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Trump to meet with Rosenstein on Thursday. TRANSCRIPT: 9/24/2018, The 11th Hour

Guests: Cynthia Alksne, Frank Figliuzzi, Donna Edwards, David Jolly

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: September 24, 2018 Guest: Cynthia Alksne, Frank Figliuzzi, Donna Edwards, David Jolly

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, Brett Kavanaugh says he`s never sexually assaulted anyone and says he has the support of President Trump after another woman comes forward with an allegation of sexual misconduct and Washington awaits a Thursday hearing.

Plus a turbulent day today, but was it design to distract lots tension, lots of rumors that Rod Rosenstein was getting fired. He`s still on the job tonight. He`ll meet with President while Thursday`s Kavanaugh hearing is underway.

And tomorrow Donald Trump hosts world leaders in New York at the U.N. what could go wrong has THE 11TH HOUR gets underway at on a Monday night.

And as we start a new week good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 613 of the Trump administration and all eyes are on Thursday`s planned meeting between President Trump and Deputy A.G. Rod Rosenstein as he deals with the fallout from the explosive article late last week in the "New York Times." Rosenstein`s job seems safe for now after an important meeting at the White House today with Chief of Staff John Kelly. We`ll have much more on all of that in just a moment.

However, Thursday is also when we are set to hear from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh and his accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford when she testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

And earlier tonight Michael Avenatti told Rachel Maddow on this very network that he is representing a client, someone new to the story and unknown to all of us as of yet. A woman prepared to make credible allegations against Judge Kavanaugh.


MICHAEL AVENATTI, AMERICAN ATTORNEY: I`m representing one client who I can describe as a witness and victim as well as additional corroborating witnesses to what she is going to allege publicly within the next 48 hours as it relates to her particular allegations. We`re not going to provide additional information beyond that which is contained within the e-mails that I exchanged with the Senate Judiciary Committee.


WILLIAMS: Earlier today, Kavanaugh called advance claims from Avenatti false and outrageous and said he is not going anywhere after another accusation of sexual misconduct surfaced which brings us to last night`s story. The alleged incident that took place while Kavanaugh was in college at Yale. The "New Yorker" magazine details an accusation from a Connecticut native named, Deborah Ramirez who says she remembers Kavanaugh exposing himself at a drunken party, roughly 35 years ago.

Ramirez she was drinking that night and acknowledges that there are significant gaps in her memory of that evening as a result. But she said after six days of carefully assessing her memory she is confident it was Kavanaugh. Kavanaugh denied the allegation in a letter to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee today.

He wrote in part, "Another false and uncorroborated accusation from 35 years ago was published. Once again those alleged to have been witnesses to the event deny it ever happened. There is now a frenzy to come up with something, anything that will block this process and a vote on my confirmation from occurring. These are smears, pure and simple."

Earlier this evening, in light of his nomination imperil and the weight of these new allegations Kavanaugh and his wife Ashley took the rare step of a joint television appearance with Martha MacCallum of Fox News.


BRETT KAVANAUGH, SUPREME COURT NOMINEE: I never did any such thing. I never did any such thing. The other people alleged to be there don`t recall any such thing if such a thing had happened it would have been the talk of campus. The women I knew in college and the men I knew in college says it is inconceivable that I could have done such a thing. And then "New York Times" just reported that just last week the person making the accusation was calling other classmates saying she was not sure that I had done this.


WILLIAMS: Meanwhile, as we mention on Thursday we expect to hear from Brett Kavanaugh`s first accuser, Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, a California college professor. She is set to testify against Kavanaugh before the committee on the Judiciary at 10:00 a.m. Although we know the hearing will be open to the public. And that Dr. Ford will testify first, other details are still being worked out.

As we have reported, Cr. Ford has accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her at a high school party back in the 1980s. Kavanaugh, again, denied the allegation in tonight`s interview on Fox News.


KAVANAUGH: I was never at any such party. The other people who are alleged to be present have said they do not remember any such party. A woman who was present, another woman who was present who was Dr. Ford`s lifelong friend has said she doesn`t know me and never remembers being at a party with me at any time in her life. I am not questioning and have not questioned that perhaps Dr. Ford at some point in her life was sexually assaulted by someone in some place. But what I know was I have never sexually assaulted anyone.


WILLIAMS: Kavanaugh also told Fox News he will not withdraw his nomination to the Supreme Court and that he still that has the support of the President.


KAVANAUGH: We`re looking for a fair process where I can be heard and defend my integrity. My lifelong record, my lifelong record of promoting dignity and equality for women, starting with the women who knew me when I was 14 years old.

I`m not going anywhere.

MARTHA MACCALLUM, FOXNEWS ANCHOR: Do you believe that President Trump is going to standby you throughout?

KAVANAUGH: I know he`s going to standby me. He called me this afternoon and says he standby me.


WILLIAMS: Senate Republicans are coming out with a more forceful defense of Judge Kavanaugh of late earlier today in a speech on the Senate floor, Senator Mitch McConnel blasted something he named six or seven times, the smear campaign by the other side against Kavanaugh.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY MAJORITY LEADER: -- even by the far left standards, this shameful, shameful smear campaign has hit a new low. And I want to make it perfectly clear, Mr. President, Judge Kavanaugh will be voted on here on the Senate floor, up or down. On the Senate floor is by nominated the Supreme Court will receive a vote in this hour and the near future.


WILLIAMS: President Trump here in New York is also standing by his Supreme Court nominee.

Here is his response after being asked if he is confident that Kavanaugh would be confirmed.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a fine man and we certainly hope he`s going to be confirmed. And frankly, his family has suffered. His family has suffered. What`s going on is not something that should happen.


WILLIAMS: On that let`s bring in our lead off panel on a Monday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for the "New York Times." Cynthia Alksne, a Former Federal Prosecutor and a Veteran of the Civil Rights Division at the Justice. And Frank Figliuzzi, Former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence who in the past has worked for among others, one, Robert Mueller. Good evening and welcome to you all.

Cynthia, as it often does, councilor, it falls on you to sum it all up. Where are we, tonight, where are we in light of the new Avenatti client? Where are we in light of the Fox News television interview? Where are we in light of an approaching hearing on Thursday?

CYNTHIA ALKSNE, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, and you have to add to that, where are we with this new yearbook post?

WILLIAMS: Yes. I left a couple of things out.

ALKSNE: Yes. So, let`s look at the yearbook post for second because small facts revealed big truths.

WILLIAMS: Share with our audience what we are discussing here.

ALKSNE: Right. So what we know is from "The New York Times" and from his yearbook. He had a yearbook page which included a comment and he had a girl`s name that I`m not going to repeat because she`s been through enough, alumnus. And 14 other boys had the same thing. And it was essentially a running joke that these boys had an -- in essence they are calling her a "slut," that`s what`s going on.

And they thought that was funny, and they thought that was acceptable. And when asked about it of course he denied and has some excuse. And what we know from that small fact is he`s the type of person who could be so vile and so disrespectful to the women he`s around and that he continues to lie about it. And he lies about that and he lie about whether or not he got the documents from Senator Leahy and Senator Kennedy and Lisa Greaves and he lies about whether or not he knew that Judge Kozinski was actually harassing people. And then he lied about what he has done to these other women.

So what we have is a candidate for the United States Supreme Court who wants to be confirmed for the most important lifetime appointment we have in this -- the greatest country of the word and he is a liar. That`s what we have.

WILLIAMS: If you`re right and he is lying how do you square that other Brett Kavanaugh with the person we saw on that Fox News interview sitting next to his wife tonight?

ALKSNE: That person was coached and when he got the clamp (ph) over some question is just -- it`s coaching and it -- you know, it would be one thing if he said, "You know, when I was young and stupid I was young and stupid and I apologize. And I had hurt people`s feeling." But that`s not it, he says, "I was always a boy scout. I was always a champion of women." That`s not true.

And maybe he has grown up in the manner in which he treats women. There`s nothing like children and girls to teach you that, right? We have kids. But the other thing and his ambitious just lying about Kozinski and the lying about the documents that he did receive as a political operative from Leahy and Kennedy and Lisa Greaves that`s a character trait, and he got it. he got it in space.

WILLIAMS: Frank, your former organization, the FBI, sure has been part of the conversation of late (ph). And I`m curious with an FBI veteran like yourself to hear all of us late people talking about how an investigation could be done it would be normal to bring in the FBI. It could be done in three days, what kinds of things could a professional, if I dumped the shoe box in front of you what kinds of things could you bring back to help this hearing to better fill in the blanks as to who Brett Kavanaugh is?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: So, Brian, there`s not only tangible investigative benefits to bringing in an independent fact finder. But it also would serve the Senate so much better to be able to say we`re not -- we know we`re not the experts on this. We want to give it to the professional investigator.

So here is how the FBI would approach this. And by the way, it`s been done many times before with high level nominees. I personally in my career have been involved in briefing the White House under regulatory information on their nominees and have gone so far to get White House concurrence on a polygraph and interrogation of their nominee which by the way cleared that nominee who moved forward. All of this could be done in a matter of days.

So you have an expert on sexual assault interviews who could interview the surviving victim, right? You have people who could get brought into an FBI interview who would be told right up front it`s a violation of federal law to lie to us. There`s independent corroboration, tracking of time and place, they could all be done by an independent fact finder. And the White House is the only body that could call the FBI back and tell them to reopen the case!

WILLIAMS: And if you`re innocent the FBI is your friend.

FIGLIUZZI: They are finders of fact. We seek the truth and we pass on the product.

WILLIAMS: OK, Peter Baker, will you know when there are any signs if there are ever any signs of wobbly support by the White House?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, for the moment the White House is all in on Judge Kavanaugh. And there`s a couple of reasons for that, one of course is the President who himself has done and receiving end of allegations of sexual misconduct, he has a tendency to therefor sympathize with those who also accused and get his backup when these accusations come across member of course Roy Moore in Alabama.

Secondly, is this is a matter of strategy. There`s not enough time between now and the election to put forward another nominee and get that nominee confirm most likely. If that`s the case then they`re taking their chances on how the election turns out. If Democrats were to win and remember, it`s a 51 to 49 Senate right now, that`s a very different ball game for this Supreme Court seat.

So the best option from the strategic point of view for the White House is to try to get Judge Kavanaugh in there relatively quickly which is why you saw Senator McConnell get on the floor today and vow that he will have that vote regardless of what it said at that hearing. But you got a few Republican senators who are on the fence and they`re going to be paying a lot of attention to what is said on Thursday. And I think, you know, it really depends on the credibility and the presentations of these two witnesses and how they strike these wavering senators who will make the decision.

WILLIAMS: Cynthia, the Republicans on judiciary looked around and discovered there are 11 of them and no women. So --

ALKSNE: Really?

WILLIAMS: Yes, that`s apparently what they found. And so, I guess, driven by optics, they are planning to bring in this outside council. The way we`ve seen in big high profile hearing in their -- our recent history to run the questioning. Is that prejudicial to Dr. Ford not having the Senators who conducted the initial hearings of Kavanaugh do the questioning?

ALKSNE: In some level insulting to sort of all men. And it`s like, we don`t think men can do a basic interview of a victim. I tried a lot of sex crime cases in my day and the first supervisor I had was maybe the best prosecutor I ever seen. Nobody was a better prosecutor and then can do this just the same. This is all just about the politics. They don`t want anyone to notice, they think it`s a big secret, that it`s a bunch of just white guys and that they don`t elect women and put them on the judiciary committee. So that`s all that is.

And where -- I would just say, "Senator Grassley, I came to answer senator`s questions. And if you`re not going to ask any I suppose I`ll respond to the Democratic senators." And just say no. She doesn`t have to do what they say once she sits in that chair. She is a big girl. She is a smart girl just say no.

WILLIAMS: So Frank, absent the FBI being called in were left to interpret what we are giving including but not limited to tonight`s Fox News interview. In your professional eyes how do you look at give and take and exchange like that and his talking points?

FIGLIUZZI: So this is about not only the credibility of the Senate Committee, but it really goes to the heart of the credibility of the entire nomination process and then ultimately the credibility of our Supreme Court. If this is going to be tried in the public eye, if we`re now going watch cable news to hear various allegations and some of those people, many of those people may never get invited to testify before this committee, we`re left to draw our own conclusions and it further polarizes our culture, it further polarizes us from our institutions that we used to trust, it`s damaging to society.

WILLIAMS: Peter Baker, another story that has been driven by journalism, the story in the "New Yorker" last night gets your attention. Mr. Avenatti`s appearance on this network, in the studio tonight gets your attention. How confident, let me ask the other side of the question, how confident are those you speak with inside the west wing that this thing is going through and when McConnell goes through with his promise to have an up and down vote it`s up for the Republicans?

BAKER: Yes, they are less confident today than they were about a week ago and it wasn`t certain whether Dr. Blasey Ford would testify or not. What we saw last week was a single accusation by a single person. And that distinguishes it from a lot of this "Me Too" cases over the last year where once you had one you had a cascade of other accusers. And even if you wanted to dismiss one, it was hard to dismiss six or 10 or 12.

The fact there are now more stories coming out, not of the same, you know, directly the same as what Dr. Blasey Ford described but troubling obviously and suggestive of a culture in this high school and college, the year the Judge Kavanaugh inhabited. That is weighing on his nomination. That makes it harder. If it had just been one-to-one that might be one thing. The more of this types of stories that come out the more that`s going to, you know, influence the thinking presumably of those wavering senators.

So the White House is nervous about that. They don`t all feel confident that they know this is going to get through. They don`t want to speak about a plan b for the record obviously because to do so would cut Judge Kavanaugh`s legs out from under. But they`re going to be watching on Thursday just like everybody else.

WILLIAMS: Go to a break we are duty bound to do, but we could fill an hour with our big three tonight without even breaking a sweat. We regret calling an end to this conversation.

To, Peter Baker, to Cynthia Alksne, to Frank Figluizi, thank you so very much for starting us off.

And coming up the other big story of the day, the latest reporting on Rosenstein and his job future.

And later, new numbers tonight on where these midterms may be headed, exactly six weeks from now, THE 11TH HOUR just getting started with a new week on a Monday night. Please stay with us.




UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to fire Rod Rosenstein?

TRUMP: No, I`m meeting with Rod Rosenstein on Thursday when I get back from all of these meetings. And we`ll be meeting at the White House and we`ll be determining what`s going on. We want to have transparency, we want to have openness.


WILLIAMS: Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein`s future seems to be hanging in the balance tonight, this all follows the "New York Times" report last week saying that he suggested perhaps secretly recording Trump and lobbying Cabinet members to invoke the 25th Amendment. Sources tell NBC News that Trump decided not to fire Rosenstein after discussions over the weekend with aids and allies and among other things after being begged not to do so by Sean Hannity on live television Friday night.

Rosenstein, we remind you is a 28-year veteran of the Justice Department who`s been seeing overseeing the Mueller investigation since May of 2017. He was at the White House today for meetings with Chief of Staff John Kelly, an official say he did speak to the President by phone.

Throughout this chaotic Monday there were multiple accounts that Rosenstein had said that he would resign as Ashley Parker and her colleagues at the "Washington Post" report, "The two hours and 10 minutes between the first report that Rosenstein had verbally offered to resign and the official White House statement that he was still ton the job was a period of confusion in the west wing and on cable news and Twitter, pure mayhem."

Rosenstein`s uncertain position has reunited concern that the President will try to end some how the Mueller investigation.

Today, one of Trump`s lawyers suggested what would happen if Rosenstein were to leave.


JAY SEKULOW, TRUMP ATTORNEY: I think it`s really important that there`s be a step back taken here and a review. And I think it`s a review that has to be thorough and complete. And a review that has to include an investigation of what has transpired with all of the statements and all of these allegations going back to these broken page in Bruce Ohr. And basically a time out on this inquiry.


WILLIAMS: Rosenstein possible ouster (ph) raising still more warning signs for Attorney General Jeff Session who got a mention from the President during a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera this morning.


GERALDO RIVERA, TALK SHOW HOST: Now apparently, you know, it seems there are people in your own inner circle, some -- this guy is in charge of the Russia collusion investigation for goodness sake, and he is ready to stab you in the back. I mean, you must be unsettled about it.

TRUMP: I`m not unsettled about anything, but I`ll tell you what. We are looking at it and it is and it is, you know, he was hired by Jeff Sessions. I was not involved in that process because, you know, they go out and they get their own deputies and people that work in the department, and Jeff Sessions hired him.


WILLIMS: With us tonight to talk about all of it Ashley Parker Pulitzer Prize Winning White House Reporter for "The Washington Post." Jeremy Bash, Former Chief of Staff at CIA and the Pentagon. And we`ve convinced Frank Figluizi to stay around for a bit more of our conversation.

Ashley, this may require a judgment on your part, but you are ideally situated to saw judge. Was today genuine tumult for everybody especially Rod Rosenstein or was it a disco ball where shiny objects are concerned?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: I think it was both. But first and foremost it was really genuine tumult. No one knew what was going to happen today. Rod Rosenstein, our understanding was that he went over to the White House prepared to resign but fully expecting and being prepared to be fired. He is on the job at least until Thursday.

Within the White House, and again, this is a White House that often operates against a backdrop of chaos, things were even more chaotic than usual because the President and many of his top aids were in New York for the opening of the United Nations general assembly. You had Chief of Staff John Kelly back in Washington. So even a White House that is already a bit tumultuous there was a lag time as they tried to figure out what was going on.

One White House official as we in the media frantically scrambled to try to figure out if Rosenstein was staying in his job, was getting fired or was resigning. Called my colleague Phil Rucker at "The Washington Post" and basically said that the White House is trying to figure out the exact same thing not just the reality but their own talking point. Whether they -- how they were going to try and spin it.

So -- part of your question, at the end of the day it was kind of this disco ball because as of Monday night nothing has actually changed yet.

WILLIAMS: Ashley, I found it notable that Kelly walked him out to the car. A little stretch of pavement called west exact, that`s between the White House and the old executive officer building. You do so know that cameras are trained on that area and all of those vehicles. And it`s not often where the principal walks the guest out there. Kelly had to have known.

PARKER: I think that`s right. I think on the one hand that was a little bit of a show of support, but I think this is also a White House that is try to go figure out what exactly they want to do with this situation. And one of the concerns that has been repeated to the President and that Kelly may have been trying to underscore in that public gesture is that on the one hand at the end of the day, whether Rosenstein resigns or whether he`s fired the end result is the same. He`s gone. He is no longer the, you know, Deputy Attorney General.

That said there is a tremendous difference between the President accepting his resignation which while it might cause problems for the midterms would be an acceptable solution to the White House and the President firing him. And that is something that the Presidnet senior advisors over the weekend today, but for quite sometime now have tried to explain to the President that he simply cannot do.

If Rosenstein leave, they say it has to be by his own decision and not by the President firing him because that just adds another data point for Robert Mueller`s investigation into obstruction of justice.

WILLIAMS: And you`re so right to point out that huge distinction.

So Jeremy, if in fact he leaves you and so many others have been kind enough to be on our broadcast regularly, have said that a Rosenstein departure would equal a constitutional crisis or as close to one as you want to come or are we there yet?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF: Well, even before we get to departure, Brian, I think that a Thursday meeting is wholly improper. And here is why. Rod Rosenstein is overseeing an investigation into the conduct of the President. The President is a subject to the investigation and many of his close associates are targets of that investigation.

It is entirely inappropriate for the President to meet with rod Rosenstein and do effectively what he do with Jim Comey before he fired Comey which is to invite, in this case Rosenstein to pledge loyalty, to say, "Are you on my team? Are you with me or against me?" And to hold Rosenstein`s job over his head, make audition for the job he already holds. It`s an effort by the President to pressure the investigation in effect to compromise and to obstruct it.

WILLIAMS: And now to our former fed, Frank, how would team Mueller view a Rosenstein departure and how would they process it? what would it mean to them?

FIGLIUZZI: So, first let me just echo what Jeremy said about the fact that a meeting on Thursday could actually turn into a fact witness situation where now Mueller`s team has to interview anybody present during that meeting. To ensure that obstruction was occurring and that they weren`t discussing a special council inquiry.

Now, how was the Mueller team reacting? So this dry run we all went through as a nation today, they are prepared. They are prepared to press the send button on packages of prosecutions that would involve various state attorney generals and various U.S. attorney offices. But rest assured they treated today as rehearsal for what is almost inevitable because the departure now of Rod Rosenstein. Whatever the timing is now not a question of if but a question of when.

WILLIAMS: Jeremy, remind us, why would Rosenstein be fearful about potentially testifying?

BASH: Well, of course, I don`t think he wants to be in the witness in which he is overseeing the investigation of, and it would compromise his ability to oversee his investigation. He have to recuse himself and then once he`s out of the oversight role, then the president could put one of his cronies in. So I think Rosenstein`s singular objective is to stay in the job. I don`t think he`ll resign. I think if the president gives him an unethical order like, please pledge loyalty to me, Rosenstein will refuse. And if the president wants to, the president can go ahead and fire Rosenstein and that will constitute in effect a Saturday night massacre.

WILLIAMS: To Ashley Parker, to Jeremy Bash, to Frank Figliuzzi, can`t thank you enough for coming on, on a Monday night. We really appreciate it.

And coming up, as the uncertainty around the Justice Department grows, the president is here in New York at the United Nations. That means our chief foreign affairs correspondent Andrea Mitchell is here in New York covering the United Nations. She`ll be with us when we come back.


WILLIAMS: While uncertainty over the president`s Supreme Court pick and the future of things like the Mueller investigation grip Washington, Donald Trump is here in New York. In fact, he`s spending the night maybe six blocks from here at Trump Tower. He is here for the U.N. General Assembly. Both matters loomed large as Trump met with world leaders, an attempt to shift the focus back to foreign policy.

Here with us for more, Andrea Mitchell, our chief foreign affairs correspondent of host of Andrea Mitchell Reports at noon Eastern weekdays on this network.

So, this gathering every year, it`s your woodstock. It`s your burning man. For those of us who cannot or do not wish to follow it as closely as you do, on what fronts are you watching closely? Who should we look for and what?

ANDREA MITCHELL, CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS: Well, first of all, North Korea. Last year, it was rocket man --


MITCHELL: -- and we were threatening nuclear war threats both ways, of course. This year, the president saying today, I`m going to meet with him again. It will be a second summit. And this is not really according to the advice of his own intelligence advisers who say, he`s not denuclearizing, he`s renuclearizing, he`s expanding his weapons. That`s what the evidence shows.

But, the president chooses to embrace this and even critics would admit, better to be talking jaw-jaw instead of war-war as Winston Churchill said. So, it`s a step. It`s diplomacy. He has so much confidence in his personal diplomacy, but the truth is that these summits are not really substantive. They`re basically embracing a guy that he says today is really -- you know, really good, really terrific.

WILLIAMS: The term of our -- in our business is a terrible word bilat, which stands for bilateral meeting which is usually just the picture of two leaders sitting uncomfortably close and looking at the cameras.

Usually, there is a bilateral with, you know, a friendly of, say, Trudeau of Canada. But because this president is different, he doesn`t even have that this time around.

MITCHELL: No. And in fact, he did meet with Macron today and Macron is awkwardly embracing him to come on November 11th, obviously, to stay back to Paris because we know the president loves parades. He`s not going to have that parade that was too expensive even for Secretary Mattis and for the city of Washington to absorb, which is what he was looking forward to. So he`s going to Paris for a parade.

But, no meeting with Trudeau.


MITCHELL: Justin Trudeau and the president of the United States, Trudeau and the Canadias are furious that not only are they being slapped with tariffs and NAFTA is being renegotiated, OK, but they`re being accused of violating the national security of united states of America. This is the longest unguarded border. They have troops in Afghanistan since day one. They are NATO members. They are allies, our closest friends and neighbors. And we are using an obscure unused before provision of the trade law to say that they`re violating our national security because, you know, hurting our steel and aluminum industries.

WILLIAMS: And all of these leaders can see our media and know exactly what`s happening in Washington and inside the West Wing.

MITCHELL: In fact, they don`t have to look that far because that every bilat, if you will, the shouted questions are all about Rosenstein and Kavanaugh and you`re standing by your man, so nobody is asking him about, you know, war or peace. What`s really different in the speech we`re going to see tomorrow is it`s America first writ large again. It will be very happy talk about North Korea. And it`s really going after Iran. Iran is the target this time.


MITCHELL: Big time.


MITCHELL: And that is certainly going to make Israel and Saudi Arabia happy in the Emirates. But it is infuriating Europe. And we are isolating ourselves from Europe, from our closest allies, the Brits, the Germans, the French are really angry that we backed out of the Iran nuclear deal. Iran is still complying, by the way, just by threats not to.

And, they are going to be sanctioned just because Iran is going to be sanctioned. The Europeans now are going to have to cancel all of these deals, stop buying oil from Iran because they`re going to have a choice. Trade with Iran or deal with the dollar economy banking around the world, the United States. They have no choice. So they are really angry about this as well and they`re angry about the tariffs against Europe.

WILLIAMS: No rest for our friend Andrea Mitchell during what really is burning man week here in New York, the U.N. General Assembly.

MITCHELL: Traffic --

WILLIAMS: Thank you, friend, for staying -- always, Manhattan is a --

MITCHELL: Post (ph) stay away.

WILLIAMS: -- police state as of tonight. Thank you for visiting us.

Coming up, two veterans of Capitol Hill help us try to determine the political cost of yet another chaotic day in the life of this administration.


WILLIAMS: At the start of yet another chaotic week at the Trump White House, members of Congress are at the center of the debate over the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee and federal judge, Brett Kavanaugh, and that has the cross-aisle blame game already heating up.


SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R) UTAH, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: Well, it`s amazing to me that these allegations come out of nowhere at the last minute and that they weren`t brought up earlier in this process. And it`s not untypical for our friends on the other side to pull that kind of crack.

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D) HAWAII, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: So we need an investigation, anytime there`s another crime, what do we do first? We investigate. So the Republicans are totally stonewalling any investigation in their desire to fast track this nomination come hell or high water.


WILLIAMS: Here with us tonight to talk about it, two of our favorite returning veterans, two former member of Congress, Donna Edwards, Democrat of the great state of Maryland, and David Jolly, Republican of the great state of Florida. Welcome to you both.

Congresswoman, I`d like to begin with you. I don`t know if you`ve seen the president`s handy work tonight on Twitter from Trump Tower as we were coming down the hall to come in to the studio. "The Democrats are working hard to destroy a wonderful man and a man who has the potential to be one of our greatest Supreme Court justices ever with an array of false acquisitions later changed to accusations, the likes of which have never been seen before."

Congresswoman, the question is, this hearing on Thursday, when we hear from someone like Dr. Ford, do you believe it has the capacity to change American minds, but tougher target, do you believe it has the capacity to change the minds of Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee?

DONNA EDWARDS (D) MARYLAND, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: I do. I think that there are increasing number of senators not just on the Judiciary Committee, but in the body who are very concerned at this stage about this testimony coming up. And I think that they should be worried, I think that Dr. Ford is very credible in terms of her accounting and that that will be evident when it comes to this hearing. I think it`s a bad look for Republicans for the 11 men on the Republican side who are going to be facing Dr. Ford.

And frankly, all of this wrangling around trying to defend Judge Kavanaugh, I think, is indefensible. I mean, what Senator Hatch said ignores the fact that for nearly a year, they refused to even meet with Merrick Garland on this -- on his nomination. And yet they`re claiming some sort of abuse of process. I think the Democrats actually have it right on this one, allow Dr. Ford to offer her testimony. They should be calling additional witnesses, there should be an FBI investigation and, frankly, Judge Kavanaugh should want one because he shouldn`t want to enter on to a court with this stain and what some have described as an asterisk by his name.

And so, I have a feeling that this is going to go really south for Republicans really quickly on Thursday.

WILLIAMS: Congressman David Jolly, do you think any minds will be changed by the Fox News interview tonight with the judge and his wife?

DAVID JOLLY (R) FLORIDA, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: I don`t think any minds will be changed. The question is, does it become politically untenable for any single senator that then kind of begins a domino effect. I know a lot of people are looking at Murkowski and Collins because they`re the two females sometimes moderate United States senators. But frankly, that`s embarrassing as a Republican to suggest that only women can recognize the controversy surrounding this judge.

The American people will choose who they want to believe. I choose to believe Dr. Ford. But, what Republicans in the Senate are missing right now is they might win this confirmation fight but they`re going to lose the hearts and minds of a lot of American voters. The easiest pathway here for Republicans and for Kavanaugh is for him to withdraw. Don`t take this controversy to the court that he holds so dear, the highest court in the land. Withdraw, have Trump nominate somebody. It could be a Mike Lee who could get confirmed very quickly. It could be one of the other justices that has already been vetted by the Trump administration. Don`t go into November, but frankly, don`t even go into Thursday with Kavanaugh still a nominee.

WILLIAMS: Wow, interesting thought. We have to just pause our conversation. We`ll take a break, we`ll continue on the other side with some new polling out on the midterms. We`ll share it with you right after this.


WILLIAMS: We mentioned this earlier. Tomorrow marks exactly six weeks until the midterm elections while a lot of people learned in 2016 the election prediction business is dangerous. We, with that in mind, will simply present these new numbers to you.

According to the latest NBC News "Wall Street Journal" poll, registered voters say they prefer a democratic-controlled Congress by a 12 percentage point margin. That is the largest lead for the dems so far in this election cycle. But the poll also found the GOP closing the enthusiasm gap, i.e., getting their base riled up. 61% of registered Republicans now say they`re very interested in the November elections. That`s up nine points from their level of engagement just a month ago, just four points behind the Democrats.

Still with us to talk dems and reps, Donna Edwards and David Jolly, former members of Congress both. David, be our Republican whisperer for viewers who may not get what is driving up enthusiasm in the Republican base during this of all times?

JOLLY: So a lot of that, Brian, is just the calendar, the fact that we`re getting closer to an election. More people are paying attention. You see voter enthusiasm, voter intensity spike among those that we call supervoters, who kind of always vote, they follow politics pretty regularly.

But what we are seeing in the polls not just today, but every Republican poll right now, is a freefall among Republicans for your medium and what the industry calls low information voters, those who, perhaps, politics is not the number one priority. It is those voters that there is no message that is working for Republicans right now. Consider what they`ve seen in the last two years and Obamacare repeal without a replace, a corporate tax bill that is seen as being rigged towards the wealthy, putting kids in cages, as Andrea Mitchell said, an international relations policy that continues to be fumbled. And then wrestling with issues like Roy Moore and Brett Kavanaugh.

There is no message that`s working for Republicans right now. They are in it free fall. That`s what we`re seeing in the numbers.

WILLIAMS: And Congresswoman, about those 12 points, let`s convert it to a large urban area, one in your home state, Baltimore City, Maryland, how do the Democrats convert that 12 points and get those people to the polls to see that 12 points reflected in that generic ballot?

EDWARDS: Well, I think that as we`ve seen throughout the primary season, democratic enthusiasm is up and it has remained up, and I think that that`s going to show in the polls. And we`re talking about, you know, suburban areas, for example, around Philadelphia where we have very contested president congressional seats at play, and this is going to happen all across the country.

And I think that what Republicans are discovering is that while there is enthusiasm among their base in terms of turnout, they are losing independents, they are losing college-educated women. And these hearings that we`re going to see on Thursday and the allegations that are outstanding against this notoriously unpopular nominee and couple that with the Russia investigation and Rosenstein, and the fact that everybody identifies their number one issue as health care, and I think that this is a recipe for disaster for Republicans and in further encourages Democrats to show up to vote.

WILLIAMS: Congresswoman, thank you. Congressman, thank you. Our viewers can tell you`re both former members because of your civility to each other and your modest host. Appreciate it. Always a pleasure to have you both on.

And coming up, we hear from one of the many bit players with Russian friends who got caught up in what has since become the Trump Russia investigation. That story when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, Rob Goldstone is giving interviews and telling people what it`s like to testify before the Mueller grand jury. When we first learned of him and camera crews first caught up with him, he was initially portrayed as a rather foppish and even Flintstonian figure until the realization that he played a serious and consequential role in the Trump Russia case. The British-born former newspaper reporter runs a P.R. firm mostly representing musicians, and the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow 2013 put him into the Trump orbit.

It was Goldstone who wrote the e-mail on behalf of the Russians who wanted to meet with Donnie Jr. to share dirt on Hillary Clinton. That cemented Rob Goldstone`s role in the Mueller investigation. It got him an invitation to appear before the grand jury in Washington, which he has now done. And when he sat down with NBC News correspondent Cynthia McFadden, he described what that process is like.


ROB GOLDSTONE, BRITISH MUSIC PUBLICIST: It`s terrifying, even if you believe you`ve done absolutely nothing wrong.


GOLDSTONE: No lawyer. You know, I was picked up by two FBI agents and driven to an underground entrance.

MCFADDEN: How big is the room?

GOLDSTONE: The room is like a lecture room in a college.

MCFADDEN: The 23 grand jurors?

GOLDSTONE: Most of them, I would say, they range probably from late 20s, early 30s to their 50s, black, white, Latino.


WILLIAMS: Goldstone said the powerful Russians he represented were excited about Mr. Trump back then five years ago because Trump had good things to say about Vladimir Putin and about them at a time when nobody had anything good to say about either Vladimir Putin or Russia.

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