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Trump attacks Cummings' district. TRANSCRIPT: 7/29/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Donna Edwards, Juana Summers, A.B.Stoddard, Jon Ralston

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Donald Trump attended zero 9/11 funerals, zero.  Not hundreds, zero.

And if Donald Trump had attended even a single 9/11 funeral or if he had lost a single distant acquaintance on 9/11, you would have heard about that today.  If Donald Trump lost many, many friends on 9/11, you would have heard about that today.  So Donald Trump`s silence today about his own lying claim of suffering the loss of hundreds of friends on 9/11 proves once again that he was lying when he tried to steal the grief of the people who lost loved ones on 9/11 and make that grief his own.  And it proves once again that Donald Trump will lie to anyone at any time, in any place, on any occasion, no matter how sacred or solemn, about anything.

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

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the President of these United States has attacked Baltimore.  It`s being received as bigoted, race-based, demoralizing if not surprising as the President attacks another member of Congress in a storied American city of former Baltimore mayor will be here with us.

Plus, our Director of National Intelligence is out and the President`s man to replace Dan Coats is a guy who seemed to be auditioning for the job at the Mueller hearing.  The audition seems to have been successful.

And the movement in the Democratic 2020 race as another debate week is upon us as the THE 11TH HOUR gets under way on a Monday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 921 of the Trump administration.  The President has now attacked the city of Baltimore and he begins another week embroiled in a new controversy involving race.  After his relentless attacks over this weekend on Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, a 23-year veteran of the House, son of former sharecroppers, Elijah Cummings represents a majority black district that includes Baltimore and a large surrounding area.  He`s chairman of the powerful Oversight Committee.

His committee is conducting several investigations into the administration.  He has subpoenaed, among others, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.  He has backed chairman of other committees looking into possible impeachment.

Early Saturday, Trump lashed out at Cummings` criticism of conditions for migrant children at the southern border saying, "His Baltimore district is far worse and more dangerous," misspelling his name.  He went on to say his "district is a disgusting rat and rodent-infested mess.  If you spent more time in Baltimore maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous and filthy place, no human being would want to live there."

Next day in an apparent reaction to the outrage that followed his words, the President then posted this. " If racist Elijah Cummings would focus more of his energy on helping the good people of his district and Baltimore itself, perhaps progress could be made in fixing the mess that he has helped to create."

Tonight we got this, "Elijah Cummings never went to the southern border and then he screams at the very good people who despite Congresses failure to fix the loopholes on asylum make it work."

On Fox News Sunday, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was confronted with Trump`s apparent pattern of attacks on lawmakers of color.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  There is a clear pattern here, Mick.  The fact is that before his inauguration, the President tweeted about John Lewis, a black congressman.  Two weeks ago he goes after these four members of the squad, all women of color, and says they should they should go back to the crime-infested countries from which they come.  Then he talks about Elijah Cummings and he says his district is rat and rodent infested.  Infested.  It sounds like vermin.  It sounds subhuman.  And these are all six members of Congress who are people of color.

MICK MULVANEY, ACTING WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF:  I think you`re spending way too much time reading between the lines.  Does anybody --

WALLACE:  I`m not reading between the lines, I`m reading the lines.

MULVANEY:  Does anyone --


WILLIAMS:  This morning Donald Trump expanded his attacks to include the Reverend Al Sharpton as the civil rights activist was on his way to Baltimore.  "I have known Al for 25 years.  Always got along well.  He loved Trump.  Al is a con man, a troublemaker, always looking for a score.  Hates whites and cops."

Earlier tonight, Sharpton responded.


REV. AL SHARPTON, FOUNDER NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK:  He has always been one that would play any card that he felt was to his advantage.

Donald Trump must think he is a race because to disagree with him makes you against a whole race of people.  No, we`re against his policies.


WILLIAMS:  "Washington Post" reports on the evolution of Trump`s onslaught against Congressman Cummings.  Robert Costa, who will join us here in just a moment and his colleagues report Trump was, "Looking for a reason to attack."  They write that reason came early Saturday morning after a Baltimore-area Republican, "appeared on "Fox and Friends" talking about video footage she had seen depicting Cummings` district as overrun by trash and blight."

They also report, "Trump`s broad side against Cummings was a topic of discussion during at least two White House meetings Monday morning, one with senior staff, one with a broader group of the communications team.  Internally there was some agitation and discomfort with the attacks."

In the wake of all of this, again, it`s the silence of Republicans that many find so notable.  One who did speak out made a point of not criticizing the President.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Do you agree with the President that Elijah Cummings is racist?

SEN. JOHN KELLY, (R) LOUISIANA:  Yes, surely, I think.  I don`t think either Congressman Cummings or President Trump are racist.  I think that they disagree, but you can disagree with someone`s ideas but not disagree with their color.


WILLIAMS:  Here for our lead-off discussion on a Monday night, Donna Edwards, former Democratic member of Congress from the State of Maryland, these days a "Washington Post" columnist, Juana Summers, National Political Reporter for the Associated Press, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post," moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS, and Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, former Democratic mayor of the City of Baltimore.  Good evening and welcome to you all.

Mayor, I`d like to begin with you.  And let`s not over gauzy this up.  It is true, as you know better than most people on the planet today, the crisis the City of Baltimore has dealt with from crime to drugs, to public education, to vacant buildings.  However, it is bracing to look up at the television and see the headline that the President attacks Baltimore.  How has it been on your end on this day?

STEPHANIE RAWLINGS-BLAKE, (D) FMR. MAYOR BALTIMORE, MD:  The way I was raised, it`s not what people call you it`s what you answer to.  So when the President made those remarks about Baltimore, I know that not to be true.

Do we have blight?  Yes, we do. Do we have areas where there`s rat infestation?  Yes, we do.  Is it the entire city?  Is it the entire 7th Congressional District?  It`s not.  So I knew that he wasn`t speaking my truth.

That being said, it`s disappointing as a person who dedicated their adult life to public service for someone who in the highest post in the world, who could do any number of things to be supportive to Baltimore and other cities that are suffering decides to just point out problems instead of lif-- you know, raising -- lifting a hand to say, "How can we work together to solve some of these problems."  Pointing them out is useless.

WILLIAMS:  Congresswoman, next to you, as I heard someone dispense tough love in the Democratic Party tonight, just expressing shock, revulsion, and moral outrage isn`t going to win elections.  You can watch Fox News as I did in prime time tonight and see the next cities up.  You can hear the attack on San Francisco which has gone on for sometime, the Speaker`s congressional district.  You can almost guess where the movement is going to go next.  What do the Democrats have for this?

DONNA EDWARDS, (D) MARYLAND, FMR. U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN:  Well, I think it`s really clear that what Trump does is, you know, he -- on Friday we were all talking about subpoenas and possible impeachment.  Trump wanted to stop the news cycle and so he goes to the same racist trope that he`s done over and over again.  It`s despicable.

And I think what Democrats have to do is call it out when they see it, but also call out the reason why.  And the reason is because Trump is using this as part of his playbook for re-election.  It`s divisive.  I don`t think that it will work at all, and it takes the focus off of things that are really important as well like how is it that we deal with the challenges of some of our largest cities?  How do we make sure that we stay on the game and continue to investigate this President?  And so i think Democrats have to do two things at once, but they can`t let Trump`s racism pass without commentary because then it really does become normalized, and that`s not acceptable.

WILLIAMS:  Mayor, talk to us if -- a bit briefly about Elijah Cummings.

RAWLINGS-BLAKE:  Elijah Cummings is what I consider one of the finest public servants we have serving in Maryland in my lifetime.  He is passionate about our city.  He`s passionate about using his voice, his skills, and his talents to make his community better.  The thought that the President in a moment of weakness of his character decides to impugn the character of Elijah Cummings I think speaks more about the President`s weakness than Congressman Cummings.

I count him as a friend and a mentor.  My father was close to him as well and he deserves better.  It pains me, again, as a person who is a public servant to watch what is happening in the White House.  As a public servant, you`re supposed to ask yourself is this making us better, is this making my community better, my city better, my state better, my country better if you`re the president.  And if it`s not, you shouldn`t be doing it, period.

WILLIAMS:  Juana, just days ago, right before the weekend, you were sitting in the studio in New York no more than five feet from my left and we got into a conversation.  At commercial you said you lived in Baltimore.  I reacted the way most people in your life must react.  And I said "great town."  I still insist that most people would react that way, to learning someone lives on Baltimore, Maryland.  Please do us the favor of telling us, shadow the piece you`ve written for the Associated Press in words, tell us about the 7th Congressional District, Congressman Cummings` district.

JUANA SUMMERS, ASSOCIATED PRESS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Absolutely.  My colleagues and I spent our day traveling the entirety of this district.  And I think one of the things that often gets lost given the way that President Trump has talked about this district.  This is not a district that just includes Baltimore.  It`s certainly as large swats of Baltimore City, I live in a neighborhood in congressional district, but it also includes parts of Baltimore County, of Howard County, which is regularly seen as one of the most affluent counties in the country.

So we talked to folks from areas like Sandtown-Winchester, the area that came to prominent in 2015 when Freddie Gray was arrested and died in police custody.  As well folks in areas as far-flung as near Columbia, Maryland and Ellicott City, Maryland which folks may have heard of during the historic flooding that happened there some time ago.

And the biggest thing we heard is that people are very supportive of Congressman Cummings.  One woman who was in Clarksville, Maryland telling me that though her city issues, which is in a more affluent area of the district are not the same as the issues that we face in Baltimore City, she feels that Congressman Cummings serves her equally.  People are really frustrated by this rhetoric.  They feel that it is racist and incendiary and apply to President Trump`s base.  And they as Mayor Rawlings-Blake was suggesting, they want to hear what Trump could do to fix the issues that we know to be true that exist here in Baltimore rather than just casting aspersions on them and speaking of them as though they`re less than American.

WILLIAMS:  OK, Robert Costa, a dual question for you, number one, how does the President arrive at a strategy such as this?  And let`s call it what it is.  And second, where are the Republicans?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  It`s not so much a strategy, but a reaction.  Talking to the President`s closest advisers and friends tonight like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, he said the President is fighting back constantly.  He`s not thinking through this as a political strategy, even though at the White House today at staff meetings they were talking about how it could rev up the base for 2020.  But they also know the Republicans in this White House could pay a political cost.  You look at a state like Georgia in the south, growing in its diversity, changing demographics, a Republican stronghold for years, but we`ve seen democratic gains in recent cycles.

For the Republicans, talking to former Ohio Governor John Kasich tonight, who`s malling a 2020 bid against the President, he called in an interview with a (INAUDIBLE) culture of silence.

I was at the Capitol this afternoon as they came back for votes at the Senate, Senator Romney, Senator Fischer of Nebraska, Senator Lee of Utah, so many Republican senators, no comment, please call my office, don`t really want to talk about it, did not want to engage on this issue about Congressman Cummings.

WILLIAMS:  Mayor, what`s your advice for -- you know, I`m sitting here thinking of Cleveland, State of Ohio, Cleveland, Toledo and Dayton, all great towns just like Baltimore, Maryland, what`s your advice to those who may be next up on the hit list?

RAWLINGS-BLAKE:  I would tell them to speak their truth.  They know the truth about the greatness of their city.  You know, I`m hopeful that in a few short years we`ll have someone in the White House that wants to uplift cities across the country and not berate cities.

You know, this is someone who, as I said, you know -- let`s just -- even if you say that everything that he said about Baltimore is true, everyone is working hard to do their best to make Baltimore as best as it can be.  He`s the dealer of the cards.  You know, we -- let`s say we have a bum hand, he`s the dealer of the cards.  He could help us do better.  So I would tell them not to be dismayed because, you know, I don`t think people believe too much about what -- from what comes out of this President`s mouth.  So, you know, I would not be dismayed.  Know their truth and to continue to speak it.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Congresswoman, the question I just asked to Robert Costa, I`d like to put to you.  Where are the Republicans?

EDWARDS:  Well, you know, I mean, this, again, this is Trump`s Republican Party.  I mean, I think it`s really unfortunate because I know, you know, a lot of the senators and members of the House.  And why they feel hamstrung by not being able to speak out against this President is really beyond me.  They`re going to last beyond this presidency and they`re the ones who will have to rebuild their party and who will have to answer to the American people.

And I think 2020 is going to be that year where they have to answer the call about whether they`re going to stand with the racist remarks and the racist President or they`re going to stand with the American people and it seems very clear that in their silence they are complicit in Trump`s racism.

WILLIAMS:  Juana, two things, number one, I`m so happy you mentioned Ellicott City, a beautiful town that needs everyone`s tourism dollars and needs everyone`s support after the flooding that we covered here.  Number two, here we are presented with another story where the story line is White House aides agitated, worried, but the President goes on.

SUMMERS:  Absolutely.  And Robert Costa knows this better than I do because he spends a lot of time covering the White House, but this is the a President that we`ve seen time and time again reacts on impulse.  Supposedly there are aides around him who are giving him better information, who are suggesting, you know, these are things he should not say or should not do strategically.  I`m not convinced base in my reporting that this is all that strategic.  I think Robert Costa said it will.  You know, he is reacting to the news events around him, reacting to these Fox News segments.

The -- one of the big questions I have as someone who covers Democratic field for president is how they turn this around.  They are meeting for debates over the next few days in Detroit, another city that could possibly be on the President`s hit list, as you put it.  How are they able to bring out a consistent message to their voters to rally them and to unify them in this environment where you have a President that is trafficking and hurling racial animosity and racialized statements at cities like Baltimore?

WILLIAMS:  Robert Costa, is it unfair to use a word like enablers?  Corollary, is anyone willing and able to try to stop Donald Trump on a front like this?

COSTA:  You only have one person running against him right now in the Republican primary, former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld.  And he`s not gaining any attraction respectfully at this time.  Inside of the Senate you have a Republican Party that believes President Trump is critical to their re-election chances.  Went up to Thom Tillis of North Carolina up for re- election next year, he waved off the questions, did not want to engage, would rather talk about the judiciary, the tax cut.  I could go on and no.  Anything but race, anything but the A 1, it`s about the A 10 story for this Republican Party when you encounter them as a reporter.

WILLIAMS:  Our great thanks to the former mayor, former member of Congress, and two very active journalists.  Our front four starting us off on a Monday night, Donna Edwards, Juana Summers, Robert Costa, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, thank you all for coming on.

And coming up for us, Dan Coats is out as Director of National Intelligence.  We`ll take a look at the man Trump wants in and how a Texas congressman`s grilling of Mueller last week just might have done the trick.

And later, the Democrats, as we heard mentioned, gathering in Detroit for the next round of debates as a new poll has some bad news for one of the breakouts stars of the last debate.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on this momentous Monday night.



DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  People came to me.  Dan Coats came to me and some others.  They said they think it`s Russia.  I have President Putin, he just said it`s not Russia.  I will say this.  I don`t see any reason why it would be.

I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.


WILLIAMS:  Just over a year after that moment in Helsinki, indelible as it was, President Trump has announced that Director of National Intelligentsia Dan Coats is indeed stepping down.  The President said he intends to nominate Texas Republican Congressman John unemployment Texas Republican congressman John Ratcliffe as his replacement.  You may recall the congressman was one of the first Republicans to go after Robert Mueller last week.


REP. JOHN RATCLIFFE, (R) TEXAS:  I agree with the chairman this morning when he said Donald Trump is not above the law.  He`s not.  But he damn sure shouldn`t be below the law, which is where Volume II of this report puts him.


WILLIAMS:  Maggie Haberman, Julian Barnes and Peter Baker of "The New York Times" report, "If Mr. Ratcliffe is confirmed by the Senate, he will offer a starkly different perspective in the situation room, one more in line with Mr. Trump`s thinking.  Mr. Ratcliffe, a third term Republican from Texas and a former prosecutor, has embraced Mr. Trump`s theories about the Russia investigation and was among the sharpest questioners of Robert Mueller at last week`s hearings.  Mr. Trump met with Mr. Ratcliffe on July 19 to discuss the job, but the hearings five days later offered the congressman a chance to essentially audition for the President who enjoyed watching him grill Mr. Mueller."

Indeed, with us for more tonight, Jeremy Bash, former Chief of Staff at the CIA and the Pentagon.  Former Chief Counsel for the House Intel Committee, and the aforementioned Peter Baker, Chief White House correspondent for "The New York Times."  Gentlemen, good evening.

Peter, can you start us off on the decision-making on Trump to choose this guy and the reaction thus far in both parties.

PETER BAKER, THE NEW YORK TIMES CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes.  As the story said he was already sort of on the takeoff landing -- I`m sorry, on the takeoff even before the hearings.  But the hearings definitely cemented the idea the President has had that this is somebody he wanted in this position.  It`s very different than Dan Coats.

As we just said, Dan coats, while obviously a Republican, former senator, spent a lot of time on the Hill, a partisan over a career, at least understood that the purpose of the job was not to be political but to be as sober minded and neutral, and advocate of the intelligence agencies as one can be in that position.  He spent a lot of time in that security (ph), been an ambassador to Germany.

John Ratcliffe is well respected by a lot of the Republican peers, particularly on the conservative side, but has very little resume that would naturally suit this job, probably less than anybody since the job was first created in the years after 9/11.

And some of the Senate Republicans had made very clear they`re kind of lukewarm about this.  Senator Burr, Richard Burr of North Carolina, the Republican chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said that he only spoke with Congressman Ratcliffe last night for the first time.  Doesn`t know him.  And, you know, his comments today indicated that he was not at all necessarily sold on him at this point.

WILLIAMS:  And Peter is there anything in his resume that would stand out to a casual reader that would suit him for this job title?

BAKER:  Well, he joined the House Intelligence Committee just this year, so that would be his, you know, most significant exposure to the intelligence world up to now.  He had been a U.S. attorney and he did prosecute terrorism cases.  But, you know, he was -- he`s Texas, so a lot of his cases were not really about that.  In fact on his website, he boasts about arresting 300 illegal aliens, that`s the term he used, in a single day.  That`s was he use his calling card when he ran for office.

But, you know, again, the performance I think last week was part of the selling point to the President.  Here was somebody who was skeptical of the view that Russia had interfere on behalf of President Trump.  He made the argument that, in fact, perhaps Russia was really interfering on behalf of Hillary Clinton by feeding information to Christopher Steele for the now infamous dossier that we spent so much time talking about.

And of course he grilled Robert Mueller about his decision not to exonerate the President on obstruction of justice.  He said that he didn`t have the authority to either exonerate or not exonerate.  Wasn`t within his mandate to do that and was pretty tough on the special counsel in that hearing, something that cheered on the President as he watched on television.

WILLIAMS:  Jeremy Bash, I`ve used this term before and I don`t mean it as a pejorative, but Dan Coats was what we used to call a chamber of commerce Republican in the State of Indiana.  Could you make a case that he grew in this job and slowly realized his status as human guardrail, and what do you make of the next nominee and the potential effect on the Intelligence Community?

JEREMY BASH, FMR. CIA CHIEF OF STAFF:  Yes, Brian, there are three things that really concern me about this personnel move.  Number one is, as you know that Dan Coats responsibly, nobly, honorably led the Intelligence Community.  And even though he was a Republican elected official in a prior life, he left politics at the door of the office of the Director of National Intelligence, and he spoke truth to power.  He told -- he told the country and the United States Senate and the House in particular during his public testimony exactly what Russia was up to with respect to interfering with the election, the fact that North Korea would not denuclearize, the fact that Iran was complying with the Iran deal, under the fact that Isis was in fact a threat, all things that contradicted public statements that the President made.

The second think that concerns me is there is an able deputy, Sue Gordon, and she can fill the role.  Yet, somehow the career professional Sue Gordon is being passed over.

And the third thing is that the individual who was selected really has no experience in Intelligence.  And this is a hard-enough job on the worst day of a crisis when our country would be attacked or come under threat.  Imagine how much hard it is if you don`t have any experience at all.

WILLIAMS:  All right, gentlemen, both Jeremy and Peter have agreed to stay with us over this break.

Coming up, Mitch McConnell had a very negative reaction to being called "Moscow Mitch," it turns our.  And now the majority leader is playing defense on why he hasn`t strengthened our defenses against the Russians.



JOE SCARBOROUGH, MSNBC HOST:  I want to talk about Moscow Mitch.  Moscow Mitch says it`s a hoax.  How can Moscow Mitch so willingly turn a blind eye?  Moscow Mitch won`t even let the Senate take a vote on it.  That is un-American.  He`s Moscow Mitch.


WILLIAMS:  Well, that nickname apparently left a mark.  Mitch McConnell today defended his name and reputation, took big swings at his critics and more importantly, defended his decision to block re-election security legislation.  He complained the most recent bill was too partisan and said his position on Russia interference is being distorted.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MAJORITY LEADER:  Every single member of the Senate agrees that Russian meddling was real and is real.  We all agree that the federal government, state governments, and the private sector all have obligations to take this threat seriously, and bolster our defenses.


WILLIAMS:  So here`s what happened.  Hours after Mueller warned that Russia undoubtedly will interfere in our 2020 election and is doing so right now as we speak, the Democrats tried to get the Senate to vote on bipartisan election security bills.  Republicans blocked the measures.

This afternoon shortly after McConnell`s angry remarks, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer responded.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MINORITY LEADER:  And it`s Leader McConnell, who is the majority leader who can determine what`s put on the floor and he has put nothing on the floor on elections.  When last year we attempted in the appropriation`s bill to add more money, to help the states harden their systems against cyber attack, Leader McConnell opposed it.  He said it`s not needed.


WILLIAMS:  So still with us are Jeremy Bash and Peter Baker.  Jeremy, let`s talk motive.  What does Mitch McConnell possibly have to gain by holding up or destroying this kind of legislation?

JEREMY BASH, MSNBC NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST:  Well, I don`t think he`s a Russian asset, but I do think he`s doing the bidding of the President.  And it`s strange, Brian, because, of course, a paper ballot doesn`t favor a Democrat or Republican.

A rule that says that you have to call the FBI if a foreign adversary nation tries to pedal dirt on your opponent in contacts too in the middle of the election, that doesn`t favor Democrats or Republicans, but clearly Mitch McConnell believes that Donald Trump will be angry, will shed a tear, will get upset, will wag his finger or maybe tweet at McConnell if Mitch McConnell does anything to suggest that the threat against our election is real as it pertains to 2020.

WILLIAMS:  Peter Baker, what a new and strange feeling for patriotic Americans of a certain age.  We know we are exposed and vulnerable.  We`ve been told as much by the people we respect, and yet we witness our own country seemingly powerless to do anything about it.

PETER BAKER, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  Well, and not just powerless, but polarized.  We don`t even agree on what needs to be done, we don`t even have to agree on the idea that we were attacked in effect and what the attack meant and what we should thing of it, and how important it was.

I mean, it`s really fascinating, of course, as you said, Brian, for any of us who grew up in the Cold War, to look at this moment and realize that it`s the Republican leader who`s being accused of being soft on Russia and is firing back at his opponents for McCarthyism.  That`s quite a turnabout.

But I think, you know, look, Mitch McConnell look at this and said it`s just a political game on the part of the Democrats, that they are all about embarrassing the President, that this is by putting the legislation on the floor the day after Mueller, it was really more about making a point, and making a statement about, you know, putting the President on the hook rather than a serious effort at legislation.

And he decided he would take one for the team in effect by blocking it.  There`s a cost to that.  The cost is you`re going to be accused of blocking something that sounds reasonable to a lot of Americans.  His point is already doing a lot of things we ought to be doing.  The administration is already doing things.  Dan Coats, the aforementioned out going director of National Intelligence is put in place a top executive to focus on hardening defenses.

But it puts him right in the center, and I think that Jeremy`s point about President Trump`s reaction is part of it.  I think that President Trump looks at this kind of legislation, this kind of effort by Democrats as a way of delegitizing him, the way of saying that his presidency is not legitimate because he wasn`t elected fairly and squarely.

And so rather than focusing on what the Russians did or didn`t do, is looked at in that context.

WILLIAMS:  It is also clear, Joe Scarborough might have landed on something that hurts.  And if we`re applying titles, McConnell may prefer majority leader to Moscow Mitch, that`s for sure.  Jeremy Bash, Peter Baker, gentlemen, thank you, as always, for coming on.

Coming up for us on the eve of this next round of Democratic debates, all 20 men and women, what the newest poll numbers reveal about the front- runner and his closest competitors.


WILLIAMS:  The 2020 candidates preparing to take the stage for a second round of debates less than 24 hours from now and we can`t stop it.

Night one features a head-to-head between the two tops in the liberal wing, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.  Night two we`ll see another pairing of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris among others.  A new poll out shows Biden once again expanding his lead to 34 percent, caveat, it`s a national poll, after suffering a setback from that first round.

Elizabeth Warren is now in second place.  That`s a change.  That spot was held by Kamala Harris in the last national cue poll she`s dropped to third place with 12 percent, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders fourth at 11 percent.

Our NBC News Political Unit sums up the stakes this way and we quote, "The good news for Biden, his poll numbers have snapped back to where they were before the first debates.  The bad news, it`s unlikely he can afford another rough outing, which would only increase the chatter that he might not be up for the rigors of a general election fight against President Trump.

With us tonight, A.B. Stoddard, Columnist and Associate Editor at RealClearPolitics and Jon Ralston, veteran Journalist and Editor at The Nevada Independent.  Good evening and welcome to you both.

A.B., I trotted this out last week, and I think it`s germane.  So I`m going to go ahead and say it, because people are thinking it.  We watched a guy in his mid-70s, have a rough halting performance on live television after much buildup last week.

And to quote the New York Times, "As Mr. Biden prepares for his next debate this Wednesday night, which will include a rematch with Ms. Harris, he and his advisers are grappling with how to make sure he doesn`t appear so shaky, cognizant that a repeat performance could do lasting image to his campaign and erode damage to his campaign and erode his advantage in the polls."

I insist this kind of thing is not textbook ageism, but is part of the business we`ve chosen.

A.B. STODDARD, COLUMNIST, REALCLEARPOLITICS:  After the performance that the Vice President turned in, they have reason to be nervous.  He will not get a third chance.  If he comes in and wipes that memory away and is engaged, makes the case for himself as the most electable, is that lovable endearing Joe Biden, but is really connected to his explanation of policies, his defenses of his positions, he will -- that lead will open up.

If he does not, and he stumbles and he`s the same Biden or even partially that he was in the first.  All of these questions are legitimate and the whole race becomes, I believe, re-scrambled.  And those are legitimate questions about whether or not he can really stay in for the long haul.

WILLIAMS:  Jon Ralston, a word about polling here and I think this is important, "truth in advertising."  The poll we`ve been quoting tonight has a plus or minus of five.  That`s big, and a sample of self-selecting Democrats and leaning Democrats.  And the bottom line is this, about 580 people can decide what folks on this and other broadcasts talk about and strategies at debates because they get to decide that week`s, sometimes that day`s ranking of candidates.

Having said that, Jon, I want to put on the screen the latest numbers from Nevada.  A unique state that is also a primary state.  Biden, Sanders, Warren, Harris, Buttigieg.  How`s Nevada looking where Joe Biden`s chances are concerned, Jon?

JON RALSTON, EDITOR, THE NEVADA INDEPENDENT:  Well, it`s hard to tell, Brian.  And I`m glad you`re doing all these caveats about polling, whether it`s a national poll or those numbers you just talked about, which are extractions from a daily polling that the morning consult is doing.

Biden is strong in Nevada, just as he`s strong everywhere else.  And Bernie Sanders is strong here.  You may recall that he ran very strongly here the last time out too.

But let`s talk about what happened to Biden.  And while I defer to A.B. and her wisdom, I have to tell you, even if he takes a hit again tomorrow, look what he`s been through in the last few weeks, Brian.

I mean, he didn`t just have that terrible moment with Senator Harris in that debate.  There`s been talk about his nostalgia for serving with races in the Senate, the media has unearthed all kinds of things about his record on crime, there an anathema, to progressive voters, and he`s still in the national polls has a huge lead.

I just don`t think we know what`s going to happen.  And I think even though there`s conflicting evidence in polls on this, Democrats want one thing more than anything else, whether they`re progressives or moderates Brian, they want to win.

And so the issue of electability and the so-called conventional wisdom that Biden may have the best chance against Trump, I`m not sure if we don`t just get into our tunnel vision here on what all of this means on July 29th of 2019.

WILLIAMS:  Two things here.  A, I join you in deferring to A.B.`s wisdom.  B, both Jon and A.B. have agreed in their wisdom to stay with us over a commercial break.

And coming up, the Democrats and the Republicans ask in unison, is this really going to be a thing?  Is this going to be the Trump strategy approaching the 2020 election?  We`ll talk about that when we come back.



SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST:  Nancy Pelosi`s gated community home one mile in the other direction to her office, the homeless problem, there are spiraling out of control, needles all over the streets, public defecation, urination and much worse.

LA we`ve gone to LA like we went to San Francisco, experiencing similar problems, yet the Democratic legislators there have failed to address these very real issues.


WILLIAMS:  Sean Hannity from tonight`s broadcast which we mentioned earlier.  Still with us, A.B. Stoddard, Jon Ralston.

So, A.B., you can just watch Fox and Prime Time, see the list kind of anticipate where this is headed next.  Someone is going to the idea to embed a camera in AOC`s  congressional district in New York and it`s not going to be pretty.

The President went there on Baltimore.  I saw a headline on television, "President Attacks Baltimore."  On the list of things you`ll never think you`ll see.  I guess so much for the urban and minority outreach program.  Is this really going to be a strategy for 2020?

STODDARD:  I think that plan had to do with ASAP Rocky`s freedom.

WILLIAMS:  Ah, it was sweet, yes.

STODDARD:  And that`s still in the pipeline.  Yes.  When the Kardashians reach out on these separate issues, he springs into action.

But, no, this has been a buildup for a while before he attacks Congressman Cummings of a theme of how these rotting urban centers run by Democrats are completely out of control.  They`re war zones.  It`s beyond play and that this is going to come to your town or what if Democrats are going to take over and there`s socialism in the world, with Venezuela and on and on.

But now it really obviously with his attacks on Congressman Cummings really crossed over.  He insinuated that he needed to be investigated for some kind of graft where he -- I mean it was so beyond anything he`s done before.  I think you`ll hear them talk about Nancy Pelosi`s district to try to change this subject and say we talk about white liberals` districts too or something.

But I think that generally speaking, having people that he can call racist.  I mean he`s actually called the members of the Squad and Congressman Cummings racist.  I mean, actually really picking fights about immigrations and other things where he can get to that topic.  He seems to be getting more and more comfortable with as an avert tactic.

I don`t know that there`s an overall plan.  He does shoot from the hip, he is not really a strategizer.  But I think that those around him as we`ve seen from the reporting are trying to make lemonade from lemons and say stuff like some of these resonates.

Certainly he saw many, many thousands of people chanting at him, "send her back," and he seem to think that was pretty great.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Jon, how`s this likely to go over in the diverse state of Nevada?

RALSTON:  It`s a very good question, Brian.  And it`s interesting because A.B. used the word overt to describe what Trump is doing.  And he is just being more overt and perhaps more virulent, more venomous with this strategy that has been used by Republican candidates for many offices including president for the US Senate and Congress as well which is to drive up the white vote so high that he can win re-election.

That`s a very problematic strategy in a state such as Nevada, where as you know, he lost in 2016 by a relatively small margin but it was pretty much over by early voting.

The Hispanic vote here is very, very large.  The African-American and Asian populations are pretty significant in the election as well although not as large as the Hispanic population.  It`s not going to win in states like Nevada, that kind of strategy.

I think, Brian, again, I want to point to the date on the calendar and say we don`t know who the Democratic nominee is going to be.  All kinds of things could happen between now and the 200 or so days between now and the Nevada caucus and much longer period until the election.

So a lot of different things could happen.  Who knows, Brian, things could be happening while you and I are talking now, that`s how fast the cycle goes, right?

WILLIAMS:  You got it.  And that`s how fast we have to run to our commercial break.  Our two returning veterans and friends of this broadcast, A.B. Stoddard, Jon Ralston, thank you both so much.

And coming up, the story of a veteran Democrat who says he`s found an incentive, something extra to offer to get the Dems out to the polls in 2020.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight is supplied by a filmmaker and Democratic activist who just happens to be one of the best known Michiganders there is, Michael Moore.

He spent some time in this building with Seth Myers late last week.  Moore as you may know is sharply anti-Trump, having been one of the few who did predict a Trump victory.

He told "Late Night" viewers about a method of viewer turnout that was first employed by the Republicans that in turn helped turn Michigan from red to blue.  One that Michael Moore is now recommending the Democrats use across the country to get voters to go out to the polls, by putting things other than the presidential race on the ballot.


SETH MEYERS, LATE NIGHT HOST:  You want to talk about a strategy because you -- again you called this, last time.  And talk about what happened in Michigan in 2018.

MICHAEL MOORE, DEMOCRATIC ACTIVIST:  Last November, we -- Michigan sadly went red for Trump in 2016.  But this past November, we brought it back to blue.  And we kicked out all the Republicans in the State Capitol and we got the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state and we kicked out two Republicans congressman in suburban Detroit and replace them with two Democratic women.

So Michigan is now back -- and let me tell you how we did it.  Here`s how we did it.  And we got to do this in states, especially the swing states next year.  Ballot proposals brought out the people to vote last November who may not have voted.  So we came up with those idea, let`s get two ballot proposals, actually this is Karl Rove and Bush`s idea, in 2004, they got 14 states to put an amendment on the ballot proposal to ban gay marriage.  And it passed in all 14 states and brought enough people to get Bush elected.

We can do this this time.  If we put ballot measures on the ballots, we did in Michigan with marijuana legalization.  We doubled the youth vote from the previous election.  And the African-American vote, which thousands had sat it out in `16, unhappy with the choices.  Came back to vote last November, because we had a ballot proposal to make gerrymandering and voter suppression illegal and it passed.  It passed, marijuana passed and we had a huge effort of American turnout and that gave us Democrat -- we got Democrats elected off of it.

So instead of putting all of our hopes in one politician to carry that thing, we have to get these ballot proposals on in the swing states that will bring out people to vote.


WILLIAMS:  Michael Moore, who by the way, will join us Wednesday night as part of our coverage after night two of the Democratic debates in the great city of Detroit.

Starting tomorrow night, we`ll be coming on the air the moment the Democratic debate is over.  At some point after 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time, I`ll be joined here by Lawrence O`Donnell, by Joy Reid, by Steve Kornacki, Chris Matthews, Eugene Robinson, Claire McCaskill, I could and will go on and on.  We`ll also have live interviews with many of the candidates.

As for tonight, that`s our Monday night broadcast as we start off a new week with you.  Thank you so much for being here with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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