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Hurricane Michael strikes. TRANSCRIPT: 10/10/2018, The 11th Hour w. Brian Williams.

Guests: Mark Demaria, Matt Zapotowsky, David Jolly, Jill Colvin

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: October 10, 2018 Guest: Mark Demaria, Matt Zapotowsky, David Jolly, Jill Colvin

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. This was day 629 of the Trump administration, and yet this day was largely taken up by an awesome occurrence in the world of nature. A rainstorm just days ago blew up into a hurricane named Michael. It was a category 4 and was still growing as it churned up and over the Gulf Coast today with winds over 155, two miles an hour shy of a category 5. And now cemented in the history books as the third lowest low pressure reading of any U.S. hurricane.

The Florida governor put it very bluntly late today, "This was the worst storm the Florida Panhandle has ever seen."

And it lived on tonight as a hurricane with a distinct eye entirely over land. And what remains at the center of the storm now is focused on Georgia and the Carolinas. There is no accurate death toll, not yet. By one estimate from the rescuers at the Cajun Navy there are 1,000 rescues awaiting, easily 24 hours` worth of work ahead for them in their estimation.

In places where it`s now dark and flooded and still hundreds of thousands are without power, and it`s clear it will take some time and lots of help for this area to recover.

Meanwhile, tonight about 1,000 miles north of the storm President Trump went ahead with a campaign fund-raiser and a rally in Erie, PA where he made mention of those in the path of the hurricane.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to send our thoughts and prayers of our entire nation to everyone in the path of Hurricane Michael, especially in the Florida Panhandle.

It`s a big one, one of the biggest we`ve ever seen.

I`ll be traveling to Florida very, very shortly. So we just want to wish them all the best, and God speed. God speed. God bless you all.


WILLIAMS: Exactly 24 hours ago in this very studio our meteorologist Bill Karins warned us this would come ashore as a category 4. He was right. And he hasn`t left. And he is back with us tonight.

Hey, Bill.

BILL KARINS, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST: Hey. And just before I get to the new update from the National Hurricane Center that just came out, we do have a tornado warning in effect now for the Hilton Head area and the Buford, South Carolina area. So, you know, that`s just one of the hazards that we have here. We do have this tornado watch that`s going to go through the night. And that`s with this little storm cell coming in just in the north of Savannah.

So again, it hasn`t produced a tornado but it could, and I`m sure a lot of people had their little alerts on their phones going off in that area near Hilton Head and the Buford area.

So here`s the new update from the Hurricane Center. We`re at 75 miles per hour. So we`re at the weakest we possibly can be for a category 1 hurricane. And after this it will drop down to a tropical storm. It`s still accelerating to the northeast at 20 miles per hour.

And it is now getting very close to the Macon area. And eventually by tomorrow morning it will be near Augusta. And it`s still a very big large rain shield with this.

And here`s the new forecast path. Again, we`re not expecting a lot of damage from here on out. So it doesn`t really matter exactly where the center goes over. We may actually see stronger gusts along the coast with that southerly inflow coming off the water tomorrow morning. So Lake Charleston could have -- and Hilton Head like 40 to 50-mile-per-hour winds coming off the water and the surf will be all turned up also.

But the storm path will take it into the Carolinas here. Winds not a big deal as we said,40 to 45-mile-per-hour winds, that`s not going to cause any problems. As far as our tropical alerts go, still watching the tropical storm warnings right up the coastal areas into areas of Central and North Carolina for tomorrow.

And here is how the wind is going to look out. And we`re going to talk about these shadings. This is the probability of experiencing tropical storm force winds. By the time we get to tomorrow afternoon it`s pretty low, about 25 percent to 50 percent here toward the Fayetteville area, getting up toward Raleigh and all through eastern portions of North Carolina.

And as far as the rain goes, and this is, you know, it`s been such a warm month so far of October right up the eastern seaboard. It`s been very humid, unusually humid. So it`s not going to be any big surprise to get a good soaking of rain out of this storm as it heads up the coastal areas. Four to five inches of rain widespread. We have flash flood watches that are in effect for areas from Southern New England, New York City, right down through New Jersey and into areas of Virginia here for that impending rain.

And finally, we`ll end with the winds. Again, minor tree damage is probably still occurring. Winds gust in the 50-mile-per-hour range here, Brian. We`re almost done with the damaging stage of our historic storm.

It`s hard to imagine that this bowling ball, that`s what I`ll call it, made landfall earlier today as one of the strongest storms I`ll ever see.

WILLIAMS: Definition of a long day`s journey into night. Bill Karins has been at our side throughout. We`ll see you later this hour, Bill. Thank you.

We want to turn now to Gabe Gutierrez, who`s been covering this storm all day long in Apalachicola, Florida not far from where landfall happened today.

Hey, Gabe.

GABE GUTIERREZ, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brian. Well, this is what we`re seeing in the Panhandle. Pretty much up and down the Panhandle at this point. Massive trees have been toppled. Power lines are down. Some 400,000 people in Florida are without power. And this really shows off the power of this destructive storm. This is a concrete ring around this tree. It was completely uprooted.

And this storm really came in fast and furious, Brian, as you`ve been reporting. This -- a category 4 storm, the most powerful that the Panhandle has ever seen with maximum sustained winds of 155 miles per hour. And actually made landfall just to our west near Mexico Beach. Total devastation there, we`re told homes are ripped apart.

Here in this area we saw significant storm surge of about seven feet or so. Part of the historic downtown here in Apalachicola was flooded. But yes, U. S. 98 in and out of Apalachicola is shut down at this point, covered by trees like this and downed power lines. Authorities are going to assess the damage starting tomorrow. There are people that need to be rescued in other parts of the Panhandle near Mexico Beach. That damage will be assessed for days to come.

But again, Brian, at this point this neighborhood, many communities along the Panhandle are dark and still and there is no true accounting yet of the extent of this damage. By the way, Brian, authorities do say that one person was killed today when a tree fell on their home just outside of Tallahassee.


WILLIAMS: It`s an eerie time, the first night after a storm, so many of them arrive at night. This was a rare daytime arrival, however. Gabe Gutierrez there in Apalachicola.

I want to show you a piece of video from Panama City, where the wind got the best -- look at this freight train on the right. The cars are leaning up to the side, many of them left their undercarriages on the tracks. But imagine the wind power to blow a freight train to the side and off the tracks. That`s part of what we saw today.

As we said, the storm progressed this afternoon into this evening. Tammy Leitner was in the path of what was left of it in Albany, Georgia.

Hey, Tammy.


Winds still very strong here as you can see. This storm, though, is weakening as it goes across Georgia. Winds are about 75 miles an hour.

If you take a look over here at this tree, we`ll back up to give you a look at the damage, just how strong it is and what it can do.

Now, this is the strongest hurricane to come through Georgia since about 1898. I spoke with police just a short while ago and they told me they actually had a tornado sighting, it did not touch down, but there`s still a tornado warning for this area. I also spoke with county officials. They told me they`ve just been getting inundated with calls, emergency calls.

And as you know, officials can`t go out, emergency responders can`t go out once winds reach a certain limit. It`s about 35 miles an hour. So they said they`re not sending anybody out for this area. They will start going out once they slow down. But they said they`re getting inundated right now.

They`re actually putting out a call for ATVs because they`re so worried that they`re not going to be able to get out because so many trees are down right now in this area.

So Brian, once first light comes up and the winds calm down, they`re going to go out and start assessing the damage. They`re also very worried about flooding in this area.


WILLIAMS: All right, Tammy Leitner in Georgia. Thanks.

The storm is going to pass over a lot of standing pine forest. For what is left of this and what it is we have just witnessed we want to turn now to Mark DeMaria, Branch Chief at the National Hurricane Center.

Mark, I imagine it has been an incredible day where you work. We`ve heard from the governor. This was the most destructive storm in the history of the Florida Panhandle. Have you ever seen a storm progression like this?

MARK DEMARIA, NATL. HURRICANE CENTER BRANCH CHIEF: This certainly was in some of the top categories of the recent storms. It`s not unprecedented, but we saw Hurricane Maria last year, Hurricane Wilma in the past, Hurricane Andrew further back. But certainly it was a very rapid intensification over the past two days.

WILLIAMS: And Mark, tell us a little bit more about what`s left of it. It`s almost incredible that it`s been over land for so many hours, which can have such a shredding effect, and yet we still see if not an eye certainly the profile of the low around which the circulation is taking place.

DEMARIA: Yes, that`s right. You can still see on the radar image here. You can see still some bands and the remnant of the old inner core. And we`re still seeing through the Doppler Radar Analysis winds of hurricane force, roughly 75 miles per hour in the center. So it still remains somewhat of a wind threat for tonight and into tomorrow morning.

WILLIAMS: It was still strengthening as it came over land. It was a strong 4, borderline 5. And I`m curious how rare that was today.

DEMARIA: Very rare for the storms to continue to intensify right up to the coast. Particularly along the Gulf Coast, there`s very fairly shallow shelf water there. And sometimes that mixes up and cools the ocean.

But in this case for Hurricane Michael that didn`t happen. And that was partially due to the fact that the waters in the Northern Gulf of Mexico are much warmer than they usually are, up to three degrees Fahrenheit warmer. So that allowed Michael to stay much stronger than it normally would have as it approached the coast.

WILLIAMS: All these and more reasons why Michael now takes its place in hurricane history, certainly where the State of Florida is concerned.

Mark DeMaria, thank you very much for being with us from the National Hurricane Center in Miami. We will continue to follow the latest on this history-making storm and the path it continues on tonight.

But first some new reporting to get to from the "Washington Post" that once again seems to put Jeff Sessions` name and job in play. And later the FBI director makes his first public comments about the background investigation, that investigation that helped Justice Kavanaugh win his confirmation.

"The 11th Hour" on a busy Wednesday just getting started tonight.



TRUMP: I`m disappointed in the attorney general for many reasons. And you understand that.

KRISTEN WELKER, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Are you going to fire him? Are you going to fire Jeff Sessions?

TRUMP: We are looking at lots of different things. I have a great Cabinet. We have the greatest economy ever in the history of our country. So we`re very happy with the way things are running generally speaking.


WILLIAMS: That was a month ago. President Trump dodging a direct question about the fate of his embattled Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

And new reporting from the "Washington Post" tonight indicates Sessions` job is apparently still very much in doubt. "President Trump talked recently with Jeff Sessions` own chief of staff about replacing Sessions as attorney general, according to people briefed on the conversation, signaling that the President remains keenly interested in ousting his top law enforcement official."

And with us on the telephone tonight, one of the authors of this new report, Matt Zapotowsky, National Security Reporter for the "Washington Post."

Matt, I know you`re not in the -- what does this mean business as much as you`re in the report the facts business. But what does it mean that Sessions` job and his name were still in play during this time period?

MATT ZAPOTOSKY, "WASHINGTON POST" NATL. SECURITY REPORTER (via telephone): Well, I think it`s just remarkable that the President, his relationship with Sessions is so fractured that he went to Sessions` own top aide, like the head guy in Sessions` office, and suggests to him, "Hey, would you want to be the attorney general when we remove Jeff Sessions?" Jeff Sessions essentially is like a zombie in the Justice Department now.

You know the President is going to the top guy in his office and saying, "Hey, would you take this job?" So that`s, to us what is most remarkable. It does seem that Sessions and Rod Rosenstein will likely survive until the midterms. I think the President`s advisers have convinced him if you make a move before then that could hurt Republicans` chances. But after that I think all bets are off and it`s very likely that Sessions goes.

WILLIAMS: Now, this Sessions chief of staff, keeping things polite, you would think there would be a recruitment and vetting process for the next chief law enforcement officer of our country. Would his background, his name put him organically on any vetting list of top five candidates to be attorney general?

ZAPOTOWSKY: Well, he`s not someone who is really connected in D.C. circles. He didn`t come from D. C. big law, as many attorneys general do. He was the U. S. attorney in Iowa for a long time. He ran unsuccessfully for the Senate out there.

People might know him best, frankly, because before he became Jeff Sessions` chief of staff he was at CNN political commentator, legal commentator. He`s a very conservative guy.

He looks the part. He`s an ex-University of Iowa football player, big tough-looking guy. And we understand that`s part of what is appealing to him, to Trump. But he`s not a name that people in connected D. C. legal circles would probably know. And he`s really a behind-the-scenes guy as Jeff Sessions` chief of staff.

WILLIAMS: We have a shot of him, in fact behind the Attorney General.

Mark, thank you for your reporting tonight. Thank you very much for joining us by telephone. Matt Zapotosky, forgive me, thank you so much.

This is the latest piece of reporting on this relationship between the President and his still attorney general.

Let`s talk about this tonight with Frank Figliuzzi, Former FBI Assistant Director for Counter Intelligence. And David Joly, Former Republican Congressman from the State of Florida which has been in the news all day for an unrelated and tragic reason.

So Frank, what does this story in "The Post" suggest to you, this kind of open round of recruitment, especially the time it`s taking place?

FRANK FIGLUIZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Well, a couple of things, brain. First, I have to say when it comes to Jeff Sessions, the phrase "Dead Man Walking" comes to mind. I think it`s increasingly looking like he is going to go after the midterm.

And then secondly I`ve got to think about the political nature of seeking his replacement. So we`re talking about a chief of staff now about the potential replacement or someone who`s been talked to about replacing the A.G.

This is not a typical position from which you pick the attorney general of the United States. The chief of staff is someone who has incredible organization skills, administrative skills, runs the office for the attorney general, but not someone who ascends to that Cabinet-level position. So then you ask why, why this person.

And we find this CNN essay that was written by this man that says that he believes Mueller has approached the dangerous red line when he started looking into the finances and the financial connections between Mueller and Russia -- excuse me, between the President and Russia. So we have a man who`s on record with a statement that actually could cause him to have to recuse himself from this.

If I`m on the Mueller team tonight, I`m increasingly thinking that the deadline is coming, the clock is ticking and we need to finish this up.

WILLIAMS: David Jolly, this is such a bizarre story. And politically speaking, can the President not maintain radio silence and keep his head down on this one job, on this one matter?

DAVID JOLLY, (R) FLORIDA FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN: And listen, the takeaway from the Kavanaugh confirmation for Donald Trump is that the Republicans on the Hill will stick with him through whatever he does, including firing Jeff Sessions. And even if the Democrats take over the House, he already knows he`s going to be subject to investigation. So he might as well get Jeff Sessions out of the way, replace him with a loyalist.

And to Frank`s point, this is what the nation needs to know about Matt Whitaker, the chief of staff. John Kelly referred to Matt Whitaker as the White House`s eyes and ears within the Department of Justice.

His essay on CNN as Frank referred to said that the President`s personal finances were a red line but also said that the Rosenstein memo appointing Mueller was not as broad as Mueller interprets it to be. That the line that says, anything arising out of this investigation, Whitaker suggested that that should be interpreted in a very limited scope. That is why the White House wants Whitaker there, because he will do the President`s bidding and possibly shut down this investigation if Mueller hasn`t concluded it by the time he would get there.

WILLIAMS: Frank, is it apparent to you that the nature of some of these stories it makes people want to say they wouldn`t be doing this in plain sight, would they? This can`t be the case. And yet night after night with gentlemen like you, we talked about the fact that this is the case.

FIGLIUZZI: We`ve seen obstruction of justice in plain sight. We`ve seen tampering with witnesses in plain sight. And we see falsehoods put out every single day from this White House. So nothing should surprise us anymore. And I think we need to take things at face value. And this is that Sessions is on his way out, likely Rosenstein is on his way out, and we may have a very political animal that replaces one or both of those people.

WILLIAMS: Tonight in a phone interview with Fox News, the President does - - is said to have said we`ll see what happens on the subject of Jeff Sessions.

Frank, while I have you, I want to read you something about the disappearance of the "Washington Post" journalist. This is reporting tonight from the "Washington Post." This is about intelligence intercepts which allegedly show a plan to lure the journalist Jamal Khashoggi to Saudi Arabia. "The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed Bin Salman, ordered an operation to lure Washington Post Columnist Jamal Khashoggi back to Saudi Arabia from his home in Virginia and then detained him according to U.S. Intelligence intercepts of Saudi officials discussing the plan."

Frank, this is complicated, as are all things by our relationship with the kingdom. It`s complicated by the fact that our President`s first overseas trip as President was to the kingdom.

FIGLIUZZI: Well, it`s also complicated by the fact that today the President of the United States said no one knows what`s happened here, we don`t know. And now it`s coming out that the U.S. Intelligence community may well have intercepted this plan in advance. And so there would have been a duty to warn. The U.S. government would have had to warn this person to say we`ve got something, or at least go to the Saudis and say, "Don`t do this, don`t think of doing this."

But Brian, we`re living in a state right now where China has detained the head of Interpol, Vladimir Putin is poisoning his people on foreign soil, and now we have the Saudis allegedly killing and dismembering one of their citizens in a foreign consulate.

America First has turned into America silent. And we need a President to step up and be that moral voice in the world.

WILLIAMS: David Jolly, just a question to you before we pause our conversation and have to take a break. And it`s about your home state and what we`ve witnessed today.

I have to say, and I know you`ve dealt with your share of emergencies and natural disasters when you were in office, but it was striking to hear the governor say, this is the worst storm in the history of the Florida Panhandle. This was incredible to watch as a one-day event.

JOLLY: It certainly was. We saw similar storms, Opal, and then we saw Ivan in the 2000s. But what was unique about this was how quickly it grew. It moved fast, which was good. And from a national perspective, a less populated part of the state was struck. But if you are in that part of the state those words bring little comfort.

Brian, we`re facing a lot of devastation in the Panhandle, a long-term recovery. The nice thing about those communities are these are heart and soul communities within our state. I think we`re going to hear stories of quiet heroism. We`re going to see church families reach out, communities reach out. But tonight there are people whose lives are still in peril.


JOLLY: We know that. There are people still trapped in their homes. And for people of faith it`s a time to pray. If you don`t pray to a god, certainly to send your best wishes and your hopes for a swift recovery and the saving of lives.

WILLIAMS: Hear, hear and thank you for saying that. Both gentlemen, as I said, have agreed to stay with us. When we come back, we`ll talk about this. What the head of the FBI confirmed today about the Kavanaugh investigation that we all just witnessed. That`s when we come back.



TRUMP: On Monday night we proudly swore in the newest member of the United States Supreme Court, Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

What the radical Democrats did to Brett Kavanaugh and his beautiful family is a national disgrace.

You look at the false charges, you look at the false accusations. It was a disgrace. It was a disgrace.


WILLIAMS: That was the President tonight in Erie, P.A. Hours before that his latest defense of Brett Kavanaugh, the head of the FBI was being grilled about his agency`s latest investigation, that bare minimum investigation into the sexual misconduct accusations against Kavanaugh.

FBI Director Christopher Wray`s first public comments on the controversy came during a hearing today on the hill, came during questioning from Democratic senator and former prosecutor and former California Attorney General Kamala Harris.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: When the FBI was directed then to do that investigation as it relates to those specific allegations, was the FBI given full discretion or was the scope of the investigation limited by the direction you received from the White House?

CHRISTOPHER WRAY, FBI DIRECTOR: A background investigation is very different, and that is done -- our only authority is as requested by the adjudicating agency --

HARRIS: The White House in this case.

WRAY: In this case is the white house.

HARRIS: So in this situation was your direction limited in scope or were you given full direct -- discretion to investigate whatever your agency thought was appropriate to figure out what happened?

WRAY: I think I would say that our investigation here, our supplemental update to the previous background investigation, was limited in scope and that that is consistent with the standard process for such investigations going back quite a long ways.

HARRIS: Did anyone in your agency receive any direction about the scope of the investigation directly from Don McGahn?

WRAY: Well, I can`t speak to what anybody throughout the organization might have received instructions on.

HARRIS: Do you know who determined that the FBI would not interview Judge Kavanaugh or Dr. Ford or the list of 40-plus witnesses?

WRAY: Again, I would say what I said at the beginning, which is as is standard, the investigation was very specific in scope, limited in scope.

HARRIS: Did the FBI look into allegations as to whether Judge Kavanaugh lied to Congress during his testimony?

WRAY: That`s not something I can discuss here.


WILLIAMS: So that happened today on the hill. And then this happened tonight. I`m going to play you a portion of an interview. The President`s response on Fox News tonight. The President doesn`t seem to remember the chain of command quite the way the head of the FBI does.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDEN OF THE UNITED STATES: I do whatever really the Senate wanted because look, the Senate was well run, so well run by Senator Grassley. And whatever they would like to do is OK with me. But again, it was going to be their vote, and I let them do whatever they wanted to do. And that included the investigation itself.


WILLIAMS: so still with us, Frank Figliuzzi and David Jolly. Frank, I have to credit you in real time, while the investigation was under way, you were almost alone among our on-air contributors saying -- calling B.S. on it, saying this is no good, this is not the extensive investigation a lot of people wanted and/or expected. So how were you struck today by the testimony from the director?

FRANK FIGIUZZI, FORMER FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Well, I continue to be troubled, as many are, but I also am going to be that voice that says the process is broken, Brian. And so we need a change in this whole concept of the White House being the client of the FBI, almost as if they`re some private detective agency for hire.

It`s the only thing the FBI does where they have a client other than the American people. And that process needs to change. The process also constrains the director from speaking publicly about what he was told to do or not do.

So we know nothing that we really need to know. We need to know what transpired between FBI field offices and headquarters with regard to citizens walking in and calling in. I understand that some documentation was taken.

But I don`t know if those interviews, those call-ins were characterized properly. I don`t know the extent to which the FBI asked to do more document. We need to do more, we need to talk to Dr. Ford or to judge Kavanaugh, and was told no.

We simply don`t know. And why don`t we know? Because the process even goes toward that confidentiality with the White House. So they can`t talk about it. The system`s broken. Director Wray is between a rock and a hard place. It was a damned if you do, damned if you don`t moment today for the director. And the public needs to understand that and needs to demand change in the process.

WILLIAMS: So David Jolly, this is why we hear Democrats saying, if we take control of the House we`re going to subpoena the paper trail, we`re going to learn all of this. Why can`t all of it be made public? And in your view, Congressman, what could the director have said today within the constraints that would have made it a little better?

DAVID JOLLY FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN (R), FLORIDA: Listen, I think the director acknowledged that he was doing what he could do within his jurisdiction under the instructions provided to him by the White House.

We saw in real time when the press would ask the Senate, did you put parameters on it, they said you`d have to ask the White House. They`d ask the White House. The White House would say you have to ask the Senate.

This all goes back to that moment where coons and flake left the room, they came back into the hearing. There was confusion. Even among Jeff Flake himself, what he was asking for, there was confusion between Grassley and Feinstein, and Grassley quickly took the vote and gavelled.

And what happened in that moment is McConnell and Senate leadership and the White House and Don McGahn realized they had an opportunity to have a process not to get to the truth but a process to get to a result. And the result was going to be the final confirmation of Kavanaugh regardless of this. They were willing to take the scars.

I don`t think we`re surprised by what Wray said today. But when people talk about the integrity of the court in jeopardy, it`s more than that. It`s the integrity of the Senate Judiciary Committee and everybody who served on that committee.

WILLIAMS: So Congressman, what are people left to think about that famously tortured face of the Senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, who wanted an investigation, ended up going along? Is this indeed what he wanted? Would this have been why he stopped up the works?

JOLLY: Listen, if Flake and at the time Collins, Murkowski, they had enough votes to say we want a full investigation, we want all 40 witnesses, we want Kavanaugh interviewed, we want Ford interviewed. They could have done that. They chose not to.

I think it`s fair to make an assessment of Jeff Flake`s decision making in that moment and the days after as well as Collins and Murkowski. I think Flake was saying we`re going to get half a loaf here. It`s going to give me permission to vote yes. He knew it might also give Manchin permission to vote yes.

At the end of the day he handed over the reins to his own leadership. They worked the deal with the White House. The deal was done.

WILLIMS: Frank, can you think of another time in the life of the FBI when politics has been so infused?

FIGIUZZI: Well, lest we forget recent history, there was a former director named Jim Comey who got himself put into the middle of the political spotlight by coming out and inserting himself in decision-making.

And I can imagine that this is what Chris Wray today was trying to avoid. Trying to avoid coming out and saying hey, the process is broken, we wanted to do more, the White House handcuffed us. They`d be thrust into the spotlight again.

So he doesn`t want to repeat history. And also, Brian, I`ve got to think he`s trying to buy time for Bob Mueller. He doesn`t want this to be the battle that causes him to get fired. Some Trump appointee that no one wants put in as FBI director and we lose the Mueller investigation somehow. So, he was riding a fine line, thinking back to Comey and saying I can`t repeat that recent history.

WILLIAMS: Well, that`s an interesting point. Frank Figliuzzi, David Jolly. Gentlemen, always a pleasure to have you both. Thank you both for joining us tonight.

Coming up, the inevitable intersection of politics and weather. And these days both of them tend to be extreme events. More on that when we come back.



TRUMP: After years of being let down by Washington politicians you now have a champion fighting for you in the White House. But I need your help this Election Day, November 6th, to stop the radical Democrat mob from trying to take it away. They`re going to try and take it away.


WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, the President decided to go ahead with that rally in Erie, PA tonight despite the devastating hurricane barreling through the southeast. In part he justified his decision with this photo on Twitter today saying "Couldn`t let these great people down. They have been lined up since last night." Two things here.

While the NBC News team at the event asked around, they could not find anyone who had spent the night in line. Also this from CNN`s Jim Acosta, a favorite target of the President. He hopped on Twitter and said this about the photo the President posted.

"This looks a lot like the pic I tweeted earlier today. Note the lady with the sunglasses on the left side of the photo." Acosta summed up the coincidence by saying life is funny.

With us to talk politics tonight, a measurable percentage of the payroll of the Associated Press. Two White House reporters with the Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin.

Jonathan, you`re here with us in New York. Home field advantage. You get to go first. Were you surprised? Was there in your reporting widespread agreement in the west wing? Was there any dissent that he went ahead with the rally tonight?

JONATHAN LEMIRE, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: There certainly was some surprise that it happened. And there were some voices in the building who suggested that maybe he shouldn`t.

And the White House is very sensitive -- once they made the decision to go forward with it. Sensitive to how it would play. The President Twitted a number of times about this idea, he wouldn`t want to let the people down who had lined up to see him.

And we certainly know he is -- how fond he is of his base and the folks who do come out and perhaps not spend the night to get in line but spend hours there. He does want to cater to them. The deputy press secretary came back and talked to reporters about it.

The President again talked about it at the White House. They wanted to see this through. And it underscores how important they feel every single seat is. Some Republicans they went back tonight in Pennsylvania are pretty well down in the polls.

So, I don`t know how much this appearance will actually help. But they don`t want to leave any stone unturned. They`re very concerned. Certainly the House more than the Senate, that they may flip and go to the Democrats. And they`re willing to risk the optics.

The optics could be very damaging. The split-screen idea of the President whipping up a crowd of supporters, tonight even sort of undermining the "Me Too" movement again. You compare that with the devastation that we are still seeing in the Panhandle in Florida.

WILLIAMS: Jill, same question to you. While noting that you so often on this broadcast talk with us about the diminution of norms and how just throw the rulebook out. It would be absolutely typical for a President to say I think mindful of the suffering going on to the south we should have our rally another time. But to Jonathan`s point, this is clearly a decision that the midterms are more important.

JILL COLVIN, WHITE REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS: Exactly. And what`s so interesting is that the President actually back during Hurricane Sandy, back in a number of years ago the President actually mocked Barack Obama on Twitter for going through with a campaign event as the cleanup effort was still under way.

So, this is something that Trump has criticized others for doing. That said, this really underscores today not just how important they see every single race but how the White House and the President feel like they are in a moment here to potentially capitalize on the outcry from certain Republican segments about the Kavanaugh -- the way that Kavanaugh was handled.

The White House and the President feel like this is a moment where Republicans are energized. They feel like it`s an opportunity now as we`re getting very close to the midterm elections and that if they can sustain this outrage, if they can sustain this anger it might just be enough to prevent some of what they see as catastrophic democratic gains that are expected in November.

WILLIAMS: And Jill, I want to -- Jonathan alluded to this. I want to play for you the sound from the p President`s rally tonight. This moment where the President referenced "Me Too." We`ll talk about it on the other side.


TRUMP: There`s an expression, but under the rules of "Me Too" I`m not allowed to use that expression anymore. I can`t do it. It`s the person that got away. See, in the old days it was a little different. Pennsylvania -- he says do it anyway.

I would do it except for these people up there. They would say did you hear what President Trump said? Did you hear what he said? So there is an expression, but we`ll change the expression. Pennsylvania was always the person that got away.


WILLIAMS: Jill, your guess is as good as mine. Is the phrase that pays here "the girl that got away" and he fears he can`t say that? What did we just witness?

COLVIN: I mean, it was truly bizarre, and I think everyone who was watching and trying to write about it was really confused what the heck was he referring to here. It seemed like he was trying to describe Pennsylvania as the potential state, the girl that got away, the one that he was super eager to win and was sort of courting all along and was worried that it might not go for him.

That said, I mean, the way that the president flippantly just raises the "Me Too" movement, the way that he clearly just doesn`t have any comprehension of what it`s supposed to mean, the way that they use it, the sensitivity of the topic is really extraordinary and is just another example of the way that the President has consistently over and over again demonstrated that he doesn`t understand what this is about.

The way that he side again and again with men who`ve been accused of various sexual misconduct, the way that he has flippantly dismissed in the last couple of weeks now the accusations made about Brett Kavanaugh.

WILLIAMS: Jonathan, to that end we are a couple days away I guess in an hour-long primetime special Friday night. Melania Trump is asked and answers questions about the "Me Too" movement during her Africa trip, which even the promotional material has gotten out into the bloodstream of the news media. That will be interesting.

LEMIRE: I`d say. I`m still staggered by the outfit that she wore in front of the pyramids when she said she didn`t want people to talk about what she was wearing. She looked like she`d just stepped off the set of "Raiders of the lost ark" and did a news conference at the side of the Sphinx.

You can fill in the reaction there. Yes, in the previews that`s aired about this she certainly said again, as we`ve heard from some White House advisers, that the women should be heard, but she also suggested that the men should be heard and perhaps even evidence be presented.

WILLIAMS: Yes, the women should offer proof.

LEMIRE: That`s right. And as someone, a Democrat operative said to me today, well, would that mean something like an audio recording from an "Access Hollywood" bus? You know, obviously evoking her husband`s comments from some years ago bragging about committing sexual assault.

It is a fine line this White House is trying to walk. The President seemingly has tossed it to the side. For a week or two he seemed to be supportive of Dr. Ford. Other advisers like Kellyanne Conway for a while were too. But now they`re toeing this line here where it`s about believing the President and casting doubt on these women.

WILLIAMS: As we say, in 2018 both our weather and our politics tend to be extreme events. Our thanks tonight to two veterans of the Associated Press, Jonathan Lemire and Jill Colvin. Thank you as always for coming on.

Coming up for us, the latest on today`s extraordinary storm event and a late live update from our Meteorologist Bill Karins when we continue.


WILLIAMS: We`re back. I want to show you some view from Panama City. Let`s just listen to this for one second.

This is roughly the equivalent of starting up a jet engine. This was at the height of the storm. The rain and wind, as captured, from inside a car. Again, Panama City, after devastating Florida`s Panhandle, Hurricane Michael continues its rampage through parts of Georgia tonight.

Though as a much lesser storm Bill Karins remains with us with the very latest, Bill.

BILL KARINS, MSNBC METEOROLOGIST: Brian, just watching that view, starting to confirm a lot of the thoughts, a couple of the storm chasers that I know well that actually trouble the globe, they go to Philippines, they go to Japan, they go wherever there is big storms.

They drove from Panama City to Mexico Beach. And they said it`s some of the worst wind damage they`ve ever seen. And the fact that they`re saying -- they`ve seen, I mean they have been in all the biggest storms in the last 30 years on the globe.

So, I don`t think we`ve even come close to seeing the worst damage and destruction with the video that we`ve seen now. It`s a sampling, but I think it`s going to get worst. One person was saying half the structures that he saw in Panama City were extremely damaged.

So, this was the image I froze. This is when everything was really starting to get real. This is when the worst of the damage was, 1:00 p.m. this afternoon. This is Panama City, on the back side of the eye and then this is Mexico Beach who was in that front right quadrant of it.

This is where the worst storm surge was with the wind, this is where there was mostly just a wind problem in Panama City area on the back side. And the result of all of this when we brought this on shore, it was still intensifying, 150-mile-per-hour winds.

This is the preliminary report. We`ll get the official report in a couple of months when they get in there, they analyze all the damage and they see how the metal was bend to all the example of the strength of the wind.

But this puts it fourth all-time, adding on Andrew, Camile, the Labor Day storm, stronger than Charlie, stronger than Katrina as far as max winds. And then lowest pressure ever felt measured. This was in the keys (ph), obviously Camile is pretty much our countries worst storm every.

And then Michael now third on the list, ahead of Andrew with a lower pressure, if it had only had may be another three or four hours over water, we definitely would have seen going up to a Cat 5. It was still getting stronger.

And now, we have to watch out overnight is, yes, we saw a little bit of wind damage problems that we`re going to get with trees falling in Central Georgia. We have a new additional tornado watch it`s issued almost for all of South Carolina, isolated tornadoes at worst as we go throughout the overnight.

You notice the winds right now are not that bad. 56 in Eastman, probably the worst of it, may be some isolated damage to trees there. Most likely there`s trees that have already going down.

So Brian we -- besides the records I`ve shown you, everybody is saying it`s the strongest storm to hit the Northern Panhandle of Florida. I think the fact that this is the strongest storm we`ve ever had ever recorded in the month of October, is a pretty impressive record.

And not just did we barely break it, the previous strongest was 130-mile- per-hour winds, this was 155. I`ve seen pictures of the middle school in Panama City. The gym has no walls left. You can see the basketball court.

We`re going to -- we`ll see a lot more, unfortunately, when the sun comes up. You will see pictures like this, and what damage was left behind. And as you saw, we`re going to see rows (ph) and fields and forests of downed trees probably for about 200 or 300 miles from where it may landfall because the eye stayed compact for at least six hours, for about 115 miles after landfall, still remained Category 2 or 3.

WILLIAMS: Yes, I join you when our thoughts going to Mexico Beach tonight for what will be exposed with sunup tomorrow. Bill Karins, thank you for all of it, your hours of coverage on this network.

Coming up, a rare glimpse of the people whose quiet work in the storm zone helped to save lives. We`re back with that, right after this.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight. It bears repeating, this storm came out of nowhere for most of us, and blew up to a Category 4 with freakish speed. It fed off the warm bath water of the gulf, and it grew into a history making storm.

The men and women of the national weather service are the very best at what they do. On top of forecasting, their job is to warn everyone in its path.

Our friend Bill Karins posted this picture last night on social media, on the eve of the storm, 12 hours from landfall. It`s a picture of the staff of the National Weather Service office in Tallahassee. They were staying at work, in it for duration and note what you don`t see in the picture, their own families.

They all put their lives on hold to go to work and warn the rest of us. Every so often, there`s an effort in Washington to "Privatize the National Weather Service."