Trump challenges escalate. TRANSCRIPT: 3/1/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Annie Karni, Matthew Miller, Nelson Cunningham, Daniel Dale, AnitaKumar, Juana Summers, Gabby Orr

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  So when Donald Trump throws the word socialism at the Democratic presidential candidate, that candidate cannot duct, cannot hide, cannot run away from that word.  That candidate has to tell the audience that that`s what Republicans said about social security when they opposed it in 1935.  And that`s what Republicans said about Medicare when they opposed it in 1965.

And it`s true that those are socialistic programs.  But they`re programs that work well and make millions of people`s lives much better.  The Democratic candidate is going to have to be brave enough to honestly talk about socialism to that national T.V. audience and tell them that there is good socialism, like social security and Medicare, and there is very, very bad socialism.

And the worst socialism in America is Trump golf socialism.  Donald Trump`s socialism.

That`s tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

KATY TUR, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight, the trouble for Trump.  The President headed into a new month after a week of damaging new accusations of failure to land a deal with North Korea.  And now we`ve got exclusive reporting tonight that Democrats are getting ready to formally ask for his tax returns.

Plus, in a court filing late today, Paul Manafort`s lawyers argue for less jail time before the former Trump campaign chair sentencing next week.  "The 11th Hour" on a Friday night starts now.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  I`m Katy Tur in for Brian Williams.  Day 1,771 of the Trump administration and the President is entering March with a host of new and growing political and legal challenges for himself, his family and some one-time members of his inner circle.

Just a few hours ago, one of the former associates, Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, asked a federal judge in Virginia to give him a prison term, significantly below the 19 to 24 years called for under sentencing guidelines.  His lawyers noted what they call special counsel Mueller`s attempt to vilify Manafort as a, "life-long and irredeemable felon," accusing Mueller of grossly overstating the facts.

Manafort, now 69 years old, was convicted in Virginia of bank and tax fraud.  He is set to be sentenced in Virginia next Thursday.  And in Washington, D.C., six days later.  There has been much speculation about a potential pardon from President Trump.

One former associate who more than likely will not receive a pardon is Trump`s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.  He is headed to prison in May, but he spent three days this week on Capitol Hill, denouncing Trump, and detailing his alleged crimes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY:  He is a racist, he is a con man, and he is a cheat.

The President of the United States thus wrote a personal check for the payment of hush money as part of a criminal scheme.

People have asked me about whether Mr. Trump knew about the release of the hacked documents, the Democratic National Committee e-mail ahead of time.  And the answer is yes.

Mr. Trump`s personal lawyers reviewed and edited my statement to Congress about the timing of the Moscow tower negotiations before I gave it.

I am in constant contact with the Southern District of New York regarding ongoing investigations.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTES, (D) NEW YORK:  Do you think we need to review his financial statements and his tax returns in order to compare them?

COHEN:  Yes, and you would find it at the Trump org.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR:  Cohen`s public testimony in Wednesday before the House Oversight Committee triggered a barrage of attacks this morning from the President, including, "Now that the two-year Russia collusion case has fallen apart, there was no collusion, except by crooked Hillary and the Democrats.  They say, gee, I have an idea.  Let`s look at Trump`s finances.  And every deal he`s ever done.  Let`s follow discredited Michael Cohen and the fraudulent and dishonest statements he made on Wednesday.  No way.  It`s time to stop this corrupt and illegally brought witch hunt."

Tonight NBC News reports the top tax-writing committee in the House is getting ready to ask for years of Donald Trump`s tax returns.  And Michael Cohen will be back before Congress next Wednesday, continuing the closed- door hearing he began yesterday with the House Intelligence Committee.

Cohen`s revelations came as Trump was hoping to score a big foreign policy win at his second summit with North Korea`s Kim Jong-un.  But talks over nuclear weapons and sanctions relief broke down, and Trump came home with no deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  It was a very interesting two days.  And I think, actually, it was a very productive two days.  But sometimes you have to walk.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR:  The real backlash came with Trump`s remarks about Kim Jong-un and the death of a captured American student, Otto Warmbier.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did Kim Jong-un tell you --

TRUMP:  He felt badly about it.  I did speak to him.  He felt very badly.  But he knew the case very well, but he knew it later.

And some really bad things happened to Otto.  Some really, really bad things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why are you --

TRUMP:  But he tells me that he didn`t know about it.  And I will take him at his word.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR:  More on that this hour.

Trump had a new crisis brewing when he returned home from Vietnam.  The "New York Times" reported Trump ordered his chief of staff to grant his son-in-law, Jared Kushner top security clearance over the objections of intelligence officials and the White House counsel.  The "Washington Post" reported that Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump pressured the President to grant Kushner the long-delayed clearance.

  This year, both Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, denied he was involved.  Today White House Counselor, Kellyanne Conway was asked about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Was the President involved in Jared Kushner`s security clearance process?

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT:  We don`t discuss security cleanses.  But the President has the right to do what was described.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR:  Late today, Jared Kushner`s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, issued this statement, "Whatever the accuracy or not of recent news stories, Mr. Lowell was not aware of, nor told of any request for or action by the President to be involved in the security clearance process.  Again, officials affirmed at the time that the regular process occurred without any pressure."

Meanwhile, House Oversight Chairman, Elijah Cummings, has given the White House until Monday to turn over documents and set up interviews as part of its investigation into the security clearance process.

Let`s bring in our leadoff panel for Friday night, Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee.  Annie Carney, White House Reporter for "The New York Times".  Matthew Miller, former chief spokesman for the Justice Department.  And Nelson Cunningham, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, also a former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Michael, when you look back at this week, which like so many weeks, has felt like a month.  And you think about what happened, Donald Trump went to Vietnam and came back with no deal.

MICHAEL STEELE FMR. RNC CHAIRMAN:  Right.

TUR:  And he praised Kim Jong-un at the detriment -- to the detriment of the death of an American student.  Michael Cohen testified for three days on Capitol Hill.  Jared Kushner`s security clearance is in question once again and Trump and his daughter appear to have been lied -- to have caught in a big lie.  And his taxes might get subpoenaed.  How bad was this week?

STEELE:  Well, it`s a bad week.  I mean, but I think the one word that sticks in my mind -- we describe this week as unprepared.  The President was unprepared for North Korea.  He was unprepared for the Cohen testimony.  He was unprepared for the narrative now that`s emerging around his son-in- law and his security clearances yet again.

He was unprepared about the blow back -- for the blow back from not just the way the summit went, but the very personal nature regarding the death of the student, Mr. Warmbier.  And so it is consistent, I think, with what we have seen in the administration.

Again, a lot of people who could potentially help the President deal with a lot of these things don`t have to lie about them.  Don`t have to make up stories, are not in a position to do so, because, as we saw in the presser, the President likes to throw stuff out there and makes it harder for folks to do that.  And so that lack of preparation shows through every time.

TUR:  Was Kellyanne Conway confirming that this happened by saying that if it did happen then the President had the right to do it --

STEELE:  Yes.

TUR:  -- when it comes to Kushner`s security clearance?

STEELE:  Essentially, yes.  And with respect to the security clearances in particular, what should have been a fairly pro forma process really got pushed in the wrong direction, because the President wanted a particular outcome.

TUR:  Yes.

STEELE:  He wanted his son-in-law to have whatever clearances he wanted him to have for the purposes that Donald Trump had in mind at that time.

TUR:  Annie, why was Jared Kushner`s security clearance held up for so long?  And why did the White House counsel object ultimately?  Why were security officials objecting to him getting full security clearance?

ANNIE KARNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, we don`t know the details as to why the CIA and other Intelligence agencies raised questions.  But there have been problems with Jared`s security clearance from the outset of this administration.  If you remember in the first forms he filled out, he failed to list meetings with Russian officials on it.  You`re supposed to disclose all meetings with foreign government officials, and he didn`t.  And he blamed it on a clerical error at the time.

But there are -- so we don`t know exactly what they objected to, but we know that there have been questions about his -- the Kushner Company, his family`s real estate business and their dealings and business dealings with foreign governments.

And the bigger question here, though, is, again, why the President, Ivanka and Jared Kushner`s lawyer, who all said there was nothing out of the ordinary here when there was.

And, you know, the President -- the Kellyanne Conway is right in that statement that the President has the authority to do this.  In which case the bigger question here is why didn`t he just say I want Jared Kushner, my son-in-law, he`s my guy, I want him to have a top secret security clearance and I`m giving it to him.

TUR:  Why didn`t he own up to it, I guess.

KARNI:  Right.

TUR:  Yes.

KARNI:  What was the pressure to cover it up?  Why?

TUR:  Matt Miller, you compared this to the way that Donald Trump also treats the criminal justice system.  What parallels do you see?

MATTHEW MILLER, FMR. JUSTICE DEPT. CHIEF SPOKESMAN:  So in each case, in both the class -- you know, the security clearance system that criminal justice system like a lot of ways in which the government works, they`re governed by long-standing rules, long-standing procedures, decisions are made on the merits, oftentimes by none, you know, by officials who are supposed to be non biased.

And that is a system that in each case Donald Trump has always really been hostile to and rejected.  And so I think what we -- when we see him act in the security clearance arena, you see him in this instance -- we now find out, you know, he`s not content to leave decisions to career officials.  Not content to take the recommendations.  He wants to intervene to help the -- help the people who are close to him.  So in this case rewarding Jared Kushner with a clearance he wasn`t qualified for.

And on the other end of the spectrum, to use it to retaliate against his political opponents.  We saw him last year yank the security clearance of John Brennan, the former CIA director who is a critic for him.  And that is of course the same pattern we have seen him approach the criminal justice system with, where he has tried to retaliate against his opponents.  People like Jim Comey and Hillary Clinton and Andrew McCabe, who`s call on to be prosecuted, while trying to get investigations into his allies, Mike Flynn, Paul Manafort, and to himself.

And so, you know, this is -- in each case, decisions in these arenas are supposed to be made on the merits.  Not because of your standing with the President.  And the way he corrupts them has just long standing deleterious effects for the overall credibility of the system.

TUR:  House Democrats have already said that they`re going to investigate this, Nelson.  This is just another component of what they plan to investigate.  They had Michael Cohen on the Hill this week.  Michael Cohen has been compared to John Dean during the Nixon era.

And john dean wrote an op-ed, responding to it.  He said, "What is most similar about my and Mr. Cohen`s testimony is that we both challenge authoritarian President`s of the United States by revealing their lies and abuses of power.  Mr. Trump is the first authoritarian President since Mr. Nixon and neither he nor supporters will play fair.  Mr. Cohen will be dealing with these people all the rest of his life.

All Americans are affected by the growing authoritarianism that made Mr. Trump president.  These people who facilitated his rise will remain long after Mr. Trump is gone."

Nelson, what do you think?

NELSON CUNNINGHAM, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  Well, Cohen`s testimony Wednesday was riveting.  And don`t forget, that was only one-third of the testimony he gave this week.  He spoke Tuesday to the House Intelligence Committee.  He spoke Wednesday in public.  And we all saw that.  Thursday, he spoke to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

We only saw one-third of it.  Think about this.  All of the pieces we have seen this week, the Cohen testimony, Trump`s tax returns, perhaps, about to be provided, Bob Mueller has known all of this for months, because he had the opportunity to question Cohen for months

Every question that was asked of Cohen this week, Mueller has already asked him months ago.  Trump`s tax returns, you have to assume that Mueller had those not long after he began this investigation some 20 months ago.

What we`re seeing now, thanks to the House, is a slow-motion reveal of what the Mueller investigation would have picked up and generated and collected over the last 20 months.  I don`t know when the Mueller report will come out.  I actually am in the confident it will come out as soon as other people say.  But it`s going to be a blockbuster when it does.

TUR:  If we get to see it, though, and Matt Miller, that`s going to be up to the new attorney general, William Barr, and there are questions about what he will release, what he`ll show to Congress and what the public will get to see.  Democrats have been concerned about this.  They`re trying to get a clearer answer from Bill Barr.

Without that happening, is this their way -- is the Democrats` way of getting to the bottom of what they can, what Mueller might have already seen while they can, in order to make sure the public has some idea of what`s been happening?

MILLER:  I think it`s part of it.  I think the decision will be ultimately up to not just the attorney general, but also probably to the courts.  Because I suspect at the end of the Mueller investigation, Democrats in the House are going to demand not just whatever the report looks like, but also all the underlying evidence.

There has been a precedent set over the last year where DOJ has turned over hundreds of thousands of documents at the insistence of House Republicans.  They turned over lots of documents at the end of the Clinton investigation.  And so I think that you`ll see Democratic House chairmen insist on the same.

And by the way, I suspect that goes not just for the Mueller investigation, but for the Southern District of New York investigation, which, I think, notably is the only investigation in where the department has said in court already that the President directed the commission of a crime.  That`s not something they have said in the Russia investigation.

So I think as we get to the end of these investigations, you`re going to see Democrats demanding evidence and demanding testimony.  And if you look at the other witnesses who are like Michael Cohen, people like Rick Gates, people like Mike Flynn, who have been cooperating with the government, have testified before grand juries, there is not a good reason why they shouldn`t be coming up and testifying in open hearings, as well, once those DOJ investigations come to an end.

TUR:  And Annie, does the White House have any plan of action?  Michael Steele was saying at the top of the show that they just seemed unprepared for the events of this week.  Michael Cohen accused the President of committing a felony while he was President of the United States.  Are they going to end up cooperating with House Democrats?

I know Elijah Cummings wants a lot of documents, he wants witnesses.  So far he hasn`t had that.  He feels like the Republicans didn`t do their job while they were in power.  Is the White House going to cooperate or will they be stonewalling?  Do they have a plan of action?

KARNI:  Well, so far it`s the latter.  It`s stonewalling.

The new White House counsel has made it clear he doesn`t think that Elijah Cummings should have access to all of the documents he`s requesting, specifically on the security clearance issue, saying -- asserting executive privilege.  It`s been reported that the Treasury Department is already preparing ways to slow down or stall any requests for tax returns.  So, no, I don`t think it`s going to be cooperative.

And in terms of being prepared to fight back, the White House approach to the Cohen hearing was similar to the approach you saw from the Republicans asking him questions, which was more focused on discrediting Cohen as a liar --

TUR:  Yes

KARNI:  -- which has some validity to it, given he lied to Congress once before, rather than putting ahead any like positive defense of the President.  It was all about discrediting Cohen.  That`s the same message you heard from all of the talkers out of the White House in the days before the hearing.

And that`s what you saw.  And they outsourcer the kind of their rapid response to the RNC and that was their M.O., as well.

TUR:  Michael Cohen was no doubt a problematic witness, but he did come proceeds, he did come with evidence.

STEELE:  Yes.

TUR:  When you look back at the events of this week, what is -- is it the Cohen testimony that sticks out most to you, is it the Kushner clearance, is it the Warmbier moment, where he seemed to have no sympathy for Otto Warmbier and cozied up to the North Korean dictator?

STEELE:  They`re all just incredible moments.  I think, tough, for me, it was the -- this was the week of Cohen.  This was the week where we got to see the guy, the villain, the liar, humanized in some respects.  Where you could see -- and judge for yourself everything that`s been said about him.

And I think it was impactful.  I think it`s something that`s reflected in the aftermath of the, you know, those pot -- you know, those hot polls that they do right after events like this.  Some of the op-eds that have been written really cast a different light on the Michael Cohen story.

And I think that story is a dot.  But it`s a big dot in -- that will connect a lot of other pieces from Mueller to SDNY.  And I believe we`re going to look back on this week and go, it was the turning point in this whole affair.

The saddest part, though, is how Republicans stuck their neck out further for this President.  Did not take the opportunity to the point that was just made to actually make his case to some degree in this hearing in front of Cohen.  Yes, you can discredit him by saying he`s a liar.  But then the back part of that is how you say, my guy is not.  And no one did that.

TUR:  Nelson, final question to you.  What`s more problematic or potentially dangerous for the President, the Mueller hearing, or the Mueller report, or the potential investigations at the SDNY or other U.S. attorneys` offices around the country?

CUNNINGHAM:  Yes.  I think they`re both dangerous for very different reasons.  The Southern District of New York located the lower end of Manhattan, where Trump has his real estate empire.  They`re not limited by Mueller`s jurisdiction of limits.  They can look at anything that occurred, any federal crime that occurred within Manhattan, Bronx, New York State.

They are -- they can go after anything that Donald Trump has done with his taxes, his businesses, going back years.  That`s hugely dangerous for the President.  The Southern District is good at investigating white-collar cases.  They`ve got very practiced FBI agents who know to go after -- how to go after transactions like that.

But what Mueller has is he`s got the direct connection to Congress.  As Matt was saying, Congress will find a way to get their hands on the Mueller report.  They will find their way to get their hands on the evidence.  It happened in Watergate when the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Leon Joworski`s documents and his evidence that he`d collected with the grand jury so they could use it to begin their impeachment proceedings.

Mueller  holds the political risk for Trump, but the Southern District may hold some criminal jeopardy for him, as well and for his family.  Both pretty bad.

TUR:  Essentially after he is no longer president.  Nelson Cunningham, thank you so much.

CUNNINGHAM:  Thank you.

TUR:  Michael Steele, thank you as well.  Annie Karni, Matt Miller, we appreciate it.

And coming up, has Michael Cohen`s bombshell testimony this week laid the ground work for impeachment.  Democratic leaders say not so fast.

And later, one day after Trump says he takes Kim Jong-un at his word, the parents of Otto Warmbier name who they think is responsible for their son`s death.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Friday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI, (D) ILLINOIS:  Is there any other wrongdoing or illegal act that you are aware of regarding Donald Trump that we haven`t yet discussed today?

COHEN:  Yes.  And, again, those are part of the investigation that`s currently being looked at by the Southern District of New York.

I lied to Congress when Mr. Trump stopped negotiating the Moscow tower project in Russia.  I stated that we stopped negotiating in January of 2016.  That was false.  Our negotiations continued for months later during the campaign.

REP. JACKIE SPEIER, (D) CALIFORNIA:  How many times did Mr. Trump ask you to threaten an individual or entity on his behalf?

COHEN:  Quite a few times.

SPEIER:  Fifty times?

COHEN:  More.

SPEIER:  A 100 times?

COHEN:  More.

SPEIER:  Two hundred times.

COHEN:  More.

SPEIER:  Five hundred times?

COHEN:  Probably.

TUR:  That was more damning testimony to come out of Michael Cohen`s seven- hour-long House hearing this week.  He implicated the President in numerous crimes, and even provided the committee with a copy of a $35,000 check he says Trump wrote to cover a hush money payment.

This new information puts Democrats in an interesting position as they decide whether or not to move forward with impeachment proceedings.  As NBC News first read put it, "How do they reconcile their growing belief that President Trump has committed crimes, especially after Michael Cohen`s testimony on Wednesday with their hesitation slash reluctance to consider impeachment?"

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has avoided the question all week, and Democrats I`ve spoken with are hesitant to take a firm position.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOAQUIN CASTRO, (D) TEXAS:  We`re going to wait for the Mueller report.  I think that we`ve got to be cautious about it.  Impeachment is the most serious thing you can do in American democracy.  So it`s not ever something you can take lightly.

TUR:  Have you heard anything today that would lead you to believe that the President committed a high crime or misdemeanor?

REP. ERIC SWALWELL, (D) CALIFORNIA:  Yes.  But I am not going to make a conclusion.  I`ve heard evidence.  Evidence is not a conclusion.  But it`s a reason to keep looking and testing other accounts.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR:  With us tonight, Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor for Politico.  And Twitter`s Go to Presidential Fact-Checker Daniel Dale, Washington Bureau Chief for the Toronto Star.

Daniel, why are Democrats so hesitant to start impeachment proceedings?  They have an abundance of avenues to take.  There is the obstruction angle.  There is Donald Trump`s taxes potentially what they may hold.  Michael Cohen accused him of committing a felony while he was President of the United States.  That`s a lot more than they had with Nixon.

DANIEL DALE, THE TORONTO STAR WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  I think there`s the political reason and the substantive sort of common sense reason.  The political reason is, you know, they`re coming off a midterm where they had a wave in the House.  They won the popular vote by a lot.

They see a President who already has very poor approval ratings.  They think they`re well-positioned going into the 2020 election.  And they know that the consequences of pursuing impeachment can be unpredictable.  You can spark a backlash among the independents who have been strongly trending toward Democrats after 2016.  And so they don`t want to do anything that will upset what they think is a favorable position.

And then the substantive reason is that they simply don`t have all of the evidence that they`re going to have.  You know, the Mueller report is not out.  You have various other investigations that are not completed.  And so I think that their attitude is they will -- if and when they pursue this, they will be able to make the case to the public that they were forced into it.

It`s not something they jumped into.  But it`s something that the evidence compelled them to do.  And I don`t think they believe that with all of the stuff outstanding, including the Mueller investigation, that they`re at that point yet.

TUR:  Nina -- or Anita, excuse me, are all of the Democrats in line on this, or is there some impatient among a contingent of Democrats that could potentially move Pelosi in a different direction?

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Oh, definitely.  You are seeing that rank and file Democrats, some of them, anyway, really do want to talk about impeachment.  Do want leadership to go that way.

But I don`t know that they`re going to break her. I mean, she and the other chairmen and chairwomen are pretty adamant that the way to go about this is through many investigations.  I think at least six committees now are looking at various aspects of the President, the President`s business, the President`s family, his conduct.  So there`s a lot of different ways to go at this.

And I think they think that they can just go after so many different avenues, that that`s harmful politically in its own right.  It`s also harmful legally.  I mean, you know, it gets at that same thing without going to this politically tricky impeachment avenue.

TUR:  Anita and Daniel are sticking with us.

Coming up, Trump stakes the stage at CPAC tomorrow, but the real star of the conservative conference is a Democratic socialist from the Bronx.  We`re back right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS:  Look, I think there is a technical description for what`s going on, which is that Democrats have gone bat crap crazy.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  That system is socialism.

SEBASTIAN GORKA, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT TO THE PRESIDENT:  That is why Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has introduced the Green New Deal.  It`s a watermelon.  Green on the outside, deep, deep red communist on the inside.

They want to take your pickup truck.  They want to rebuild your home.  They want to take away your hamburgers.  This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.

JERRY FALWELL JR., PRESIDENT OF THE LIBERTY UNIVERSITY:  As far as those cows you mentioned, I`ve got 100 cows.  You just let Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez show up at my house and try to take my cows away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR:  As you heard there, Conservatives are using their national stage this week to decry so-called socialism and Democratic extremism.  And while she wasn`t there, the star of the CPAC conference might have been freshman Democratic Congressman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose policies attendees reference time and time again.

Still with us, Anita Kumar and Daniel Dale.  So there seems to be an obsession, Anita, on the right with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.  And you reference a story that one of your colleagues wrote about why there`s this obsession with her and why conservatives are actually quite in awe of her.

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO:  They really are, yes.  My colleague wrote this really interesting story about how all these people on the right wish they were her.  Now, they don`t want her policies, they don`t like her policies, but they say she has political game, meaning she is determined and has this political spirit in this.  You know, on social media she`s actually a lot like President Trump, taking on the media.  And that sort of personality, they really actually kind of admire.  And so she really did kind of take over CPAC today and has for the last couple days.

TUR:  Daniel, is she going to be their white whale?  I mean, you heard Seb Gorka there saying that she is trying to take away your hamburgers, and Jerry Falwell Jr. saying she is going to take away my cows.  Is that going to be -- Do they believe that`s going to be effective in 2020?

DANIEL DALE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE TORONTO STAR:  I think they do.  I mean, I think the unmistakable signal from CPAC was that this socialism attack -- you know, the red scare, the red menace, is going to be a primary if not the primary line of attack for them through the Democratic primary, if not into the general election.  I spoke to Democratic strategist and Democratic socialists today and they kind of shrugged.  They said, look, this is always their playbook.

But it`s come back with vengeance.  You know, I`ve been at CPAC for the last few years.  There were probably some references to socialism, but it wasn`t the dominant theme.  And today and yesterday, it was the thing that they were talking about.  So it was pretty interesting.

TUR:  Well to talk me about how CPAC has changed over the years, Daniel.

DALE:  Well, in various ways.  I mean, you know, there were times where it was this form for sort of raucous debate among various elements of the right.  In recent years, it became sort of Trump PAC.  I think he joked that it would be TPAC, you know, thoroughly taken over by Trumpian conservatism, which, you know, some traditional conservatives say is not conservativism at all.

And then this year it was again thoroughly taken over by Trump.  But, you know, it was less about him and his accomplishments and what he plans to do going forward than about the menace posed by the Democrats.  So I think that was a shift even from last year.

TUR:  Anita, a lot of the plans that progressives on the Democratic side, the Democratic socialists are proposing are quite popular when you poll them among everyday Americans.  Broadly supportive of tax reform, et cetera.  Is it a good idea for Republicans to just laugh at her and make fun of her?  Is that the effective way of trying to take her down?

KUMAR:  Well, I think Daniel is right.  They`ve actually been talking about this for years.  If you`ll remember during President Barack Obama`s term, they talked about this a lot.  It seemed to have died down a little bit, and I remember on the campaign trail in the mid terms, maybe, that the President -- President Trump was starting to see some of these candidates for Congress, and so he really started talking about it.  I mean, they definitely think this is an effective talking point.

But you`re right.  Some of these policies are popular.  You know, so it`s a contrast that they want to make.  Clearly, a lot of these Democratic candidates for president now are, you know, all kind of lumped together on some of these issues.  So they are trying to make that contrast.  So I think it`s going to continue.

TUR:  I wonder if they`re underestimating the popularity, though, of those policies and the desire to really change things and the way things are done in Congress and to address things like climate change and tax reform, especially for the middle and lower classes.  Anita Kumar, thank you so much.  Daniel Dale, thank you, as well.

Coming up, he may not be a household name, but one Democrat hopes tackling climate change can propel him to the White House.  THE 11TH HOUR back right after this.

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GOV. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON:  And now it is time for our nation to set a new priority.  So I am announcing today that I am a candidate to become the next president of the United States.  It is our moment to solve America`s most daunting challenge and make it the first foremost and paramount duty of the United States and that is to defeat climate change.  This is --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR:  The list of Democratic presidential nominees now includes Washington Governor Jay Inslee.  He is the 11th person running for president as a Democrat.  But we are still expecting more.  Reports this week fueled rumors that Joe Biden and Beto O`Rourke are growing closer to announcements.

Still among those candidates though is Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.  According to this latest report coauthored by A.P.`s Juana Summers, "Welcome to Bernie 2.0, a more professional campaign based in Washington with a team that is embracing a more personal message, a more diverse staff and a much more organized nationwide operation.  It`s all backed by the strongest fundraising operation in the 2020 Democratic field."

With us tonight, Gabby Orr, White House Reporter for POLITICO and welcome to the broadcast.  The aforementioned, Juana Summers, National Political Reporter for the Associated Press.  Juana, let`s start with you in your reporting of Bernie Sanders.  It does sound a bit like a different Bernie Sanders in 2016.  Is that going to benefit him or could it potentially hurt him with his grass roots supporters?

JUANA SUMMERS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:  Sure.  I think it`s something that absolutely could cut either way.  One of the things I`m really interested in seeing tomorrow when Senator Sanders launches his campaign in Brooklyn not too far from here is whether or not his attempt to weave more of his personal story into his campaign of ads (ph) will really resonate with that grass roots base that`s really have been lit up by hearing Senator Sanders talk about policies like Medicare for all, like that $15 minimum wage.  He`s been talking about for years.

Now, Sanders is somebody who hasn`t really liked to talk about himself a lot much to the chagrin of his aides in his bid.  But he`s expected in that rally in Brooklyn as well as on Sunday in Chicago to talk more about his personal story to give his reporters a little bit of a peek behind the curtain at what really makes him tick and how his upbringing particularly here in New York as somebody who lived in a rent-controlled apartment as the son of a Jewish immigrant really informs his policies and the populist policies that he`s brought forward.  And now many of the other Democrats in the race have embraced.

TUR:  Gabby, Juana is right.  Bernie`s ideas, his 2016 ideas in policies are now kind of at the center for a lot of Democrats for 2020.  Does that make him the most formidable candidate in this campaign field so far?

GABBY ORR, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, POLITICO:  Well, I think that, you know, the early fund-raising numbers that we saw certainly suggest that the sort of energy among progressive Democrats is behind Bernie Sanders.  And that is also how his campaign feels.  They think that they`re sort of the people to beat right now among these 11 Democrats who have already announced.

But that being said, you know, Juana`s reporting suggests that the Sanders campaign realizes that there are lessons to be learned from 2016, and that just talking about policies alone isn`t going to get him very far in a field that is this diverse and has as many ideas that have already been suggested that fit in line with some of those progressive platforms that Sanders ran on in 2016.  And so I do think there is a challenge here for him to sort of peel back the curtain and let people into his world.

Let people know what his background is.  What fuels these ideas and these passions.  I mean, those are the things that Bernie Sanders is really going to have to focus on doing in order to connect with Democratic voters who may not have supported him in 2016 and may be looking elsewhere in this Democratic primary at some of the other progressive candidates.

TUR:  I wonder if there`s a lot of -- if there`s still are hurt feelings from 2016 among some Hillary Clinton supporters.  Bernie Sanders was asked about whether or not he will seek Hillary Clinton`s advice on the view.  Here`s what he said.

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JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Decent guy.  Our Vice President who stood before this group of allies and leaders and said, I`m here on behalf of President Trump.  And there was dead silence.  Dead silence.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Can I just interject really quickly, though?  We`re hearing about a lot of Democratic candidates who are meeting with Hillary Clinton for advice, though.  So people like Amy Klobuchar.  Do you think you`ll do the same?

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT:  I suspect not.  Hillary has not --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Suspect not.

SANDERS:  You know, she`s not called me.  Look, we have differences.  You know, Hillary has played a very important role in modern American politics.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  But you`re not interested in any advice from her.

SANDERS:  I think not.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TUR:  We put the Joe Biden appearance at the top of that -- the back burner for just a second.  Is there a lot of -- does he need to relitigate the hurt feelings from 2016, or would he be better suited just moving on and ignoring all of that?

SUMMERS:  I think there are a lot of people who are really surprised to hear Bernie Sanders say that.  Particularly as later this weekend, he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Former Secretary of State, will be in Selma, Alabama, at the same event.  They`ll share a stage.  And she`ll be honored at that event.

So things might get a little awkward.  But I think that there are a lot of people who want to see this be a primary that`s kind of, you know, above the belt where Democrats are able to have a debate of ideas that many in the party feel like they did not get to have, necessarily, in 2016.  And to hear him come out and say that -- is not interested in the views or the experience of the party`s past nominee I think struck a lot of Clinton supporters the wrong way and isn`t going to go far to bringing some of them into the fold if Bernie Sanders does indeed end up the party`s nominee.

TUR:  Gabby, if the thought is we need to move forward, if the Democrats` thought is we need to move forward, we don`t want to do 2016 over again, does that mean it`s going to be a candidate that is not Bernie Sanders?  That was not a part of the 2016 race?

ORR:  OK.  It`s so hard to know right now.  I mean, there`s 11 candidates who have already announced and probably more coming.  And so many of them have different ideas and different perspectives and I think it`s really hard to predict at this point whether the Democratic Party wants somebody like Bernie Sanders in there or wants a new, fresh face, possibly somebody younger with less experience on Capitol Hill.

And I will mention just to your question earlier about Hillary Clinton, you know, POLITICO had a story out last week in which there were several Clinton aides anonymously criticizing Bernie Sanders for his use of a private jet during the last few weeks of the general election to campaign for Hillary Clinton.  And, of course, there was a response from Jeff Weaver, Bernie Sanders` former campaign manager, who said, you know, this is just absolutely ridiculous that Clinton less than, you know, two years after this campaign ended to come back and sort of relitigate these issues that she had.

So I think, yes, to some extent, Bernie Sanders needs to put on a good face if he wants to court some of the people who supported Clinton in 2016.  But also, you know, Hillary Clinton`s supporters and advisers should probably lay off of him if they want to see a progressive be formidable against Donald Trump in the end.

TUR:  Gabby Orr and Juana Summers, ladies, thank you very much.

And coming up, first the President said he took Kim Jong-un at his word.  Then he says he was misinterpreted.  But Otto Warmbier`s parents are clear.  Their message when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor before returning him to America last June horribly injured and on the verge of death.  He passed away just days after his return.

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TUR:  That was President Trump last year, seven months after the return and subsequent death of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier.  Warmbier, by the way, who you can see here begging for his release, basically begging for his life, was arrested and held as prisoner in North Korea in 2016.  He returned to the U.S. in a vegetative state, and, again, just died days later.  But this week after meeting with Kim Jong-un, Trump`s stance was considerably softer towards the dictator.

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TRUMP:  I don`t believe he knew about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Kim Jong-un tell --

TRUMP:  He felt badly about it.  He did speak to him.  He felt very badly.  He knew the case very well.  But he knew it later.  And, you know, you`ve got a lot of people, a big country, a lot of people.  And in those prisons and those camps, you have a lot of people.  And some really bad things happened to Otto.  Some really, really bad things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Why are you --

TRUMP:  But he tells me -- he tells me that he didn`t know about it.  And I will take him at his word.

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TUR:  Today Warmbier`s parents responded to the President`s remarks with this statement, "We have been respectful during this summit process.  Now we must speak out.  Kim and his evil regime are responsible for the death of our son, Otto.  Kim and his evil regime are responsible for unimaginable cruelty and inhumanity.  No excuses or lavish praise can change that."

Trump attempted to clean up his mess on Twitter today, writing, "I never like being misinterpreted, but especially when it comes to Otto Warmbier and his great family.  Remember, I got Otto out, along with three others.  The previous administration did nothing.  And he was taken on their watch.

Of course, I hold North Korea responsible for Otto`s mistreatment and death.  Most important, Otto Warmbier will not have died in vain.  Otto and his family have become a tremendous symbol of strong passion and strength, which will last for many years into the future.  I love Otto and think of him often."  Noticeably absent from those words, an apology for his defense of Kim Jong-un.

Coming up, grand juries, indictments and conspiracy charges.  A look back at what happened 45 years ago today when THE 11TH HOUR comes right back.

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TUR:  The last thing before we go tonight.  The significance of this date, March 1st, in American presidential history.  It was noted on Twitter today by hour NBC News Presidential Historian, Michael Beschloss.  "Forty-five years ago today, President Richard Nixon was secretly named an unindicted co-conspirator by same federal grand jury that indicted seven of his aides for Watergate conspiracy."

March 1st, 1974, was also a Friday.  And Michael included a photo of the Saturday morning "New York Times."  Things moved a little bit slower before the 24-hour news cycle.  The "Times" headline, "Federal grand jury indicts seven Nixon aides on charges of conspiracy on Watergate, Haldeman, Ehrlichman, Mitchell on list."  Here`s how the coverage of that news played out in the homes of millions of Americans 45 years ago tonight.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The indictments were handed up in the Washington courtroom of Judge John Sirica 20 months after the grand jury began its investigation.  Gordon Graham of our staff was in the courtroom.

GORDON GRAHAM, PRESIDENT OF PROFESSIONAL WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF CANADA:  Carrying heavy sealed briefcases filled with evidence, the assistant special prosecutors entered the courthouse.  That evidence was in support of a sealed grand jury report which may concern others not named in the indictments.  The foreman of the grand jury, Vladimir Pregelj, who works for the Library of Congress arrived.  The grand jurors have been hearing evidence about the Watergate affair for 20 months.

The courtroom was packed with reporters and spectators, many of whom had waited hours to witness this historic event.  The grand jury foreman Pregelj stepped forward and presented the indictment and sealed report from the grand jury.  Judge Sirica accepted the indictment and silently opened and read the sealed report.  He then announced that the report and the evidence would remain secret.

Special Prosecutor Leon Jaworski told the Judge that trial of the defendants named in the indictment would be a long and protracted affair, lasting three or four months.  Judge Sirica then set Saturday, March 9th, as the date for arraignment.  Gordon Graham, NBC News, Washington.

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TUR:  Those of you who still have sharp eyes this late in a Friday night might have noticed a familiar face at the beginning of that report.  Among those assistant special prosecutors captured by the NBC News camera was our own Jill Wine-Banks.  She`s then got the pin on.

That is our broadcast for tonight and this week.  Brian will be back on Monday.  Thank you for being with us.  And good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END