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Dow tumbles 800 points. TRANSCRIPT: 8/14/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Ron Insana, Jill Colvin, Franco Ordonez, Todd Gilman, Errin Haines

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  "The 11th Hour" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, THE 11TH HOUR, HOST:  Tonight, the market plunge, fears of a recession even a global slowdown.  And with trouble on a lot of fronts, the President calls his own man at the Federal Reserve clueless.

Plus, the continued grave concern over the rolling chaos unfolding in Hong Kong amid fears that the pro-democracy protesters will fight to the death.  Just tonight Trump says China`s leader is a good man in a tough business.

And with one Democrat in single digits launching his campaign for a third time tomorrow, ignoring requests to go home and run for Senate a second time, there`s a new late report tonight that another Democrat is getting out entirely as "The 11th Hour" gets under way on this Wednesday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  Day 937 of the Trump administration and a giant dark cloud has taken its new place on the horizon as potential big trouble for the Trump economy.  The stock market posted its biggest decline of the year as a key predictor of recession is now flashing for the first time since 2007.


NICOLE WALLACE, DEADLINE: WHITE HOUSE, ANCHOR:  With warning signs flashing red that the economy could be headed for turmoil.  The Dow closing over 800 points down today.

NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  Well, read it and weep.  If you`re long this market, you were whipped and chilled by this market.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fears of another recession causing panic on Wall Street today.  The Dow taking a dramatic tumble.


WILLIAMS:  The Dow`s 800-point drop is more than three percent.  Among some of the key factors the effects of the trade war along with signs of slowdowns in China and Germany.  As the market was dropping Trump was on social media slamming the guy he appointed as Federal Reserve chairman, Jerome Powell, known to his friends as Jay, "China is not our problem, though Hong Kong is not helping.  Our problem is with the Fed.  Raised too much and too fast.  Now too slow to cut.  Say thank you to clueless Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve."

Earlier today Trump`s director of Trade Policy offered air support for his boss`s position.


PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISOR:  This is basically the Federal Reserve`s problem volatility.  They are causing this because when Jay Powell got in as chairman he proceeded to raise interest rates by 100 basis points, too far too fast.  And even though the Trump economy is rock solid it slowed us down a bit because of those higher interest rates.


WILLIAMS:  After falsely arguing that tariffs would be paid by China and not U.S. consumers, just yesterday citing the holiday shopping season Trump walked back those tariffs.  He`s been an advocate of trade wars, calling them in the past "good and easy to win."  Throughout his campaign and in the White House he never failed to remind voters that the benchmark of his success as president would be linked to his economy.



We`ll win so much you`re going to get sick and tired of winning.

Our economy is going to soar.

We will achieve like we haven`t achieved before.

Our country`s doing really, really well.  Your 401(k)s are up 50 percent, 60 percent.  Somebody told me 78 percent.

We`ve had the highest stock market in the history of our country.

Our country now has the hottest economy.

We`re never going to stop winning.


WILLIAMS:  Today`s market sell down comes amid growing global challenges for Trump, North Korea`s missile test, tensions re-emerging between Japan and South Korea.  And an escalating razor`s edge conflict between two nuclear powers, India and Pakistan, over Kashmir.  There is also the continued unrest in Hong Kong, let`s not forget where protesters clashed with authorities again today.

Politico is reporting Trump`s top aides had wanted him to back the pro- democracy protesters in Hong Kong but the President resisted out of concern that such a move would mean no trade deal with China.  Trump may have changed his mind on that last one, though.  Tonight he sent this out, "Good things were stated on the call with China the other day.  Of course China wants to make a deal.  Let them work humanely with Hong Kong first."

And that right there for the record is a change.  Trump will hold his first rally, not a theme speech but a full-on rally, since the mass shootings in Ohio and Texas.  He`ll be in Manchester, New Hampshire tomorrow.  That comes as a new poll from Fox News shows 56 percent of voters disapprove of Trump`s performance.  That`s up from 51 percent in July.

With that here for our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night, Franco Ordonez, White House Correspondent for NPR, Jill Colvin, White House Reporter for the Associated Press, and CNBC senior analyst and commentator Ron Insana, who we`ll begin with tonight because it`s the economy that must get us started.

Multiple questions for you at the top, is this the fault of the Federal Reserve or the Fed chair?  How does the world economy look?  And how does this nation`s economy look?

RON INSANA, CNBC SR. ANALYST & COMMENTATOR:  Well, the Federal Reserve chair when President Trump passed his tax cut had room, Brian, to normalize interest rates.  They`d been at abnormally low levels since the beginning of the great financial crisis in 2008 and `9.  They were at zero for an extremely long time.  The Fed began to normalize, raise those rates because the economy was strong.  They were concerned that inflation could heat up.

And then once they passed the big tax cut it was expected that that stimulus would accelerate economic growth.  So the Fed went ahead and raised interest rates.  This slowdown that we`re seeing right now contrary to what the President has to say is absolutely not the Fed`s fault.  I would lay this directly at the President`s feet.  This trade war is slowing down China`s economy and having ripple effects all across the globe.

WILLIAMS:  National economy blinking red lights include what?

INSANA:  All right.  So bond market interest rates in the U.S. have fallen to extraordinarily low levels.  The yield on the 10-year Treasury, for instance, is at 1.55 percent.  The 30-year bond, which used to be the government`s benchmark, yields less than two percent.  The U.S. government can borrow money for 30 years at less than two percent tonight.  Fifteen trillion dollars of government bonds around the world have negative interest rates.  In other words, you would pay the Swiss or German government to lend them money.  This is all of a sign -- all a sign of a slowing global economy and the rising risk of a worldwide recession.

WILLIAMS:  Jill, I was reminded tonight when the President mentioned his deference to the Christmas shopping season it was in response to a question you had asked, or more appropriately with the noise from the helicopter shouted, as is common these days.  Do you think he is fearful?  Do you think that`s what we`re reading in social media, that he`s going to get tagged with this?

JILL COLVIN, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Yes.  Yes, I think that that was the first indication that you saw from him that he is starting to understand the warnings from his advisers, the warnings that you`ve seen now for months coming from analysts, coming from economists, warning that there are problems here and that these tariffs are about to have some real substantial repercussions.  The President had said again and again that consumers were not actually feeling the impact of these tariffs, that consumer prices weren`t rising, but then went out yesterday and said that look, he was going to delay the implementation of some of these tariffs waiting until mid December so that it wouldn`t affect the Christmas shopping season therefore implicitly understanding that it could be boosting prices but also concerned about, you know, those numbers we get after the post-shopping season.

The President at this point, you have Republicans, you have them throughout the midterms, basically begging the President to focus on the economy, to focus on jobs he`s created, to focus on the unemployment rate.  They were really hoping that that`s the thing that maybe will convince voters who don`t like the tweets, who are, you know, turned off by the President`s rhetoric.  Maybe those numbers will help them decide that they want to vote for him in 2020.  If he doesn`t have a strong economy to point to, it`s going to be a much more difficult journey for the President to win in 2020.

WILLIAMS:  Franco, what are administration officials telling you?  What`s their position whether delivered with straight face or not?

FRANCO ORDONEZ, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Well, I mean, obviously, they`re pushing back.  I mean, we`ve heard from President Trump who`s blaming the Fed Reserve, obviously.  When I talk to senior administration officials, they are saying "let`s calm down, we`ve been in this situation before, they`ve been warning about a recession for months, since the beginning of the term, we`ve had volatility and we`ve survived it."  They`re talking about looking at other indicators such as job consumer spending.  But look, as Ron just said this is very clearly a warning sign.  President Trump is lashing out.

We see this type of lashing out by the President on Twitter when he feels threatened.  For example, on the Mueller investigation when he`s personally attacked, attacking the media.  So I think he obviously, as Jill said, is very concerned and so is members of his administration.

WILLIAMS:  Just a political note here because that`s after all what we cover here and it involves Jill`s news organization and ours.  Associated Press was the first to report tonight and NBC News has since confirmed that it looks like the Democratic field will go down by one.  Sources are telling us and the A.P. tonight that John Hickenlooper the former Colorado governor will be out of the race by this time on Thursday.  Again, a certain amount of tightening in the field is necessary after a good long while because of the cost of these campaigns and because the attention can only be focused in the end on a handful of people.  It`s early yet.  We`ll give you that to have a field of 24, 25 candidates in this race.

Jill, another issue front and center is guns, and I want to read you NBC`s reporting and some color from "The New York Times" on this front.  "Trump has been in talks" -- this is NBC News.  "Trump has been in talks with key members of the Senate on potential gun control legislation.  The President, his daughter Ivanka Trump, and senior White House officials began conversations last week with key senators about what legislative action could be taken on gun control."

Here`s "The Times," "What the President hasn`t done yet is the kind of arm- twisting to Republican senators wary of gun control legislation that will be necessary to force a bill through Congress.  He has shown no interest so far in a major address to ensure that public opinion is behind such a move.  He and his aides have yet to settle on what he will actually propose.  But they`ve commissioned a poll through his campaign," this is new, "to assess where his supporters are on different gun control measures and they will have the results by September."

Jill, the name Ivanka Trump does stick out there whenever she`s involved with legislation or policy.  Do you think as she makes the rounds either on the phone or on the Hill she is an ambassador with portfolio that she speaks for the boss?

COLVIN:  I mean, look, she`s definitely somebody whom the President, you know, speaks with, whose advice he listens to as a whole host of individuals that he speaks to.  And as NBC -- as you and "The Times" have reported the President has been making calls at this point to select members of Congress both Republicans and Democrats.  He`s had multiple conversations with Mitch McConnell on this issue.

And he does -- he`s said -- he`s told reporters, he told us, you know, just yesterday when he last spoke to us that he is interested in moving forward.  He believes that there is political will behind some type of new background check legislation.  But at this point he`s clearly not deeply in the weeds of the different policy proposals.  And is clearly looking for guidance as evidenced by that poll of exactly what the best way to move forward is.  You know, the President obviously got a ton of financial support and political support from the NRA, which is obviously a weekend stance right now.

Nonetheless he knows this is an issue that is deeply important to his supporters.  But he also believes that he is a person who because, you know, he stands up there and he says he is so pro the second amendment, because gun supporters have been such a loyal base, he does feel like he has some wiggle room here.  And he`d very much like to be able to stand up there and say "look, I was the President who was able to get something passed here when previous administrations have failed to do that."  It`s just a question of exactly what that looks like.

And the extent to which he`s going to really put his muscle behind this.  You know, what we`re hearing from Republicans on the Hill is this is only going to move forward if it has the full support of the President.  It`s unclear right now whether he`s going to wind up giving that.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Franco, here`s a subplot, and this is the first in our memory, the NRA polling underwater.  This is part of a Fox News poll.  We`re going to use some of their other results later in the hour.  First time NRA polling unfavorable, 47-42.  So obviously the NRA is going through internal troubles.  It`s also been argued the left will make a mistake if they view this as weakness.  The NRA is at its heart an idea that can be a huge voter motivator.

ORDONEZ:  Absolutely.  I mean, I think there`s no question now that the NRA is in a difficult time.  Republicans tell me that as well, supporters of the NRA.  But they also say that, look, Democrats can overreach if they do not come forward and try to negotiate with Republicans on some of these issues such as a background check, such as perhaps red flag laws or other measures that Trump seems to be implying for.  My sources who are close to the President and the White House say that he is interested in doing something but they`re just hopeful that Democrats will kind of come off their edge.

And there is a question whether Democrats will be willing to give President Trump a political victory here.  That said we have been in this situation before.  Democrats obviously have a lot of doubt about whether Trump would actually confront the NRA, would actually go forward with some of the things that he`s talking about.  And I think there`s a lot of skepticism about whether President Trump really will put the muscle behind -- his own muscle behind this because that`s what`s going to be needed.

WILLIAMS:  Ron Insana, we turn to you for the first word and the last word, but you can handle it.  Two provisos knowing we`re recording this and knowing we may have one or two viewers in the Bedminster, New Jersey metropolitan area.  Here`s the question.  If there is to be a downturn, when will we know?  And worse, God forbid, when would it be felt?

INSANA:  Well, when we would know is usually after its felt.  So we may feel it before we know it.  And what happens in a typical recession, which may be anywhere from four to 10 months out of some of these bond market indicators are accurate, we would feel it sometime in 2020.  You might feel the slowdown sooner than that, Brian, because the rest of the world is slowing far more rapidly than the United States.  And the contagion effect or risk is relatively high.  So it could come at the end of this year.  It could come in early 2020.  It may just be a garden variety recession, of course, and maybe a garden variety pullback in stocks, but it would be felt.

WILLIAMS:  But -- yes, and you`re thinking -- the sum total, the end result of what you`re saying is the indicators you look at say we`re in for something?

INSANA:  Absolutely.  A growth slowdown most definitely.  Possibly a recession outside the U.S. that will weaken the U.S. considerably.  Now the Fed is likely to cut interest rates again in September by as much as a half point.  Some are beginning to speculate.  That could help offset the impact of the trade war.  The trade war by most economists` accounts is the single biggest problem that we`re facing right now.  It`s really slowing global growth.  And that will back up on the United States at some point.

WILLIAMS:  Three terrific guests for our lead-off discussion tonight.  Sober as the subject matter may be.  Franco Ordonez, Jill Colvin, Ron Insana, our thanks.

And coming up for us, a notorious Iowa Republican congressman is at it again.  This time, though, even his fellow Republicans are calling for him, some of them, to leave the House and resign and return to Iowa full-time.

And later, the Beto campaign will attempt yet another reset tomorrow as the calls for him to drop out and run for Senate grow louder and as we learn another Democrat is indeed dropping out as "The 11th Hour" is just getting started on this Wednesday night.


WILLIAMS:  Republican Congressman Steve King of Iowa is under fire yet again, this time for his remarks just today in Iowa.  The nine-term member of Congress was defending an anti-abortion bill that would not allow any exceptions in cases of rape or incest when he said this.


REP. STEVE KING, (R) IOWA:  We know the reasons why we don`t except exceptions, for most of us, for rape and incest, because it`s not the baby`s fault.

But there`s another, I sort of wonder about this.  What if it was OK and what if it went back through all the family trees and just pulled those people out that were products of rape and incest.  Would there be any population in the world left if we did that?

Considering all the wars and all the rape and pillaging that`s taken place, and whatever happened to culture after society.  I know I can`t certify that I`m not part of a product of that."


WILLIAMS:  King, who avoided answering questions today, has a long history of inflammatory statements that have drawn condemnation from both sides of the aisle.  In January he was stripped of his House Committee assignments after telling "The New York Times," "White nationalist, white supremacist, western civilization, how did that language become offensive?"

King has argued those comments were misunderstood.  Today Republican member of Congress Liz Cheney is among those reacting to King`s take on rape and incest, writing on Twitter, "Today`s comments by Representative Steve King are appalling and bizarre.  As I`ve said before, it`s time for him to go.  The people of Iowa`s 4th congressional district deserve better."

House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy of California was asked about King`s remarks today on Fox News.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY, (R-CA) HOUSE MINORITY LEADER:  I have a great deal of problems with that.  This isn`t the first time I`ve had concerns with what Steve King has said.  Earlier in this Congress there are things that Steve King said that I do not believe the party of Lincoln would stand for.  And as a united conference we actually removed Steve King from his committees inside Congress.  And I think this just -- it continues to show why that action was taken.


WILLIAMS:  As McCarthy pointed out there, this is not the first go-round for King.  There have been many others.


KING:  We could also electrify this wire with the kind of current that wouldn`t kill somebody but it would simply be a discouragement for them to be fooling around with it.  We do that with livestock all the time.

For everyone who`s a valedictorian there`s another 100 out there that they weigh 130 pounds and they`ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they`re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.

When I go to Germany and they outlaw the swastika I look at them and I think we have the First Amendment that can`t happen here in the United States.

If we had done our job we wouldn`t have an anchor baby industry here in the United States.


WILLIAMS:  Well, with what here with us to talk about it, Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post," and Maya Wiley, former U.S. Assistant Attorney for the Southern District of New York, now with the New School here in New York.

Counselor, I`d like to start with you.  Do you think this, this time, no matter what motivated all these statements over the years, why someone would say all those things, do you think this time will bring the appropriate response?

MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY. SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY:  I think we already have seen a lot of the appropriate response from the American public around white supremacy.  And as you have said, Brian, there`s nothing new about Steven King`s white supremacy and the Republican Party has taken action against him in January despite the fact that they had actually promoted him to chairing a subcommittee, for instance, on Constitution.  And so despite the fact that since 2002 he`s been vilifying Latinos and, you know, and elevating all kinds of troops (ph) around white supremacy.  So I think the shift in the country has already started.

I think the Republican Party has started to recognize it cannot win on a platform of hate.  And Steve King is reinforcing for the American public that Donald Trump is President and that his views are consistent with the President`s views.  I think the larger problem for the Republican Party is what does it stand for that is unifying the country?  What are the policies that do that?  It`s not just enough to denounce Steven King anymore.  Now it`s really about what -- how are you the party of Lincoln?  And it hasn`t answered that question yet.

WILLIAMS:  And Eugene, Maya`s last point brings me to you, and that is all the hurt and his words aside, this is not a good look for a Republican Party that is losing people to retirement because they can read the polls.

EUGENE ROBINSON, THE WASHINGTON POST COLUMNIST:  Yes, it`s a terrible look for the Republican Party.  They can read the polls.  They can see what`s happening to the country.  How hard is it to take a consistent position against rape and incest?  I mean, it`s not that hard.  Steve king can`t imagine to do it.

So it`s very interesting that Liz Cheney, who`s part of the Republican leadership who`s very smart and ambitious Republican, wants to be a big person in that part.

WILLIAMS:  Not a liberal.

ROBINSON:  She`s not a liberal at all.  I disagree with her on just about everything.  But she came out very strongly this time.


ROBINSON:  And that tells me that she at least, being conscious of what`s going -- realizes what a bad look this is for the Republican Party.

WILLIAMS:  And Maya, at the heart of it, though, is the verbiage.  The words that now more than one generation has come up hearing, maybe in the background, maybe blared directly at them.  This has a corrosive effect.  This causes hurt.

WILEY:  A deep hurt, deep pain, deep division.  You know, at some point, you know, people -- first of all, you have young women, some of whom have survived rape, who are literally being told, one, that women are drivers of populating the world and that`s the value and role they play and it doesn`t matter how they got that way and they don`t actually get to have agency over their own body, that other people can tell them what they do with it.  No matter how they`ve been violated.  That`s an extreme position.

And, you know, I think one thing that helps explain Liz Cheney`s position is actually one of the things we have to correct about some of the news reporting post the presidential election 2016 was that white women overwhelmingly supported Donald Trump.


WILEY:  That was a mistake of looking at the exit polling.  When the later evaluation came it was very clear that really it was 44 percent.  It wasn`t the majority.  So when you start to see extreme statements like this that go and speak directly to the lived experiences of far too many women who have actually experienced violence and now experience violence with a Supreme Court Justice who`s been accused of it and an administration that has paid far too little attention including undermining some of the protections for immigrant women who have been sex trafficked in this country and brought here as a result of sex trafficking, one after another after another policy positions that say women don`t matter, people of color don`t matter, and that`s beyond hurtful.  There`s no national -- there`s no nation that survives on a platform of that kind of division.

ROBINSON:  And I would point out you saw that in the 2018 election.  You saw the suburban districts basically because of the votes of the women Maya is talking about switch from red to blue.

WILLIAMS:  Two of our returning veterans and both guests have agreed to stay with us over this break.

Coming up, when it comes to taking on the current President, interesting new reporting on what may and may not work for the opposition.


WILLIAMS:  Democratic presidential candidates have been ramping up their criticism of the President.  Just in recent days, several have labeled him a white supremacist.  But will it matter?

Annie Karni of the "New York Times" interestingly points out, "If the steady stream of ad hominem attacks is failing to shock, awe or drive the news, it is in part because there is little left in terms of criticism of Mr. Trump that has not already been volleyed by his own team."  And here just to serve as a reminder are some of the attacks against Trump that Annie`s getting to here from Republicans from the last presidential campaign.


SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA:  He`s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.

Stay in the race.  Just stop being a jackass.  You don`t have to run for president and be the world`s biggest jackass.

MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA:  He`s always calling me little Marco.  And I`ll admit, he`s taller than me.  He`s like 6`2", which is why I don`t understand why his hands are the size of someone who`s 5`2".  Have you seen his hands?  They`re like this.

TED CRUZ (R), TEXAS:  I`m going to tell you what I really think of Donald Trump.  This man is a pathological liar.  He doesn`t know the difference between truth and lies.

JEB BUSH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF FLORIDA:  Donald Trump is a jerk.  You cannot insult your way to the presidency.  You can`t disparage women, Hispanics, disabled people.  Who is he kidding?  This country is far better than that.  And the idea that he`s actually running for president and insulting people is deeply discouraging, to be honest with you.


WILLIAMS:  That`s why we invite smart people on our show.  So back to Eugene Robinson and Maya Wiley.  Eugene, are we in because of all the name calling a kind of post-name calling society where nothing matters anymore?  Help us out of here.

EUGENE ROBINSON, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST:  Well, first of all, Brian, thank you for the public service of reminding us once again what the Republicans who are now supporting Donald Trump said about him at the time.  I actually think that was then and this is now.  The big difference is Donald Trump is now President of the United States.

And so what he says and does has a completely different import and meaning and impact from what it did when he was just the sort of weird candidate who nobody could figure out who was beating the field in 2016.  It`s different now.  He`s the president.  And -- So I think even if the criticism is the same, this is just a different time, a different situation, and potentially a different impact.

WILLIAMS:  Maya Wiley, I have some numbers to show you.  We`ll put them on the screen.  This is from a Fox News poll, and a point of information here.  Yes, this is a product of Fox News.  They are very proud of their polling unit and its integrity.  And please note that on the question on a Fox News poll is Trump drawing the country together or tearing the country apart, now you`ll please note the respondents.  59% of their respondents, tearing it apart.  31%, drawing it together.  Is this bigger than name calling?

MAYA WILEY, FMR. ASSISTANT U.S. ATTY., SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK:  This is bigger than name calling.  I agree with what Eugene is saying about this is now and that was then.  And I think that poll is one of the underscores of that.  You know, Steve King was Donald Trump before Donald Trump was Donald Trump.  But now Donald Trump is in the White House.

And remember that poll, I don`t remember exactly when that poll was taken but it was after not just Charlottesville but after El Paso and after not just El Paso but after the President not credibly, not credibly pulling the country together in response to what was a hate-driven crime that was also encouraged by his own words, right?  And after his attack on women of color in Congress elected by their constituents.  You know, this is a pattern that is different -- the other thing I want to say, and I think Ann Karni`s making a lot of really important points.

But a primary election for any party is about galvanizing its base, getting them engaged, making sure they understand who their candidates are and what they stand for.  So absolutely the Democrats in the primary have to make clear I am not Trump and here`s how I`m different, because I`m going to be running against Trump and I have to show my electability but also the fact that I will govern differently and better.

And when it comes to a general election, what the -- whoever wins the primary will be doing is demonstrating how they are different from Donald Trump once again.  So all of these are going to be measures and I think in this election more than -- almost any other in the country are you going to unite the country or divide it is going to be on the ballot.

ROBINSON:  That Fox poll also showed the highest ever disapproval of Donald Trump.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, it did.  Yes, we have them.

ROBINSON:  And on that basis I predict a tweet.  I predict a tweet or two from the President because he tends to go a bit nuts when Fox polls show him bad news.

WILLIAMS:  Look, that is a home team --

ROBINSON:  Exactly.

WILLIAMS:  -- betraying him.

ROBINSON:  He says as the home team, a betrayal by the home team, and the numbers are quite striking and I think will probably set him off.

WILLIAMS:  I need 30 seconds of brilliance, which you can do because you have a Pulitzer.  Does the center hold?  As Eugene Robinson looks over the country he grew up in and has grown to love, does the center hold?

ROBINSON:  No and yes.  No because I don`t think -- I think we are looking at left, right, center.  I think the country has moved to a different axis.  And I think our sort of schematic of how we think of policies and the parties is actually not fitting where people are in the country now.

So -- But there is a mass of Americans in what we used to think of as the center who want us to get along I think and who want us to move forward together.  They might not all agree on which direction forward is.  But in that sense I think the center holds.  I think there are enough people of goodwill in the country who are frankly appalled at what`s going on right now.

WILLIAMS:  I had a great boss named Betty Endicott, one of my news directors, who used to say take what you just said, that`s your first graph and your last graph, just fill in the middle.  But thank you.  That`s exactly what we needed to hear.

To Eugene Robinson, to Maya Wiley, our thanks for coming by.

Coming up, one Democratic hopeful getting back on the campaign trail, but some are worried the problem is he`s running in the wrong race.


WILLIAMS:  As we mentioned earlier, the 2020 Democratic field is about to shrink by one.  NBC News has confirmed a story broken late tonight by The Associated Press.  Former Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is expected to end his 2020 bid tomorrow.  This move comes amid speculation he will instead go home to run for Senate against Republican Cory Gardner in Colorado.

Meanwhile, Beto O`Rourke, who launched his presidential campaign don`t forget on the cover of "Vanity Fair," is planning to relaunch his presidential campaign with a major speech just hours from now.  O`Rourke canceled campaign events in early voting states in the wake of the mass shooting inside the Walmart in El Paso that left 22 dead.  He has spent the past week in his hometown attending vigils and gun control events.  That meant skipping the Iowa state fair where most of the other Democrats in the field spent the weekend.

As one of our next guests writes today, "The campaign aims to capitalize on his renewed attention after months of treading water.  His poll numbers stuck in the low single digits."  Here with us to talk about all of it, the aforementioned writer of that piece, Todd Gilman, Washington Bureau Chief for the "Dallas Morning News," and Errin Haines, National Writer covering Race and Ethnicity for The Associated Press.

Todd, I have a theory that Hickenlooper`s departure may only increase the talk of other governors going home to run for those Senate races, all of it framed around the argument, hey, Democrats, if you don`t like Mitch McConnell being your majority leader, change the majority.  You told one of our producers earlier tonight all this talk about Beto running for Senate is a pipe dream.  Why?

TODD GILMAN, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS:  Well, it`s a pipe dream for Democrats who wish that he would run against John Cornyn, hoping that he can do as well and maybe a little bit better than he did against Ted Cruz when he held Cruz to below 51 percent, he raised $80 million, he became a national phenom for Democrats, and he may very well be the best chance for Texas Democrats to win that Senate seat.  But Beto looked at the momentum that he got out of that Senate race last year, and he said he wanted to run for president and he`s made no secret about the fact that that`s where his ambitions and heart is right now and he feels it`s where he can make the biggest difference.

And the odds for any of these two dozen candidates running for president are small.  Only one person can win the nomination.  So the pressure is going to grow.  As you said, you know, Hickenlooper dropping out.  Others will drop out.  There will be incentives and pressures for Beto and for others to turn their sights on other races.

WILLIAMS:  So Errin, in the world you inhabit and cover for a living, this field of Democrats, let`s say it goes down by one as we`re reporting tomorrow, we`re coming up on another kind of benchmark to make the next debates.  Do you expect any movement in the polling we`ve all kind of seen and become familiar with since the last debate?

ERRIN HAINES, NATIONAL WRITER, RACE & ETHNICITY, THE ASSOCIATE PRESS:  Well, thank you, Brian, for having me on.  I really appreciate it.  And before I respond, I just want to say I`m here in Philadelphia, as you know, and I`m thinking about the officers and the community that was affected by the shooting that happened not far from where I live.  And so I just wanted to mention that.

But to echo Todd`s point, I also spoke to Beto`s campaign and I`m told that he is 100% not running for Senate, period, because he thinks that he is the best candidate in this 2020 field to win Texas and also that frankly if President Trump is able to win Texas again next year by nine points then, you know a Democrat is not going to be able to beat John Cornyn in that environment.  And so he feels that he is really the best candidates to take Texas for the Democrats and the nomination and then to win in November.

The September and October qualifications for the next set of debates require the candidate to not only meet a fund-raising threshold but also a polling threshold, as you know.  And so some of these candidates may meet the fund-raising threshold, but there`s some question about whether they`re going to meet that polling threshold or not.  And so I think that that -- depending on how that goes we definitely are going to see a finning of that.  And we haven`t seen that much movement in terms of the polling although we have seen candidates who maybe aren`t doing that well poll- wise, able to raise the funding to keep themselves on the stage.

WILLIAMS:  Errin, let me note what you said as someone who once lived in Philadelphia.  We indeed have been watching what`s going on there all day and all night.  We have our final segment planned to wrap it all up and cover it as it stands at this hour.  What a horrendous day for that fine city.  We`re just happy that six police officers are all out of the hospital.  So we`ll have that coming up.

Our guests have agreed to stay.  We`ll continue our political discussion right after this.  And coming up, as this deadline approaches for the next debate, while Joe Biden is still first in the first southern primary, does that hold going forward?


WILLIAMS:  We mentioned the new numbers out tonight.  We always try to deliver them to you.  This is polling out of South Carolina.  Post and Courier poll puts Joe Biden way ahead there, 36%.  That`s a lot of running room.  Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders are neck and neck, 17 and 16.  Kamala Harris third at 12.  Pete Buttigieg rounds out the top five with five points after that.  It`s off a cliff as is most of the Democratic polling.

Todd Gilman, Errin Haines remain with us.  So, Todd, let`s talk about -- we talked about Beto O`Rourke.  Here`s another Texan.  Julian Castro has spent just under $3,000 on the most targeted of media buys.  He has purchased air time on the cable carrier for north jersey for Bedminster, in fact, that carries Fox News during "Fox and Friends," looking for one particular viewer.  We`ll show the spot.  We`ll talk about the strategy right afterwards.


JULIAN CASTRO, DEMOCRATIC CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT:  President Trump, you referred to countries as -- holes.  You urged American Congress women to go back to where they came from.  You called immigrants rapists.  As we saw in El Paso, Americans were killed because you stoked the fire of racists.  Innocent people were shot down because they look different from you.  Because they look like me.  They look like my family.  Words have consequences.  Ya Basta.


WILLIAMS:  Now, words do have consequences to his last words there.  It is an interesting strategy, and he is among the people trying to bust out of single digits.  Your response, Todd?

GILMAN:  Well, $3,000 is a bargain for the kind of attention that he` getting.  He is trying to do a few things here.  One is he is trying to get some national media attention to drive up his polls so he can get one more poll that hits 2%, and he can make it to the third debate in Houston in a few weeks.  He is also trying to bait President Trump, who he has already successfully engaged, Trump has been going after him and his brother Joaquin Castro over Joaquin putting out a list of Trump donors who were from their hometown in San Antonio.  Trump has been whomping (ph) on them about this.  This is very much to Castro`s benefit.

Look, you know, when you`re down in the basement, you need to try to get attention.  At the same time, he, like Beto, like a lot of other candidates, is trying to position himself as the best anti-Trump there is.  Castro is the only Hispanic candidate in the Democratic primary field.  This is kind of a calling card, just as for Beto, being from El Paso at the time of this horrific tragedy, the rampage that killed 22 people, is kind of a calling card for him, although he obviously didn`t ask for it and he didn`t want it.  But he is going to take advantage of it and has, and will going forward.

WILLIAMS:  Hey, Errin, we have a big story just outside New York City.  If you go a couple train stops north in Newark, New Jersey, it is a slow rolling health crisis, thousands of homes found to have lead water pipes.  The filters they gave folks in Newark didn`t work.  The bottled water they tried handing out had an expiration date on it.  It is in plain English a mess.  It`s a story that combines race and poverty and health and that terrible clunky word, infrastructure.

There is nothing but solid D.S. (ph) in charge in the state of New Jersey, city of Newark.  There happens to be a presidential candidate who is a former mayor who has a Newark address, Cory Booker, complicating this a little bit.  But it will show before this is over for all the wrong reasons, the intersection between kind of race, society, policy, and that word infrastructure.

HAINES:  Yes, Brian, you make excellent points all.  And I think it is important to point out that with a lot of the issues that have popped up on the 2020 campaign, whether it`s the economy or gun violence or infrastructure, a lot of these things are happening because there`s such a crowded field.  These issues are landing in the backyards of many of these candidates and the Newark issue certainly is landing in Senator Booker`s backyard.

And infrastructure is not necessarily something that we`ve seen discussed a lot on the campaign trail.  In fact, I was surprised in the last presidential debate there were hardly any questions or any mention of the Flint water crisis, which is ongoing in Michigan around water.  That is not something that really came up.  I`m wondering if it is going to be something that comes up in the next debate next month using Newark as the backdrop even though the debate obviously is in Texas.

But I think that, you know, tying infrastructure, like you said, to issues of systemic racism, neglect, making it a health care issue, making it an economic issue, you know, I think is a way to get voters` attention, maybe in a way that doesn`t make their eyes glaze over when they hear the "I" word.

WILLIAMS:  To two of our returning guests, Todd Gilman, to Errin Haines, thank you both so much for joining us tonight.  And that day in Philadelphia Errin was talking about that they`ve had today, that`s the subject of our next segment, a late live update for you after this.


WILLIAMS:  Finally before we go, a terrible day, a terrible night as we said in Philadelphia.  Here`s how it started over the police radio.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Sergeant, sergeant, please (INAUDIBLE).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  And he`s right there.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Standby, car standby.  Secret (ph) assess 37-15, more 15.  Shots fired.  Shots fired inside.


WILLIAMS:  As you can see from the graphics there on the air product of our NBC station WCAU, which has stayed on the air with the story all day and all night, six Philadelphia police officers have been shot in all.  The good news is that despite all kinds of different bullet wounds, all have been released from the hospital.

This started in a north Philadelphia neighborhood just after 4:00 this afternoon when police were serving a warrant.  They were instantly hit by gunfire and pinned down by a very determined gunman with a lot of ammunition and apparently a lot of armaments.  Hundreds of rounds have been fired.  His field of fire was so deadly that only an armored vehicle was allowed anywhere near the reach of his weapons.

At one point late today, police could be seen doing this, escorting out the children who had been locked down inside a daycare facility called the Precious Babies Learning Academy.  Then this happened.  Tonight, a strong summer thunderstorm moved in from the northwest.  No impact on the gunman, mind you, only the police officers out in it who were trying to put this down.

Late tonight, two trapped police officers and three other prisoners were removed safely after police established contact with the gunman.  He`s still in there.  Could change at any minute.  At one point, there were so many officers in or on route to the hospital, we heard their commander requesting a list of their names over the police radio so their loved ones could be informed.  Again, the good news tonight, all of them have been released from the hospital.

That is our broadcast for this Wednesday night.  Thank you so much for being here with us, and good night from our headquarters here in New York.

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