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. Robert Mueller set to testify Wednesday. TRANSCRIPT: 7/18/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: David Jolly, Neal Katyal, AB Stoddard, Eliza Collins

O`DONNELL:  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the President denies what we saw saying he was unhappy with that chant of "send her back" from the crowd at his rally last night.  Says he tried to quickly stop them by speaking up, which we will match against what actually happened last night.

Also this evening, no longer just individual one, the President is named in court documents out today about numerous contacts with Michael Cohen and others surrounding the Stormy Daniels payoff.  The government`s former lead lawyer before the Supreme Court here with us for analysis tonight, including why Hope Hicks may face jeopardy for her testimony.

And Kamala Harris and Joe Biden set for a rematch in the second debate as the stage is set for the next 20-candidate two-night extravaganza as THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Thursday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 910 of the Trump administration, and we are in the middle of an ugly period which got its start four days ago when the President targeted four American members of Congress by saying, "Why don`t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime-infested places from which they came?"

Last night on this broadcast, we watched clips of the President relitigating his case in front of his rally audience in North Carolina.  We heard him go after the congresswoman by name.  We heard the crowd chant "send her back" about Congresswoman Omar of Minnesota.  We watched as the President paused while the chant was rising up from the audience.  And today he tried to distance himself from that chant and tried to deny what we watched last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, if I may -- when you`re supporters last night were chanting, "send her back," why didn`t you stop them?  Why didn`t you ask them to stop saying that?

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Well, number one, I think I did.  I started speaking very quickly.  It really was a -- I disagree with it, by the way.  But it was quite a chant and I felt a little bit badly about it.  But I will say this.  I did and I started speaking very quickly.  But it started up rather fast, as you probably know.


WILLIAMS:  Congresswoman Omar was welcomed back to her hometown of Minneapolis with a different chant tonight and she had her own words for President Trump.


CROWD:  Welcome home Ilhan.  Welcome home, Ilhan.  Welcome home Ilhan.

REP. ILHAN OMAR, (D) MINNESOTA:  He is threatened because we are inspiring people to dream about a country --



OMAR:  -- that recognizes their dignity and their humanity.  When I said I was the President`s nightmare, well, you`re watching it now.  Because his nightmare is seeing a Somali immigrant refugee rise to Congress.


WILLIAMS:  The events of last night and Trump`s defiance over his attacks on this congresswoman have put Trump`s loyal Republican Party in a tough spot.  His friend, a South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham publicly came to Trump`s defense, even though once upon a time Graham had harsh words for Trump on the matter of race.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA:  I want to talk to the Trump supporters for a minute.  Here`s what you`re buying.  He`s a racist- baiting, xenophobic religious bigot.  He doesn`t represent my party.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Isn`t it racist though to say "send her back?"

GRAHAM:  No, I don`t think it`s racist to say.  Was it racist to say love it or leave it?  I don`t think a Somali refugee embracing Trump would not have been asked to go back.  If you`re racist, you want everybody from Somali to go back because they`re black or they`re Muslim.  That`s not what this is about to me.  What this is about to me is that these four congressmen in their own way had been incredibly provocative.


WILLIAMS:  The House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy did tell reporters that the chants, "have no place in our country."  He went on to support Trump`s assertion about not taking part when the chants erupted.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R) CALIFORNIA, MINORITY LEADER:  The President did not join in.  The President moved on.  He moved on about a speech about a country and the things that are building it right. That`s what the President did.  Has it become so far that you want to dislike the President so much you`re going to accuse him of trying to do something he did not do?


WILLIAMS:  Behind the scenes, however, many Republicans are not happy about what has unfolded.  NBC News reporting tonight that some of Trump`s allies in Congress suggested to Vice President Pence today that the chants were not helpful and that such behavior should be discouraged.

"New York Times" reporting that House Republican leaders, "pleaded with Pence on Thursday morning to separate the party from the message embraced by the crowd."

There`s this from Politico, "During a breakfast meeting with Republican leaders, multiple members said they were disturbed by the chants aimed at Representative Omar and asked Pence to relay their message to Trump, which he agreed to do.  Today voters also weighed in on the rally and Trump`s attacks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m disgusted in America for allowing this to happen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  There`s certain things about America that aren`t lovable.  People are entitled to their opinions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I also think that if you`re going to be here, you got to obey our laws and, you know, abide within, you know, the things that we set here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  For anybody to say that it`s appalling for the President of the United States to say.  It`s just -- it`s disgraceful.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think you judge get on (ph), this immigration problem, our Congress has got to get their act together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As an immigrant, I feel that`s very, very disrespectful and very, very hurtful.  Because for me and most of us, this is our home.


WILLIAMS:  Trump`s next rally is set for August 1st, Cincinnati, Ohio.  Today reporters asked him about his message to his supporters and if he would stop them if he repeated that same "send her back" chant.


TRUMP:  Well, these are people that love our country.  I want them to keep loving our country.  And I think the congresswomen, by the way, should be more positive than they are.  The congresswomen have a lot of problems.

The congressmen and women also have a big obligation in this country and in every country, frankly, but they have a big obligation.  And the obligation is to love your country.


WILLIAMS:  That brings us to our lead-off discussion on a Thursday night.  And for that, Peter Baker, Chief White House Correspondent for "The New York Times," Kimberly Atkins, Senior Washington Correspondent for WBUR Boston`s NPR News Station, and David Jolly, former Republican member of Congress from the State of Florida who has since left the House and his political party.

Kim, I`d like to begin with you with this from Ashley Parker of "The Washington Post."  She was in attendance last night in North Carolina.  "The President paused, as of to let the moment unfurl, to fan another gust of oxygen onto the fire of racial animus devouring his base.  He let go of the lectern and turned his body to the left.  He gripped it again with both hands and stared forward before swiveling to the right.  For 13 full seconds, the crowd shouted that Omar, a U.S. congresswoman, a U.S. citizen, should be sent back to the country from which she fled.  And in the messy aftermath, many in Trump`s orbit and the Republican Party squirmed and wriggled, sighing that perhaps the crowd had crossed a line, but generally unwilling to condemn the President himself."

Kim, do you get the unmistakable view that this has become more ominous by the day, over four days of this?

KIMBERLY ATKINS,WBUR SR. NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  I think so.  Look, we know we`ve seen from the last four years that there are few places where Donald Trump feels more comfortable and more himself than at a rally.  He knows how to deal with the crowd.  He knows how to respond to the crowd and play off the crowd.  And I think Ashley did a pretty brilliant job of describing exactly how he did it.

He heard what the crowd was chanting.  He stood there and he let the chant go through.  It wasn`t until the chant itself died down that he started to speak again in a very showmanship type of way that we`ve seen many times before.  So any claim that he tried to tamp that down is just, you know, he`s asking you not to believe your own eyes in that sense.

But to your question, yes, we have seen this President before, even when he steppes back from a controversy, especially when it`s one about cultural divisions that he has sown, we`ve seen him ultimately snap back.  If you recall after Charlottesville, he initially came out and gave sort of a staid response that he read but added the words many sides.  And when he received criticism from that, it was when he came back at that infrastructure press conference and unleashed and totally went off and said that it was very fine people on both sides and really reversed and went back to his original comments.  I think that very well could happen here.

He clearly was comfortable where he was at that rally and there are Republicans now pushing back.  But if he is criticized, he`s going to go back to his gut.  That`s what we`ve seen him do time and time again.  So I don`t think that this over.

WILLIAMS:  Peter Baker, as you know well, sometimes you just have to listen to the President and he will preview his own actions.  I`m going to play for our audience a quote you by now know by heart.  This is before the VFW in 2018.


TRUMP:  Just remember what you`re seeing and what you are reading is not what`s happening.  Just stick with us.  Don`t believe the crap you see from these people, the fake news.


WILLIAMS:  So, Peter, with that in mind, weren`t his comments today just a natural extension?

PETER BAKER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES" CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, look, he has repeatedly asked Americans to believe his version of events, his narrative that he is setting over not just the viewpoints or recollections of other people who happen to be in a room, but the very videotapes or audio tapes we`ve seen.  We`ve seen him repeatedly in the last few weeks alone.

We saw him deny that he called Meghan Markle the, you know, the new duchess in Britain nasty.  He denied that the, you know, the facility in Texas that Vice President Pence saw was, you know, crowded and troubled.  He denied that he had said, even a small thing like whether he called Tim Cook of Apple, whether he called him "Tim apple" or not in an event, he did.  The audio tape makes it very clear and he denied it at first.  You know, it`s - - don`t believe what you hear or what you see, believe what I`m telling you.

And look, a lot of people who believe in him believe he`s telling a larger truth.  They understand that he might not be getting the facts specifically, he might not be, you know, completely honest about this or that.  What they see in him, though, is somebody who is speaking truth to power in a way.  And that`s why they react to-- they saw it last night, they react to his vision of an America that is under siege by, you know, by this multicultural, you know, immigration-heavy, immigration-friendly evolution of a country that makes people feel -- that some people feel uncomfortable.  And that`s what he`s playing to.

WILLIAMS:  David Jolly, I have two things for you.  Here`s the first element.  This is the President on Monday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Does it concern you that many people saw that tweet as racist and that white nationalist groups are finding common cause with you on that point?

TRUMP:  It doesn`t concern me because many people agree with me.


WILLIAMS:  And David, that kind of language had people thinking back to a different politician and a different time, this clip that a lot of people may remember.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  I can`t trust Obama.  I have read about him and he`s not -- he`s an Arab.  He is not --



MCCAIN:  No, ma`am.  No, ma`am.  He`s a decent family man, citizen, that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues.  And that`s what this campaign is all about.  He`s not.  Thank you.


WILLIAMS:  So David, a number of questions.  How did we get here?

:  Sure.

WILLIAMS:  That shows the migration in viewpoint, tone, and tenor --

:  That`s right.

WILLIAMS:  -- among politicians.  How did we get here?  Is this locked in now as how this President is going to run for re-election?  Because, candidly, it would be rather striking at this point if he pivoted and started campaigning on jobs and the economy?

DAVID JOLLY, (R) FLORIDA FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN:  Right.  We`ve seen the real Donald Trump and it`s a failure in leadership that stands in stark contrast to somebody like Senator John McCain who rose to the moment of leadership when the nation looked to him at exactly a moment like you just played.

You know, Brian, we`re four days into this.  It`s been an exhausting 24- hour news cycle.  I think a lot of people in the last 24 hours, like myself, have gone from shock to anger to heart break, I am optimistic tonight coming out of what we saw at the Minnesota airport.  And what I mean by that is, I`m optimistic because the leaders who fail us politically, the Donald Trumps, the Lindsey Grahams, the Kevin McCarthy`s, their moments are fleeting, their legacies dim early.  But what we are seeing tonight, I believe, are the early moments of Ilhan Omar securing a very special place in American history.  Consider one of just a handful of refugees who have risen to elective office in the United States Congress.

Now at inflection point in this 230-year conversation over the freedom of dissent, our nation was founded on dissent.  A bunch of people who said to the king we can do better.  They wrote the Constitution and awareness that they needed to protect the freedom of dissent.  Madison wrote virtually every one of the freedoms in the first amendment it has to do with dissent from organized religion, to speech, to assembly, to petition your government.  And those constitutional freedoms, that`s the very same constitution Ilhan Omar in 2000 raised her right hand and pledged true faith and allegiance to.

And that 17-year-old girl in 2000 last night had to listen to an angry mob chant that she needed to lead the country.  What history has taught us is that no angry mob, no ego driven political leader can undo the protections that were written by James Madison.

The reason I am optimistic tonight, the reason I think we can celebrate is this is a moment where we are watching the founders` vision play out.  It is exactly Ilhan Omar`s dissent, if you will, her freedom of dissent that our founders envisioned.  It is exactly the dangerous behavior of Donald Trump and the mob last night that they also envisioned.  And that is why they wrote into a constitution the freedom of Ilhan Omar that ultimately will prevail in this very dark chapter.

WILLIAMS:  Well, that`s no fair because I have to pivot from that and say, Kim, at the risk of ruining a moment of Madisonian optimism, how does Congress possibly get anything done in, let`s just say, the next few business days they have before the summer break?

ATKINS:  Yes, you know, it`s difficult.  And there are big things that need to be tackled like the debt ceiling for the Congress to take on and it is difficult.  But on the other hand, you do see Congress moving.  I mean, the house voted to pass a minimum wage bill.  And so a lot of it is up to the President.  The President is in full re-election mode, and he is above all, wanting to paint the Democratic Party as being led by these four members of Congress, not intent to wait for who the Democratic nominee is.

And we will have to see if Congressman Jolly is right and if the vision of America that embraces the vision that these four members stand for is something that America will take over the very nationalistic approach that the President is putting forward.  But Congress will move on, and there will be new things ahead that will grab the President`s attention.  At the top of the list is will be Robert Mueller`s testimony next Wednesday that I`m sure he will shift his attention to.  But, you know, this is the new Washington.  It`s the new normal here, how we go from one controversy, as difficult as this controversy over racism has been, to the next.

WILLIAMS:  Peter, let`s talk about reaction and I know you`re out in the rocky mountains tonight, but I know your phone still works.  Let`s talk about members of the pliant GOP under Donald Trump, perhaps members of the Trump circle in the West Wing.  Has their reaction changed, migrated, hardened over four days?

BAKER:  Well, there`s clearly a great deal of discomfort about this.  you know, this is -- Republicans spent years trying to build themselves a big tent party, trying to reinvent their image away from, you know, a white dominated party to one that welcomed minorities, welcomed people of different faiths, welcomed, you know, multicultural kind of support because that`s the way the country is moving.  If you`re looking at the demographics in your political party, you got to move beyond just a single, you know, demographic here.

And to watch what`s happening these last few days seemed to many of these Republicans to throw that away.  Even Ivanka Trump according to my colleagues` reporting tonight went to her father and said, "This has gone too far."  That`s one of the reasons he disavowed at least ostensibly today the chants of the crowd.  But that doesn`t mean he`s going to back off.

This is central to his re-election strategy as far as we can tell.  It`s us against them strategy.  You know, they stand for a different kind of America, we stand for the America that we remember from the old days.

What`s remarkable, of course, is he saying that if you disagree with me -- if you disagree with me that means you`re against America.  Remember, this a president who came to office on a platform of, you know, quite vigorous criticism by the way America has been going, American carnage.  America -- I mean, Make America Great again means America wasn`t great then.  He said that we were no better than Vladimir Putin`s Russia.  He disagreed with the term American exceptionalism.

At that time, what he was arguing is, I have policy disagreement in effect with the leaders of America, I`ll make it better.  Now, these four young congresswomen, whether you agree with them or not and they have plenty of views you might disagree with are in fact saying to him, "we disagree with your leadership," and he`s saying, "you have to leave the country."

WILLIAMS:  David Jolly, while good people everywhere pray, and I mean, pray that your brand of optimism carries the day, I have to say as a southerner, you are also familiar with the playbook of the old time segregationists.  And what has bothered so many people this week is that so many of these talking points are way too familiar, given our past couple decades of history in this country.

JOLLY:  Yes, Brian, I`m glad you asked that.  And it`s why the moment with Lindsey Graham was such a disgusting one today on Capitol Hill, Kevin McCarthy as well, other political leaders.  They are intentionally shifting this from center back to love it or leave it, that if you don`t love the country, go home.

And to Peter`s point, love to them is suggesting agreement.  If you don`t agree with Republicans, you must go home.  So love it or leave it is essentially a narrative of quieting dissent in the United States and it is just as scary as center back.  And I do believe what we have seen from Donald Trump, he will embrace that.  There is a certain nativist and visceral appeal to it, but it is also why those who insulate him on Capitol Hill, if they do not understand that nuance of what love it or leave it actually means and they`re pedaling on the American people, then they`re too foolish to be in office and it`s time to vote them out as well.

WILLIAMS:  Our thanks to Peter Baker, to Kimberly Atkins, to David Jolly, for starting off our conversation on this Thursday night.

JOLLY:  Thank you.

WILLIAMS:  And coming up for us, what we`re learning this evening from new documents released in the hush money case involving the President`s former lawyer, Michael Cohen.

And later, the lineup is set with much fanfare.  We`ll map out the Democratic candidates, how they will share the stage over two more nights of debate, all 20 of them.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on this Thursday night.


WILLIAMS:  Newly unsealed court documents released today tied then- candidate Donald Trump to the 2016 hush money scheme to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels quiet about her alleged affair with citizen Donald Trump.  The documents reveal an FBI agent investigating the matter wrote that in the days following the release of that "Access Hollywood" video, Michael Cohen exchanged a series of calls, text messages, e-mails with Stormy Daniels` attorney and David Pecker and Dylan Howard of AMI, Hope Hicks, and candidate Donald Trump.

The agent went on to write, "Based on the timing of these calls, and the content of the text messages and e-mails, I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent Clifford from going public, particularly in the wake of the "Access Hollywood" story."

We should note the FBI says phone records were completely derived from Cohen -- I`m sorry.  This information was completely derived from Cohen`s phone records and not because they had any recording or any copies of Donald Trump`s calls.

"The New York Times" points out today these documents signal that it is unlikely prosecutors in this case will file any more charges as part of this hush money investigation.  Prosecutors said they had effectively concluded their inquiry.

For more on what this all means, we are so happy to be joined once again tonight by Neal Katyal, a veteran of the Justice Department, former Acting Solicitor General during the Obama administration.  A man who has argued 39 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Counselor, what stood out to you today?  And for our lay audience, myself included, what happened in this case today?

NEAL KATYAL, FMR. ACTING U.S. SOLICITOR GENERAL:  So, today the documents that were around the search warrant were released, the Michael Cohen search warrant.  And I think what stands out, number one is, what Donald Trump`s involvement in this whole thing was.  I think, you know, we`ve gotten kind of numb to his racism, his corruption, and his sleaze.  But you read these documents and, boy, the President was thick in the payments to Stormy Daniels, this $130,000 payments that he orchestrated his lawyer, Michael Cohen, to make.  And Michael Cohen is actually going to jail for those payments.

And so, I think one thing that`s happened today is really a tie-in directly of Trump to this whole thing, which we kind of knew because he was already named individual number one.  But again, it`s pretty stark to see this about a sitting President of the United States.  So that`s the first thing.

And then the second thing I`d say is, you know, it also shows the involvement of other people in the Trump orbit.  So Hope Hicks, who went to Congress last month and testified and said, "I didn`t know anything about this and I didn`t really have any involvement and I wasn`t present when Michael Cohen was talking to Donald Trump," well, the reports show that actually she was involved in all this and knew quite a bit.  And so, both of those things, I think, are significant.

They suggest that really Michael Cohen wasn`t acting alone, which is, frankly, pretty obvious.  I mean, if you`re a lawyer, you know Brian, paid $130,000 to someone or $10 to someone, I think you would be like, "Hey, what`s this about?"`  Trump`s defense, I think, has been, oh, I didn`t know anything about these payments, you know, from his own lawyer.  And I don`t think Michael Cohen was doing it out of the generosity of his heart.

WILLIAMS:  So, a dual question for you.  After all you just laid out, why is the only person charged, Cohen, and secondly, what real legal jeopardy could Hope Hicks find herself in as a result of getting cross ways here?

KATYAL:  Well, so there`s a crime about lying to Congress, that`s perjury and so on.  And actually Congressman Nadler tonight, the Democratic leader of the House Judiciary Committee has asked Hope Hicks to come in and clarify her testimony given what she said before.  So there is a possibility of a crime for that.

And then second to your question is who else could be indicted?  And I think we`ve all known since last year when these first documents were released by federal prosecutors that individual number one is Donald Trump, and the federal prosecutors are basically saying, "Look, this guy committed a crime."  Now, there`s a Department of Justice policy that prevents the indictment of a sitting president, but there`s nothing to prevent Donald Trump from being indicted for these campaign finance violations after he leaves office and indeed the statute of limitations doesn`t expire until 2021, so.

WILLIAMS:  What`s the likelihood of either one of those happening?  Hope Hicks getting found of perjured herself in front of Congress or Donald Trump the civilian facing actual charges the day after the inauguration?

KATYAL:  Well, I think if you have a real leader at the Justice Department who`s going to look at this fairly and appropriately, I think there is a risk.  I mean, if you think about it, these are the most significant campaign contributions in United States history.  These are only $130,000 to be sure, but they occurred at a really sensitive time, after the "Access Hollywood" tape and when the President was being pummeled for his treatment of women.  And the idea that he could then just go get this money secretly without anyone knowing about it, without him disclosing it on his campaign finance disclosures, or Michael Cohen or anyone else, that`s a really serious thing.

I mean, when I was in the Justice Department, if I did something like that, I would have been run out of office, as I think anyone rightly would have.  And so, I do think it`s a very significant crime and something that any Justice Department that actually did do the prosecution that the Justice Department is traditionally known for would go after.

WILLIAMS:  Neal Katyal has agreed to stay with us just as we fit in a break.

And coming up, we`ll get his take from this dangerous rhetoric from the nation`s commander in chief, now being echoed out loud by his supporters when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  We are back.  And here is how Susan Glasser of The New Yorker sums up how people are processing the words from the President these last four days.

"Half of the country is appalled, but not really sure how to combat him.  The other half is cheering, or at least averting its gaze.  This is what a political civil war looks like, with words, for now, as weapons."

Still with us is Neal Katyal.  Neal, I`d like to ask you a more personal question.  As a South Asian-American in the hit of Supreme Court jurisprudence, your position is now cemented for all time.  As an American in the history of Supreme Court jurisprudence, your position is cemented for all time.  And yet, you have a near-daily familiarity with the phrase go back to where you came from.

NEAL KATYAL, FORMER ACTING US SOLICITOR GENERAL:  Yes.  I mean, it`s part of my whole life.  It started when I was three years old and it continues on.

And, you know, it`s easy to shrug it off when it`s a rando in a parking lot or whatever.  The thought that a president of the United States would be saying that and encouraging it, and sitting by for 13 seconds while others are cheering it, I can`t think of a bigger betrayal of our constitutional promise.

I mean, our national motto goes back to the founding of our constitution, e pluribus unum, out of many one.  That`s why my parents came to this country, that`s why so many people do.  That`s why we respect the flag and cheer the flag and cheer what this country is about.

And Donald Trump doesn`t even begin to understand that basic foundational commitment. 

WILLIAMS:  As I remind our viewers who may not know, you have praised some of this President`s nominees, so it`s not party politics to you, but I say that as a precursor to the question, what`s been lost in this presidency?

KATYAL:  Yes, so it`s not at all politics.  I mean, I think, you know, you can be supportive of Republicans or you can actually be critical of these four women in Congress that the President is attacking, as I am in various ways, but it`s not about them.

This is about a very simple idea, which is we respect people who`ve come here from other countries and, frankly, three of them did, they just don`t have brown skin.  So we respect people who coming from other countries, we respect people who have different skin colors.

We don`t care in this country about that.  That`s what we fought a civil war about.  And I guess, if Trump wants to return us back to the antebellum era, you know, I mean, he can try, but this country is way too strong, way too powerful and our values are too dear in our hearts for that to happen.

So what`s lost, Brian, I think what`s lost is the sense of civic communication and fairness, and watching this breakdown in the president who`s cheering it on, who hopes for the as opposed to a president who doesn`t necessarily have to always bring us together.  There are obviously divisions.

But to prey on the racial division and the kind of hurt and pain that people feel, I mean, I can`t think of something more disqualifying to be president of the United States than the way he has behaved this week.

And, you know, I`m critical of him about his obstruction of justice and his conspiracy, and all sorts of other things.  But this is a true betrayal of everything the country is all about.

WILLIAMS:  This is cheating because I heard your answer to Ari Melber.  Preview for me, what would be your first three questions to Robert Mueller in a little less than a week?

KATYAL:  Yes.  So I think this is pretty simple.  Mueller is going to come in.  He wants to talk about the report, that`s great.  That`s all that Americans need to know, they just need to know what`s in the report.

So the President has said, he said in a tweet that the Mueller found no collusion, no obstruction, and it totally exonerates the president.

So three simple questions, number one, Mr.  Mueller, did you find no collusion?  Number two, Mr. Mueller, did you find no obstruction?  Number three, Mr.  Mueller, did your report totally exonerate the president?

The answer to those are in the report, but I think for him to say it and for all Americans to hear it as opposed to read through and thumb through a 448-page report, it will be devastating to the President.

WILLIAMS:  Counselor, thank you for stopping by our studios.

KATYAL:  Thank you. 

WILLIAMS:  Neal Katyal on our broadcast tonight.

Coming up, the lineup for the next Democratic debate in Detroit, Michigan is set, two more nights, 20 in all.  We`ll break it all down when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  The two Democratic front-runners who went head to head during the first debate get a chance to do it all over again in round two.  And once again, we`re looking at 20 Democrats over two nights.

This time in Detroit televised by CNN where they held a live drawing a few hours ago with great fan fair to pick which night the 20 qualified candidates will take the stage in Detroit later this month.

On the first night, Tuesday, July 30th, Elizabeth Warren gets her first debate match up with Bernie Sanders.  They`ll be on stage with Williamson, Ryan, Klobuchar, Buttigieg, O`Rourke, Hickenlooper, Delaney, and Bullock.  He is the new entry by the way, replacing Swalwell who fell out of the race.

Night two, July 31, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris return as the big names side by side.  Joining them, Bennet, Gillibrand, Castro, Booker, Yang, Gabbard, Inslee, and de Blasio.

So with us tonight, Stoddard, AB Stoddard, Columnist and Associate Editor at RealClearPolitics, and Eliza Collins, Politics Reporter covering the 2020 campaign for the Wall Street Journal, welcome to you both.

AB, two things I despise are covering these things like a sporting event, even the idea of a live audience at these events.  I think it detracts from the answers, waste time, and weights the audience with those who can have more people in the crowd.

Having established that, tell us what you`re looking for by way of a dynamic this second time between Biden and Kamala Harris?

AB Stoddard, COLUMNIST/ASSOCIATE EDITOR, REALCLEARPOLITICS:  Right.  Well, I mean, I agree with you, Brian.  And let`s just admit, this is a mess, it`s going to be a mess until we have eight people on stage on one night.

And at the top pollers face each other, and contrast and challenge each other and have an actually debate, which we`re not really going to see this time.  I have a feeling that Kamala Harris is not going to go after Joe Biden again.

It was a risky ploy.  She got some benefit out of it but she also got some backlash.  So it will be interesting to see now that she`s on the upswing whether or not she goes back at that or just tries to sell herself, continue to be sort of this great, you know, contestant against Donald Trump that she`s trying to make the case that she is.

Biden has to be ready for everybody.  I think Booker is going to take him on.  He`s of course on the stage with Bill de Blasio again, very difficult for anyone to deal with Bill de Blasio who`s going to insert himself repeatedly.

And I think it is an interesting lineup like I said because I think that there`s going to be people like Booker who sort of had a good debate last month, like Castro, that need to sort of break out of the pack this time and they could be very aggressive.

WILLIAMS:  Eliza, pick a night, any night, pick a grouping, a pairing, any pairing.  What are the match-ups and dynamics you`re looking for?

ELIZA COLLINS, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:  All right.  I`ll go with the first night.


COLLINS:  The first night we have Warren and Sanders are sort of the two front-runners of the night.  I`m really interested to watch how they interact because they really do agree on so many different policies here.

Sanders talked about a lot of these policies in 2016 and brought a lot of Democrats on board, including Warren.  And they`re competing for a similar section of progressive voters.  But Warren has been rising and Sanders has sort of been stagnant or falling in polls.

So it`s going to be competitive.  And around them are a whole bunch of moderate Democrats who like AB mentioned, the first night, there`s a group of Democrats who need to break through.  And so these people have been attacking Sanders for Medicare for All I expect that to continue.

Steve Bullock, John Delaney, these are folks that are going to continue those attack lines because they want to have their moment.  So we`ve got a lot of moderates trying to break out, and then with two really progressive people in the center trying to kind of outdo each other.

WILLIAMS:  Both of these journalists have agreed to stay with us as we fit in another break.

And coming up, what it was that we witnessed from that crowd at the Trump rally in North Carolina just last night?



SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He spreads this hate and he does it for no other reason but to, one, invigorate his base, and two, to divide so people don`t notice what else is going on.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  He must be blind and deaf because if he didn`t hear what they were saying, I don`t understand it.  Look, this is a game.  This is about dividing the country.  This is about dividing and raising the issue of racism across the country.


WILLIAMS:  Some of Trump`s opponents blasting him after those "send her back" chants rose up from the audience at that rally in North Carolina and went 13 seconds before being interrupted by the President.  They were, of course, specifically targeting Congresswoman Omar, one of the four congresswomen the President has spent these past few days attacking.

Bernie Sanders today posted that he was with the Minnesota Democrat last night as the crowd started chanting, he said she was unfazed and he went on to write, "Ilhan has incredible courage.  She won`t back to Trump`s hate, and neither will we."

Politico Magazine puts last night into context and we quote, "Earlier in the week when Trump defended himself against charges of racism, insisting many people agree with me, it was crowds like these he almost certainly had in mind, but until right then and there, he hadn`t heard directly from them.  A live audience feeding back direct proof that this was something he could keep running on."

Back with us are AB Stoddard and Eliza Collins.  AB, I want to play something from our mutual friend, host the 4:00 pm Eastern hour here Nicolle Wallace on the air just today. 


NICOLLE WALLACE, MSNBC HOST:  Who is the Democratic leader who can say this is a drop-everything, get on an airplane, go to the steps of the Capitol, go to a central location in Des Moines, Iowa, go to New Hampshire, hold hands even if you hate each other and say this is who we are.

WILLIAMS:  AB, it struck me as a very good question and the kind I`d like to pass along to you.  The Democrats are going through this so called purity test.  They insist they can chew gum and walk at the same time.  That the systemic societal issues they want to go about fixing can also be in the form of a candidate.

Do you see a unifier out there?  The kind of person that Nicolle was talking about? 

STODDARD:  That is the central question, Brian.  I mean, Joe Biden is still the lead poller.  He is the person that most people have expressed faith and confidence in, in their one mission which is to beat Donald Trump.  This is also a very divided party.

And Donald Trump is on to a few things.  The chant last night was repugnant, but he knows there`s a constituency for this.  Just as you described from Politico`s description of this, he knows that there is.

He also knows that Ilan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, or Ms. Cortez are going to give this nominee, whoever it is, a hard time.  And they will exact a purity test on whoever ends up leading the party.

It will be divisive.  They might say anti-Semitic things again.  And he wants the party.  He wants that Bernie seen.  He wants leaders of the party to be married to these four.  He actually used that verb.  They`re married to them.

And so, while the speaker will continue to fight with these people, when they give her a hard time and say she`s coddling, you know, abusers and detention centers by rushing this money off and not demanding more concessions.  From Republicans, this is a central question among Democrats.  How will we pull together behind a nominee and who will it be?

It`s no longer clear it`s Joe Biden, unless he comes back fighting and describes to the party that the path forward is through the center in convincing terms.  But he is going to get so much heat from the left, from now until the end of this race.  And we just don`t know if he is going to win it.

WILLIAMS:  Eliza, using your equally formidable powers of description, what must it be like for a Republican member of Congress, let`s say a member of Congress, that just scooted by in the last election, to defend and protect that seat with this going on?

COLLINS:  Well, incredibly uncomfortable.  I mean, we saw some of our colleagues on the Hill reporting someone like Martha McSally in Arizona, who actually lost her Senate election in 2018 and then was appointed to a seat, but is up in 2020.

She was on her phone every time she walked past reporters.  They do not want to talk about this.  It is incredibly uncomfortable because while the base certainly does agree with the President or have appeal to the President on this, there are a whole lot of Americans that deeply, deeply disagree.

And these Republicans in tough districts and states have to win over a lot more than the base, but they also can`t lose the base.  And so, they are in this very tough predicament.

We saw people not talking about these comments for about 48 hours and until last night when we saw the chants happen.  Republicans did start to come out today and criticized the chants, but they were careful not to criticize the President.  And that is just kind of shows how they`re trying to have it both ways here.  It`s very uncomfortable for them.

WILLIAMS:  These are two by lines we urged our viewers to look for. AB Stoddard and Eliza Collins, our thanks to you both for helping out our conversation tonight.

And coming up, a word about the anniversary that our planet is marking here this week.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, at just about this very moment, fifty years ago tonight, the Apollo 11 astronauts fired the rockets that put them into lunar orbit, one of the last necessary steps before following their glide path on down to the lunar surface.

And during that summer of 1969, life went on while they were up there.  But all of us down here in the cheap seats prepared to hold our breath, knowing the hard part was yet to come.

It`s fair to say this country saw the mission in real-time, as it is correctly viewed today, with those of perspective, as perhaps the apex of postwar America, the sheer science of it amazed us.

It got us to the moon and back, and yet when viewed through the lens of 2019, there`s way more science in one smartphone than was onboard that entire spacecraft, not even close.

It`s also true we can thank the space program for the smartphone and portable computers and GPS, and smoke alarms and LEDs and CAT scans, and so many of the products of our modern life.

And as you watch the coverage these next few days of those first footsteps on the moon, don`t forget about the courage.  It was so widely assumed of those first astronauts that we hardly mention it anymore.

Two of the three Apollo 11 astronauts were West Pointers, two of the three were test pilots.  Buzz Aldrin shot down Soviet Migs and dogfights in the Korean War.  Between them, these three guys had flown everything.  They had all pushed the edge of the envelope.

And remember this, there was no guarantee that rocket wouldn`t explode on the launch pad or in-flight.  No guarantee they weren`t crash-land on that lunar surface.  No guarantee that when Neil Armstrong pressed the button to fire the rockets to blast off from the moon and go home, that it would work.

President Nixon had a statement prepared for delivery and standing by in case those two men had died or have been left abandoned on the lunar surface.  Think about that.  Neil Armstrong, the reluctant task to turn American hero is now gone.  Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins survived, so does the legacy of the three brave, young men who took us there and made America so proud.

That`s our broadcast for this Thursday night.  Thanks for being 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