Daniels offers to return "hush money." TRANSCRIPT: 03/12/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Stephanie Murphy, Caitlin Emma

11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: March 12, 2018 Guest: Stephanie Murphy, Caitlin Emma

BRIAN WILLIAMS, 11TH HOUR ANCHOR: Tonight, ending the Russian investigation, House Intel Republicans announced they found no evidence in collusion. The President then repeated in all capital letters. The problem is the Dems weren`t consulted. And these findings go against our Intel Community and the investigation continues. Speaking of which, new reporting on the Mueller investigation as he gathers information in all areas.

Plus, new developments on the Stormy front. The President apparently back in line with the NRA on guns and all eyes here on Western P.A. where Election Day starts just hours from now as "The 11th Hour" gets underway on a Monday night.

And good evening to you, once again, from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 417 of the Trump administration.

And by one measure, the whole investigation appears to be over. The news was so big, the President switched to all capital letters tonight to say this. "The House Intelligence Committee has after a 14-month long in-depth investigation found no evidence of collusion or coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 Presidential Election."

In fact, there it is on the summary of the investigation, "We have found no evidence of collusion, coordination, or conspiracy between the Trump campaign and the Russians. They go on to dispute our own intelligence agency`s findings that Russia indeed developed a preference for then- candidate Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign." So those are all accurate depictions there, except this wasn`t the finding of the House Intelligence Committee tonight.

What the President wrote about in all capital letters was about something from Republicans on the committee. They didn`t consult or tip-off the Democrats that they were shutting this down.

The investigation goes on, of course, in a number of different forms, Mueller, chief among them, but the Democrats were fuming tonight. The lead Democrat on the now closed investigation, Adam Schiff of California, put it this way this evening. "By ending its oversight role in the only authorized investigation in the House, the majority has placed the interests of protecting the President over protecting the country, and history will judge its actions harshly.

Schiff also offered this sharp criticism of his GOP colleagues while speaking with our own Rachel Maddow tonight.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D), CALIFORNIA INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: I think many of us could see that Donald Trump was going to be a very poor President. What we couldn`t see is how many people would be complicit in that, how many people would be willing to resign their obligations under the Constitution and our systems of checks and balances in the service of that deeply flawed President.

Our Constitution is only as good as the people who uphold it and by shutting down this investigation, it shows that the people upholding it are really not living up to their responsibility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Republican Congressman Mike Conaway who has been leading the investigation since last spring addressed Democratic criticism tonight appearing on Fox News.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. MIKE CONAWAY (R), TEXAS: It`s not surprising that folks would disagree who wanted to continue this investigation. There maybe some of the Democrats side that never want this kind of conclusion because they sense it has some sort of advantage to them to keep this wound open. We believe it`s important to move forward.

We have elections coming up. The primary season are already started. Now, we have important things to discuss with the American people about protecting our electoral process.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, as the House investigation comes to an end, we are learning new details about the Robert Mueller`s wide ranging Russia investigation that has dominated the news cycle in recent weeks. "Bloomberg" reports it this way today, "Special Counsel Robert Mueller`s investigation into whether President Donald Trump obstructed justice is said to be close to completion, but he may set it aside while he finishes other key parts of his probe, such as possible collusion and the hacking of Democrats, according to current and former U.S. officials. That`s because Mueller may calculate that if he tries to bring charges in the obstruction case, the part that may hit closest to Trump personally, witnesses may become less cooperative in other parts of the probe or the President may move to shut it down all together."

On that front, we are also hearing from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein tonight, he is offering support for the special counsel as the President continues to trash this investigation overall as a witch hunt. Rosenstein in a rare interview told "USA Today," "The special counsel is not an unguided missile. I don`t believe there is any justification at this point for terminating the special counsel."

The Deputy A.G.`s comments come after this weekend`s report from "The New York Times" that said, the President is in discussions with a veteran lawyer who represented Bill Clinton during the impeachment process about joining the White House to help deal with the Mueller investigation.

Let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Monday night to talk about all of it. Julia Ainsley is back with us, NBC News National Security and Justice Reporter, as is Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post" and Moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS. And Jill Wine- Banks returns, Former Assistant Watergate Special Counsel. Welcome to you all.

Julia, you are batting lead tonight. Why did this happen? Why did the Republicans on this committee want to pull the rip cord?

JULIA AINSLEY, NBC NEWS SECURITY AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Brian, I think to an extent, this was expected. We know that this has been a largely partisan investigation by the House. This is the same committee that put out the Nunes memo trying to discredit the whole Russia investigation saying that it was all based on the flimsy dossier and they omitted a lot of key details that really under pinned the reason why this needs to be brought to the federal level of investigation.

But I think that they went even further than a lot of people were expecting and that they went up against the findings of the intelligence committee -- the intelligence community, sorry, saying that it was actually not Russian preference at all for Trump that maybe they meddles but that there clearly wasn`t any case of them having a clear preference for the Republican candidate. And the intelligence community has said that there was a clear preference here that when Russians got involved in the election, when they wanted to meddle, they clearly tried to discredit the Democrat, Hillary Clinton, and try to show a preference to Donald Trump. So, they`re going up against them here. And then the fact that they cut the Democrats out, of course, really undermines it.

But it`s still important. I don`t think that, you know, we need to ride too much into their decision but it`s important to think about the fact that the majority party in the House wants to dismiss this and pick siding with the boss, with the President over fuller investigation over questioning witnesses more completely because that would be the body, Brian, where you would have to bring an impeachment trial. And if we come to that point with this probe and the Republicans in the House don`t think that this is anything but a witch hunt, they could block those efforts.

WILLIAMS: Well, Robert, this next question is for all of us who grew up in a household where we used to hear, this is why we can`t have nice things. Let`s lay it out here. This was the least of the investigations that were going on. But the way they have behaved and the way they have handled this, what to do about putting our trust in this committee of the House that deals with our secrets as a nation, the next time we seriously have to deal with our secrets as a nation?

ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, voters will certainly evaluate them this fall. But we also all grew up in homes, Brian, where college football may have been popular. I went to Notre Dame and rooted for the Irish. And in college football there are many polls that sometimes used to determine national champions. But there was only really one poll that matter, "The Associated Press" poll.

When you look at this investigation, you ask these congressional committees matter, you ask, they`re making conclusions about the whole Russia experience. But the probe that really matters is the Justice Department, the special counsel. So while the Senate Intelligence Committee and the House Intelligence Committee are coming up to their various conclusions, what matter is Mueller and his indictments. And the voters will have -- they may have a political cost they`ll put on the Republicans for how they`ve handled this Russia probe. But in this moment, Mueller, he keeps an eye on what people are saying to the House Committees and to the Senate Committees but he`s not worried about it because he has grand juries going on at this moment.

WILLIAMS: All right. Well, a subset of that question, Robert, can this be revived if in November the voters decide it`s going to be Chairman Schiff and control of the House flips to the Dems?

COSTA: You`re not going to see these kind of private investigations going on, like we`ve seen in Capitol Hill in recent months were we have all these people, you see the camera shot when they walk in, Corey Lewandowski, or Sam Nunberg. But, you know, if the Democrats take over the House, they tell me they`re going to have public hearings of Trump administration officials, White House officials, campaign officials so the public can see up close what these people are saying on the record under oath.

WILLIAMS: Jill, how can you conduct a proper investigation now that it`s over? We can talk about it in the rearview mirror without calling forward Manafort, Gates, Padopoulos or Flynn?

JILL WINE-BANKS, FORMER ASSISTANT WATERGATE SPECIAL PROSECUTOR: Or the President. There are so many things missing from this investigation that it is absurd to call it over and the only explanation for saying that has to be partisan. And the only thing I would quibble with in what Julia said because I agree with everything she said, except that when she said it was largely partisan. It is totally partisan.

There has been no bipartisanship in this investigation, and that is a big difference from what we had during Watergate where we operated as prosecutors side by side with the Senate who operated in a totally bipartisan way. Where the Democrats and the Republicans had a public hearing, the American people were able to see what was happening to understand the witnesses, to understand the evidence. And there was legislation that came out of it that tried to solve the problems that had in part been the cause of Watergate. And here, I don`t see a real urge to solve the problems and protect us.

We have an election tomorrow in Pennsylvania but we have a big election for the midterms and we need to solve this problem and Congress is the one who has to do it. And public hearings would certainly be a good way to go about it.

WILLIAMS: Jill, last time I asked you about an obstruction case, it became a commercial that still airs every six minutes but I`m going to go there again. Do you believe this reporting on Mueller that parts of this case can go on the shelf completed in effect, because to announce them now would be to color other witnesses and other parts of the case yet to get to?

WINE-BANKS: Yes, I think that that`s not bad thinking and strategy to put it off. There`s no reason why it needs to be brought before the rest of the case. And keep in mind that you do not need to have any proof of collusion as we have started calling it or conspiracy or of working together to with the Russians in order for a violation of the law of obstruction to have happened.

You can have obstruction as we did in Watergate where there`s no evidence that Richard Nixon ever knew about the break in before it happened. The evidence is that within days, he was actively involved in covering it up. So that it wouldn`t be disclosed that his campaign and that his White House were involved in the break in. And so it is equally possible that President Trump obstructed justice to protect other people, even though he didn`t know in advance that they were working with the Russians.

Although in this case, there seems to be a lot of evidence, things like it`s hard for me to believe that Don Jr. met with the Russians and didn`t tell his father about the meeting and that he was going to get dirt on Hillary. So there is some evidence that he may have been involved in the work with the Russians.

WILLIAMS: So, Julia, it wouldn`t surprise you, I guess, if the President had met with an impeachment attorney, though he has pushed back hard. You have reporting on another front and that has to do, and be gentle with us here, your lay audience members, has to do with Qatar.

AINSLEY: That`s right. And it`s a complicated one. So thank you for asking about it. It`s a little setup.

Of course, it seems, Brian, that the politics overseas between gulf coast countries are actually impacting our politics here. There`s been a huge surge in lobbying. We were able to gather that from some of our great data reporters at NBC since Trump endorsed the blockade of Qatar by its gulf coast neighbors.

We`ve seen a surge of lobbying in the U.S. from both sides. And another thing that`s been gathered is this Qataris have been able to look at the influence at the White House by the Emirates. These are meetings that have been reported on by George Nader, by Elliot Broidy. These are Americans who have connections with the Emirates but who have been setting up meetings where they`ve tried to -- the Qataris believe, tried to sway the Trump administration toward policies, like endorsing the blockade like they did in June.

Now, they gathered all of this information, and you would think that they would want to take this to Robert Mueller because we know he`s looking into elicit influence, especially by countries that could have done business with the White House, with Jared Kushner but didn`t go forward. They were actually in D.C. last January. They had all these meetings set up and they stopped short of talking to Robert Mueller and that is because, Brian, they were worried about burning their bridges on diplomacy. They had come into town. They felt like there was a warming of the relationship and they went to the FBI but they stopped short of going to the special counsel`s office.

So in a nutshell, this really shows what happens when there`s a conflict of interest when our foreign countries can`t decide whether or not they should comply, come forward in a national security level investigation, or if they should try to preserve diplomacy with this White House. And there are number of considerations they had to weigh here and ultimately, they`ve decided not to go forward. But we can be sure that Robert Mueller is still getting this information through other channels.

WILLIAMS: And Mr. Costa, you get the last word tonight because tomorrow morning, everyone in a Hilton Garden Inn and a Courtyard by Marriott hotel room is going to open their door and look down and there will be "USA Today" and "USA Today" will have the story about Mr. Rosenstein giving a rare interview. And it, he in effect says, everything is fine here. We`re chugging along. This case takes up no more than 5% of my energy but no one should consider Mueller an unguided missile.

What do you make it? What do you make of his decision to speak at all?

COSTA: Brian, as a reporter, I`m not a big believer in coincidences in politics. You saw Rod Rosenstein, the Deputy A.G., having dinner the other night with the Attorney General Jeff Sessions at Central Michel Richard Restaurant in D.C., a sign perhaps many reporters thinking they`re allies, think of solidarity as this Russia investigation faces scrutiny from the White House. And today, Rod Rosenstein talks to "USA Today" knowing that the House Republicans are going to be coming out with this conclusion about no collusion in their view. He knows what he`s doing, trying to protect the probe, protect Mueller.

WILLIAMS: Our great thanks to our lead-off panel tonight. Julia Ainsley, to Robert Costa who spoke both Irish and French restaurant names tonight, and Jill Wine-Banks, thank you. Much obliged to you, guys. Really appreciate it.

And coming up as we approach our first break, Stormy Daniels, gun politics, North Korea, tomorrow`s trip to California, and viewing samples of the wall, all the things that just happened to also be on the President`s plate right about now.

And later tonight, a preview of Election Day in Western P.A. now just hours away. What the results might mean for Donald Trump. "The 11th Hour" just getting started on a Monday night.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we`re doing a god job for you. I hope so. We`re working hard. It`s not easy.

We have done a lot, yes. We have done more than any first-term administration in the history of our country, we have. You take a look what we`ve done.

Our new slogan when, we start running in, can you believe it, two years from now, is going to be "Keep America Great, exclamation point." Keep America great.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: President Trump this weekend in Southwestern P.A. He was supposed to be talking up Rick Saccone, the Republican candidate for the states 18th Congressional District, that would be tomorrow`s election, but he spent a lot of time instead on his favorite topic.

As he begins a new week at the White House, here is a brief look at what he`ll have to contend with. A lot of people are saying his latest proposal for gun control was released late yesterday seems to be a concession to the NRA even though he had vowed to stand up to the gun lobby in the days after the Parkland school shooting in Florida.

Mounting questions about the President`s decision to sit down with the leader of North Korea and the announcement that has been followed by few details from the White House or anybody else about plans for the summit.

There is the aforementioned battle for the House seat in Pennsylvania, the election tomorrow races tighter than a whole lot of Republicans ever would have expected. And tomorrow, the President gets an up close look at the prototypes he`s ordered up for his border wall. That will take place in California, which has resisted his tough line on immigration and other policies.

And then there is Stormy Daniels. The porn star has offered to return the $130,000 that Donald Trump`s lawyer, Michael Cohen, paid her for her silence so that she can speak freely about Mr. Trump. The White House says, an alleged relationship between the two of them didn`t happen. Daniel`s attorney appeared on this network earlier this evening to talk about his client`s offer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL AVENTTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: We haven`t heard anything back but we don`t believe it`s actually a big challenge. We actually think it`s a fair settlement offer and one that should be seriously considered and accepted by Mr. Cohen and the President.

My client wants a forum to tell her story. She`s prepared to return the $130,000. And if they do not accept the settlement, this is yet another step, another process by which they`re going to seek to silence of my client. What are they afraid of?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Here to talk about all of it with us tonight, Kimberly Atkins, Chief Washington Reporter for "The Boston Herald" and an MSNBC contributor and Jonathan Lemire, White House Reporter for "The Associated Press" and an MSNBC Political Analyst. Welcome to you both.

Kimberly, it has been reported that the President is now going to live like somebody left the gate open that a lot of the gatekeepers in the West Wing are now gone, don`t have their influence. So what we saw this weekend was him enjoying the warm bath of his base. A guy that -- there are people in this network who remember him, he`s an entertainer and he can be an entertaining guy in front of a live audience.

KIMBERLY ATKINS, "THE BOSTON HERALD" CHIEF WASHINGTON REPORTER: Yes, and we saw that in Pennsylvania. When he went there, he brought the full Trump show. As you said, it had very little to do with Rick Saccone who is enjoying millions of dollars from the Republican Party and outside spending to try to hold on to a seat in the Rust Belt that it should be easy for a Republican to win but suddenly it isn`t.

But he didn`t make it about the candidate at all. He`d launched this reelection bid in front of this crowd.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

ATKINS: He`s also gone, trusted his own guts on a number of issues from the announcing North Korea talks to going ahead with the tariffs. We`re seeing him now shift away from the process that had been put in place in the White House and a sort of more free willing, trusting himself, being his own counsel. And we`re getting the full Trump, if you will.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan, this is too good. I`m going to go back to the well before I allow you to speak. We have another mash up from Pennsylvania. We`ve got to do this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

Trump: That Washington D.C, I got a lot of evil there but we`re getting it out step by step. A lot of evil. A lot of bad people. A lot of bad people, a lot of fake media.

Look at them. A lot of fake media. Fake, fake media.

If I don`t win the election, their ratings are going go so far down. They`re going to be out of business, every one of them. Can you imagine? Can you imagine covering Bernie or Pocahontas? Pocahontas. How about that?

I`d love Oprah to win. I`d love to beat Oprah. I know her weakness.

Maxine Waters is a very low I.Q. individual. You ever seen her? You ever seen her?

When I was in China, and other places, by the way, I said, Mr. President, do you have a drug problem? No, no, no. I said, what do you attribute that to? Well, the death penalty. So is there any more fun than at a Trump rally?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Jonathan Lemire, let`s make that your question. Is there any more fun than a Trump rally?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Have you been to about 100 of them covering that campaign? They are pretty fun. They`re certainly entertaining. We got a lot of greatest hits right there. We miss --

WILLIAMS: Yes. I left out Chuck Todd and some other greatest hits.

LEMIRE: Yes, that`s right. I mean, you know, as always he makes part of the story about the media, presenting us the most antagonistic way possible knowing that it`ll get a rise out of his supporters. You know, and it was a rally that once again was sort of short on policy specifics as we come to expect. It was long mentions of himself. You know, we got this -- the unveiling of his new campaign slogan complete with the exclamation point.

WILLIAMS: Yes, we saw that.

LEMIRE: Excellent touch. But, you know, it also this does come at a time, as you mentioned at the opening, well, there`s a lot of swirling around for the President right now. Stormy Daniels, that story has been creating more headlines by the day. He`s going to California where he`s -- the heart of resistance, where he`s probably going to face a lot of, not just protest, but I think some pressure to show that, hey, this wall, which is sort of the signature item of this campaign, might actually come to be because to this point, it hasn`t.

And then we saw today on guns where, you know, he, a couple of weeks ago, sort of made a point, less than two weeks ago, called out Republican senators and said you`re afraid of the NRA, that he was going to be the one to finally change things. And today, he offers a very watered down proposal where it seems like he is the one who is backed off trying to fight the powerful gun lobby.

WILLIAMS: As you know about our friend and colleague, Kimberly Atkins, she is a journalist and a lawyer. So, let me ask you about Stormy Daniels. I`m starting to read, we all are, and we`re starting to hear the wise people saying collusion, Russia, this is the one that could really get this President in deep trouble. Why are they saying that?

ATKINS: Well, you see them now trying to get out of this agreement offering back this $130,000 that was allegedly paid to keep her quiet so that she won`t tell the story. So, there`s got to be a reason, there`s got to be a reason why they want her out there. She`s already given the story to other outlets that`s already been reported.

So if this -- if the President and his team or allegedly his team, the President right, allegedly they have anything to do with this, which is hard to believe, is trying this hard to keep it quiet, is there more? Is there more information that we still don`t know? Is there an effort to try to hide this money directly to the President by offering this money back?

And, of course, there`s also the campaign finance -- the potential campaign finance violation if this money was given in an effort to keep her quiet before the campaign that can be seen as a contribution in kind and that would violate campaign finance law. That`s a crime. That`s against the law.

So, there`s a lot of -- there`s intrigue of course, but there`s also a legal underpinning that could tie him to something more serious and certainly land in trouble with the FCC.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan, you get the last word. Give me a quick preview of California. This President fond of relegislating his electoral victory may not be doing it on the West Coast.

LEMIRE: No, he didn`t do so well there. It comes on the heels of the attorney general, basically declaring war on the state over sanctuary cities, comes after the President suggest that he would pull ICE officers out of the state. Then let`s see what they think about illegal immigration then. It is a place where he is not expected to be well received.

Now, he does start in San Diego, which is a military town he`s going to address, saw a number of troops there that I assume will be a warm reception. He`s going to tour some of the -- and take a look at some of these border wall prototypes. But then he heads to Los Angeles for a private fundraiser where we certainly expect they`ll be protesters in the streets. He`s spending the night in California, which is something he rarely does. He sleep away from his own bed in the White House.

Yes, this will be something where he`s taking him longer than any other president since, I believe, Eisenhower to make his first trip to California, home of one-eighth of the population and it`s likely that he won`t be very well received.

WILLIAMS: Two of our best pals around here, Kimberly Atkins, Jonathan Lemire. Thank you both for stopping by tonight.

Another break for us. When we come back, what did we just witness on this President and guns? A member of Congress from Florida will join us to talk about that.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: It doesn`t make sense that I have to wait till I`m 21 to get a handgun but I can`t get this weapon at 18. I don`t know, so I was just curious as to what you did in your bill. You didn`t address it?

SEN. PAT TOOMEY (R), PENSYLVANICA: We didn`t address it, Mr. President. But I think we --

TRUMP: You know why, because you`re afraid of the NRA.

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D), FLORIDA: I represent a district in Central Florida and we were deeply affected by Pulse. And I think in the aftermath of these types of tragedies, the American people really want to see us, their elected leaders, working together to do something. And so, I`m heartened.

TRUMP: Possible, this didn`t happen after Pulse. I mean, how bad was Pulse and nothing happened?

MURPHY: I`ve a bipartisan bill to remove the so-called Dickie Amendment which has prevented over the last couple decades, the CDC and other federal agencies from researching gun violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR: That was President Trump talking with lawmakers about ways to strengthen gun laws, remember that at a bipartisan House meeting last month. And that member of Congress you just heard from, is here with us and will join us in just a moment.

The House in the meantime outlined its gun plan over the weekend. It`s in response to the Parkland, Florida school shooting that left 17 dead and sparked a student movement for gun control. Maybe they will push the adults.

The president`s plan supports some expanded background checks and arming teachers, notably missing is his prior support. We heard it right there, for raising the age to buy a rifle from 18 to 21. He wrote on Twitter today, "Things are moving rapidly on this but not much political support to put it mildly." The Florida legislature actually passed its own bill raising the age limit last week. The NRA is now suing to stop that Florida law from taking effect.

Well, with us now is the last member of Congress we heard from there. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, Democrat from the state of Florida. Her Florida Congressional District begins across the street from the Pulse Nightclub, and her constituents were of course greatly affected by the shooting and the deaths of those 49 souls.

Congresswoman, you`re the first member of that meeting at that table to join us here at this table. What was that discussion like for you because it sure sounded to me listening all over again that he was supporting a hike in the minimum age?

MURPHY: As you mentioned, the Pulse Nightclub shooting really affected my district so this is an issue that`s deeply personal for me. And so sitting at that meeting, I felt maybe there were some hopes. Here was a president who was doubling down on the idea that we should have strong background checks and challenging members of Congress to defy the NRA. And so, I was deeply disappointed to see what he rolled out today. It doesn`t go far enough and it certainly doesn`t come close to what he talked about us doing at the table that day.

WILLIAMS: What do you think you`ll get out of Congress, out of the House of Representatives? And tell us a bit about the bipartisan bill you mentioned to the president.

MURPHY: You know, Brian, I think the conversation that we`ve been having as a country around gun safety has been so polarized and hasn`t been grounded in facts. So the bill I`ve introduced is the Gun Violence Research Act, which would allow the CDC and agencies to research gun violence. So that instead of coming up with reactive policies based on the latest mass shooting that we actually get a chance based on facts and evidence develop a set of legislative policies that will help keep our communities more safe.

And so, I`m really pushing that forward. I`m grateful to say I have 160 co-sponsors, seven of which are Republicans. I don`t think it should take a lot of moral courage to say we want the facts on an issue that is clearly a public health issue.

WILLIAMS: I assume you`re fine with the fact these students appeared to be saying to the grown ups among us, excuse us, get out of our way, you`ve had your chance to fix this problem.

MURPHY: I am so inspired by the students. And I actually wonder if this isn`t a moment for this generation that`s similar to the anti-Vietnam war movement or the civil rights movement. I`m incredibly inspired by these students.

WILLIAMS: Final question has to also do with the House of Representatives but something you played no role in. Your reaction to this, the ending of the House Intel Committee investigation (inaudible) of the Republicans coming out to say it`s over. As I asked, Robert Costa at the top of the broadcast, how can we trust that committee now to deal with real national secrets that in a way are all of our business?

MURPHY: What`s missing from that decision is the fact that we were attacked by a foreign government, and they were attacking our democracy and yet, we can`t conduct a non-partisan, an objective investigation into exactly what happened. It had become such a polarized conversation that we`re not putting the best interest of this country in our national security, above our party politics.

WILLIAMS: Congresswoman, thank you very much --

MURPHY: Thank you so much.

WILLIAMS: -- for joining us in the studio tonight, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Florida.

And coming up for us, both major parties are watching the Pittsburgh suburbs where the polls open really just a few hours from now and there`s great interest in the result will be announcing here tomorrow night, that and more when we continue.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: President Trump spent Saturday evening as we showed in Pittsburgh campaigning for Republican House candidate in a district that Donald Trump won by 20, 2-0, points. But a new poll out today from Monmouth University shows Democrat Conor Lamb leading the Republican Rick Saccone by as much as six.

With just a few hours to go until the polls open, we have talked Robert Costa and to rejoining us with reporting on this Congressional district that makes up basically the southern suburbs of Pittsburgh.

And, Robert, for the folks watching at home tonight, who want to know why it`s so important that they devote their time and attention to Western PA Congressional District, make your case. Why is what happens tomorrow vital?

ROBERT COSTA, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST: High stakes for the president, high stakes for congressional Republicans. Look, Brian, in this corner of Pennsylvania, economic protectionism, the creed of President Trump is as much of a passion in this area as the Pittsburgh Steelers are a passion.

If the president can`t win here in a district he won by 20 points, it`s going to make Congressional Republicans who have his agenda in their hands very skiddish about their reelection chances this year. Republicans are putting so much money into the race because they want to reassure the whole party that things are going to be OK. Democrats want momentum.

WILLIAMS: We`re in the teeth of what seems like the third nor`easter in as many days here in New York tonight. Apparently, there is going to be snow in Western PA but they don`t scare easily. Talk to us about turnout and what could happen either way.

COSTA: Turnout really matters because Conor Lamb has to thread the needle. He`s the Democrat, a retire Marine, young 33-year-old former prosecutor. He needs to get the resistance out, those anti-Trump voters, but we also needs to win over Republicans. And you see him trying to balance all these different balls in the air.

He`s not -- he`s pretty moderate. He reminds me of a lot of candidates back in 2006 when Democrats took back the House with Nancy Pelosi at the helm. And again, she`s still at the helm. He is more conservative. He`s trying to win over moderate independents and hard core Democrats. And Republicans are just trying to get those Trump voters out. That`s why the president was there on Saturday, to rally him.

WILLIAMS: I heard an analyst you and I both know yesterday, saying, you know, she said I usually say that all these Congressional district races are unique and broader strokes can`t be gleaned from them. But she said in this point, in this case, the president did win this district by 20. So a Democratic upset deservedly will make headlines across the country.

COSTA: It will make big headlines if Conor Lamb, a Democrat wins. And I was talking to people at the White House today, Brian, and they already started to tell me as a reported, they saying hey, we blame Rick Saccone, a Republican, he has run a sluggish campaign. But Rick Saccone has maybe ran a sluggish campaign, has slug behind the Democrat in fund raising.

But when he`s also done, his embraced President Trump, he`s not been running really on the tax cut. He`s been running as a Trumper. He`s been there with the president speaking passionately about the president. This is a referendum on the president of the United States. The House doesn`t see it that way. They don`t like to say it that way but that`s what most Republicans see and they are counting on President Trump to save them this November. If they can`t see Rick Saccone, you may see some more retirements in the coming weeks.

WILLIAMS: Robert Costa will be staying up late covering the result tomorrow night. But for tonight, in typical fashion, he played like a champion today. We appreciate it very much thanks.

Coming up for us, a bad showing in front of a big audience for another of Trump`s cabinet secretaries, will this one leave lasting damage perhaps?

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:: You can`t say definitively today guns shouldn`t be in schools?

BETSY DEVOS, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION UNDER TRUMP: Well, I will refer back to Senator Enzi and the school that he was talking about in Wapiti, Wyoming. I think probably there -- I would imagine that there is probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: One year ago, Betsy DeVos and so-called School Choice advocate who Trump nominated as Education Secretary came under scrutiny for answers she gave at her Senate Confirmation Hearing. Critics said she seemed unprepared for even basic questions.

Well, after 13 months on the job, the Secretary of Education seemed to struggle once again in an interview with "60 Minutes."

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STAHL: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

DEVOS: I don`t know overall. I can`t say overall that they have all gotten better.

STAHL: Have you seen the really bad schools, maybe try to figure out what they are doing?

DEVOS: I have not -- I have not -- I have not intentionally visited schools that are under performing.

STAHL: Maybe you should.

DEVOS: Maybe I should, yes.

STAHL: Do you see this disproportion and discipline for the same infraction as institutional racism?

DEVOS: We`re studying it carefully.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: Earlier today on this network. Randy Winegarden, President of the American Federation of Teachers called out the performance of the education secretary.

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RANDY WINEGARDEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: People pour their hearts out to her about what was needed, special needs parents, early childhood educators, high school kids. It`s not unobvious. She doesn`t want to learn.

In fact, the only thing she seems to want to do is what she said years ago, defund and end public education as we know it and I think yesterday was an example of that.

WILLIAMS: With us for more on all of this tonight, Caitlin Emma, who covers education for POLITICO, in addition to covering the policy making and the political angles of all of this. So, Caitlin,. how badly did this go and does the administration care?

CAITLIN EMMA, EDUCATION REPORTER, POLITICO: It went pretty badly. I`ve been covering Secretary DeVos as an education reporter for about the last year and I think this is the most attention that she has received from an interview since her confirmation hearing, which you just showed a clip of, when she infamously said maybe we need guns in schools to protect against potential grizzly bears.

So that -- the clip of the "60 Minutes" interview, you know, sort of went viral again today in that way. And, you know, CNN reported that House officials were concerned about her inability to answer questions. You know, but it`s funny, I mean, in talking to my fellow education reporter who`ve been following her for the last year, not a lot of her answers raised a lot of red flags for us.

We`ve sort of consistently been hearing her off her answered like this in response to somewhat basic policy questions. So I think with this particularly interview, Leslie Stahl, you know, really was able to sort of pinpoint her on several different policy points. And it had such a broad audience that it just took off. And unfortunately, she had a very tough day. And she came out with a statement later this evening saying, you know, "60 Minutes" did not run the entire interview, that it was edited carefully, that they left out data that we had given to them and she was sort of tweeting about it this evening. So clearly they`re not happy with the performance either.

WILLIAMS: I was reminded tonight, she was the closest vote of any of the cabinet nominees. They were so fearful that she was going to go down and took the vice president as a tiebreaker in the Senate. She was that unpopular. Her problem in addition to some other thing, is she only the latest Trump cabinet member to bring a poor reflection on this government.

EMMA: Right. Well, we`ve seen a lot of new stories about how, you know, several cabinet members aren`t coming from a very specific policy place that would prepare them for their job and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos` place, you know, she was a wealthy philanthropist and she has no experience with public schools. She was never a teacher. She doesn`t have a lot of experience in education policy.

For the most part, she`s coming from a place where she was wealthy and supportive of school choice, like the expansion of charter schools and the expansion of private schools, and that`s predominantly where her expertise lies. So as education secretary, she has to advocate and talk about way more things than she was prepared to do when she initially took the job from higher education to campus sexual assault to I`m sure she never imagined talking about equipping teachers with guns in schools but here we are.

WILLIAMS: As a lot of folks are learning, school choice is one of those euphemisms that can lean -- that can mean so many different things. Caitlin Emma, thank you so much for joining us. Caitlin Emma again covers education for POLITICO.

When "The 11th Hour" continues, the experts on route to investigate the trouble in Texas.

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WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, this is a nervous time for the folks living in Austin, Texas. While this is normally a great week to be in Austin as the South by Southwest Festival is currently under way, for the folks who live there and have homes there it`s unsettling. That`s because someone is leaving package bombs on people`s door steps.

Two people have been killed, three injured in three separate incidents and the people of Austin are being warned not to go near anything that might be left outside their door. Investigators say they will look at the possibility of hate crime motives as only people of color have been targeted thus far.

The good news for the people of Austin is this -- the feds have arrived. The explosive experts from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, ATF, and the evidence recovery teams from the FBI, just seeing them arrive and put on their jackets and go to work has put a lot of folks there at ease. And that`s important because when you hear the very best in law enforcement come under fire from the very top of our government, the thought occurs to you what`s it going to be like when we really need them?

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TRUMP: The FBI and the Department of Justice created a fraud in allowing Hillary Clinton to get away with her terrible, terrible crimes.

It`s an embarrassment.

This is not the country that we know and love.

It`s worse than Watergate.

What is going on, right?

The FBI`s trying to look the other way. I don`t believe they`re going to get away with it.

Hillary Clinton is guilty. She knows it, the FBI knows it, the people, the people know it.

Nobody in this room can believe what`s going on with the FBI.

The FBI has been in turmoil. You know that, I know that, everybody knows that.

Well, it`s a shame what`s happened with the FBI. It`s a very sad thing to watch, I will tell you that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you concerned about the senior leadership at the FBI?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: thanks, everyone.

TRUMP: Let`s see how it all works out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: In light of those attacks, the FBI Director has told all 37,000 employees to keep their heads down and keep doing their jobs. Well, that`s what they`re doing tonight in Austin. As an Austin family prepares to bury a 17-year-old killed by a bomb this morning, federal agents, local, state PD, have left their homes and their families to make Austin safer. And does anyone for a moment doubt that law enforcement will find this bomber? Didn`t think so.

That is our broadcast for this Monday night as we start off a new week. Thank you so very much for being here with us and good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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