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Trump White House faces questions. TRANSCRIPT: 10/11/2018, The 11th Hour w Brian Williams.

Guests: Tamara Kieth, Donna Edwards, Nicolas Kristoff, Eli Stokols, Michael Steele, Doris Kearns Goodwin

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: October 11, 2018 Guest: Tamara Kieth, Donna Edwards, Nicolas Kristoff, Eli Stokols, Michael Steele, Doris Kearns Goodwin

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, as we are now just coming to grips with the damage and the loss and the intensity of the storm that is still spooling out today, the President`s time was otherwise occupied with millions of Americans in the storm zone and a deepening scandal following the disappearance of a journalist. Today`s Presidential distraction was a bizarre and profane rant by Kanye West in the Oval Office.

And there is new reporting out that may point to signs that Mueller`s Russia investigation is entering a new and perhaps final phase.

THE 11TH HOUR on a Thursday night begins now.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 630 of the Trump administration, the day after Hurricane Michael ravaged the gulf coast of Florida. The day we were finally able to get aerial pictures of the coast line and see what we feared had happened when this storm came ashore while still strengthening. We`ll have the very latest on the damage just ahead in this broadcast.

The suffering in the south and the disappearance of a journalist are competing for time on the President`s schedule, but Donald Trump`s past 24 hours have included a campaign rally in Pennsylvania, a series of bill signings at the White House, including one with Kid Rock, lunch with former football player Jim Brown, and Kanye West. More on all that in a moment.

As well as not one, but two interviews with Fox News at the White House today, the President was asked about his to-do list.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: do you have enough time to focus on hurricane (INAUDIBLE) at the White House?



WILLIAMS: There is also this competing for the President`s attention. The second straight day of a stock market loss raising concerns about the strength of our current economy, and the escalating nationality security crisis over that "Washington Post" columnist who vanished after he entered the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

There are also indications that the President may soon be faced with the prospect of responding to Robert Mueller after all. NBC News is reporting that the President`s lawyers are finally preparing answers to that list of questions submitted by the special counsel. According to NBC`s source, those questions are squarely focused on whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia to subvert the 2016 election.

This morning the question was asked about a potential Mueller interview.


BRIANE KILMEADE, FOX AND FRIENDS HOST: Have you thought again about sitting down for an interview or write written questions or any type of hybrid approach there?

TRUMP: Well, it seems ridiculous that I`d have to do it, what everybody says there`s no collusion, but I`ll do what is necessary to get it over with.


WILLIAMS: Trump`s feelings about the Mueller investigation are directly linked to his sentiments about his own Attorney General Jeff Sessions who famously recused himself from the inquiry. Tonight the latest report about Sessions` future comes from "The Journal." They`re saying Trump is looking at as many as five candidates to replace him. This morning Trump seemed to deny any plans to remove the A.G. while at the same time not ruling it out.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A conversation is that you are in active talks to replace the attorney general of the United States.

TRUMP: I`m not doing anything. I want to get the elections over with. We`ll see what happens. I`m very disappointed that we go through this witch-hunt, this ridiculous witch-hunt.


WILLIAMS: As they say, in any other White House, these are the issues that would keep the President busy, but it was that Kanye West visit to the Oval Office that seemed to capture the most attention today.


KANYE WEST, AMERICAN SINGER: You know, they tried to scare me to not wear this hat. My own friends. But this hat, it gives me, it gives me power in a way.

It was something about when I put this hat on, it made me feel like superman. You made a superman -- that`s my favorite superhero. And you made a superman cape.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is he a future presidential candidate?

TRUMP: Could very well be. Could very were be.

How does it feel to be in the Oval Office?

WEST: Oh, it is good energy in this.

TRUMP: Isn`t it good energy?

WEST: It`s good.


WILLIAMS: With that, let`s bring in our lead off panel on a Thursday night. Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post, Moderator of Washington Week on PBS. Tamara Keith back with us, White House Correspondent for NPR. And Donna Edwards, Democrat of Maryland, former member of Congress. Welcome to you all.

Robert, I`d like to begin with you. You made the trip on Air Force One to this last rally. What did you glean and what did you gather from the traveling White House?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: This is a President that`s barreling toward the midterm elections. He made this rally in Erie, Pennsylvania, appeared at it just as the hurricane was making landfall in the gulf coast. And you have a President whether with Kanye West today thinking about his options for attorney general, on almost every front he is alone right now, directing his party, dominating his party, believing in some way because of the Kavanaugh confirmation. He can rouse his own voters to the polls and somehow fend off that blue wave.

WILLIAMS: Tamara, you`ve written for NPR tomorrow about the fact that press briefings are extremely rare these days. While pressabilities with the President have been on the rise. What`s the take away?

TAMARA KIETH, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The President is talking a lot. He is speaking for himself.

And especially since that Kavanaugh vote, President Trump has been out there. He`s done -- he did three availabilities today. I was on a trip with the President on Saturday. He called us up to the front of Air Force One another time. And he just -- he seems like someone who is -- he is enjoying the trappings of being President. He`s doing what he wants to do.

As you heard in that clip with Kanye West, he`s like, "Hey, what do you think of this Oval Office?" He`s showing off his presidency. All of these many months into, into being president of the United States.

WILLIAMS: Congresswoman, my friend Don Lemon was interviewed on his own network about what we witnessed in the Oval Office today with Kanye West, and I took some notes. He called it a "minstrel show." He said Kanye is embarrassing himself. He allowed himself to be used by the President and the President is exploiting a man who needs help. Do you think there was any strategy behind that event today?

DONNA EDWARS, (D) MARYLAND FMR. U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Well, I mean, I couldn`t agree with Don Lemon more. I mean, you know, what you saw there was something that on the one hand, the President who really requires any kind of adulation, on the other hand, a Kanye West who wasn`t speaking for anyone but himself, making statements that don`t even make sense, either historically or in the present context.

It was really quite an embarrassment. I mean, what a side show that was at a time where loss of life is happening in Florida and the southern states, at a time where we have a journalist who is disappeared and likely murdered by the Saudi government, and here the President of the United States was entertaining Kanye and Kanye was entertaining him in the Oval Office.

WILLIAMS: And, Robert, indeed, for all the reasons we have gone through at the top of this broadcast, this was a giant shiny object in the Oval Office wearing a red hat. The question to you is, among Republicans on the Hill, in the races of their lives across America, how is this scene, this tableau going to go over do you think?

COSTA: Brian, I was at the Capitol all day today. And not a word was spoken by Democrats or Republicans as they went about their business, trying to head out of town to finish their work in the Senate. But there was one scene that was telling. Senator Flake, I saw him in a corner, retiring from Arizona, glued to his phone, ear buds in his ear. He was watching the Kanye West video.

I went over and tapped him on the shoulder. I said, "What do you think of this, Senator Flake?" And he said, "Reality meets reality television." He shook his head and pretty much walked away. That was the sentiment at the Capitol.

WILLIAMS: Tamara, I want to play for you the interview your network conducted with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. We`ll talk about his comments on the other side.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY: We were literally under assault ourselves, trailing members to their homes, getting in their faces here in the Capitol. An effort to clearly try to intimidate us. And one of the reasons I was so proud of the result last Saturday on Judge Kavanaugh is that we stood up for two things. We stood up to the mob and we also stood up for the presumption of innocence.


WILLIAMS: And, Tamara, if anyone missed the birth of this talking point "the mob" there`s no mistaking it now, I guess, this is what they`re going with.

KIETH: Yes, this has been building over the course of this week, starting with President Trump last Saturday at that rally in Kansas, referring to Democrats as an angry mob. You don`t give matches to an arsonist. And this has been building. This is the talking point this, so-called angry mob of protesters and Democrats.

Though McConnell in our interview was careful to say he`s not talking about his colleagues in the Senate, fellow Democrats in the Senate. He`s talking about the protesters that were following senators through the hallways.

You know, it is -- it`s an interesting tactic. It`s certainly a way to try to rile up Republican voters. And there are, you know, a number of Democrats who are saying, "Hey, wait, the Tea Party was a pretty angry movement itself." How is this different? McConnell in our interview, pushed back on that idea.

WILLIAMS: I happen to have a Democrat right here. Congresswoman, how does your party counter this mob label that has really caught fire? It`s become the talking point this week on the right.

EDWARDS: Well, I remember the birth of the Tea Party, and people who spat on John Lewis as he was walking across the Capitol, protesting as they were protesting the passage of the Affordable Care Act. That was an angry mob. I remember those people showing up at town hall meetings, at my town hall meetings, screaming, yelling, and threatening members of Congress.

And so, you know, if Mitch McConnell really wants to see a mob, he`s going to see mothers and daughters and wives and young people showing up to the polls on November 6 to vote these guys out.

WILLIAMS: Robert Costa, somewhat 0 of topic, but an observation I`ve made that I know I share with you, Rudy Giuliani has disappeared from the public airwaves. I haven`t read or seen a quote from him for days. What do you imagine might be up?

COSTA: Brian, I had the same thought. I thought he may be busy watching the New York Yankees in October.

WILLIAMS: He`s not watching the Giants tonight. I can tell you that.

COSTA: That is for sure. And speaking to him this week, he said the President`s team continues to negotiate with Robert Mueller about a possible interview. I know, I know, we`ve been saying this for months that this interview may happen, it may not happen.

But it`s interesting that Mueller has not issued a subpoena yet for President Trump, but there still seem to be negotiations about having written answers. But talking to every source close to the federal government here, the prosecutor side, Mueller still would like to see the President sit down at some point to get his view of events. But Giuliani for now continues to just push off that final decision.

WILLIAMS: And, Tamara, is there anything wrong with this way of looking at the calendar? 26 days until the midterms, 27 days until the window opens for something consequential, perhaps, from the Mueller investigation?

KIETH: Well, I thought the direction you were going is 26 1/2 days until Attorney General Jeff Sessions needs to worry very seriously about his job.

WILLIAMS: Yes. A poll closing, we figure.

KIETH: Exactly. So we have a lot of eyes on both the Mueller investigation and also what sort of personnel moves President Trump will, I mean, he`s not even being remotely cagey about it at this point. He used his favorite phrase when asked about personnel. We`ll see what happens.

When he says, "we`ll see what happens," often the person he is talking about does not last in the administration much longer, and he`s made it pretty clear that Jeff Sessions is in his sights.

WILLIAMS: Donna Edwards, is there any individual, in your mind, who speaks for your party, who is the voice of not so much the resistance, but the Democratic Party?

EDWARDS: Well, you know, I mean, I think as we are approaching these next 26 days in every single Congressional district, there are members who speak for themselves who share the values of the Democratic Party. I don`t think it`s necessary for us to have one voice who speaks for us. Now we speak about our shared values, and I think you`re seeing that come across in these races that are being run across the country.

And I think we`re going to get to a point sometime in 2019 or so where there will be the one person who`s the head of our party, who`s heading our ticket, who will be speaking for the Democratic Party.

WILLIAMS: For now it`s getting busy in 435 Congressional districts across the country.

Our thanks to our big three starting us off tonight, Robert Costa, Tamara Keith, Donna Edwards, really appreciate it. Thank you, everyone.

And coming up for us, President Trump promises to get to the bottom of what happened to the missing "Washington Post" columnist, but with limits.

And later, the portions of the Florida coast line we could not see at the height of it yesterday, tonight from the air it is now clear just how bad this monstrous storm was.

THE 11TH HOUR, the Thursday edition just getting underway.



TRUMP: We are looking at very strongly, we`ll be having a report out soon. We are working with Turkey. We are working with Saudi Arabia. What happened is a terrible thing.

Assuming that happened, I mean, maybe we`ll be pleasantly surprised, but somehow I tend to doubt it. And we take it very seriously.


WILLIAMS: The President today promising investigators will solve the mystery of the missing Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Khashoggi a permanent resident of the United States disappeared more than a week ago. Last seen on Closed Circuit T.V. entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, but the cameras notably did not record his departure.

New reporting adds to the time line surrounding his disappearance. According to screen shots obtained by NBC News, Khashoggi was reading messages up until 1:06 p.m. local time. Eight minutes later he enters the consulate. The app further shows that messages sent 10 minutes after he entered were delivered to his phone, but never read.

Tonight the "Washington Post" is reporting the Turkish authorities say there is video, there is audio recordings supporting the theory that Khashoggi is dead.

Today the President was asked if this will change his very friendly relationship with the Saudis, particularly the crown prince, known by his initials, MBS, Muhammad Bin Salman.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Will Jamal Khashoggi`s case affect the way you deal with MBS or other Saudi --

TRUMP: We have to see what happens. A lot of work is being done on that and we`re going to have to see what happens. I don`t like stopping massive amounts of money that is being poured into our country. I know they are talking about different kinds of sanctions, but they`re spending $110 billion on military equipment and on things that create jobs, like jobs and others for this country.


WILLIAMS: We are so happy to have here with us tonight Nicolas Kristoff, Pulitzer Prize Winning Columnist for "The New York Times."

So many people are so upset about this. You could distill that answer into they`re very good customers of ours. I have a dual question for you. How far from normal is this response by a U.S. President? And secondly, what should our viewers know about this young leader in the kingdom?

NICOLAS KRISTOFF, THE NEW YORK TIMES OP-ED COLUMNIST: Well, I find it grotesque to think that MBS dispatched a team of people, including an autopsy expert and a bone saw, reportedly to assassinate a "Washington Post" columnist and dismember him and take him out. And I also find it grotesque that a President would then, in a sense, say that this is going to be business as usual with that leader.

I also -- I mean, I`m sick about what happened, but I also think that we need to look back at the way the administration, and frankly an awful lot of people in the American business community, enabled and applauded MBS as he was steadily becoming more reckless in confronting Qatar and kidnapping the Lebanese prime minister, in kidnapping women`s rights activist from the UAE and imprisoning her, and in bombing school kids in Yemen and bringing 8 million people in Yemen to the brink of starvation. So, this is a young man who has been reckless from the moment he arrived. And we, I think, have enabled that recklessness.

If he -- I think he thought, look, I kidnapped the Lebanese prime minister and nothing much happened, so why can`t I get away with dispatching a mere journalist?

WILLIAMS: You`ve been around a long time and reported from all over the world. How unusual did you find it when this new President chose as his first overseas stop, Saudi Arabia?

KRISTOFF: You know, there was -- that was surprising, but I was willing to accept that there is an argument for trying to rebuild the relations with Saudi Arabia that had been, you know, badly hurt by the Obama years. But the problem was instead of using that relationship to try to gain leverage over Saudi Arabia and get Saudi Arabia to pull out of Yemen, for example, to behave more responsibly in the region, instead Saudi Arabia simply seemed to gain leverage over us. And so Saudi Arabia promised to buy $110 billion worth of weapons, that hasn`t appeared.

I think that frankly the Trump administration, one of the reasons it was so friendly to the crown prince, was that he talked very soothingly about better relations with Israel, and I think that mattered a great deal to the White House. In fact, they have not delivered on that.

And so we, you know, the crown prince, he was able to rise and consolidate his power in Saudi Arabia, partly because he had the blessings of the Trump administration, and he used that power that he has achieved in Saudi Arabia to render the region less stable, to embark on this absurd campaign against corruption. When here is a guy who bought a $300 million castle and a $500 million yacht. He didn`t do that on his salary.

WILLIAMS: Remember, all of it cloaked in positive press coverage for, of all things, allowing women to drive and opening movie theaters in the kingdom.

KRISTOFF: He knew how to talk to us. He knew how to push our buttons.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Did a publicity tour in this country.

KRISTOFF: That`s right, yes. And so many American tycoons were standing by there.

Next week there is a big conference in Saudi Arabia where everybody was supposed to go and applaud him further. People are dropping out like mad. I hope that no more American or European business executives go to that conference and continue that applause. It`s time to, you know, reexamine our relations.

I think that NATO countries should coordinate and pull out their ambassadors from Saudi Arabia and expel Saudi ambassadors in those countries as a joint basis. I think we should suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia pending a Magnitsky Act Investigation. And I think that we should be sending word to the Saudi royal family that, if this was indeed MBS who murdered somebody on NATO -- in a NATO country`s consulate, that he cannot lead the future -- lead Saudi Arabia.

WILLIAMS: Final question, is this story also about two crown princes, MBS and one Mr. Kushner? What`s that relationship like?

KRISTOFF: So, Jared Kushner, from the beginning, focused his relations, focused his energies on cultivating MBS. And I think that that was partly that he recognized that MBS was potentially a rising star there. You know, there is some argument for using those kind of relationships. Unfortunately, he did this without really seeming to understand the region and without going through proper channels. So the state department was left in the cold.

One of the most disturbing elements of this, is that there has been reporting in British newspapers that the crown prince bragged in Saudi Arabia this spring, that he had received a list from Jared Kushner of his enemies, and that he had been able to use this list, presumably a list compiled by American intelligence. And if such a list was handed over, that would be, of course, utterly improper.

But I also have to wonder whether Jamal Khashoggi`s name might have been on that list, and whether that might have contributed to what I fear has happened to somebody I knew and respected a great deal.

WILLIAMS: Unbelievable snapshot of where we are in addition to the sadness over this story. It`s always such a pleasure to have you here.

KRISTOFF: Thank you, Brian.

WILLIAMS: Thank you very much. Our thanks to Nick Kristoff for spending time with us tonight.

And coming up for us, President Trump`s messaging ahead of the midterms and how there is nothing quite like the twisting and alteration of the known truth to fire up the base these days. That and more when we continue.



WEST: My dad and my mom separated, so I didn`t have a lot of male energy in my home. I love Hillary, I love everyone, right. But the campaign, I`m with her, just didn`t make me feel as a guy that didn`t get to see my dad all the time, like a guy that could play catch with his son.

Let`s stop worrying about the future. All we really have is today. We just have today. Over and over and over again, the eternal return, the hero`s journey. And Trump is on his hero`s journey right now. He might not have expected to have a crazy -- like Kanye West run up and support, but best believe we are going to make America great.


WILLIAMS: First use of the "M" word in the modern era in that room that we know of, with adults present. President Trump`s surreal summit with Kanye West comes in the middle of a four-state campaign swing less than a month ahead of the midterm elections. Trump already has hit Iowa, Pennsylvania, his scheduled to stop in Ohio and Kentucky over the next two days, notably all safe red states with unexpectedly close midterm races in their midst.

In an interview with Fox News this morning, Trump suggested Kanye`s support just my swing voters in November.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Ron, you` probably seeing, I have a lot of African-American support, and a lot has developed over the last little while with Kanye coming out and Jim Brown has been there for a long time. He came out a long time ago for me, when it was much less fashionable, frankly. And now you see the results.


WILLIAMS: Then, of course, came Kanye`s actual profanity-laced and resolute desk-pounding behavior in the Oval Office. Let`s talk about it, shall we? Who better than Michael Steele, former Chairman of the Republican National Committee and Eli Stokols, White House Reporter for the Los Angeles Times.

Mr. Chairman, I`ve teed you up to the best of my ability. What did you make of what we saw in that room today?

MICHAEL STEELE, FORMER CHAIRMAN, REPUBLICAN NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Oh, that`s what they call one of those shows, one of those shows. You know, it`s unfortunate on so many levels because, first off, the lack of respect for the Oval Office itself, that space has become nothing more than a backdrop for this administration to have people crowded around the desk and all of that. And, you know, the pounding on the desk, of course, the use of the "MF" word on camera in that space is just dishonorable.

And there was Trump in all of his presidential glory, soaking it all in, with a smile on his face. And it said more to me about Trump than it did Kanye because, after all, this was about Trump. This was not so much about Kanye.

Kanye was just one more prop in the room to prop up a president who he believes, by showcasing Kanye, black folks are going to go, "Well, that works for me, too." That`s not how this works. You have to, you have to justify, you have to reaffirm, you have to connect with the community of people. Particularly when that community has looked at and learned from you, from Charlottesville, from how you view the African continent, how you view immigrants in this country.

It`s not enough to sit there and go, "Well, your black unemployment is the lowest it`s ever been thanks to me." Well, no, that actually began under the last administration. So there`s a lot more serious conversation than I think this president is prepared to commit to and has the capacity to engage in beyond what we saw today.

WILLIAMS: And, Eli, of course, right on time, on Fox News tonight, with the precision of a Swiss non-Amtrak train schedule, Kanye West got air support. One of the president`s acolytes said he spouted more wisdom in that moment than eight years of Barack Obama in that room. Perhaps you can explain to me the calculus of how Kanye West helps with the Trump base.

ELI STOKOLS, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Well, I mean, anybody who stands next to Trump in the Oval Office, as mike points out -- an Oval Office that really now is being used as a sound stage. There`s no papers ever on the desk, you notice. There are just a lot of cameras and reporters in there. And this was today`s spectacle.

And If somebody is in there praising the president, you know they are going to be praised on Fox News. That`s just how it works. They create this echo chamber. And I can tell you, this president, he does understand how to mass communicate. It may be superficial, it may be ridiculous, but he knows how to connect and use the medium of television.

And I can tell you, having been out to Iowa to talk to people going to these rallies this week, a lot of people were parroting back to me a lot of the phrases that they hear from the president all day long. He talks in these simple statements over and over, and over again. And his base repeats them right back.

WILLIAMS: Related topic, Michael Steele, join us in listening to the Senate Majority Leader McConnell on the subject of African-American outreach.


MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: With African-Americans, we haven`t been able to make much headway, although I think it is note worthy that Tim Scott is a member of our conference. And he`s arguably the most popular politician in South Carolina. So there`s hope with the African- American voters as well.


STEELE: OK, I`m sorry.

WILLIAMS: Who said one of my best friends?

STEELE: I know some blacks too. One of them happens to be a US senator. He`s in our caucus.

WILLIAMS: So I guess that was what --

STEELE: That`s what it comes down to, that`s outreach. We got one. We have meetings with him. I`m sorry. It just reminds me of so many conversations I had when I was chairman, and trying to move this party and to turn this elephant to understand that that`s not how it works.

Yes, it took a lot. I can tell you the back story on Tim Scott when he was running for Congress. There weren`t a whole lot of people in this town that were backing that campaign and pushing his candidacy in South Carolina. I remember standing in a field with headlights on to do a rally for him when I was doing my national tour to gin up the base and get folks to turnout. There weren`t a whole lot of people out there, you know, supporting that candidate and that campaign.

WILLIAMS: But you had a lofty goal of changing the face --

STEELE: We had a lofty goal of changing the face of the party. And you do it one candidate at a time, you do it one neighborhood at a time. You don`t do an offhand reference. Well, we`ve got Tim Scott.

Well you had JC Watts too and what did you do with him? You know, you bumped him out of leadership, you know. So don`t play this game and think that we`re sitting back stupid and going, "Oh, yes, that makes a lot of sense to me too. It doesn`t." And that is why it has been so difficult and so hard to turn the page on this.

And you can sit back and say, "Well, you know, blacks are conservative. You know, the Voting Rights Act, Civil Rights Act, we were there." But, you know, we live in a world we ask one question, what have you done for me lately?

And with the civil rights, Voting Rights Act sitting in the desk drawer of the speaker of the House, that says all you need to know about the relationship between the party and the black community in 2018.

WILLIAMS: Eli Stokols, that repetition of phrases you hear on the road that begin in that office is the latest, this talk of a mob?

STOKOLS: Yes. I mean, it`s not that new. We`ve been hearing it for a week ever since protesters were drawn to Capitol Hill during the Kavanaugh confirmation fight. The President, Republicans now, they`re all singing from the same sheet of music and they have videos out. They`re talking about protesters and really trying to brand all of the stuff as a mob.

You know, hearing the President refer to Democrats as an angry mob inside an arena where he`s sort of revving up his own base, and people are shouting traitor at the top of their lungs, they`re chanting lock her up about Dianne Feinstein and Hillary Clinton. It`s just sort of -- you have to step back. Sometimes it can sound a little bit like the President is projecting.

But I have talked to people inside the White House, political shop, and they believe wholeheartedly that the way to animate this base is to get them angry. And so whatever it takes, the Kavanaugh thing touched a nerve and they are trying to hold on to the anger that they were able to stoke about the way Kavanaugh was, in their view, treated during his hearings. They are trying to sustain that anger over the last three and a half 2 weeks of this election. Because they know that the Democratic voters, they`ve been angry for the better part of two years and they are going to turnout.

Republicans are just trying to keep their voters riled up and hope to staunch some of the bleeding they are expecting in November.

WILLIAMS: Our thanks tonight, when I say my friend, Michael Steele, I mean my friend Michael Steele and my friend Eli Stokols. Thank you, gentlemen, so much. Appreciate it.

STOKOLS: Thanks., Brian.

WILLIAMS: And coming up, a crisis will test the leadership of any president. We will ask historian Doris Kearns Goodwin how this president ventures up in that area when we come back.



KILMEADE: You took some heat yesterday, Mr. President, for going ahead with your Pennsylvania rally last night.

TRUMP: Well, I think really, when I explained it, there was no heat. I really had very little heat, other than the natural haters of which there are obviously some. We had thousands of people lined up by the time I had to make a decision. So my decision was, do I want to tell people that were waiting 10 and 12 hours already that I`m not coming? Otherwise it would have been really unfair to all of the people that were waiting, and we`re talking about thousands and thousands of people.


WILLIAMS: You detect the note of defiance there when the President was asked about his decision, indeed, to hold a rally in Pennsylvania on the same day the hurricane made landfall. Today as the people of the Florida Panhandle assessed the aftermath of a devastating hurricane that claimed lives, homes, livelihoods, the President was entertaining the aforementioned Kanye West in the Oval Office.

Well, to better understand the President`s actions through the lens of history, just in terms of this week. We are joined tonight by an expert on such things. Doris Kearns Goodwin, Presidential Historian and Author is with us from New York. She`s written best sellers about both Roosevelts, about the Kennedys, about LBJ, about Lincoln. And her newest work, which is very relevant, I`ll get it right, relevant to this era we`re living in. You see it there, it is called "Leadership in Turbulent Times."

My friend, I often open with this same question. You know it`s coming. It`s like a bad pitch, and congratulations to your Red Sox, by the way. How far --


WILLIAMS: How far from normal are we, just in terms of what we`ve witnessed this week?

GOODWIN: Well, I mean, think about what a different leader might have done with the situations of the crisis, especially the hurricane. Instead, the night -- as things were approaching, you need humility. You need empathy. You need single minded focus on the crisis.

Imagine if he had talked to the people and talked about the preparations that they were making to help the situation with the hurricane. Other people on the team talked about the importance of them staying there, don`t leave, even though it was originally a category 2. It`s not became a category 4. He could have offered solace, could have offered preparation. But instead, he chose to go to the rally, saying he didn`t want to disappoint his supporters.

I mean, he`s the president of all the people at this point and he should have been able to show that empathy and understanding of the people. And then, think today what he might have done differently. Supposed he had stayed single mindedly on this crisis, canceled everything that was going to happen, is simply as those pictures were being shown, he showed what they were trying to do and what they would be doing to help rebuild this state and these places.

Whole towns have disappeared. I mean that`s what you need in a leader. Instead to choose to go to have this meeting with Mr. West and talk about, you know, how great he was, and then say that this person could be a presidential candidate, and that it was helping him with his supporters again in November. This is a person who is still campaigning, not actually governing. And it was heart breaking to me.

WILLIAMS: I know because I have read all of your work that you have written, darn near entire chapters on the history of that room, on the history of that desk where the President and Kanye West sat today. We saw Kanye West pounding the leather top of the resolute desk. And to put it in terms, you just touched on this, how far from normal is this kind of gathering in the modern presidency? And a desk, by the way, Eli Stokols mentioned, not dressed up for work?

GOODWIN: We have to not accept that this is normal. I think that`s the real problem. I mean, that`s my whole hope about history. That if you look back at how other leaders might have handled the situation. You`ll remember that this is not the situation that we can accept.

We sort of get through every day with breaking news and something else happens to shock our sensibilities. I mean, the idea that a president goes to the rally as he did, the night when this hurricane is approaching, the idea that today when he could have been focusing on it and owe to the people there and showing what they were doing, and instead is entertaining somebody, and the F-word is used.

I mean, it`s just -- you cannot accept this as normal. And that`s what history has to tell you, it is not.

WILLIAMS: I want to play a part of an interview prepared for broadcast tomorrow night at ABC News that came off the Africa trip of the first lady. We`ll talk about it on the other side.


TOM LLAMAS, JOURNALIST: What happened to you personally or what did you see personally that you thought you wanted to tackle this issue?

MELANIA TRUMP, FIRST LADY OF UNITED STATES: I could say I`m the most bullied person on the world.

LLAMAS: You think you`re the most bullied person in the world?

M. TRUMP: One of them, if you really see what people saying about me.


WILLIAMS: So now let`s go to the topic of first ladies, something you`ve written about as well. We just heard the current first lady saying, one of the most bullied people in the world. I guess the conversation changes with the era and with the personalities, Doris?

GOODWIN: Well, again, what you would hope is that the first lady has a worthy project in "Be Best." She had been talking about the hope of using her understand of social media to understand not let other people be bullied, but then to bring it back about herself and talk about herself being bullied.

I mean, that`s the problem with both the President and the first lady. You have to have ambition about something larger than yourself. Once you get into that position of power, you can do such good. And somehow it got brought back to herself instead of the cost itself. And I think it undermines her whole hope that she`s doing something worthy with that cause.

WILLIAMS: And you`ve written so much about the presidency, the job. There is no binder you can read the night before you take the job. There is no finishing school, lord knows. There is no formal preparation. Just the kind of people of character who run and the hope expressed through votes by the people.

GOODWIN: No question. In fact, the character and the integrity of the leader is the most important thing. Again, when you think about the Kavanaugh hearings, he was triumphant. He got what he wanted, what his supporters wanted. He got a conservative on the court. Why not then use that to turn and try and heal the divisions that had occurred between the genders,, between -- instead he called the Democrats horrible people. He talked about the fact it had been a whole hoax, that it was one of the most disgraceful performances he had seen.

At that moment, you want somebody like an Abraham Lincoln realizing the triumph has come, the union had just about won the war when he gave that second inaugural. And what does he do, no triumphal message as he deliver. Instead, he talks about the fact that the scene of slavery was shared by both sides. Both read the same bible, both prayed to the same god. Neither those prayers will fully answered.

And the of course, the words we remember with now (inaudible) in charity for all, let us bind up the nation`s wound. What if we had a president with that voice? What if we had a leader with that voice right now? somewhere, somehow we need it so badly.

WILLIAMS: Our thanks to Ms. Goodwin of Boston, Mass who will not be taking calls as long as the Red Sox are in the playoffs after humiliating the New York Yankees, I might add. Doris, great to see you as always.

One last reminder to our viewers, her latest book just out, "Leadership in Turbulent Times," could not be more timely. Doris, thank you, as always, appreciate it.

GOODWIN: Thank you as always.

WILLIAMS: Coming up, pictures confirm what we feared was the case. Parts of Florida Panhandle decimated, sheered off by incoming Hurricane Michael. The latest update when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Tonight there are frantic search and rescue operations underway in Mexico Beach, Florida, after Hurricane Michael just about took that town off the map.

It wasn`t until the aerial and drone footage started coming in to us with the break of day that we realized the full extent of it. House after house, either blown apart or washed away, every one of the squares you see on the ground used to be quite literally the foundation of someone`s home or business or life. And most of the nearly 1,200 residents of Mexico Beach still have no idea what they have left because they can`t get anywhere near it.

At the moment of landfall, when Michael crashed into the Florida Panhandle, and when we talk about storm surge, that`s what -- that is storm surge right there in that video. This storm was still intensifying. And now it goes into the history books as the fourth most powerful hurricane ever to hit the US, period.

The death toll from the storm stands at six, sadly it is expected to grow. Nearly 1.5 million of our fellow citizens from Florida right on up through Virginia, are without power and in the dark again tonight, and for some of them, restoration will take weeks. Look at the trees knocked over in the same direction from this storm.

And what`s left of Michael is still causing a mess. Parts of North and South Carolina, some areas of which have yet to fully recover from Florence, are once again dealing with rising and dangerous water. Just a few hours ago, Virginia`s governor declared a State of Emergency. He warned about the serious possibility of flash floods, tropical storm force winds, tornadoes and power outages.

By this time tomorrow night, the whole system will stretch through coastal New York to New England, whipping up the wind and the seas and dropping heavy rain as it goes. It`s still not done with us yet.

Another break for us coming up, life and death drama in the skies today, and how close we came to having to cover a tragedy here tonight when we come back.


WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, the world got very lucky today and so did two astronauts because it is only thanks to dumb luck and an incredible dose of cool and calm that we are not mourning the lost of these two men, these astronauts tonight. As you may know, the international space stations up there orbiting Earth at 17,000 miles an hour, circling the globe about every 90 minutes. You can see it in the night sky if you know where to look.

And the only way we have of getting crew members up and back is the Russian Space Program. And that`s what went wrong today. This very so used rocket carrying one American, one Russian Nick Hague and Alexei Ovchinin lift off -- lifted off and took them to the edge of space and then it failed.

They were suddenly 31 miles up above the earth, and in a free fall. Their bodies were jolted and during forces seven times than of gravity and yet it all went as planned. Everyone stayed calm, the chute popped open when it was supposed to and they landed on the ground as the Russian do, in Kazakhstan 200 miles down range from where they launched.

They are both OK. They were both later reunited with their families. They`re still the matter of crew up there on the Space Station, three of them. There were supposed to be five of them as of tonight. It`s going to be a while before their replacements can get up there pending investigation of what went wrong with the rocket today.

And it is possible, if their supplies run out, they`ll have to use their escape capsule to come home, leaving the Space Station vacant, with nobody home if only temporarily for the first time ever. A reminder, both Boeing and SpaceX are working on an American space craft that could actually launch American astronauts into space. Imagine what that would be like.