Trump and Mueller negotiating interview. TRANSCRIPT: 08/06/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Joyce Vance, Matt Apuzzo, David Jolly, Anita Kumar

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: August 6, 2018 Guest: Joyce Vance, Matt Apuzzo, David Jolly, Anita Kumar

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the unraveling cover story for that Trump Tower meeting. Is the President`s fear over legal jeopardy for his son doing more damage to his presidency?

Plus, what brought her back onboard? Hope Hicks shows up to fly on Air Force One to the President`s Ohio rally over the weekend and we have to assume the special counsel is watching this too.

Meanwhile, a star witness appeared today in Mueller`s case against Paul Manafort and Gates confirms there is no honor among thieves apparently.

THE 11TH HOUR on a Monday night begins now.

Good evening, once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York as we begin a new week. Day 564 of the Trump administration and so much for the cover story that the meeting with the Russians at Trump Tower was about Russian adoption somehow.

We got this from the President famously just yesterday. "Fake news reporting a complete fabrication that I am concerned about the meeting my wonderful son, Donald, had in Trump Tower. This was a meeting to get information on an opponent. Totally legal and done all the time in politics, and it went nowhere. I did not know about it."

The President was responding to reporting from Phil Rucker, Robert Costa and Ashley Parker of "The Washington Post" who wrote, "Trump has confided to friends and advisers that he is worried the Mueller probe could destroy the lives of what he calls innocent and decent people, namely Trump Jr." Two of the journalists in that triumvirate, Parker and Rucker, are standing by and will join us in a moment.

Trump`s latest tweets reveal that he has ignited this controversy over the June 9, 2016 meeting amid reports that special counsel Mueller is looking closely at that gathering as well as the President`s Twitter feed.

And here is your reminder that there have been conflicting explanations. First, July 8 of 2017, a statement issued on behalf of Don Jr., the meeting was primarily about Russian adoptions. A day later after the "New York Times" reported Don Jr. was offered damaging information on Hillary Clinton, he issued a new statement. "No details or supporting information was provided or even offered.

Then, July 11, "New York Times` published e-mails between Don Jr. and the man who organized the meeting, Rob Goldstone, revealing it was supposed to yield "official" documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and that Trump Jr. responded by saying, "If it`s what you say, I love it."

To get out ahead of that story, Don Jr. changed his line again. "The information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was political opposition research."

Just after that, we heard this from the President`s lawyer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY SEKULOW, PRESIDENT TRUMP`S ATTORNEY: The statement that was released on Saturday was released by Donald Trump Jr. and I`m sure in consolation with his lawyers. The President wasn`t involved in that.

The President was not involved in the drafting of that statement and did not issue the statement. It came from his Donald Trump Jr.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: On July 31, 2017, "The Washington Post" reports Trump himself personally dictated the first statement. A day later, Sarah Sanders said he didn`t dictate it, but he did weigh in like any father would. Then in early June of this year, it was revealed Trump`s own lawyers admitted in a memo to Robert Mueller that yes, the President himself did dictate the Trump Tower statement but added there was no collusion.

This weekend, the President`s same lawyer Jay Sekulow was asked about his earlier denials of the President`s involvement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEKULOW: I had bad information at that point. I made a mistake in my statement. So I think it`s very important to point out that in a situation like this, you have over time facts develop.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And today, Donald Trump Jr. was on the radio with Laura Ingraham and this time with his latest explanation.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Donny, did the issue the issue of adoption, it`s near and dear to my heart because I have two Russians adopted sons --

DONALD TRUMP JR, PRESIDENT TRUMP SON: I know we`ve spoken about it.

INGRAHAM: Did that come up?

TRUMP: When?

INGRAHAM: In the meeting with Veselnitskaya.

TRUMP: Laura, like I said, that was the primary thing we had spoken about in the meeting. That`s was, you know, that`s not the premise that got them in the room, and then they started -- it was essentially a bait and switch to talk about that, and everyone has basically said that in testimony already.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: And there is this, another interesting development from over the weekend. The President`s former Communications Director, Hope Hicks, boarded Air Force One on Saturday in New Jersey and flew Air Force One to the President`s rally in Ohio and back.

You may recall, Hope Hicks resigned from the White House earlier this year one day after she testified before a congressional committee that she had told white lies on behalf of Donald Trump. She is now living here in New York on the upper east side of Manhattan and a reminder that she too has come under scrutiny for her role in crafting that initial statement on the plane about the Trump Tower meeting.

A lot to take in, but let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Monday night. Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Reporter for "The Washington Post," Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post." It`s important to note here that both Ashley and Philip won their Pulitzers for their reporting on the White House fallout to the Trump Tower meeting. Also with us former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance who spent 25 years as a Federal Prosecutor. Well, good evening and welcome to you all.

Ashley, a wise journalist, a longtime enemy of the people once said a gaffe is what happens when a politician tells the truth. So by that standard, is this a gaffe? Was this a self-inflicted wound? And do you have enough distance to tell the damage from what the President said on Twitter?

ASHLEY PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Well, I think it was a bit of a gaffe, a bit of a self-inflicted wound. We don`t know the entire back story, but our understanding is this was not a strategic legal tweet. This was not a communication shop messaging tweet. This was the President waking up and doing what we reported him doing in our story, which was privately sort of brooding and then publicly fuming and roaring.

And he sent this tweet out to refute a bit of our story, but in doing so, actually pushed his own narrative much farther into a place that is not particularly helpful for him or his namesake son.

WILLIAMS: That might be an understatement. Phil Rucker, let`s talk about DJTJ, Donald J. Trump Jr. You and Ashley reported this growing agitation. We`ve seen it come up to the surface.

To your knowledge and based on the best of your reporting has anything about Don Jr.`s case changed materially that has motivated the President`s behavior? His change in mood?

PHILIP RUCKER, WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF, "THE WASHINGTON POST": You know, the truth is, Brian, we just don`t know. The President has become increasingly concerned as he sees Mueller inching closer and closer.

There`s been a series of indictments all year long. There`s a feeling inside the Trump legal team and more broadly in his political orbit that there could be another shoe to drop at some point this month perhaps.

And he sees Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman on trial and all of that is feeding this fear. And the fear he has is that his son, Don Jr., could be in trouble for this Trump Tower meeting.

He spent a lot of time the last few weeks with his lawyers talking through the Trump Tower meeting. You`ve seen Michael Cohen and his attorney Lanny Davis making accusations publicly that maybe President Trump knew about that meeting beforehand. And it`s all just feeding this sort of anxiety that the President feels and a real genuine fear that something could happen to his son. Not because he thinks Don Jr. did anything wrong, but because he thinks Don Jr. could have sort of naively inadvertently wandered into some serious trouble.

WILLIAMS: Joyce, you and I have talked about this before. Things that happen in plain sight don`t often have the gravity in realtime.

And Twitter as a medium is all but entirely lacking in gravity. It`s instantly available. It`s ubiquitous. It`s seems less serious than the weight of, say, legal papers.

But do you think what we saw in plain sight from the President`s cellphone on Sunday had the weight of a legal matter?

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: It does. It really will have ultimate weight here. I think Twitter may end up being this President`s undoing.

Many of the worst hits he has taken and that his presidency have taken have been own goals often from Twitter or his own statements to the media. But this one is really a doozy by any standard. It`s difficult to understand what would have motivated him. Perhaps he felt provoked by Ashley and Philip`s reporting and went off without really thinking through the implications.

But this entire idea that Donald Trump Jr. could have inadvertently wandered into a crime is something that we haven`t really focused on and that this tweet brings to light. And of course that`s not true. You get criminal liability for committing acts with a certain state of mind, not just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So maybe Trump`s goal here was to run a public relations campaign like he so often does on Twitter.

WILLIAMS: Let me ask you question about 52 U.S. code 30121, which you, I have no doubt, have committed to memory years ago.

VANCE: I`ve read at a time or two. Yes.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I figured. It shall be unlawful for a foreign national directly or indirectly to make a contribution or donation of money or other thing of value, we`ll come back to those words, or to make an express or implied promise to make a contribution or donation in connection with a federal, state, or local election.

Joyce, my question to you, has this notion been litigated? Probably a lot of people wish it had been liquidated. Has it been litigated? Do we know that advice on your opponent from Russians could be construed in federal court as a thing of value?

VANCE: It`s an interesting question. And under this statute where there`s been relatively little litigation, not a lot of a case law, certainly people will have different opinions. But a thing of value is really something that people would typically pay money for. People pay a lot of money for opposition research. It seems likely that that`s a possibility here.

And one of the most intriguing aspects of this statute is that it`s not just illegal to actually receive this sort of help from a foreign government. It`s also illegal to solicit that help from a foreign government. So just based on what we know, which is surely only the tip of the iceberg compared to what Mueller has, it looks like the participants in this meeting have a lot of trouble on their hand.

WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, in the we`ll believe it when we see it, are we really going to get an answer this week as to whether this President is going sit down with Robert Mueller? Or Rudolph Giuliani, and forgive the casualness of this, just need a distraction last week to point us in the future?

RUCKER: Yes, Brian, we`ll that`s the big question this week. The President`s circle, they`ve been indicating that a decision would be coming very soon. They`re in sort of the final stages of negotiations back and forth with the special counsel`s team. That`s been going on for months now to try to figure out the parameters and the scope of a potential interview with the President.

Who knows if that decision is going happen? You know, this is a President who likes to always say, "You know, I`m going to do x, y, or z in two weeks," and, you know, three week, four weeks, five weeks pass before you hear about it again.

So we may not have a decision this week, but we also could have a decision that`s announced in ten minutes on Twitter. So I think we all just need to stay tuned. But what we know is there`s disagreement on the team.

The lawyers don`t want him do this interview. The President wants to do the interview because he thinks he can convince Mueller that he has done nothing wrong. He thinks he`s his own best advocate, his own best salesman. And so they`re going to have to reconcile that and come to some sort of an agreement with the special counsel.

WILLIAMS: Point taken at 11:12 p.m. on a Monday night. The night is young in Twitter terms.

Ashley Parker, there`s a devastating line in a piece written tonight by Emily Jane Fox of Vanity Fair on just what Hope Hicks was dong on Air Force One this weekend. "Some widely speculated that amidst a week in which Trump was openly talking about the Trump Tower meeting, and privately fretting about his son`s legal exposure, having Hicks on board was, at best, inappropriate, and, at worst, a chance for them to get their stories straight."

Your reaction? And any reporting you can add?

PARKER: So I think at the very, very, very least, the optics are absolutely horrible. You remember Bill Clinton`s tarmac meeting during the campaign.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

PARKER: You just can`t do this. My sense based on some reporting is this is the freewheeling way things work in Trump`s orbit. If you look at these past three rallies over the past week, on each one, he`s sort of taken people who he feels comfortable with, who he`s close to during the campaign and into the White House who flew on Air Force One with him, Corey Lewandowski to Tampa, David Urban, the architect of his Pennsylvania strategy to Pennsylvania, Hope Hicks.

So I think on some level for Trump, there`s a sense of, this is friendly. "Hey, you`re in Bedminster, why don`t you hop on Air Force One? Why don`t you fly out to Ohio with me?" But that ignores the fact of the actual circumstances of who Hope is, who the President is, in the situation they`re embroiled in.

WILLIAMS: Terrific answer. Bottom line is it was an interesting visual on the tarmac in Morristown Airport on Saturday. Our thanks to Ashley Parker, to Philip Rucker, to Joyce Vance. As always, really appreciate our front three coming out for us on Monday night in August.

Coming up for us, more on why that meeting with Russians in Trump Tower two years ago now is considered so, so critical to the ongoing investigation.

And later with 92 days to go until the midterms, a preview of what we`ll be talking about this time tomorrow night and what those primary results from Ohio may show us.

We`re just getting underway on a Monday night beneath the lamp.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think from a practical standpoint, most people would have taken that meeting. It`s called opposition research or even research into your opponent.

In the case of Don, he listened. I guess they talked about -- as I see it, they talked about adoption and some things but nothing happened from the meeting. Zero happened from the meeting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: While both the President and his son maintained that Trump Tower meeting yielded no information about Hillary Clinton the fact that it took place, the fact that there was a cover story put out about it, those have become big problems. We are lucky to have with us two people who have both won Pulitzer Prizes this year for their reporting on that meeting and all the aftereffects.

With us now Matt Apuzzo of the "New York Times" and our friend Ashley Parker has agreed to stick around.

Matt, welcome back to the broadcast. What was it like in real time as you learned of the existence of this meeting? And importantly what are the dangling questions out there still unaddressed?

MATT APUZZO, REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Ashley got into this in the first segment. You know, when we went to the -- my colleagues in the Times went to the White House with what we knew, the existence of this meeting, you know, last year, and we said, "Hey, what was this about?"

We knew that Don Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort, basically three of the most important people on the Trump campaign at the height of the campaign are meeting with a Kremlin-connected lawyer. We knew that.

And we said, "Well, what was that about?" And they push us off and said, "You know, we need some time. People are traveling. Let us get back to you."

And we said, "Look, we just want to know the answer. We`ll give you the time." They came back and they said, "No, that was nothing. It was just about adoption." And it was such a head-scratcher.

I mean it was so obviously bizarre, it raised more questions than it answered. And then over the course of three days, you know, the story kept changing. And here we are now a year later and we`re still trying to figure out where exactly the President is on this.

And where we`ve ended up is the President saying, "Well, we tried to collude with the Russians, but it didn`t work out. It didn`t work out and we didn`t actually pull off the collusion." And that is head-scratchingly where we`ve ended up after a year of reporting.

WILLIAMS: And, Ashley, you broke the dictation portion of the story, which was striking for all of us to read in real time because we`re still getting to know this President and his style. But here`s this President taking the time and effort to dictate a story about a meeting and the purpose of the meeting in Trump Tower.

Can you believe that we still have so many questions, that this still generates this much news coverage almost a full two years later?

PARKER: I can and I can`t. I can because we sort of understood that the way we came to that story was we understood the first statement was basically drafted or, we reported, dictated by the President as he flew back from a trip to Europe. And our understanding was that it was sort of this scrambled frenzy on Air Force One to try to come up with a statement with the President really taking the lead and dictating it.

And so that sot of statement, that very problematic first statement that arose from so much chaos, I`m not surprised that some of that frenetic energy is still continuing on to this day.

WILLIAMS: Matt, remind us one aide resigns because of his exposure to this effort, correct?

APUZZO: Remind me. I`m trying to keep all of my Trump flash cards.

WILLIAMS: Mark Corallo who was spokesman for the legal team.

APUZZO: Yes, it`s interesting. So Corallo was a spokesperson for the legal team has said that he resigned because he had concerned about this. The Trump team says he was fired. He was never a valued member of the team, like so much that goes on in this administration it sort of depends on who you talk to, it`s where the truth lies.

I think the point that Ashley made is a good one. You know, the story that she and her colleagues wrote about the misleading statement, that story really has legs because that issue of President Trump`s involvement in the missing statement is among the topics that we now know that Bob Mueller wants to talk to the President about and that is kind of at the heart of this question of, is Bob Mueller going to subpoena the President? Is he going to take no for an answer or is he going to take, well, we`ll talk about this, but not that for an answer.

WILLIAMS: So one more question on that, Matt, of the foundation of the Mueller case, of the founding documents, the founding questions. Do you think Trump Tower meeting is easily top five?

APUZZO: Yes, I mean, I think it`s -- you look at the questions that Mueller said he wants answered from the President. And this question of what did you know about this meeting, what did you do in regards to it is front and center. And I think of course it is, because it goes to this issue of people from the Kremlin show up in the middle of an influence operation to tip the outcome of the presidential election and they say, "We are here to help you on behalf of the Russian government`s efforts to help Donald Trump`s campaign. We would like to hurt Hillary Clinton, "and they say, "Sure, absolutely. Let`s meet."

And so of course it`s front and center. Of course it`s one of the most important issues facing the Mueller investigation.

WILLIAMS: Put it that way, it sound almost like a serious meeting. Ashley Parker what`s the fear level, the anxiety level among the people who are your regulars who work for this President in the West Wing?

PARKER: It`s high. And what`s striking is it`s not just high among them, but it`s high with the President himself. And so he`s someone who, at this moment he does believe he has done nothing wrong. As Phil said earlier, he believes he can get in the room with Mueller and convince him of that, but even the President is worried about who is getting wrapped up in this and especially about his son, Don Jr., and that is all tied to this one meeting.

It`s tied to what happened at this meeting. It`s tied to who knew what about this meeting before it happened. It`s tied to whoever else Don Jr. may or may not have told. And the President understands that`s a risk because in that tweet Sunday, he also knew enough to try to distant himself.

And he said, "I didn`t know about the meeting in advance." Now, just because the President said something, that doesn`t mean it`s true. But it does show you that even he realizes that any knowledge of this meeting before it happened would be problematic for him.

WILLIAMS: Just superb analysis tonight. We`re 24 minutes into our broadcast week. We`ve already had three Pulitzer Prize winners. Our thanks to two of them, Matt Apuzzo and Ashley Parker. Thanks for coming on as always.

APUZZO: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, the star witness in the trial of Paul Manafort takes the stand and immediately confesses to criminal behavior.

The revelations under oath from Rick Gates and what he admitted to that caught everyone in the courtroom by surprise when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: How do we put this predictably explosive testimony today from the prosecution`s star witness? This was day 5 of the Paul Manafort trial in Northern Virginia. There he is, Rick Gates, Manafort`s business partner told the jury he committed a number of crimes, including bank fraud and tax fraud.

Gates said that he and Manafort had 15 offshore bank accounts as people do that they did not disclose to the federal government. He then testified that Manafort directed him to not report the accounts.

At one point, the prosecutors simply asked Gates if he committed any crimes with Manafort. Gates responded by saying "yes."

Gates also admitted today he stole from his boss. He copped to embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Paul Manafort by creating false expense reports. Manafort, it`s important to point out, has pleaded not guilty.

With us tonight for more, Josh Gerstein who was inside the courtroom for today`s proceedings at the end of a long day for him. He is Senior White House Reporter for Politico. And Danny Cevallos is back with us, a Veteran Criminal Defense Attorney.

Josh, you get to go first because you were there. I`m curious about things like eye contact, body language, and what was the reaction in there when Gates said, "Sure, I robbed from the boss." That does indicate enough money floating around that it wasn`t missed immediately.

JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. I don`t think there was a lot of shock at the testimony of embezzlement because folks will remember that the defense team said out at the very beginning Manafort`s defense team that there would be some indication that Gates had embezzled money from Manafort`s firm.

There was a lot of attention given to the body language. Gates came in, he took the stand, took the oath and in that process somehow managed never to took Paul Manafort, his former boss in the eye directly. Didn`t seem to want to look at the defense table. Looked at the prosecutors, looked at the jurors and the judge, but just didn`t want to crane his neck around the look directly scarily at Manafort.

I think as the afternoon were on there were one or two occasions when he looked in Manafort`s direction or even a couple of points where he said things that were nice but Manafort, but obviously the overall tenure (ph) or the testimony and admissions to various crimes not just the ones that are being tried in this Virginia case but also ones that are soon to be tried in the Washington, D.C. case against Manafort, that was certainly the substance of the testimony today.

WILLIAMS: So, Danny, if you`re the prosecutor you try to make this all above board. Be very direct about it. Did you break the law? Why, yes, I did. And the implication is, just like the guy I`m here to testify against. But if you`re the defense and you get your chance at Mr. Gates, how do you further go after him to do damage to himself that his admission of a crime has not already done?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: First, the prosecution is going try to get all of this damaging information out on direct examination. The idea being that when the defense stands up to cross examine them, they`re picking over a dead carcass by then because it`s all been brought on direct examination. But, still, the defense is going expose him to the crucible of cross-examination. Because any time you have a cooperating witness, it`s essentially a situation where the government has gotten hand in hand with a criminal. Someone who has lied, someone who is cheated, who is stolen. They`re admitted all of these things on the stand, and yet they`re asking the jury don`t ever believe me before now because I`m a liar.

But today, I`m asking you to believe me. And that`s the conundrum with all cooperating witnesses. The government is making a deal with the devil in order to get another criminal. Now, as you may recognize I`m biased criminal defense attorney, but that is the conundrum encountered in every cooperating witness scenario.

WILIAMS: Josh, it`s been reported in plain English that this judge was a little snippy to the prosecution and has been tough on the prosecution among the two sides. Can you talk about that a bit?

GERSTEIN: Yes. I mean, I think that has been sort of a matter of amusement to many of the courtroom observers. This is a septuagenarian judge who likes to make sort of dated references to baked Alaskan desserts and to brag about how he doesn`t use e-mail, only he`s wife uses e-mail. And he has prevented the prosecution from in his view belaboring certain issues like showing more photos of Manafort` suits than the judge thinks it`s appropriate. And he`s reigned (ph) in the testimony they`re able to offer on some of these prints.

And today we saw the prosecution`s frustration with this really boil over. There were a couple of frankly of outright shouting matches between the judge and the prosecutor, Greg Andres, who was handling the Gates testimony.

And both side were really, frankly, yelling at each other. And it was very startle. It was sort of the courtroom volume you might expect in a scene from "A Few Good Men" or something like that and it really drew your attention. And I can understand the prosecutors` difficulties with some of this because as Danny will realize, if a ruling goes against the prosecution, there is no appeal. If the judge goes too far and limiting the prosecution`s case and Manafort is acquitted, that`s the end of the matter. If he rules against the defense on some matter, well they`re always entitled to some appeal. There will be a political impact. But if there`s a conviction they can appeal. And so this is really the prosecution`s only chance to really dispute these rulings with the judge. And they clearly feel he has been tying their hands.

WILLIAMS: Danny, talk about this.

CEVALLOS: You may outwardly perceive this judge as being harsh on the prosecution. But in a way, he`s safeguarding the prosecution. If they go too far, if they admit or seek to admit, too many ostrich skins jackets --

WILLIAMS: Or mention Russia too.

CEVALLOS: Or mention Russia or go out of bounce, then that prosecution, if they get a conviction it is right for appeal. So, as much as he may appear to be yelling at the prosecution and taking the defense`s side, in a way he`s protecting the prosecution, too. He`s protecting the sanctity of the trial and looking out for appealable issues and heading them off at the pass before they become a real problem.

But, you know, these kinds of disputes between judges and litigants are not uncommon. Litigants have to make the record -- especially the defense attorneys on appeal. They have to do so zealously. So it`s not uncommon for fireworks to go off between counsel. As long as the jury is out of the room and out of your shot, it`s much more acceptable.

WILLIAMS: Counselor, thank you. And Josh, every time you appear I remind my audience, court starts early in the morning and this man is there for the start. He finishes his day often for us and we can`t thank him enough. Josh Gerstein, Danny Cevallos. Thank you, gentleman, both of you.

Coming up, the president rallied primary voters over the weekend. The aforementioned rally in Ohio for this closely watched special election. Steve Kornacki is here to explain why this one race has attracted so much attention and perhaps what we`ll be talking about during this very hour when we have results tomorrow night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a man that`s going to fight for you. He`s going fight for Ohio and he`s going to be here for a long time. He will never, ever disappoint you. I found that out from the people. He`s just not going disappoint you. He`s really smart and he`s a really hard worker. Troy Balderson, come on up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS: President Trump setting some high expectations there for the Republican candidate, Troy Balderson, at his rally in Ohio Saturday night. Tomorrow, Balderson faces off against the Democrat in this case, Danny O`Conner in a special election for the state`s 12th Congressional District. According to the folks at RealClearPolitics, and we quote, the heavily Republican 12th and its predecessors have sent Republicans to Congress in every election dating back to 1980 and 1936 before that. Trump won the district by 11 points back in 2016, but according to the most recent polling, this House race is a whole lot closer than most folks expected. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is where Steve Kornacki comes in. Our national political correspondent at the big board with the preview what we`ll be talking about perhaps tomorrow now. Steve, take it away.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brian, this time tomorrow night we`ll probably know the winner out there in Ohio. In that last line you just said, boy, that sound familiar. That`s the story of a lot of these special elections. Double digit historically Republican districts suddenly in play. This tomorrow the final test, the final special election test we`re going to see before the mid terms in November.

For Democrats here, as you say, a golden opportunity according to the polls to pick off a traditionally Republican district, a Trump by double digits district, a district in the heart of the state, Ohio that Donald Trump won by 12 points in 2016.

So what is going on? What do we going to look for tomorrow night? Here`s the fascinating thing. This is a district. It`s really a tale of two districts that tell a story of two Americas that are reacting very differently to the Trump presidency. What do I mean to this? Donald Trump we say won this by 11 in the 2016 but let`s look closer at how he did it and you`ll see what I mean.

Take a look here. This is a district that goes in and on the other hand Columbus. Look at the Columbus part of this district in the immediate suburb. First Columbus, Franklin County. About a third of all the votes that are cast in this district tomorrow are going come from this small land area. Right here. That`s the city that`s the immediate suburbs. This is college educated, white collar professional class, higher income.

We`ve talked bout these folks here. They are the ones who are most offended we found by Donald Trump. And you saw, this is a part of district that Hillary Clinton won by 18 points. That was a big improvement for Democrats versus what they normally do.

You look immediately north, bedroom community suburbs here in Delaware County. Trump won this in 2016, but that`s worse than Republicans normally do here. So between these two counties, parts of the counties here that are in this district, about 60% of the votes going to come out here tomorrow night and it`s the story of that suburban backlash against Trump. Is there going to be really high turnout for the Democrats and is Balderson, the Republican going to struggle relatively speaking like Trump did in this traditionally Republican part. That`s a little more half the district. The rest of the district, though, the opposite story. We talked bout those blue collar white voters. Look at these margins. Here, look at this, right here Zanesville, Trump won by 29 points, Obama carried this part of this district in 2012. It swung that part of the Trump, so you had -- the folks on this half that swung to Trump. The folks in the other side it swung away. Very interesting read about which of those groups is most motivated by tomorrow, Brian.

WILLIAMS: All right. You`re allowed to go home only for a nourishment and a change of clothe but we have to have you back here tomorrow night. This is absolutely essential.

KORNACKI: You got it.

WILLIAMS: Steve Kornacki, our thanks as always at the big board.

Coming up as we continue, President Trump told Ohio supporters there could be a red wave come November and said he could destroy any GOP politicians who refuse to support him. We`ll talk about all of it when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. JOHN KASICH (R), OHIO: I said Troy, did you invite Trump in here, the president? He said, no, I didn`t. So, you know, I think Donald Trump decides where he wants to go and I think they`re firing up the base, but I have to tell you, at the same time he comes in here, I was with some women last night who said, hey, you know, what, I`m not voting. And they`re Republicans. I`m not voting for the Republicans. See, this is the problem the party has now.

(END VIDEO CLP)

WILLIAMS: And that of course is the sitting governor of Ohio, John Kasich this week on ABC News discussing President Trump`s involvement in tomorrow`s special election in his state. As the governor noted. Some Republicans are worried the president could actually hurt some GOP candidates and not help.

Take for example the president`s decision to endorse the secretary of state of the State of Kansas Kris Kobach for governor. Kobach has been an outspoken supporter of Trump`s voter fraud allegations. He is challenging the Republican incumbent Governor of Kansas Jeff Colyer. It`s an endorsement the Republican Governor Association and other party leaders were hoping to avoid. Poll show if Kobach advances he could have a tough time winning the general election come November.

We are joined by two of our frequent contributors. We are so happy to have with us here New York, David Jolly, former Republican congressman from Florida and Anita Kumar, White House correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers. The one great thing about the president coming to New Jersey is we get all of our friends who cover the White House just across the Hudson River.

Congressman, I like to begin with you. Do you think it`s -- when I ask you what your survival chances are as a non-Trump Republican member of Congress trying to seek reelection is that a moving target almost on a daily basis?

DAVID JOLLY (R), FMR U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It is, but some things are coming into focus as we near election day. First in a Republican primary, Donald Trump has the midas touch. I mean he can shift and raise in Republican primary dramatically. This is his party. Every candidate in a Republican primary today, including Florida is trying get as close to the president as possible.

But what we also know in a general election -- this goes to Kansas and the concern of the Republican Governors Association, in every special single special election since Donald Trump has gotten elected, every special congressional election, every single one of them, Republicans have underperformed under the Trump administration and at Democrats have overperformed. And we have yet to see a battle in a truly competitive congressional district. We have yet to see 23 of the 24 Republican held districts that Hillary Clinton actually won in 2016. That is where disaster could be in play if Donald Trump continues to play in these raises.

WILLIAMS: Anita, his numbers can`t be disputed. Do you think Kansas is the great laboratory to watch in this event?

ANITA KUMAR, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS` WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, it`s really interesting because -- so surprised he got in, right, because for all the reasons he just said. But a lot of reasons it`s not surprising. These two go back a long way. Donald Trump Jr. is already been there twice. They talk frequently. I think they talked the other on Saturday. So they don`t have the typical relationship. They have a close relationship.

Some of these other people may not -- other Republicans may not know the president as well, so we -- you know, the campaign had been expecting since February that the president might endorse. They heard that he might and so they`ve kind of been expecting it and welcoming it. So, I think Kansas is a little bit different than some of the other places.

WILLIAMS: Also congressman, the president`s Twitter feed for all the good and all the bad, to your point really does move voters.

JOLLY: It does. And listen, we see this in Florida right now. We have a Republican gubernatorial candidate that for 20 years has been positioned himself to be governor.

WILLIAMS: Yes.

JOLLY: A down to line conservative because Trump endorsed his opponent of freedom caucus hardline Trump and Republican is now going to lose this race. The Trump candidate has pole vaulted to the lead. But we`re going to get to a very competitive November environment where Democrats could have the greatest opportunity they`ve had in 20 years.

Donald Trump has none of the down ballot positives in November. But he has all the down ballot negatives. And that is why, if you`re a Republican facing a blue wave, and you`ve embraced Donald Trump, you could be in real trouble in November.

WILLIAMS: I`m going to talk to you about aspirations and I`m going to talk to our journalist about reality. So starting with you, what would you like the GOP bumper sticker for the midterm elections, party-wide, to read?

JOLLY: I hope the GOP loses in November, because I think we need a hard reset, because I think under Donald Trump, we`ve abandoned who we are as a party. What I expect Republicans to try to sell to the American people are the following. Donald Trump, make America great again is the only message they have. They will say they voted for lower taxes and Democrats voted for higher taxes and they will sell you fear and xenophobia, talking about border security that truly only impacts about 5% of the constituency.

But what Republicans cannot overcome is the American people don`t trust the Republican Party today. And I don`t think ideology matters as much going into November. Democrats selling Medicare for all, Obamacare, $15 minimum wage, it`s important to lay those principles out. The question for voters in November is, do you trust Donald Trump and the Republican majority in Congress? Because I don`t think 51% of the country does.

WILLIAMS: Now, Anita, what do you think the current bumper sticker is for the Trump Republican Party? Is it make America great again? Is it that simple?

KUMAR: I think it`s -- every minute it changes. So, I think, you know, I hear from Republicans in Washington that they want it to be the economy. They want it to be tax cuts, you know, the things that we all think, right? Maybe border security, maybe some health care in there. But that`s really what they want to talk about, let the president talk about the economy. Remember a week and a half ago when some of the jobs numbers came out --

WILLIAMS: I can`t remember week ago, are you kidding?

KUMAR: The president came out unannounced into the Rose Garden and had the speech about the economy and how great it was.

WILLIAMS: Oh yes.

KUMAR: The people were cheering Republicans were cheering that speech. That`s what they want him to do for the next three months. Now, that`s not what`s going to happen to the next three months.

What`s going to happen is, we`re going to get tweets about LeBron James, we`re going to have tweets about the Russia hoax and the witch hunt and, you know, all sorts of people insulting all sorts of people, just because he can`t stay on message. We -- before, we were talking about how we went to his first Trump rally.

A trump political rally is 90 minutes. He talks about everything. It`s not about the candidate he`s there to support.

WILLIAMS: Right.

KUMAR: It`s usually about himself and it`s about a million things under the sun. So, we cannot expect it will be about the economy.

WILLIAMS: Former Congressman David Jolly visiting us here in New York and current White House correspondent Anita Kumar. I hope my home state is being good to you. Enjoy the Northern New Jersey area while you`re here.

Coming up, the life and death struggle that is under way out west. Where they don`t have time to stop to try to figure out just what it is the president meant. That and more when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS: The last thing before we go here tonight is one of the aspects of this new normal we`re all living. It`s the notion, say nothing of the near daily reality, of statements by the president, and that`s what tweets from the president are, statements by the president that, in this case, make little or no sense and contain falsehoods. Case in point.

The president`s tweets about this churning, grinding tragedy that Californians are witnessing right now. 17 major fires are burning. Nine people have died. And we just learned tonight, the largest of these fires has just tonight become the largest in the history of that state. Over 1,100 structures have been destroyed.

Watch this loop from the weather service satellite focused on the American west. This is what the fires look like from space. Look at those smoke plumes. They stretch now clear across Nevada and into New Mexico. And here is what the president said about the California fires. "Governor Jerry Brown must allow the capitalize free flow of the vast amounts of water coming from the north and foolishly being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Can be used for fires, farming and everything else. Think of California with plenty of water, nice. Fast federal government approvals."

But wait, there`s more. "California wildfires are being magnified and made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren`t allowing massive amounts of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire from spreading."

An "L.A. Times" writer today called that strikingly ignorant. To be clear, no one that we`re aware of in California, in academia, in government, seems to know what the president is talking about other than the fact that rivers flow into the Pacific Ocean. And what does the president mean by tree clear? If he means fire breaks, they have been a regular means of fire fighting and fire prevention for generations on our wildlands.

Right now, there are hundreds of people in California who have lost everything. Overnight tonight, more families will lose everything. The death toll in these fires includes children. The countryside will be scarred for a generation. Along with all available aircraft and apparatus, there are 14,000 firefighters in this fight, and they include some of the bravest and best people our country can produce.

So, between condolences and comfort and thanks and cheering them all on, there`s plenty to say on Twitter or anywhere else about this life and death struggle going on right now in the state of California.

That is our broadcast on a Monday night, as we start a new week together. Thank you so very much for being here with us. 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

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2018 MSNBC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2018 ASC Services II Media, LLC. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of ASC Services II Media, LLC. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.