LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: Geronimo tried to escape once but was captured the next day. Geronimo died at Fort Sill in 1909, when he was 79 years old. Will the next prisoner to die at Fort Sill be a child? We hope not.
Years from now the children who Donald Trump locks up in the very same place where this government locked up Apaches and Japanese-Americans will get the last word on what history calls "the place where Donald Trump locked them up." That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the President calls in to Fox News, unleashes a diatribe on some of his favorite subjects including Comey, Mueller, and the FBI.
Plus, if Democrats were hoping for details from Hope Hicks, they came up empty. But her appearance at least in the hallway got the attention of the President along with those who want a more thorough and aggressive investigation.
And the challenge the Democrats are likely failing at, telling the story of the Mueller report, that the Mueller report failed to tell on its own as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Wednesday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 881 of the Trump administration. And this is the scene, the indelible pictures from today. Hope Hicks on Capitol Hill to talk with the House Judiciary Committee. Not in public, mind you, only behind closed doors. And not to answer questions. The White House lawyers with her prevented that.
But it did make for quite a scene. More than one person watching said she walked as if on a runway, unbothered by questions, unwilling to answer.
At one time as a public servant she was among the closest people to the President of the United States, representing our country around the globe, paid for by taxpayer dollars. She may well have witnessed obstruction of justice and criminal activity, but that was of no apparent concern to her today. So here now the former White House Director of Communications.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hope, did the President obstruct justice? Is the White House letting you answer any questions today?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have you spoken to the President at all about this testimony?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Why is the White House limiting your testimony so much?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you comfortable with the White House saying that you have complete immunity?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Surrounded by attorneys, her unwillingness to answer questions from the committee was because the administration has said she was "absolutely immune from being compelled to testify about her time as Trump`s senior adviser." Some Democrats on the committee dismissed that excuse.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. TED LIEU, (D) CALIFORNIA: It was so absurd that we could ask questions such as, where is your office located? Objection.
REP. DAVID CICILLINE, (D) RHODE ISLAND, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: They objected to any question that was posed to Hope Hicks that had to do with anything she observed or did during the course of her employment in the White House. This is an effort of the President to be sure that witnesses do not share valuable information to the committee to continue in this ongoing cover-up to prevent the American people from knowing the full truth.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: On the up side, other Judiciary Committee members said Hicks was able to discuss her time on the Trump campaign. Chairman Jerry Nadler also says he learned a few things as well, but also implied the White House`s stance on immunity would be challenged in the courts.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLY O`DONNELL, NBC NEWS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Were you able to learn more about the hush money payment situation?
REP. JERROLD NADLER, (D) NEW YORK, CHMN. HOUSE JUDICIARY CMTE.: Let me just say, she answered some of our questions, the ongoing syllable (ph) information. And the White House pleaded a non-existent absolute immunity. And that will not stand.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Trump weighed in on Hope Hicks` testimony tonight during an interview with Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: She`s a wonderful person. She`s been through hell. They put this young woman through hell. What she`s had to pay for legal fees and everything else. That they`re allowed to go forward with, you know, interviewing people, having people like Hope Hicks and others, having to pay for a new set of lawyers?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Hicks did testify to the special counsel team. Her testimony is cited over 70 times in the Mueller report, including about Trump`s reaction to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in the first place and the effort to explain away the 2016 Trump Tower meeting.
Earlier today FBI veteran Frank Figliuzzi told this network that her roles on Trump`s campaign and in the West Wing mean it`s more than likely she`ll be called to testify again.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE: Hope Hicks is not going away. You`re going to see her called to testify in grand juries in the State of New York, in Manhattan, and she`s going to be a player for the next few years, unfortunately or fortunately, on our T.V. screens.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The push to get Robert Mueller himself to testify before Congress could soon be headed toward a subpoena. Today House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff signaled that Democrats are getting tired of waiting to hear from the special counsel himself.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF, (D) CALIFORNIA, INTELLIGENCE CMTE. CHAIRMAN: He`s going to have to testify. And he can testify voluntarily or he can testify under subpoena. But it`s going to have to happen. I don`t think a two-year investigation of this magnitude followed by a written report and a 10- minute statement without questions satisfactorily answers the many, many questions that we have about the investigation. I also think time and patience are running out on that front.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: "The Washington Post" reports the House Intelligence Committee will hear from one-time Trump business associate Felix Sater. He is set to testify on Friday about his effort to develop Trump Tower-Moscow during the 2016 election.
Politico writes that Sater`s hearing was supposed to be public but now the committee decided to make it private because of his previous undercover work for the Defense Intelligence Agency on Russia issues.
Meanwhile, Speaker Pelosi`s latest comments about impeachment are raising questions about the firmness of her opposition. She`s now -- here`s how she responded rather when asked if she would consider a congressional censure of Trump as an alternative to impeachment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA, HOUSE SPEAKER: I think censure is just a way out. If you`re going to go you`ve got to go. In other words, if the goods are there you must impeach.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Democratic congresswoman of Illinois Jan Schakowsky who`s a member of Pelosi`s leadership team-s now backing an impeachment inquiry into Trump. She calls her move "a personal decision on my part." That makes her the 68th member of the House to call for an inquiry.
Now to our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post." Former U.S. Attorney Joyce Vance, who spent 25 years as a federal prosecutor. Here with us in New York, Emily Jane Fox, National Correspondent for "Vanity Fair." also happens to be the author of "Born Trump: Inside America`s First Family."
Phil Rucker, let`s start with the President`s call into Fox News tonight. Relitigating 2016. It was about Mueller. It was about Comey. It was about the FBI, about the Clinton campaign. On this night after launching his re-election this is still apparently, Phil, his go-to.
PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF: It sure is, Brian. He is not a President eager to turn the page here. Indeed, he`s digging in. He feels under siege, and he said as much in the Fox interview.
And also at his re-election kickoff rally last night. He said that the 2020 election would be a verdict on the people who are acting in un- American ways to subvert democracy. And by that he does not mean the Russians. He means Mueller. He means Comey.
He means all of the investigators who`ve been investigating this Russian interference in the election and his campaign and his own possible obstruction of justice. And we`re going to see that continue I think for some time to come.
WILLIAMS: Joyce, did Hope Hicks have the legal right to do what she did today? Or better said not do what she didn`t say today?
JOYCE VANCE, MSNBC LEGAL ANALYST: The best way to answer that, Brian, is to say that the answer will come when this case hits the courts. In other words, certainly like any other witness she can come and assert she doesn`t have to answer questions.
And then the inquiry that you have is whether the person asking the questions is really serious about getting answers. So we`ll now find out whether Congress is serious and whether they intend to ask a federal judge to compel Hope Hicks to answer.
WILLIAMS: Emily Jane Fox, you have covered Hope Hicks. Why do you think she did this today?
EMILY JANE FOX. VANITY FAIR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: She was legally required to be there. I think that is the main reason why she was there. She is someone who is a very senior member of a public company. It is --
WILLIAMS: Yes, tell the folks where she works.
FOX: She works at New Fox, which is a company that is run by a Murdoch son. It`s a company that is brand new. She is the head of communications there. And there are shareholders who would take issue with the fact that a senior member of this company is being put in this situation and being thrust on the world stage. And if she was not going to comply with a subpoena, which legally requires her to be there, I would imagine that would be of some trouble.
Now, doing what she did today is something I think only would work for the company where she works. It is something that is run by the Murdoch family. It`s a company that owns Fox News. And it`s a company that hired her knowing that she was potentially going to be in this situation someday.
So I think that some of that is baked in. But I think she did the bare minimum of what she was legally required to do while still maintaining her loyalty to the Trump family, which is something that is incredibly important to her, something that is incredibly important to the Trump family, and I think that is a large part of why she didn`t go much further than she was required to do today, though that may be challenged, as Joyce just explained.
WILLIAMS: Yes. And one of the underpinnings of your comments and Joyce`s, if the Democrats prevail, Hope Hicks might have a very big decision to make -- to pick a team here.
FOX: I`ve been racking my brain about this all day, of which team she would pick. I did a story about her for "Vanity Fair" at the end of last year starting her new life in Los Angeles. She has a very big job. She was just coming off another very big job.
It`s hard for me to see someone who is 30 years old choosing to tie themselves to something like the Trump organization, something like the Trump campaign, something like the Trump White House, knowing where this could all head someday. But you have to understand this underlying loyalty she had to the Trump family. It is so strong, it defies all logic. And so I don`t know which way it would go at the end of the day.
WILLIAMS: The President calls her "Hopey."
WILLIAMS: This would be a big decision for Hopey and would test exactly the strength of the relationship. You`re trying to come up with the terms to describe.
FOX: Well, I watched it up close with Michael Cohen, who is someone who was incredibly loyal to him as well. At the end of the day the President threw Michael Cohen under the bus, or at least that`s how Michael Cohen felt. And so that is what turned Cohen away and turned him from this guy who told me that he would take a bullet for the President to someone who ended up cooperating in investigations against him.
It`s harder for me to see the President turning on Hope Hicks. It`s not impossible. And I think stranger things have happened. And I think that that may be where you see some tension and movement down the road.
WILLIAMS: Joyce Vance, a snarky person would say perhaps all the Democrats` hearing rooms are getting painted and they can`t have public hearings anymore. Everybody`s behind closed doors. Well, the latest on Friday of this week will be Mr. Sater. He of attempted Trump Tower Moscow fame, business associate of Mr. Trump et al. What kind of things can they ask him and learn from him potentially?
VANCE: Well, Sater will have a lot to say about the relationship, the business relationships that he had with both Michael Cohen and with the President. He can talk about the plans to build Trump Tower in Moscow.
And the reason in his case for the closed hearing is because he did intelligence work, he worked with DNI, and much of what he would have to say would be inappropriate in a public setting. And so as much as I think we`re all eager to hear public testimony in this case as opposed to in the case of Hope Hicks, there seems to be a really good reason to spend some time behind closed doors.
With Hicks, the decision to go in closed doors looks really much more like it was an effort to bring someone who wasn`t really certain she wanted to testify in front of the House to at least set up that baseline where she would refuse to answer questions so the Congress could go on its way and get this decided by a judge. I see that as two very different situations in terms of why they were held behind closed doors.
WILLIAMS: And Joyce, this may call for a judgment on your part. But you where Mr. Mueller is concerned, is his testimony another potential case for the Democrats of be careful what you wish for? And can you imagine Bob Mueller saying public, absolutely, bring all the cameras in, let`s do it on live television versus going behind closed doors?
VANCE: Mueller`s already made his feelings about public testimony clear. He`s not a fan. But by the same token he`s delivered his report and told us that the report speaks for itself. But the report can`t really speak to us because about 10 percent of it is redacted.
You know, the problem for Mueller is that he lives a little bit at the cross-roads of this more traditional era where prosecutors did not come forward, did not speak in public, only tried their cases in courtrooms, and the reality of this extraordinarily unusual situation where the President can`t be charged, where there continue to be questions about whether or not Mueller was permitted to proceed with his investigation unimpeded, he himself wrote a letter to Bill Barr just days after the report was released questioning the attorney general`s veracity in essence, saying that when he characterized the report in public that Mueller was left with concerns about the context, the nature, the substance, how Barr characterized all those aspects of the report. He may ultimately have to testify in public here whether he wants to or not.
WILLIAMS: Phil Rucker, you had the first word, and I`d like to give you the last. Amidst all this there is the business of the administration. Another change in the Trump Cabinet. A thousand more U.S. troops headed to the Gulf. Last night, however, the President told his rally audience in Orlando he was pulling troops out of the Middle East. So what of the ongoing business of this Trump presidency?
RUCKER: Well, Brian, there`s a lot going on. There`s even more than that. The President is headed to Japan near the end of this month for a series of pretty high-stakes meetings with Chinese President Xi to go over that trade deal, possibly have some sort of an accord with China. He`s going to -- he`s planning a sit-down with Vladimir Putin, the Russian President. We all know how important those meetings can be and how consequential that is for this President.
And so he`s got a lot going on. There`s this conflict emerging here in Iran. And yet he continues to be so distracted and so focused. And you might say obsessed with the ongoing fallout from the Mueller investigation.
He`s paying attention to all these moves on Capitol Hill. He`s paying attention to the "I" word, as he puts it, impeachment, and what the House Democrats might do. And he obviously today was paying close attention to Hope Hicks.
WILLIAMS: To our big three, to Phil Rucker, to Joyce Vance, to Emily Jane Fox, thank you for starting us off in great fashion tonight.
And coming up for us, imagine if Hope Hicks testified today in public with cameras present on live television perhaps. When we come back, we will talk about the giant opportunity the Democrats have right now. The challenge to tell the story of the Mueller report in a way the Mueller report itself failed to do.
And later, why Bernie Sanders sounded almost Trumpian on social media today. We`ll look at what has him worked up as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Wednesday night.
WILLIAMS: The Democrats in the House wanted a big name. They called Hope Hicks up to answer questions. She agreed. She agreed to appear behind closed doors where she didn`t answer questions but she made for a stunning hallway appearance.
The Democrats have a problem. The Mueller report is dense, legalese, chunkily written. As a result has gone largely unread. The President says its conclusion was no obstruction, no collusion. It of course says nothing of the sort.
Our own Mike Memoli nicely summed up this problem on our broadcast about a week ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE MEMOLI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: The things that 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 that no one reads. We have to make it a movie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Remember that line. Earlier today the former FBI Counterintelligence Chief Frank Figliuzzi explained why he thinks Robert Mueller himself needs to testify.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FIGLIUZZI: The gentlemanly civility of Robert Mueller and his adherence to decorum and protocol and apolitical appearance hasn`t served us well. It worked well a few years back. But we`re in a society that watches T.V., gets our news from whatever particular network we watch or from our neighbors or colleagues, and we need to see something play out in front of us. It`s sad but it`s true. And I think Bob Mueller absolutely does need to testify.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Back with us again tonight is Donny Deutsch. Importantly he`s been branding and strategy consultations for the Democrats. Also importantly, his new show "Saturday Night Politics" airs as its title would indicate Saturday nights at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on this very network.
DONNY DEUTSCH, MSNBC HOST, "SATURDAY NIGHT": Brian, it took me a week to come up with that title. Twenty consultants.
WILLIAMS: I like it. It works. My DVR understands it. That`s all I ask.
Let`s take Mike Memoli`s superb turn of phrase. If I asked you to turn this into a movie, figuratively, how do you make this report a movie? How do you make that guy the star?
DEUTSCH: I would challenge a movie and say it`s not a movie. We need to create an episode in an ongoing drama.
DEUTSCH: That`s the problem. People have been setting up Mueller, and I call it "post-Mueller depression syndrome," that this was going to change the world. That even if he testifies, yes, it puts blood to it, it puts color to it, makes it real, that`s still not the ultimate silver bullet. Its one more piece in an ongoing thing that I keep saying brand is the overall Trump criminal investigations. There`s an irony that all of a sudden people are going the morning consult poll, all of a sudden now at 57 percent but 67 percent of Democrats want to impeach.
The reason is because the weeks and weeks on in of Joyce Vance up there, of John Dean up there, Don McGahn refusing to do it, of Hope Hicks waltzing in, the ongoing hubris of Trump aficionados refusing to kind of work within our legal system, and on top of that we have an ongoing -- we have Trump as an unindicted co-conspirator, what the other conspirator`s in jail for. We have the New York A.G. looking at everything from his philanthropic organization to the inaugural committee. We have money laundering, we have bank fraud, we have tax fraud. There is a lot to come.
So, this Mueller is not the crescendo. Mueller is not the denouement. It is one piece of hopefully an ongoing drama, a weekly drama, a daily drama that I`m calling Trump criminal investigations.
WILLIAMS: Often in this studio at 4:00 p.m. Nicole Wallace invites you to her small conversation where as I see it your role is tough love. What are the Democrats doing right now? What`s the chance that when you and I talk during the post-game show after these debates the subject of the night is going to be a social issue, that zero percent of South Carolinians are worried about prior to their primary?
DEUTSCH: The Democrats better realize one thing, that there`s one message out there, and that`s that Trump promises and it`s about health care and it`s about the economy. Not Trump`s economy, but the rest of the country`s economy that is not doing well. And if they start in like AOC today talking about calling --
WILLIAMS: Concentration camps.
DEUTSCH: Concentration, guys, you are missing it. If they start in with slavery reparations. Now, once again, morally I understand it. As a political issue it is an absolute loser.
And on top of that if they start going down the path, and I love Elizabeth Warren, she`s a dynamic human being, she`s a wonderful force. If Trump can label anybody a socialist that he`s running against, the Democrats lose big. The Democrats have to understand there is one game here. Beat Donald Trump. We have a face of evil running this country right now. The stakes are so high.
And although some of the agendas of some of the far left are noble, first you`ve got to get guy out of office. I`m a businessman. This is an 18- month play. There needs to be a centrist in there. If we go too hard left we`ve got four more years of Trump. It`s that simple.
WILLIAMS: We have a problem five nights a week, figuring out what makes the broadcast in what order. So it`s Saturday afternoon. How do you look -- with as long as these weeks are, how on earth, do you keep a white board I hope, do you look back and decide what your lead story`s going to be and what topics need to be plucked out as conversation?
DEUTSCH: Well, I start around Wednesday. So for what`s interesting, some of my topics this week I pull apart Trump 2020, which I`m calling the 2016 rerun, and the big issue is, is there Trump wear out? Basically it`s the same bag of tricks.
WILLIAMS: Yes, I heard you say that.
DEUTSCH: And I think if that`s what you`ve got he`s in trouble. My other concern or again for this topic is everybody says Trump can`t pivot. He is the ultimate transactionalist. He was a Democrat before he ran. He realized the birther thing was hitting a racist tone, he goes this works, and that got him elected.
Do not think he is not beyond all of a sudden coming out with a comprehensive health plan that Americans go this is pretty good. So what he`s doing right now, he`s doing the 2016 repeat to solidify his base, but I think as we walk into 2020 you`re going to start to see a state of the union Trump. So some -- these are some of the things I`m getting into.
One other thing, he brought up Hillary. I think he could start to turn Hillary into an empathetic figure. That maybe will have a little bit of a place with the Democrats. You beat that so often, that so a lot of the things that worked for Trump the first time around might not. So it`s kind of seeing what is going to work and where does he pivot?
WILLIAMS: Twenty seconds of time I don`t have. You firmly believe our moderators should not be reading the live tweets from the President during the debates.
DEUTSCH: Do not let Donald Trump produce these debates. That is the most inane, pathetic, weak thing in the world. Just dismiss them. To let him invade these debates is everything wrong that the Democrats can do.
WILLIAMS: Donny Deutsch, ladies and gentlemen, also known as the host of "Saturday Night Politics." Saturday evenings, 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time. Your DVR will recognize his name. Thank you.
DEUTSCH: Thank you, brother.
WILLIAMS: Thank you for being here.
Coming up, why Elizabeth Warren`s steady momentum is bad news for at least one other top tier candidate when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren gaining ground. Right now at least in the 2020 race. A new Monmouth Poll out just today puts her ahead of Bernie Sanders by one percentage point. Both are still trailing former Vice President Joe Biden. More on him in a bit.
POLITICO explains Warren`s bump this way. "There was a time not so long ago when leading Democrats warned that Elizabeth Warren`s fantasy-based blue state populism risked leading the party to ruin. But in a revealing tell of how far her campaign has come since its early February launch some unlikely voices in the center of the party are growing more comfortable with the idea of Warren as the nominee."
Her surge, at least a small one, prompted Sanders to call out the so-called establishment on social media in almost Trumpian style. "The cat is out of the bag. The corporate wing of the Democratic Party is publicly anybody but Bernie. They know our progressive agenda of Medicare for all, breaking up big banks, taking on drug companies and raising wages is the real threat to the billionaire class."
Well, with us tonight to talk about it, Shannon Pettypiece, White House correspondent for Bloomberg, and Eugene Scott, political reporter for the "Washington Post." Welcome to you both.
Shannon, let`s -- full disclosure here. No polls matter at all right now. They give us something to talk about and it`s interesting. And Donny Deutsch, who was our previous guest, said this week on the air if Warren`s the nominee they`ll lose 48 states. So do you concur this is just kind of the intramural thing we can discuss?
SHANNON PETTYPIECE, BLOOMBERG WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so polls do and they don`t matter. So, I`ve been talking to people, Republican strategists, people on the campaign. They all tell me don`t pay attention to the polls. Look at when, you know, Walter Mondale was winning at this time, you know, all those years ago. They said look at where Donald Trump was in the polls at this time four years ago. Don`t pay attention to them.
Yet when Elizabeth Warren start creeping up the polls this week, I started hearing from them that they were shifting resources to Elizabeth Warren, to researching her background, to doing oppo on her. That`s the type of poll that got her attention.
The head-to-head polls against Trump and the Democrats, they said pay no attention to. But these polls, they`ve been looking at the Democratic field and Elizabeth Warren`s rise certainly got Republicans` attention and people in the Trump campaign`s attention this week.
WILLIAMS: Eugene, there is another sidebar topic. I`m going to put the polling back on the screen. There are entire cable networks that talk about this stuff all day. These are three neat columns of numbers. On the left some numbers that are two digits. And then it drops off a cliff.
You get about the yang neighborhood into de Blasio, Gabbert, Inslee, you get about 1 percent center column. And then the zeros including a Democrat who`s won a governorship in a red state with a big sky, a Democrat from Rocky Mountain state, and Eric Swalwell, who makes as many daily television appearances as some people on popular pharma commercials.
Eugene, is it an article of faith, back to column 1, that Warren`s numbers come out of the Bernie Sanders bank account?
EUGENE SCOTT, WASHINGTON POST POLITICAL REPORTER: That`s not what the data says in that poll, right. We know that there liberals who really want to back Warren, who are listening to her, who are entertaining the policy ideas that she`s putting forward, that we don`t necessarily see were people who are backing Sanders previously.
I think what we have is voters coming into this election cycle just really open to ideas and looking at multiple candidates. They hadn`t chosen Sanders before in switching to Warren but they`re discovering Warren perhaps isn`t who her critics say she was. They`re discovering perhaps they didn`t pay that much attention to Warren prior to this election because they weren`t that invested and maybe Massachusetts politics or other issues that they found to be irrelevant to them, and they`re just entertaining now new ideas hoping to find someone that they believe can get Donald Trump out of the Oval Office.
WILLIAMS: Shannon Pettypiece, about Elizabeth Warren, the question of course has been asked is she up, can she give as good as she gets? Because of the incoming fire. Though no one gets the level of Trump preoccupation like Joe Biden. Yes, he remains atop the math. But the president seems to have chosen the Democratic nominee in his head.
PETTYPIECE: Well, I think a lot of the attacks on Biden have been driven by some of the internal polling numbers that the Trump campaign and those close to the president have been getting. I mean to this point that polls matter, but they don`t.
You know, Biden appeared to be the Democrat who could take the president on in the states that really mattered. Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan. There`s a number of swing states, but those are the ones that the Republicans are really closely watching. And in those states Biden was within the margins or leading the president in a lot of polls. So that created a lot of anxiety there.
But the Elizabeth Warren surge, as I was saying, has gotten their attention. And she has some things that the Trump campaign has said they felt were the president`s biggest assets and that if there is an opponent who had those they could be a real threat. And that`s authenticity and a clear message. You know who she is. You know who she stands for. She might not be out of central casting but she is authentic. And you might not always agree with her message but you know what it is. And that`s something that in the back of their minds they have been saying that as a concern of theirs, that a candidate will come along with those qualities.
WILLIAMS: Good point, well made. Both of our guests have agreed to stay with us on the other side of the break. Eugene, I`m coming to you to talk about Joe Biden tonight. And when we come back, can the Democrats find a message other than anyone but Trump to win over their voters and their base?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This election is a verdict on whether we want to live in a country where the people who lose an election refuse to concede and spend the next two years trying to shred our constitution and rip your country apart.
If you want to know how the system is rigged, just compare how they came after us for three years with everything they have versus the free pass they gave to Hillary and her aides.
Our radical Democrat opponents are driven by hatred, prejudice, and rage. They want to destroy you. And they want to destroy our country as we know it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Perhaps you detected the grievances there. The president launching his 2020 re-election campaign with choice words for the Democratic Party along with plenty of callbacks to the 2016 campaign. So importantly, that`s the world Democrats woke up to this morning.
Back with us, Shannon Pettypiece, Eugene Scott, by the way. And Eugene, then the news blew up of Joe Biden at an event last night. For those who haven`t followed the story, please walk us through what he said and the hubbub. When you`re done doing that we`ll show folks what Biden said tonight.
SCOTT: Sure. Well, Joe Biden was at a fund-raiser in New York City last night trying to reach out to potential donors, letting them know that he would not govern the way we just saw the president communicating to his supporters. He wants to be a unifier, not a divisive president. And he looked -- he shot back and pointed back, should I say, to his career in the Senate and noted that he has worked with people he viewed very different politically including some white supremacists, some segregationists, some lawmakers who advocated for policies that did not benefit black Americans or people who just were not white men.
And he`s gotten quite a bit of pushback for that, including from other people running for president and other individuals, even across the aisle, who think that the former vice president has romanticized these individuals.
WILLIAMS: Yes, he said among his other comments the senators didn`t call him boy but they called him son. His point was, I think, that he was able to do business with them. So this developed all today. There`s now a Cory Booker-Joe Biden subplot. Here in order is Joe Biden as captured by a CBS camera crew in suburban Maryland tonight, followed by Cory Booker as interviewed on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The point I`m making is you don`t have to agree, you don`t have to like the people in terms of their views. But you just simply make the case and you beat them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to apologize like Cory Booker has called for?
BIDEN: For what?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Cory Booker`s called for it.
BIDEN: Cory should apologize. He knows better. Not a racist bone in my body. I`ve been involved in civil rights my whole career. Period. Period. Period.
SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What matters to me is that a guy running to be the head of our party, which is a significantly diverse and wondrous party, doesn`t understand or can`t even acknowledge that he made a mistake. Whether the intention was there or not. That`s what was stunning to me.
And instead he`s falling back into the defensive crouch that often people say, which is Cory called me a racist or I`m not a racist. Which is not what i said. And not what I`m calling him. And this is the problem. He knows better. And at a time when Donald Trump never apologizes for anything and starts to create that kind of I think toxic sentiment that you never apologize, never apologize, never apologize, I know Joe Biden. He`s better than this.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So Eugene, Senator Booker notably went on CNN tonight announcing this is not a circular firing squad, this is not what that`s about, knowing that people on networks like this one go on and say there go the Democrats, it`s a circular firing squad.
SCOTT: Indeed. But I think the point he really wanted to make is pushing back on Joe Biden`s claim that that work environment was a civil one when he collaborated with these white supremacist lawmakers. The reality is this was not a civil environment for the black Americans who were represented by these lawmakers, who wanted to see policies promoted and supported that made their lives better. And that`s not what Biden spoke to. He did not even address just how difficult of a time these individuals had in terms of what impact they left on their constituents.
And I think another important point is right now we have an incredibly divided Congress and we`re seeing people on both sides of the aisle unable to work together because they have different worldviews. I think what we see from the Democratic base is voters looking for someone who could work across the aisle. They`re looking for someone who will boldly call out evil and bad intentions and racism and sexism when they see it. And Joe Biden didn`t do that today. And that is why so many people from within his own party have expressed concern.
WILLIAMS: Shannon, a couple of points here. Number one, I urge people to look up Senators Heflin and Eastland and their records, especially given the time they lived in and the times we`re in now. Number one, why bring up these two guys? They were separatists.
And number two, Shannon, was the correct answer that I was one in 100, we had to get work done, so it means you have to work with all kinds of unsavory people?
PETTYPIECE: Well, I don`t know why Joe Biden decided to go here. Because again, what is your -- what is your message? What are you trying to get across? And you know, if the message is trying to be -- I think as we`re trying to dissect what`s going on here, this idea of civility, that I`m going to be -- you want a candidate who`s going to be this warm blanket and going to bring you back to this other time when we all got along. It`s almost similar to that let`s make America great again. When was America great? Let`s go back to this era where we all got along. And of course there are many people in any of those periods who will say that`s not when America was great and we weren`t all getting along to the way Eugene so well articulated.
But in Trump world where my brain lives this is what they have been waiting for. And I know they`re saying this is not a circular firing squad. But it is. And it is going to be for the next, you know, eight, nine, twelve months until we can get a Democratic nominee. And that`s why the Trump folks say don`t pay attention to these polls, because the Democrats are going to tear each other up. They`re going to define each other.
And right now we just have sort of almost a fictitious candidate. Even Joe Biden who you`d think we know. We know Vice President Joe Biden. We know Joe Biden in 2009. Do we know President Joe Biden? Do we know candidate Joe Biden? And so there`s so much definition that`s going to happen on these Democrats and you`re going to see the ones below the ones that are struggling to break the single digit like Cory Booker being the first to come out and sort of lob those attacks. And it`s working for him. Look at all the attention he`s finally gotten that he hadn`t been getting. You know, that`s where the sort of churn is going to come from in these poll numbers.
WILLIAMS: Yes, additionally, Biden in the time he`s been away, welcome to the new era of outrage and instant reaction. Thank you both for your answers, your thoughtful analysis. Shannon Pettypiece, Eugene Scott. Pleasure to have you both on the broadcast tonight.
Coming up, the Road to Miami takes us to a state where a world famous fish fry can help make or break a presidential hopeful. When we come back.
WILLIAMS: We are just one week out from the first presidential democratic debate here on this very network. We`re continuing our series "The Road to Miami" where Miami`s Steve Kornacki is traveling along busy I-95 to tell us everything we need to know about the states along the way. Last night Steve was in North Carolina. Tonight the deeper south. The accent gets deeper, the air becomes more humid as he`s crossed into the Palmetto state, South Carolina. Back at the big board tonight, our national political correspondent, Steve Kornacki. Steve?
STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I`m overdressed at this point, Brian, it is sweltering out there as we hit the Palmetto state. We hare in Charleston, South Carolina, the famous pineapple fountain in Charleston, home of the Charleston River Dogs baseball team, the college of Charleston Cougars. And of course, Charleston, South Carolina, is also the hometown of the most famous unsuccessful candidate in a South Carolina presidential primary.
Who am I talking about? I`m talking about Stephen Colbert. Do you remember this? It was 2008, he was at Comedy Central. South Carolina Democratic Primary, of course, always very important in presidential races. Colbert said, you know, what, I`m going to run in the South Carolina Democratic Primary as a favorite son candidate. Here he is declaring his presidency, up the road in Columbia. Here he is, he got on "Meet the Press," he put down $2,500 to get his name on the ballot. And then the state Democrats said, no, we`re not going to put your name there, the vote 13-3, and that was the end of the Stephen Colbert presidential campaign back 2008, it would have been a South Carolina only campaign.
So let`s talk about candidates who actually are going to be on the presidential ballot in South Carolina, the critical first in the south primary coming up early next year. A bunch of Democrats are going to be there this week. This weekend. It`s ground zero for the Democratic campaign. State convention, state party, dinner, and I think the most important event may be this. The Jim Clyburn`s fish fry.
Jim Clyburn, you know him nationally as one of the top Democrats in the House, he is also Mr. South Carolina Democratic politics. He`s been in Congress nearly three decades. He`s holding this event. All the candidates are going to be there because you want Jim Clyburn for you ideally if you`re candidate for president running in South Carolina`s primary, but you definitely don`t want him against you.
And what I mean by that is the famous story, it was the Clinton/Obama race in 2008. Remember this. When it came to South Carolina, Hillary Clinton thought she had a shot down there. She thought she had a shot because the polls early on had a competitive race. She and her husband had a lot of relationships, especially with black leaders, that went back to his presidency. Thought had a chance to win the primary there.
But in the days leading up to that South Carolina primary in 2008, Bill Clinton started attacking Barack Obama. It started to get ugly. And Jim Clyburn, who was officially neutral in that race, he spoke and up he told Bill Clinton, and he said, chill out, Bill Clinton. He also got this line off. This was in the `90s when Clinton was president, Tony Morrison had said, he`s the first black president. Jim Clyburn said, we`re still looking for the first black president. That was back in 2008.
That had an effect. Hillary Clinton`s numbers crashed in South Carolina. Bill Clinton had a lot of damage to make up for. But this was the primary result. Suddenly a close race became a 30-point blowout for Obama. And this was the big significant to in South Carolina in `08, Obama got almost 80 percent of the black vote in South Carolina.
That was the night you knew not only did Obama have a shot at the nomination but he had a shot at winning support among black voters everywhere. Transformed his campaign. Had a lot to do with how that campaign went in South Carolina. Had something to do with Jim Clyburn.
WILLIAMS: Steve Kornacki at the big board, speaking of names in southern politics, I said Heflin, I meant Talmadge, I apologize. Steve, we cannot wait for your trip to continue on South. Thank you so much.
WILLIAMS: Coming up for us, if your friends are people you met in politics, you may need actual friends instead.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight. Politics is an incredible business. There they were last night in Orlando. Marco Rubio and Lindsey Graham. Mr. President calls him Lindsey Grame (ph), it`s all, well, nothing to see here, love this guy at the podium, Donald Trump.
But then our friends at "Deadline White House" with Nicolle Wallace felt it was their civic duty today to put something together just to remind us, in this crazy business of politics, where we`ve been, the brief history of Donald Trump, Marco Rubio, and Lindsey Graham.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: It`s Rubio.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: He`s always calling me Little Marco. And I`ll admit he`s taller than me, like 6`2", which is why I don`t understand why his hands are the size of someone who`s 5`2". Have you seen his hands? He says I`m sweating all the time. It`s hot in here. Am I sweating now? No, all right. He doesn`t sweat, he doesn`t sweat because his pores are clogged from the spray tan that he uses.
TRUMP: This guy, Lindsey Graham, you have a guy, he`s one of the dumbest human beings I`ve ever seen. I think Lindsey Grame (ph) is a disgrace and I think you have one of the worst representatives of any representative in the United States.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLNA: Stay in the race, just stop being a jackass. You don`t have to run for president and be the world`s biggest jackass.
TRUMP: And he gave me his number and I found the card. I wrote the number down. I don`t know if it`s the right number, let`s try it.
GRAHAM: Do you know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: And so the brief political history of Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham, and one Donald Trump. That is our broadcast for this evening. Thank you so very 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