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Swalwell quits 2020 race. TRANSCRIPT: 7/8/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Katie Benner, Michael Crowley, Errin Haines Whack, AB Stoddard

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, reports to Trump White House is closely watching the Jeffrey Epstein case in New York, the financier accused of sex trafficking because of his ties to a member of the Trump Cabinet and his decades long friendship with the President himself.

Also tonight, why would the attorney general try to diminish the testimony of Robert Mueller just nine days away and what we know about the testimony of a key Mueller witness on potential obstruction.

Plus, how the White House tonight has punished the British ambassador for candor.  Why Joe bidden apologize at campaign event and which Democrat has tonight decided he would not realistically going to be elected president.  All of it on this THE 11TH HOUR on this busy back to work Monday night begins now.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  This was day 900 of the Trump administration, 561 days remain in his presidential term and tonight, the Trump White House has a wary eye on an explosive case that the feds announced today to the north here in New York.  It`s a deeply disturbing and lured sex trafficking case involving this man, 66 years old.  He`s a multi millionaire financier named Jeffrey Epstein that has ties to the President and notably his Labor Secretary Alex Acosta, more on that angle in a moment.

Today, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York in effect the Manhattan office of the Justice Department charged Epstein with sex trafficking conspiracy and one count of sex trafficking.  Epstein has pleaded not guilty to the charges he faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.


GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  Beginning of at least 2002 and continuing until 2005, Epstein is alleged to have abused dozens of victims by causing them to engage in sex acts with him at his mansion in New York and at his estate in Palm Beach, Florida.  The victims, all underaged girls at the time of the alleged conduct, were given hundreds of dollars in cash after each encounter either by Epstein or by one of Epstein`s employees.

The alleged behavior shocks the conscience and while the charge conduct is from a number of years ago, it is still profoundly important to the many alleged victims now young women.  They deserve their day in court.


WILLIAMS:  Epstein is now behind bars.  He has a bail hearing on Monday.  If it`s up to the feds, he will not see the light of day.  He was arrested when his private jet landed here Saturday night after a flight from Paris.  His home was raided by the feds at the same time.

He`s had ties to several powerful figures as you can see here and once counted Donald Trump among his friends.  Here is how New York magazine quoted Trump for its profile of Epstein back in 2002.  "I`ve known Jeff for 15 years, terrific guy," Trump booms from a speaker phone.  "He`s a lot of fun to be with, it is even said he likes beautiful women as much as I do and many of them are on the younger side.  No doubt about it, Jeffrey enjoys his social life."

Epstein owns a $56 million give or take mansion on the upper east side of New York City. One of the largest private homes in all of Manhattan.  Prosecutors say they found what they describe as quote a "vast trove" of lewd photographs of young looking women or girls including what they say are clearly labeled CDs of photographs by various categories.

Today`s charges have renewed focus on Epstein`s previous arrest in Florida for sex crimes involving minors and the non-prosecution agreement he made with the feds back in 1908.  Epstein`s lawyers worked out a deal with the then U.S. attorney, Alex Acosta.  He would be the now Labor Secretary in the Trump government.  The deal Acosta agreed to allow Epstein to plead guilty to less serious state charges required that he register as a sex offender, serve about a year in jail most of it in a work release program with liberal rules of attendance.

At his nomination hearing in 2017, Acosta defended the deal.


SEN. TIM KAINE, (D) VIRGINIA, HEALTH, LABOR & PENSIONS CMTE.:  There is an allegation that I just read that you did not pursue a federal indictment even though your staff had advocated that you do so, is that accurate?

ALEX ACOSTA, LABOR SECRETARY:  The grand jury in Palm Beach County recommended a single count of solicitation not involving minors, I believe, and that would have resulted in zero jail time, zero registration as a sexual offender, and zero restitution for the victims in this case.  The matter was then presented to the U.S. attorney`s office.

We decided that a sentence or, how should I put this, that Mr. Epstein should plead guilty to two years, register as a sex offender and concede liability so that victims could get restitution.


WILLIAMS:  Again, he`s now facing 45 years, that agreement was the focus of a series of investigative reports sited by the feds by Miami Herald, Julie Brown.  Earlier this year Trump was asked whether he had concerned about Acosta`s handling of the Epstein case.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I really don`t know too much about it.  I know he`s done a great job as Labor Secretary and that seems like a long time ago but I know he`s been a fantastic Labor Secretary.


WILLIAMS:  Tonight, Politico is reporting the White House is, as you may imagine, closely watching the coverage of his past involvement in the Epstein plea deal.  One trump advisor who remains close to the administration telling Politico, "The next 72 hours are critical for Acosta.  This is a settled matter for people in the White House but it`s usually the response that kills you."

On another front, Trump`s battle with House Democrats over their inquiry into the Mueller report may be about to take a more confrontational turn.  Late today, House Judiciary Committee released written responses from Annie Donaldson, you may remember she served as Chief of Staff to former White House Counsel Don McGahn.  Donaldson answered the committee`s questions on paper notably, not in person about potential obstruction of justice by the President.  The committee says the White House blocked Donaldson from answering 212 of their questions, but she did confirm the accuracy of notes she made while working in the White House, notes that Mueller sited 65 times in his report.

For instance, she confirmed after trump fired Comey, she wrote in her notes is this the beginning of the end?  In nine days Mueller himself will testify before the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees both.  Today the Attorney General Bill Barr was asked about that upcoming hearing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Next week you`ve got Robert Mueller stepping before Congress for testimony.  Will you be watching and is there anything in particular that you`ll be keeping an eye on?

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  I don`t know if I`ll be watching in realtime but I`m sure what he says will get to me somehow.

So, I was disappointed to see him subpoenaed because I don`t think that serves any purpose dragging Bob Mueller up if he in fact is going to stick to the report.  It seems to me the only reason for doing that is to create some kind of public spectacle.  And if Bob decides that he doesn`t want to be subject to that, then the Department of Justice would certainly back him.


WILLIAMS:  It`s a lot to talk about and here for our lead off discussion on a Monday night, Jonathan Lemire, White House reporter for the Associated Press, Maya Wiley, former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now with the New School here in New York, and Katie Benner, Justice Department reporter for "The New York Times."  Welcome to all of you.

Maya, let`s begin with your old shop.  The feds here in New York, the U.S. attorney asked members of the press core not to draw conclusions about several things today including but not limited to the fact this is being argued by the public integrity or public corruption department of the feds here in New York and not those who would normally handle sex trafficking.  Are we doing the right thing and not reading too much into that?

MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  Well, I think if the U.S. attorney says don`t read too much into it, it`s important not to jump to conclusions.  We never should.


WILEY:  Certainly what is in the indictment does not have any public corruption in it, right?  So, from what we know so far, it is a sex trafficking case.  There could be other reasons why the public integrity unit might be the lawyers themselves.  It might be how the staffing is going.  There certainly could be other reasons.

But I think the point of the question and the reason we have the question is because of the clips you showed of Mr. Acosta and the fact that the indictment itself does go back to incidents that were covered by that first plea deal and the U.S. attorney also made clear this is not a problem because that plea deal only covered the Miami office.  It did not bind New York and some of the activities happened in New York that gives us jurisdiction.  We don`t have a legal problem here.  But the fact that it does cover those activities means raises the question.  Is there any investigation into whether or not there was anything inappropriate that was done out of that office?  Mr. Acosta was directly engaged in the discussion about the plea agreement as the U.S. attorney and, and remember, he didn`t even tell the victims about the plea agreement.

WILLIAMS:  That was --

WILEY:  That is not normal.

WILLIAMS:  That was huge.  What would it take to get the feds to agree to a deal like this?  What can you imagine it would take for a U.S. attorney to agree to a deal like this?

UWILEY:  In my experience, when line attorneys who are usually quite adapt experts at their job make a recommendation to a U.S. attorney about taking something as serious as sex trafficking minors, the allegations here, they knew there were up to 80 girls in this case, I don`t have an explanation.

WILLIAMS:  OK.  We`ll leave it at that.  Having established why this is not double jeopardy, Jonathan Lemire, let`s take on before we talk about the current president, let`s talk about a former president.


WILLIAMS:  Because Bill Clinton`s name has already come up alongside that of Jeffrey Epstein in fairness, here is the entire statement from the former president`s office tonight.  "President Clinton knows nothing about the terrible crimes Jeffrey Epstein pleaded guilty to in Florida some years ago or those with which he has been recently charged in New York.  In 2002 and 2003 president Clinton took a total of four trips on Jeffrey Epstein`s plane, one to Europe, one to Asia, two to Africa which included stops in connection with the work of the Clinton Foundation.  Staff, supporters of the foundation and his secret service detail traveled on every leg of every trip.  He had one meeting with Epstein in his Harlem office in 2002, and around the same time made one brief visit to Epstein`s New York apartment with a staff member and his security detail.  He`s not spoken to Epstein in well over a decade and has never been to Little St. James Island, Epstein`s ranch in New Mexico, or his residence in Florida."

Jonathan, nonetheless, there are reports tonight that I`ve seen on other networks linking Clinton to dozens of flights --

LEMIRE:  Right.

WILLIAMS:  -- on Epstein`s aircraft.  And now let`s talk about the current president, the level of worry according to your reporting in the White House.

LEMIRE:  Sure.  First, about the plane, you are right.  There are reports that up to a dozen or more flights he took on Epstein`s airplane which flies in the face of the former president`s smile here, that`s certainly going to require a lot of scrutiny in the days ahead.

WILLIAMS:  Along with a ton of boldface names.

LEMIRE:  Absolutely right, on both sides of the island, in different worlds, not just politics, but business and real estate, and so on.

In terms of the current president, according to our reporting, this matter wasn`t subject to much of the vetting process for Secretary Acosta during the nomination procedure, during the transition before he was given the Secretary of Labor post.  It is something we know this president, his instinct is to give the benefit of the doubt to powerful men when they are accused of things and sometimes that can be issues of the Me Too movement, we had seen him support let`s say Roger Ailes for instance, and of course most famously Roy Moore, the Senate candidate of Alabama who was accused of interactions with underage women as well, young girls, which were of the same resemblance of course to what we`re seeing here.

Our reporting in the last 4 hours or so, it leads a couple different threats.  One, the President himself and most White House-- his top aides are telling us what Politico is reporting as well, that right now Acosta`s job is safe.  The President himself doesn`t see pictures of matter of a long time ago, doesn`t see any immediate need to address the situation.  But, any White House, particularly this one, with such a media conscious president is going to carefully watch the reaction, the reaction in the press, certainly also the reaction in Congress.  And there has been some bipartisan criticism of this already.  There have been some Republicans who have denounced Epstein and are starting to dance around the idea of maybe Acosta should be held accountable, as well.  If that pressure increases, then Acosta could be in trouble.

As of this moment, the President is inclined to stick by him.  But that could change at any instance.

WILLIAMS:  I`m going to take a chance and ask you maybe to take a chance at a judgment.  Does this feel like we`re on the eve of what could be called a British style sex ring colossal story in this country?

LEMIRE:  It is possible that the rumors of Epstein have been out there for months and years.  There are certainly, you know, people who traffic in the media business.  I`ve heard some of them.

WILLIAMS:  Website Gawker was all over the story years ago.

LAMIRE:  Boldfaced name after boldface name.  That`s exactly right.  There is the possibility that this could all come tumbling down if he were to take a deal, if he were to flip, if he were to start naming names.  That could happen.

At the moment, though, it remains to be seen.  But I think it`s safe to say that a lot of very powerful and prominent men in this country are nervous tonight.

WILLIAMS:  OK.  Yes counsel.

WILEY:  He has good points.  Epstein does not have to be the one to flip.  There are three employees in this indictment, no reason to think any one of them who apparently were helping to book appointments --


WILEY:  -- if they had any information they might flip.  And the other thing we should remember about Mr. Acosta as his Labor Secretary, guess that what he`s responsible for.

WILLIAMS:  Human trafficking.  Yes, I realized that tonight.

Hey, Katie, to prove we can walk and chew gum and handle more than one topic at a time, though, all under the same kind of Trump administration umbrella, let`s talk about the guy you cover for a living and that`s the attorney general.  At first, he told us publicly he would have no objection if Mr. Mueller wanted to testify up on the Hill.  Now he`s saying he would back Mueller if he decided against it.  Just what is going on there that we can`t see?

KATIE BENNER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" JUSTICE DEPT. REPORTER:  I think that the Attorney General Barr is saying something that is technically true.  He is saying that Bob Mueller has already publicly said that if forced to testify before Congress, he intends to go no further in the four corners of the 448-page report that he has already written and submitted with the findings of his two-year investigation into both Russian election interference and any contact or cooperation between Russia and the Trump campaign.

So when Bill Barr says, listen, I don`t think this will make a ton of news because everybody already knows exactly what Robert Mueller is going to say, he is again technically correct.  But I think what this down plays is the real power of having Robert Mueller speak publicly will convey to audiences all across the country and the world.  We`ve already seen it happen once when Bob Mueller in May decided to come out and give a short speech saying that he was leaving the Justice Department, stepping down as special counsel, and in just 10 minutes outlined his top line findings, his top line findings, not Bill Barr`s version of them.  His top line findings of his investigation, including the fact that if he could have exonerated President Trump, he would have but he was not able to do so, and that reverberated throughout both Washington and the larger national conversation for days and days.

So who knows what having Robert Mueller speak for several hours before two different congressional committees will show and what it will surface for the American public who has not read the report.

WILLIAMS:  And Katie, yet another topic also on your beat, this has to do with the citizenship question on our national sentence -- census, forgive me, it`s Monday.  The Trump administration tried and lost on this before the Supreme Court.  None other than the chief justice found their reasoning contrived.  The A.G. says they are going to work -- try to work out a way to get it in there.  But tell us why all the lawyers inside DOJ who were working on the case are no longer working on the case.

BENNER:  First, a couple of things for context, it is not unusual for attorneys at the Justice Department who felt that they personally do not want to work on a case, it`s not unusual for them to say, I would rather stepped back from this.  It is highly unusual for every single lawyer in the fed program`s branch, which is the branch of the Justice Department that defends the federal government and the administration in court to all both political, the front office folks who are coming with the administration, and the career people to all step down from a case that is highly unusual.

I spoke with former department attorneys and officials who said they could only remember one other time this had happened.  So one, for context, this is extremely unusual of a move.  Two, there were seems to have been a massive amount of miscommunication between the White House and Justice Department in the days leading up to the decision.  You had the Supreme Court basically give its ruling, and you had President Trump tell Attorney General Bill Barr that he was extremely unhappy with it, that he didn`t want it to stand and that he wanted to find a way around it.

Now, certainly Bill Barr was having those conversations with the President, he was cognizant of the President`s views.  But because one, the census forms that already begun to print, and, you know, two, because the Supreme Court ruling was what it was.  He still proceeded with his own employees to say, listen, right now the issue is dormant and we can almost come back to it.  So you saw the Justice Department attorneys go out and represent themselves publicly and then very humiliating fashion be contradicted by the President on Twitter.

It`s hard to imagine a worse set of circumstances.  It`s hard to imagine a worse outcome for all parties involved.  Everybody looks like they were caught flat footed.  And so now we have an entirely new team of attorneys taking over.

And keep in mind, the Justice Department has still not filled out the slots.  I received e-mail showing me that managers within the Justice Department are still trying to recruit for that team of attorneys that will work on the census question and work on the citizenship question -- on the census, excuse me, and they are still struggling to find people.

WILLIAMS:  As I said, it`s Monday, but the always diplomatic Katie Benner just handled that beautifully.

Jonathan Lemire, you get the last word, we see various ranges on Twitter, what`s the worry in chief these days for the commander in chief, do you think?

LEMIRE:  Well, this should be a good time for the President.  He received poll numbers today from ABC Washington post poll, the highest of his presidency, it`s about 47 percent, I believe, largely on the backs of a strong economy.  But we`re not seeing that.  We are seeing the Mueller shadow still looms.  There is definitely nervousness in the West Wing about that appearance next week.

The Jeffrey Epstein stuff in the last couple days, again, has rattled some doors in there.  And we`ve seen the President take his rage out in an unlikely place.  Fox News even was a subject of a tweet storm over the weekend.  Complaining about the coverage there and per our reporting, he feels that some of the other cable networks perhaps don`t treat him charitably and he feels like Fox News should be on his team, should be loyal one advisor put it to me, yo him, his cause, the White House and the Republicans and because they are not, it is led to an angry tweet storm and irate phone calls to Rupert Murdoch and other executives over at the network.

WILLIAMS:  Oh, so much to talk about, so little time.  But our thanks on this Monday night to our guests, to Jonathan Lemire, to Maya Wiley and Katie Benner, we greatly appreciate all three of you joining us as we start off a new week.

And coming up for us, the growing tension between our country and our oldest ally now that we know what a top diplomat really thinks about Donald Trump.

And later, the Democratic field shrinks by one but now we`re hearing it may grow by two.  You need a program to follow these Democrats.  We are that program and our campaign update is coming up as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Monday night.


WILLIAMS:  This is rare in the diplomacy business but tonight we`re able to read and hear how the British ambassador to the U.S. really feels about the President of the U.S.  NBC News has confirmed the authenticity of leaked diplomatic cable sent from the British ambassador back to headquarters, the home office in London.  In them, the ambassador describes Donald Trump as insecure and incompetent.

NBC News reports, "the cable thought to be secure were critical of Trump`s economic policies claiming they could wreck the world trade system described conflicts within the White House as "knife fights" and warned the worst cannot be ruled out in regard to allegations of Trump`s collusion with Russia."

In one leaked document, the ambassador wrote, "We don`t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal, less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction driven, less diplomatically clumsy and inept."

President Trump responded today saying, "I do not know the ambassador but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S.  We will no longer deal with him."

Hours later the White House confirmed the ambassador had been disinvited from a diplomatic dinner this evening.  "Washington Post" reports before all this Trump officials had a generally cordial relationship with British diplomats and regularly partied at the embassy.  "The Post" also reports that the ambassador himself frequently meets with John Bolton and had early morning breakfast meetings with John Kelly, the former Chief of Staff.

We learn tonight the British government is investigating the leak internally and the possibility of a cyber attack, which is part of what we`re going to discuss with our guest tonight, Michael Crowley, White House Correspondent covering foreign policy for "The New York Time."

Michael, so much to talk about, number one, were you surprised more by the content and candor inside these or the fact they leaked it all?

MICHAEL CROWLEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  I think the fact that they leaked it all really struck me, Brian.  I mean, that`s quite unusual.  You know we have had some leaks in this country of some of Trump`s phone calls with foreign leaders and prior to that we had of course WikiLeaks got a bunch of diplomatic cables.  So it`s not totally unprecedented in world diplomatic history but never seen anything -- it`s not common and never seen anything like it out of the U.K.  That said, the language in the cables is pretty raw, and particularly when it`s out there in the public light, it does a lot of damage to the diplomatic relationship.

WILLIAMS:  But on that note, I want to play for you something Jeremy Bash formerly of Pentagon and CIA said on Nicole Wallace`s broadcast at 4:00 Eastern Time today.


JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Do you know who else widely shares these views?  Our government, our own national security professionals, leaders of the Pentagon, leaders in he Intelligence Community, even Republicans on Capitol Hill, don`t tell anybody.  They actually --

NICOLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST:  And how should we know.

BASH:  -- they actually believe that our White House is dysfunctional --


BASH:  -- it`s chaotic, there is infighting that Trump is not going to change.  When you want to tell him something, be simple, be blunt.  That was the analysis that Sir Kim Derrick played out for his government.


WILLIAMS:  So you heard it there, Michael.  The guy was saying nothing you can`t hear throughout Washington.

CROWLEY:  That`s right. He wasn`t saying that much you couldn`t get from reading the newspaper or even watching cable television.  So on some level, Brian, I was a little disappointed because I hoped we would get some very juicy specific details about, you know, meetings he had been in or real detailed palace intrigue.  Instead, what we saw was kind of the broad contours of the critique of the Trump administration that is familiar by now.

But having said that, it`s very extraordinary, very unusual for that language to be made public, to come from a foreign government, to basically have proof that a diplomat who is visiting the White House, you know, smiling and greeting Trump aides, I`m sure, being a consummate diplomat, I`ve been in the presence of the ambassador, very, you know, skillful smooth guy to see exactly what he`s saying behind the scenes is startling.  And also, I`m sure, I mean clearly has infuriated the President and that can have real consequences for the U.S., U.K. special relationship, which is now in the worst shape.  It`s been in, I think, since anyone can remember since World War II at least.

WILLIAMS:  It`s extra special to be sure. It`s extra special to be sure.  And, Michael, about the cause, a lot of people went immediately to believing this was Russia because so much of their cyber effort has been to turn ally against ally and foment ill will.  This would perfectly fall in that definition.

CROWLEY:  Absolutely, Brian.  I think maybe it wasn`t my first reaction on reading the story because I was kind of amazed that I was seeing all this and absorbing the details.  But maybe my second question was, why are we seeing this?  Where is it coming from?

And I do think pretty quickly that this would have the hallmarks of some sort of a Russian hack and release.  Vladimir Putin loves to drive a wedge between Western allies within the NATO alliance, the Transatlantic Alliance, the United States and its allies in Europe

Having said that, there`s seems to be no specific evidence to that effect and I would note that the author of the original story was tweeting today suggesting that people were -- I don`t know if she actually used the word conspiracy theory but she was saying that people were getting a little carried away in their theories about how this had come to light, and was suggesting that it was disgruntled civil servants.

That may not be the last word on the matter but it does make me think that in this case for once the Russians may not be behind it.

VELSHI:  Michael Crowley, great to see you again.  Thank you again for coming on our broadcast as always.

CROWLEY:  Thanks, Brian.

WILLIAMS:  And coming up for us, the Democratic front runner issues the apology some people wanted to hear as new polling indicates he is still President Trump`s number one biggest threat at this point when we continue.



JILL BIDEN, JOE BIDEN`S WIFE:  I mean, the one thing you cannot say about Joe is that he`s a racist.  I mean, he got into politics because of his commitment to civil rights.


WILLIAMS:  Dr. Jill Biden talking about her husband, the former vice President Joe Biden who apologized this weekend in his effort to fend off criticism for comments he made about working while in the US Senate with senators who were segregationist.  It even came as new polling shows that he may have the best chance still at this early date of beating President Trump.

It`s a poll from the Washington Post and ABC News.  It puts Biden ahead of Trump by 10 points making him the only candidate with a double digit lead in the general election.  Again, national poll as we always say, elections are 50 of them on the state level.

Back with us tonight two superb writers in this area, AB Stoddard, Columnist and Associate Editor at RealClearPolitics and Errin Haines Whack is back with us, National Writer covering race and ethnicity for the Associated Press.

Erin, I`d like to begin with you with a dual question.  Number one, are you convinced that average outside the Twitter card or Democrats took offense, expected an apology from Joe Biden and, B, are you convinced that said apology did the job?

ERRIN HAINES WHACK, NATIONAL WRITER, RACE & ETHNICITY, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS:  Well, good evening, Brian, good to be with you.  And thanks for that reminder that, again, Twitter is not America.

And, you know, I think that what we continue to see the polls that you eluded to is that, you know, the vice president still does enjoy support particularly among older black voters who do feel that he is the best candidate to beat President Donald Trump, which again and again people tell me is their top priority in this 2020 election.

So, you know, three weeks after the vice president makes these initial comments, you see him apologizing in South Carolina.  He says that this is an apology that he wanted to make to people that he felt would maybe be the most affected by that apology.  However, you did on that debate stage have somebody in Senator Kamala Harris who was asking for him to express regret for the remarks and at least at that point, he did not think that was necessarily.

While he did lose some support in the polls like you said, he has that double digit lead over the President and still has support among black voters.  I think that really what this shows obviously two weeks ahead of the next presidential debate where he probably will be on the stage again with Senator Harris, this is not a topic that he wants on that stage with him at the end of this month.  He wants to change the subject and move on to other issues but I think that the bottom line for voters and especially a lot of black voters, racism is very much on the ballot.

WILLIAMS:  And, AB, along those lines, you watched the debate along with us.  Did Kamala Harris leave a mark?  Did she leave lasting damage in the moment, in the subject of busing?

AB STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS:  I think what`s interesting is that sort of the challenge/attack that she practiced for Joe Biden seemed to sort of affirmatively help her.  It didn`t so much cut into Joe Biden`s support but it really did help her.  It gave her $2 million very quickly and she was behind in fundraising and it generated a lot of excitement and got her a bunch of new congressional black caucus endorsements and a whole bunch of Google searches and excited new voters who believe that because of the way she challenged Joe Biden, that she could debate Donald Trump on stage and really take him on.

So though it helps her and in some quarters hurt her with people in the establishment and Joe Biden supporters and do not want to see him cut down that way in such a personal way, I do think that Biden seems to be riding out this incident.  He`s wise to put it behind him well in advance of the next debate to talk about the futures he says and get this behind him.

It is early yet.  I mean, it is not -- I`ve said this so many times.  It`s not going to be a coronation for Joe Biden.  It`s not going to be easy if he becomes the nominee.  He will get beaten up a bit along the way or a lot but it is very early considering that we`re not going to see a presumptive nominee until late spring of next year.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, thank you for that reminder.  Both AB and Errin have agreed to stay with us just over this break.

And coming up, Eric Swalwell becomes the first to drop out of the 2020 race.  But before the Democrats can narrow the stage for the next debate in Detroit, tonight, there`s talk of two more people getting in, more on that when we come back.


REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D-CA), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Today ends our presidential campaign but it is the beginning of an opportunity in Congress with a new perspective, shaped by the lives that have touched mine and our campaign throughout these last three months to bring that promise of America to all Americans.

WILLIAMS:  California Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell becomes the first major Democratic candidate to bow out of the 2020 race effective that announcement.

As Alex Burns of the New York Times so beautifully put it, you`re Swalwell burned out long before your legend ever did.  Swalwell did qualify for the first Democratic debate but as floundered with fundraising and support in the polls.  It is very likely more candidates are going to soon follow his example.

Political put it this way today, the winnowing process is about to begin, shades of hunger games.  Some strategists predict the field could be down to as few as eight.  Can you imagine by the Iowa caucus and by the way, a reminder that isn`t until February of next year.

Still with us AB Stoddard and Errin Haines Whack.  Errin, I`ve got to ask you as they say on all the nature specials, are we about to see a thinning of the herd?

WHACK:  Well, you know, I don`t know how many Democratic candidates you can fit on a debate stage but we may well find out before next year.

Listen, you know, I think this is exactly what we expected.  As you mentioned, you had Eric Swalwell dropping out, you know, in the wake of this of a not great showing in the first presidential debate.  I think we may be -- we`ll see some more people fall off here after this upcoming presidential debate in Detroit at the end of this month, and then you`ve got more debating coming up later this summer.

You know, but I think even former Georgia gubernatorial candidate, Stacey Abrams said that she still had time --

WILLIAMS:  That`s right.

WHACK:  -- to think about whether or not she wants to get into this race or not.  So, you know, remember we`ve got seven months like you said until Iowa and some 484 days until November 3, 2020.  And so that`s plenty of time for these candidates to still introduce themselves to voters and for a nominee to emerge.

WILLIAMS:  OK.  AB, Errin has reminded us.  Take us -- taka a breath, return to our happy place.  And in the meantime, we have to discuss Mr. Amash of Michigan.

With great fanfare and ceremony, he is saying goodbye to the Republican Party.  He is not closing the door to the notion of running as a third party candidate.  One of my favorite games in politics, AB, is to ask the question, who would that hurt if he ran or as if anyone ran as a substantive third party candidate?

STODDARD:  Well, if Justin Amash ran, he would get conservatives who if we end up seeing a progressive nominated on the Democratic side who is willing to eliminate private insurance for nearly 200 million Americans and is happy to provide health care coverage to immigrants who came here illegally would be a better choice for never Trump, Republicans and some libertarians and independents and that would peel away votes from the non-Donald Trump candidate, meaning the Democrat and it would help President Trump win.

WILLIAMS:  And what about Mr. Amash?  Do you think this is going to become a reality?

STODDARD:  I`m interested that he continues to flirt with this idea because I don`t think he wants to be a spoiler to reelect President Trump.  So I think it`s so interesting that he continues to get asked this all the time and he never, you know, dismisses it.  He says he just doesn`t know and I don`t know what his next move is.

Maybe it stands to reason that that`s all he could do.  That he can`t win a primary as an independent in his district, that he can`t seek higher office in the state.

I just think that he feels very strongly as a constitutional conservative about Donald Trump`s presidency.  Doing a lot of damage to our system and I just can`t believe he`d run as a third party candidate and pave the way for Donald Trump to get reelected.

WILLIAMS:  Heck of a note to end on a Monday night but as we do so, our thanks to our friends AB Stoddard and Errin Haines Whack.  Thank you very much, both of you, for participating in our political discussion tonight.

And coming up for us, Trump calls reports on the dire situation at migrant facilities phony.  His acting homeland security chief calls them unsubstantiated.  The human rights chief of the UN has come to a different conclusion, our late update on this situation when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Franklin Roosevelt once said, "A nation does not have to be cruel in order to be tough," perhaps a quote to keep in mind as we watch what`s happening regarding the treatment of the migrants streaming over into the US.

The latest on this story can be summed up by the Washington Post headline that reads, "UN Human Right`s chief deeply shocked by migrant detention center conditions in Texas."  Or by the reporting over the weekend by the New York Times that, "Outbreak of scabies, shingles, chicken pox were spreading among the hundreds of children and adults who where being held in cramped cells," agent said.

"The stench of the children`s dirty clothing was so strong it spread to the agents` own clothing.  People in town would scrunch their noses when they left work.  The children cried constantly."  The administration is now responding to all of this just yesterday on this week on ABC.  The acting homeland security secretary was on the defensive.


KEVIN MCALEENAN, DHS ACTING SECRETARY:  You referenced three things that were unsubstantiated, inadequate food, inadequate water and unclean cells.  This is an extraordinarily challenging situation.  We had an overflow situation with hundreds of children crossing every day.  We have no evidence that children went hungry, first of all.  Police station cells are not a good place for children.


WILLIAMS:  The President continues to support his own administration`s treatment of the migrants, posting social messages that again blame, "fake news and the Democrats for the immigration crisis."

Just today, Vice President Mike Pence announced on Friday "The second lady and I will travel to the US/Mexico border at McAllen, Texas, with a bipartisan delegation of members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  The Senate passed bipartisan humanitarian relief, but much more must be done to secure our border and end the crisis."

It will hardly be a surprise visit.  Several days ago, several members of Congress toured migrant facilities in both Texas and Florida.


JOAQUIN CASTRO (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  When we went into the cell, it was clear that the water was not running.  There was a toilet but there was no running water for people to drink.

REP. AYANNA PRESSLEY (D), ILLINOIS:  But I want to talk about their parents, the mothers, the abuleas, the tias, the madres that I sat with who wept openly in our arms, not even knowing our names.  Because of the trauma they are experiencing and because they don`t know where their children are.


WILLIAMS:  It was just last week you`ll recall the federal office of the inspector general released heart wrenching pictures of the overcrowded detention centers.  And according to their own report, "Children had limited access to a change of clothes and two facilities had not provided children access to hot meals," and so on from there.

Coming up for us, after one more break, it`s a rare event designed to thank our nation`s heroes and we get to see it in this city this week when we continue.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight.  The US Women`s Soccer team crushed the World Cup.  They did so by crushing the Netherlands 2-0, as we say here in the US.

The TV ratings crushed the men`s ratings.  Their performance of the US Women has generally crushed the men`s team.  And so it wasn`t a surprise to hear this chant arise from the American fans in the stands in France.


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKERS (in unison):  Equal pay!  Equal pay!  Equal pay!  Equal pay!


WILLIAMS:  If you want to understand the issue of equal pay in the workplace, look no further.  Men and women soccer players share a workplace of green grass, real or fake, and yet there is a real disparity in how the green gets handed out.

The women are suing the US Soccer Federation for better pay and better treatment.  The bonus money is a fraction of what the men get.

And yes, on top of the pay equity issue, like everything else in 2019, the team and the president and the sport have all become intertwined in politics, but let us just for one night perhaps leave that aside.

Let`s focus on the victory.  Let`s feel good for team USA.  These tremendous athletes and their upcoming honor bestowed upon other heroes in our nation`s history.  A ticker-tape parade through the so-called Canyon of Heroes here in New York City on Wednesday morning for their fourth World Cup and to say thank you for a job well done.

That is our broadcast on this Monday night as we start this new work week.  Thank you so much for being here with us.  Goodnight 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