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Trump privately revived idea of firing AG. TRANSCRIPT: 08/28/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Cynthia Alksne, Peter Baker, Josh Gerstein, Charlie Sykes, Jeremy Peters

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: August 28, 2018 Guest: Cynthia Alksne, Peter Baker, Josh Gerstein, Charlie Sykes, Jeremy Peters

ALI VELSHI, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: -- as recently as this month.

Plus, new reporting from CNBC. What Robert Mueller was asking witnesses about Michael Cohen even after the FBI raided his home and office.

The warning from President Trump to evangelical leaders. There could be violence if the Republicans lose their majority.

And if it`s Tuesday, it`s election night. Steve Kornacki at the big board with full results, including at a historic match-up for governor in the sunshine state.

"The 11th Hour" begins now.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. I`m Ali Velshi in for Brian Williams.

It is day 586 of the Trump administration and it is the last major primary election night before the midterms. We`re tracking key races in Arizona and Florida, both considered key battlegrounds not only this November but also in the 2020 presidential election.

Among the latest headlines, Trump pick Republican Congressman Ron DeSantis is the projected winner in Florida`s Republican gubernatorial primary. But the big surprise is the Democrat he`ll face in November. Bernie Sanders backed Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum is the projected winner in Florida`s gubernatorial primary.

All right. Current Florida Governor Rick Scott is the projected winner in the Republican primary for Senate. And Steve Kornacki is standing by with all the details. He`s going to join us in just a few minutes.

The upcoming general election is going to be a big test for Donald Trump, who reportedly is now warning his supporters that there will be violence if his party loses the midterms. We`ll have much more on all of that just ahead, but first we`ve got brand new reporting tonight from "The Washington Post" on the President`s latest attempt to get rid of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Now you`ll recall Sessions recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation.

The "Post" is reporting, "President Trump, who levied extraordinary public attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions in recent weeks, has privately revived the idea of firing him in conversations with his aides and personal lawyers this month, according to three people familiar with the discussions."

At least twice this month, Trump vented to White House advisers and his lawyers about the "endless investigation" of his campaign and said he needs to fire Sessions for saddling his presidency with the controversy, according to two of the people. His attorneys concluded that they have persuaded him for now not to make such a move while the special counsel investigation of Russian interference into the 2016 presidential campaign is ongoing, the people said.

The "Post" adds that one such discussion occurred in early August during the trial of Paul Manafort, his former campaign chairman.

The early August reference coincides with this tweet that the President sent on the second day of Manafort`s trial. "This is a terrible situation and Attorney General Jeff Sessions should stop this rigged witch hunt right now before it continues to stain our country any further. Bob Mueller is totally conflicted, and his 17 angry Democrats that are doing his dirty work are a disgrace to USA."

And just last week, there was this.


AINSLEY EARHARDT, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Are you going to fire Sessions?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I`ll tell you what. As I`ve said, I wanted to stay uninvolved, but when everybody sees what`s going on in the Justice Department -- I always put Justice now with quotes, it`s a very, very sad day.

Jeff Sessions recused himself, which he shouldn`t have done. Or he should have told me. Even my enemies say that Jeff Sessions should have told you that he was going to recuse himself, and then you wouldn`t have put him in.

He took the job and then he said, I`m going to recuse myself. I said what kind of a man is this?


VELSHI: Now, "The Wall Street Journal" reports there`s an effort on Capitol Hill to urge Sessions to resist efforts to remove him and stay on the job through the midterms. Both the Journal and NBC News report that five Republican senators, John Cornyn, Senator John Kennedy, Thom Tillis, Ben Sasse and Jerry Moran had breakfast with Sessions last week to encourage him not to quit.

NBC News says the breakfast took place the same day as Trump`s remarks about Sessions to Fox News. That day, Sessions released a statement saying "The actions of the Department of Justice will not be improperly influenced by political considerations."

Meanwhile, other Senate Republicans who once warned Trump against firing Sessions are now openly signaling that there may no longer be opposition to such a move.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: We need an attorney general that can work with the President, that can lead the Department of Justice. This relationship is beyond repair, I think. It`s a pretty deep breach, and here`s what I`m suggesting, that he`s not the only man in the country that can be attorney general.

The President has lost confidence in Jeff Sessions.


VELSHI: Senator Graham also added this caution.


GRAHAM: But we`re not going to get a new attorney general unless they`re highly qualified and will let Mueller do his job. That`s sort of a deal.


VELSHI: During all of this, Robert Mueller`s team is now getting ready for the second criminal trial of Paul Manafort who was convicted of bank and tax fraud last week. The second trial is to take place in Washington, D.C. and was supposed to start on September 17th. But today the judge delayed opening statements by a week after Manafort`s attorneys said they needed more time to prepare.

Manafort is charged with conspiracy and money laundering. He`s pleaded not guilty. The news of the trial`s delay comes just one day after "The Wall Street Journal" reported Manafort`s defense teams held talks with prosecutors to try and resolve charges in that case.

We`re also getting new indications of the extent of Mueller`s interest in former Trump personal attorney Michael Cohen. CNBC is reporting that Mueller`s team continued to ask witnesses questions about Cohen`s ties with the Trump campaign for several weeks after the April 9th raid on Cohen`s offices and residence.

CNBC also reports that those witnesses were asked whether Cohen carried out personal business while working for the Trump Organization and for insights on why he was not hired to work in the White House.

Let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Tuesday night, Peter Baker, I`m sorry, the Chief White House Correspondent. You`re in the White House so much, we`re just going to call him Peter White House. He`s the Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," Josh Gerstein is the Senior White House Reporter for Politico, and Cynthia Alksne is a former Federal Prosecutor and a Veteran of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. Welcome to all of you.

Cynthia, let`s start with you. This talk about firing Jeff Sessions shouldn`t come as too much of a surprise to people who`ve seen the President`s tweets. He`s been angry at Sessions for a long time.

What do you think this means, this escalation that he`s actually discussing firing him with people inside the White House?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I agree with you it`s not exactly news because he`s been trying to bully this guy to resign for a long time. I think it`s a sign of an increasingly frantic behavior.

I mean, look at the position that he`s in. He`s got Manafort is convicted and is about to be convicted again. Cohen has flipped. Immunity has been given. His White House counsel has given 30 hours of testimony to Mueller. I think he feels the walls closing in and is in just a panic and does not know what to do.

If he does go ahead and do it, I will tell you I think it`s grounds for an obstruction count, because all of his tweets, all of his statements to Don McGahn that he wants him to fire him, all of his statements to Fox News and certainly what we received from "The Washington Post" tonight. All of that is evidence of a possible obstruction count. It`s not that different from, let`s say, pardoning Manafort is evidence of an obstruction count.

VELSHI: And it`s interesting that Donald Trump`s lawyer seems to share your view on this. According to "The Washington Post," his attorneys Rudolph Giuliani and Jay Sekulow advised him that Mueller could interpret such an action as an effort to obstruct justice and thwart the investigation already a major focus of the inquiry, the people said.

Giuliani confirmed that he and Trump have discussed Sessions` possible removal, but declined to offer details of their talks. If there`s any action taken, the President agrees with us that it shouldn`t be taken until after the investigation is concluded, Giuliani said. Sekulow referred questions to Giuliani.

So, Peter, let`s talk about this, and let`s talk about one example of what we heard from a senator, which was from Lindsey Graham, who had said before -- what did he say, there`d be holy hell to pay if Trump decides he wants to get rid of Jeff Sessions? Now he saying, hey, there are lots of people in America who can do the job. This guy`s time is up.

PETER BAKER, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, exactly, right. The news here is not that Trump wants to fire Sessions but that he`s getting signals now from Senate Republicans and it would OK if he does as long as he waits until after the midterm election.

Remember, a year ago when he first started talking about firing Sessions, it was the Senate Republicans who essentially stopped him in a pretty unanimous, you know, roar of protest from Sessions` former colleagues on the Hill. They basically said don`t do it. There will be, as you said, holy hell to pay, as Lindsey Graham said.

Chuck Grassley, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said I won`t have any time on my committee schedule to approve a successor, meaning he won`t get a new attorney general.

Today many of these Republicans are now sending much softer signal saying, "Well, you know, it`s a toxin relationship. He has right to have somebody of his choice in there and it`s probably going to happen anyway." That`s a different signal that they`re sending him and one that may encourage him to follow through where a year ago he chose not to.

VELSHI: Josh, let me ask you this, though. We have had reports that the President might want to replace the White House counsel, Don McGahn, because Don McGahn doesn`t seem to think the President should be discussing, considering or taking action on pardoning Paul Manafort. Obviously, if the President is thinking of getting rid of Jeff Sessions, that`s directly related to the Mueller investigation, which means McGahn could go or be forced out, which just forces the White House into a little bit more of a crisis than it`s already in.

JOSH GERSTEIN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Right. I mean, our sense, Ali, has been that McGahn actually has been contemplating leaving for some time the White House, decided to stay on in part to see through yet another what is President Trump`s Supreme Court nomination of Brett Kavanaugh. And so in order to have that opportunity, I think the sense was that McGahn wanted to provide some continuity there. So I don`t think there would be a need to fire him.

Folks are thinking that towards the end of the year, he might voluntarily depart, anyway, and one wonders with the big shift of leadership at the White House whether there`s equilibrium that had seemed to reign for the last year or so would be disturbed. There`s been this sort of equipoise between the President, and his legal advisers telling him don`t do the pardon of Manafort, don`t get rid of Jeff Sessions.

And then Sessions, remember who at one point last year, actually offered to resign and the effort to resign was sort of thwarted, or the request was dropped at some point apparently again at McGahn`s insistence that it would be a bad move. Sessions, too, has sort of been frozen and hasn`t taken any action.

So the sense is that maybe towards the end of the year or after the elections, maybe that equilibrium would breakdown a little bit, the President might become a little more aggressive and take some of these steps and maybe some of his advisers counseling him against it would depart the same.

VELSHI: So, Cynthia, what Josh said is interesting, except that this breakfast may be interesting. The five senators who apparently are encouraging Jeff Sessions to fight this, to stick around, and which may have led Jeff Sessions` issue that, I think, surprising statement. Most of us wouldn`t have expected Sessions after sort of caving all this time to talk back to the President and say that the Justice Department will not be unduly politically affected.

What do you make of that, the idea that Jeff Sessions seemed, at least momentarily, emboldened?

ALKSNE: Well, afterwards Ben Sasse had comments on the Senate floor saying that he would not vote to approve any attorney general who was going to be a political hack of the President. And that does give some of us some hope. But more senators need to stand up and say that and just say, we will not vote for anyone until the end of the Mueller investigation.

It`s hard for a person like me who really disagrees with almost everything Jeff Sessions has ever said in his entire life to realize that he`s what`s standing between constitutional norms and the President of the United States. And we really need him to continue to stand up like that. And so I can only applaud those five senators for speaking some truth to power to him and to try to encourage him to stick with it.

VELSHI: Peter, Cynthia and Josh, stand by for a second. I want to go to Steve Kornacki. As you can see on the bottom of the screen, we are now getting those results in Arizona.

Steve, tell us what we know.

STEVE KORNACKI, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, MSNBC NEWS: Yes, I mean, this is the way it works in Arizona. They come in in giant bunches. So what you`re seeing right now, this just came in about five minutes ago, Maricopa County in the Phoenix area, more than half the vote in the entire state comes out of here.

What you`re looking at is the early vote, the vote that was cast before Election Day in Maricopa County. Now, Arizona is one of those states with a vast majority of the vote is cast early. So what you were looking at here is likely the vast majority of all of the vote that will come out of the largest county in Arizona. So this is a very significant chunk of all of the vote that`s going to be in this primary.

You see Martha McSally. This is the establishment choice out here, running very comfortably ahead. Kelli Ward, Joe Arpaio, together, they`re getting about 48 percent but the split so much. McSally is able to take a 23-point lead right there.

We can tell you when Kelli Ward ran for the U.S. Senate against John McCain in 2016, she did do better, she did do significantly better, in the same day vote than she did in the early vote. The issue there was so much of the vote was early vote but that advantage he had in the same day, it just didn`t erase much of it. He was able to shave probably about five points off the advantage total that John McCain built through the early votes that you would expect with the same day as it comes in Maricopa.

Ward and Arpaio would do a little better, but McSally left -- we still have and it`s too early to call, we do want to see al little bit more. But this, I think, is the start that McSally certainly wanted to see.

VELSHI: And that`s the pattern that you would have anticipated. Let me ask you about Arpaio. Is he bigger in other counties? Is there place where you would expect him to make up some ground?

KORNACKI: Well, Maricopa County that was where he was the sheriff for all those years. So that is his base now potentially, you know, maybe in some of the more outlying areas, his brand of conservatism, his style of conservatism might sell better potentially. But again, that was sort of the issue here was, you know, McSally wasn`t just that she was ahead, it was that this Ward-Arpaio sort of Trump wing of the party, that the vote would be split up like that.

We have Arpaio did five points better somewhere. Maybe Ward does five points worse. Together, they`re sitting there in the high 40s. That would be enough to combine to give McSally.

Right, you can see I got a little more coming I can just show you here. This just came in as I was talking. This would be the early vote here. McSally, very small county, McSally in the early vote.

We`d have the -- OK, here you go. We were just asking where Joe Arpaio potentially would do better in the early vote. Yuma County, Joe Arpaio. But again, when I say how big Maricopa is this geographic.


KORNACKI: You add these up and you`re looking at about 7,000 votes right there. Add these up and you`re looking at about 200,000. So Arpaio is wining a big piece of real state here. Realistically, that`s 27,000 votes. He`s gap right here is sitting at about, you know, 70,000 votes just out in Maricopa in the early vote.

VELSHI: And no surprises on the Democrat side there.

KORNACKI: Right. And we have projected. We can just officially show you. Kyrsten Sinema, Congressman will be the Democratic nominee for Senate out there.

VELSHI: Very good. All right, Steve, we`re going to stay with you through the course of the evening. So I`ll come back to you very shortly.

I`m going to go back to Peter Baker, Cynthia Alksne and Josh Gerstein about the conversation -- about Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions and Paul Manafort.

Josh, you were at the Manafort hearing?

GERSTEIN: I was, yes.

VELSHI: Anything interesting that we need to know about?

GERSTEIN: Well, you heard the sort of the top-line news what is basically just a few days delay in trial. I don`t think that ultimately will be terribly significant. I don`t think that a deal is likely in the works mainly because the President has so publicly trolled a pardon out there for Manafort.

It would seem almost like a suicide mission to go and offer a guilty plea in the face of that kind of offer that`s out there on the table lurking, being trolled in front of the defendant. But, you know, there were other discussions that happened at that hearing, in particular, again, some prickly clashes between the judge and the defense team.

Remember in the Alexandria trial, it seemed the judge was pretty hostile at the prosecution. Here the judge snapped at one of the lead defense lawyers for Manafort, basically telling him to sit down and at one point calling him smug and saying she wouldn`t tolerate, you know, any kind of back-talk, especially when the jury is in the room.

So if that`s a signal of where we`re headed during this trial, the defense could be getting a very different reception from the judge in Washington, D.C. than they did down in Alexandria just a week or two ago.

VELSHI: And Cynthia, there are a lot of theories about the Manafort defense team and what they`re up to, the conversations that they had with the Mueller team. We heard this today from Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Counterintelligence official. Let`s listen to this.


FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSITANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: I`ve got a theory on this Manafort attempt at a pre-deal, which is he doesn`t want this stuff to come out at this next trial. This is about being an agent of the foreign government. This is about, as Joyce said, Russians and Ukrainians.

The evidence that`s going to come out here is ugly and it`s going to point badly toward the President and who he surrounds himself with. So I think Manafort gave it a shot to not let this trial happen. I think Mueller heard what he had to say and Mueller said, "It`s not good enough. We`re having a trial."


VELSHI: What do you think of that, Cynthia?

ALKSNE: That`s possible. Another possibility is they piddled around and danced around to have some plea negotiation to try to give Trump a sense of urgency that he needed to get the pardon done quickly. That`s also possible.

It`s also possible, pre-negotiations happen all the time right up until trial and it could be just that. You know, we just won`t know right away.

VELSHI: All right. We`re going to keep a close eye on it with your help. Thank you, Peter Baker, Josh Gerstein and Cynthia Alksne.

BAKER: Thanks, Ali.

VELSHI: Coming up next, it`s a last big primary night as we know before the midterms. Steve Kornacki is at the big board. He is there with the latest numbers.

And later, the President steps up his attacks on information, accusing sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter of silencing conservatives.

"The 11th Hour" is just getting started on a Tuesday night.


VELSHI: And we have breaking news. The news is not that Steve Kornacki is right again, because he always is, but I`m going to let him tell you what the actual news is.


KORNACKI: Well, Ali, NBC News officially projecting that Martha McSally is the winner of the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Arizona. The Congresswoman, the choice of the Republican Party establishment is the early vote you`re seeing here, but she is far enough ahead in this even if Ward or Arpaio does significantly better on election day, the votes that were actually cast today.

McSally now so far ahead. She is going to win this thing. What does that mean?

It means it sits up this battle for the fall in Arizona. McSally, the Republican -- that`s the wrong button, McSally, the Republican, Kyrsten Sinema, the Democrat, two members of the House, two members of Congress, two women running for the seat being vacated by Jeff Flake. And the national implications of this, they are very stark for Democrats.

If they have any chance of winning back control of the U.S. Senate, this is pretty much a must-win state for them. They`re going to need Sinema to beat McSally.

The most recent polling we`ve seen testing that McSally-Sinema match-up had McSally down by four points in Arizona. It`s been a long time since Arizona elected a Democrat to the Senate. It`s been since 1996 that Arizona voted Democratic in a presidential race, but Democrats think the climate, the candidate they have, maybe the Trump baggage, they think this is their best shot. Certainly it is their best shot in a long time.

But McSally, Sinema, it`s official, Ali. I told you they count them fast in Arizona.

VELSHI: No, kidding. They hold them for an hour and then they dump them, basically.

KORNACKI: And I think they`re counting them for that hour but the state law says, yes, they close them at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Arizona time. And then all the early vote comes in and the early vote is usually just a small fragment. But in Arizona, it`s part of the political culture now, almost everybody votes early.

So look at that. Within an hour, you get the winner. Folks staying up late, you got to get up for work. I don`t want anybody to turn off their TVs. Keep your TVs on. Never turn off MSNBC, you`ll get the winner pretty early.

VELSHI: Absolutely right. On nights like this, I don`t read anything. I just look for you and I listen to you and I watch for you tweets. So don`t go anywhere very far. I know that when you`re going away from where you are exactly because you`re getting more information.

So Steve, I`ll be back to you very shortly.

I want to bring in Charlie Sykes, Author and long-time Conservative Radio Host who`s now Contributing Editor and podcast Host for "The Weekly Standard."

Charlie, what do you make of what`s going on in Arizona right now?

CHARLIE SYKES, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Well, I think that`s the most interesting result at least so far. The nut job caucus was defeated. I mean, you had two of the most bizarre candidates on the ballot, Joe Arpaio and Kelli Ward. Both of them extreme, but also I would say, you know, generally repugnant candidates. You know, had either of them won that primary it would have been a tap-in for the Democrats to pick up that Senate seat.

But look, I mean, you know, tonight is a good night for Donald Trump because it`s another indication of how Trumpified the Republican Party --

VELSHI: His Party.

SYKES: That primary basically -- yes, that primary kind of degenerated into, you know, who is going to be more of a reliable totey for Donald Trump and, you know, ironically in the state represented by John McCain and Jeff Flake.

VELSHI: I think it`s important to point out Joe Arpaio, if anybody isn`t convinced of what Joe Arpaio is like. Here`s what he told Kasie Hunt about John McCain. Let`s listen.

All right. I`m going to bring you that, but he was asked if John McCain is a patriot and a hero, and Arpaio said it`s hard for him to answer because he never had a hero until several months ago when, after 75 years, he found his hero. I don`t know if you know what he said, Charlie, but he said Donald Trump is that hero.


VELSHI: Let`s go to Florida for a second and talk about that. Ron DeSantis, another situation in which he has won the primary for governor -- for senator -- I`m sorry, for governor for the Republican Party. Here`s a campaign ad that he ran. I think that`s pretty interesting.

Let`s watch it.


CASEY DESANTIS, WIFE OF RON DESANTIS: Everyone knows my husband Ron DeSantis is endorsed by President Trump. But he`s also an amazing dad. Ron loves playing with the kids. He reads stories.

REP. RON DESANTIS (R), GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: Then Mr. Trump said, you`re fired. I love that part.

C. DESANTIS: He`s teaching Madison to talk.

R. DESANTIS: Make America great again.

C. DESANTIS: People say Ron is all Trump, but he is so much more.

R. DESANTIS: Big league. So good.

C. DESANTIS: I just thought you should know.


VELSHI: I mean, Charlie, there is an example of somebody who is sort of out -- trying to out-Trump Trump or making everybody realize that he`s really all about Trump and maybe about something else a very distant second.

SYKES: Yes, you ought to make it clear that that is not a parody.

VELSHI: Correct.

SYKES: That is actually something he put on the air. He was willing to be a clown himself in that particular way.

You know, Florida is very, very interesting because it really sets up a preview for 2020 because you have the Republicans nominating a completely Trumpified candidate and the Democrats nominating apparently tonight Bernie Sanders-like progressive. And it`s going to be very interesting as a test case.

What do you do when basically, you know, both of those parties nominate somebody who is something of an outlier?

VELSHI: You know, both of these candidates for governor are 39 years old. I interviewed Andrew Gillum who is going to be the Democratic candidate. Bernie Sanders came into the race a little late for him, but Andrew Gillum is a progressive and that`s going to set up quite a battle in that state. He`s the former mayor -- he`s the mayor of Tallahassee. That`s going to set up a battle.

Jeremy Peters, by the way, is with us, Jeremy Peters of "The New York Times."

Jeremy, one of the things that sort of caught our attention today is this word that Donald Trump has talked to evangelicals and said that if Republicans lose the House in November, there will be violence in America. What do we make of this?

JEREMY PETERS, POLITICAL REPORTER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": So, Ali, this is the way that I think a lot of Republicans are trying to frame the midterms, is this fight between Trump and an angry, menacing, violent left. And the conflict they`re setting up there is that the Democrats have been so unhinged by Trump`s victory that they will stop at nothing to take that victory away from him. The implication there, if not implied, then outright stated in a lot of campaign speeches and ads is that they`re going to impeach President Trump.

So I think this is the kind of turf that very conservative members of Congress will want to fight on. I`m not so sure that it works for members in swing districts where, you know, you`re really going to need to win voters over on your ideas. I think that, you know, making this about a knock-down, drag-out violent fight with the left is not really something that a lot of centrist voters are going to respond to.

And Republicans have seen those numbers and they know that. So this is really a base play here.

VELSHI: Charlie, let`s talk about where Donald Trump sort of comes into this thing, because he sort of gets involved when he thinks somebody is going to win or when he thinks they can use his endorsement. He makes the endorsement. He then tweets very quickly, as he has tonight, about them, and it sort of bolsters Republicans` chances in these candidacies.

The stuff Jeremy is talking about in terms of getting moderates out, how does that work in Trump world?

SYKES: Well, I mean, he`s very, very effective, obviously, in the Republican primary because he`s got such a high approval rating among Republicans. But Jeremy is absolutely right, though, when he says, look, this is going to be the kind of scorched earth play that Donald Trump is going to make to gin up and motivate Republicans. He wants to run against in Antifa, he wants to run against MS-13, he wants to run against the killer of Mollie Tibbetts. He wants to frame this as, look, you know, whatever problems I may have, look how incredibly awful and what a terrible threat the left poses to you.

And if that means raising the prospect of violence and adding that kind of divisive rhetoric to American politics, he is fully prepared to do that between now and November. I would expect that it will escalate. It will get actually worse.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR: Jeremy, take a look at Florida again, where do Democrats push back against this, because Florida is always a swing state. In this particular case Democrats were probably a little excited that DeSantis gets this nomination because they can paint him as a Trump acolyte. On the other side you do have a candidate on the Democratic side, Andrew Gillum, who was not really expected to win. This is possibly the upset of the night.

JEREMY PETERS, THE NEW YORK TIMES POLITICAL REPORTER: Oh, yes, absolutely. It`s a major victory for the Bernie Sanders more progressive wing of the party which has been short on victories this cycle. They put up a lot of candidates and most of them have lost.

So, I think it will be a fight between the hearts and souls of each party. On the one hand you have Ron DeSantis who did everything but take a blood oath to Donald Trump during this primary season, and you have, in the Democrats, a big city mayor who supports $15 minimum wage single-payer health care and legalized marijuana. So, y9ou know, if those aren`t the polls of the two parties, you know, I don`t know what are.

VELSHI: Guys, good to talk to you tonight. Thank you for joining us. Jeremy Peters and Charlie Sykes.

Coming up, the president calls it rigged and very dangerous. He`s not actually talking about the Mueller investigation. The object of Trump`s latest attack when "The 11th Hour" continues.



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Google is really taking advantage of a lot of people, and I think that`s a very serious thing and a very serious charge.


VELSHI: President Trump wants an investigation into one of the world`s largest internet companies. His attack on Google started this morning with these two tweets, "Google search results for Trump news shows only the viewing/reporting of fake news media. In order words they have it rigged for me and others, so that almost all stories and news is bad. Fake CNN is prominent. Republican/conservative and fair media is shut out. Illegal? 96% of results on Trump news are from National Left Wing Media, very dangerous. Google and others are suppressing voices of conservatives and hiding information and news that is good. They are controlling what we can and cannot see. This is a very serious situation -- will be addressed."

As you heard there, it`s not just Google in Trump`s crosshairs.


TRUMP: I think what Google and what other others are doing if you look at what`s going on with Twitter, if you look at what`s going in Facebook, they better be careful because you`re -- you can`t do that to people. You can`t do it. We have tremendous -- we have literally thousands and thousands of complaints coming in. And you just can`t do that. So, I think that Google and Twitter, and Facebook, they`re really treading on very, very troubled territory and they have to be careful. It`s not fair to large portions of the population.


VELSHI: Google fired back in a statement saying in part, "Google search is not used to set a political agenda and we don`t bias our results toward any political idealogy."

All right, with us for more on this is Shannon Pettypiece White House correspondent for Bloomberg. Shannon, 96% of results, of that search are liberal, according to the president. I`m not sure where he got that information from. It doesn`t seem to be the result of any meaningful study.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: No, there had not been any meaningful study, and part of the explanation for that might be because he considers liberal media to be essentially all major news organizations at this point. He`s talking about NBC News, CNN, the "Washington Post," the "New York Times," ABC News he`s thrown in there before.

So, if you`re talking about -- those are some of the world`s biggest news organizations, certainly the biggest news organizations in this country that have very large reporting staff, they produce enormous amount of content. So, those are the organizations he`s, you know, lumping in together as liberal news organizations.

VELSHI: Look, he`s -- the interesting part about what the president has to say here is that the algorithms for Facebook and Google are not transparent, so we don`t actually know what causes these things to come up. But apparently the president was citing something that Lou Dobbs said that seemed to have reference to somebody who put two computers near each other and tested them both out. I mean we really -- I welcome a real study about how these search results come up, but two computers isn`t it.

PETTYPIECE: Well, and I mean, I`m not an expert ion search engine optimization, but anybody who has done a Google search probably knows that you get often times the most relevant results.

VELSHI: Right.

PETTYPIECE: You get results from a website that gets a lot of traffic. And this allegation the president was making seems to be saying that search engine optimization, this technology is been around for decades and, you know, really the backbone behind Google and Yahoo and other search engines, if it somehow biased against him personally, you know, that has no merit at all in how this technology works.

VELSHI: So, I guess one of the things that we have to think about here -- look, when I search on Google, I get results that come from FOX News and the "Wall Street Journal" and even Breitbart`s. I don`t know what the president on about here, but he did say something very interesting, it will dealt with or it would be addressed.

On one hand, we are having a very active discussion about whether Congress should be involved in regulating social media because some of the problems we`ve seen since the election. On the other hand, it seems to sound a little different when the White House sort of says it will be addressed.

PETTYPIECE: Right. Or when the president says so, you know, makes the statements in the Oval Office, in that video clip that you just showed. It carries some weight with it. The White House seems to be caught flat- footed about this today when very early in the morning I started asking people about it. A group of us reporters caught Larry Kudlow in the driveway and asked him about it. He said, you know, all he would say was it`s something we`re looking into --

VELSHI: In fact, I`ve got that for you. This is Larry Kudlow talking about Google.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does the president believe or does the administration feel that there needs to be some form of regulation for Google, or what exactly was the president referring to?

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR OF THE NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: We`ll let you know. We`re taking a look at it. We`ll let you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is the president aware that the idea originated in a story on Russian media during the campaign that`s been discredited?

KUDLOW: Which media?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Google censoring search results.

KUDLOW: This is about my pay grade.


VELSHI: It`s about his pay grade. Maybe about both of our pay grade.

PETTYPIECE: Well, he is the chief economic chief adviser so I think the only person above his pay grade is the president. He did go on to say also that this vague thing about we`re doing some investigation and analyses. No one else in the White House seemed to know what was going on.

VELSHI: What that is.

PETTYPIECE: So it was certainly another instance -- as our reporting indicates where the president caught his staff blindsided. But like we say, I mean, with this other accusations in the past, like, you know, millions of illegal votes, sometimes the White House ends up having to now create some investigation to support a claim that the president made based off of a news article that someone shared with him, or something that he heard late at night on TV.

VELSHI: Shannon, I never like to not take advantage of the fact that you, like me, have a background in economics reporting. The president has been touting this deal with Mexico. He said it`s not going to be NAFTA anymore, it`s going to be the U.S.-Mexican Trade Agreement, SUMTA. But a lot of people including the Mexican president seemed to think that Canada needs to be involved in this. Canada I know has its representatives in Washington this week and everybody is trying to hammer out a deal by Friday. Where do think we stand on this?

PETTYPIECE: We did not get any indications that any significant progress was made today base on our reporting. Yes, the Canadians have really dug in their heels here, and that`s a surprise because a year ago most of us reporters covering this thought Mexico would be the difficult partner to negotiate with. And it has been surprising to see how far apart Trudeau and this White House have become over this issue.

Of course, yes, you need Canada to be in part of this. Canada is the U.S.`s biggest trading partner. I mean, when you go to somebody`s state like Michigan, swing states, Ohio, Minnesota that, you know, do a lot of interstate commerce, or interstate international commerce between the U.S. and Canada, those states are aware this is going to be felt the most if a deal between Canada and the U.S. falls apart.

VELSHI: All right. We`re a few days away, according to the president, from a deadline for getting that all done. Shannon, always good to you see. Thank you my friend. Shannon Pettypiece.

Coming up, Steve Kornacki is going to be back to the big board with more details on the numbers. We have results coming in from Arizona that we`re going to share with you when "The 11th Hour" continues.


VELSHI: We have more results coming in from the last major primary elections of the 2018 cycle. Arizona and Florida voters are choosing party candidates for Senate, governor and House seats. In Arizona, NBC News is projecting that Martha McSally has won her three-way race in the GOP Senate Primary. And in Florida, the GOP Primary for governor included a high- profile presidential endorsement in a state that President Trump won in 2016 by 1.2%. In return, winner Ron DeSantis made sure to thank Trump for his support.


RONALD DESANTIS, FLORIDA GOP GOVERNOR NOMINEE: I did have support from someone in Washington. If you walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, he lives in the White House with the pillars in front of it. And I was able to talk to the president. I want to thank him for his support. I want to thank him for entrusting me with viewing me as someone who could be a great leader for Florida. So thank you, Mr. President.


VELSHI: All right. Here to break down the latest numbers, Steve Kornacki, MSNBC national political correspondent and fixture on your TV on election night. Steve, what do we got?

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, look, it was somebody -- a famous man named Tim Russell I think in the studio about 18 years ago said those words , Florida, Florida, Florida, Florida, and Florida. This fall we`re going to be talking about a lot because the governor`s race you just showed each party base I think got its candidate there tonight. And each party base got their candidate in the other party they think they can beat. So that governor`s race is going to be interesting.

How about the Senate race, though, because the Democrats they are entertaining hopes -- they may be a little bit outside, but they have some hope of winning back that Senate chamber. Well, Florida has a lot to do with that. What happened tonight, the Republican governor of Florida, no surprise here, he had token opposition in the Republican Primary, but Rick Scott will be the Republican nominee officially for the U.S. Senate. Who will he take on? He will take on Bill Nelson, Bill Nelson of Democrat.

And here`s the thing. We can show you the early polling on this race. This one has surprised people in both parties. If you average together the polling out there right now, Scott is actually slightly leading Bill Nelson. Again, a bit of a surprise because Florida always competitive. It was a Trump state in `16 but only by a small margin. And those Democrats in Trump states, the ones who are in trouble they tend to be in the state that Trump won by 30, 40 points.

Here is a Democratic state that Trump barely eat out and he is in a dogfight with Rick Scott. Rick Scott, by the way, he won two races for governor in 2010 and 2014. He barely won both of those. There was some thinking when he got into the Senate race that, you know what? He may not be that popular, it may not be the right year for him climatewise. So far he`s the defying a little bit of what was thought to be political gravity. We will see. But obviously this will have a lot to do. If Republicans can knock off Bill Nelson, very, very hard, almost impossible, to see Democrats picking up control of the Senate, so this will be a premiere race.

Another one, we set it up a minute ago with that news out of Arizona, but we`ll show you again the official winner on the Republican side, the establishment gets their wish here. Martha McSally, National Republican said they believe she`s the most electable. Look at this bunch. They said they believe she is clearly, in their mind, the only electable Republican on this list in the fall.

But even then, look at their opposition, she`s going to have, you take a look on the Democratic side, Kirsten Sinema, Democratic congressman. Again, no surprise here but official the nominee. What has the polling then showing us in this race? We`ll put it on the screen for you in Arizona. If I can get that to work.

Most recent poll, Sinema 48%, McSally 44%. When is the last time a Democratic candidate won a U.S. Senate race in Arizona? 1988. Dennis DeConcini was his name. Three decades. You got to go back that far. The last time a Democrat won an election in Arizona? `96, Clinton beat Bob Dole there. So this is a state with a rich Republican tradition. But Democrats look at it. They say, the demographics are changing a little bit, Trump has some issues in this state. HE did win. Trump won in 2016 but only by three points over Hillary Clinton. So, Democrats think if they get a favorable midterm climate, if they get a strong candidate, they think this could be the year that break those jinx losing streaks in Arizona.

And, of course, as we say, Arizona Senate, Florida Senate and you mentioned at the top there, that Florida governor`s race.

VELSHI: Let`s talk about that for a second. Because you and I are both getting some active commentary on Twitter right now about and Andrew Gillum who has won the Democratic race. A, this was not expected to happen. B, this is a guy who supported Hillary Clinton in the last election. C, Bernie Sanders has endorsed him this election. D, tonight he tweeted his thanks to Bernie Sanders. What is Andrew Gillum in terms of the Democratic Party?

KORNACKI: It is fascinating and I think we`re going to take a very close look at where exactly this coalition came from. One thought that`s out there and I want to look more closely at these returns here. But I think there`s a possibility here young voters might have turned out in larger numbers.

VELSHI: Which may be a done thing.

KORNACKI: For Gillum in this primary here. One trend we have seen all these primary nights we`ve been here and Democratic primaries one Democratic primary, I don`t know why it just did that, in one Democratic primary after another, we have been seeing this trend. Where if you have a female candidate and multiple male opponents in Democratic parties. The female candidates continually won and it seems Democratic voters have been eager to promote women in these races. That trend is defied here by Gillum. You know, he won in his home base, he won in South Florida. He won in a lot of the panhandle which was supposed to be Gwen Graham country. So, it`s 34%. But that`s a pretty broad coalition within that Democratic electorate there.

VELSHI: What does that tell you about the race that is set up between him and DeSantis as we go forward? Because you keep on emphasizing the fact that Florida right. Florida is a swing state. And now you have a Trump- backed candidate. And I think it`s fair to describe, I`ve interviewed Andrew Gillum. I think you can describe him as a progressive.

KORNACKI: Yes. No, absolutely. So, if you talk to each party and said OK, it`s Gillum versus DeSantis, you know, Democrats, how are you going to beat DeSantis in this thing? So we`ll put that up. This was the numbers tonight on the Republican side.

The Democratic answer is very easy. Their answer to how you beat DeSantis is Trump. You saw it I the speech. He attached himself at. He lives and dies by Trump. And maybe that`s going to be too much of a liability for him to overcome in 2018. The Republican answer I think to how they beat Gillum, first of all, we will see because I think Gillum is somebody who`s going to be a lot of people sort of looking into him right now for the first time.

VELSHI: Because he was not thought to be the front-runner here.

KORNACKI: Yes. The one thing hanging over this is mayor of Tallahassee, there is a federal investigation around city hall in Tallahassee he`s not been implicated it may not involved him at all, but it`s a bit of a cloud there that may get some attention now.

VELSHI: Got it, OK. So, we are going to be setting up for that one. That`s interesting to see how the governor`s race goes, and as just described, Senate race in Florida is going to be very interesting, as well. OK. So, both races tonight in Arizona and in Florida. A lot of interesting things coming out of it. Our thanks to Steve Kornacki.

Coming up, correcting the record in Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria`s death toll is now officially in the thousands. We`re back after this.


VELSHI: The last thing before we go tonight, a tragic update on just how devastating Hurricane Maria`s impact was on Puerto Rico last September. The storm left millions without power for far too long. It devastated the local economy and disrupted life across the island for more than 3 million American citizens. It`s worth pointing out again and again, Puerto Ricans are American citizens.

In the wake of the storm, Trump and his administration officials faced fierce criticism for what critics perceived as a response that was both slow and indifferent. The president however was immune to the criticism. In early October when the official death toll from the storm was just 16, people in Puerto Rico, the president compared the disaster to "a real catastrophe like Katrina."


TRUMP: Every death is a horror. But if you look at a real catastrophe like Katrina, and you look at the tremendous hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of people that died, and you look at what happened here with really a storm that was just totally overpowering, nobody`s ever seen anything like this, you can be very proud of all of your people, all of our people working together. Sixteen versus literally thousands of people. You can be very proud. Everybody around this table and everybody watching can really be very proud of what`s taken place in Puerto Rico.


VELSHI: Really proud of what`s taken place in Puerto Rico because only 16 people died well actually, 16 people didn`t die. The death toll of 16 was raised to 64 where it had since remained till today. An independence study commissioned by Puerto Rican officials was concluded by public health experts from George Washington University. And sadly it puts it the true number much, much higher.

With that study finished late today, Puerto Rico`s governor raised the U.S. territory`s official death from Hurricane Maria from 64 to 2,975 people. San Juan`s Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz was one of president Trump`s loudest critics in the wake of Hurricane Maria hitting Puerto Rico last year. Today she had this to say to the president.


CARMEN YULIN CRUZ, SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO MAYOR: All he had to say is I`m sorry. That 2,975 of you died. That`s all he had to say. But he`s incapable of doing that. Anything that comes out of the president`s mouth that does not begin with I am sorry that those people died even as a simple act of being in tune with what we`re feeling is totally neglectful and totally off the grid. I mean the man does not have a clue.


VELSHI: And that`s our broadcast for tonight. Thank you for being with us. And good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.


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