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Officials investigate NYC helicopter crash. TRANSCRIPT: 6/10/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Katie Benner, Tamara Keith, Sam Stein, Bill Kristol


REP. M. CALDWELL BUTLER, (R), VIRGINIA, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE MEMBER DURING WATERGATE HEARINGS:  And because you felt the urge to share this experience with somebody.  And I wanted to be reassured, and she reassured me.


LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  M. Caldwell Butler died in 2014 at the age of 89.  It`s not hard to imagine what he would think of today`s congressional Republicans.  M. Caldwell Butler gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Tonight the Democrats in Congress now have some of Robert Mueller`s evidence in their hands.  Just as of this evening.  As William Barr`s justice department begins to loosen its grip on some of the secret material that Mueller used to make his case.  The attorney general was one day shy of perhaps being held in contempt.

Plus John Dean returns to Capitol Hill bringing echoes and parallels of Watergate to the era of Trump.  And new reporting tonight on what Trump is telling friends and advisers about a matchup with Joe Biden.  As the two men are both set to appear in Iowa tomorrow night.  THE 11TH HOUR on a Monday night gets under way now.

As we start a new week good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 872 of the Trump administration, and the Democrats in charge of the House have emerged with a decidedly different look.

Today holding their first hearing on special counsel Mueller`s report.  This afternoon the House Judiciary Committee wanted to learn more about Mueller`s findings regarding obstruction.


REP. JERRY NADLER (D), NEW YORK, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN:  We have a responsibility to do this work.  To follow the facts where they lead, to make recommendations to the whole house as circumstances warrant, and to craft legislation that makes certain no president, Democrat or Republican, can ever act in this way again.


WILLIAMS:  Now the White House has repeatedly blocked the committee`s access to some key witness, including someone seen as absolutely critical and that`s former White House Counsel Don McGahn.  He became one of the de facto narrators of the Mueller report in the end.  So until such a time as they can hear McGahn`s testimony in person from his time as White House counsel, today they settled for Richard Nixon`s former White House counsel.


JOHN DEAN, NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL:  Special counsel Mueller has provided this committee with a road map.  And I certainly hope Don McGahn is a key witness before this committee. Mr. McGahn represents not Donald Trump but the Office of the President.  His client is the Office of the President, and I think he owes that office his testimony.

REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), CALIFORNIA, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Comparing Nixon to just any future administration, would you say there`s a future administration that created more crimes than the Nixon administration as far as obstruction?

DEAN:  I would say the Trump administration is in fast competition with what happened in the Nixon administration.


WILLIAMS:  Republican committee members chose not to focus on Trump or on anyone in the current administration.  Instead they went after John Dean`s credibility as a witness.


REP. DOUG COLLINS, (R), GEORGIA, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  This committee is now hearing from the `70s and they want their star witness back.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R), OHIO, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  Today, Chairman Nadler brings in front of the judiciary committee got to talk about obstruction of justice who went to prison in 1979 for obstructing justice.

DEAN:  I did not go to prison.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R), FLORIDA, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE:  You`re here to provide historical context.

DEAN:  Exactly.

GAETZ:  And throughout history you choose presidents acting like Richard Nixon and make money off of it.

DEAN:  Not all presidents.  Those who act like him, I point it out.

GAETZ:  Let me ask you this question.  How do Democrats plan to pay for Medicare for all?

DEAN:  I`m sorry?

GAETZ:  Well, I figured if we were going to ask you about stuff you don`t know about we`d start with big stuff.  So, do you know how they plan to pay for Medicare for all?

DEAN:  Who?  The Democrats or which candidate or you could be more specific?

GAETZ:  Let`s get specific to Nixon since that appears to be why you`re here.

DEAN:  Actually, Nixon did have a health care plan.


WILLIAMS:  It went like that.  And just as today`s hearing was getting under way the president posted this.  Can`t believe they are bringing in John Dean.  The disgrace Nixon White House counsel who`s a paid CNN contributor.  No collusion, no obstruction.  Democrats just want a do over which they`ll never get.  Trump took another swipe at John Dean late today.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Look, John Dean`s been a loser for many years.


WILLIAMS:  The House Judiciary Committee also heard from lawyers and former U.S. attorneys including two veteran former feds who are well-known to viewers of this network.


JOHN MALCOLM, HERITAGE FOUNDATION:   By not making a traditional prosecutorial judgment with respect to the obstruction of justice allegations Mr. Mueller failed to fulfill that duty.  The president provided over a million pages of documents, allowed key members of his staff to be interviewed, and submitted written answers to questions.  These are not the actions of someone attempting to obstruct an ongoing investigation.

BARBARA MCQUADE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  It seems what`s going on here, looking at the totality of the circumstances is that President Trump felt threatened by Robert Mueller.  He felt threatened by him.  Even though there was no ultimate finding of a crime of conspiracy.

JOYCE VANCE, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY:  The facts contained in that report would be sufficient to prove all of the elements necessary to charge multiple counts of obstruction of justice.

I would be willing to personally indict the case and to try the case.  I would have confidence that the evidence would be sufficient to obtain a guilty verdict and to win on appeal.


WILLIAMS:  Also today the House Judiciary Committee reached a deal with the justice department to obtain key evidence related to the obstruction part of Mueller`s investigation.  That agreement may stop a vote to hold the attorney general in criminal contempt, however the House is expected to vote tomorrow on a civil contempt resolution that says the committee will go to court to enforce committee subpoenas.

The agreement is also not likely to end the tense debate among Democrats on Capitol Hill about whether or not to begin an impeachment inquiry.  At least 61 House members including just one Republican now say they support starting an inquiry.  The president was asked about that possibility today as well.


TRUMP:  You can`t impeach somebody when there`s never been anything done wrong.  We have a no collusion, we have no anything.  When you look at past impeachments whether it was President Clinton or I guess President Nixon never got there.  He left.  I don`t leave.


WILLIAMS:  Here for our lead off discussion on a Monday night, Maya Wiley, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.  Now with the new school here in New York.  Katie Benner, justice department reporter for "The New York Times," and Mike Memoli, who is our NBC News national political reporter.

Mike, I`d like to begin with you because you covered this hearing for us today.  This is kind of a new look Democratic Party on the House side. Did they get, do you think, what they wanted?

MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Well, Brian, this was an interesting milestone in terms of the Democratic House majority and how they intend to pursue impeachment or potentially not.  There wasn`t the kind of coverage they would like broadly on cable news and elsewhere.  There was that crash in New York that distracted our and other cable news networks.

But it served an important purpose for the House Judiciary Committee, giving them something of a dry run how they might consider and handle future high profile hearings.

You know, Brian, it`s interesting that the Mueller report was released to Congress and to the public on April 18th, almost two months ago.  And there have been seven full committee hearings in the House Judiciary Committee since then.  But until today we did not have any kind of extensive discussion like we saw on the Mueller report, of the contents of the potential leads on obstruction of justice.

And so the things I keep hearing from judiciary committee staff and leadership aides is that this is an effort to bring to life the Mueller report.  That the 400-plus pages of the Mueller report is a book no one reads.  We have to make it a movie.  So talking to committee aides and some of the members tonight, they feel they did show an effective use of their committee time preparing for future hearings to come.

WILLIAMS:  Maya, I think Mike is exactly right.  The good government types assumed Americans would run home and spend at least the first two nights reading the Mueller report.  That didn`t happen.  Not all members of Congress have read the Mueller report.  With that in mind what do you think the significance of john dean`s appearance was today?

MAYA WILEY, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  Yes, and I also agree with Mike, and I think the significance of John Dean`s appearance was two fold.  One was as a matter of comparison.  He was able to draw attention to key components of the Mueller report simply by comparing it to something that he himself lived through sitting in don McGahn`s chair.

And we have to remember that as a matter of symbol, he is a person who sat in Don McGahn`s seat.  Don McGahn has not agreed to testify.  John Dean was the person who did testified, who pled guilty to obstruction, did not block the president from committing obstruction as we`ve heard in the Mueller report that Don McGahn had done.  But Don McGahn has not agreed to play the role that John Dean was willing to.  So there`s one.

But the second is the fact that in addition to his symbolic role it`s that the Republicans spent their time with him trying to impugn his character rather than trying to understand how this stands up in relation to the history of considering presidential conduct in the context of obstruction.

And one of the most important things I think that John Dean said which we also heard from our colleagues Barb McQuade and Joyce Vance who I feel extremely proud of I have to say was that he -- anyone who sits in the chair of counsel, White House Counsel is sitting in the chair that protects the American people, not the chair that protects an individual.

And that is something that calls attention to the Mueller report and not when he said this is about the Mueller report is like the road map.  This was the grand jury road map to the evidence that it had relating to Nixon that that is calling our attention to the facts and that Don McGahn withholding his testimony despite what we read in the Mueller report is standing in historic contrast to a John Dean who said, I plead and I serve.

WILLIAMS:  All valid points there.  Hey, Katie, hats off to you.  You were one of three bylines on a giant profile of the attorney general over the weekend.  And I`m going to read back to you one of your stretches here.  In a cabinet stocked with government neophytes and placeholders the deeply experienced Mr. Barr is quickly emerging as the most influential figure in the second half of Mr. Trump`s term.  "He is the closest thing we have to Dick Cheney" says Charles Cooper, a former senior justice department official.  "He`s a strong-willed man with a forceful personality and well- informed deeply studied views."

Katie, I guess we have also learned he is capable of responding to a threat of contempt as the first traunches of evidence are arriving from DOJ to House Democrats.

KATIE BENNER, THE NEW YORK TMES JUSTICE DEPARTMENT REPORTER:  Absolutely.  And when you look at that move today it`s a great negotiating tactic in many ways because he can now claim he`s created goodwill, he`s being very coopative.  At the end of the day, he is giving the committee.

If the committee thinks this information is going to move the needle either way on their case for obstruction, that seems like a very strange argument.  I mean we`ve had John Dean, we`ve had multiple people come out and say the report as it stands, the public has, it was very lightly redacted is in itself a road map for impeachment.

So I don`t think Barr actually gave up that much today, and certainly he would never want to be impeached.  I don`t think that`s something anybody wants

But I think when we step back and look at who Barr is.  He is a person who is amassing power in this administration incredibly quickly.  His investigations into the origins of the Russia probe, the way he`s handling his work with the CIA and FBI and Intelligence Community, his ability to get the power to declassify their information, and also his unwillingness to tell us exactly why he`s doing it.  He`s kept it all very, very vague.  He just has some suspicions, he just had some questions that unanswered.

Giving him two things, one wiggle room to act in the future in more extreme ways should he choose, and two, an ability to continue to amass power, to continue to hold power over other cabinet members as he sort of answers vague questions but will not lay down the actual parameters of his own inquiry.

He`s incredibly savvy and if all the members of the cabinet are certain unbiased because I cover the justice department, of all the cabinet members I do think that he is the one to watch.

WILLIAMS:  People who don`t think it`s about power at the end of the day are compelled to read this three byline profile.

Hey, Mike, I keep getting pointed by folks on the Hill back to the original House Democrats` letter to the Department of Justice.  They have quite literally a laundry list of names asking for their 302s, the transcript of their interviews with the FBI.  A loose list would be Bannon, Cohen, Comey, Flynn, Gates, Hicks, Kelly, Kushner, Lewandowski, Manafort, McFarland, McGhan, Miller, Porter, Preibus, Rosenstein, Sanders, Sessions, Spicer and Yates.  And I`ve left off half the names on the list.

With that in mind curious reporters all day have been trying to find out from members of Congress and the staff what did you get today?  What did they send over first?  Here`s Congressman Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island.  We`ll talk about it on the other side.


REP. DAVID CICILLINE (D), RHODE ISLAND:  We`ll get witness statements, 302s, which are FBI reports, we`ll get all of the documents really that are referenced in the Mueller report that support the findings of the special counsel.


WILIAMS:  Mike, that is one optimistic Rhode Islander.  Listen to him.  He seems to be saying it`s all going to come across town in time.

MEMOLI:  Yes Brian, this has been a long what we call in the weeds here the accommodation process.  When the Mueller report was released, remember what the Democrats` initial demand was.  They wanted every line unredacted of the Mueller report itself, and then they wanted every scrap of paper, every interview log, every document that special counsel Robert Mueller and his team used to developed that 400 -- 400 plus page report.  What we learned today is that there was disagreement on that narrower list that Democrats did send as part of the negotiations last month.  That 60 plus interview logs.

We don`t know, and the Democrats were telling me tonight is that their staff was over at the Justice Department doing inventory of what it was exactly that the department was willing to turn over in the days and weeks ahead.  Every member of the Judiciary Committee and an expanded number of their staff will be able to go to the Justice Department.  They won`t actually get the documents themselves.  But they`ll be able to go to the Justice Department and view some of those materials.

What we expect to happen going forward is any specific documents that Democrats feel is critical to their investigation going forward.  They may issue a subpoena, they will request to have that in-house going forward.  And so this is just the beginning of a process that may play out in the weeks ahead, but it was critical as you say earlier, Brian, that to forestalling this criminal contempt vote tomorrow in the full house.

WILLIAMS:  And Katie, is this a piecemeal matter?  Do you have any reporting on how fully they plan to cooperate with the Democrats?

BENNER:  I think that it`s going to be a back and forth process.  I don`t think they`re going to get the Democrats everything that they want right away.  It really mirrors what happens in the first half of the Trump administration, when the Republicans controlled the House and you saw, you know, certain numbers of the Republican Party making demands upon Rod Rosenstein and the Justice Department for document production around Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, to FBI agents, about the Mueller investigation, around the origins of the Mueller investigation.

And you saw the Justice Department and Congress go back and forth of what they would give over time.  I think you`re going to see the exact same thing play out, which means a long time consuming debate in negotiation that we`re going to be reporting on for the next, you know, for the -- foreseeable future.

WILLIAMS:  As we said it`s all about power.  Maya, do you think this is a perceived shift in leverage that might have had something to do with the threat of contempt?

WILEY:  I do.  And I think that what William Barr who is savvy, I agree with Katie that he`s a savvy, skilled, smart attorney understood, one, it doesn`t look good to hide what ultimately will come -- become public eventually.  And that he has much more control over the narrative if he agrees to a deal and then ends in a negotiation process over time than he does if he keeps stone walling where there`s not a strong legal argument.  That just doesn`t make it -- it doesn`t just make for bad optics.

WILLIAMS:  It`s not a good look.

WILEY:  It`s not a good look.  I will say that I think what`s most important for Democrats right now is to focus on the story.  The reality is what we know of William Barr is he is sitting in his chair thinking about protecting the President rather than the public.  And what that means is that he will cherry pick and try to decide what pieces of underlying evidence to release first and what to withhold as long as he can.  That doesn`t mean it won`t become public eventually, but the timing matters here.  And I think what the Democrats by what they`re doing now with the rules committee, in terms of the House, how do you get to court quickly to enforce your subpoenas, because the real deal is the American people hearing from the witnesses themselves.

What happened?  It`s in the Mueller report.  Much of it is public.  It`s already damning, so the question is will the American people be on the 3%, they`ve taken the time to read 448 pages, get the story rather than the spin.

WILLIAMS:  To paraphrase, Mike, having not read the book will they watch the movie?  Three very smart people to start off this week on a Monday night.  Maya Wiley, Katie Benner, Mike Memoli, thank you very much for being part of our discussion.

And coming up, most of the Democrats in the race and that`s saying a lot spent their weekend in Iowa.  Joe Biden and the President are both going to be there at the same time tomorrow.  And the numbers are on the move in that first in the nation caucus state.

And later we`ll talk to lifelong Republican who is asking his fellow Republicans to hold themselves please to a higher standard when it comes to the rule of law.  THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Monday night.



SEN. BERNIE SANDERS, (I) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Now, I understand that there are some well-intentioned Democrats and candidates who believe that the best way forward is a middle ground strategy that antagonizes no one, that stands up to nobody and that changes nothing.

In my view that approach is not just bad public policy, but it is a failed political strategy that I feel could end up with the re-election of Donald Trump.


WILLIAMS:  Senator Bernie Sanders, one of 19 Democratic presidential candidates to speak at the Iowa Democratic Party`s Hall of Fame event in Cedar Rapids on Sunday, 19 of them.  While it`s hard to believe there were enough hotel rooms, Joe Biden freed up a room by not going.  He was not in Iowa for the event.  He chose instead to attend his granddaughter`s high school graduation.

A new poll out of Iowa shows Biden maintaining his lead among likely caucus goers at 24%.  Then we get to three candidates who are in a virtual tie for second place.  Bernie at 16, Elizabeth Warren at 15.  Pete Buttigieg at 14.

And "The New York Times" reports tonight that after Trump was briefed on a devastating 17-state poll conducted by his own in-house campaign pollster, quote, "Trump told aides to deny that his internal polling showed him trailing Mr. Biden in many of the states he needs to win even though he is also trailing in public polls from key states like Texas, Michigan and Pennsylvania.  And when top lines details of the polling leaked, including number showing the President lagging in a cluster of critical Rust Belt states, Mr. Trump instructed aides to say publicly that other data showed him doing well.  Mr. Biden seems to have gotten into the President`s head at least for now.  And on Tuesday, the president will engage with him if indirectly for the first time during the 2020 campaign when they both make appearances in Iowa."

What else do we have to talk about on this broadcast tomorrow night?  But there`s still tonight and here to talk about all of it Sam Stein, politics editor for the "Daily Beast", and Tamara Keith, White House correspondent for "NPR".

Tamara, on another night I suppose you and I could make the case that no political gathering has less to do with national electability than the Iowa caucuses.  Having perhaps established that, tell me about the dynamic in Iowa right now as you know it.

TAMARA KEITH, WH CORRESPONDENT, NPR:  Iowa voters that I`ve spoken to over the course of the spring.  You know, again and again they talk about this idea of electability.  But what the Iowa poll that just came out over the weekend and any number of other polls and conversations show us is that these voters don`t really know what electability means.  Every time someone mentions electability to me, I try to quiz them on what do you mean by that?  What counts as electability.

And one thing that really stands out from this Iowa poll is that there is - - there are a clump of these candidates, about five of them where if you combine the people who say that they are their first choice, their second choice or that they`re seriously considering caucusing for them, you end up with a very close race with five people up at the top including Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, and there isn`t as much separation when you take all those things into account.  And those things actually do matter on caucus night.

WILLIAMS:  And then, Sam, the numbers fall off a cliff.  You saw Beto O`Rourke who basically is having his mail forwarded to Iowa, he has spent so much time there.  He`s at 2%.  Bill De Blasio, the mayor of New York City who wants so badly to be President is at 0%.


WILLIAMS:  Sam, get us back to tomorrow night and how we should view these dueling events by one Joe Biden and one Donald Trump.

STEIN:  Well, the interesting thing to me is Biden.  Trump is going to be Donald Trump.  He will hammer away at whoever his perceived opponent is going to be.  I`m terribly not surprised the fact he is concocting fake polling numbers to justify a lead that he believes he has in the Rust Belt States.  What`s interesting to me is what Biden is going to do.  Biden as you noted did not go (INAUDIBLE) this past weekend for logical and obvious reasons, family events.  But he has been generally absent from the trail.  He`s made a few speeches here and there, very rarely talks to the press, does events with fund raisers but has not really been outward facing as a candidate.

And so I am curious to see just -- if there`s a discomfort being out there, how he engages Donald Trump and in particular how he presents himself as a candidate.  Tonight he made a comment during a fund-raiser event tonight that really piqued a lot of people`s interest which is talking about his desires to work with Republican lawmakers, should he become president.

Saying that once Trump is gone a lot of the elected GOP officials will come back to their senses was his argument.  Now, this is a line that he`s used before.  It sort of gets to his brand of the good old days when politics was back room deals, but it`s painfully out of step with what the Democratic activist conversation is right now.

So when Biden gets out there I do, I am very much curious to see how he engages in that activist wing, if he`s more outward facing and if he does go after Trump in any meaningful way as well.

WILLIAMS:  And Tamara, isn`t that the existential split?  What Biden said tonight is what Biden has always said and what traditional politicians have viewed as the norm.

STEIN:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  The Democrats have a kind of new and young, left that has nothing to do with Joe Biden and looks nothing like Joe Biden.  And isn`t that the cleave well we`re going to be talking about all the way through?

KEITH: Well, there is sort of this divide between the Democratic candidates who say we just need to return to what our democracy used to be, and then the candidates who are saying let`s blow up the boxes.  And there is this real debate about what is better against President Trump, what makes someone more electable.  Is it someone who speaks to the same sort of anti- establishment view that President Trump won with, or is it someone who talks about repairing and going back?

And if you look at that Iowa poll, there`s this divide among Democratic voters, some who say they want lots of experience, and they think the best way to take on Trump would be someone with government experience.  And then there`s a big chunk of people saying no, no, no, that isn`t what we want at all.  And so this is something that is very much unsettled at this point. 

WILLIAMS:  And Sam, because life is like a nature special most of the Democrats polled in Iowa want to thin the herd.

STEIN:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  Some of them by several Democrats, some of them by a couple of Democrats, but there`s too many Democrats out there. 

STEIN:  Well, yes, it`s ridiculous.  There`s 24, 25 candidates now for president.  It`s going to happen naturally at some point.  There`s just not enough fund-raising momentum to sustain all these candidacies.  There`s not enough media attention to sustain them.

You know, the debates will be thinning out event.  There`s going to be 20 candidates total, so some people will not even get on the stage.  But by and large this field will narrow at some point in time.  And once you get to about 7 or 8 or so, then you`ll start to really see the contrast portion of the campaign begin.  And that`s where I think Biden probably at his most vulnerable.  He`s been avoiding the public appearances that I noted.  He can`t do that when he`s being attacked by his fellow candidates.

That hasn`t really happened yet, but it`s going to happen.  Likely we`ll start during the debate, when people go after him for things like his support of free trade deals, the Iraq war, his handling of Anita Hill hearings, the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearing, and so on and so forth.  And you can`t just, if you`re him you cannot just sit back and take it under the assumption that you`re the elder statesman of the party and you get the nomination.  You have to go out and earn it likely.

So I`m curious to see once the field gets narrower after the debates, just how engage Biden has to be because he`s getting older incoming.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, I actually think the post-game shows on those debate nights are going to have to include injury reports.

STEIN:  Right.

WILLIAMS:  Sam Stein, Tamara Keith, thank you so very much, two long time friends of our broadcast.  Appreciate it, greatly.

Coming up, our next stop on this road to Miami is a reliably blue state known for a number of things including its traffic.  It`s also a state that`s churned out quite a few presidential contenders from both parties.  Steve Kornacki back at the big board for us when we continue.


WILLIAMS:  The first Democratic presidential debates on this very network only 16 days away now, and we`re continuing our series called "The Road to Miami."  The one where Steve Kornacki tells us everything we need to know about the key states along the teaming I-95 corridor from Maine clear down to Miami.

Steve has now crossed from Connecticut into New York where it was relatively smooth sailing through Westchester County.  That`s how they draw you in.  But now he`s hit some of the traffic on the dreaded and feared Cross Bronx Expressway in New York City.  Can you hear me, ladies and gentlemen?

Back at the big board for us looking stressed because of his experience Steve Kornacki.  Steve? 

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT:  Brian, we were making such good time when we hit Dorchester.  I thought we were going to clear that George Washington Bridge inside of an hour, but it`s been bumper to bumper on the Cross Bronx Expressway.

I don`t know what happened here, but it always seemed -- let me just roll- up the window here, get some of that sound out.  That racket has been driving me crazy.  That`s all of my sound track for this trip.

But anyway Cross Bronx Expressway, it is jammed.  It is always jammed.  It`s a tiny stretch just in terms of mileage here.  Gets you into Manhattan to the George Washington Bridge, but guess what, there`s a reason -- this is the most congested stretch of road anywhere in the United States.  The Cross Bronx Expressway, where I am right now.

People spend 114 hours a year sitting in traffic on this road.  That`s worse than anywhere else.  So that`s been the headache I`ve been.  I feel like Gridlock Sam here.  That`s been the headache I`ve been dealing with for the last few hours.

But we`re in New York State for a little while now.  We talk about the significance in presidential elections of all these places we pass through.  When we we`re in New York State and really New York City, the Bronx part of New York City heading towards Manhattan, we talk about the curse of the big apple mayor.

Presidential politics and New York City mayors, they don`t seem to agree with each other.  Here`s what I mean.

Here`s a New York City mayor who ran for president about half a century ago.  John Lindsey, he was the mayor of New York.  He thought it was a great steppingstone.  He got in the 1972 Democratic race for president, went down to Florida, lots of transplanted New Yorkers in Florida and he got 6 percent of the vote, fifth place.  That was the end of John Lindsey`s campaign.

Go about a generation later, Rudy Giuliani, they called him America`s mayor after 9/11, cover of Time Magazine, most popular politician in the country, ran for the Republican nominations, spent $60 million and got one delegate, and that was the end of Rudy Giuliani`s race.

And now we`ve got Bill de Blasio, the current mayor of New York running for the Democratic presidential nomination.  New poll in Iowa and cannot find de Blasio under 0 percent.  In fact, he`s one of two candidates who in this poll they said who`s your first choice and your second choice, nobody said de Blasio for first choice.  Nobody said de Blasio for second choice.

And also among Democrats in Iowa, 17 percent favorable, 43 percent unfavorable.  New York City mayor`s presidential politics, they don`t seem to agree with each other.  Except I will tell you this, if there`s hope for all New York City mayors it`s this man, DeWitt Clinton, a break away faction of the Democratic Republican Party of 1812, nominated him for president.

So if they ever tell you a New York City mayor can`t win a presidential nomination just remember DeWitt Clinton, and try to forget about Lindsey and Giuliani, and very possibly de Blasio, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  Steve Kornacki, thank you.  Tomorrow night, it gets interesting when we cross the border into the Garden State.  But I`m getting ahead of myself.  Really appreciate this series of reports.

Coming up for us tonight, more of the fireworks from today`s congressional hearing, a veteran of two GOP White Houses will weigh in when we come back.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Comparing Nixon to just any future administration, would you say there was a future administration that committed more crimes than the Nixon administration as far as obstruction?

John Dean, Former Nixon White House Counsel:  I would say the Trump administration is in fast competition with what happened in the Nixon administration. 


WILLIAMS:  A pretty blunt assessment of the current president today from Richard Nixon`s former White House Counsel, came during a hearing that Republican lawmakers tried to dismiss as a stunt.

We are happy to have back with us tonight Bill Kristol, veteran of the Reagan and Bush administrations, Director of Defending Democracy Together, and Editor at Large of the Bulwark.  Bill, welcome.  Thank you for being here.

What was the lasting impact, if any, from John Dean`s appearance today in your view?

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR AT LARGE, THE BULWARK:  Yes, I`m not sure.  I mean, I think it`s a reminder of how effectively the Trump administration, the Trump White House has so far blunted the effort by Democrats and the House to do a normal investigation.  All the indications of executive privilege and the refusal to slow walking of subpoenas and so forth, they aren`t -- we haven`t yet heard from Robert Mueller.  We haven`t yet heard from Don McGahn and all the other fact witnesses we want to hear from.

For me, that was a big question.  What is it two months now since the Mueller report?

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  I want to show something your group, Republicans, for the rule of law has put out.  We`ll talk about this on the other side.


CALDWELL BUTLER (R-VA), FORMER REPRESENTATIVE:  This is clearly a policy of obstruction of justice which cannot go unnoticed.  We cannot indulge ourselves the luxury of patronizing or excusing the misconduct of our own people.  These things have happened in our house, and it is our responsibility to do what we can to clear it up.  It is we, not the Democrats who must demonstrate we are capable of enforcing the high standard we would set for them. 


WILLIAMS:  You`ll forgive me for saying we are both old enough to remember Caldwell Butler.  Was he the Justin Amash of his Republican Party of this time or did he have company?

KRISTOL:  He had company, including Larry Hogan, the father of the Maryland governor, a bunch of Republicans on the Judiciary Committee.  After a while defected from defending the president and joined the Democrats.  And the Democrats brought them along gradually.

But remember, this is `74, that`s after a whole bunch of hearings in December `73 from actual witnesses.  And again, it just brings home I think how effective actually the Trump White House has been and so far blocking the house Democrats or if you look at the other way, how reluctant the Democrats in the House have been to really play hard brawl or really insist on the kinds of witnesses you would think they might want to hear from.

WILLIAMS:  So if our own Mike Memoli is correct tonight, people who didn`t read the Mueller report as a book, can you get them to see it as a movie?  And if they do, can that thing become more commonplace?

KRISTOL:  People talk about doing ads and people act out little scenes from the report --


KRISTOL: -- that would be fine.  But I think you need to, you know, remember `73, I mean, you need the witnesses to describe the conversations with the President.  And incidentally the House needs that.

I mean, the House, there going to be series reconsidering impeachment.  If they`re not, they can go through this kind of thing, decide that they`ve done some due diligence, and end up not impeaching.  I do worry that someone who thinks that I would like to see a serious set of impeachment hearings.  And I`m not sure what the right outcome would be, but it really serious.

Look at it.  I can`t say we`ve had that so far.  And that Trump White House bears most of the blame because they`ve been the main obstacle.  But the House has been a little befuddled by the House Democrats in how to deal with the Trump White House.

WILLIAMS:  Bill Kristol is going to stay with us.  We`ll come back and talk about the Dems and 2020 and more after this.



PETE BUTTIGIEG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We`re not going to win by playing it safe or promising a return to normal.  We are where we are because normal broke. 

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (D-VT), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  That approach is not just bad public policy but it is a failed political strategy. 

SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Now is not the time to be polite.  Now is not the time for small steps.  Now is the time to fight like hell.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  They`re ready for change and I got a plan for that.


WILLIAMS:  Several of the 2020 presidential candidates capitalized on Joe Biden`s absence in Iowa this weekend, taking some not so veiled shots at the front-runner.  Biden seems to be top of mind for the president as well.

The Times reporting tonight, "Late at night using his old personal cellphone number, President Trump has been calling advisers who`s not heard from him in years eager to discuss his standing in the polls against the top Democrats in the field, specifically Joseph R. Biden," got to love the time, "whom he describes in those conversations as too old and not as popular as people think."

Bill Kristol has kindly agreed to stay with us for a few more minutes.  The Democrats have such a clear choice here it seems to me between Biden and virtually anyone else.

KRISTOL:  Yes, they seem to and right now Biden looks -- I think that is crucial.  As long as that holds up I think Biden probably remains the front-runner.  But I`d say it`s risky to make your whole campaign dependent on that because we could a poll two month, reputable national poll that shows, you know, they`re all beating Trump by five points and they`re all tied with Trump or whatever.

And suddenly, well then, why don`t you go to Elizabeth Warren or Pete Buttigieg or Pamela Harris or Cory Booker who whoever you want.  So I`m a bit of a Biden skeptic, I`ve got to say, just in terms of his ability to kind of hold on here for a year as a front-runner.

WILLIAMS:  And wouldn`t it surprise you at a basic level, you referenced this, all the news you and I have talked about in this studio for over two years, what the Democratic Party has become, who their stars have emerged, and really we`re going to talk about an old white guy.

KRISTOL:  I`m skeptic about both Sanders and Biden and I respect them.  I wouldn`t be that surprised if -- I think both of them have this character that once the vote starts to slip, it could slip pretty fast.  I think with Sanders (inaudible) already almost --


KRISTOL:  -- even with him in Iowa, I`ve got to think Warren could easily become the favorite among progressives pretty quickly.  Biden is a little more complicated, but if he slips, we could have a wide open race and we haven`t really had a race where both front-runners or the two candidates who started off with the most name ID and the highest numbers in the polls.  Both slide, and then we just have a wide open race.

And then I think it`s between the second tier, whom we`ve been talking about.  But I think someone could emerge even from the third tier right now, and we really could be -- it could pretty wild and ___

WILLIAMS:  In 15 seconds, which is what they tell me we have left, if I landed from Mars and you needed to brief me what happens at the Iowa caucuses, how would you describe the process?

KRISTOL:  A little crazy, a little crazy.  Well, at least the Democrats have this thing where you have to get 15 percent, the second choice voters go over and all of that.  Biden needs to win Iowa, i would say.  If Biden loses Iowa, then I think it`s hard for him to win New Hampshire.  If Biden doesn`t win Iowa and New Hampshire, it`s hard for me to see how he becomes the nominee.

WILLIAMS:  Wow, OK, well, glad we went there.  Bill Kristol, always glad to have you on.  Thank you so much.

KRISTOL:  Thanks, Brian.

Coming up, there was reason to be concerned earlier today in an American city with ample reason to be concerned, when we come back.



WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight was a nerve-wracking day here in the nation`s largest city where towards the end of the lunch hour people were alerted first by sirens, then by their phones, then word of mouth, that an aircraft of some sort had hit a high rise building.  And for a while that`s all we knew.

Turned out to be a helicopter that crash, landed on a roof of a midtown Manhattan building.  It turned out to have killed the pilot.  Thankfully no others were injured.

It was dig day in New York, at the time of the crash there was heavy rain and you could only see up or down a few hundred feet.  So that was the initially shock that someone, anyone was flying a helicopter in this weather, say nothing of the protected and closely watched airspace corridor over New York City.

We don`t yet know, and the NTSB will tell us, if this was a case of pilot disorientation or mechanical failure or both.  We do know that had that chopper not impacted that building roof it could have then easily crashed or fallen a short distance away in Times Square or into Trump Tower or Radio City Music Hall or god forbid any number of other places and densely populated midtown.

Landing on a helipad in New York City became severely limited when this happened.  The accident on top the Pan Am Building, May 1977 killed five people.  Large commuter helicopter keeled over after its landing gear failed.  One of its rotors flew off, pierced the side of the building, and then a piece of that blade killed a woman on the sidewalk on Madison Avenue below.

Since then, choppers take off and land from heliports on the Hudson and East Rivers, and they go in the drink fairly routinely.  The 9/11 experience and the other new restrictions over Trump Tower may have tightened New York`s airspace which will perhaps now tighten again after this incident.

That is our broadcast on this Monday night as we start a new week.  Thank you so much for being here with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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