Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: October 31, 2018 Guest: Robert Costa, Nancy Cook, Sam Stein, Rick Wilson, Robert Costa; Rachel Stassen-Berger
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight some new numbers for you. Six days until the election, and now the number of potential U.S. troops being sent to our southern border is up to 15,000. That`s more than the U.S. has in Afghanistan.
The President tonight says he`s pretty good at estimating crowd size and the caravan is bigger than it looks. And because immigration is the current giant distraction for the base, today Trump kept things fair by attacking his own Republican Speaker of the House.
And Congressman Steve King of Iowa just might have gone too far for his own party. Republicans begin to distance themselves as we look at his future in Congress tonight with the political editor for the "Des Moines Register" as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Wednesday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. This was day 650 of the Trump administration. And with only six days until the midterm elections the President is going big on immigration, big on fears of an invasion across our southern border, and sending troops to head it off. However much that wildly departs from reality.
Once again he`s calling for an end to birthright citizenship, saying he alone can stop it, and putting down even those Republicans who dare to get in his way.
Earlier tonight at a rally outside of Fort Myers, Florida the President did talk a great deal about immigration. But he started by condemning Saturday`s mass shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, after calling the shooting terrible and again denouncing anti-Semitism in his prepared remarks, Trump immediately trashed the news media over coverage of his visit to Pittsburgh.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I came home and sadly turned on the news and watched as the far left media once again used tragedy to sow anger and division.
Sadly, they took a small group of protesters, far away from where we were because we could not have been treated better. The First Lady and myself. But we`re representing the presidency and they did everything in their power to try to play it up and push people apart. That`s what`s happening here, pushing people apart. It was fake, and it was make believe what they said. I came home, looked forward to seeing it, and it was sad.
We forcefully condemn hatred, bigotry, racism and prejudice in all of its ugly forms. But the media doesn`t want you to hear your story. It`s not my story. It`s your story. That`s why 33% of the people in this country believe the fake news is in fact, and I hate to say this, in fact the enemy of the people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: As we mentioned, the President also talked about the caravan, saying it`s one big reason people should vote Republican on Tuesday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Republicans want strong borders, no crime, no chaos, and no caravans. Democrats want open borders, and they want to invite caravan after caravan into our country, which brings crime upon crime. A vote for Democrats is a vote to liquidate America`s borders, and it`s a vote to let meth, fentanyl, heroin, and other deadly drugs pour across our borders, drugs that take the lives of over -- think of this, over 70,000 Americans a year. If you want high taxes and high crime, vote for the Democrats. Vote for the Democrats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was the basic argument. Then it was on to general immigration-related issues from sanctuary cities to birthright citizenship.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: We will pass Kate`s law and stop sanctuary cities. We will stop catch and release. We will end visa lottery. How about visa lottery? Pick a name. Pick a name. Come on into the country. And we will end chain migration. Birthright citizenship. You know all about it. We will keep the criminals, the drug dealers, we will keep them all out of our country. We will get rid of all of this. We will end finally birthright citizenship. It`s costing us so many billions of dollars.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Ashley Parker and Philip Rucker of the "Washington Post" write today, the President Trump is making aggressive moves on immigration just ahead of the midterms. "Trump is mobilizing the vast powers of the military and other parts of the federal government to help bolster Republican election efforts using the office of the presidency in an attempt to dictate the campaign`s closing themes and stoke the fears and anxieties of his supporters ahead of Tuesday`s midterm elections.
`The President and his political advisers have decided that a base turnout strategy is the best way to preserve the GOP`s Senate and house majorities, with Trump wielding the polarizing issue of immigration as a cudgel in an attempt to motivate his 2016 supporters to vote."
It is a strategy we saw on full display this afternoon at the White House as the President departed the South Lawn for Florida.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: As far as the caravan is concerned, our military is out. We have about 5,000. We`ll go up to anywhere between 10,000 and 15,000. Military personnel on top of border patrol, ICE, and everybody else at the border. Nobody`s coming in. We`re not allowing people to come in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think someone`s paying for the caravan?
TRUMP: I wouldn`t be surprised. Yes, I wouldn`t be surprised. I don`t know who. But I wouldn`t be surprised. A lot of people say yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: In an interview with ABC News tonight the President was asked about the possible increase in troops at the border.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You`re talking about 10,000, maybe 15,000 active duty U.S. military to the border.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: More than we have fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. More than we have fighting ISIS in Syria. You`re really going to do that?
TRUMP: It`s very important. We have to have a wall of people, very highly trained people. Terrific dedicated patriots. That`s what they are. You have caravans coming up that look a lot larger than it`s reported, actually. I mean, I`m pretty good at estimating crowd size. And I will tell you they look a lot bigger than people would think. So we`ll find out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Trump started his day by saying this. "Our military is being mobilized at the southern border. Many more troops coming. We will not let these caravans, which are also made up of some very bad thugs and gang members, into the U.S. our border is sacred, must come in legally. Turn around."
With that let`s bring in our lead-off panel on a Wednesday night, shall we? This Halloween night, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for the "Washington Post" and moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS, Nancy Cook, White House Reporter for Politico, and Sam Stein, politics editor over at the Daily Beast.
Good evening and welcome to you all. Robert, I`d like to begin with you. Is this a digression, a kind of ad lib to the core of the core, away from what we thought was the Trump closing argument, the Trump agenda?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: It`s a reprisal, Brian, of what we heard from the President during the final week of the 2016 presidential campaign. We have a candidate now returning to grievance politics, to the issues that stoke his political base, messages against the national media, messages about immigration, a militaristic theme on the border. This is something that he believes, the White House believes and the Republican Party now at large in his camp believe, that this is the only way to perhaps save the congressional majorities is to turn out that Trump voter and to do it with fervor.
WILLIAMS: And Nancy, how is this being received by Republicans perhaps there in Washington? Does that depend on just what side of the Republican Party you`re on?
NANCY COOK, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO: Well, we saw House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is leaving at the end of the year, come out yesterday against this idea of eliminating the birthright citizenship, and he called it unconstitutional. But other than that we actually haven`t seen a lot of Republicans in Washington really call out the President on some of these hard-line immigration ideas.
And the President really keeps unveiling sort of new immigration policies, whether or not they`ll actually become proposals -- whether or not they`ll actually become policies is a whole other matter. But he`s been unveiling these ideas in sort a drip, drip fashion overt last week to keep his base energized. And we haven`t seen a lot of Republicans sort of call foul on this. I do think that Republicans -- House Republicans and moderate seats who are worried about suburban voters, worried about women, it makes them a little uncomfortable, but it`s not something they`re publicly calling out.
WILLIAMS: Sam Stein, there was a moment where the President tonight asked the crowd in Florida how many of you have voted early and he heard a huge response in terms of applause. He asked again, same response if not louder. And then only half jokingly said then what am I doing here? It`s a good question in a state with a lot of folks who like to early. So are these rallies about turnout?
SAM STEIN, POLITICS EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST: Yes. And it`s questionable whether they`re going to be -- the efficacy of them. Trump has been sort of -- if you noticed secluded to doing rallies in states that are usually either purplish or lean red. And the reason is that House Republican strategists have basically told him to stay away. He is toxic in the suburbs. But he can turn out his voters in the critical Senate races that happen to be on GOP turf. And so over the next six days we`re going to see him make 11 or so stops.
In places that if you had told me earlier in the year he would be spending the last day of his election I would have said that`s probably problematic for Republicans. Why Trump is going to, for instance, West Virginia. Why he`s going to places like Indiana, which should be put away, is in part because they know they have to turn out the base but it`s also in part because they know they haven`t put these races away yet.
And so you know, he`s out there, he`s very active. He`s trying a different new immigration policy every day it seems. But it`s sort of the same note each time, which is I need to get to these voters who came out for me in 2016 and are threatening to sit out this cycle. Otherwise, Republicans even in the ostensibly safe Senate turfs are going to lose.
WILLIAMS: Robert, let`s talk about Pittsburgh, the awful cloud that continues to loom around our country. In every conversation this week, those 11 innocent lost souls killed by pure evil while worshiping. Did the White House see the visit to Pittsburgh as a kind of necessary evil for this President?
COSTA: Well, he`s the President of the United States. So hopefully it wasn`t a necessary evil for him to engage with people who are mourning in a city that`s such a proud city, having made it past so many difficult issues in recent decades. It`s a city -- I`m from Pennsylvania. I love the people from Pittsburgh.
This White House, though, does see the whole Pittsburgh episode beyond the tragedy as a political obstacle, as a curveball that they weren`t expecting, that they think has slowed the momentum. But they know this is the office of the presidency, he has to as President engage with something that may not be politically perfect for him in the closing days of the midterm elections. But as we witnessed from this President objectively speaking, he`s not someone who in the traditional way of most Presidents deals with these kinds of national crises in any sort of orthodox way in terms of empathy in his rhetoric. But they`re not trying to also put a square in a circle here. They know he`s only capable of doing so much on that front. So they wanted to make sure he got there. But now he`s back at his rallies.
WILLIAMS: Sam, I want to show you a rather remarkable exchange from this interview tonight with Jonathan Karl over at ABC News. We`ll discuss it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONATHAN KARL, ABC NEWS: You remember well in the campaign you made a promise. You said, "I will never lie to you." So can you tell me now honestly, have you kept to that promise at all times? Have you always have truthful?
TRUMP: Well, I try. I mean, I do try. I think you try too. You say things about me that are not necessarily correct. I do try. And I always want to tell the truth when I can, I tell the truth. I mean, sometimes it turns out to be where something happens that`s different or there`s a change. But I always like to be truthful.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Sam, go ahead and have at it.
STEIN: I always like to be truthful too. I guess that was sort of an honest thing Trump said. He does -- maybe tries. But he never said he didn`t lie. I think even he knows that he does lie a lot.
I would like to just, if I may, go back slightly to the Pittsburgh visit because I do think it`s -- it sort of illustrates a lot of what Trump`s dealing with right now. I agree with Robert. They looked at this as something as a President he had to do, right? It was a box that they had to check. But they also viewed it through a clearly political and campaign lens. We were talking to people in and outside of the White House who saw Pittsburgh as a nuisance in the fact it distracted from a message that they wanted to have, which was on the caravan.
And then today you saw something incredibly remarkable in my estimation. The White House in Trump`s Twitter feed really put out a video, ostensibly a political campaign-style video, done about 24 hours after he had visited, maybe less, the site of the biggest anti-Semitic massacre in U.S. history to was done ostensibly to prop him up, prop up his image and talk about how he had gone there and present him as mourning with people.
And then later in the day he tweeted out how grateful he was for the congressman who`d been there with him and saying you should vote for this guy because he treated me so well. Using, again, a moment of intense sadness and horror for the Jewish people to use it as a catapult of sorts for the election of a member of congress, it was a remarkable insight into how Trump views these moments of tragedy. And the answer is he views them incredibly politically.
WILLIAMS: And Nancy, we`ve all been around a while. Can you remember a president not being met at the airport by any of the local officials, no governor, no mayor? It was an officer with the state air National Guard and his spouse who were there at the bottom of the air stairs when the President came off air force one. After the hospital visit he left just as silently as he arrived.
COOK: Yeah, that was remarkable for White House reporters and those of us who travel with the President regularly, the White House is always very eager to use the arrival of Air Force One as a moment for the President to connect with people. So often he`ll meet with governors, local congressmen, state officials, and there`s a whole line of people.
And the fact that no one was there I think was very telling and showed that the community really didn`t necessarily want to welcome Trump. There was a rabbi there that I think, you know, acted as a guide to the whole Trump family as he visited the synagogue, and he met with law enforcement people and sort of played up that angle. But he did not meet with a lot of the families of victims and was not welcomed by the whole political class in Pittsburgh. And I think it just goes to the fact that he has really struggled in the past with playing the role as Sam and Robert said of consoler in chief, sort of playing that broader Presidential role. It`s something that he has struggled with.
WILLIAMS: Robert, let`s end on a nakedly political note. You can`t go to the dry cleaner or for that matter leave your apartment in Washington without someone asking you what do you think is going to happen in the midterms. I don`t want those folks to have an advantage in this conversation over little old us. What do you answer when people ask you what do you think`s going to happen in the midterms?
COSTA: In an elevator conversation very quickly, the House, based on all the prognostications from the top analysts in the country, is likely to move into Democratic hands. We`re looking at anywhere between 25 -- being very conservative, really 30 to 50 seats for the Democrats, somewhere in that 30 to 45 range is where most of the smartest sources on the Democratic and Republican sides place the House right now moving but there`s still a week left, a lot -- less than a week. A lot can happen as we saw with different national tragedies.
The Senate narrowly probably remains Republican. But some of these Democrats are having strong campaigns at the end. And issues like health care are so below the radar in the national conversation, but they really have traction in the states. As reporters we always have to pay attention. There are undercurrents that would lift Democrats in some of these states on policy that are separate from the whole Trump issue.
WILLIAMS: To your point, help a lot of reporters missed the tea party election. Will this be the election of pre-existing conditions? That`s what will make next Tuesday night so interesting. To our friends Robert Costa, and Nancy Cook, to Sam Stein, thank you all three of you for joining us on this Halloween night 2018.
Coming up after our first break, these days even if you`re the Republican Speaker of the House you`re fair game because to this President there`s no I in birthright citizenship.
And later, new pressure on the Iowa Republican whose re-election had been looking like a lock. We`ll talk about it when we come back on a Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Congress has never passed a law requiring birthright citizenship for illegal aliens, and the constitution does not, I say that to the media, does not require it, read it, because illegal aliens are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: More on that in a bit. President Trump is keeping immigration front and center in this campaign rhetoric, particularly his intention to end the 14th amendment guaranteeing birthright citizenship.
This morning he wrote, "So-called birthright citizenship, which costs our country billions of dollars and is very unfair to our citizens, will be ended one way or the other. It is not covered by the 14th amendment because of the words subject to the jurisdiction thereof. Many legal scholars agree.
`Harry Reid was right in 1993 before he and the Democrats went insane and started with the open borders, which brings massive crime-w a capital C, stuff. Don`t forget the nasty term anchor babies. I will keep our country safe. This case will be settled by the United States Supreme Court."
Well, for his part the former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada didn`t let that go unanswered. Today he responded with a statement that read in part, "In 1993, around the time Donald Trump was gobbling up tax- free inheritance money from his wealthy father and driving several companies into bankruptcy, I made a mistake. This President wants to destroy, not build, to stoke hatred instead of unify. He can tweet whatever he wants while he sits around watching TV, but he is profoundly wrong."
Yesterday they located Speaker Paul Ryan, who surfaced briefly, not on camera mind you, but we got to hear his voice. He told a radio interviewer the President is wrong.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL RYAN (R), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: You obviously cannot do that. You cannot end birthright citizenship with an executive order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And here`s why Paul Ryan never says anything. Today the President went after him. And we quote. "Paul Ryan should be focusing on holding the majority rather than giving his opinions on birthright citizenship, something he knows nothing about. Our new Republican majority will work on this, closing the immigration loopholes and securing our border."
Right before he left the White House for tonight`s rally Trump was asked about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why are you attacking Paul Ryan?
TRUMP: Birthright citizenship is a very, very important subject. In my opinion it`s much less complex than people think. I think it says it very loud and clear in the constitution that you don`t have to go through the process of whatever they`re talking about. I believe that you can have a simple vote in Congress or it`s even possible in my opinion, this is after meeting with some very talented legal scholars, that you can do it through an executive order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So legal scholars have been by for a visit. Rick Wilson is with us tonight, a proud Floridian, proud never Trumper. Also happens to be a veteran at the business of politics, a Republican strategist and an author. And his latest book is called "Everything Trump Touches Dies."
Guess how he feels about the President. Hey, Rick, we should point out that legal scholars we`ve consulted feel this is enshrined in the constitution and is not subject to the whim of an executive order. So get that on the record. What`s the up side, do you think, in attacking the House Speaker?
RICK WILSON, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: There`s no up side really. This is just Donald Trump sort of blame storming in advance for what`s going to happen on Tuesday in the house. He`s looking for angles to say it wasn`t my fault, if only Paul Ryan had stuck with my brilliant messaging on immigration it would have been fine. But you know, I think as you and I both know that whatever bus station he rounded up his legal scholars from this was a fantasy that fed into -- to the Trump base alone. It wasn`t ever something that was going to really happen. He`s going to do nothing about it. It`s the equivalent of Mexico paying for the wall. Mexico has neither paid nor has the wall been built. And so this is just one more Trump fantasy he`s throwing out there to disrupt, or to stoke the anger of his base and to try to convince them they need to come out and vote on Tuesday.
WILLIAMS: What about to call it the surge, not to a place like Afghanistan where we only have 14,000 U.S. troops on station, but to the southern border where today the number jumped up to potentially 15,000?
WILSON: This is using America`s military might as performance art, Brian. And I think it is a sad and rather counterproductive move on his part. They`re not going to be involved in law enforcement. This is not an invading force. This is not -- these are not armed terrorists crossing the border no matter what Donald Trump wants to say about it. They`re still about a month and a half away by most estimates. So this is just another part of this professional wrestling that he -- show that he`s putting on for the country right now, trying to ratchet up this idea that there`s a brown tide sweeping up from Mexico that`s going to take everyone`s jobs and kill their children and eat their dogs or something.
It`s just -- this is the -- and what this is doing is diminishing our national security. These folks right now are not training. They`re not preparing for actual conflict in the world. They`re not making us safer anywhere in the world. We`ve got a lot of challenges around the globe right now. And these people are being deployed as a political stunt by this President.
WILLIAMS: Let`s talk about Pittsburgh, such an ugly chapter after the largest single loss of life, largest mass murder of Jews in our nation`s history, not all, in fact just a few of these 11 souls had been buried at the time of the President`s visit, with public officials telling him he was not welcome there. The President this morning puts out this. We talked about this in the first segment. "Melania and I were treated very nicely yesterday in Pittsburgh. Office of the President was shown great respect on a very sad and solemn day. We were treat sod warmly. Small protest was not seen by us. Staged far away. The fake news stories were just the opposite. Disgraceful."
Tweeted out as we`re showing with attached video which brought us this from Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, "I`ve unfortunately covered a lot of shootings over the years, I don`t really remember an elected official, aware that they were so controversial, putting out a video of themselves at a crime scene to celebrate their own performance.
Rick, after pipe bombs, after Pittsburgh you talk about this a lot on social media, you talk about this in your book. Where are we as a country?
WILSON: You know, Brian, I make a lot of flippant remarks about this President because I believe a lot of the time he deserves mockery. In this case the level of moral horror and outrage about him making the slaughter of 11 American Jewish citizens by an alt-right madman, by a murder, making it all about him, making it -- oh, we were treated respectfully. Oh, the fake news. He can`t resist being the worst version of Trump.
This is a man who -- I say this a lot. He may have the title of president, but he has never earned the mantle of the presidency. He has never taken on the sacred duties of President. And one of those duties is to put the country before your own ego. And this was a perfect example of why I believe he`s unfit for this office and always has been. Because he went there and he essentially turned it into a photo op for himself, turned it into a campaign video. I don`t think anyone who saw that tweet today of good conscience could think anything but a sense of revulsion about it.
WILLIAMS: Rick Wilson, thank you so much for coming back on our broadcast. Look forward to the next time we`re able to talk to you.
WILSON: Thank you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Rick Wilson joining us tonight from Florida. Again, his latest book is called "Everything Trump Touches Dies."
Coming up after another break, with less than a week to go until Election Day, has the President in his own way already conceded the House? That`s what some think they can hear in his message. We will ask Steve Kornacki at the big board when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In less than one week Americans will go to the polls in one of the most important election of our entire lives. Although I will say not as important as 2016. I`d like to say, but not really.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The President there, reminding his supporters in Florida to turn out to vote next week, yet never quite allowing the focus to shift too far away from his own election victory. He`s scheduled to hold another ten rallies over the next five days despite or perhaps because of the polls that show Republicans in danger of losing the House.
These upcoming Trump rallies appear aimed at races for Senate and governor. Our National Political correspondent Steve Kornacki back on the night shift, back at the big board tonight with the very latest. Hey, Steve.
STEVE KORNACKI, NBC POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brian. Yes. Let`s take a closer look at the House because on paper Democrats need, we`ve been saying this all year, a net gain of 23 seats would take the House and yet we keep saying the Democrats are favored to do that.
On paper you might say that seems like it might be a lot of seats to get, how could they be favored, how could it look so rosy for them? I`ll take you through the math here in a couple steps. So first of all, we say they need a net gain of 23. Start with this. There are two districts here right now that are Democratic held that look likely to go.
One of them in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania. Remember they blew up all the district lines there earlier this year. Another one this -- the iron range of Minnesota. Democratic held seat. This Republican candidate. There are polls that have him up double digits out there.
So right away that 23, that magic number for Democrats really functionally it`s probably about 25. So that`s not good news for them. Where does the optimism for Democrats come from? Here`s where it start to comes from. Take a look at this.
These are all the districts in the country right now that are held by Republicans but where the polling and where the money is going, where the money isn`t going, where that suggests Democrats are favored to flip Republican seats right now.
You see this list is 17 long. Take a good example. Right outside Denver here, the 6th district of Colorado, Republican incumbent Mike Kaufman. The poll came out head him down nine points. Republicans have pulling money out of this district.
They`re giving up on Kaufman. That is the story for a lot of these districts around the country. The polling favorable to Democrats. The money suggesting the parties are seeing it too. So, basically if the Democrats take care of business where they`re favored that magic number would come all wait down to single digits. They would just need to flip a single digit number of seats to get control of the House.
And that`s where you really get to this -- check this out right here. These are the districts that just look competitive. Republican-held districts where the Democrats have made it competitive. And remember, if they took care of business in the ones where they`re favored now, that would lead them, their magic number, to about eight.
What you`ve got here are about 50 districts around the country, Republican- held. Democrats are in some way or another in the game in these districts. Some of them like Montana might be a little bit more of a stretch. But I`ll give you another example.
If I could turn the pen off I`ll give you a perfect example. Right here outside of Chicago, suburban district, Peter Roskam Republican incumbent, poll came out another day, Roskam`s down two points. Bottom line once you get to this tier, this giant battlefield here, the Democrats if they`re winning the ones where they`re favored, they only need to get about 20 percent of these and that would give them House control.
That`s not automatic. They still have to get those seats. Maybe Republicans run the table, hold the Democrats off. But you just look at that map. You see that the Democrats -- so many different possible combinations would get the Democrats there. That`s why we look at this now, we say hey, it could happen. The Republicans could hang on. Just like Trump was able to find the magic combination two years ago. But if you look at the odds on, this that`s why the odds are saying the Democrats are favored.
WILLIAMS: Steve, thank you for the numbers. Thank you for the long hours you`re working. It ain`t nothing compared to what`s going to go on in this room six nights from now.
KORNACKI: Looking forward to it.
WILLIAMS: We certainly appreciate it. Steve Kornacki at the big board. And coming up for us, the House race in Iowa suddenly making headlines because of a Republican who may finally have gone too far for his party. That story when we come back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE KING (R), IOWA: I think it`s important we put the marker down, put an end to automatic citizenship. If we had done our job we wouldn`t have an anchor baby industry here in the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That was Iowa Republican Congressman Steve King way back in 2011. He`s long been a champion for ending birthright citizenship. Something President Trump is now embracing full on ahead of the midterms.
King, who famously built a scale model of a border wall complete with an electrified fence on the floor of the House, has a long history of racially charged comments. Here is a little bit of what we`re talking about.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: They aren`t all valedictorians. They weren`t all brought in by their parents. For every one who`s a valedictorian there`s another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds and they`ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they`re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.
When I go Germany and they`ve outlawed the swastika I look at them and I think we have a first amendment, that can`t happen here in the United States.
You cannot rebuild your civilization with somebody else`s babies. You`ve got to keep your birth rate up. And that you need to teach your children your values.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So that`s Steve King. And most recently he was condemned by the fund-raising arm of his own party for telling the Associated Press if the Austrian Freedom Party, which was founded by former Nazis, "Were in America pushing the platform that they push they would be Republicans."
Well, we`ve asked Bob Costa to stick around with us tonight and we welcome to the conversation and to our broadcast Rachel Stassen-Berger, Political Editor for the "Des Moines Register."
So Rachel, what has changed here, Steve King or the times and sensitivities?
RACHEL STASSEN-BERGER, POLITICAL EDITOR, THE DES MOINES REGISTER: I`m sorry?
WILLIAMS: What has changed, Steve king or the times and sensitivities?
STASSEN-BERGER: I think it`s more the sensitivities. But as you just listed, Steve King has long been controversial. There have been these flare-ups throughout his career. This one happens to come a week before the midterm election when he`s running against a very well-funded Democrat who`s working really hard in that district.
He`s actually been outraised about 2-1. But Steve King keeps coming back despite the controversy. What happened this week was slightly different in that the National Republican Congressional Committee and its chair both condemned Steve King and said that they would not play in his district at all.
Jewish leaders in Iowa have condemned him. And some of his corporate backers who had donated to his campaign, particularly those that interact with the public, that they`re consumer products like Land O`Lakes said we can`t stand by as Steve King says what he says anymore.
WILLIAMS: So being you in Iowa is kind of like being Robert Costa in Washington. Everyone who knows where you work and knows your title asks you, well, what do you think? And when you talk about this congressional district, which is a large district, used to be part of the economic engine of Iowa, whether it was hog farming or grain, still is a large economic engine of the state, what do you think is going to happen with this race in the midterms?
STASSEN-BERGER: Well, like many journalists and many folks who study politics I look at the fundamentals. I was looking at the party registration in that district and only about a quarter of the folks there are Democrats. An awful lot of them are no party. And a lot of them are Republican. It`s the most Republican district in Iowa.
So it`s not like anyone running against Steve King is going to be a walk. As I said, his opponent J.D. Scholten, has worked very hard, has raised I think somewhere around $1.4 million, $1.5 million. That`s about double what King has.
He`s been on the air, and King has not. On the other hand, this is a very Republican district that keeps bringing King back year after year after year. And as you said, these are not new comments for King. His voters tend to know what he believes on these issues, and some of them certainly agree with him.
WILLIAMS: So Robert Costa, let`s agree that he is blunt. If memory serves, he got his start in the construction business before turning to elective office. You spoke to him this week. What kind of things does he say to you?
ROBERT COSTA, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: You`ve got to think about Congressman King as the Jeff Sessions of Western Iowa. This was someone who has had a hardline position on immigration, on cultural issues, really on the right wing of the right wing of the Republican Party for over a decade.
Why does he have this kind of national profile with someone who espouses these sorts of views? It`s because of Iowa being the caucus state and people like Senator Ted Cruz last time have really sought out his endorsement, his support, and because of his prominence in the early voting state he has prominence then on the national scene, in cable outlets and national reporters asking him for quotes and getting him in articles.
And we`ve seen this congressman who in any other state would really be on the fringe of his own party, not really a national figure, has somehow ascended to have real political capital, which makes it a problem for the Republicans nationally because it`s not just some congressman. It`s Steve King, a power player.
WILLIAMS: Rachel, what has happened to the population of Democrats if you know, if you have this statistic nearby, in the state of Iowa? Let`s say in just the last couple of years. Is it population growing or shrinking?
STASSEN-BERGER: Well, again, if you look at the congressional district, it`s not growing by very much in King`s district but in the 3rd congressional district, which is David Young versus Cindy Axne, it`s actually almost at an even level. Usually Republicans in that district have more of an edge.
Right now I think the last I looked it was maybe 20, 30 votes apart. So that`s why that district is very much in the eye of the craw. And then you look at the 1st congressional district, that`s Abby Finkenauer against Representative Rod Blum.
Democrats have actually surged. That was a Trump district that voted for a Republican for the House but a lot of folks are giving Abby Finkenauer the edge in next week`s election because Democrats are doing so well there. So it really depends which area of the state you`re looking at.
WILLIAMS: All right, Robert, be our closer. Is it fair to look at the case of Steve King to see if Republicans have limits, what they`ll allow, the kind of talk and extremes they`ll allow in the party?
COSTA: It`s not fair because of gerrymandering. The way the districts were redrawn around the country including in Iowa after the 2010 census have made it possible for House members of both parties but in particular in the Republican Party for lawmakers who make these sorts of statements about the Nazis, about the Austrian far right, about immigrants and their physical attributes to survive because the districts are sliced and diced in a way that makes it so favorable for our hardcore conservative to make it.
You look at Steve King`s electoral record, Brian, aim is in that district. The Iowa State University. They`ve tried to run people who are a little more in the center. Just can`t happen. That district is western Iowa. It`s conservative. It`s rural. And Steve king, he`s OK there because it`s not a district that cuts across different kinds of demographics.
WILLIAMS: To our viewers one note. If your title is National Political reporter with the "Washington Post" or a Political Editor at the "Des Moines Register" and its six days before the midterms, you are busy, you get up early, you work late, it`s late at night. We owe our thanks to these two guests, Robert Costa and Rachel Stassen-Berger
COSTA: Nowhere we`d rather be, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Thank you. Thank you both very much. Very much appreciate it. Thanks to you both.
And coming up for us, the nearly 45-year-old documents unsealed today that might, just might have something to do with today`s news because of that man with the raised finger.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As President, I must put the interests of America first. America needs a full-time President. And I full-time Congress, particularly at this time, with problems we face at home and abroad. Therefore, I shall resign the presidency, effective at noon tomorrow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you received a subpoena at all from Robert Mueller?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Two presidents with an unusual connection. Their involvement in special prosecutor investigation and just today, Dick Nixon came roaring back into the news after an unexpected development.
Almost 45 years after the Watergate controversy, confidential documents related to the scandal have been made public by our national archives, these documents including a would-be indictment from a D.C. grand jury against Richard Nixon.
Now according to all of these the grand jury was prepared to indict Nixon on four criminal counts, including bribery, obstruction of justice. Instead, the grand jury ultimately wrote a final report that was sent to the house judiciary committee to do with as they chose.
Nixon resigned before the impeachment hearings started hearings that would have revealed this information. The documents are being made public today after members of Nixon`s defense team and legal analyst filed lawsuit asking that they be unsealed, that it`s been enough time that they`d be released from grand jury secrecy rules.
The legal experts say the documents could serve as a road map loosely for the current special counsel Robert Mueller. They argue this report could be a benchmark on how to publicly release findings that might directly involve a president.
At the time, the evidence against Nixon was sent straight to the House Judiciary Committee. Members used the information to draft articles of impeachment. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss argues the process is much different today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MICHAEL BESCHLOSS, NBC NEWS PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: The procedure now is going to be that when Robert Mueller finishes his report, he has to give his report to the Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, assuming that Rosenstein still has his office in a couple of weeks, if that`s when the report is delivered.
Rudy Giuliani the friend of President Trump has ominously said that there`s a possibility that the President might use his power to have all or a part of Mueller`s report kept secret under executive privilege. In which case, they would like to see it disappear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLAIMS: As you know when Michael speaks we listen. And by the way, Michael Beschloss believes this information that was out today was probably known by those three Republican lawmakers, Scott, Rhodes, and Goldwater who made the trip from the hill over to the White House and told Nixon it was time.
And of course, it`s not known how much notice the Mueller team will take of any of today`s revelations. But a fascinating story out tonight.
Coming up, dressing up for Halloween while moving at 17,000 miles an hour. We will show you the proof that it can be done, when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go here tonight, it`s dedicated to all the parents of young ones who have ignored demands to go to sleep tonight and perhaps still bounces off the walls with a sugar high after trick or treating this evening and we hope it was a safe and Happy Halloween. To our west coast viewers where it`s only coming up at 9:00 p.m., you may be up for a few more hours of it. But I`m here to tell you they will eventually go to sleep, just maybe not until later in the week.
And let`s hear it for the hardy crew of the international space station, because today they gave us this, that`s the Russian Astronaut, on the far left as Elvis Presley. Next to him is Darth from the European space agency. And the mad doctor on the right, well she`s a doctor and that`s her actual lab coat, that`s our American astronaut Dr. Serena Aunon- Chancellor.
And yes, this means they brought a guitar and a light saber up into space with them. Sharp-eyed viewers may realize there were supposed to be more revelers up there hurdling through space. The place was built for seven people.
But because we rely on the Russians, how do we say this gently as our ride to get up to space, and because the last Russian mission failed, those hardy three and zero G continue to hold down the orbiting fort. They circle the earth about every 90 minutes, just over 200 miles up, that`s the view.
They`re flying at crisp 17,000 miles an hour. And here`s a public service announcement sign up with NASA, put in your zip code, and they`ll text you the next time they pass over where you live, and every time they pass over where you live, it`s a thrilling sight against a night sky. It`s a great activity for the kids, but perhaps wait until they`ve had a good night`s sleep.
And that for all of us is our broadcast for this Wednesday, Halloween night. Thank you so very much for being here with us. Goodnight from NBC News headquarters here in New York.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END