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Ntl. Weather Service: Florence now Cat. 2. TRANSCRIPT: 09/12/2018. The 11th Hour with Brian Williams

Guests: Bill Saffo, Shannon Pettypiece, Sam Stein, Ed Rappaport, Ken Starr, Anita Kumar

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: September 12, 2018 Guest: Bill Saffo, Shannon Pettypiece, Sam Stein, Ed Rappaport, Ken Starr, Anita Kumar

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: The breaking news we`re covering tonight, a storm on route that would test any presidency. With this President assuring the American people we are ready while his FEMA commanders fear what they call a "Mike Tyson punch." We`re live in the Carolinas with the latest.

Plus the President being described as shifting into a kind of salvation mode, readying himself for the worst if Democrats indeed take control of Congress.

And a man who knows the independent counsel business, Ken Starr, has been there and done that. And tonight we get his take on the Mueller operation as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Wednesday night.

And good evening, once again, from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 601 of the Trump Administration.

As this White House is preparing for a storm that would test any administration while the ongoing political and legal anxiety continues to hang over this west wing, between the Mueller effort, let`s not forget the approaching midterms.

First, to this approaching storm, it is poised to complete an intercontinental journey from the coast of West Africa to the East Coast of the United States. By this time tomorrow night we will be covering the hammering of the North and South Carolina coastlines that Florence will deliver. The international space station today used their widest-angle lens to fit the entire storm in one frame from 200-plus miles above the storm. It was hard to shoot that picture out the window.

About preparedness, the President talked about that tonight while engaging in some self-congratulation at the same time.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have some really big situation confronting us. It`s coming in fairly fast. And it`s going to be one of the biggest to ever hit the East Coast, one of the biggest to ever hit our country. Tremendous people working on the hurricane.

First responders, law enforcement, and FEMA and they`re all ready, and we`re getting tremendous accolades from politicians and the people, we are ready but this is going to be one of the biggest ones to ever hit our country.


WILLIAMS: The good news, just in the past few minutes, came in this form. Florence is now a Category 2 hurricane. Having already felt itself from the outer banks of North Carolina where the very first bands of rain and clouds have arrived.

If you have been following our meteorologist Bill Karins all day today, then you know he has called this at every stage along its progression into the coast. Bill is with us here in the studio tonight.

Bill, I believe I`m on solid ground when saying that a 3 to a 2 speaks mostly to high wind speed.

BILL KARINS, NBC NEWS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, completely. The wind speed is how we characterize Category 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5s. And typically, when you get a Category 5 and the highest wind speeds, you will get a larger storm surge. But that`s not always the case. Remember Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of New Jersey, that wasn`t a Category 4 or 5 and that was one of the worst storm surges ever.

So a lot has to do with the size of the storm and how much water it can push, not just how intense it is. So when you`re hearing the headline it is weakening, yes, the max winds are weakening. But that`s really about it. Not much has changed.

I`ll show you the storm surge forecast. This hasn`t changed from when it was a 4, because it`s already got a huge amount of momentum behind it. It`s already created these huge waves off the coast. All of that energy is heading to the shoreline. It doesn`t really matter anymore how much the storm weakens.

So we`re still expecting a nine to 13-foot storm surge even though at this time yesterday the Hurricane Center was saying we have a Category 4. Right now it`s only a Category 2. So it`s not changing this equation at all.

So for all the people that evacuated off these barrier islands, you did the smart thing because this water`s going to come up not just for one high tide cycle but maybe two. Maybe three if it stalls out long enough. And that`s going to cause devastation at the beaches.

Let me get to the new advisory and kind of refresh everyone that`s just joining us here at the top of the hour, again, we went from the 3 to a 2, we are at the top end of the 2. If it goes up five more miles per hour we`re back to a 3. So, again, that`s just semantics there.

It`s still moving at a good clip, northwest at 17 miles per hour. So we`re going to close in quickly here to the coastline as we go throughout the overnight hours and into the morning. We`re only about 385 miles away now from Wilmington.

Now to the all-important path, if you were with us early this morning the path shifted considerably to the south. It brought South Carolina into play, kind of took Virginia out. Now the path is kind of leveling out and notice it`s not stalling as much. We`re taking it now, almost looks like a guaranteed landfall near Wilmington. We were thinking it could go like this like the European model had it and then kind of paralleling the coastline. That`s looking more and more unlikely at this point.

So the Hurricane Center does have it weakening over the top of Wilmington. That would be about 8:00 a.m. So sunrise come, Friday morning, the eye of the storm could be right over the top of Wilmington. And then it weakens ever so slowly as it drifts down across the South Carolina-North Carolina border.

So what does this mean for the worst wind damage and what does this mean for the worst storm surge? It`s all to the right of this landfall center. So if it goes right into Wilmington, if you`re familiar with Onslow County, the marine base there, Camp Lejeune, that`s one of the areas that could be right through the eye, all the way up to North Thompson Beach, the Emerald Isle area, Morehead City, Atlantic Beach, Ocracoke Island, that`s all disappear. The Carteret County area, that could be in the northern eye for numerous hours as we go throughout tomorrow evening. That`s where the worst destruction and damage, there will be storm surge and wind.

And then as the storm continues then we`ll start to deal with other problems like rainfall. So here is the rainfall forecast. Isolated totals up to 40 inches. You do not need a Category 4 or 5 to have a devastating flood event. You can get that with tropical storms if it stalls out long enough.

So it`s really this area from Kingston to New Bern. If you`re familiar with that area that`s where the Neuse River spills into the Pamlico Sound. And when the wind is piling up into here, up into the Sound, at the same time all these waters trying to go out.

We could see flooding, Brian, that is worse in areas like River Bend, the Trenton area, and into the New Bern up to Kinston than we do even at the coast because this water`s going to pile into Sounds at the same time we`re getting feet of rain coming from the sky, all that water meets in the middle.

It`s going to be a very interesting storm. There`s a lost dynamics in play with it. We had a lot of changes today. We`ll see what happens overnight into tomorrow morning before we really nail this thing down.

WILLIAMS: Start talking about 40 inches of rain that gets people`s attention. Bill Karins we`ll come back to you for an update during the broadcast.

Sadly, virtually all as you just heard of those spaghetti strands of computer model predictions of the path of this storm pass right over Wilmington, North Carolina. That means that the man joining us live tonight from there has a lot on his mind. We welcome the mayor of Wilmington, Bill Saffo.

Mr. Mayor, let me -- I know you`re not amateurs there. I know this is not your first rodeo. And if any community knows how to handle a hurricane, it`s Wilmington, North Carolina. Predict for me what it`s going to be like if you and I were carrying on this interview at this same time tomorrow night or maybe Saturday morning from the marina where you are right now.

BILL SAFFO, WILMINGTON NORTH CAROLINA MAYOR: We`re going to see a lot of downed power lines. We`re going to see a lot of trees down. We`re going to see a lot of flooding, especially in low-lying areas.

The beaches, the barrier islands are definitely going to have a storm surge of some magnitude we don`t know. I mean, we have kind of an idea, but it`s going to definitely cover the beach. It`s going to go inland from there where you think. And then we`re going to start dealing with a lot of inland flooding.

We`ve seen this with a hurricane a couple years ago called Floyd. We saw it last year with Matthew. We`ve got a lot of concerns here with the flooding, with 40 inches of rain. I can tell you this community is not going to be able to take that. It`s going to take us some time to get that water out of here.

But we`re as prepared, Brian, as we can be. Obviously we`ve gone through these things as you mentioned many times. But this is a unique storm. We are -- it`s just a very unpredictable storm. And it`s tracked all over the place. And we just -- I think the community heeded the advice of the emergency management folks. We have a lot of people that have left the area.

When this storm passes I know a tremendous amount of folks are going to want to come back in to check on their property and get back home. I`m just asking them to allow us to get all of our resources into place before you make that and to make certain that you contact the highway patrol when you`re coming back to Wilmington to determine if those roads are going to be open or not. Or else Interstate 40 could look like a parking lot.

WILLIAMS: Mayor, if we have this piling of water, if we get a storm surge anywhere near the nine to 13 feet they`re talking about, what happens to those vessels behind you, those pleasure boats? What happens to the piers themselves, to the waterfront businesses and homes?

SAFFO: You know, obviously, I know that you`re from New Jersey and you lived on the coast there. You`re going to lose a lot of these boats. They`re going to be out into the marsh areas. We`re going to see a lot of these floating docks float away. There`s no doubt about it. I`ve seen it in other hurricanes where we`ve just lost a tremendous amount of vessels.

A lot of these folks have taken their boats out of the water. But, you know, that`s something we`re going to have to deal with that kind of a storm surge that we are anticipating in this area.

WILLIAMS: Mayor, I don`t imagine we`ll be able to talk to you at this hour tomorrow night not because comps (ph) will be down but because you`ll have your hands full. All we can do is thank you for being with us tonight.


WILLIAMS: And we wish you much luck, Mayor Saffo, and all the people in Wilmington. Appreciate you being with us this evening.

SAFFO: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: This storm`s track is then expected to turn south as you heard into and including Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The state`s entire coastline has been under a mandatory evacuation order since noon yesterday.

NBC News Correspondent Tammy Leitner is there. As you can tell on the beach, Tammy, what`s it like? What are they expecting?

TAMMY LEITNER, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brian, I can tell you 60 percent of the residents here have chosen to leave but that means that 40 percent of the residents are still here. And for those people time are -- time is running out.

Myrtle Beach has essentially shut down. It`s under a mandatory evacuation. There`s a curfew in place. The stores have been ordered to shut down. All the businesses have boarded up. It`s essentially a ghost town here.

Earlier today there was a mad dash. The few stores that were open people were scrambling to get supplies. We`re talking the vital essential things that they`re going to need, food, water, batteries, flashlights. So things that will sustain them not only through the hurricane but after the hurricane.

And Brian, you and I have covered enough hurricanes to know that the danger continues even after the hurricane is over, the days and weeks afterwards people will lose power, there will be flooding, and that`s when the real danger continues.


WILLIAMS: Tammy Leitner, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, good luck there and to our crew that`s there with you, our thanks. In all to Bill Karins, to Mayor Bill Saffo and to Tammy Leitner. We`ll be going back to Bill for an update on the storm before we go off the air tonight.

But on we must go. Today 601 as we said of the Trump Administration as the White House prepares to deal with this storm after already awarding itself high marks for dealing with this storm. There are mounting questions, of course, about the President`s performance.

Bob Woodward`s in-depth look at the Trump presidency so far describes incidents that have raised new concerns about the west wing. It`s just been out since yesterday. Publisher Simon & Schuster says sales of this book have reached 750,000 copies by the close of business on Tuesday, the first day of release.

Earlier on this network Bob Woodward described some of the concerns among the people around this President.


BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR "FEAR: TRUMP IN THE WHITE HOUSE": People closest to him do not trust him. And the impulse-driven presidency is something the more people know the more they realize we`re at risk. What matters to people is the performance as president.

And when you dig into this and excavate it, again, you find people are worried about the performance.


WILLIAMS: A new report is suggesting Trump himself may be taking these concerns more seriously of late. This is according to Axios, they write, "A few months ago he was scoffing at midterm consequences for him, but now Trump has heard the dire warnings from enough advisers that he`s shifting into salvation mode, as they call it, sharpening his campaign rhetoric and privately contemplating life under subpoena and the threat and reality of impeachment."

A new CNN poll out tonight indicates the public is watching Trump`s response to the Russia investigation and to Robert Mueller. Fifty percent approve of Mueller`s handling of the Russia investigation. That is 20 points more than the approval behind Trump`s handling of the same inquiry.

For more let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Wednesday night. Shannon Pettypiece, White House Correspondent for Bloomberg, and Sam Stein, Politics Editor at the Daily Beast.

Shannon, put it all into context. Here we are preparing for a storm, the President handing out advance accolades. But we have it in context. Bad polling numbers, which we know gets to him. The op-ed piece in the "New York Times" which we know still rankles. And the Woodward book, which is just starting to get a long ride.

SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I would go back even further -- well, I mean, you can go back from day one. But I would also add this flap after McCain, the Omarosa book and the Omarosa tapes that continue to trickle out a little bit. I mean, when you look at these approval numbers, you know, I`ve been asking people, you know, why are we seeing such a drop now and that`s what they`re saying. They`re saying there`s just this huge mass of daily controversies and scandals that seem to have picked up where it`s not only sort of these ones of the President`s own making but now these ones being made by those outside and closest to him.

And people also tell me that they feel like there was a big shift to go even further back after this immigration issue of families getting separated at the border. A lot of people on the ground working on the midterm campaigns feel like that was one of the key moments that started to really erode whatever support there still was for this President.

And then yes, you throw in the books, you throw in the tapes, you throw in a hurricane and that`s how you get to the situation we`re at right now, where the President has about 36 percent approval rating in a number of polls at this point.

WILLIAMS: And Sam, I want to show you another poll. This is, should Trump be impeached and removed from office? CNN poll, look at that first column, 47, 48.

So Sam, within a margin of error plus or minus 3.8, you`re possibly into the territory of a majority of Americans there. That happened quickly.

SAM STEIN, THE DAILY BEAST POLITICS EDITOR: Quite quickly in fact. And you know, it`s foreboding for Trump, obviously. The numbers suggest that should Democrats take over the chamber it`s a real possibility. Although of course you need a vastly bigger majority in the Senate to make it happen.

But it`s also I would say a bit foreboding for Democrats too. And the reason I say that is this, there is a real divide within the party ranks over how to handle this very issue.

Tom Steyer, the billionaire environmentalist has led a really robust and aggressive and actually quite successful organizing campaign about the need to impeach Trump. His e-mail list, you know, is second only to maybe Bernie Sanders at this point and Democratic Party. And he is finding himself butting heads with the leadership ranks of Democrats, the Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer who would like nothing more than to not talk about this whatsoever because they see it as a motivator for the Republican base.

So when you see polls that say 40 percent of all Americans, not just Democrats, but all Americans support the concept of impeachment, it suggests that down the road months from now Democrats are going to have to really tackle this issue in a way that I don`t think they`re prepared to do.

WILLIAMS: And Shannon, have you noted the fact that the two main surrogates in media this week have been both Trump boys? We noted on the broadcast last night a phrase you don`t hear outside of the Focker family, and that is the circle of trust.

PETTYPIECE: Yes. I mean, this issue of the President`s, you know, continual shrinking inner circle which we`ve really been talking about for over a year when we saw people like Keith Schiller and Hope Hicks and these close allies leaving. I mean, now we`re pretty much down to Dan Scavino and Stephen Miller as the people who are still close to the inner circle from the campaign days. You still, of course, have Jared and Ivanka. But it seems that the two of them are doing a lot more of their own things, not so much in -- I mean, they`re obviously still in the west wing but not in these constant daily flows.

There is a lot of tension between the President and John Kelly. It doesn`t necessarily mean it`s fatal but they don`t have that close relationship they had anymore. So when you look at who his advisers are at this point that are incredibly close I would say we`re down to as I mentioned Scavino, Stephen Miller. Bolton is still very close. Pompeo, though he`s traveling a lot and the Vice President.

I would note that probably the Vice President often gets forgotten but he`s probably one of the people the President spends the most time with and again, one of the last few survivors in this administration, if only by the fact that the President can`t get rid of him because he was elected.

WILLIAMS: Sam, I have something else to show you. This is the President`s remarks from earlier this evening, the audience recipients of the Medal of Honor. Let`s listen.


TRUMP: The Congressional Medal of Honor is the supreme symbol of American courage. It is the ultimate tribute to American valor. You are the strongest, the bravest, and the finest among us. See, my ego`s not that big.


WILLIAMS: I ask that, Sam, because it speaks to his wiring and because let`s go back to the storm for a moment. I`ve always believed hurricanes are empathy tests for presidents --


WILLIAMS: -- almost above all. And so when 43 flew over New Orleans, that was plainly not good enough.

STEIN: Yes. I mean, listen, to a certain degree I guess that clip shows some self-awareness from Donald Trump. But to your point, you know, he seems just emotionally detached from what are the traditional demands of the presidency. And that`s never more true than when you`re in the crucible of a hurricane.

And, you know, what`s his comments this week about how Puerto Rico, a hurricane in which an estimated 3,000 people died in the aftermath, that it was an unsung success for him, weren`t tone deaf, they were insulting. The only thing I would just add, though, is that we now this by now about Donald Trump. We have plenty of data points to back this up that he lacks sort of an empathetic gene that many politicians do have.

What is more problematic in my estimation is the fact that we have members of Congress who know this as well but have done very little if any oversight. So for instance, the response to Puerto Rico, there`s not been a real Congressional inquiry into what happened and what went wrong. They know that more storms are coming. They know that Donald Trump will be president for those storms.

But they have yet to actually try to find out real concrete answers about what the administration did wrong so that we can be better prepared for the next one. And so I think that`s the real negative element of the story, not another reminder that Donald Trump lacks empathy.

WILLIAMS: Indeed. And I heard you make that point yesterday. A death toll that now rivals that of 9/11 and not a single question has been asked in Congress.

Our thanks to our returning veterans, Shannon Pettypiece, Sam Stein starting us off on our storm-shortened -- that`s hard to say -- political segment. Thanks to you both.

STEIN: Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS: And coming up for us, a late live update from the National Hurricane Center on the path and strength of this storm.

And later, a man who knows about investigating a sitting president, Former Independent Counsel Ken Starr with us here in the studio here this evening. THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Wednesday night.



GOV. ROY COOPER, (D) NORTH CAROLINA: A powerful, damaging hurricane is hours away from our coast. It packs punishing storm surge, fierce winds, and torrential rains. If you`ve been asked to evacuate, don`t wait.


WILLIAMS: That warning, very direct warning this afternoon from the Governor of North Carolina, Roy Cooper. And the window to evacuate indeed is all but closed now. Some of the highways in the Carolinas have been converted to that contra flow, just one way out.

Everybody gets their evacuation orders from the National Hurricane Center, that`s where Ed Rappaport, the Center`s deputy director is standing by to talk to us from Miami.

And Ed, I imagine in your line of work there`s always a concern, this storm in just the last hour has been downgraded from a 3 to a 2. But tell the good folks watching that that refers mostly to wind speed.

ED RAPPAPORT, NHC DEPUTY DIRECTOR: That`s right. It`s a little bit deceiving in terms of what we expect will actually wind up happening. Sure, it`s great news that the wind has come down a little bit. The problem, though, today is that not only has the wind speed come down but the wind field itself has expanded.

So in fact, if we take a look at a graphic here to show that, here is the coast of the Carolinas with the warnings in place. Here is the center of the hurricane. This is the size of the hurricane force winds. This is much larger than what we were looking at yesterday. Here`s the size of the tropical storm force winds.

We`re going to bring all of that towards the coast. The problem is that storm surge is dependent on two factors of the wind, the maximum intensity but also the size. So while the maximum intensity has come down, the wind field has expanded. That`s balanced that out. And so we`re still expecting the storm surge values that we were talking about yesterday, upwards of perhaps nine to 13 feet of inundation with waves on top along portions of the North Carolina coast and potentially up some of the rivers as well.

WILLIAMS: Ed, there are people who depending on where they live and how they live, their living situation would rather see a 3 or 4 blow through over top of them quickly, than have a 1 or a 2 for 40 hours in their region.

RAPPAPORT: Well, 3 or 4 causes much more damage in terms of wind. But in terms of the rainfall, that`s the other big risk from this hurricane, particularly in the inland areas. Now, we talked about the storm surge first along the coast, and that`s where particularly if you`ve been told to do so by emergency management officials, evacuation really needs to take place right away, if not now first thing in the morning.

But look at the area that we`re expecting torrential rains over. This is North Carolina and South Carolina and Virginia, huge area of at least five to 10 inches of rain. A swath of even more along the coast, potentially 15 to 20 inches of rain, locally as much as 40 inches of rain. And it`s one thing to have it in an isolated spot or two. The entire area is going to get these heavy rains. And unfortunately, they`re going to fall on already saturated grounds from previous rain.

WILLIAMS: Twenty to 40 inches of precipitation at the very, very deep core of this storm. Ed Rappaport, we`ll be thinking of you in the hours ahead for you and the forecasters at the National Hurricane Center. Thank you so very much for joining us live tonight.

Coming up for us, two decades ago he was a key figure during house impeachment hearings. We`ll talk to former Independent Counsel Ken Starr about what`s different now and what may not be.


WILLIAMS: Few people in our history have been entrusted with the power to investigate a President and those around him. It has been over 20 years since President Bill Clinton faced the Whitewater investigation that eventually expanded into the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Ken Starr was of course the independent counsel during the investigation. Back in the late `90s he was almost as ubiquitous in news coverage in real time as one Robert Mueller is today. Ken Starr lived to tell about it. He`s here with us tonight. He`s a former judge and former solicitor general and independent counsel as we said in the Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky investigations during the Clinton administration.

He also happens to be the author of a new book, look who`s on the cover, called "Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation."

Counselor, thank you very much for making us part of your tour.


WILLIAMS: I`m very curious to talk about a guy you know. Robert Mueller is probably the subject of more of this broadcast for someone whose voice we never hear than anyone else. Talk about him personally. Talk about how he operates and your opinion of how he has acquitted himself thus far.

Well, I think the contrast of the Mueller investigation and the investigation I was charged with as I describe in the book is pretty clear. He reports to the attorney general of the United States. I and my fellow independent counsels were independent of the attorney general. What a huge difference that makes.

And so the assurance that the American people have is that when he undertakes an investigation into an area, let`s say Paul Manafort, he has secured the authority, the authorization of the attorney general, here the acting Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who is a man of integrity.

Now, I know Bob Mueller to be a man of integrity. I`ve expressed concerns about some of the people around him and some of the noise that we have seen. I think it`s important for the American people, all of the American people, to have confidence in the integrity of the investigation.

Those issues were raised when I was on the duty station, and they`re being raised now with Bob Mueller. But I know him to be a man of integrity.

WILLIAMS: So it`s not a witch hunt?

STARR: It`s definitely not a witch hunt. That is a term used by any and every politician. It was used by Bill Clinton. It was used by the entire Clinton White House when we were doing our work from really day one. There`s nothing there.

Well, there was a lot there. There were 14 criminal convictions including the President`s business partners and Hillary of course provided legal services for Madison guarantee savings and loan. There was a lot there. And so the independent counsel or the special counsel has a tough job to do. And he or she needs to get the job done as quickly as possible.

WILLIAMS: Did you ever think in your adult lifetime that you`d have a President of the United States that when you wake up in the morning you read has attacked the justice department and the FBI?

STARR: I think that`s a mistake. No, did I think that? And I think the President is ill-advised to follow his instincts in this case. But I must say, I was the victim of an unrelenting assault from the Clinton White House. It began virtually on day one.

And I found myself transmogrified. And I describe it in the book, overnight from being a former judge and former solicitor general into something that I was not. And so it`s easy for politicians, whether the president of the United States or member of Congress or a city councilperson to say this is all political. Let`s get to the facts. Let`s get to the bottom of things.

WILLIAMS: Forgetting for the moment about how he talks, should the president of the United States sit down with the special counsel?

STARR: There are two perspectives on that. The criminal defense lawyer says absolutely not. And that`s what we heard from David Kendall, as I describe in the book. President Clinton`s very able lawyer was saying well, no, no.

And eventually we issued a subpoena on behalf of the grand jury. So we will see what unfolds. It`s perhaps the fourth inning, maybe the fifth inning of what`s unfolding. But the other perspective is that of the president of the United States.

And I think there is an obligation on the part of the President to assist and cooperate in a duly authorized federal investigation.

WILLIAMS: God forbid you`re on your deathbed someday and someone says, judge, did this go too far, did it get out of hand? What`s the answer, in addition to being sad that you`re at the end of your life, what`s the answer for the ages? The answers for our investigation.

STARR: The answer for the ages is that Congress demanded it that a report be given in an impeachment context in the special counsel statute in effect. That is no longer in effect. That statute drove the dynamic toward impeachment. Impeachment is hell.

And we`re seeing polls in terms of impeachment. And so I think we have reformed that under the aegis of Attorney General Janet Reno, when this statute under which I was appointed expired, we went to essentially a restoration of the tradition that began with Ulysses S. Grant and had been the tradition for low, those many years. We depend on the executive branch to engage in a certain amount of self-policing, including saying let`s go outside to appoint this particular investigator to investigate the President.

WILLIAMS: Let the record reflect Ken Starr is in good health and indeed has authored a book, and there it is. The choice of the cover art does show it is a correction of the record. It is called "Contempt: A Memoir of the Clinton Investigation" by the man who knows, Ken Starr. Counselor, thank you very much for joining us on the air.

STARR: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: On a Wednesday night here in New York.

Coming up, three new polls have Democrats up by double digits in generic ballot races. Is it necessary -- necessarily because of the President`s numbers headed in the opposite direction? We`ll talk about that when we come back


WILLIAMS: Three new so-called generic ballot polls released today spelling bad news for Republicans in November. Voters in all three polls say they would choose a Democrat over a Republican for the House by at least a ten- point margin. From Quinnipiac Dems see a 14-point advantage, 52, 38 up from nine points in July.

NPR/Marist Poll Dems up by 12., 50, 38, five-point jump since July. And a new Politico morning consult poll finds Dems have a ten-point advantage, 45-35. If the trends of the last two months continue to the next two months, Republicans could face an even greater challenge than expected in the House.

Well, with us tonight to talk about it, Anita Kumar, White House correspondent for McClatchy Newspapers. And Bill Kristol, a veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations and editor at large of the "Weekly Standard."

Bill, in the hurricane coverage business they talk about an eyewall replacement cycle, like putting an electric mixer into a cake mix. You see the constant churn as it goes on down through the core. Are we watching some sort of replacement cycle in the Republican Party?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I hadn`t thought of that analogy. That`s very good. Very good, Brian. Tying together the two big stories of the day. It could be. I don`t know -- we`ll see a smaller Republican delegation in the House, probably a minority in the House. That ironically, it`ll be more Trumpy more conservative that face a lot of the moderates are going to lose in this condition.

In that NPR poll, for example, which is I think plus 12 overall, it`s unbelievable. Men are 50-42 Republican. Women are 28 -- 62-28 Democratic. It`s the biggest gender gap I`ve ever seen. It`s two, three, four times the typical gender gap, which always women always a little more democratic.

And I had breakfast way Pollster this morning who said what`s striking is in the past college educated women, college educated white women in particular who are married have ended up sticking with the Republicans even when they`ve had qualms with them.

Unmarried women overwhelmingly democratic. Married women have been sort of the margin for Republicans in the past few cycles. Married women, married college-educated women are deserving Republicans.

But this gender gap -- there are so many interesting things going on in American politics these days beyond Trump himself and this is just one of them. The massive gender gap, the education gap. But it looks to me like the momentum is clearly in the democratic direction and usually when you get one of these waves they build near the end. They don`t sort of, you know, give back a little bit. So looks pretty good for the Democrats.

WILLIAMS: So Anita, who runs the President`s political shop currently? Does the President listen to that person? And what can they do about that last point Bill made? And these coming numbers, and potential trends that`ll break late.

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS: Right. Well, obviously, there`s a political shop in the White House. The Trump re-election campaign is up and running although at a very small level at this -- two years in advance. But what they are doing and what they`re saying and what we can see is the President is going to states that he won, states where he`s still popular, that he won in 2016.

Montana, Missouri, West Virginia. I think he`s been to West Virginia several times. We`ve seen him do a lot of these rallies that are shown on TV. People are seeing those rallies. What`s interesting is the political staff is saying that people that go to these rallies are not necessarily exactly who you think.

They`re not all necessarily traditional Republican voters that a third of them are Trump supporters but they`re not really Republican voters. And that he wants to turn those people into Republican voters. And that could make a difference.

So you`re not going to see him in a lot of the blue states. You might see him in some battleground states like Florida, although he did win that state. He`s very involved in the governor`s race there. He was all in for Congressman DeSantis, and he`s still going to go support him. But you`ll see him in parts of the state doing things that, wouldn`t turn off Democrats in those parts of the state.

WILLIAMS: Bill, a friend of mine -- go ahead, Bill.

KRISTOL: I was going to say, I think Anita makes a key point, which is the Republicans right now are focused on holding the Senate. That is why the President is going to all these red states that have Democratic incumbents where the polls show basically dead even races, like five polls came out today in Senate races that are all within the margin of error.

I think four of them seats that are currently held by Democrats. So it would not be impossible for the Republicans to pick up 40 or 45 House seats, have a pretty big win in the House, and for Democrats to pick up 40 or 45 House seats and for Republicans to hold the Senate or even pick up a seat or two in the Senate.

That I think is how Trump would like to blunt the message of this election. Pour resources, pour his own strength insofar as he has it, pour everything they can into these -- into the red states, the Missouris, the North Dakotas, the Indianas, Florida where they have a strong Republican candidate for Senate, Governor Scott, and try to pick up one or two Senate seats.

And so it`s a mixed verdict. So the headline Wednesday morning is Democrats win House, Republicans hold or even slightly increase margin in Senate. That I think is the core Trump strategy right now.

WILLIAMS: And Anita, a friend of mine likes to joke that the day after the midterms Washington orthopedic surgeons will be busy installing spines in Republican members of Congress as they will now have air cover to make up their own mind about this President. Is that conceivable?

KUMAR: Well, I`m not sure about that. We`ll see. I mean, it definitely depends on how this turns out. If the Congress is split, we`ll see what happens. I mean, the White House is going to be very busy dealing with all sorts of congressional investigations, subpoenas.

Not necessarily impeachment. So we`ll have to see how the Republicans react to that. Obviously, they`re still not going to like that. Will they break with the President or will they -- what will they do? It`s really unclear because we`ve said a number of times over the last 18 months, 19 months that this is the breaking point, here`s what they`re going to do. They`re going to break with the President. And we haven`t really seen that.

WILLIAMS: Two of our favorite returning veterans, our thanks to Anita Kumar and Bill Kristol. Always a pleasure. Thank you for coming on on a Wednesday night.

Another break for us. And coming up, a late live update on this storm approaching the east coast from our meteorologist Bill Karins.


WILLIAMS: The good news is, Florence is down to Category 2. The bad news is, this is a big mover of a lot of rain and a lot of wind. Still first effects of the storm already being felt along the North Carolina outer banks. By this time tomorrow night we should be in thick of the coverage.

NBC News Meteorologist Bill Karins back with us again with some specifics on where and when to expect this thing to come ashore. Bill?

BILL KARINS, NBC METEOROLOGIST: Yes, the timing on this for me Brian. The main event is sunset tomorrow until we get to sunset Friday. That`s about 24 hour period when the worst of it`ll be done. And before we get into like the weakening, the storm surge and all that.

This is what most important thing is. Deaths, what we`re trying to prevent. That`s why we get evacuated. That`s why they get out the way, that`s why we tell people to go their safe rooms.

Storm surge kills about 50 percent of people in the hurricane related deaths, rainfall, freshwater flooding and flash flooding kills of another 27 percent. If you go all the way down here to wind, at only eight percent of hurricane related fatalities and choosing (ph) from objects that are flying or trees that fall down.

That`s why because the storm surge, because of weaken because of the category of winds, that`s a small slice of this pie. Seventy-five percent of the problems of death can occur because of water. And that`s the hugest issue.

For the rest of you just joining us and what we notice at the top of the hour, we did go from a three to a two. That just describes the wind. It`s really not that big of a deal. It`s already taking a ton of water in a huge wind field and throwing it towards the coast. The huge waves are coming along with that storm surge.

The forecast path update, I mentioned that key time period, sunset tomorrow until about sunset Friday, so that takes us right here, Thursday 8:00 p.m. still as strong as it is right now. Tomorrow at this time, that when we start to see the really nasty winds, and a storm surge and high waves arriving in the coastal areas of Currituck County to Onslow County.

And then during the overnight hours to Harnett County here which includes the Wilmington area. And then the storm will weaken during the day on Friday. You`ll hear a bit going down to a Category 1. Eventually a tropical storm as it goes in the South Carolina.

And then it becomes a big rain problem after we`re done with the surge. Notice the one thing. It doesn`t really stop or loop. It comes to crawl. So at least it slowly will progress, we no longer think it`s going to completely stop and hit the breaks completely.

So, as far as storm surge, if we`re going to see unfortunately all those beautiful houses on the beaches that are up on the pilings, if we`re going to see any damage to any of those with the wave action on top of the 9 to 13 foot storm surge, it`s going to be in this area here.

So this is Bald Head Island here. This is Wrightsville Beach area, the Topsail Beach and then we head up here toward Emerald Isle and then we go to Atlantic Beach and there`s more head city back behind it. So that`s the area of greatest concern.

And we have all these little water waste in here. We have Onslow Bay. And then we have the Pamlico Sound, the New River that comes down here. We could have real big huge problems with the consistent wind piling that water up into the Pamlico Sound. That area is well inland are going to have storm surge just as bad inland as they would on the coast.

In the high tide cycles, Thursday night at 11:13 should bad, should pretty high. The peak possibly could be towards lunch hour Friday at 11:46. If it`s not then, then it would be the one as we heading towards midnight on Friday.

So we have like three high tide cycles to get through. And then as we head through the weekend, Brian. We will see the storm weakening slowly pushing away. We have the historic rainfall possibilities of three to four feet isolated areas especially coastal North Carolina.

I had my eyes too on the mountains of North Carolina, anyone ever spent any time at Ashville or Boone, some pretty high hills up there. And if we get that storm heading in your general direction, a quick 10 inches of rain and high elevation can have a lot of issues far away from the coast.

WILLIAMS: We learn a lot. As usual Bill Karins, thank you so much for that and all the other updates.

To our viewers, we will start the overnight coverage tomorrow night. When this broadcast is over, we will stay on duty and get into the storm coverage as it develops.

Coming up, as we track the storm, we`ll report of a new record set by this administration.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. A piece of reporting from the "New York Times" that certainly gets your attention. It`s about migrant children being held in custody in the U.S. "Even though hundreds of children separated from their families after crossing the border have been released under court order, the overall number of detained migrant children has exploded to the highest ever recorded.

The significant counter narrative to the Trump administration`s efforts to reduce the number of undocumented families coming to the U.S.

Population levels at federally contracted shelters from migrant children had quietly shut up more than five fold since last summer according to data obtained by the Times, reaching a total of 12,800 this month.

There were 2,400 such children in custody May of 2017. This piece goes on to say our system of shelters is in near capacity, mostly because fewer immigrant kids are being released to live with families and other sponsors.

And now about the issue of separating families, this is not that. Most of these children according to the Times "Cross the alone without their parents. Many are teenagers from Central America, and they are housed in the system of more than 100 shelters across the U.S. with the highest with the highest concentration near the Southwest board.

This is a complicated story, the numbers are troubling. We will stay on it. For now that`s our broadcast on Wednesday night.

Thank you so very much for being here with us. Good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.


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