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The issue of gun violence on campaign trail. TRANSCRIPT: 8/12/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Annie Karni, Michelle Bernard, Jessica Roth, Michael McFaul, DavidJolly, Jeff Corwin

GOV. BILL WELD (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  Though is one of the terrible cases two years ago where the FBI had open investigations on the fellow who committed the crimes twice and had to close them, because then there was a rule then that you had to close a case in six months.  That`s not how the criminal justice system works.  It takes longer than that often to build these cases.  But focusing on people, you know, the potential people involved, I think, is the shortest way to get there.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC HOST:  Governor Weld, we haven`t just run out of time, we`ve gone into overtime.  We have to get out of here.  Thank you very much for joining us and please let Anthony Scaramucci know that you are running for President as a Republican.

WELD:  I will call him tomorrow.  Thank you.

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

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, two years to the day after that Nazi march and the deadly violence in Charlottesville, the President has called out for stoking racial division from the very top and for endorsing some of the white supremacists on lowest rung of society while he continues to complain about being called a racist.

Plus, late details on the strange death for sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein, a man who knew a lot, had a lot of big name friends, as the President spreads a conspiracy theory, others ask how this could have happened to a famous inmate in a federal facility.

And the list that was once considered sacred and what some fear will be the newest innocent victims of the Trump administration.

The story as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Monday night.

Well good evening once again as we start a new week from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 935 of this Trump administration.  Two years to the day since the Nazi march on Charlottesville that led to a spasm of violence and the taking of innocent lives.  It also gave us something of a benchmark moment in the Trump presidency when the President characterized it this way.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES:  You had some very bad people in that group.  But you also had people that were very fine people on both sides.


WILLIAMS:  Two years later now, Donald Trump`s presidency has been wrapped in the label of racism and white supremacy.  Indeed, right now broiled along those same lines.  Phil Rucker of the "Washington Post" who joins us in just a moment reminds us that in the past month, Trump, quote, "used racist remarks to attack four congresswomen of color, maligned a majority- black Baltimore district as a rat and "rodent infested mess", and saw his anti-immigrant rhetoric parroted in a statement that authorities believe was written by a mass shooter."

The piece goes on to say, "Trump feels the charges of racism are just another attempt to discredit him, not unlike he believes, the more than a dozen women who has accused him of sexual misconduct or the investigation into Russian election interference."

Trump said as much just before leaving the White House last Friday.


TRUMP:  For them to throw out the race word again, racist, racist, racist.  They call to use anybody.

They call anybody a racist when they run out of cards.  I`m winning in the polls.  They`re desperate.


WILLIAMS:  The "New York Post" is reporting that shortly after that at a fundraiser in the Hamptons, Trump, quote, "made fun of U.S. allies, South Korea, Japan mimicking Japanese and Korean accents".  Not the first time for him.


TRUMP:  Negotiating with Japan, negotiating with China, when these people walk in the room, they don`t say, oh, hello, how`s the weather, so beautiful outside, isn`t it lovely?  How are the Yankees doing, oh they`re doing wonderful, great.  They say, we want deal.


WILLIAMS:  Earlier on this network, former Republican congressman and one- time governor of South Carolina Mark Sanford summed up Trump this way.


FMR GOV. MARK SANFORD, (R) SOUTH CAROLINA:  I don`t think he`s, you know, a white nationalist, but I think that the white nationalists think that he`s a white nationalist and that`s even more troubling.  I mean you don`t want somebody who thinks that they`re speaking to you if you`re in that particular line of thinking.

So I think that the issue is, rightly or wrongly, they`re reading the tea leaves in a way that`s sympathetic to them and that`s a real problem.


WILLIAMS:  This weekend following a particularly difficult period in our country, Trump was on social media pushing a conspiracy theory that the Clintons somehow had Jeffrey Epstein killed in jail.  It was quickly picked up and promoted by Russian state media.  Annie Karni, who is also standing by to talk with us, and Maggie Haberman of the "New York Times" spoke to conservative writer and national review editor Rich Lowry about this.  He told them, quote, "It`s another example of something where he should stop and think about the fact that he`s the President of the United States and stop his thumbs, but he never does."

In addition to the conspiracy theories, they are worthy attacks against the fake news media, China, other nations that are quote "ripping off the U.S.", Joe Biden, even a short-lived communications director, Anthony Scaramucci after the mooch appeared on Bill Maher which the President apparently accidentally watched on Friday night.  Scaramucci just recently started calling the President`s rhetoric racially charged and divisive to the country, and he says he`s calling on Republicans to look elsewhere in 2020.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FMR WH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR:  Hey, guys, we got to wake up now because we`re in a dangerous situation.  The yellow light is on.  It`s going to go red.  If he wins the next presidential election, look out.


WILLIAMS:  On that note, here for our leadoff discussion on a Monday night, Annie Karni, White House reporter with the "New York Times," Phil Rucker, Pulitzer Prize winning White House bureau chief for the "Washington Post," and Michelle Bernard, a lawyer, journalist, president of the Bernard Center For Women, Politics and Public Policy.

Good evening and welcome to you all.  Annie, there is something about a conspiracy theory.  Sometimes it`s birtherrism.  Sometimes it`s the Clintons killed Epstein in jail that gets into this President`s head.

ANNIE KARNI, WH REPORTER, NEW YORK TIMES:  He has long stoked conspiracy theories again from birtherism to this idea that there`s a deep state and a secret hidden hand that work that is trying to un -- take away his win or delegitimize him.  And this -- we wrote in this piece today that there is a special subcategory of his conspiracy theories that are accusing his political opponents of murder.  You`ll remember that during the 2016 Republican primary, he pushed forward a baseless accusation that Senator Ted Cruz`s father was involved with the murder of JFK.

He has dabbed in the idea that the Clintons were involved in Vince Foster`s murder.  And then we saw him retweet around Epstein`s murder this idea that maybe the Clintons were connected to it.  The Clintons are this forever foil for him, he has a wide group of Democrats to choose from right now, but none of them seem to have the same guttural sense of attacking the Clintons who have been part of a right wing, one thing that Hillary Clinton said rightly, they`ve been part of a right wing conspiracy theorizing for a very long time.  But this is part of how he muddies the water about truth present the (INAUDIBLE) with facts.  It`s unclear whether he believes the conspiracy theories that he puts out there.  But what he knows is that some people latch onto it and that works for him as a tactic.

WILLIAMS:  Phil, our other topic here at the top of the broadcast is race, and how does one --


WILLIAMS:  -- especially if one is, say White House bureau chief for the "Washington Post," how does one square the President`s pushback?  No one likes having that label applied to them.  How does one square that with the language and the behavior that got us here?

RUCKER:  Well, Brian, you square that by telling the truth, which is that some of the President`s words and actions going back decades now are plainly racist.  He is not changing his behavior and that`s why the label still applies to him.  The difference now compared to all these other moments where he has done things that have led people to call him racist, is that it threatens to become defining for him heading into the next campaign.  He for the less month now has been on the attack on these racial issues.  He sent those racist tweets about the four congresswomen of color.  He attacked Baltimore for several days as well as its congressman, long- time Congressman Elijah Cummings who is African-American.

And then we see the rhetoric and hence handling of the shooting in El Paso.  This is part of a strategy, by the way, that the President has for his reelection where he wants to use cultural divisions, he wants to use race to divide the country and to mobilize, to galvanize his white supporters to rally behind his banner for reelection in November of 2020.  And it`s probably going to continue, and I assume we`re going to see if the Democrats continue to label him a racist in the presidency.

WILLIAMS:  Michelle, as I welcome you to the broadcast, I have this for you from Jennifer Rubin.  On Trump conspiracy theories -- this is from the "Wall Street Journal."  There is a simple formula for responding to these episodes.  One, reaffirm that they are baseless crazy theories, two, remind Americans that as president, Trump has access to the very best intelligence, but instead prefers to spread dark, false conspiracy theories.  Three, Trump`s microphone is the loudest in the world, and whether he intends to, his words will stir some unstable and/or evil people to act, and four, in putting Americans at risk, he violates his oath, and if he believes in what he`s saying, he is also mentally unfit to lead.  That was the "Washington Post" forgive me my are -- that saying a lot and Michelle the question to you, what is a patriotic American to do?

MICHELLE BERNARD, PRESIDENT, BERNARD CENTER FOR WOMEN, POLITICS & PUBLIC POLICY:  A patriotic American has to absolutely call it out and call out every single instance of racism that we see at the behest of the President, at the behest of this keyboard terrorist, Nazis and white supremacist who follow the lead of his language.  Ever since this President has been in office, black and brown people are quaking.  It leads one to believe that lady liberty would be weeping if she could and some to ask whether Martin Luther King and Heather Hire who died in Charlottesville, whether they died in vain.

Some of the actions that we`ve seen since Charlottesville because of the President`s language have given rise to, for example, people that we have - - we will see referred to as golf cart Carolina and permit Patty and cornerstone Caroline.  People who have called the police, for example, on African-Americans for things that are really trivial.  Black men having a barbecue in Oakland, California.  A young African-American, I think she was eight years old, a little girl selling bottled water without a permit.  Another woman much like occurred with Emmett Till accused a little African- American boy of groping her in a grocery store, and all the videotape footage absolutely demonstrated that his backpack nicked her.  He in no way groped her.  We are going back -- you know, a few years ago we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Brown versus Board of Education as well as so much civil rights legislation.

This administration has taken us back 50 or 60 years.  We continue to see that black men are two times more likely to be killed at the hands of police for than white men.  We saw two white men in the last few weeks.  One went to a Walmart in, I believe, in Florida, another one in Missouri.  One mentioned, you know, three more days till my probation is up, and then I`m going to get my ar-15.  Don`t go to Walmart next week.

Another man goes into Walmart covered, you know, with a gun, ammunition -- I think 100 rounds of ammunition.  He`s in a, yu know, bulletproof vest.  Both of them are arrested in Walmart where as just a few years ago, a young man goes into a Walmart in Beaver Creek, Ohio, a young African-American man.  He is shopping for a bb gun.  A white male calls the police on him, and he is killed.  He is gunned down.

All of this, I believe, is a result of the President`s rhetoric, and he has to be called out on it every single day because lives are at stake.  You can`t go to church and be safe, you cannot go to a synagogue and be safe, you cannot go to a movie and be safe, you can`t shop at Walmart for school supplies and be safe.  The administration separates children from their families, the administration arrests undocumented workers at factories but does not do anything whatsoever to the people who hire them illegally.  There is an attack on black and brown people in this country, and the simple thing that for the patriot to do is to vote and to call it out every time we see it.

WILLIAMS:  And to Annie Karni, into all of this -- into this atmosphere flies a story out of nowhere, that one Jeffrey Epstein  has died in his federal prison cell here in New York.  It`s a sad tragic story of course for all the victims, it`s an interesting story because of all the entanglements.  What is the level of interest, level of worry that you`ve been able to ascertain from the Trump White House?

KARNI:  Well, his campaign aides were worried about the past friendship starting during in 2015 when he was thinking about launching a presidential campaign.  And he there were -- you know, Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein  has been seen on footage that NBC got, were filmed partying and ogling woman together in Mar-a-Lago in the 1990s.  They were friends in the `90s in the early odds.  They had a falling out.  The reasons are unclear, haven`t spoken in over a decade.

Donald Trump has been very clear in wanting to highlight the breakup more than the previous friendship.  But he always felt insulated inside more as a potential weapon to use against the Clinton, because Epstein also had a relationship with President Bill Clinton.

So here in the tweet he sent, one I talked to historian Douglas Brinkley today, who said that what he`s trying to do here is get ahead of the game and say, his connection is to Bill Clinton, not to the Donald.  So that`s what he`s doing here.  He`s aware that there is questions about what their relationship was.  But I don`t sense a lot of fear among his aides about a direct connection between the Trump administration and this strangeness of the suicide.

And we saw Rudy Giuliani, Mr. Trump`s personal lawyer, go out and kind of try and walk him back from spouting these conspiracy theories today, saying let`s wait for the facts to settle.  It is the Justice Department that Trump oversees that has to figure this out and to figure out what went wrong.  So I think with that I interpret it as kind of trying to let the Justice Department have space to do their job here without the President`s interference.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Rucker, we note the weather forecast for tomorrow, which is a chance of showers beginning at midday in New Jersey with some violent weather perhaps moving in late in the day.  We note that because that often means no golf, that means interior time, that means television, that means Twitter.  Are there -- and that we`ve asked you this before, are there moderating factors, people around the President?  Are they on this trip?  Are they in his life?

RUCKER:  Brian, there are always people around the President who wish they could be moderating influences who try to be moderating influences, but the reality is Trump is going to say and do and tweet what he wants to do.  And we`ve seen it time and again where, you know, John Kelly, the four-star general, the disciplinarian, was not able to moderate Trump.  Ivanka and Jared who billed themselves as calming influences on the President, I believe they`re in New Jersey with him right now, but they, too, are not able to moderate the President.

I think he`s up there at least he was initially over the weekend, with his new press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who, you know, is close to the President, close to the first lady.  But it`s doubtful that she`d be able to moderate him.  And I think the reality is if he sees something on television tomorrow that gets him angry, that stokes one of these grievances that he has, we`re all going to hear about it when our phone buzzes in the tweetlands.

WILLIAMS:  Michelle, the occasion we marked today, Charlottesville, the occasion you spoke passionately about, silence on the White House from that.  Surprise or no?

BERNARD:  No surprise whatsoever.  Taking a look again and thinking about the video clip that you played earlier, the President didn`t deal with Charlottesville in a humane way whatsoever.  To go out and speak and say that there were good people on both sides of the equation despite the fact that it was a white supremacist who killed Heather Hire and injured dozens of other people, the President is embarrassed.  He does not want -- you know, it looks like he is upset by being called a racist, but as they say, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it`s a racist.  He -- you know, he`s offended by that.

I am in no way surprised that he did not reference Charlottesville because he does not want people to continually go back to that one video clip of him saying there were good people on both sides of the equation.

WILLIAMS:  To Michelle Bernard, Annie Karni, to Phil Rucker, our thanks for starting our conversation for this new week on this Monday night.

Coming up for us, the latest details on the death of Jeffrey Epstein .  Now that a sexual predator is dead, what about all of his victims or his enablers?  What about all of his famous friends?  The attorney general of the U.S. weighed in on the case today.

And later, the Russian explosion that some are comparing to the Chernobyl accident.  Is it a fair comparison?  As THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Monday night.


WILLIAMS:  We`re learning some rather hard at new details surrounding the news that the millionaire Jeffrey Epstein died by an apparent suicide on Saturday.  Epstein already a sex offender, was facing new sex trafficking charges.  He was being held by the feds, remember, at the Metropolitan Correctional Center, MCC for short, here in Manhattan.  Officials tell NBC News Epstein was taken off suicide watch back on July 29, even though he was found in his cell days earlier with marks on his neck.  He was supposed to be checked on frequently, and yet an administration source said a number of hours elapsed between checks of Epstein`s cell, although the precise time gap between checks is not clear.

MCC, just for some context, has housed some big names in the past from Gadi to Madoff from El Chapo to Ramzi Yousef.  Also today, FBI agents arrived by speed boat to raid Jeffrey Epstein`s private island off the coast of St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  This morning at an event in New Orleans, Attorney General Bill Barr said he was appalled and angry to learn of Epstein`s death and he added this.


WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL:  We are now learning of serious irregularities at this facility that are deeply concerning and demand a thorough investigation.  The FBI and the Office of Inspector General are doing just that.  We will get to the bottom of what happened, and there will be accountability.  But let me assure you that this case will continue on against anyone who was complicit with Epstein.  Any co-conspirators should not rest easy.  The victims deserve justice and they will get it.


WILLIAMS:  Two of our returning veterans back with us to talk about this case.  Jonathan Dienst, chief investigative reporter at our New York television station WNBC and a contributing correspondent to NBC News and Jessica Roth, former assistant U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, now a professor at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law Here in New York at Yeshiva University here in New York.  Welcome to you both.

Jonathan Dienst, I`m duty bound to point out that the acting head of the bureau of prisons works for that man, the attorney general.  It should be known if there is a problem at a big name facility, big enough to house Ramzi Yousef.  What have you learned about the gap in time about -- in plan English, how this happened?

JONATHAN DIENST, NBC NEWS CONTRIBUTING CORRESPONDENT:  The gap in time we`re hearing, he was not checked on in his cell for numerous hours.  We`ve heard different ranges between three hours and six hours is the gap.  We`re still waiting for clarity from investigators, but that is a significant time when they`re supposed to be checking on this high-profile inmate who had a previous possible suicide attempt, that they this was to check 30 minutes or less.

Goes to that door, there is a little glass window there, look in and make sure he`s breathing and he`s all right, and if not, you knock on the glass until you see movement and make sure he`s OK and then you move on.

WILLIAMS:  Standard procedure is what every 30, every 60 minutes?

DIENST:  No every 30 minutes or less (INAUDIBLE).

WILLIAMS:  Is this is the kind of thing that gives birth to conspiracy theories?  When there`s hours on accounted for?

DIENST:  Right.  And everything we`ve heard is that this is a suicide -- it appears to be a suicide and that there is no foul play involved, and that there were a whole bunch of protocol -- possible protocol violations.  And the list seems to be growing by the hour, but that there is nothing to indicate any sort of conspiracy or criminality in terms of the actions but it`s still very early on.  A question about criminality, would anyone fake the logs that they said they did the rounds when they didn`t?

The union and some other officials tell us it was properly staffed, that there were two employees on assignment in that wing, and that was the appropriate number.  You see the "New York Times" reporting tonight that one of the two was not a fully trained correction officer.  We hear about staff shortages, we`ve heard stories about secretaries being promoted up or regular staffers coming up and asked to do some of the jobs of correction officers.  Unclear if that`s, in fact, what was going on in the wing that night, and if that played any role in any of this, to be determined.  The investigation ongoing.

Medical examiner not really seeing suicide as the finding until the FBI and the inspector general complete their work to make sure there wasn`t somebody who provided him with materials.  We`re hearing it`s most likely a bed sheet that was used, but was he given anything?  Did somebody intentionally look the other way?  All of these are questions that are being looked into.  As of now there is nothing to suggest any of that.  It sounds really like just a series of horrible errors and bad protocols and lack of discipline.  That`s what it seems like this early on.  But still, we have a full investigation to wait and see what they come up with.

WILLIAMS:  Counselor, I am guessing you sent your fair share of customers to MCC during your years as a fed.  But if all of us in civilize society want to say that the victims are our number one concern, will they get justice?  Does this case continue with a dead man at its heart?

JESSICA ROTH, FMR FEDERAL PROSECUTOR:  This case will continue.  And the U.S. attorney for the southern district of New York, Jeff Berman, made that clear over the weekend.  He issued a statement in which he said that the investigation will continue into accomplices and co-conspirators.  The charges against Jeffrey Epstein himself will be dismissed.


ROTH:  Because he is dead and you can`t proceed in a criminal case against someone who is dead.  But the investigation will continue.  Jeff Berman said that his office continues to stand up for the victims.  And he pointed out that Jeffrey Epstein had been charged in a conspiracy count which means that Jeff Berman was already prepared to prove in court that at least one other person was involved with Epstein had agreed with Epstein to engage in this illegal sex trafficking.

And so -- since those charges have been filed, we know that the federal agents conducted that search of Jeffrey Epstein`s home in New York where they uncovered troves of additional evidence.  We know that today there was the search conducted at his residence in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  We know that from reporting that his pilots have been subpoenaed for their testimony about who else was involved in the transport of victims for sex trafficking.  So there`s lots of additional evidence that prosecutors are going to be going through.  And I think we just need to be patient and take Mr. Berman at his word that the case is ongoing.

WILLIAMS:  And briefly, 30 seconds or less, all the bold-faced names we`ve seen swept up in this, a President, a Harvard professor, a prince from overseas, they will all still have to argue their cases because they`ve been put out there.

ROTH:  It`s too soon to say precisely what role, if any --


ROTH:  -- those bold-faced names will play in any future criminal case or in any civil case, because we should mention those civil cases by victims can continue against Jeff Epstein`s estate.  And there`s also the possibility of a civil asset forfeiture action brought by the U.S. attorney`s office against specific assets ike his mansion in New York that were used to perpetrate the crimes.

WILLIAMS:  All right, so we`re still figuring this story out.  We have a mystery in front of us, but our thanks to both of you for coming by.  To Jonathan Dienst and to Jessica Roth, our guests tonight.

Coming up, the alarming missile explosion in Russia.  Once again the world would love to know more than Russia is saying about a nuclear accident.  We`ll talk to our former U.S. ambassador to Russia when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  In all of contemporary history, only the United States has used nuclear weapons against another nation in Japan August of `45.  There have been many accidents, and days ago there was another one.  At least seven people are dead after an accident along Russia`s northern coast.

The "New York Times" reports it happened during a test of a nuclear- propelled cruise missile.  A spike in radiation levels was detected shortly after the explosion, but in keeping with old style Soviet tradition, Russian authorities initially denied that, and since then they`ve offered limited details.

According to "The Times," the Russian government`s slow and secretive response has set off anxiety in nearby cities and towns and attracted the attention of analysts in Washington and Europe who believe the explosion may offer a glimpse of technological weakness in Russia`s new arms program.

This missile is thought to involve some kind of prototype that Putin bragged about during his 2018 address to the nation.  He said they had a weapon that could circle the globe and evade U.S. missile defenses.  President Trump became the first U.S. official to publicly comment today.  It can best be summed up with his parting words, quote, not good.

Joining us tonight, Michael McFaul, former U.S. ambassador to Russia.  His recent book is titled "From Cold War to Hot Peace" and American ambassador in Putin`s Russia.

And ambassador, why should we be worried?  Why should we be skeptical?  For people who are right now bingeing Chernobyl and learning history about the Soviet Union, what`s different about the Soviet Union that we remember when we were young, and Russia, for starters?

MICHAEL MCFAUL, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA:  Well first, Brian, I just want to send my condolences to the Russian families who lost their loved ones in this accident.  This is a tragedy for them, first and foremost.  It`s an unnecessary tragedy in my mind because it doesn`t make much sense in my view to have nuclear-powered cruise missiles.

Now, the difference is the Soviets did not have that weapon, so that`s one difference.  The second difference is we have more information, we have more data collection than during Chernobyl, and obviously this is a much smaller tragedy.  But it is a tragedy.  It`s a scary tragedy, and it raises concerns about what is motivating Putin to develop these kinds of weapons which I think make no sense.

WILLIAMS:  When you heard the reporting, though, today that people were taking iodine tablets in the region, people around where this happened, when you see some of the photos of tourists with a cloud and a smoke column behind them, it`s incredibly eerie, all of it.

MCFAUL:  I agree.  And this government, Vladimir Putin`s government, is not good about telling the truth, and I would remind all those people bingeing on Chernobyl that Chernobyl was part of what unraveled the Soviet Union and the secrecy around it.  That`s when Mikhail Gorbachev decided we have to go in a different way.

And I would also remind your viewers that this is not the first tragedy that Russia has had under Vladimir Putin.  Just last month there was a nuclear-powered submarine that went under.  I think 14 people were dead.  And the lack of reporting about it is what you have in autocratic regimes and people don`t like that when they live in those regimes.  They want to know what is going on, especially when it could affect their individual health.

WILLIAMS:  And I know this caught your eye today, as it did ours.  This is a poll showing 44 percent of young Russians defined as ages 15 to 29 would like to move permanently to another country.  First of all, what`s your confidence?  This is Gallup World Poll, June to October, 2018.  What is your confidence in methodology?  What`s your confidence that real life backs up that kind of a number?

MCFAUL:  Well, I`m presuming, I don`t know the facts but I`m presuming Gallup has to partner with a polling agency in Russia, many of which almost all but one, in fact, have a relationship with the government, so the actual data may be even more shocking.

But Brian, think about how incredible those numbers are.  What does that say about Mr. Putin`s legitimacy, what does it say about his popular support?  We`re always hearing he`s so popular.  Those numbers don`t suggest that he is popular among the youth, and I would also like to point out that you just -- we just witnessed the largest demonstrations against Vladimir Putin since 2012 over the weekend.

50,000 people came out in Moscow to protest their desire for free and fair elections, local elections.  Most of those people were young Muscovites.  Not a good sign for Vladimir Putin.

WILLIAMS:  This is why we have you counsel to us and why we`ll have you back in short order on the broadcast.  Michael McFaul, ambassador, thank you very much for coming on, as always.

MCFAUL:  Sure.

WILLIAMS:  And coming up for us, the political battle that`s brewing in this country over gun control after last weekend`s two mass shootings.  A former member of Congress says it`s the Democrats that have more to worry about than you might think.  We`ll talk to you about that theory when we come back.


WILLIAMS:  Sheryl Gay Stolberg of the "New York Times" reports an assault weapon ban is gaining traction for Democrats on the campaign trail and adds, "With strong opposition from Republicans who are in charge of the Senate and President Trump in the White House, an assault weapons ban has virtually no chance of being signed into law before 2021.  Nearly 200 House Democrats are backing legislation to reinstate the ban, which is not enough to even pass the House and voting on such a measure would be politically risky for vulnerable moderates."

With us to talk about it, David Jolly, a former Republican member of Congress from the State of Florida who has since left the House and since left his political party.  So, David, let`s put it this way.  Right now you can have impeachment in regular or diet.  We`re having diet, apparently, the single calorie impeachment.

A lot of people say for the reason that augers into this reasoning, to protect moderate Democrats from casting a very eventful vote because, after all, if you want to stay in the majority, everybody and more has to get reelected every two years.

DAVID JOLLY, FORMER REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN:  Yes, look, that`s absolutely true, and impeachment is a good analogy.  But I would say the complaints should not be with those swing districts, it should be with James Madison and if the House doesn`t want to do its job.

Look, I would say this for those whose priority is an assault weapons ban right now in this environment, if a democratically controlled House of Representatives cannot pass an assault weapons in this moment, in this environment, then the notion of an assault weapons ban is dead.  It`s done.  It`s not happening.  This is why the Democrats took the House.  It is one of their priorities.

My fear the way this has now been framed as Democrats and much of America has asked Congress to do something, and the eyes have turned to Mitch McConnell in the Senate.  What will actually be done is a victory will be declared around very little.  Congratulations to the Democrats for moving their universal background check over to the Senate.  Republicans refuse to do that, Democrats did it.

But Brian, all that does is expand the type of transactions that are subject to a background search.  Unlicensed transactions at gun shows and the internet.  It does nothing to address the weapons used in El Paso or in Gilroy, California or Vegas or Orlando.  It does nothing to address high- capacity magazines like we saw in Dayton.  It does nothing to address expanding comprehensive background checks to include mental health evaluations, to include non-prosecuted domestic violence incidents.

What is sitting in the Senate is important, but it`s very incremental.  And this is a moment where if you are informed by a need for gun control, if that`s how you inform your vote, you need Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats to act on your behalf right now.

WILLIAMS:  Is another way of saying what you`re saying, that it`s a relatively easy, certainly it`s an emotional issue.  It`s been a dark week in America.  It`s easier to call for this while running for president if you`re one of the 24.  It`s quite another to be Speaker of the House during this time.

JOLLY:  It certainly is.  But I would also say, look, there`s 235 Democrats in the House. You can afford to lose 17 of those votes on an assault weapons ban and still see it passed.

To your point, though, look, Nancy Pelosi has a tough job ahead of her because if she does not move an assault weapons ban, then this issue is off the table for every Democratic cabinet and the additional nominee.  Because the nominee for the Democratic presidential nominee cannot call for an assault weapons ban next November if a Democratic House has been unable to even pass it themselves.

But conversely, if House Democrats can pass this and get it over to Mitch McConnell, you have a perfect contrast going at the November 2020 between the Democratic platform and the Republican platform.  One says we have passed an assault weapons ban and Republicans are standing in the way.  That is a much better environment for the Democratic nominee to go to voters and ask for true reforms when it comes to gun laws in the United States.

WILLIAMS:  I hate when we reduce what our emotional issues down to the pure politics and arithmetic of it, but so often it`s where they end up.  And David Jolly, thank you for your analysis and for joining us on this Monday night.

Coming up, we`ll talk to the conservationist Jeff Corwin.  He`ll talk to us about the latest Trump administration attempted rollback, and this time, as they say, the victims can`t speak for themselves.


WILLIAMS:  The Trump administration announced today it`s rolling back parts of the Endangered Species Act, weakening rules meant to protect threatened animals.  White House officials say it`s part of the effort to ease of regulations on businesses and industries like mining, drilling and development.

The "New York Times" reports it this way, "The changes will make it harder to consider the effects of climate change on wildlife when deciding whether a given species warrants protection.  It would shrink habitats.  It would most likely shrink habitats."  And for the first time would allow economic assessments to be conducted when determinations.

With us tonight to talk about it, Jeff Corwin, wildlife biologist, conservationist, Emmy Award winning TV host of Ocean Treks.  Jeff, what could be the reason for this?  Tell us why the average American watching either at home or perhaps they`re on summer vacation tonight, they`re watching and want to know the impact on this -- of this on them or their children.

JEFF CORWIN, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST AND CONSERVATIONIST:  Well, good evening, Brian, simply put, if you`ve ever looked up into the sky and seen a soaring bald eagle or California condor or off the coast of New England and marveled of hump back whale or at elk roaming the American West, all of these creatures exist today because of the Endangered Species Act.  Without the Endangered Species Act signed into law in 1973 and the ultimate quintessential example of bipartisan, we would not have these creatures today.  There would be no bald eagles alive if it wasn`t for this incredibly important movement which saved our nation`s wild legacy.

WILLIAMS:  I know you`re a conservationist and not a politician.  It`s been reported tonight that mostly Democrats are scrambling whether it`s going to be through courts or Congress or a combination.  But you raise an important point.  Richard Nixon was president when this was passed, when this was agreed to and it`s taken a coming together of a whole lot of people to enforce it, the fact that as you`re discussing, we have these animals alive and among us today.

CORWIN:  Brian, yes, I mean, imagine that, we can look to Richard Nixon and thank him for securing these symbols of who we are as a nation.  The truth is, Brian, the people that will be impacted the most will be our children with the loss and -- with the emasculation of this incredibly important endeavor of the Endangered Species Act.  And I can tell you from my heart that there is never been a presidential administration more willfully, more purposefully negligent when it comes to the stewardship of our natural resources than the Trump administration.

They have shown that they put power, politics and profit about above protecting not only the symbols of who we are as a country, but also the natural resources that we depend upon.  They made it clear this is not a priority.  They deny the presence of climate change.  I`m in Europe right now.  Every day I have to try to explain why we`ve pulled out of the Paris accord.  They`ve taken dirty energy industry insiders and have put them in charge of these organizations like the EPA and the department of the interior when it comes to protecting our natural resources.

David Bernhardt who`s now the secretary of the interior, everyone try to wrap your head around this, was a former oil lobbyist.  This is where we are now, where the son of the president, a big game hunter, can actually select the secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke.

It`s -- it`s hard to wrap your head around that this is actually unfolding, but unfortunately, Brian, we have a radar screen blipping with so many distractions.  This issue, so key to the survival of the next generation, is in jeopardy.

WILLIAMS:  Thirty seconds, Jeff, do you think they have underestimated the power of those who love the natural world?

CORWIN:  Well, I have to tell you, Brian, I don`t know.  I never thought in my lifetime I would see a presidential administration reduce sacred and protected federal landscapes like national monuments.  But I believe if we stand up, we make it known, we hold them accountable, it`s not too late, but in the best-case scenario, Brian, we are the last generation to secure our natural resources and our endangered species.  We`re running out of time and this is the wrong direction.

WILLIAMS:  It`s an issue urgent enough that Jeff agreed to wake up early for us at 5:54 a.m. in Berlin.  Jeff, we owe you.  Thank you very much for agreeing to join us and talking us through this news and this issue.

And coming up, a moment of genuine emotion in a business not known for it when we come back to it.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight.  If these recent mass shootings have saddened you, have depressed you, you`re certainly not alone.  And once in a great while even candidates for president can`t stop their emotions from getting the better of them.  It happened to businessman and presidential candidate, Andrew Yang in Iowa when a grieving mother rose to ask him a question.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  My beautiful 4-year-old daughter Dayla was struck by a stray bullet March 2011.  My son, my daughter`s twin brother, witnessed what happened that day.  She died two days later.


WILLIAMS:  At that point Yang asked if he could meet the woman, Stephanie Pizzoferrato, and give her a hug which he did and then for the father of two it became personal.


ANDREW YANG (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  I have a six and three-year-old boy.  I was imagining -- I was imagining it was one of them that got shot and the other saw it.  I`m so sorry.


WILLIAMS:  The crowd at the end with their applause tried to reach out with an offer of support to Yang who along with other candidates was appearing at a gun violence forum in Iowa.  That is our broadcast for this Monday night as we start a new week.  Thank you for here with us and good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.

  THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.                                                                                                     END