Trump holds Florida rally. TRANSCRIPT: 5/8/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Jon Meacham

PAUL ROSENZWEIG, RED BRANCH CONSULTING FOUNDER:  I thought both were strong, but if you`re kind of measuring their meritoriousness, the pervasiveness of the President`s activities today, and as we said, the bluntness with which he proceeded, the kind of directive nature of it makes this, in my judgment, certainly an easier case to prove, I`ll put it that way.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Paul Rosenzweig, thank you very much for joining us.  I really appreciate it.

ROSENZWEIG:  Thanks for having me.

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

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the President asserts executive privilege.  House Judiciary votes to hold the Attorney General in contempt and chairman Jerry Nadler warns ominously we are now in a constitutional crisis.

Plus, Senate Intel led by a Republican subpoenas Donald Trump Jr. over testimony he gave back in 2017 but will he show up?

And all the President tries to stay on script in Florida tonight at a campaign rally.  THE 11TH HOUR on a Wednesday night starts right now.

Good evening, once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  I`m Steve Kornacki in for Brian Williams.  Day 839 of the Trump administration and the President just wrapped up a rally in the Florida, Panhandle.  This following a day of stunning headlines back in Washington.

The House Judiciary Committee voted to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress.  President Trump invoked executive privilege to shield the full unredacted Mueller report from the Judiciary Committee.  The House Intelligence Committee issued a subpoena to the Justice Department for the full Mueller report including counter intelligence.  And the Republican led Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Donald Trump Jr. to testify about his knowledge of the Trump Tower Moscow project.

We are going to get to all of it.  But first, it was a party line vote, 24- 16 the final margin in the House Judiciary Committee earlier today to advance a measure that would hold Attorney General Barr in contempt of Congress for failing to compile with a subpoena to hand over the unredacted Mueller report and underlying evidence.  That contempt resolution that passed the committee now heads to the full House for a potential vote.  It is not clear, though, when that might be.

This marks a major escalation in the ongoing battle between Congressional Democrats and President Trump.  It`s a fight that now seems all but certain to land in court.  After today`s vote the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Jerry Nadler of New York claimed that the country is now in a constitutional crisis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  We today did referred a contempt citation to the House floor.  The House will have to vote that contempt citation to begin the court battle.

There can be no higher stakes than this attempt to arrogate all power to the Executive Branch away from Congress and more important away from the American people.  We`ve talked for a long time about approaching a constitutional crisis.  We are now in it.  We are now in a constitutional crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Earlier today, an event with "The Washington Post", the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was asked by "The Post`s" Robert costa if Barr should be held in contempt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Yes, I think the Attorney General should be held in contempt.  This contempt is about the withholding of the Mueller report in an unredacted way.  The accommodations that the committee has tried to make whether it`s about, you know, sources and methods longer on intelligence than anybody ever in the history of the Congress, I appreciate protecting sources and methods, some law enforcement concerns, that`s not a reason to give us the report.  It`s an excuse not to give us a report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  The DOJ released a statement today that reads in part, "Regrettably, Chairman Nadler`s actions have prematurely terminated the accommodation process and forced the President to assert executive privilege to preserve the status quo.  No one including Chairman Nadler and his committee will force the Department of Justice to break the law."

The President invoked executive privilege over the full Mueller report just hours before the contempt vote today.  "The Washington Post" points out, "The White House`s use of the rare Presidential secrecy prerogative stood in stark contrast to Trump and his allies frequent boast of total exoneration for the President from the Mueller report.  Democrats have argued that if Trump really had nothing to hide, he and Barr wouldn`t block so many of their investigations including Mueller`s complete findings."

In the Associated Press reports, "Though the White House initially hesitated on invoking privilege, Trump told his staff and political advisors in recent weeks to refuse to cooperate with Democrats believing the party`s goal was simply to damage him politically going into his reelection campaign.  The coming legal battle could stretch to 2020 and the White House is aiming to tie up Congressional probes until Election Day."

Earlier tonight at a rally in Florida, President Trump spoke about Democrats and the Attorney General.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  After two years, nothing.  No collusion.  And now the Democrats, we have a great Attorney General, now the Democrats are saying we want more.  You know, it was going to be we want the Mueller report.  Now they say Mueller report?  No, we want to start all over again.  It is a disgrace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  And meanwhile, as we mentioned, Donald Trump Jr. has now been subpoenaed by the Republican led Senate Intelligence Committee.

Our own Ken Dilanian reports the committee wants Trump Jr. to answer questions about his contention he had only limited knowledge of a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow.  And, "Trump Jr. testified before the Judiciary Committee in September 2017.  He said he was only peripherally aware of the Moscow development proposal which was kept secret from voters."

Here for our lead off discussion on a Wednesday night, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," his book "Obama, The Call of History" has just been released with new material.  Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post" and moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS.  And Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor for Politico.  Thanks to all of you for being with us.

Robert Costa, you spent time with the Speaker of the House today.  We played a clip from that a minute ago.  So let me begin with you on a question of what is next for House Democrats, this contempt measure passes the House Judiciary Committee, it awaits a vote in the full House.  It sounds like Nancy Pelosi is on board with it.  When can we expect that vote to take place?  Will this be soon?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  It should be soon based on my conversation with Speaker Pelosi.  She is willing to bring it to the floor but as much as the speaker is raising serious concerns about the White House`s relationship with Congress and the refusal to deal with certain requests from Capitol Hill, she also respects the process and she wants her committee chairs like Jerry Nadler of New York and Adam Schiff on the Intelligence Committee from California to be leading the process.  So, it is a process that`s playing out.

She`s trying to stave off a lot of impeachment talk for the moment saying that all the issues around impeachment are very valid but she thinks this should play out at the committee level then come to the floor.

KORNACKI:  That is just -- to stay with you one more second there, Robert, related to this, that`s an interesting question, though, if Pelosi is trying to stave off any impeachment drive among the rank and file, you have the chairman of the Judiciary Committee today not just advancing a contempt measure but Jerry Nadler, we just played it there, saying folks, a constitutional crisis, does that kind of language increase the pressure in the Democratic ranks and now on Pelosi to do something more dramatic than to put the contempt citation on the floor and actually to move toward impeachment?

COSTA:  If you listen to Speaker Pelosi`s language today, it is as dramatic as the language from Chairman Nadler.  Speaker Pelosi was speaking in a historical terms, she referenced the civil war.  She said democracy was at stake.  The role of Congress being a co-equal branch was at stake in this current discussion in debate.

So in terms of being -- having the urgency, she is signaling to her party, she shares the urgency.  But knows as the leader of her party in conversation with her, she under scored this repeatedly that these fights are not just going to be prompted and adjudicated by an impeachment process, but it first becomes a contempt resolution and that could be thrown to the courts.  Some of these fights could go all the way to the Supreme Court to try to compel people to testify and share documents.

And then she sees the arsenal of Congress before her.  Impeachment is one of those weapons to try to compel testimony and documents.  She`s leaving it on the table, not taking it off the table, but not rushing to grab it.

KORNACKI:  So, Peter, in terms of the strategy then from the White House, the word is out there that this is the idea of a delay game, sort of being employed here trying to stretch the clock, run the clock, not hand anything over, kick this to the courts, have these protracted legal battles.  Do you have a sense that is primarily what is driving the White House here, just essentially a stone walling strategy?  Or is this a White House that wants to provoke a bigger stair off with Congress that could lead to impeachment?  Are they actively trying to bring impeachment on?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes, it`s a great question.  There`s a lot of talk about this idea, the delay.  I talked to people around the President and they say no, that what this is really is kind of, you know, calling the Democrats bluff as they see it.  In other words, put up or shut up.  Impeach him or don`t.  If you`re not going to impeach him, then move on.

And they`re trying to basically force Democrats into a box a little bit.  Because the Democrats as you`ve just talked about don`t want to be yet seen as opening an impeachment inquiry even though they`re basically opening an impeachment inquiry, they`re not using the word, but they`re taking a lot of the actions you would take if you were trying to, you know, conduct such an inquiry.

And that gets at the complicated politics of the Democrats now.  You know, just three weeks ago, Steny Hoyer who is the House Majority Leader just below Speaker Pelosi said impeachment is not worth it, not worthwhile at this point.  And today he said if the facts lead us to that objective, then so be it.  So there`s a real, you know, problem (ph) within the Democratic Party about what to do here.

And the President, I think, his strategy is intended basically to provoke them, you know, defy them and say "Look, if you`re going to do it, let`s have it on.  Let`s get on with the battle right here now."

KORNACKI:  Anita, meanwhile, on this issue we mentioned it to the Republican-led Senate Intelligence Committee today issuing a subpoena for don-- apparently actually the subpoena was issued a week ago but coming to light today for Donald Trump Jr. to testify.  The significance that this is a Republican-led committee, the day after Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate said case closed on Trump and Mueller.

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Yes, I think this is a really, really a significant step for a couple of reasons.  One that you just mentioned, right?  This is not House Democrats, this is Senate Republicans, this is the Chairman of the Committee, Richard Burr of North Carolina coming a day after Mitch McConnell saying "let`s wrap things up."

Now remember, this isn`t the Mueller report.  This is their own Senate investigation but the President and the White House would like to feel that the Republicans are on their side.  And this is a, you know, a committee chairman who is going on with his committee.

But the other reason it`s so significant is this is the first of the Trump children to be subpoenaed.  Obviously, we`ve seen some other Jared Kushner, the son-in-law, and some other people come testif -- come -- voluntarily come to the committee.  But this is the first subpoena.

And people who are outside the White House like Donald Trump Jr. don`t have some of the same protections that you do have in the White House.  So this really puts them at a, you know, in a bind, really.  And we don`t really know what Donald Trump Jr. is going to do.  We hear that he may not come forward for the, you know, to testify.  We`re just not sure what he`s going to do.

But for the President, this is really hitting home.  This is a very personal thing when his children are getting involved like this.

KORNACKI:  We can contrast the urgent tone that Jerry Nadler was striking today in public when he talked about a constitutional crisis.  What Robert is describing Nancy Pelosi saying in her sit-down with him today, with one of the President`s allies, one of the President`s defender said in response to all of these developments, Chris Christie today at an event that was moderated by our own Stephanie Ruhle, essentially looked at this contempt move against Eric -- excuse me, against the Attorney General and invokes the case of Eric Holder, the previous attorney general and said "we`ve been here before."  Take a listen to what Chris Christie said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FMR. GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) NEW JERSEY:  Well, let`s not get breathless about this, OK?  Eric holder was held in contempt to Congress over fast and furious and what happened from that?  Absolutely nothing because the prosecution for contempt of Congress is then referred to the Justice Department and Eric Holder said, "Yes, I prefer not to be prosecuted."  And that was the end of that.  And no U.S. attorneys are working for that attorney general, we`re going to prosecute him for contempt to Congress.  So this is not unprecedented. In fact, it`s not unprecedented in the last decade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Peter, people can make of that comparison what they want between Holder then and Barr now.  But the point Christie makes there, one of the points Christie makes is, how long that process took when Congress held Eric Holder in contempt.  That vote was held in 2012.  I believe there was still a court proceeding.  It might have been today in fact on that.  So seven years later --

BAKER:  Yes.

KORNACKI:  -- that is still being adjudicated.

BAKER:  Yes, question then of course was this screwed up gun program fast and furious important, significant, big issue, not the central kind of, you know, matter we`re talking about here, which is the very, you know, fate of the presidency, right?  So, in this kind of an instance, I think the significance of it takes on a greater magnitude and it presumably would impel the courts to act in a more urgent way.  That`s what happened in 1998 when President Clinton asserted executive privilege attorney-client privilege, even a secret service privilege in trying to forestall the Ken Starr investigation the courts moved relatively quickly in that matter to try to settle those issues.

We don`t have a criminal investigation in this case and we don`t have an impeachment, so the courts might not feel quite the same burden.  That gets back to this question of whether you call an impeachment inquiry or not.  If you did, that would give it greater resonance presumably with the courts.

But even so if the court choose too, they can move, you know, more expeditiously than it did certainly in the Eric Holder case if they choose to do so.

KORNACKI:  And Robert Costa, just in terms of the clock, is there a point where the discussions among Democrats, the deliberations about impeachment just collide with the practical political calendar of the Presidential election campaign where it becomes academic and there`s just not time to go forward with impeachment.  Is there a sense when on the calendar that might be?

COSTA:  There is not a sense about the calendar because this is not a Congress as much as it -- some wings of the Democratic Party want it to be entirely an oversight.  It`s clear from my conversation with Speaker Pelosi that this is also a Democratic House that wants to see if they can make progress on prescription drug legislation, infrastructure, trade legislation.  So they have a full spectrum of issues they`re confronting in divided government as well as the oversight authority that Congress always has to play and that Speaker Pelosi and Democrats are determined to follow through on.

But there are challenges here, if they put all of their priority and all their focus purely on oversight, then they fear that they could be burdened by this politically and it`s playing into the Republicans` hands ahead of 2020.  And so that the why Speaker Pelosi keeps coming back to the committee process and letting it play out on those terms.

KORNACKI:  And Anita, watching the President in that rally tonight down in Florida, he did -- we played, he did make some reference to all of these events, all this drama in Washington but the heart of the speech was not about this.  He did talk a little bit there about the idea of infrastructure, some of these potential policy areas.  Is there a plan on the White House`s part?  Is there a plan to try to shift the discussion toward any policy goals in a specific way?

KUMAR:  Well, just like the Democrats, the Republicans and President Trump need to show that they`re doing something.  That they are trying to lower prescription drugs and trying to, you know, have infrastructure changes.  So they need to talk about those policies, too.

Now, to be clear, the President is going to be campaigning on this.  He`s going to be campaigning on, you know, this was a witch hunt.  This was a two-year investigation that I was exonerated, you know. I was right and these people are trying to get me.  So, I think you`ll see both of those things when you talk to people that are close to the President, close to the campaign.

They would very much like him to stick to the economy, it`s doing very well.  Remember, the jobs reports just from last week, if he could stick to that, they feel very confident that he could do well.  It`s President Trump, he`s not going to do that.  He`s going to talk about a variety of things.

So, I think you`ll see both, you`ll see policy and you`ll also see him saying, "Look, they were trying to get me, they have tried and I was victorious.  I`m a fighter and I was successful."

KORNACKI:  All right, Anita Kumar, Robert Costa, Peter Baker, thanks to all of you.

And coming up, it is getting personal more on that subpoena for the President`s son handed over by a Republican-led committee.  Will Don Jr. show up?

And later, Speaker Pelosi says impeachment should be rooted in patriotism not partisanship.  What about President?  Politzer Prize-winning Historian, John Meacham is coming here with his take on that.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Wednesday night.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NADLER:  The President said it, that they will resist all subpoenas.

This is stonewalling information with respect to the Russian attack on our democracy within 2016.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Tonight, NBC News reports the President`s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. has been subpoenaed to appear before the Senate Intelligence Committee.  It`s a committee led by a Republican, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina.  This is the first known subpoena of someone in Trump`s immediate family.  The source tells NBC News the committee wants Trump Jr. to, "answer questions to his contention that he had only limited knowledge of a project to build a Trump Tower in Moscow" during the 2016 election.

In September 2017, he told the Senate Judiciary Committee he was "peripherally aware of it."

Former Trump lawyer, Michael Cohen testified that he briefed Don Jr. and Ivanka Trump on the project some 10 times.

Earlier this year, the President`s son tried to play down his family`s role in that venture.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP JR., SON OF PRESIDENT TRUMP:  That ultimately it was Michael Cohen essentially trying to get a deal done.  You know he`s there for a long time, he wasn`t exactly a deal guy.  I didn`t bring too many to the table, so I don`t think anyone took it all that seriously.  That`s the reality of what went on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Yes, Trump Jr. did testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee in late 2017.  That panel has investigated the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with several Russians set up with a promise to deliver dirt on Hillary Clinton.  The Mueller report says Michael Cohen, "recalled being in Donald J. Trump`s office when Trump Jr. told his father that a meeting to obtain adverse information about Clinton was going forward."

Mueller`s document also notes Trump Jr. told Senate Judiciarry that he did not tell his father about it.  "The New York Times" reports tonight the Intelligence Committee now wants to question Trump Jr. about his account of the events surrounding the Trump Tower meeting.

"The Times" says, the decision to subpoena Trump`s eldest son, "appears to have come after discussions broke down about whether the younger Mr. Trump might appear voluntarily before the panel.  Mr. Trump was highly unlikely to appear before the panel in person, three people close to him said, and one person said that he could invoke the Fifth Amendment rights in a written response."

With us for more, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence and Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at CIA and Pentagon as well as former Chief Counsel for the House Intelligence Committee.  Thank to both of you for being with us.

So, again, a couple of pieces of information being reported out there.  I think I mentioned this last block "The Washington Post" reporting tonight that this subpoena from the Senate Intelligence Committee to Trump Jr. actually went out last week.  It`s coming to light tonight but it`s a-week- old apparently.

Also, we can put this up, some reporting here from Maggie Haberman of the "New York Times" adding some context here.  She says, "quoting a person close to Trump Jr. when he originally agreed to testify in front of the Senate Intel Committee in 2017, there was an agreement between Don and the committee that he would only have to come in and testify a single time as long as he was willing to stay for as long as they`d like, which Don did.  Don continues to cooperate by producing documents and he`s willing to answer written questions no lawyer would ever agree to allow their client to participate in what is an obvious stunt from a so-called Republican, a senator and his boss, Mark Warner."

Again, Maggie Haberman saying that`s coming from a person close to Donald Trump Jr. taking some pretty clear shots there at Senator Burr.

Jeremy, let me start with you, reading that from Maggie Haberman and some of the other reporting, the odds of Donald Trump Jr. actually appearing before this committee, what would you say they are?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Pretty low.  I think he`ll resist or he`ll take the Fifth.  But this is a moment of truth for Mitch McConnell.  It`s a moment of truth for Senate Republicans because their Chairman Richard Burr who runs the Intelligence Committee with a vice chairman from Virginia, Mark Warner, has said that he has lot of questions for Don Jr. now that he needs answers to.  And clearly, Don Jr. has stiffed the committee.  He`s not coming back voluntarily and it probably revolves around testimony he previously give ears to the Senate Judiciary Committee or to the Senate Intelligence Committee probably about the Moscow tower deal, which of course Don Jr. knew a lot about because he was inaugural Trump organization and the Moscow tower deal was the biggest deal going for the Trump organization at the that time.

KORNACKI:  Well, is that -- what is your sense of this, Frank, in terms of what could potentially be learned by the committee if they were able to get access to Trump Jr. one more time?  Is it about whether he had a conversation with his father giving him a heads up about this Trump Tower meeting back in the 2016 campaign?  Is that the biggest single thing that they could potentially try to learn at least?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  That would be number one on their list.  Look, Don Jr. is one step away from his father, Michael Cohen as you said has said that Don Jr. tipped off his father about this meeting at Trump Tower so you`re one step away from the President himself having knowledge of something and the whole Moscow.  But here is the secondary thing. The Moscow tower project goes to the heart of possible motivation as to why the President has so aligned himself with Russia and whether or not he`s compromised financially and whether he was driven by dollar signs to get that tower up and running.

So, it`s significant that while Don Jr. has not testified to multiple committees, it`s the is that the Senate Intelligence Committee that`s chosen to issue this subpoena.  It tells us that he was likely was called to come voluntarily.  He said "I`m not going.

And as Jeremy said, I think you`re likely to see him invoke the fifth.  The other option is to somehow bizarrely claim executive privilege which the, you know, wouldn`t hold water legally but we may see it attempted.  Some brazen attempt to label Don Jr. as a presidential counselor and somehow try to carry an umbrella over the entire Moscow tower and Trump Tower meetings, I don`t think it will going to work, but don`t be surprised if you see it.

KORNACKI:  And then Jeremy, maybe can you play this out a little bit if he invokes the Fifth or if there is another maneuver he favors here, does this land in the same place we`ve been talking about all this other stair down is taking place between Congress and the White House where it ends up in a some kind of protracted, months maybe longer legal battle?

BASH:  It could be and that`s one way it could play out, Steve.  But, the other thing is that if the Senate Intelligence Committee suspects that Don Jr. misled them, that he gave testimony that wasn`t truthful, they can make a criminal referral to the Department of Justice.  And then you would have a criminal investigation unfold against Don Jr. for lying to Congress in the same way we saw other investigations of Michael Cohen and others.

And of course, in the Mueller report, it`s a little unclear because the section of Don Jr.`s testimony is redacted.  It`s possible that the members of Congress will look at the unredacted version although it may be grand jury information.  But I suspect that Don Jr. took the Fifth in front of the grand jury as well.  And so he`s clamming up.  He clearly has something big to hide.

WILLIAMS:  Frank, also the fact that we talked about in the first block there, are the administration now invoking privilege in terms of it`s dealings with the House Judiciary committee over the full unredacted Mueller report .  Are there implications here for that question everybody has been asking about when will the Judiciary Committee hear from Robert Mueller?  Will the Judiciary Committee hear from him?  And what would he be able to say if they do?  Are there implications in the administration now claiming privilege for those questions?

FIGLIUZZI:  Yes, indeed.  I believe there are.  Because if indeed Congress was looking to get Mueller in there as an end around to executive privilege and ask Mueller questions about what don McGahn said or what someone else said.  Now they are claiming privilege, the White House is claiming privilege for the entire report.

And the Attorney General will attempt to exercise influence over Mueller and say "Look, you can say what you had for breakfast or lunch but everything else is privileged."  So, I`m -- even if Mueller gets to the Hill, I would not expect him to give very fulsome testimony because of this privilege claim.

KORNACKI: reach immediately into the Trump family, Trump`s -- Donald Trump`s immediate family.  The President was not reacting to this tonight at that rally.  Do you expect that to change, though?

BASH:  Well, look, he could try to campaign on anything that`s been his M.O.  But I think again, what`s significant is that from a Republican chairman from a Republican-led Senate you have a subpoena of the Trump family.  If the White House and the Trump Organization and the Trump family tries to stonewall the Republican Congress, then I think it undercuts the claim this is a partisan witch-hunt.  After all, how could Republicans be engaged in a partisan witch-hunt of a Republican president?

KORNACKI:  All right.  Jeremy Bash and Frank Figliuzzi, thank you both for being with us.

And coming up, to impeach or not to impeach?  We`re going to look at where Americans stand right now.  Is there more support for impeaching Trump than there was for impeaching Bill Clinton?  How about Richard Nixon?  We`re heading to the big board when THE 11TH HOUR comes right back.

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REP. NANCY PELOSI, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE:  Every single day the President is making a case.  He`s becoming self-impeachable.

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KORNACKI:  And there it is.  That`s that line earlier today from the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi talking about the prospects of the Democratic controlled House of Representatives initiating impeachment proceedings against Donald Trump.  Something Democrats have been talking about, Democrats are trying to figure out their way forward on that.

The other question here, one thing certainly you know, elected officials are going to look at is where is the country on the question of impeachment on where to go from here and an interesting reference point on all this might be to compare where the country is now on these questions with this president, Donald Trump and where it was in a similar moment about two decades ago about 20, 21 years ago with Bill Clinton.  Of course Bill Clinton was impeached.

And so there`s an interesting common point we can compare here, the delivery of the Mueller report, the release of most the Mueller report publicly when it comes to Trump and in 1998 the delivery and the release of the Starr report with Bill Clinton.

So we have a poll, ABC -- our friends at ABC took this poll and they actually asked some very similar questions now that they asked back then that make for some interesting comparisons.  So let`s start with this.  The baseline, the political strength that the President brought to the moment, Donald Trump`s approval rating in the most recent ABC poll 39%.  If you take his average in other polls, maybe it`s in the low 40s.  But that`s -- upside down, that`s where it`s been.

Bill Clinton was in a different situation politically.  Bill Clinton came into the impeachment fight with more strength.  You see his approval rating, this was after the release of the Starr Report in 1998, sat at nearly 60% in ABC`s poll.

Here`s another interesting question.  It was asked in a new poll, did Donald Trump interfere with the Mueller investigation in a way that amounts to obstruction of justice?  They are asking there did the President`s behavior amount to a crime in a plurality of Americans in this poll said yes.  Donald Trump tried to interfere in a way that he`s tantamount to obstruction of justice.  That`s a heavy finding.

Bill Clinton, a similar question was asked about Bill Clinton.  It`s a little more blunt.  Did Clinton do anything illegal?  Did he break any laws?  The answer there a majority 53% after releasing the Starr Report said yes.  Bill Clinton broke the law.  OK.  What do you do about it?  You think Trump amounted to obstruction of justice in plurality?  A majority say Clinton broke the law, what do you do about it?

In Donald trump`s case, these are the numbers we`ve been seeing recently on impeachment.  Should you impeach, 37%?  Should you not, 56%.  Not a ground swell of support there with Bill Clinton after the release of the Starr Report, it was even more emphatic, a better than 2-1 margain saying no.

Here`s one other interesting comparison.  This one from our NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.  We put a couple options out there.  Well, fist of all, I should show you this.  With Bill Clinton back in 1998, big picture day, should the whole thing be dropped or should there be more investigations, about two-thirds we`re saying just drop the whole thing, move on, they were essentially.  In our new NBC News/Wall Street Journal" poll, a couple options, do you begin impeachment?  Not a lot of support.  Is there no impeachment.  Forty-eight percent.  But look at this, 32% shows the continue investigating option.  You add these two together, continue investigating or begin impeachment.  That adds up to 49%.  So there is more support for continuing this in someway.

Now, what can you say in neither Clinton or Trump`s case any kind of ground swell for impeachment at this point but more than appetite when it comes to Donald Trump to keep investigating.  More leeway for Democrats to do that.  That might explain the posture Nancy Pelosi, the House Speaker has been taking.  Don`t move to impeach now but keep those investigations going.

Coming up, two men who literally wrote the book on the history of impeachment.  They join us next.  We are back after this.

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UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  If you`re in a constitutional crisis, why are you resisting to moving forward with impeachment?

REP. JERRY NADLER, (D-NY):  Well, I`m not going to talk about impeachment but maybe the short answer is that may not be the best answer in this constitutional crisis.  There are a lot of considerations for that and that may not be the best answer for this constitutional crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  There has been heated debate among Democrats over whether to move ahead with impeachment since the Mueller report was released and now that debate has picked up even more attention following the White House`s refusal to cooperate with congressional investigations.  As we mentioned earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said today that Trump is making the case that he is self-impeachable but she also said this.

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PELOSI:  Impeachment is a very decisive, very decisive course of action to take.  We shouldn`t do it for passion or bias or -- it has to be about the presentation of fact and it has to be about patriotism, not about partisanship.

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KORNACKI:  And with us for more, Pulitzer Prize winning author and historian Jon Meacham and Peter Baker is back with us.  They are both co- authors of the recent book "Impeachment: An American History".

Thanks to you for sticking around, Peter.  Jon, welcome to you.  And let me, let me start with you, we heard Jerry Nadler today alluding to the fact that in his view there are other considerations potentially out there when it comes to the question of whether to move forward with impeachment.  I think one might be what Nancy Pelosi was saying there about it being potentially divisive.  Here is what Nadler said during the Clinton impeachment back in 1998.

His -- one of his arguments against it was, he said, "We must not do this without an overwhelming consensus of the American people.  There must never be a narrowly-voted impeachment when impeachment is supported by one of the major political parties and opposed by the other.  Such an impeachment will produce the divisiveness and bitterness in our politics for years to come and will call into question the very legitimacy of our political institutions."

Jon, I wonder, do you think that is weighing on Jerry Nadler and Democrats right now and should it?

JON MEACHAM, CO-AUTHOR "IMPEACHMENT":  I think it is and I suspect it should not.  I would suggest that to make an absolute statement like that I think misreads what the founders intended with the impeachment weapon and it was to put a check on a president who was committing high treason, bribery or high crimes and misdemeanors.  It wasn`t about whether it was a popular course of action.  It was one of the checks and balances that was to in fact institute the capacity of reason to combat passion.

I would respectfully disagree with the Speaker of the House and with Congressman Nadler in saying that because something is partisan does not mean it`s not patriotic.  There is a, in theory and I`m not being naive about this, in theory, there is arguably a higher constitutional duty on the part of the legislative branch to check and balance the executive no matter whether or not it would be broadly popular in the public.

Again, this sounds very highbrow and I`m not in Congress and I don`t have to face the voters and I understand all that.  But I think if I were in Congress, what I would be thinking right now is our -- is -- would our failure if you`re a Democratic member of the House, is the failure to move forward on this going to embolden future presidents to be fast and loose with the law as President Trump self-evidently has been according to the Mueller report, the parts we know.

KORNACKI:  Peter, one of the arguments that I`ve heard some Democrats make in terms of continuing with these investigations is if you continue with them, perhaps public opinion changes, perhaps more comes to light, perhaps then there is a broader base of public support to draw then any impeachment move.  I wonder, do you think that`s realistic just given the sweep of what`s happened in the last two and a half years during this presidency.  All of the major dramas that have sort of erupted and the fact that public opinion to date has moved so little in either direction.

PETER BAKER, CO-AUTHOR "IMPEACHMENT":  Yes, I think that`s a very good point.  I mean, look, we shouldn`t make any predictions.  I think one thing we`ve learned of the Trump era is that anything can happen any time.

But you`re right, I mean public opinion has stayed reasonably locked into, you know, a pretty dynamic polarized situation now for two and a half years and very little has changed that.  The Mueller report is not changing people`s opinions, it doesn`t look like about Donald Trump.  The people who thought he was unfit for office still think he`s unfit for office.  The people who admire him and think he`s a champion of their cause still think that and there seems to be few people in the middle moving back and forth.

So I think you`re right that the challenge for Democrats, I mean, I certainly understand the argument and I understand the argument Jon is making.  Jon is probably as close to the wisdom of the founders of anybody alive today.  But I do think that he`s also a political process and by making it a function of the House and Senate that they did inherently make a political process, not a legal process and a political process is responsive to public opinion.

And you`re right.  I don`t know what would change it at this point.  I don`t know how that would shift.  Right now we`ve seen the Republican Party become more supportive of Donald Trump over the last two and a half years rather than less supportive, right?  And so I don`t see where there`s 20 Republican senators come from in the Senate necessary to get the two-thirds vote you would need to convict.

KORNACKI:  That`s an interesting point you raise.  Jon, I`m curious to ask you about that.  In the people`s house, the power to initiate impeachment is in the people`s house.  It is a political process.  Is there room and should there be room in the thinking here of Democrats that this is a first term president and not a second term president and that he will face the voters again and they`ll have an opportunity to render a judgment?

MEACHAM:  Yes.  That was part of the constitutional debate was that four years, particularly in the old days and by the way, appreciate Peter`s kind words.  If I am as close to the wisdom of the founders as we`re getting, we`re in worse trouble than I thought, which is a terrifying thought.  But yes, four years felt like a fairly frequent adjudication of the future of a president to those founders.

One of the things I think is really interesting here is -- and of course Peter covered it and he`s written a book about it, the Clinton impeachment and the Andrew Johnson impeachment, which I wrote about for this book.  What`s so interesting about those two that is different about now is in the Andrew Johnson case and I would argue in the Clinton case, you basically had an opposition party looking for something to impeach the person for, the Tenure of Office Act in Andrew Johnson`s case where the Clinton impeachment ended up.  There was basically a party in search of a hammer with which to hit the president.

What was so interesting about this moment and I think we`re going to be studying this forever is you now have both parties, including the opposition party walking away from that fight and that is a very interesting thing and it may be good, it may be bad in terms of political opinion, political appetite for constant strife.  I leave that to others.  But it is worth pointing out that historically the Republicans under and the Andrew Johnson era and the Republicans in the Clinton era wanted to make this happen.  In the Trump era, though we have enormous number of details sitting in front of us, both the Republicans and Democrats are moving the other direction.  Just an interesting sign in a partisan moment.

KORNACKI:  Jon Meacham and Peter Baker, it would not be a bad time to pick up their book "Impeachment: An America History".  Thank you both for being with us.  Appreciate it.

BAKER:  Thanks, Steve.

KORNACKI:  And coming up, how Americans views about Trump have and have not changed in the 911 days since the 2016 election, some fascinating numbers back at the big board to take you through them.  We`re back after this.

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VALERIE CROSS, TRUMP SUPPORTER:  I support him.  I think that the investigation has gone on long enough.  They`ve provided a full report and we should be done.

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KORNACKI:  All right, we talk all the time about how attitudes about Donald Trump just are locked in.  If you like him, you`re with him, if you don`t like him, you`re against him.  Nobody seems to change their mind.  We tal0k about that a lot, but there is a fascinating new study out tonight that says that`s basically true, but his -- views of Trump have changed in a small but extremely important way.  It`s from our friends at Democracy Fund.  This is a bipartisan group, some very smart people there.

They have been conducting surveys of the American electorate throughout Trump`s presidency.  They`re out with a new study.  I want to show you the key findings.  Here`s the bottom line.  The favorable/unfavorable rating, they keep tracking this for Trump, positive/negative view of Donald Trump.  This is where it sits now, 40% favorable, 56% unfavorable.  Compare that to right after the election in 2016, they surveyed it then, as well.  Remember, Donald Trump got elected by the skin of his teeth, he was not very popular.  They show a four-point drop from 44% favorable when he got elected to 40% now.

More significantly, I think, is this.  Again I say they`ve been doing these surveys regularly.  At any point during Donald Trump`s presidency, checking in with folks, they find that only 49% of Americans have ever at any point in Donald Trump`s presidency, expressed a favorable view of him.  Maybe they did it once, then they changed their mind, maybe they came back to it.  Forty-nine percent at any point have had a favorable view.  And they raise the question, is that Trump`s ceiling, can he just not get past 49%?  If so, obviously, there`s a path to re-election, but that reinforces how extremely narrow it would be.

Here`s where I could be -- or I say things could be extremely significant in these findings.  They break the electorate down into three core groups here.  Voters who in 2010 voted for Romney then went for Trump in 2016, pretty strong Republicans.  After the election, 92% of them had a favorable view of Trump.  How about Romney/Clinton?  A lot of these were traditional Republican voters, Romney, right, but they didn`t like Trump, they switched to Hillary Clinton in 2016.  Not surprisingly, they had a very negative view of Trump.  Only 10% had a positive view of him coming out of the election.

And then those voters we talk about a lot, the Obama/Trump voters.  They couldn`t voted Obama, they couldn`t devote for Hillary, they voted for Donald Trump, 85% favorable.  Trump score coming out of the election.  How have these three groups changed in the two-plus years of Trump`s presidency?  The Romney/Trump voters, no change there, no surprise.  They liked him, they still like him.  The Romney/Clinton voters, no real change there.  They despised him, they still despise him.

Obama/Trump.  A lot of these white working class voters, a lot of these, think about the Midwest states, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, the voters who made Trump president, 85% favorable coming out of the election, where do they stand right now?  There`s your drop, 85% down to 66%.  Small but potentially significant.  Fascinating information there.

Don`t go anywhere.  More of THE 11TH HOUR right after this break.

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And that is our broadcast for tonight.  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