LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST: There you go. That`s the way to do it. George F. Will gets tonight`s LAST WORD. Thank you for joining us, George. Really appreciate it. "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST: Tonight President Trump takes his attack on the road, nothing but red meat for a rally crowd in North Carolina. Personal attacks as he again goes after the four Democratic congresswomen. And tonight the Trump crowd broke out in a new chant that might just replace "lock her up."
On the broadcast this evening we`ll speak with civil rights icon and Democratic Congressman John Lewis about the President`s words and the week we have witnessed thus far.
And why so many Democrats watching all of this fear they are watching the slow motion re-election of Donald Trump. It`s all in a column by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tom Friedman, who joins us in the studio tonight as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on this Wednesday evening.
And good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York. Day 909 of the Trump administration and the President hauled it all out tonight for a rally audience in North Carolina. Remember that tonight`s event was first scheduled to be a kind of post-game show for what we thought would be a day of Robert Mueller testimony today. Instead that was pushed off to next week. The rally went on.
Tonight Trump went after his new favorite targets, who happen to be four Democratic congresswomen, and he went after them by name. And as you`ll hear, the rally crowd has come up with a new chant pivoting from "lock her up" to the new and topical "send her back."
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DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you see the four congresswomen, oh, isn`t that lovely. Representative Ilhan Omar, Omar has a history of launching vicious anti-semitic screeds. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Send her back. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Send her back. TRUMP: And Tlaib also used the f word to describe the presidency and your President. That`s not nice. Even for me.
Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Check out her scores, by the way, with her new Green New Deal, the Green New Deal. Where did that come from?
Representative Ayanna Pressley. Is she related in any way to Elvis? I don`t know. Who knows? You never know.
These congresswomen, their comments are helping to fuel the rise of a dangerous militant hard left. But that`s OK because we`re going to win this election like nobody`s ever seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: The President also told the crowd a vote for Democrats in 2020 is a vote for the rise of radical socialism and the destruction of the American dream which we note he has already declared to be dead.
Before tonight`s rally our own Monica Alba spoke to some Trump supporters about the President`s use of these four congresswomen as a new target.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frankly I don`t think there`s anything racist in the tweet. I can see how they construe it as racist. But I think actually Donald Trump is being very strategic in what he`s doing in trying to lump all the Democrats as socialists. I think he`s got a strategy in mind and I think that`s what he`s doing. He`s manipulating the Democrats into the socialist camp.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don`t think it`s racist. I do wish that he would maybe govern himself a little better when he tweets out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t believe the President is racist. I believe that sometimes he says things that maybe he should rethink and not be so straightforward, but I prefer that and really know what he`s thinking versus somebody that`s deceptive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So that was the scene in Greenville, North Carolina as Trump continues his new political line of attack today. The House voted to kill an impeachment resolution against the President. This was introduced by Democratic Congressman Al Green of Texas. The vote was 332-95. And it shows the split within the Democratic Party on impeachment, 137 Democrats voted to table this resolution, 95 members of Congress voted to advance it. Before today`s vote House Speaker Pelosi, who had been opposed to impeachment as you know, addressed this issue.
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REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) CALIFORNIA, HOUSE SPEAKER: We have six committees that are working on following the facts in terms of any abuse of power, obstruction of justice and the rest that the President may have engaged in. That is the serious path that we are on.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: It was just last week political fighting between the Speaker and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez dominated the headlines before Trump waded into the middle of it. During an interview with CBS News that aired this morning Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez was asked if she thinks there is a fracture between Pelosi and these four Democratic congresswomen.
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REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ, (D) NEW YORK: I don`t. I think that just as there were members of Congress that did not vote for the Speaker, the House floor the day of our swearing in, just as there are members who challenge her conclusions, who disagree with her, so do we from time to time. But that does not mean that there is a fundamental fracture or a dehumanizing going on within our caucus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: NBC News is reporting that according to a spokesperson for Speaker Pelosi, the freshman New York congresswoman reached out to the Speaker on Tuesday to ask for a meeting and they are now working on scheduling one.
Here for our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night, Tamara Keith, White House Correspondent for NPR, Jonathan Allen, the Veteran Political Journalist who is our National Political Reporter, and Maya Wiley, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York who is now with the New School here in New York. And that`s where we`d like to begin.
Counselor, set aside if you can any feelings of social justice along with your law degree. Let`s talk about the raw politics of this attack by the President on these four women. Do you think it has underpinnings? Do they in the Trump force know something that the rest of the world doesn`t?
MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY: I`m not sure they know something the rest of the world doesn`t because I do think it`s a bit reckless and I do think it`s a bit dangerous. But it is part of a potential strategy which says we`re going to build on our strategy of telling white Americans that they come first, that we will stand up, I Donald Trump will be the honest president who`s able to call out these people of color who say what you and I believe to be wrong, right?
And so you played those clips, Brian, of folks saying this isn`t racism, you know, maybe he shouldn`t be so reckless. The reality of where he did that in North Carolina, we should be very clear about. North Carolina`s the state where there is evidence that there was an intention on the part of some Republican legislatures to prevent black people from voting. That is the state in which Klansmen marched in Greensburg, North Carolina in 1979 and five -- and killed five people because they were black and they were communist. It is the state which gave us Reverend William Barber, who has stood up and said we`ve got to find a way to knit together low-income people who are white and have race no longer play a role in suggesting what our policy should be, that we shouldn`t have a policy of division.
It is a state that in this country has very much represented a lot of the dramatic divides we`ve had around race and class. And what Trump has gone when he`s gone to North Carolina and said "I`m going to use the race card but I`m going to use it my way and I`m going to guess that I can try to knit together the white electorate and do it in a way that gets me the electoral college, that does not necessarily get me the popular vote" because the last time he won in 2016 he lost about 3 million -- to Hillary Clinton by about 3 million votes. What he won was a very narrow margin of electoral votes. And narrow meaning he only won it by 73 to 77,000 votes, depending on how you count. And even that he won in part because of the suppression of black voter turnout, particularly in Milwaukee and Detroit.
So, it comes back to a politics of division and an assumption that that might work for him a second time because it worked for him once before.
WILLIAMS: Tamara Keith, we couldn`t have set that up any better. The question to you is this has now been a four-day news cycle for these talking points from the President, this story, this subplot. What are folks at the White House saying about it? Do they believe it`s a winning strategy or just this week`s?
TAMARA KEITH, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, if they thought it wasn`t working, they probably would have had the President give a boring speech tonight about the economy. But the President came out loaded for bear. He came out with all kinds of lines and all kinds of things to say about the four Democratic congresswomen. He did not shut down the chants of "send her home" that echoed his racist tweet overt weekend. He could have shut it down. He didn`t.
And the President himself out on the South Lawn today said he thought it was working and said that he had no regrets, that he was happy with it. And I think that a key moment in his remarks that gets at why this matters for him is that he said, you know, look at that vote yesterday that the House took, 187 Republicans stayed with him, only four Republicans crossed him. And he`s consolidated the Republican Party. He`s running for president for re-election. It is a base play. And he sees that vote in the House as representing having solidified his base.
WILLIAMS: And Jon Allen, we have another vote in the House today, and all the cable networks carried it live. It was for an impeachment article. A lot of Democrats said, "This is not a good look for us, why are we doing this?" In the end it laid bare the split, 137 against, 95 for impeachment. That fall short, Jon, of the overwhelming support that the Speaker has posted as her trigger for impeachment.
JONATHEN ALLEN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Absolutely, Brian. If you pull this back about a week, you had a situation Donald Trump did not like, which was Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her squad were at odds with Nancy Pelosi, which made it very hard for him to portray the Democrats as the party of the fringe left, as the party of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Nancy Pelosi had broken from them. They`d had a vote on a border bill where it was those four who had been isolated. And that`s when the President sent his tweet.
The tweet did what I think he intended for it to do, which is to get the Speaker and get all of the Democrats including the presidential candidates to rally behind those four. Then in response to that we saw yesterday these two votes on the floor, the twin votes where Pelosi called his tweets racist and then you had the second vote condemning those tweets. In both of those cases you first had basically Democrats getting behind Pelosi rather than the squad, those four congresswomen. And then you had a bipartisan vote condemning the President. She was trying to push things back away from the squad and that liberal set more toward her.
And then today, I think probably very much out of her control you`ve got a Congressman Al Green from Texas, he decides to bring forward this impeachment resolution and they vote on tabling it. It splits the Democratic Party.
And I think you saw a very emboldened President Trump today at his rally. Instead of having the headline most recently about a bipartisan vote to condemn him for his racist tweets, the most recent vote in the House was this split Democratic Party that he essentially thanked for supporting him.
WILLIAMS: And Jon, it`s conceivable that, one, Mr. Boehner is out in Ohio tonight, his hand gripped around a beverage, watching this, saying back to the T.V., "I told you Speaker was a terrible job in this era. Was he right where Ms. Pelosi is concerned?
ALLEN: Yes, there`s some part of his body that he`s laughing off right now, Brian.
WILLIAMS: OK, got it. Thank you for that. Thank you for your candor.
Hey, Tamara, I know you`ve been monitoring, we try too as much as possible, what are the levels of support for this four-day argument?
KEITH: The levels of support are off the charts. And the reality is that, you know, listening to conservative radio over months the names you hear again and again are Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez. You hear those names again and again and again. So in conservative media the President`s focus on them now, it basically reflects what`s been going on for months.
And Maya, all of the warnings, be careful what you wish for, all of that included, let`s fast forward to next week because a week from tonight we`ll be talking about the testimony we believe of one Robert Mueller, a reluctant witness. Do you think it will have the power to change the subject? And do you think it is fueling some of what we see?
WILEY: Yes and yes. Meaning yes, it has the power to change the conversation. Robert Mueller we already saw that when he came out and gave his press conference and the American public heard from his lips just simply the high points of what he found, including that he could not exonerate this President on obstruction. I think if Congress does its job well it will simply ask him to state clearly what he has already said in that report. He doesn`t have to embellish it. It`s quite explosive.
And potentially giving more impetus again for the other vote we saw today, which is contempt for Barr and also for Wilbur Ross for Congress to actually acquit its constitutional duty, which is to ensure that Americans understand what this President has done, how he has behaved, and make their own judgment.
But the other thing is Jeffrey Epstein. I mean, so, we`ve also had reporting today in Donald Trump. We don`t know what we will hear about Donald Trump and his rela -- but the possibility that he is more closely associated with what essentially is sex trafficking and pedophilia, another possible thing he wants to distract our attention from. I think the idea that race becomes his distraction and using racism and playing on the fears of America is something that is not going to survive if more of the facts of his actual behavior become part of our public discussion.
WILLIAMS: And with that our thanks to Tamara Keith, to Jonathan Allen, to Maya Wiley for starting us off on this tonight on this Wednesday evening.
Coming up for us, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist Thomas Friedman is here. His new column takes on a dicey question for the Democrats. Do you want a revolution or do you want to defeat Donald Trump?
And later, civil rights icon John Lewis on what all of this looks like to him as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting under way on this Wednesday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANA PERINO, FOX NEWS HOST: The squad has become now the face of the Democratic Party. The President doesn`t even need to run against Joe Biden, right? He can just run against them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: Dana Perino, formerly of the Bush 43 White House, appearing with Tucker Carlson tonight proving that sometimes you don`t needs fancy analysis of what we`re seeing and hearing. Sometimes the strategy is right there on the television screen as it aired tonight. And that`s a small part of the rather exquisite drama some Democrats fear they are watching in real time.
In fact, it is the subject of a column by Tom Friedman in the "New York Times" which I happen to know was the most e-mailed piece of journalism on their website today. It`s getting a lot of attention for a reason.
The author writes that he was shocked at the health care and immigration proposals the Democrats advocated at that first debate saying, "Spare me the revolution. It can wait. Win the presidency. Hold the House and narrow the spread in the Senate, and a lot of good things can still be -- still can be accomplished. "No," you say, "the left wants a revolution now." OK. I`ll give the left a revolution now. Four more years of Donald Trump."
It is to our great benefit that joining us now the aforementioned Thomas Friedman, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and columnist for the "New York times." Among his best-sellers, his most recent "Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist`s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations." Thank you so much for being here.
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, THE NEW YORK TIMES COLUMNIST: Great to be with you, Brian.
WILLIAMS: So if I`m one of those Democrats and I say to you, Tom Friedman, "No, we can walk and chew gum at the same time, we`re going to have this conversation about income inequality, about poverty, race, and immigration." What do you say back to me?
FRIEDMAN: Well, we should have these conversations. I think we -- at a time when the top one percent of the -- of our population has the same wealth as about 90 percent we have a huge inequality problem. We need to talk about redividing the pie in certain I think very intelligent ways around health care, education, and jobs. At the same time I want to be growing the pie. And Democrats almost never talk about growing the pie.
I watched Hillary Clinton`s convention, you know, back in 2016.
WILLIAMS: I remember.
FRIEDMAN: I was really struck, you know. They had everybody there. They had blacks, women, minorities, transgender, gay -- everybody.
FRIEDMAN: OK? And that`s wonderful. I celebrate that. There was just one category they didn`t have. An entrepreneur. A risk taker. Someone who had started a business and grown it. Yes, Michael Bloomberg was there but he wasn`t there to talk about entrepreneurship.
And I think that it sends a signal to people that all we hear from that party is how we`re going to redivide the pie and not how we`re also going to grow the pie, how we`re going to enable small business to take off in this country and create more good jobs, jobs that come with real benefits.
WILLIAMS: I love tracking what the new words are in the vocabulary. Binary is the new word everyone is using. Is your column arguing that the choice is binary? You say you want a revolution, that`s one thing. If you want to beat Donald Trump, that is quite another.
FRIEDMAN: You see, I don`t buy that at all. What I`m saying is that this column all started with people coming up to me saying, "We`re going to lose, aren`t we?"
WILLIAMS: We`re going to cross [INAUDIBLE] in this election.
FRIEDMAN: Trump`s going to win again. And that`s what made me sit back and really articulate what I felt when I watched that Democratic debate. I heard a lot of things I agree with. I heard a lot of things I agree with. But I heard things that I was shocked by. The idea that we would decriminalize entry into this country, you could just walk in?
WILLIAMS: Illegal entry.
FRIEDMAN: I believe you should ring the doorbell when you come to my house or my country. It`s a little tick I have. OK?
The idea that we`re going to give health care to all these undocumented immigrants when we have health demands from Americans like veterans that are really in need? I heard stuff that was just crazy. I`m sorry, to me crazy. OK?
I`m a big pro immigration fan. But I think we need a high wall with a big gate. OK? I think you have to control the border.
Assure other Americans you can control your border. And then I am really pro immigration for both the high energy lower skilled and the high I.Q. risk takers. We need both.
But there are ways to balance all of these things. But these people are off in a place, Brian, that I think many Democrats were saying, "wait a minute, I don`t feel that, I can`t defend that." And as I looked through the comments on my column today, there are 5,000 of them. I was just struck by so many people saying "Yes, that`s what I -- I felt that way. That was just too far to the left for me." And if they felt that way, imagine what Republicans were saying.
And, you know, this isn`t complicated. Democrats won the House in 2018 by getting enough independents, moderate Republicans and suburban women who had voted for Trump in 2016, who took a flyer on Trump to cross over and say "No, no, not this time." And they elected lots of Democrats in Trump districts Trump won the presidency.
The math is very simple, Brian. You need to hold those people in these key districts, swing states and counties to win the presidency. And to do that you need a candidate who can speak to those people. And there are a lot of things that they would be in for in terms of education reform, business opportunities, all kinds of ways to appeal to those people. But don`t put yourself in a position where people are going to say, "You, your party wants open borders, your party, you know, wants to give health care to people who came into this country illegally when we have all these needs of Americans who are here legally."
WILLIAMS: You got any nominees? Did you bring any names with you?
FRIEDMAN: You know, I think it`s too early, you know, to -- for me. I still want to hear everybody.
I find Mayor Pete speaks in a way that I find very compelling. I`ll tell you why. One, I like the way he speaks about his faith. I like the way he speaks -- he can challenge Evangelicals who have thrown off all their morals to align with Donald Trump. I like the way he speaks with sensitivity about abortion. And I like the way he speaks about tradeoffs.
That is, yes, if you want to have this kind of health care or this kind of, you know, college tuition plan, well, then we`ve got to have a trade-off over here. Whether he can go anywhere, I don`t know. I`m not endorsing him. But he catches my eye. I`m from Minnesota. My Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar is someone I`m very fond of too. I`m a centrist Democrat.
WILLIAMS: As we sneak in a break, I will say it`s clear Mayor Pete has gotten to the President because the President went after him with new relish tonight. "Did the phonetic guide to his last name but then said in effect can you picture him going up against Xi of China, Putin of Russia, or Kim of North Korea?" Just one of his many lines at tonight`s debate.
To our great good luck, Tom Friedman has agreed to stay with us over this break. We`ll fit it in.
When we come back we`ll talk about the dangers that Tom Friedman sees in a potential second term for this President.
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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Can you imagine if we didn`t have to go through that hoax, I don`t know that we would have done any better. To be honest with you, I think we`ve done more in two-and-a-half years than any president that have a first two-and-a-half.
Could you imagine what it could have been if we didn`t have the witch hunt? You said it. You said it. I won`t say it because it`s a terrible word. So I will not say that this guy said if we didn`t have the bullshit. That`s right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: So that`s what our President sound like now. And with that we`ll return to our conversation with our guest Tom Friedman, who writes this about the prospect of a second Trump term and we quote.
"It will be an overthrowing of all the norms, values, rules and institutions that we cherished, that made us who we are and that have united us in this common project called the United States of America. Not all elections are equal. Some elections are a vote for great changes, like the great society. Others are a vote to save the country. This election is the latter."
Tom Friedman remains here with us. What would you do if you were the Democrats?
THOMAS FRIEDMAN, COLUMNIST, THE NEW YORK TIMES: If I were the Democrats, what I would have done, Brian, one thing I learned covering the Middle East, you always have a choice. Do you want to make a point or do you want to make a difference?
With Trump you always have to focus on making a difference because you can`t outpoint him. What I would have done with the Democrats, I would have tonight announced we`re having a national telethon and our goal is to raise $100 million to register 100 million new Democratic voters in every swing state, in every swing district in the country.
And every time someone or Trump makes another racist statement, we`re going to have another telethon. Thank you, Donald. Thank you for helping us raise money to register more Democrats in swing states and districts around the country.
But if you just come back and say you`re a bad guy and everyone is (inaudible) he`s a bad guy, we know that. His supporters don`t need more information. They`re not interested in information.
There is a fever in the Republican Party, Brian. We have a president without shame, backed by a party without spine, amplified by network without integrity. The only way this changes is if they are electorally removed from power. And when and if that happens I promise you one thing, that party will implode.
Because if they lose the national election that`s when a lot of people are going to start looking in the mirror. But until then they are going to be bewitched by him. And you have to respond in a meaningfully effective way, use his energy to drive your voter registration. Do something very specific. We don`t need any more resolutions. No one needs more information about who Donald Trump is.
WILLIAMS: I want to show you something Donald Trump said out loud today. This was on the south lawn of the White House. It received very little pickup. I`m not doing this to amplify it. But for an example, this was about Congresswoman Omar.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Well, there`s a lot of talk about the fact that she was married to a brother. I know nothing about it. I hear she was married to a brother. You`re asking me a question about it. I don`t know. But I`m sure that somebody would be looking at that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS: I will read this. "Omar has categorically denied these claims, calling them disgusting lies. An Associated Press investigation did not uncover any documentation that would lend credence to the reports." Your column in effect says get used to that.
WILLIAMS: And that would be that on steroids unbridled.
FRIEDMAN: Oh we -- he would be completely unchecked. He will never answer another subpoena. We`ll have Ivanka as secretary of state. And he may get a chance to appoint two, not one but two Supreme Court justices, probably under the age of 40.
WILLIAMS: Green New Deal, a huge policy proposition by the left hand of the Democratic ledger. My question to you somewhat rhetorical, who is going to go to wheeling, West Virginia and say, "I`ll take the keys to the F-150, you won`t be needing that anymore. This house will need retrofitting. And wait till you see the high-speed rail, you`re going to love it?"
FRIEDMAN: Look, Brian, I`m happy that people bring energy to this whole environmental and climate challenge we face. And AOC has done that, God bless her for that.
But the fact is one thing I`ve learned because I covered this a lot, wrote a book about it. The fact is if you don`t have scale when you`re dealing with the climate and energy problem, you have a hobby.
I like hobbies. I used to build model airplanes. There`s only one thing that you scaled when you`re dealing with the energy climate challenge and that`s the market. How do you shape the market with the right rules, standards, and incentives? That`s what will give you scale.
You want to see a Green New Deal? California`s already done it. They set a goal, OK? We`re going to be carbon-free but I forgot what date, 2030, 2040, whatever it is. They laid down the steps to incentivize the market to get you there.
Start with that. Concrete steps.
I wish I could tell you that, you know, we`re going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It`s probably going to be too late for that. But that doesn`t mean you can`t start. And then put it in the context of jobs.
Brian, we live in a world -- we`re going to have another billion people here by about 2030, another billion people. If they want to eat American size Big Macs, drive American size cars, live in American size homes, we`re burn up, smoke, and heat up and choke up this planet whether there`s climate change or not.
What does that mean? It means the next great global industry has to be, simply has to be clean air, clean water and clean power.
Please raise your hand, please raise your hand if you think America can be the next great economy, the world`s continue, to be the world`s greatest economy and not lead the world`s next great global industry.
So put it in terms of innovation, put it in terms of jobs, put it in terms of economic necessity. I just want to say one thing that Trump said, you know, about -- that can you imagine Mayor Pete going up against these leaders of the world?
WILLIAMS: Yes, Xi and Putin and --
FRIEDMAN: Can you imagine him -- can you imagine him melting in Putin`s mouth like I did? Can you imagine Mayor Pete moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and getting nothing for it? Oh, no, no. No, don`t tell me.
You moved the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and you used it for no sweetener, nothing to advance the peace process? You gave it away for free?
I`ll tell you, not just Mayor Pete but the dog catcher in Mayor Pete`s town could have figured that one out.
Trump is a chump, OK? And on all of these issues he`s been a chump. For these key strategic questions vis-a-vis Putin, vis-a-vis the Middle East, and that`s how you`ve got to go after him. Don`t let him define the story.
WILLIAMS: Tom Friedman of the New York Times and of your local book seller, either disrupted technology or traditional, thank you as always. Pleasure to have you.
FRIEDMAN: Thanks, Brian.
WILLIAMS: Coming up, why one week ahead of the scheduled Robert Mueller testimony, Michael Cohen is back in our headlines tonight and what may be about to happen on this front tomorrow.
WILLIAMS: New developments tonight in a campaign finance case that sent one-time Trump fixer and lawyer Michael Cohen to prison. A new court filing revealed that the Southern District of New York, that`s the fed`s office in Manhattan, has wrapped up its investigation into the hush money payments and critical evidence related to the raid on Cohen`s home and office will be unsealed tomorrow morning.
We don`t know what kind of a day we`re facing tomorrow. We do know this. Judge William Pauley gave the reasoning for ordering the materials to be released despite the government`s request that they remain put away, sealed. And please pay very close attention to this wording, as we did.
"The weighty public ramifications of the conduct described in the campaign finance portions warrant disclosure. The involvement of most of the relevant third-party actors is now public knowledge, undercutting the need for continued secrecy. The campaign finance violations discussed in the materials are a matter of national importance. It is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the materials." As we say, that focuses the mind.
And with us tonight, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence, and Mieke Eoyang, veteran Washington Attorney, former Staffer for House Intel and Arm Services, welcome to you both.
Frank, all of us around here watched Nicolle Wallace, 4:00 Eastern Time. That`s where we first saw you react to this story today. What do words "national importance" mean to you? What kind of thing are we expecting tomorrow?
FRANK FIGLIUZZI, NBC NEWS NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Federal judges choose their words very carefully. So for a federal judge to say this material has national importance means this to me.
He`s focused on the material the government has that got them in the door with a search warrant of Cohen`s offices, residence, what does that mean? That means this isn`t going to be a nothing burger tomorrow. You don`t gather material to establish probable cause and have nothing. You convince the judge that there`s evidence of a crime inside that place and I need to get in there.
So we`re going to see that. The question is will that include such things as who decided to make the payments for hush money? Did foreign entities get involved in supplying the money? Did they know where the money was going? Did President Trump direct it? Or did he just acquiesce to Cohen`s suggestion? What is it we`re going to learn that goes toward high crimes and misdemeanors potentially against the president of the United States?
WILLIAMS: And, Mieke, we really wanted to hear you tonight on the following topic, and that is bail for Mr. Epstein, the sexual predator.
He is facing that decision by a federal judge and then today at the same hour, 4:00 Eastern, we heard Glenn Kirschner, former federal prosecutor, say this about the specter of the attorney general. A little reminder that these federal offices all report to him, we`ll talk about it on the other side.
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GLENN KIRSCHNER, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: In the normal prosecutorial world we would now be looking at the Epstein prosecution being run out of the Southern District of New York and think, OK, they`ve got the goods, they`re going to detain him. They`re going to go at him hard, maybe consider bringing him on as a cooperator so he can expose everybody else who is involved in his ugly unseemly sex ring.
But Bill Barr is over the top of and has command and control over the Southern District of New York. And that injects so much uncertainty and so much potentially nefarious conduct.
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WILLIAMS: Mieke, can you believe we`re living in an era where we have to discuss the AG as Mr. Kirschner did, as the president`s potential personal lawyer stepping into something like this?
MIEKE EOYANG, FORMER COMMITTEE STAFFER, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE: It`s really unfortunate, but we`ve seen over and over again that that is what this President is looking for in an attorney general.
When you read through the Mueller report and his complaints to Don McGahn that he wants his own Roy Cohn, that he wants someone who`s going to protect him, and that was the case that Barr was going to make to him in applying for the job.
I think there are a lot of questions about whether or not the prosecution of justice in this Justice Department will be evenhanded or whether or not the President will put his thumb on the scale, especially given his close relationship with Epstein.
WILLIAMS: Frank, there was also this new video that came out this morning. It`s been airing all day. This dates back to 1992. Jeffrey Epstein on the left, there in the denim shirt, on the right, by the way, this didn`t get much pickup today, that was Tom McMillan, the former Rhodes Scholar, NBA player, and Democratic congressman visiting Mar-a-Lago.
So I guess the question to you, Frank, in addition to assuming that Donald Trump has since found and employed a new eyebrowist, does this not hurt his argument that he was never a fan of Jeffrey Epstein back in the day?
FIGLIUZZI: You can`t study that video and not see someone who is very comfortable with Epstein joking, mucking it up, having a great time. This is not someone who is saying, I can`t associate myself with this.
And I think, Brian, we`re looking at the lead commercial for Democrats in the upcoming 2020 campaign process. Play that. Play it over and over again, and try to match it with what the President is saying about how distant he is from Epstein, and you`ll see it doesn`t match up.
WILLIAMS: So, Mieke, this goes back to you. If we`ve agreed that the SDNY, the fed`s office in Manhattan is theoretically subject to pressure from the home office in Washington, how worried do you think Team Trump is on a legal basis with all these things we`ve just covered that they are facing?
EOYANG: I think no matter what happens Team Trump should be very worried because there`s no question, no matter what they`re not always out of the woods. Epstein thought he was out of the woods with Acosta. And then you see many years later people coming back and saying actually, no.
We didn`t cover all the allegations. There are still more injustice that needs to be addressed, and we can come back with future prosecutors and address these issues. There is no circumstance in which Team Trump when out of office doesn`t face some potential criminal liability.
WILLIAMS: Two of our favorite returning veterans, to Frank Figliuzzi, to Mieke Eoyang, our thanks for making time to come on tonight. Another break for us.
And coming up, civil rights icon Democratic Congressman John Lewis reflecting on the destructive and dangerous words spoken by the commander- in-chief just these past few days, when we come back.
WILLIAMS: With all that is coming out of this White House and this President, earlier this morning, we got the chance to speak with a living icon of the civil rights movement, a 32-year veteran of the US House of Representatives, Democratic Congressman John Lewis of Georgia.
We started by discussing the language of race that the President has employed just this week.
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WILLIAMS: Congressman, thank you very much for coming on our broadcast tonight. I want to talk about how this week started for this President.
I have to say I`m just back from the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, so this is all very current, very top of mind. But for a man like you, it`s current and top of mind, when you wake up in the morning, when you get dressed. It`s current and top of mind every moment that you are awake.
Why are these tropes so damaging, so destructive, and apparently so irresistible for this President?
REP. JOHN LEWIS (D), GEORGIA: Well, thank you for having me tonight. I don`t quite understand it. I thought sometime ago that we have come much farther along. But the scars and stains of racism still deeply embedded in American society. And it`s a shame and a disgrace that the president of the United States of America is a deflection.
He is preaching the seed and sewing the seed of racism. And it`s not right and it`s not fair for our country.
WILLIAMS: Why is this particular "go back where you came from" trope, so destructive, so dangerous?
LEWIS: Well, many people who grew up the way I did and others, not just from the south, but other parts of the country, we heard it over and over again. Go back to your school. Go back to your restaurant. Go back to your own hotel. Go back to your country.
No, we all come from some other place, except Native Americans. And we`re one people, we`re one family, and we`re one house. Not just American house but a world house.
And as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said on many occasion, you must learn to live together as brothers and sisters. If not, we will perish as fools.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, what do you do about the fact that as a Democrat in Congress, you are a brother congressman to these four women who have been singled out by the President? And he`s now going to weaponized these four going forward and even further apparently.
LEWIS: Well, I talked with these women and other brothers and sisters, and I tell them to keep the faith, to keep their eyes on the prize, and to never, ever give up.
Dr. King told us, "Never to hate, never become bitter, because hate is to have a burden to death. To believe in the way of peace, in the way of love, but to believe in the philosophy of non-violence, and over and over again. I say we must respect the dignity and the worth of every human being."
A young Republican came up to me today and said, "John, what must we do?" I said, "Just continue to love. It`s the best way. It is the only way."
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WILLIAMS: Let`s break right there. We`ll return right after this with the question of impeachment and this President.
WILLIAMS: Last thing before we go, our final moments with Congressman John Lewis late today, our final questions on politics, the 2020 race and possible impeachment.
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WILLIAMS: Congressman, of course 2020 looms on the horizon. And to get to the raw politics of this, as you know, you read the papers. There are people saying it`s about two paths. For the Democrats, they can argue and fuss and fight, and have an argument and a revolution within their party or they can try to beat Donald Trump or they -- but they can`t do both. Do you agree with that?
LEWIS: I agree with that. We must be one cohort. We must be one people committed to a future for all Americans. And we must lead the way.
I say to people sometime, we must find a way to get in what I call good trouble, necessary trouble. Not bad trouble.
WILLIAMS: Congressman, last question, and that is about the impeachment effort. How do you believe it should proceed? Do you believe it should proceed?
LEWIS: I believe we should be cautious and do our work, and it will all work out.
WILLIAMS: Congressman John Lewis of Georgia, we`re always fortunate to get time with you. Thank you for coming on the broadcast with us tonight.
LEWIS: Well thank you very, very much for having me tonight.
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WILLIAMS: Our thanks to the congressman. That is our broadcast on this Wednesday night.
With that, we thank you 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