll see how

they fare tomorrow.

 

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Tom, give the folks watching tonight a viewer`s guide to

polling out of New Hampshire.  What should be believed, what shouldn`t?  Is

any of it, as this point, worth a bucket of warm maple syrup?

 

TOM BEVAN, REAL POLITICS CO-FOUNDER & PRESIDENT:  Well, that`s a tough

question.  I mean, look, the last poll out of New Hampshire, actually, had

Bernie Sanders leading by six percentage points, and that`s different from

the other polls that we`ve seen, all those have had Joe Biden leading.  So

it may be an outlier, we don`t know.  We need to get more polling from New

Hampshire.

 

But it certainly looks like it`s competitive.  It`s the most competitive

early state of all of them right now.  And the fact that Joe Biden`s

campaign was sort of downplaying New Hampshire and talking up the fact that

this other new Englanders in the race, I think, speaks to the fact that

it`s competitive up there right now.

 

And I would also point out to remember, independents can play.  They are

about 35 percent to 40 percent of the electorate.  And they can play and

either pull Republican ballot or Democratic ballot.  And all the action is

on the Democratic side this time around.  So you can look for the

candidates to also – they`re going to be speaking to activists, but

they`ve also got to have some language in there and give a nod to some of

the independents.

 

WILLIAMS:  And Mike, let`s go a bit deeper on something people might have

heard this week, the Biden camp downplaying Iowa and New Hampshire.

 

MEMOLI:  Well, it`s interesting, Brian.  I think – you`ve actually heard

the vice president himself say of Iowa, that it is a must-win, frankly,

that he does have to perform well there.  I think this idea that he`s the

most electable Democrat in the race takes a real hit if he doesn`t perform

well in Iowa.  But New Hampshire absolutely, they have been downplaying

expectations partially for the reason that you articulated which is that

neighboring candidates tend to do well here.  We saw John Kerry in 2004,

Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton was somebody with a very well-known

identity.  The Clinton`s have a special affinity for New Hampshire and yet

Bernie Sander beat her handily here.

 

And so, they do want to make it, you know, seem as if they come in here

with the advantage Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warrens, of course he has

that firewall in South Carolina so we can endure (ph) that.  But I say Tom

makes a great point not just because he was my old boss at Real Clear

Politics, because he`s right on the nose, that Joe Biden has been making a

case for the moderate vote, for the independent voter.  And I think that`s

sort of a sleeper here in New Hampshire that they think they can win over

not just because he`s making angle argument about Donald Trump but, in

fact, he`s making a more pragmatic case to voters.

 

WILLIAMS:  And OK, Tom, when people hear the story out today that the

Republicans have canceled primaries in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona, and

Kansas, what should they make of that?  How common is that?

 

BEVAN:  Well, there is precedent for this.  It`s happened – both parties

have done it and it`s not unusual for – when presidents of that party are

running for re-election for some states to cancel their primaries.  I mean,

we did see – and yes, there`s talk that the Trump folks have been working

behind the scenes to do this, to try and shut down any challenges to Donald

Trump.  I don`t think Donald Trump`s in danger of losing the nomination to

anyone who`s running against him.  But it does give a chance for his

critics to step up and say, “Look, this is unfair, they`re trying to shut

us down.”  And certainly his challengers, Joe Walsh and Bill Weld getting a

little bit of extra oxygen to make their case against Trump.

 

WILLIAMS:  To Mike Memoli, to Tom Bevan, gentlemen, we`ll have you both

back, of course, thank you so much.  Glad to reunite boss and former

employee.  Really appreciate it.

 

BEVAN:  Thanks, Brian.

 

MEMOLI:  Thanks, Brian.

 

WILLIAMS:  Coming up for us, President Trump is posting videos about how

successful this summer was.  We`ll talk about that and what has him and the

Democrats preoccupied when we continue.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m not opposed to the Green New Deal.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I love the vision of the Green New Deal.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I`m a co-sponsor of the Green New Deal.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I am in favor of the carbon-free America.

 

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA):  There are a lot of ways that we try to

change our energy consumption and our pollution.  Some of it is with light

bulbs, some of it is on straws, some of it, dang, is on cheeseburgers,

right?

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Would you support changing the dietary guidelines?

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You know, the food pyramid?

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  Yes.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  To reduce read meat specifically?

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes, I would.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  So that was just a sampling of the Democratic presidential

candidates, what they had to say on CNN earlier this week about climate

change during Wednesday`s seven-hour town hall, a similar two-night event

is coming to this network.

 

As we mentioned here last night, the Trump campaign was listening and they

sent out an email called 10 Eye-Popping Moments from Democrats` Green New

Deal Town Hall.  We thought that this topic especially necessitated the

return of Rick Wilson.  So we`ve asked to speak privately with him for just

this segment.  Rick, before you do, I want to show you the Fox News

treatment of the said subject from just tonight.

 

RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST:  Sure.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST:  Starting to figure this out.  Straws for me

but not for thee.  Don`t like it?  Tough.  Stop your whining and eat your

insects or your pets, or your neighbors.  We`re heading out for a

cheeseburger.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  Speaking of cheeseburgers, tonight Laura Ingraham seemed to dine

out on what looked like read meat with two incandescent bulbs and a number

of plastic straws in the middle.  Rick, we`re having a little fun here, but

given the work that has paid for your home over the course of your

professional life, if I asked you to, could you not put together an ad for

the Republicans to come at the Democrats this way?  They`re coming for your

light bulbs, your straws, your cheeseburgers, any other read meat you`ve

got around the house, your guns, certainly, and the keys to your Ford F-

150?

 

WILSON:  Well I drive an F-250 super duty diesel, so yes they became after

that first off the top.  Look, this is a classic example the Democrats

absolutely not getting what this election is about.  It is a referendum on

Donald Trump, full stop.  All of this policy chatter they`re talking about,

all they`re doing is giving the Trump ad makers fodder for extraordinarily

dumb and yet incredibly effective ads they`re going to run to the Trump

base over and over again repeating that message.

 

They`re after your straws, they`re after your hamburgers, they`re not going

to let you grill in your backyard.  They`re taking your gun, they`re taking

your truck, they`re taking your – they`re going to make you eat worm meal

or whatever the hell else that`s coming up.  This is why the Democrats,

they get in this policy debate that they think is relevant and it`s just

not the case.  Policy in presidential campaigns doesn`t matter.  Re-

elections are always an incumbent – a referendum on the incumbent.

 

And so folks who think that they`re going to go out and say my 800-page

energy plan which includes eating worm meal is going to sell voters in

Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida, in the swing states

are out of their damn minds.  So, you know, I know they all want to go out

and be the most virtuous about climate change or the most virtuous about

energy or what have you.  It`s just terrible politics and terrible optics.

 

WILLIAMS:  Rick, because you and I are old enough to remember this past

spring, we want to pause for just a moment to remind the folks watching of

the headlines we witnessed out of this White House just this past summer. 

For example, late June –

 

WILSON:  Yes.

 

WILLIAMS: – “New York Times” first reported the President approved

military strikes against Iran, but then abruptly called them off.  Remember

that one.  The President then met with the North Korean dictator Kim Jong-

un at the DMZ.  July 4th, Trump held behind his rain shield his salute to

America event on the national mall with military flyovers against a cloudy

backdrop.  He went after four Democratic members of Congress known as the

squad telling them to go back to the countries they came from.  And he

called the Baltimore district of Congressman Elijah Cummings disgusting and

rat infested.

 

Trump also added this about American Jews.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Where has the Democratic Party gone?  Where have they gone?  Where

they`re defending these two people over the state of Israel?  And I think

any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total

lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  Then there was the President`s interest in buying Greenland.  He

abruptly canceled a trip to Denmark, annoyed over that country`s prime

minister had to say about the U.S. buying Greenland.  You`ll recall the

President also, quote, hereby ordered companies to leave China, even though

he lacks anything approaching the power to do that and sent the market

down.

 

Axios reported the President suggested multiple times that the government

explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes.  Luckily that was not

needed to spare Alabama this time around.  The President said he would like

to hold next year`s G-7 meeting at his Doral golf resort in Miami then

denied there were bed bugs at same resort.  Just last Friday, the President

posted what appeared to be a now-former classified photo of a failed

Iranian missile launch.

 

Rick, I`m tempted to say go.  How do you look back?  What stands out to you

from this summer of 2019?

 

WILSON:  Brian, the summer of 2019 will be remembered as the point where

everyone in America who wasn`t completely in the bag for this guy looked at

the corpus of all these crazy events, all these insane statements, and they

said to themselves, you know, this guy is crazier than an outhouse rat.  He

is absolutely bonkers.  There is no consistency under this, there`s no

three-dimensional chess, there`s no strategy.  This is just a guy who says

whatever is on his brain at that moment.

 

Whatever he wakes up with when he`s rage tweeting on the toilet at 8:00 in

the morning is what he says.  He doesn`t have any sense of control or

discipline or strategy.  This is all exactly what`s in his brain at that

moment and that`s terrifying to anyone who recognizes that he has control

over 7,000 nuclear weapons in the Armed Forces of the United States of

America.

 

WILLIAMS:  Reminiscent of the title of the essential Bill Withers` song,

who is he and what is he to you.  Thank you for pointing out on twitter –

 

WILSON:  Yes, indeed.

 

WILLIAMS:  – the now-essential remix of said song.  Didn`t know you were a

fan.  Rick Wilson, thank you so much.

 

WILSON:  I am, indeed.

 

WILLIAMS:  – for everything and –

 

WILSON:  Thank you, Brian.

 

WILLIAMS:  – goodbye to everybody on Periscope.

 

Coming up for us, devastating cyberattacks over a decade ago are now

considered a blueprint for the Russian interference that has moved in our

country to stay.  We will talk to “The New York Times” reporter who`s been

gathering the elements of this story when we come back.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

WILLIAMS:  Welcome back.  Because someone has to these days, “The New York

Times” is examining a Russian interference operation over a decade ago that

was very similar looking back to what happened here in 2016.  In a new

episode of the television show the chronicles in “New York Times” called

“The Weekly” on FX and Hulu, that man “Times” reporter Matt Apuzzo looks at

methods Moscow used to disrupt democracy in Estonia back in `07, and the

warning signs that were missed.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MATT APUZZO, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  When I was in Washington and we

were covering the Russia story, we had this massive time line document. 

And one of the first things on the time line was Russia hacks Estonia.  I

was really interested in this Estonia story.  It just has this feel of,

like, a missed warning sign.  And so I`m kind of wrestling with this idea

about whether Estonia was a one-off, whether it was a cyber attack, or

whether it was really the precursor to (INAUDIBLE) in 2016.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, the proverbial canary in the coal mine.

 

APUZZO:  It feels a little bit like now we look up and we say how did we

not see an influence campaign coming?  The CIA has been fighting influence

campaigns with Russia forever, right?

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Well, yes, but from 9/11 at least through 2007, the

major focus off the agency was the terrorist threat, certainly not

necessarily Russia.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  So that`s the setup and it does gets your attention.  And with

us for more, the aforementioned Matt Apuzzo, Pulitzer Prize winning

reporter for “The New York Times” based in Brussels.  And Matt, maybe

because tonight is our third anniversary, I`m going to mention on this

broadcast for the first time the actor James Woods, who, after 9/11, calls

the FBI and says when I think about it, I realize I was on a flight that

was a dry run for 9/11.  FBI came to his house.  He is questioned about it

and he gave them all the details of what he saw happening in the first

class cabin.

 

Now, in the post-9/11 world, we have morphed from being chiefly concerned

about terrorism to now very concern about this.  Can this rightly be called

a dry run for perhaps what we saw in Brexit and perhaps what we saw hit us

in 2016 that has moved in here to stay?

 

APUZZO:  I think, Brian, and happy anniversary, by the way.

 

WILLIAMS:  Thank you.

 

APUZZO:  But I do think it`s safe to call it a dry run, although I guess I

would say it wasn`t really that dry.  I mean, and this is a case – what

happened in Estonia was, the Russians figured out that the best way to

influence politics is to tear at the fabric where the seams are.  In

Estonia, that was a natural division between ethnic Russians and ethnic

Estonians and it work to great effect.  There were riots in the street,

somebody died, and then they layered on top of that a series of weeks of

cyberattacks.

 

And they used this information, this is an era before social media, so they

were using comment sections on news websites to push out propaganda.  It

has all the hallmarks of what we saw here in 2016, but it was like the

early stages.  I think in Estonia, they`d say it wasn`t dry.  We endured a

month of cyberattacks and riots in the street, but it sure is – all of the

aspects that we saw here in 2016.

 

WILLIAMS:  OK.  So how did they look at it for best practices the way a

company might have, and how did they get better at it by 2016?

 

APUZZO:  Well, so I think you have to look at both sides of the Atlantic on

this, right?  Russia obviously learned that natural divisions are the best

way to influence a democracy.  And so in the United States that means

immigration, religion, guns, race.  In Estonia obviously that meant

national identity.

 

And in the United States, what lessons did we learn?  Sort of no lessons

from that.  We were really – as a country, we`re really preoccupied with

the terrorism fight, the expanding war against al-Qaeda, the aftermath of

torture, warrantless-wiretapping, what are we going to do in Guantanamo. 

And Estonia was seeing it at all just as an issue of hacking.

 

How do we harden our infrastructure, how do we protect our computer

systems?  Nobody really thought of Estonia as an influence operation and so

nobody went back and looked at the lessons learned and used them to prepare

for 2016.

 

WILLIAMS:  And a reminder to our viewers that the Russian goal was to break

up the Atlantic alliance and turn friends into enemies.  With that, Matt

Apuzzo, we`ll be watching this week`s edition of “The Weekly” on Sunday

night.

 

We thank anybody around here willing to get up at 5:00 a.m. on a Saturday

morning, especially in a place as beautiful as Brussels.  So thank you. 

Always a pleasure to have you, Matt Apuzzo from Brussels.

 

Coming up for us, who will pay for the wall?  Well we now know it won`t be

Mexico.  We will break down, however, projects right here in the U.S. that

are losing their funding so that the wall can go up.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

TRUMP:  Who`s going to pay for that wall?

 

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison):  Mexico.

 

TRUMP:  You better believe it, and they`ll do it.  And who`s going to pay

for the wall?

 

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison):  Mexico.

 

TRUMP:  Who?

 

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison):  Mexico.

 

TRUMP:  Who is going to pay for the wall?

 

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison):  Mexico.

 

TRUMP:  Who?

 

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison):  Mexico.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  Well, except as we all know, they didn`t pay for the wall and

they were never going to as was frequently predicted going back a long

time, including by former Republican strategist, former Republican Steve

Schmidt right here on this network.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

STEVE SCHMIDT, FMR. GOP STRATEGIST:  We see here the con man being exposed. 

The people have come to see the wizard and the wizard has promised them the

great wall of Trump paid for by the Mexicans.  But at the moment, for the

unveiling of the wall, it appears to be an invisible one.  And where are

the pesos?  Where are the Mexican pesos that the American people were

promised would pay for this wall?  There are no pesos.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  In fact, we learned this week the Trump administration is taking

$3.6 billion with a “b” dollars away from the Pentagon to pay for the wall. 

In all, 127 military projects will suffer both here in the U.S. and at

military bases around the world.  The list as you can see is long.  You can

find it on the web.  It includes scrapping plans to spend money on

firefighting stations, hazardous waste facilities, basic infrastructure.

 

“New York Times” highlights this example.  “For almost two decades,

families at Fort Campbell, the sprawling Army base along the Kentucky-

Tennessee border have borne the brunt of the country`s war efforts as

steady clip of troops with the 101st Airborne Division and from Special

Operations units deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq.  This week the families

discovered they would not get the new middle school they were expecting so

that President Trump could build his border wall.”

 

Of note, that military base located in Republican Majority Leader Mitch

McConnell`s home state.  A teacher at the existing school put it this way

at Fort Campbell, “Most of our students don`t know what it`s like to live

in a world without war, where you don`t have to worry about mom or pop

being killed.  The one big benefit of this school is that we try to support

all those emotional needs”.

 

And this reminder, Congress refused to hand over money for the wall. 

Remember, the government shut down over it.  Trump then declared a national

emergency, and so here we are on a Friday night in September.  And after

another break, coming up for us, the massive storm, the massive need that

has been left in its wake.

 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

 

WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight comes to us courtesy of the

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the folks who run the

national weather service which is, was, and remains the very best at what

they do on earth.  But up to space we go for this magnificent loop from the

spectacular goes weather satellite.  Watch as day gives way to night

tonight and the lights of the population centers come into view.  Also a

vivid reminder of just how big Atlanta looks in the night sky.

 

But mostly, look at how big and sprawling a storm system this still is. 

From Delaware to the Canadian maritime, scraping pass New York`s Long

Island, the cape and islands in Massachusetts, and passed the main coast

unbelievably.  Hurricane warnings are posted tonight for Nova Scotia,

Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.  The hurricane that started life as

a collection of thunderstorms off to western coast of Africa is expected to

make landfall in Halifax perhaps as the worst storm they`ve had there in 15

years and then still continue its loop over the north Atlantic.

 

And then there is the grim business of what is already done in places like

Abaco in the Bahamas.  The warning today from their government to be

prepared for a staggering death toll, hundreds up to thousands are still

missing tonight.  Here is our report from there tonight from NBC News

Correspondent Morgan Chesky.

 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

 

MORGAN CHESKY, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS (voice-over):  Tonight the Bahamas

facing a new threat, with conditions deteriorating and thousands

unaccounted for, frustration is boiling over.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Don`t allow us to suffer any more by this day and the

other night.

 

CHESKY (voice-over):  Home after home, destroy.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I got my two boys, my wife and I.  And we don`t have

anything now.

 

CHESKY (voice-over):  On Abaco Island, everyone we met, including Nicole

Leavens (ph) says help can`t come fast enough.

 

NICOLE LEAVENS, RESIDENT, ABACO:  Now there`s no more Marsh Harbour.

 

CHESKY (voice-over):  Nothing?

 

LEAVENS:  Nothing.  Our hopes, gone, everything gone.

 

CHESKY (voice-over):  We visited the town of Marsh Harbour on Abaco Island.

 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A little bit of food and a little bit of water for now,

but how long that going to last us?  You see?  That`s the million dollars

question now.

 

CHESKY (on camera):  Here in the Bahamas, the buildings have to be built to

withstand a category 4 hurricane.  But just a quick look around in any

neighborhood shows you the difference with the category 5 and what it can

do.

 

(voice-over):  The coast guard rescuing more than 200 people so far. 

They`re critically injured, air lifted to safety.  But the prime minister

pleading for patience.

 

HUBERT MINNIS, PRIME MINISTER OF THE BAHAMAS:  We can`t move all of you at

one time.  But the boats will be coming in.  Boats will be coming in and

aircrafts.

 

CHESKY (voice-over):  Others pitching in.  Royal Caribbean Cruise line

turning nearby ships towards Grand Bahama, dropping of tens of thousands of

meals.  Ferries now going to several islands, transporting hundreds to

safety.  Many crowding the docks to get out.

 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As Bahamians, we have to band together.  That`s how I

grew up.  That`s the Bahamas that I know.

 

CHESKY (voice-over):  A country coming together to keep their paradise from

falling apart.  Morgan Chesky, NBC News, Abaco Island.

 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

 

WILLIAMS:  So as the storm pulls away from the U.S. tonight, please don`t

forget it will never be over for the people you just saw, the wonderful

people of the Bahamas, because their islands will never be the same.

 

That is our broadcast for tonight and for this week.  Thank you for being

here with us.  Have a good weekend and good night from our NBC News

headquarters here in New York.

 

 

 

 

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY

BE UPDATED.                                                                                                    

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