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Trump dismisses Cohen as "old news." TRANSCRIPT: 4/5/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Catherine Lucey, Elliot Williams, Philip Elliott, Gabby Orr, LanheeChen

REP. TIM RYAN (D), OHIO:  We`ve got to go to them with a real plan of which I will have for resuscitating coal country and these older industrialized areas.  And anybody that hears me, Lawrence, and thinks this make sense, please go to  I need your help and support to help implement some of these ideas.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  You got it just in time, Congressman.  We`re six seconds over pass the hour.

Thank you very much for joining us tonight, Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, really appreciate it.

RYAN:  Thanks, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  Tim Ryan gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight is two weeks since Robert Mueller handed over his report, the battle over its release ranges on.  And now the President is mounting a legal fight to keep Congress from getting a hold of his tax returns.

Plus, as he checks out a repair border wall in California, Donald Trump declares the country full, migrants, he warns, need to turn around.

And, after a week of controversy, Joe Biden jokes about hugging but he declares his candidacy for president.  His potential rivals will be in critical states this weekend trying to stake their own territory.  "The 11th Hour" on a Friday night starts right now.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  I am Steve Kornacki in for Brian who will be back on Monday.  Date 806 of the Trump administration and exactly two weeks since Special Counsel Robert Mueller turned in his 400-page report to Attorney General William Barr ending his investigation.

The headlines of no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia set the President off on a victory tour of sorts.  But what is played out since then has complicated his efforts to claim complete exoneration particularly when it comes to the issue of potential obstruction of the investigation itself.

A quick reminder of what has unfolded these past two weeks.  Mueller submitted his findings as we said on march 22nd, two Fridays ago.  And then two days later Barr sent to Congress the four-page letter summarizing his principal conclusions.  On March 29th, Barr told lawmakers he expected to release a redacted version of that report by mid-April.  House Democrats now pushing to get it sooner.  In this week, the Judiciary Committee authorize its chairman to issue a subpoena for the full document.

This week, we also learn that some members of Mueller`s team reportedly have concerns that Barr may have glass over key findings in the Mueller report, particularly when it comes to evidence against President Trump on the topic of obstruction.  Again, that according to reports that have emerged.

Barr and Mueller had a long standing relationship, the men have known each other for three decades.  When Barr served as attorney general back in 1991 under Bush 41, Mueller was his assistant attorney general.  Today Trump made it clear he is more than pleased of Barr handling of the situation.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  But I think he`s doing a fantastic job.  I think he`s a fantastic attorney general.  He is so respected in the Department of Justice and by these people.  That`s what we need.  He`s a great gentleman.


KORNACKI:  Now Barr has been promising to release the report with redactions by the middle of the month.  And House Democrats say they are ready to try to force its release if need be.  Democrats are also using their Congressional power to pursue the President on other fronts this week.  Democrats to made its six years of Trump`s tax returns.  Trump not only indicated that he intends to fight that request.  He also implied that his attorney general might help.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you willing to the commissioner of the IRS not to disclose to the House Ways and Means Committee you tax returns?

TRUMP:  They`ll speak to my lawyer, they`ll speak to the Attorney General.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you confident you`ll be able to keep the Democrats from getting your taxes?

TRMP:  Oh, I don`t know.  That`s up to whoever handles it.  I don`t know.  Hey, I`m under audit.  But that`s up to whoever it is.  I -- from what I understand, the law has been 100 percent on my side.

I got elected.  They elected me, now they keep going.  I`m under audit.  When you are under audit, you don`t do it.  But I`m under audit.

Other people are under audit and nobody would do it when you are going through an audit.  And I always go through audits, they audit me all the time.


KORNACKI:  Trump has been using that audit claim ever since the campaign when he became the first major party nominee in decades to refuse to voluntarily release his tax returns.  Today his lawyers also weighed in on a letter to the Treasury Department, they asked that Trump returns not be released.

Writing this about House Democrats, "The President is their political opponent, and they want to use the information to damage him politically."  They add, "the IRS should reframe from divulging the requested information until it receives a formal legal opinion from the Justice Department`s Office of Legal Counsel."

Meanwhile, the President`s former personal attorney return to the spotlight as well today, it was the last ditch effort to stay out of jail.  Michael Cohen suggesting to Congress that he has dirt on the President and he`ll give it to Democrats, but he wants their help keeping him out of prison.  Cohen`s legal team says he regain access to files the FBI seized last year and he`s now sifting through voicemail messages and recordings as well as 14 million other documents.

Today, Trump dismissed Cohen saying he`s not worried about any new potential revelations.


TRUMP:  It`s old news.  He lied numerous times during his last testimony.  They`ve had that for many months.


KORNACKI:  Cohen is scheduled to head to prison on May 6th.  He pleaded guilty to several crimes including a campaign finance scheme in which federal prosecutors in Manhattan have implicated the President.  That scheme involved hush money payments during the 2016 campaign to two women who said they had affairs with Mr. Trump.

Exactly one year ago today, APs the Catherine Lucey, who is standing by to join us momentarily, exactly one year ago today, she asked Trump about the payments to one of those women.


CATHRINE LUCEY, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Did you know about the $130,000 to Stormy Daniels?


LUCEY:  Then why did Michael Cohen make it if there was no truth to the allegations?

TRUMO:  You have to ask Michael Cohen.  Michael`s my attorney and you`ll have to ask Michael.

LUCEY:  Do you know where he got the money to make that payment?

TRUMP:  No, I don`t know.


KORNACKI:  And here is what Cohen told Congress back in February about that payment scheme.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER TRUMP ATTORNEY:  Mr. Trump directed me to use my own personal funds from the home equity line of credit to avoid any money being traced back to him that could negatively impact his campaign.

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


KORNACKI:  And let`s bring in our lead-off panel for a Friday night, Matthew Miller, former Chief Spokesman for the Justice Department, Catherine Lucey, White House Reporter from the Associate Press and Elliot Williams, former federal prosecutor and a senior DOJ appointee during the Obama administration, he was also a counsel to Chuck Schumer on a Senate Judiciary Committee.  Thank you all for being with us.

Catherine, let me start with you and ask you just to take us inside the White House in your sense of how they view these last two weeks.  We lay out the major events since Mueller turned in that report to the Attorney General.  We have seen the polling and we`ve talked about this essentially despite those initial headlines of exoneration for the President.  No bounce and no change in the President`s public support.  Does the White House views this past two weeks as a missed opportunity in any ways -- in any way or do they say this is something they were expecting?

LUCEY:  I mean, I think as everything with this White House, there is -- feelings were mixed.  There was a huge sense of relief when the initials -- the findings, the initial summary came out.  I think there was a lot of -- a great feeling that this was behind them.  They could move forward.

So, I do think that the general sense was very positive in any sort of early days.  The President, though then, very quickly pivoted to what, you know, raft of other issues.  He quickly moved onto a healthcare fight, a, you know, immigration threatening to shut the border.  And so those things and very quickly, I mean the sort of the victory lap or the football spiking o f the early days pretty quickly, you know, made way for series of policy battles which have been mixed successes.

The President sort of backed off some of those threats.  He hasn`t followed through.

And so -- I do think overall now, there is a sense of chunk of this behind them.  Sort of the top line stuff they felt -- they felt good about.  But like the rest of Washington, there is, you know, people are waiting to see what`s left.  What is in the rest of the report and what`s going to be in the redacted version?  Are there any other issues to draw?

KORNACKI:  Well, that`s the other key question obviously, Elliot Williams the, the two questions, I guess, when the public will get a chance to see that full report and that how substantial, how significant those redactions will be when that report assuming it is released publicly somehow.  How much of that report will actually be readable by the public?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, FMR. FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  I would think it is a significant amount of it.  Look, you know, this all gets back to the fundamental question of we just need to see what`s in the report.  And all of, you know, this sort of the woos that the President have seen over the last week stem from the failures of the Attorney General to effectively handle the roll-out of when the report was complete.

Look, you know, legal analysis doesn`t lend itself well to cliff notes and the four not, you know, these pages summary that Barr put together really did the American people an enormous disservice.  Now, some of the information will be redacted from it.  But there`s a lot of legal analysis.  And what provided the ultimate enamels (ph) of conclusions because they really weren`t -- because all we saw were summarized shorthand versions of them.  But we really need to see what`s in the analysis.

Look, in law school you learn some of the most important information is in the footnotes that provide the, you know, the bases for what the legal analysis is.  And when you`re talking about, was there obstruction of justice, what kind, you know, even if it`s not criminally chargeable, what kind of facts were there.  We just need to know more.

And again, you know, it`s just perplexing.  I know Matt has written about this in the last couple of days.  It`s just perplexing how Barr handled this.  Why he even made the determination he did and just, you know, could have left the determination to Congress as to whether obstruction have been found.

So, I`ve been scratching my head.  There`s not much hair on it, but I`ve been scratching it all week as many of us have.  And I just think we need to get this report out, Steve.

KORNACKI:  Well, Matt, along those lines, yes, you`ve been critical of the Attorney General`s handling of this.  It does seem to me there is ultimately likely to be a fairly public test of his initial assessment, his four-page assessment that we`ve all read over the last couple of weeks and what the report actually says.  At some point it seems likely we will be able to compare those two.

MATTHEW MILLER, FMR. JUSTICE DEPT. CHIEF SPOKESMAN:  Yes, we`ll be able to compare something in relatively short order.  You know the Attorney General said that he would make it available to Congress and the public by mid- April that would put us, you know, say the end of next week to get any of the following.  But I still think there`s a very big question hanging over what we`re going to see and what Congress is going to see at that time and whether we`re going to see the full unredacted report months, maybe even more than a year later if he insist on taking it to court.

You know the thing that`s been troubling, I think, about the way he`s handled it among other things, you know, some of his redactions, he has moved the gulf coast on them where, you know, outlined two categories of redactions earlier.  He then insist of other redactions and redacting information that consistently in the past is going to be made available to Congress even if it`s been withheld from the American public.

And I think his actions in a lot of cases have looked suspicious because there`s really no other way to explain them other than him trying to put the scale -- his thumb on the scale for the President.  You know, he had the most respected prosecutor of his generation, Bob Mueller working for him managing the investigation.  The best thing he could have done both for himself, for his own integrity and for the Justice Department`s reputation, after a period with the Justice Department has really been battered by both the President and, of course, for events in the 2016 election.

The best that he could have done would just have gotten out of the way.  Let bob Mueller`s reputation for integrity carry the day and let his work speak for itself.  And the fact that he has not done that, I think, leads to very serious questions about why he hasn`t.  And I the only good answer is that he wants to help out the President that appointed him to the extent he can.

KORNACKI:  There is also this issue, this renewed issue of the President`s tax returns with Democrats using that power they now have in the House of Representatives to demand six years of his tax returns.  Now, tonight as we said there at the top there, Matthew, you have Trump`s private lawyer, personal lawyer there telling the Treasury Department under you have the IRS telling the Treasury Department, don`t do this, don`t comply with what Congressional Democrats want until you get some kind of advisory from the DOJ.  Now this is President`s private attorney, how would the Treasury Department, how would the DOJ and how would they regard a communication like that from a President`s personal do you suppose?

MILLER:  It is a very strange thing for someone outside the government to ask for one government agency to seek an opinion from the Office of Legal Counsel.  That office is the office inside the Justice Department that sort of decides the law inside the executive branch and tells other agencies what they can and can not do under the law.

It`s very weird for someone outside the government to inserts themselves and it leads to the question of whether, you know, whether the President`s outside attorneys have some hint of how the Office of Legal Counsel ought to rule.  Sometime these questions that come -- or see are very complicated.  This one isn`t.  The law is very clear.  It says that the IRS shall turn over the tax returns if they get a request to the Ways and Means Committee.

There is no discretion.  No, you know, no reason for them to delay or deny or fight it in court.  It`s fairly straightforward and ought to be a fairly straightforward OLC opinion just as it will be a fairly straight forward decision by the IRS.

And I think the thing that`s concerning when you see these remarks coming out the White House on background, the President didn`t say it on the record, but if they`re going to resist this request it really is another sign that, you know, the President has always had this kind of Louis the 14th view of the government. L`Etat c`est moi.  I you know, the state, it is me.  And this would be, like his view of the Justice Department that the IRS exists to protect his personal interests and not to carry out the law as they`re suppose to do.

WILLIAMS:  And wait, And Steve --


WILLIAMS:  -- to take those step further, the President clearly has a misunderstanding of what the role of the Attorney General is.  You know, he sort of seems to think of the Attorney General, and you know, and by extension to Office of Legal Counsel as his personal attorney.  And we, you know, we ran into this with him and Jeff Sessions where he believed that Sessions needed to be looking out for his personal interest not the interest of the Justice Department or the United States.

And so what`s particularly troubling here is -- because to the extent that the President`s attorneys have a constitutional challenge or a challenge to this statute which has Matt said, they will lose because the plain language is very clear.  He`s personal attorneys could have brought that constitution challenge running to the Justice Department and as if, you know, the Attorney General and the head of OLC have some obligation to protect the President`s personal interest.  It`s foolish and it`s just contrary to what the plain language of what the law says.

KORNACKI:  Catherine, we also mentioned at the top here that news today of Michael Cohen reemerging and seeming to essentially put an offer out there for Congressional Democrats looking for them.  I think he wanted a letter from them that may help him in terms of his -- the, you know, looming imprisonment that he faces.  Any indication Democrats are going to take that bait?

LUCEY:  He`s a little bit like a bad penny for Trump, isn`t he?  He keeps popping up just when he doesn`t need him.  I`m not clear if this latest offer is going to go anywhere, if the materials that he is, you know, talking about providing anything new.

I do think, though, it is a -- it`s a reminder of his sort of looming presence and the fact that Trump can`t quite get pass these, that these legal questions about, you know, what happened with these payments, the still ongoing investigation.  But this stuff still hangs over him even if, you know, the Mueller investigation is -- of not completely behind him certainly, you know, wrapping up.

KORNACKI:  All right, Catherine Lucey, Elliot Williams, and Matt Miller, thank you all for being with us.

And coming up, the President tries out a new argument during his border visit.  Today he tells migrants to turnarounds because the country is full.

And later, in his first public appearance since the controversy broke over his unwanted touching, Joe Biden responds.  "The 11th Hour" just getting started on a Friday night.



TRUMP:  Some of it is 30 feet, some of it is 15 feet, some of it is 12 feet depending on the area.  Much of its reenforced heavily and very, very hard to climb.  If you want to climb that, it is pretty sharp up on top, too.  If you want to climb that, you deserve whatever you can get.  But it`s very, very hard.  It`s meant anti-climb.  It`s called anti-climb.

So it`s a great wall.  And it looks -- I think it looks fantastic.


KORNACKI:  President Trump on the southern border in California today where he met with border patrol agents and warned migrants to turn around because he says the country is full.  He also toward a section of replacement border fencing.  "The New York Times" report, "the small section of wall that Mr. Trump stood in front of is not a evidence that the President is building the wall he repeatedly called for during his 2016 presidential campaign, but merely an upgrade to an existing section of fencing.  The two-mile section was completed in October."

Trump`s border visit came after days of threats to close the US border wit Mexico.  Just yesterday, Trump reversed course saying he would give Mexico a one-year warning before imposing tariffs in closing the border.  But this morning before leaving for California, Trump said he never changed his mind about shutting down the border.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP:  I never change my mind at all.  I may shut it down at some point, but I rather do tariffs.  So, Mexico, I have to say has been very, very good, you know that, over the last four days since I talked about shutting down the border.  If they continue that everything will be fine.


KORNACKI:  With us tonight, Philip Elliot, Politics Correspondent for Time Magazine and Gabby Orr, White House Reporter for Politico.  Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Phil, let me start with you, is there a relationship and maybe you could describe the relationship between the President`s decision not to close the border as he had threaten to do and the message that he was spouting today on this tour of the border.

PHILIP ELLIOTT, TIME MAGAZINE POLITICS CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I mean, this is entirely red meat for the President`s base.  This is something that is a guarantee to plus line at his rallies for people watching at home who were live stream every event he has.  This is really is where he feels most comfortable in communicating with the base.  It`s not persuading any voters to come aboard and support him.  This is not a moment of persuasion. This is a moment of motivation.

And I think as we get closer to 2020, we`re going to be seeing much more of this type of campaign rhetoric.

KORNACKI:  And as we mentioned a new variation on his message when it comes to immigration.  The President is talking about the idea of the country being full.  Let`s take a listen to that.


TRUMP:  So as I say this is our new statement.  The system is full.  We can`t take you anymore.  Whether it`s asylum, whether it`s -- anything you wanted.  It`s illegal immigration.  We can`t take you anymore.

Our country is full.  Our area is full.  The sectors are full.  Can`t take you anymore, I`m sorry, it can`t happen.  So turn around.  That`s the way it is.


KORNACKI:  And Gabby, I think we saw this week just in terms of the tension there seem to be between Trump and sort of Republicans in Washington who get uneasy about this hard line rhetoric on immigration.  You have a President there who believes this is the issue, one of the key issues that got him into the White House in the first place.  And maybe you have Republicans in Washington who say, "Hey, it was the President taking that hard line stance on immigration in October, early November, 2018 that led him part to that Democratic surge in the midterm elections."

GABBY ORR, POLITICAL WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Right, Steve, what we`re seeing now is sort of eerily similar to what happened just before the midterm elections when nearly every Republican on Capitol Hill was urging President Trump to focus on tax reforms, focus on the positive economic conditions.  We just had new jobs numbers out today and unemployment figures that are really a net positive for this administration.  And yet, here he is, down in border in Calexico, California, talking once again about immigration.

This is, as Phil said, the issue that he goes back to, it`s the one he feels most comfortable talking about.  And as we approach the height of the 2020 presidential election where he`s going to be making the case for reelection, he is talking about immigration.

Much to this shagreen and the frustration of a lot of the same Republican leaders who wish that he would focus on other issues the last time around and worry that there may be the same consequences if he continues down this path.

KORNACKI:  And Phil, there is also the news the President sort of abruptly withdrawing the nominees to lead ICE immigration.  And customs enforcement saying he wanted to go, he said, in a tougher direction.  And I wonder there was -- he does seem to have that appreciation that fond this I guess for what you might say are dramatic gesture.  He had the idea of shutting down the border.  That`s not happening now at least for the moment.  Is this one attempt that a dramatic gesture replacing another?

ELLIOTT:  Yes.  I mean, you see this with the President all the time whenever he enters a place where he has perceive threat.  He knows how to change the headlines that, you know, he was seeing maybe some of the support go lowly for him that hey maybe this border wall isn`t being built.  Maybe we`re not getting as tough as we want it.

There are reports that Jared Kushner is working behind the scenes to build a bipartisan immigration coalitions, some of little what he did on criminal justice reform.  Unless anyone thinks that he is going soft, he booted the ICE director nominee and really just started doubling down on the type of rhetoric that we usually see from those around policy advisers, Steven Miller.

KORNACKI:  And Gabby, is there any sense or any indication -- is there a next, the President started getting into healthcare, you know, about a week ago seemed to have back off that again for the moment, now the immigration.  Is there another theme he wants to hit after this?  Any indication?

ORR:  You know, I think simultaneously with immigration we`re going to see a large focus on the trade negotiations with China.  It`s something that we`ve heard the White House since senior administration officials talked quite a bit about behind the scenes about how they are inching closer and closer to some type of structural framework and trade negotiations with China and that a deal could very well be imminent.  That a signing ceremony could even take place in the next month or so down at Mar-a-Lago with President Trump and President Xi.

But I do think that immigration is going to be an issue that President Trump plays up right now especially in the midst of what`s happening on Capitol Hill and reaction to the Mueller, the conclusion of the Mueller investigation and this onslaught of investigation that Congressional Democrats are leading against this President.

He wants to talk about immigration, it`s something that he knows plays well with his base.  It`s an issue that he is comfortable talking about.

And also something that, you know, as he is down there highlighting these new areas of border construction whether ore not they are initiated by his administration or the Obama administration, to him is besides the point.  He can be down there.  He can have photo opportunities in front of these improved or updated forms of border infrastructure and that`s something that he knows plays well with those borders who backed him in 2016 and maybe looking to support him again in 2020.

KORNACKI:  All right.  Gabby Orr, Phil Elliott, thanks to both of you for being with us.

And coming up, Joe Biden faces reporters, his first in-person response to the controversy over a person`s physical space.  It may not have been what some more expecting when "The 11th Hour" continues.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Vice president, are you running?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When will you be running 2020 race?

JOE BIDEN, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT:  I am told by lawyers that I got to be careful of what I say so that I don`t start the clock ticking and change my status.  My intention from the beginning, if I were to run, would be to be the last person to announce.  And so give everybody else their day, then I get a shot, then off to the races.


KORNACKI:  Former vice president Joe Biden doesn`t seem to be leaving any room for that, that he is getting ready to join the 2020 race.  He attended today to move on from allegations he made women feel uncomfortable in the past.


BIDEN:  I just want you to know that I have permission to hug Lonnie.  And you guys can sit in the edge -- I don`t want you to have to stand right along but it`s up -- by the way, he gave me permission to touch him.


KORNACKI:  Now Biden`s jokes did not sit well with some of his accuser, former Nevada lawmaker Lucy Flores.  Flores tweeted, "To make light of something as serious as consent degrades the conversation women everywhere are courageously trying to have."  Biden offered something of a mixed apology later.


BIDEN:  It wasn`t my intent to make light of anyone`s discomfort.  I realize it`s my responsibility just to not invade the space of anyone who is uncomfortable in that regard.

I`m sorry I didn`t understand more.  I`m not sorry for any of my intentions.  I`m not sorry for anything that I that ever done.  I`ve never been disrespectful intentionally to a man or a woman.


KORNACKI:  And here with us to talk about it, Jonathan Allen, NBC News national political reporter and Lanhee Chen, Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution and former presidential campaign adviser to both Marco Rubio and Mitt Romney.

Jon, we`ve seen this former vice president facing the press today.  We`ve seen a video from him.  We`ve seen a couple of statements as this story as sort of played out. How has this landed inside Biden`s world?  Are they nervous about long-term impact, are they now feeling this thing has been sort of minimal in terms of its impact.  What are they thinking inside there?

JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Well, I think they have to nervous.  I`ve talked to some people who have talked to the inner circle and, you know, I think and I have talked to some Democrats who have been looking at supporting Biden.  And I think the concern here isn`t just the issue with touching but also the handling of this by Biden`s camp.

And so it`s not just a question of the particular issue.  But is this campaign ready to go?  Is Joe Biden somebody who`s in the moment of 2019?  Does he understand how to handle bergening (ph) crisis, you know, personal crisis in this case rather than a national crisis.  But a lot of the response looked a bit like 1975 and not 2019.  He didn`t come out and talk to camera immediately.  He didn`t come out and talk to reporters immediately.  He put out a statement for a spokesperson, all of that was sort of handling and took a week to get this sort of behind him.

And then today after he went out and said he was very -- taking it all seriously in the first video he goes out and makes jokes then comes out and talks to reporters and says, you know, I`m sorry that I joked about it.  The message is totally modeled on this.

And then it look like he might take the opportunity to turn the corner and maybe announce his presidential run which have been really an opportunity to get the headline there and then he backs away from it or sort of backs into it and says the lawyer say I can`t say that.  It`s unclear to me what Joe Biden`s message and mission right now.  From the sources that I talked to, there`s a lot of concerns about whether he`s ready for primetime.

KORNACKI:  What you`re describing there too in some way that it reminds me that in his political career, that was, you know, they use to say Joe Biden was the gas machine, right?  You`ve had this carefully scripted events and Joe Biden could kind of -- could blow them up with something completely unexpected.

I guess one of the questions politically Lanhee is, this tendency that Joe Biden has to go sort of go off script to say things that surprised people going in directions people were not expecting.  It can cut one or two ways, it could be a sign of lack of discipline, it could be a sign of problems looming for his campaign or there`s also the chance I suppose that it strikes people as refreshingly, excuse me, human.

LANHEE CHEN, FMR. POLICY DIRECTOR ROMNEY-RYAN CAMPAIGN:  Yes, I think how Joe Biden has handled this is the best way he could have handle it while being true to Joe Biden, who Joe Biden is.  I think one of the things about this campaign is whatever you think of his style, it will be his style uniquely.

The challenge in my mind has always been, you`ve got a 20th century candidate running in the 21st century cycle.  I mean the truly a 21st century cycle.  The nature of the response, he`s an old fashion Paul.  And it`s a different Democratic Party.  It is not even the Democratic party of Barack Obama.  It`s not the Democratic Party the last time he ran for president.  It`s a different party with a different set of equities now.  How is he going to adapt to that?  Can he adapt to it?  I think that`s the big question.

KORNACKI:  Interesting too, it sense (ph) to me lie Biden is betting though, it`s still is in some critical ways the party of Obama because he called himself, I thought notably, a Obama/Biden Democratic at the (INAUDIBLE) discussing the state of Democratic Party.  Jon and Lanhee are going to stay with us.

And coming up, the one place you can find most of the top Democratic contenders this week when "The 11th Hour" continues."


KORNACKI:  We have been talking about the challenges Joe Biden will face if he does go forward with the run for president.  But the reality is he has not yet announced his candidacies.  At the same time, over a dozen others have.  Six of them were in New York today at the Reverend Al Sharpton National Action Network conference event.  It is becoming essential stop for Democrats running for president.  The candidates used the opportunity to talk about race and other issues important to black voters.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D), VERMONT, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We have a president today who is a racist, who is a sexist, who is a homophobe, who is a xenophobe, and who`s a religious bigot.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  In America, justice has not been applied equally for all.  And so let`s talk about that.  And let`s speak truth that the last two years, it had gotten even worse.


KORNACKI: Still with us, Jonathan Allen and Lanhee Chen.  Jon, Bernie Sanders, I mean this was -- the story in 2016 he was getting close to Hillary Clinton and the reason he ultimately couldn`t get close enough to get the nomination over overwhelming support for Clinton among black voters.  I remember I think in the South Carolina it was almost a 72 margin I think Clinton beat Sanders by.  There, you heard the response in the room right there.  I know Sharpton had very nice words to say about him.  The prospects of Sanders reversing those black voters in 2020.

ALLEN:  It`s a huge X factor here. You know, Lanhee was just talking about Joe Biden being 20th century candidate and the 21st century race.  And I think what`s fascinating about Bernie Sanders basically the same age as Joe Biden is, he`s shown an adaptability now.  He`s learned from 2016.  He`s talking about racial justice alongside economic justice what you just heard in that clip.

This is somebody who`s learned, who`s adaptive, who is trying to make that bridge to African-American voters.  And look, Bernie Sanders has an advantage in this rage unlike anybody else which is he`s got this National Network.  And when they`re start going for delegates, this is somebody who`s going to have at least 15 percent in almost every congressional district in the country which means he`s going to be able to pull delegates from pretty much every congressional district in the country, he`s going to win some states.  That`s huge as he tries to get a majority of delegates and certainly to get a plurality.

And then the other big question the other person you shared right there Kamala Harris, can she get the African-American vote, can she consolidated the way Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton did or anything close to that.  Because if she can do that, she`s also in that good kind of position like Sanders` with delegates all over the country.

KORNACKI:  One of the things I see was Sanders as well, if you look at the polls of Democratic voters, you know, favorable, unfavorable.  He`s basically as popular as Joe Biden as with Democrats which you say very popular.  And we think back at 2016 and we say, oh, there were these ceilings that rallies (ph) voters who just wouldn`t do it.  I start look at those numbers and I start to wonder is the field narrow if he still there.  He may be more voter second choice that we realize.

CHEN:  I think he`s undervalued, underpriceed asset right now.  I think a lot of people sort of say, well, Bernie Sanders, old hat, I don`t get it.  But he has adapted to the cycle I think in a very a depth way.  The other issue is we know he`s going to have fund raising problems.  It`s going to allow him to remain in the race, remain viable for longer.

Some of these other folks are untested, frankly.  Kamala Harris, we don`t know what her fund raising prow is going to be like, small dollar is sustainable, has she basically maxed out people at this point.  We just don`t know about other candidates in the way we know Bernie Sanders is going to have that viability.  And I think the race will narrow to two or three by the time we get pass Super Tuesday.  And then the question is going to be one-on-one matchup.  Who is going to perform better for the cycle, who`s going to perform better and being able to speaking for issues that these voters care about.

And it seems like so far Bernie Sanders has demonstrated adaptability much more so than Joe Biden.

KORNACKI:  So let me follow with this Jon then, how seriously when you talk to Democrats they say, OK, Sanders will be a factor.  How seriously did the Democrats take responsibility?  He`s not just a factor but he wins the nomination.

ALLEN:  I think it is a big display.  I think professional Democrats think Bernie Sanders isn`t going to be their nominee.  I think if you talk to voters, there`s a different perspective on that.  But it is important what the professional Democrats think because if nobody gets the majority going into the Democratic convention and we are a long way from that, but if somebody gets the majority, you basically end upbringing in super delegates back in a second ballot and you have coalitions essentially of multiple candidates if there`s a plurality leader going in.

And so those professional Democrats matter, their perspective matters.  And Bernie Sanders doesn`t have a lot of allies.  Elizabeth Warren is basically here -- his potential ally, the person who could maybe bring some delegates to him.  Everybody else probably would try to stop Bernie Sanders from getting the nomination.  So a long way for all of this to play out but I think voters are a lot less -- Democratic voters are a lot less against Bernie Sanders than professional Democrats are.

KORNACKI:  And I`m wondering and it`s too soon in some ways and so it`s theoretically if Sanders ever got the nomination, but I do wonder because I`ve seen some talk already that may be this would be dream scenario for Trump if he gets Sanders as an opponent.  But, you know, look, Trump is proof of you never know in a general election.  But I also -- the one similarity I kind of see there is that with Trump, you had so many people in his own party who didn`t like him.  And I wonder if it gave him a certain measure of credibility with non-Republican voters with independent voters that, hey, if the system is this scared of him, maybe there`s something -- and I wonder if Democrats end up ganging up on Sanders and somehow he got the nomination if they ends up being an appeal with independents too along those same lines.

CHEN:  They`re very well could be.  But the challenge is that stylistically, Sanders and Trump are very similar, right?  They sort of both thrive off of that conflict, that negativity.  And I just think that you`re not going to out trump Donald Trump.  You are not going to run a campaign that is going to be on sort of his wavelength but do it better.  I just think that you`ve got to have a very different kind of contrast.

And I don`t believe Bernie Sanders brings that.  So the question is at what point the Democratic primary voters say.  We`re thinking about the general election, we`re thinking about this match-up, is Bernie Sanders the kind of candidate we want to put up against Donald Trump or do we want to go in a different direction?

ALLEN:  There`s also a huge structural difference between the Republican primary than Democratic primary.  Donald Trump was able to take advantage of the winner take all system essentially in Republican primaries.  And so by having a 30% or 40% based of Republicans, it allowed him to get out front and basically be unbeatable.  With Sanders, if you have 20%, 30%, something like that, that may not be enough in a proportional primary system to actually end up winning the delegates.

KORNACKI:  That`s why I`m wondering.  Because if you look at his poll numbers now, his unfavorable or Democratic voters of 12 or 13%, not much.  The question is like you`re saying if he starts getting real traction and there is an effort to stop him, how successful with sort of the -- you want to see the elites of the Democratic Party be and raising those negatives and creating that ceiling.  That`s a long way from now but it`s fun to talk about.

Jonathan Allen, Lanhee Chenm thank you both for being with us.

Coming up, Democrats identity crisis in the age of Trump when "The 11th Hour" continues.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Are you suggesting that the party is moving too far to the left and can you win a primary?

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  We`ll find out whether I can win in a primary.  If you look at all the polling data and look at the actual results, the party has not moved to way -- I don`t want to characterize it, whatever characterization you just made.  The fact of the matter is the vast majority of the members of the Democratic Party are still basically liberal to moderate Democrats in the traditional sense.  I`m an Obama-Biden Democrat, right?  And I`m proud of it.


KORNACKI:  That was Joe Biden today.  And that`s the question you`ve been hearing.  One of the questions about Biden, about a lot of the candidates in this field, this idea out there that, hey, the Democratic Party you think of like Ocasio-Cortez moving very hard, very quickly, very aggressively to the left and the question asked is a candidate like Biden, is he a potential candidate?  Is a candidate like that going to be left behind?

So let`s take a look at how if Joe Biden does as we seem to expect he will enter this race, how would he stack up and where is the party right now in terms of its ideological direction?

So what you see here, this is the average of all the polls that are out there right now on the Democratic side.  And you see Biden has been running in first place, high 20s, getting close to 30%.  Sanders behind him, a bunch of candidates there led by Kamala Harris just into single digits, high single digits in the list.  And plenty of candidates I think who are not even listed here.

How about this though just in terms of popularity?  And again, you see that everybody, almost everybody who is a Democratic voter knows who Biden is and almost all of them have a positive view of him.  So Biden does have a lot of good will.  You heard him there, he talked about being an Obama- Biden Democrat.  A lot of Democrats remember him, find him, oh here we go.  This one got here sooner than I expected.  But this is the question.  The ideology of the Democratic Party, Biden says, you know, it`s still a traditionally liberal party.

Now, if you ask Democrats, liberal, moderate and conservative, you see it right there, 46% of plurality call themselves liberal.  Here`s what`s interesting, go back just over a decade when they asked this question before.  There has been significant movement in the Democratic Party to the left, to the liberal side.  A 14-point jump.  Thirteen years here, 2006, it was at 32 in 2006 who call themselves liberals.  Now up to 46%.  If you went back to 2006 here, moderate was the number one answer among Democrats.  Now it is liberal.  It`s by far liberal.  So the party has been moving in a more liberal direction.

If you went even further into this, you would see this as a particular movement among college educated white voters.  So the more conservative voters in the Democratic Party, more moderate and conservative voters tend to be nonwhite, tend to be Hispanic, tend to be black.  So the party is changing in some ways.  There`s a lot of good will there among Democrats broadly speaking towards Biden and there a lot of choices Democrats are going to have on their ballot when do get around to the primaries.

Coming up, he is independent rich, he is flirting with a third party presidential run.  He also says he can solve one of the nation`s biggest problems.  That`s next when "The 11th Hour" continues.


KORNACKI:  And the last thing before we go tonight, former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who was exploring a run for the White House, sat down with our own Ali Velshi and Stephanie Ruhle this afternoon.  The conversation grew particularly spirited and pointed so much that we thought it would be worth presenting some of it right here.


HOWARD SCHULTZ, FORMER STARBUCKS CEO:  I said earlier, we have a bifurcated economy.  We have -- 42% of Americans today, their families don`t have $400 in case of emergency.  You`ve got 5 million kids in America ages 18 to 24 who are not in school and not in work.

ALI VELSHI, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Let me interrupt.  I don`t mean to interrupt you --

SCHULTZ:  That`s all right.  Go ahead.

VELSHI:  -- but you said that Ray Dalio said something about this the other day.


VELSHI:  Jamie Dimon.  And you know what?  A lot of Americans knew this a long time before you really rich guys started talking about how bifurcated America is.  And that`s where we are today.  So do you get why some people don`t really think that you`ve got all the answers that you rich guys -- I don`t know who told you that America is bifurcated.

SCHULTZ:  Yes, I don`t know.

VELSHI:  If somebody came to you and told you that there`s a problem because the rest of America has been living it.

SCHULTZ:  Well, I appreciate you calling me a rich guy but I grew up in federal --


SCHULTZ:  I`m self made and I built a company that employed over 3 million people in the last 40 years and gave health care ownership and free college tuition to every employee.  Yes, I get it.

VELSHI:  What you get when you rich guys can get into bifurcated conversation that the rest of us have been having for decades.

SCHULTZ:  Yes, but this is about a lack of leadership in a government of two sides, Democrats and Republicans who are unwilling to face the issues and solve America`s problems.

VELSHI:  You`re telling me that bifurcation -- economic bifurcation in America is because of Democrats and Republicans not agreeing on policies?  Why is Britain bifurcated?

SCHULTZ:  I`m talking about the lack of leadership and understanding of the fiscal responsibility of elected officials to do the right thing for the American people.  How you can disagree with that?

VELSHI:  That`s because that`s not the answer in all those countries and yet the world is bifurcated.

SCHULTZ:  I`m not here talking about all these countries.  I`m talking about America.

VELSHI:  But you`re saying that the reason we`re economically bifurcated is because of Republican and Democrat policies and I`m telling you it`s a global issue of wealth concentration, not actually about political disagreement on policies.  I understand that.

SCHULTZ:  I didn`t create the policies that we are now under.  I`m here to tell you that I am looking at the current situation economically in this country and if you want to solve the problems, you have to have the kind of leadership that cooperates with one another and it`s not steeped in ideology.


KORNACKI:  And that is our broadcast for this Friday night and for this week.  Brian will be back here 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