NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL: Justice Stevens stood for that.
LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR: As is perfectly appropriate for this program, Neal Katyal gets tonight`s LAST WORD on Justice Stevens. Thank you very much for joining us tonight. We really appreciate.
KATYAL: Thank you.
O`DONNELL: That is tonight`s LAST WORD. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight, the House of Representatives votes to condemn racist remarks by the President. And yet the President who claim again today he doesn`t have a racist bone in his body continues to go after four women of color, all duly elected members of Congress.
And the Republican who is no stranger to criticism or press scrutiny who is considering challenging the President in his own party on the economy. The reporter who broke the story is standing by for us.
And a towering figure of American law is gone nine months from his 100th birthday. Tonight how the story of Justice John Paul Stevens would be simply impossible in the America of 2019. All of it as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Tuesday night.
Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters in New York. This was day 908 of the Trump administration, and while there is no joy in it, one way of summing up today is this. Our government is broken, our politics are broken, Washington is no longer functional, and the cracks in our society are deepening. Much of this day was taken up by the discussion of racist statements by the President.
Then tonight came the news that had so many people thinking back to when we were different, the death just tonight of retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens at the age of 99. We`ll have more on his extraordinary life and legacy later on in this broadcast.
But first, to the news of this day and tonight that includes a rebuke of the President of the United States, a vote of Congress to condemn him for telling four members of Congress, all U.S. citizens, to go back to their home countries.
"The Washington Post" described the scene on the House floor earlier this evening, "The imagery of the 240 to 187 vote was stark. A diverse democratic caucus cast the President`s words as an affront to millions of Americans, and descendants of immigrants while Republican lawmakers, the vast majority of them white men stood with trump against a resolution that rejected his racist comments that have legitimized fear and hatred of new Americans and people of color."
Only four Republicans in the House voted against the President. Here they are, Will Hurd of Texas, Brian Fitzpatrick, Pennsylvania, Susan Brooks, Indiana, Fred Upton, Michigan, they all voted for the Democrat`s resolution. Former Republican, now Independent, Justin Amash of Michigan also voted with the Democrats.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, a Republican of Louisiana and Democratic Congressman John Lewis of Georgia each offered their own closing argument shortly before the vote was called.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. STEVE SCALISE, (R) LOUISIANA, MINORITY WHIP: Rather than engaging in this constant barrage of personality attack that we`ve seen week after week after week, the American people expect us to be spending our time up here fighting for the issues they care about.
REP. JOHN LEWIS, (D) GEORGIA: I know racism when i see it. I know racism when i feel it. And at the highest level of government, there is no room for racism. As a nation and as a people, we need to go forward and not backward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: We should probably add the obvious, John Lewis is an icon of the Civil Rights Movement. This afternoon`s vote was preceded by a raucous floor session which erupted after Speaker Pelosi openly called Trump`s remarks racist. Republicans immediately moved to have her words stricken from the record. Along a party line vote, her words remained.
Hours earlier at the White House, Trump continued his attacks on the four members of Congress for a third day, repeating his grievances during a morning Cabinet meeting.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It`s up to them. Go wherever they want or they can stay. But they should love our country. They shouldn`t hate our country.
I think it`s terrible when people speak so badly about our country, when people speak so horribly. I have a list of things here. I`m not going to bore you with it because you would be bored. You wouldn`t write it, anyway. But I have a list of things here said by the congresswomen that is so bad, so horrible that I almost don`t want to read it, it`s so bad.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, isn`t it a core value to be able to criticize this country? Isn`t that a core American value?
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The President also defended his attacks on social media, writing this, "Those tweets were not racist. I don`t have a racist bone in my body. The so-called vote to be taken is a Democrat con game. Republicans should not show weakness and fall into their trap."
Republican leaders seem to have taken that last line to heart. Today they lined up to swear their unfailing loyalty and devotion to Donald Trump, even when the questions were a tad close to home.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: You`re married to an immigrant that is a nationalized U.S. citizen. If someone were to her she should go back to her country as a criticism of federal policies, wouldn`t you consider that a racist attack?
SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) KENTUCKY, MAJORITY LEADER: Well, the Secretary of Transportation came here at age eight, legally, not speaking a word of English, and has realized the American dream.
I think everybody ought to tome down their rhetoric.
The President is not a racist, and I think the tone of all of this is not good for the country.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Were the President`s tweets that said "go back" a racist? Yes or no?
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA, MINORTY LEADER: No. I believe this is about ideology. This is about socialism versus freedom.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The administration`s defense of the President`s words started this morning with White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Fox News.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: They represent a dark underbelly in this country.
Stop being so afraid of and adoring of four people who got here few short months ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Not long after that, Conway reignited the controversy during an exchange with the reporter on the White House driveway.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the President was not telling these four congresswomen to return to their supposed countries of origin, to which countries was he referring?
CONWAY: What`s your ethnicity?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why is that relevant to this --
CONWAY: No, no, because I`m asking you a question. My ancestors are from Ireland and Italy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My own ethnicity is not relevant to the question I`m asking.
CONWAY: No, no, it is, because you`re asking about he said originally. He said originally from. He`s tired. A lot of us are sick and tired of this country, of America coming last to people who swore an oath of office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: That`s about how that went. And here for a lead-off discussion on a Tuesday night, Robert costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post" and moderator of "Washington Week" PBS. Donna Edwards, former Democratic member of Congress from the great State of Maryland, now a "Washington Post" columnist. And Tim O`Brien back with us as well, Executive Editor of Bloomberg Opinion, he also happens to be the author of "Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald." Good evening and welcome to you all.
And Robert, I`d like to begin with you. Everything at the -- everybody at the White House OK with this? This is now a third straight day`s news cycle taken up by this, or do they see this as an effective weapon of some sort?
ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: An effective weapon, perhaps. They argue about the 2020 presidential race dividing the country. They know they have inflamed the nation`s civil fabric with the President`s racist tweets and comments that began on Sunday. At the same time, Brian, talking to my top sources tonight, Republicans in Congress, and some even in the White House, acknowledge that the President may have played a reelection strategy here, but he has jeopardized his congressional agenda. He still has to try to get the USMCA trade deal through, still has to try to extend the debt limit. All of that up in the air as the Democrats move forward with this legislation, including with a few Republicans.
WILLIAMS: Donna Edwards, I need an honest answer. You`re the only former member of Congress we`ve got to ask this question of, are you surprised only four Republicans climbed over?
DONNA EDWARDS, (D) MARYLAND, FMR. U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN: Actually I was surprised and pretty sudden that that`s true. I mean, the history books in United States are going to record that the President of the United States was condemned by the Congress as a racist. And, you know, he may say he doesn`t have racist bones in his body, but everything about what he`s done, from the birtherism to the Charlottesville on both sides to these current statements really speak to his racism. And it`s unfortunate that Republicans in Congress, more than just four of them and one Independent, could not find their way to condemn the President statements.
WILLIAMS: Tim O`Brien, we often have you on the air with a mutual friend of ours and a Pulitzer winner from "The Washington Post" Eugene Robinson because you gentlemen are so good together here in the studio. I want to show you Eugene`s reaction on this network earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST: Go back to Africa was a chant from the segregationists who tried to keep students from integrating what had been previously all-white schools, who tried to keep public accommodations segregated for whites only. And that`s essentially what the President has said. Not just essentially, that`s literally what the President said to four congressmen, women of color.
I`m not quite ready to go all the way to the political ramifications of this or that, it just has to be called out as unacceptable racism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Tim, as the Trump expert here, so much can be done with a wink and a nod when you`re a civilian. You can even question whether or not a President of the United States was born in Kenya.
When you`re president, the stakes get higher. To Eugene`s point, is this bigger than we`ve played it, but just because life is like the frog-boiling experiment? You know, I`m sitting here watching Kellyanne Conway on a sweltering hot day in Washington thinking, you know, they have an air- conditioned briefing room --
TIM O`BRIEN, AUTHOR "TRUMPNATION": That`s right.
WILLIAMS: -- just inside that building, but we stopped using that.
O`BRIEN: And, you know, Kellyanne Conway, I think who is usually fairly deft on her feet in terms of pursuing her agenda and turning these kind of questions on her own interlocutors started to go down as very slippery slope of questioning a reporter about his ethnicity. And I know I know where she was probably trying to take that, which was to sort of say we all have these inherent biases, we all come from somewhere else. But on a day like this, it shows how tone-deaf.
And I think almost to the -- I would call it even hateful this White House can be around this specific issue, which is the issue of race. And they are tone-deaf and hateful because I think it`s coming from the top.
Donald Trump didn`t start being a racist when he got inaugurated as President. There`s a long history behind this. He and his father were prosecuted by the -- not prosecuted, but sanctioned by the Justice Department for discriminating against perspective tenants of color at their housing developments in the 1970s.
Trump inserted himself in the late 1980s into the Central Park Five jogger case. He continued to claim that the Latino and black teenagers falsely accused of assaulting that woman were guilty. He always talks even now about people having good genes.
There`s a whole series of boxes you could tick off about what do we define racism by, and he ticks off every one of those boxes. When he did that as a private individual, I don`t think people winked at it. You know, he became -- you know, he was exiled in a lot of ways from New York life, from business circles and social circles.
But as I think you correctly point out, as a private citizen and as a businessman, the radius of his damage was much tighter. He is now the leader of the most powerful western democracy. And he`s failing to overcome his past, and instead what he`s doing is wallowing in the worst parts of himself. And racism is clearly one of those parts.
WILLIAMS: The aforementioned leader of the most powerful western democracy has just employed his cell phone inside the residency of the modern air- conditioned White House. "So great to see," this is -- let`s see here -- 11:05, just as we were underway. "So great to see how unified the Republican Party was on today`s vote concerning statements I made about four Democrat congresswomen. If you really want to see statements, look at the horrible things they said about our country, Israel and much more. They are now the top, most visible members of the House Democrats, who are now wedded to this bitterness and hate. The Republican vote was 187-4. Wow! Also, this was the first time since 1984 that the Speaker of the House was ruled out of order and broke the rules of the House. Quite a day."
Robert Costa, you just railed off of the top of your head a list of the things not being done. It`s an enormous list of things not being done. And when in a city like this, New Yorkers watch the lights go out on a Saturday night, plunging the city into darkness, say nothing of the fact that the mayor is out running for president in Iowa. That`s for a conversation at another time. It puts things like, I`ll say it, infrastructure into the public mind and the public consciousness front and center.
COSTA: And let`s not, as a reporter here, put aside these Republican votes who supported the legislation. Two of them, one Will Hurd from Texas, African-American, a veteran. He said, "enough." He broke with his party. Brian Fitzpatrick, the key swing district, the Philadelphia suburbs of Pennsylvania, Bucks County. He said, "I`m going with the Democrats" and he`s a former FBI agent, a retired FBI agent, one of the most competitive seats in the country.
There are cracks in this party. Most of them, when I talk to them privately, they say, as Senator Sanders told me today at "The Post," that they live in fear of the President because they need his political capital to win reelection in 2020. But they also know they have to face history. And history will look back at these moments. But they say they`ve already swept along in this rip tide, ever really since not just 2015 and 2016, but 2011and 2012 when everyone from Mitt Romney, now a senator from Utah, to other top Republicans accepted the support of a birther in Donald John Trump then a businessman, who questioned whether President Obama was from this country. This kind of attack has been central to President Trump`s political career for at least the last decade, making others, opponents, feel like they`re not American and casting them in that way.
WILLIAMS: And, Bob, how do they pass something that used to be just one of the things they did like the debt ceiling, which is looming?
COSTA: It`s going to be very difficult. You know, the Treasury Secretary and Steve Mnuchin essentially pleading with Congress to extend the debt limit. Now he thinks it`s going to come up by September, not later in the year. You have the full faith and credit of the United States on the line. The markets, which have been spiked up would be rattled by any kind of failure to extend the debt limit.
But how, in a Congress that is so on edge, that you have them fighting on the floor of the House of Representatives about racism and the President, how can they get anything done? Speaker Pelosi, her top allies tell me wants to get something done. She thinks she can get a budget deal, perhaps even before recess, but it`s a challenge for her because she has so many Democrats now, because of the President`s conduct saying, enough. We don`t want to deal with him on the debt limit or immigration or anything. We need to impeach him now. And that`s what Speaker Pelosi is facing, those tremors in the ground.
WILLIAMS: So, Donna Edwards, again, as our former member of Congress, could you make an argument that Trump has diluted the power of Congress to get things done, or is that too oxymoronic to withstand scrutiny?
EDWARDS: No, I don`t think so. But I do think that there is a reckoning coming for the Republican Party because they`re not going to be successful. And, you know, the President drivers this race baiting narrative because he sees it as a way, I think, to gin up his base so that he can hold on to that 35 percent or 40 percent going in to the election. But it`s simply not going to work.
And I think that for the President, if he wants to get anything done at all that he can tout as an accomplishment, he`s not going to do it like this. And I`m with the rest of the Democrats. I`m ready to wash my hands of this President because he`s just too slimy and he`s just too dirty. And you know what? I wouldn`t put it past him to throw up another distraction next week because he knows that Robert Mueller is going to be on Capitol Hill. And that, I think, is going to be a turning point in terms of the way that Democrats, and perhaps some Republicans, maybe a hand full of them are going to be willing to deal with this President of the United States.
WILLIAMS: Tim O`Brien, I say this guardedly, but this is a related topic, and that is Jeffrey Epstein who now be -- maybe the best known sexual predator in the United States. This was today`s NBC News reporting on it. And what exactly they`ve recovered from his New York mansion. "The passport," this other passport with his photo but a different name, "was for personal protection in the event of travel to dangerous areas, only to be presented to potential kidnappers, hijackers or terrorists should violent episodes occur, his lawyer, Reed Weingarten wrote in court papers Tuesday, saying that Epstein`s Jewish faith and ample finances made him a target in the Middle East. In addition to the passport, federal agents found piles of cash and dozens of diamonds inside a safe in his townhouse. In court papers filed Tuesday, the prosecutors detailed the discovery, $70,000 in cash," as people do, "and 48 loose diamonds ranging from 1 to 2.38 carats."
I don`t mean to laugh. None of this is funny. Question to you, having reported on guys like Epstein in this circle, how far does this go?
O`BRIEN: Well, the court obviously has reason to worry about Jeffrey Epstein being a flight risk because --
WILLIAMS: Two jets.
O`BRIEN: Two jets.
WILLIAMS: A couple of diamonds.
O`BRIEN: But you know, if you want to get across borders, you have a lot of cash, you have diamonds. They can tell whatever story they want about the passport, but everything else in that safe speaks to someone who wanted to be able to get out of town quickly and not be traced.\
I think there is still two big shoes to drop in this case. The first one is what is the southern district of New York going to find in his files? Videotapes or photographs. You know, he had cameras all over his Houses. So I think there`s got to be a certain number of men who are worried about what that evidence might show.
I think the other really interesting thing in all this is, and it`s still the big mysteries, how did Jeffrey Epstein make his money? How did he wined up being able to stick $70,000 in cash and diamonds into a safe for safekeeping? It`s not clear to me that he would have done that only through bribing people about dirty secrets he might have on videotapes. I think there is a possibility that he ran illicit financial transactions for clients. He might have parked stock. He could have laundered money. This is entirely speculative.
But the feds say he made about $10 million a year and he did that consistently over a number of years. He made about $500 million in assets. That kind of money wouldn`t just be popping in and out of his accounts if all he was doing was opportunistically bribing wealthy people.
So, if he is, you know, if he is more of the Bernie made off kind of characters is develops, there`s also going to be a whole range of relationships tied to that that could be also embarrassing for a lot of very powerful and wealthy people.
WILLIAMS: Exactly. That`s the world we`re living in. In July of 2019, with our great thanks to our leadoff guests tonight, Robert Costa, Congresswoman Donna Edwards and Tim O`Brien. Thank you for starting off our discussion.
And coming up, the surprise possible opponent who could try to take on Donald Trump in a Republican primary.
Later, the voters will get to decide whether or not it`s offensive to tell an American to go back where they came from. More on the issue of race in this 2020 campaign.
And as we go to break on this 50th anniversary of the Launch of Apollo 11, look at that. Pictures of the projection of the great Saturn V rocket onto the side of the Washington monument tonight on behalf of a grateful nation as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Tuesday night.
WILLIAMS: You may know the face, former South Carolina governor and Republican Congressman Mark Sanford says he is mulling over a primary challenge to fellow Republican President Trump. In an interview with Caitlyn Byrd of the Charleston "The Post and Courier," Sanford said he`ll take the next month to think about a potential run. He says he wants to push the debate on the deficit and government spending and says, "Sometimes in life you`ve got to say what you`ve got to say, whether there`s an audience or not for that message. I feel convicted."
"The Post and Courier" points out that Sanford would face huge odds against getting any traction with his own party. The South Carolina Republican Party chairman issued a statement that reads, "The last time Mark Sanford had an idea this dumb, it killed his governorship. This makes about as much sense as that trip up the Appalachian Trail." That, of course, a reference to Sanford`s 1909 extramarital affair and the cover story for when he was visiting his mistress in Argentina.
Sanford has been a frequent critic of President Trump. He lost his House seat after Trump endorsed his primary opponent in 2018, but then the seat ultimately fell to the Democrats.
With us for more, the aforementioned Caitlyn Byrd, Political Reporter for "The Post and Courier" newspaper in Charleston, South Carolina, and Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor for "Politico."
Hey, Caitlyn, start with just an aside here. That quote didn`t read right. Was it are reading or is there something I`m missing. Why does he feel convicted?
CAITLIN BYRD, THE POST AND COURIER POLITICAL REPORTER: He feels a lot of conviction, the quote is correct, he did say --
WILLIAMS: Oh, OK.
BYRD: -- "I feel convicted." But what he meant is he feels a strong pull to do this, to find out in the next 30 days whether or not what he`s selling in this political season, to use a phrase he likes to use down here, whether or not voters are interested in buying what he`s selling, whether that`s in the form of a 2020 Presidential primary to President Donald Trump, or whether that`s pushing forward with the think tank or some sort of advocacy group to really push this debate surrounding debt spending, the deficit and government spending.
WILLIAMS: And, Caitlyn, you know, you and I have both met politicians who just don`t seem right if they`re out of office, if they`re not in office or running for office. And I won`t ask you to make a judgment, but is anyone making a case that this is just ego and it may be something of a suicide mission?
BYRD: Well, Congressman Sanford and Governor Sanford and I actually talked about this today when we had coffee and he shared his plans to really explore this seriously in the coming month. And it`s not about ego for him. That`s what he tells me. For him, this really is not so much about going down with the ship, it`s about fighting for what he`s always fought for in the last 25 years that he`s held political office.
And to your point, politicians who do seem out of place when they try to return to the private sector, we saw Mark Sanford go to Chicago and try to take that 25 years of experience and politics with him, but still this drumbeat that just stuck in his mind, as he put it to me, it just lingered. And he`s someone that if he can`t shake it, he`s going to pursue it in some form or fashion, and that`s what these next 30-something days are going to be about, and I`m sure all of us are going to be counting down those days on the calendar to see when he makes a decision and whether it actually is going to be a serious 2020 Republican presidential run.
WILLIAMS: Anita, I noticed Sanford had an interesting media outing tonight with two Chris`s, one named Hayes, the other Cuomo. Chris Hayes was trying to get him to acknowledge that deficits matter most to Republicans when the Democrats are in control of the government. Chris Cuomo was trying to get him to speak out against racism vis-a-vis Donald Trump. Both did not go smoothly or well.
We do know about Sanford, Anita, that he is one of the button pushers for Donald Trump. I`m going to play this clip from Trump and talk about it on the other side.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I never liked him too much. I wasn`t a big fan. The Tallahassee Trail, it must be a beautiful place. Unfortunately, he didn`t go there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: No, he didn`t. A lot of people were wondering where the Tallahassee Trail was. We checked with Tallahassee. They have trails but no one specific trail is a thing there. That was the Appalachian Trail. What is it about Sanford and Trump, Anita, do you think?
ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, you know, President Trump doesn`t like any criticism, and we can name some of those big critics on one hand, right? Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Justin Amash right now. So, Mark Sanford did not shy away from talking about him, talking about not just the issues they disagreed on, which obviously Republicans are going to disagree with him on tariffs and other things, but it was personality. It was when Congressman Sanford said facts, you know, facts didn`t matter to President Trump or that he fans the flames of intolerance. So those really, really got under his skin.
And as you referenced, not only did he support his primary opponent, he supported her hours before the polls closed and really look like he made a difference, right., obviously he lost.
So, he felt like he had some -- he got -- you know, he punished him. He said what he wanted to say. So, I mean, those two definitely have a history here.
WILLIAMS: Good point. Both of our guests terrific reporters. Both have agreed to stick with us over the break.
And coming up, the impact of the president`s continued attacks on minority members of Congress specifically. The impact it`s having out on the campaign trail, when we come back.
WILLIAMS: As you might imagine, the Democrats in the 2020 race have had more to say about President Trump`s weekend tweets attacking the four Democratic members of Congress. During a campaign event in Iowa early today, Senator Kamala Harris called the comments vile, ignorant and hateful. She addressed it again on CNN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He wants to distract by starting a whole -- lighting fires around race and ethnicity. It`s disgusting.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Is this a turn? There is so much rage about this, is this a turn for you?
HARRIS: There is so much that is disgusting about this. I think it is a turn for this president. It couldn`t get any worse? Apparently, yes, it just did. How low can he go?
LAH: Can he get lower?
HARRIS: I don`t know, but he needs to go back where he came from and leave that office. So that`s why I`m running.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Kamala Harris with correspondent Kyung Lah on CNN. Still with us, Caitlin Byrd and Anita Kumar. Anita, I want to read you this from the "New York Times." Aides to Mr. Trump`s campaign conceded that the president`s tweets about the four women on Sunday were not helpful, were difficult to defend and caught them off guard. They would have preferred he had not tweeted that the four women all racial and ethnic minority should go back to their own countries, but they said that his instincts were what guided his campaign in 2016, how often have we heard that before, when his attacks on immigrants resonated with alienated white voters in key states.
They believe there is political value in having "The Squad" as the new face of their political opponents when Mr. Trump is tracing a path to reelection that runs through Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, where the four women are unpopular. Anita, your reaction.
KUMAR: Yes, I mean, definitely the White House and the campaign were slow to respond because they didn`t really know what to say. Republicans, too, and now we`re a couple days into it and you can see where they`re going, which is these four women are the foil of the president and they want to talk about their policies and call them socialists and communists.
So I think they`ve sort of figured out now what that message is going to be. But there is a new Reuters poll out tonight showing that Republicans, that Donald Trump has gone up with Republicans 5 percentage points in the last couple of days.
So, perhaps, he is going to, you know, maybe his instinct were right there in terms of this might appeal to people that he`s trying to appeal to. It`s certainly not going to appeal to independents or Democrats. He`s obviously gone down with them. But as you know, Brian, very well, the president is banking on his base, his base coming out to vote. It`s all going to be about the turnout for him. He`s not really reaching across the aisle.
WILLIAMS: Good thing poll numbers have never mattered to Donald Trump. Hey Caitlin, I have one for you, and this is South Carolina Democratic Primary. This is a Fox News poll conducted July 7 to 10. Biden really very healthy lead for where we are in the race and the state we`re talking about. 35 percent falls off a cliff until you get to Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris at 12, and then way down, Warren at 5, Booker at 3 and so on.
What do you make of the race thus far in South Carolina, and we kept hearing anecdotally stories about voters in South Carolina who thought the Biden dust-up, the comments he made about the segregationists he had to bump up against in the Senate, was overblown by the national and coastal media.
CAITLIN BYRD, THE POST AND COURIER POLITICAL REPORTER: That`s what I heard when Vice President Joe Biden came to Charleston just a few weeks ago, and it`s in good to point out too, Brian, that while he was here in South Carolina, specifically in Sumter, South Carolina, he apologized for working with those segregationist senators. He apologized for the words he used to describe working with those segregationist senators.
And he told the press afterward in Charleston that he intentionally apologized in South Carolina because of the racial makeup in South Carolina. He know, as well as you and I do, that black voters are the heart and soul of the Democratic Party in South Carolina, and they are going to turn out in numbers when that primary comes around.
Joe Biden has a lot of ties here in South Carolina, so so far, in my conversations with voters, yes, Biden seems to be the frontrunner, but we can`t forget that this is an historically large field of candidates that we`re dealing with.
So even when I`m talking with voters and they`re telling me, yes, I know Joe Biden, I know what he`s about, that familiarity is comfortable to me, they`re also pulling me aside and saying, but I kind of want to see what these other candidates have to say. Heck, I`m still learning some of their names. There`s so many of them we can`t get them all on one wide angle lens on a debate stage. I mean, it`s insane how many candidates we`re seeing.
And from a voter`s perspective which we have to keep in mind as we analyze this race, there are so many people still to learn and who still have to distinguish themselves from each other. Because right now it`s a giant caste of Democrats and some of them are really struggling to make their selves stand out in this race.
WILLIAMS: Our thanks to both of you for coming. We hope you`ll continue to come on our broadcast. Caitlin Byrd, Anita Kumar, thank you both.
And coming up, one of the president`s closest senior aides compounds the controversy concerning the president and racism when we continue.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO THE PRESIDENT: This is the latest example of harassment and embarrassment, trying to harass and embarrass people close to the President. The Chairman knows and everyone knows there is a longstanding bipartisan precedent. Both parties have invoked it, that you claim immunity for the President senior advisers. I obviously qualify as one.
This is about me going on TV and stating facts. Don`t try to silence me on my First Amendment rights. I`ll be happy to testify, just to be clear. I have nothing to hide. I`ve done nothing wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Kellyanne Conway remains defiant there, refusing to comply with a subpoena to appear before the House Oversight Committee. Last month she was cited by the Office of Special Counsel, not the one related to Mueller, for violating the Hatch Act. That`s the law that in part forbids federal employees from using their official authority or influence for the purpose of interfering with or affecting the result of an election. More on that later.
The investigative body cited at least 15 times Kellyanne Conway`s voice support for 2018 GOP midterm candidates on Twitter. As well as least 10 instances where she talked about campaign matters during television interviews.
Per White House instruction, she skipped Monday`s hearing where she was scheduled to testify about these allegations. In a letter to the Committee, the White House counsel claimed, quote, "Ms. Conway cannot be compelled to testify before Congress with respect to matters related to her service as a senior adviser to the President."
Well the Chairman Elijah Cummings of Maryland has scheduled a July 25th vote to hold her in contempt of Congress if she refuses to cooperate.
Thankfully, with us tonight to talk about all of it Barbara McQuade. Veteran federal prosecutor, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan. And Barb, as you listen to Kellyanne is that -- does that make sense -- can she -hide behind whatever that thing is she was talking about legally?
BARBARA MCQUADE, FMR. U.S. ATTORNEY: No, not at all. You know, we`ve heard of the White House invoking this doctrine of executive immunity which doesn`t exist. There is only one court that has ever addressed it. It came up when Harriet Meyers was subpoenaed to testify during the Bush administration, and the court there said it doesn`t exist. If an aide to the President is subpoenaed to testify, they must appear.
Now they may invoke executive privilege, that is a legitimate doctrine, but it has to be invoked on a question-by-question basis when it gets into candid advice and deliberations between the President and his aide. It`s a very narrow area. The idea that she doesn`t have to show up whatsoever is legally insufficient, and the House should really push on this because I think they`ll prevail in court if they do.
WILLIAMS: Just the phrase the "contempt of Congress" does focus the attention. What are the consequences?
MCQUADE: Well, I think what they would have to do -- ordinarily you can get the Justice Department to come in and bring a case. In this instance because they`re aligned with the executive branch and they`ve given an Office of Legal Counsel opinion consistent to what Kellyanne Conway is doing, I don`t know that we can rely on them.
So instead -- I think they would have to do is file a lawsuit and try to get that to -- get a court order to get her to comply with a request of Congress. If she were to then be in contempt of court, the court could use its contempt powers to jail her.
WILLIAMS: Barbara, I have to say, I was a White House intern when I was a very young man a long, long time ago, and they drilled into us the Hatch Act, how serious it was. We -- you know, among us had never heard of it, but we sure knew about it when we were there.
MCQUADE: Yes and the same is true of any federal employee. I worked at the U.S. Attorney`s Office in Detroit for 19 years, and we had training on the Hatch Act and reminders all the time. We all knew what we could and could not do. And so the idea that she is not only flouting the law, but then when she`s called on it, she continues to blatantly disregard the law.
You know, I think from time to time, people make mistakes when they`re in public office and they cross the line, but once it has been brought to her attention, now she continues to violate that law? The Office of Special Counsel has recommended that she be fired for her blatant disregard for the law, and instead she is flouting it with impunity.
And the reason for the law -- this is not a technical law, as you know it, Brian, from your White House internship. The purpose is so the American public understands that governing is different from politicking.
WILLIAMS: Absolutely right. Barbara McQuade has agreed to stay with us as we fit in a break.
When we come back, the conversation gets really interesting because the conversation turns to that man.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROGER STONE, POLITICAL STRATEGIST: You can help me in my epic struggle for vindication and survival by ordering your very own personally signed "Roger Stone did nothing wrong" t-shirt."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: As you reach for the phone let me just tell you that may be the last Instagram post we see from Roger Stone for a good long while. A federal judge today ruled that President Trump`s friend of 30 years give or take, the long-time political dirty trick artist, may no longer post on social media until after his trial.
According to the "New York Times," Judge Amy Berman Jackson told Roger Stone, "I am wrestling with behavior that has more to do with middle school than a court of law." Her new order expands a previous gag order from back in February which you may recall barred Stone from talking to the media about the case. Stone appeared to ignore that order when he then posted a photo of Judge Jackson next to what certainly looked like crosshairs from a gun sight.
A month later he shared this on Instagram, suggesting he`d been framed by the special counsel. And then two hours after the hearing today this appears. It`s posted on Roger Stone`s wife`s Instagram account, apparently because the federal judge didn`t say anything about Mrs. Roger Stone, just her husband Roger Stone who is facing charges of obstruction of justice, witness tampering, lying to congressional investigators in an indictment secured by one Robert Mueller.
And again, thankfully, still with us is Barbara McQuade.
Barbara, do you think the judge was liberal in not throwing him in jail, or is that the next step we`re looking at here?
MCQUADE: She is being incredibly patient with him, and it may be because she wants to make a very sound record for inevitable appeals in this case. But I do think that her order has some sense to it.
You know, I think that for people who see him violating her orders they wonder why she doesn`t just lock him up. But detention is reserved for people who are either a risk of flight or a danger to the community, and he really hasn`t demonstrated that. What he`s demonstrated instead is his inability or refusal to comply with her orders.
Now, sometimes a refusal to comply with an order is seen as an indication that we can`t count on you to show up when you`re asked to show up for trial either if you can`t follow other orders of the court. But I think what she tried to do today was to impose a remedy that directly addresses the harm. And that is the inability to seat an impartial jury. If he is out telling the world that this is all a witch hunt, that he`s innocent, then it will be difficult to seat an impartial jury. And so she has tried to take away his megaphone by telling him he can`t post on social media. What she can`t do is restrict his wife and family members from posting on social media. And so now they appear to be doing that.
WILLIAMS: That isn`t going to help Roger Stone`s argument, however. And it could further enrage a federal judge. Never a good thing.
MCQUADE: No. But I do think judges are careful not to let their rage or their anger get the best of their decision-making. So, I`m sure she`s not happy about it, but I don`t think she`s going to revoke his bond on the basis of things that his wife is posting online. I think her goal is to just avoid a circus-like atmosphere so that when the trial ultimately comes around it can be based on the facts and the law that is seen in the court and not on things external to the court. But Roger Stone seems determined to try his case in the media.
WILLIAMS: Barb, thank you as always for clearly explaining the law to all the rest of us in the audience. We appreciate it. Barbara McQuade back with us on the broadcast tonight.
Coming up --
MCQUADE: Thanks, Brian.
WILLIAMS: -- an American story that could never be duplicated as we remember a man who greatly impacted the life we all lived just today when we come back.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go tonight, as we mentioned earlier in the broadcast, retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens has died. And because words matter so greatly these days, this should be said at the outset and it should be clear. He was a thoroughly decent man who was appointed by a thoroughly decent president.
While it was Dick Nixon who first made Stevens a federal judge, all the credit for all of Stevens` accomplishments on the court goes to President Gerald R. Ford, who was so proud to have appointed him. He was the third longest-serving justice in our nation`s history.
Stevens was born in Chicago just after World War I. He was immediately recognized as a brilliant kid and immediately went on to become a brilliant young man. He sailed through the University of Chicago, scored the highest GPA in the history of Northwestern Law School.
Along the way, he found time to go off and serve in World War II as a code breaker, returning as a decorated Navy veteran with a bronze star. He was confirmed by the U.S. Senate 98 to nothing back when they did that kind of thing. He came onto the court as a conservative and was considered a liberal by most people by the time of his retirement. Pro-abortion rights, pro-affirmative action, pro-gay rights, anti-death penalty. He insisted he never changed but the court changed around him.
He served on that court from 1975 to 2010. Considered a prolific dissenter powered by a blazing intellect. He thought Bush versus Gore and Citizen United -- Citizens United were the court`s biggest mistakes of the modern era.
He was a-long Cubs fan proud of his role in baseball history for having attended the 1932 World Series game where Babe Ruth so famously called out his home run shot.
Stevens lived long enough to watch his Cubs win their first World Series of his lifetime back in 2016. Justice Stevens just wrote his autobiography. He told his story and then promptly left the scene. The very telling last line in the "New York Times" book review is this, "The chances are slim, very slim, that we`ll see another Republican appointee like him any time soon."
John Paul Stevens of Chicago, Illinois was 99 years old.
And that is our broadcast on this Tuesday night. 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