Trump's Unprecedented Attack. TRANSCRIPT: 8/15/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Elisabeth Bumiller, Donna Edwards, Rick Stengel, Nick Corasaniti,Karen Yi, A.B. Stoddard

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Appreciate it.  That is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight in New Hampshire, Trump goes after his enemies.  He claims the Democrats are the party of socialism and executing babies.  He says if he hadn`t been elected the markets would have crashed.

Earlier today he said two member of Congress shouldn`t be allowed to visit Israel.  The shocking part is when the Israeli prime minister gave in and stopped the two Americans, quickly taking its place near the top of the list of things we`ve never seen or imagined before.

Meanwhile, about eight miles from this studio, citizens are forced to wait in long lines in the hot sun for bottled water to replace the poison that`s in their water pipes after their government ignored them for years.  It`s all part of THE 11TH HOUR just getting under way on this Thursday night.

Well, good evening to you once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  This was 938 of the Trump administration and another of the norms of behavior in the world fell away today.  It wasn`t shocking that Donald Trump asked Israel to turn away two members of Congress who wanted to visit Israel.  He wrote this about Congress Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib, "It would show great weakness if Israel allowed Rep. Omar and Rep. Tlaib to visit."

Again, that part wasn`t the surprise.  It was a genuine surprise, however, when a pliant Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gave in and gave way to the American President.  Israel said they would not be allowing the congresswomen into their country.  Netanyahu released a statement that read in part, "As a vibrant and free democracy Israel is open to any critic and criticism, with one exception, Israel`s law prohibits the entry of people who call and operate to boycott Israel, as is the case with other democracies that prevent the entry of people whose perception harms the country."

This afternoon before departing for his rally tonight in Manchester, New Hampshire the President was asked about his conversations with Israel.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  In your conversations with people connected to Israel, did you encourage them to reject the congresswomen?

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  No I don`t encourage or discourage.  I think that if Israel allowed them to come in for the normal reasons other than those reasons, I really believe that it would be a terrible thing for Israel.  I think it would show a terrible sign.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  "The Washington Post" is reporting tonight, "A senior White House official said that Trump never directly told Netanyahu to prohibit the visit but the advisors conveyed the President`s views to the Israeli government after it initially said the women would be allowed in.  Netanyahu "was certainly away of the President`s position," the official said."

Congresswoman Omar released a statement that read in part, "The irony of the only democracy in the Middle East making such a decision is that it is both an insult to democratic values and a chilling response to a visit by government officials to an allied nation."

Congresswomen Tlaib posted an image of her grandmother who lives in the west bank along with this message, "The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. congressman, is a sign of weakness because the truth is -- what -- truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening."

Axios reported back on Saturday that Trump had told his advisors.  He thinks Netanyahu should bar the congresswomen from entering the country.  The report read, "Trump`s private views have reached the top level of the Israeli government.  But Trump denies through White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham ever giving any kind of directive to the Israelis.  The Israeli government can do what they want.  "It`s fake news," Grisham said on Saturday."

At his rally tonight the President didn`t bring up Israel`s decision but at one point he did mention Congresswomen Omar while talking about mines in Minnesota.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Maybe we can get Representative Omar from Minnesota to open them up, but I don`t think so.  She`ll open them up, I don`t think so.  Representative Omar, that`s another one.  We`re replacing NAFTA with a brand new USMCA, that`s Mexico and Canada.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  And earlier in the rally where there was the usual boos for the media and boos at the mention of President Obama`s name where the President took credit for among other things revitalization of our economy, the VA, the military and NASA, the President said this tonight about his political movement.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Our movement is built on love, and it is.  And we love our families, we love our faith, we love our flag and we love our freedom.  And that what it`s about.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  On that note joining us for our lead off discussion on a Thursday evening, Ashley Parker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House reporter for ""The Washington Post"," Elisabeth Bumiller, White House Bureau -- Washington Bureau Chief for "The New York Times."  I won`t be making that mistake again.  And Dona Edwards, former Democratic member of Congress from the great state of Maryland who is these days a "Washington Post" columnist.

Elisabeth, I`d like to begin with you.  Where on the list of norms falling around us does this belong?

ELISABETH BUMILLER, THE NEW YORK TIMES WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF:  This is not on a list of any norms. It`s one of the most astounding things President Trump has done and that`s saying quite a bit as you know.  There is -- we looked back there is no -- we could find no evidence of any other American president ever pushing a foreign country to bar the entry of U.S. citizens let alone Democratically elected members of Congress.  So this is way off the charts.  It`s off the charts even for President Trump.

WILLIAMS:  Ashley Parker, what`s your reporting on how this went down either than via the President thumbs on his phone?

ASHLEY PARKER, THE WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  Well, our understanding is this is an idea the President had been floating for a couple of weeks, talking to advisers about it inside the White House.  And initially some very senior officials sort of tried to dissuade the President.  They said, "Mr. President, you know, this would be unprecedented, there is a long history of Israel letting in members of Congress despite any political or policy disagreement.  It`s just not done."

And then as of last night even, we understood that Israel was -- they understood the President`s point of view and they were getting ready to make a decision.  Democratic lawmakers were desperately lobbying them not to make the decision they ultimately made.  And while they were deliberating and they were deliberating with knowledge of what President Trump wanted, he went ahead and sent out that tweet which sort of further boxed them in.

WILLIAMS:  Congresswoman, I want to read you two tweets from both sides of the aisle.  The first from Marco Rubio today, "I disagree 100 percent with Representatives Tlaib and Omar on Israel," he writes, "but denying them entry into Israel is a mistake."  He adds this for good measure, "Being blocked is what they really hoped for all along in order to bolster their attacks against the Jewish state."

But then we cross the aisle to Tim Kaine, former vice presidential nominee.  And he goes there on the subject of USA, "Prime Minister Netanyahu, drop your Muslim ban.  Congress votes over and over again to provide unprecedented security assistance to Israel.  Banning any member disrespects us all."

Congresswomen, what do you make of both of those?

DONNA EDWARDS, (D) MARYLAND FMR. U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN:  Well, you know, I think, you know, for once we saw -- did see some Republicans coming out and, you know, really affirmatively saying that they thought that this was wrong, but I don`t think that they`ve gone far enough.  I mean I agree with Senator Kaine, Israel is the largest recipient of military assistance in the world.  We are allies, and I think that this is really unacceptable.

I mean, I know that we use the term outrageous all the time with respect to this President.  But here we have, again, this time with an ally the President of the United States making favor with a foreign government even an allied government against the interests of the United States and members of Congress.  It really is unacceptable, and I think that we`ve got to -- I mean these are members of Congress whose job it is to vote on foreign assistance.  And they can`t even do their -- play their proper roles and do their job.  I mean, I think it`s unacceptable.

And, you know, it really demonstrates not just weakness on the part of the President of the United States, I`ve come to expect that.  But it demonstrates weakness on the part of Prime Minister Netanyahu as well who has really fallen captive to this President.

And, you know, I don`t think that members of Congress, frankly, should be traveling to Israel under these circumstances until this order is rescinded.  I know that there are a group of members that are there now that make an annual trip, and I just think, you know, it`s time to come home.  I mean, Israel really has to treat members of Congress with the respect that they deserve.  And frankly strong democracies don`t behave like this.

WILLIAMS:  Elisabeth, where are the wise men and women, the voices we`ve come to expect in as they say normal times, just three names that occur, Powell, Obama, Kissinger, but any number of former secretaries of state, former national security advisers.  Has everyone gone numb?

BUMILLER:  We haven`t heard that much from people we`ve heard.  What`s extraordinary is we heard even APEC which is always very, very -- as we know very pro-Israel condemned this today.  That was a new one.  You know, fairly conservative Jewish group.  But no, we haven`t heard from the former secretary of state.  I think we will.

There is -- again, there was outrage today even from Republicans.  You know, what the President is doing obviously is trying to make -- continuing to try and make these members of Congress the face of the Democratic Party.  It was a very strong political move, and, you know, he and -- maybe Netanyahu are joined at the hip in their, you know, in their election -- re-election bids.

WILLIAMS:  And Ashley, hang on.  I`m getting back to you.  But what Elisabeth just said has me wanting to go to the congresswoman.  And there is a point to be made here.  These are two of the four members of the squad who regardless of the sanctity of their mission by their actions are again in the news and have given the President ammunition and oxygen in his quest to make them the face of the Democratic Party.  If you`re the speaker, what do you do in a situation like this?

EDWARDS:  Well, look, I mean, what we know is that the President of the United States doesn`t have anymore plays.  I mean, he has an economy that`s tinkering on the brink of recession.  His poll numbers are in the tank.  He`s losing to any number of Democrat -- potential Democratic nominees.  And his trade policy is falling apart.  And so what does he do?  He goes to the culture wars and he goes to pick a fight with these members of Congress.

It really just will not work.  I mean, the American people actually are not even falling for this stuff anymore.  And I think if this is all the President has to hang his hat on, if all he has to hang his hat on is attacking four members of Congress and, you know, going after them for their religion, for their views, he may as well hang it up.

WILLIAMS:  So are these two members of Congress blameless for going on this mission to test the limits?

EDWARDS:  No, I don`t think so.  Look, I was a critic of Israel policy when I was in Congress.  I traveled to Israel.  I traveled to the Palestinian controlled areas.  I traveled into Gaza.  Israel was not happy about that, but I did.

I mean these are member of Congress traveling on official documentation.  They should be able to go wherever it is that they want and other members can go.  And it`s unacceptable for any country to begin to tell members of Congress and particularly our allies and our friends, tell them where it is that they can or cannot go.  I mean, freedom of travel is actually protected in our First Amendment, and we should expect that member of Congress should be allowed to travel where they want.

WILLIAMS:  So Ashley Parker, we fast forward, low this many hours to New Hampshire tonight, a rally some of us watched on live television.  As you noted the Fox coverage was interesting because they chose to come and go from their live coverage.  But the President seemed very comfortable as usual in the warm bath of his rally audience.  Is there discomfort that you know of on his part deep in the West Wing on the economy just to name one?

PARKER:  There absolutely is because this is one of the things the economy, that he can always so far fall back on even when he`s asked about what are you doing to win over black voters, he will sort of say the economy and say a rising tide lifts all boats.  And so in talking to people in the White House this week they say that, "Look, they think he`s sort of gotten all the credit he`s going to get on his tax cuts.  He`s sort of done all the regulatory roll backs he`s going to be able to do."

And they think that if the economy goes south, there is an understanding amongst some people that he will pay the political penalty.  There is some hope that they are really pushing.  He mentioned it in his rally tonight, the Vice President is traveling all around the country pushing this, the USMCA.  And there`s some hope that that will not just be a good trade deal for Mexico and Canada but it`ll send a message to the global economy that could help the President.

WILLIAMS:  Yes, we heard that message make its way back into his prepared remarks.

Elisabeth, you get the last word.  If you`re Beto O`Rourke, or is it fair you`re asking, where`s my coverage, I relaunched my presidency today and yet because of the pace at which the circus moves on swept away -- we`re going to cover it tonight, but swept away in part by events.?

IBUMILLER:  It`s really hard for this sort mid tear candidate -- the Democratic candidates to get that kind of attention.  As we all know President Trump sucks up all the oxygen in the room most of the time.  And it is one thing after another.  It is, you know, you can see the top tier Joe Biden, you know, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders get attention.  Those in the single digits just don`t.

And again, Trump kind of dominates everything.  And that is his plan right now.

And I want to say one more thing.  It`s the last word.  I`d like to say a more creative politician would have said -- a more creative Israel prime minister might have said to these members of Congress, come on over, come and see Israel, come meet with our people, let us show you what you have.  That was not to be.

WILLIAMS:  Interesting last word.  Thank you for that.

And our thanks go to Ashley Parker, Elisabeth Bumiller, and Donna Edwards for starting off our conversation in terrific fashion tonight.

And coming up for us, how Trump`s unprecedented power play today puts the nation`s global standing at risk perhaps.

And later, once again residents of an American city are told not to drink the water coming out of their faucets.  If they want water they can come and get some.  And once again our infrastructure, remember that word, has failed our citizens.  All of it as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on a Thursday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Did you speak with Prime Minister Netanyahu about the congresswomen coming?

TRUMP:  I don`t want to comment about who I spoke to, but I think my social media statement pretty well speaks for itself.  I feel that they are so anti-Israel, so anti-Jewish.  Again, if other people made that statement there would have been hell to pay.  So -- but I did speak to people over there, yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  To put it the short way Donald Trump didn`t think two members of Congress should be allowed to visit Israel and he got Netanyahu of Israel to go along.  The editorial page of "The New York Times" puts it this way, "to put at risk, so cynically, America`s special relationship with Israel solely to titillate the bigots in his base, to learn so crassly on a -- to lean so crassly on a foreign leader to punish his own political adversaries, to demonstrate so foul a lack of respect for the most elemental democratic principles, is new territory even for him."

Trump has also up ended foreign policy norms when dealing with China, the other subject we`ve been talking about this week.  Today he renewed his call for talks between Chinas leader and the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong while also insisting that the U.S. has leverage over China when it comes to a trade deal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  And I get along with him very well, President Xi.  And I said I would be willing to bet that if he sat down with the protesters, a group of representative protesters, I bet he`d work it out in 15 minutes.

I think we`re having very good discussions with China.  They very much want to make a deal.  We`ll see what happens.  We had a deal and they decided not to make it.  Now I think they would like to have had that opportunity again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  For more we are joined tonight by Rick Stengel, former Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, happens to be a former managing editor of Time Magazine, and Jonathan Allen, a veteran political reporter who happens to be our NBC News National Political Reporter.  Gentlemen, welcome to you both.

Rick Stengel, remember a time when people thought Tony Blair was a supplicant?  Remember?

RICK STENGEL, FMR. UNDER SECRETARY FOR PUBLIC DIPLOMACY & PUBLIC AFFAIRS:  To the President of the United States?

WILLIAMS:  Remember?

STENGEL:  Well, you know, President Trump is treating Netanyahu like he`s the governor of a red state that Trump won by 15 points in 2016 and that he can just snap his fingers and hop to it.  And you know what, Israel basically is a red state that Trump won by 10 percent.  He is so much more popular in Israel than he is with American Jews and he somehow thinks that he can translate that popularity in Israel to help him get more Jewish voters.

Now, by the way, he only won 25 percent of Jewish voters.  Hillary Clinton won 70 percent.  He won five percent less than Mitt Romney won.  So he`s not doing well with the American Jewish voters and this is not going to endear himself to American Jewish voters.

WILLIAMS:  John, H. R. Haldeman we died left behind a lot of things but mostly the expression "you can`t put the toothpaste back in the tube."  What of today`s toothpaste can never be put back in the tube of globe relations?  Keeping in mind we have a G-7 coming up days from now where our President is going to represent our country.

JONATHAN ALLEN, NBC NEWS NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Well, I think the big thing that can`t be put back in the tube is the President requiring this kind of obeisance from foreign leaders, from friends basically.  You don`t ask you friends for too much.  And he went out and he basically asked Benjamin Netanyahu to sacrifice a ton of Israel`s pride.

WILLIAMS:  To take a dive, yes.

ALLEN:  Yes, to take a dive so that Donald Trump could feel good for a day, so that he could get one in on Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.  And what Israel had to sacrifice today was basically the Jewish people for thousands of years, since the beginning monotheism, Brian, the Jewish people have survived the worst tyrants in the world.  And today they had to pretend that they were afraid of two congresswomen.

WILLIAMS:  Rick Stengel, the other topic I`ve heard you talking about this week is China.  Before we do, I want to show you Donald Trump from 2015 on China and Donald Trump from tonight on China.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Think about a car icon or me or somebody working on the China deal and making it much better.

We`re being led by people that don`t get it, and it`s so easy.

By the way, I never said China was going to be easy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  So there you have it.  A couple of years can make a huge difference.  China isn`t easy.  It`s hard.  And one thing I`ve heard you asking this week, what happened to the United States being the beacon of hope and freedom in that part of the world.

STENGEL:  Yes.  So, I mean, it should be an easy call to side with the protesters in Hong Kong who are asking for freedom of speech and freedom of choice.  We supported that agreement of, you know, the two Chinas and the two different policies.

But the thing about Trump and China that I find so disturbing too is, you know, that there`s that old Chinese saying that when you ask a westerner what time it is they look at their watch and when you ask a Chinese person what time it is they look at their calendar.

Trump is playing for 2020.  He`s playing for everyday for what the stock market goes up or down.  The Chinese are playing for 2200.  They`re playing for 100 years from now.  Who are you going to put your money on?  People who don`t have to react to stock market everyday or people who are playing a long game, which is what the Chinese are playing?  They just feel like they`re going to outfox him in the long run.  And they`re going to outfox them in the short run, too.

WILLIAMS:  John, today there were two major departures from our government and this administration.  Dan Coats and Sue Gordon.  Let`s hope they were both given a party in the break room at least on their way out.  But those are two major guardrails that have fallen away.  Do you think to any appreciable measurable degree now?

ALLEN:  I think there are going to be a lot of people who wring their hands in Washington and say, look, the adults have left the room.  Dan Coats was able to put guardrails on the President, Sue Gordon was able to put guardrails on the President.  here`s the truth, there is no policy process in Washington.  There was nobody one running this administration to the extent that there was a policy process in the past and there was a big policy process before there was this President.  There is nothing like it now.

What you have is independent operators within the administration trying to get their policies going forward.  At some points they are able to get something done, and then the President throws the table up in the air.  In some cases you see the National Security Advisor, John Bolton, get something put into motion and then the President sees that it`s in motion.  After it`s announced, after it becomes policy and then pulls it back.  So I think it`s very difficult to have faith that there`s going to be any difference with new people or that there`s going to be any stability with new people because you have the same person in charge.

WILLIAMS:  And Rick Stengel, there are career professionals still left in the state department who will be holding their breath when the President goes into that series of bilateral meetings with the leaders at the G-7 -- the G-8.

STENGEL:  You know, what he doesn`t understand, like based on your last question, Trump does not understand people who work in government who are loyal to an institution or loyal to a policy.  He doesn`t get that.  You have to be loyal to me, that`s the only loyalty he understands.

And I think when Trump goes into these meetings he overemphasizes this idea that leaders have a rapport and leaders make decisions between each other rather than this idea that the state department represents that countries have interests and that leaders represent the interests of the country.  Trump is only ever representing his own interests.

WILLIAMS:  We`re back to a G-7 -- I`ve just been corrected.  It`s not in G- 8.

STENGEL:  I didn`t even know.

WILLIAMS:  It`s fungible.  These Gs come and go as just as we get to know them.

ALLEN:  It`s Russia in and out, depending --

WILLIAMS:  Yes, exactly.

ALLEN:  -- whether we like them or they`re messing with our elections.

WILLIAMS:  To two veterans of the trade, Rick Stengel and Jonathan Allen, our thanks.  Thanks, guys, for coming by.

And coming up, an emergency in New Jersey`s largest city that brings not just echoes but direct comparisons to Flint, Michigan.  More on that right when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LONNIE WARNER, RESIDENT, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY:  We`ve got couple case of water today.  We (INAUDIBLE) today.  Once you get the two cases you`re in limbo for when you`re going to get some more water.

HATTIE KINMAN, RESIDENT, NEWARK, NEW JERSEY:  These lead pipes have been in the ground 200 years and no one had made a lead (ph) take them out in the ground.  I feel like the city of (INAUDIBLE) if we can get together, the state of New Jersey we can get together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  The largest city in the most densely populated state in our union Newark, New Jersey, has been staggered by a crisis over lead in the drinking water that the city has known about for years.  This affects thousands of homes, most of them in low income neighborhoods where lead pipes bring the water in from the street.

An effort to hand out filters to home owners failed when some of the filters failed.  And then this week an effort to hand out bottled water to those willing to come and get it in the hot sun was botched.  And just like what we`ve witnessed in Flint, Michigan, what`s happening in Newark, New Jersey, exposes the intersection of poverty and health and race and class and the word that has come to mean so much that it now means virtually nothing, infrastructure.

Here with us for more tonight, Karen Yi, she covers the city of Newark for New Jersey Advance Media, that means that her work appears in the Star- Ledger and on mj.com.  Also with us is New Jersey native, because that`s important these guys know that, Nick Corasaniti, he covers New Jersey for "The New York Times."  Welcome to you both.

Nick, it is my home state so I am rather charged up about this.  Let`s start with the baseline.  What does lead in the water do to the human body, and most urgently to the developing brains of children?

NICK CORASANITI, NEW JERSEY-BASED CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Well, the FDA has said that no amount of lead is safe to drink.  It is not healthy, it is not OK for anyone to ingest.  Now there are certain actionable levels that governments must take if they reach a certain percentage of certain parts per billion in the water, but it has been incredibly clear from, you know, for a long time that there`s no amount of lead that is safe to drink at all.  And it particularly impacts development in children and it particularly impacts pregnant women because it affects the development of the baby.

WILLIAMS:  Karen, I need not say that some of these folks are born with staggering disadvantages.  That they had no choice in American society.  So having established that, I know a large part of your work is getting to an answer to this.  But what do we know so far about what did they know and when did they know it?

KAREN YI, REPORTER COVERING NEWYARK, NJ ADVANCE MEDIA:  We know that lead levels in the city began to spike in 2017.  So this has been a problem that`s almost three years old.  The city at the beginning insisted it was a problem with 12 homes because of old lead lines, old infrastructure, and it wasn`t widespread.  It wasn`t until a year later in 2018 after the natural resources defense council sued that the city acknowledged that, yes, this is widespread problem.

It`s because we have 18,000 lead service lines in the city and these are these old lead pipes, kind of like garden hose size that connect underground waterlines to homes.  And the lead in those pipes is flaking off and coming through the faucets.  So, it took about a year for the city to acknowledge this is happening across one of our water treatment areas.

WILLIAMS:  And Nick, without running a chemistry class here because I failed that anyway in high school, like Flint when they change the formulation of the drinking water at the source, that can change how much lead, to Karen`s point, sloughs off the lining of these pipes.  There is an additive to put in drinking water that`s safe to consume and bathe that will keep the lead more at bay.  Is that correct?  Is that what happened here?

CORASANITI:  Yes, there`s an anti-corrosive inhibitor specifically with air and what it does it kind of create a film around the outside of the pipe that prevents the lead from reaching into the water.  And what happened in Newark or one of the important theories is that when they changed the acidity and dropped the pH level of the water to raise the acidity that deals the different problem they had, that kind of rendered the inhibitor that was preventing the lead from reaching in completely ineffective.  And that`s where we started to see the lead level rise in 2017 as Karen mentioned.

WILLIAMS:  Karen, after the shooting in El Paso, everyone kind of realized we have a presidential candidate in the race who is from there.  And since then his campaign has become about more or less a single issue.  Well lo and behold we have a presidential candidate with a Newark address and a former mayor of the city no less.  What is the Cory Booker role in this crisis thus far?

YI:  Booker was mayor from `06 to about 2013.  And lead levels in the city did not spike in 2017.  So he was gone.  He was no longer over the city when we started having these lead levels.  But there were also problems in 2016 in the schools.  You know, about 30 schools in Newark had to turn off their drinking water because of elevated lead levels until the schools eventually replaced some of their indoor plumbing.

So there`s been questions about whether Booker could have prevented this, maybe done more around infrastructure, but really he wasn`t here in Newark when the lead levels started to rise.

WILLIAMS:  Has he stepped forward to take on this issue as a presidential candidate in his hometown?

YI:  He`s written letters.  He asked the EPA to step in and help fund this bottled water program.  There`s been almost 90,000 cases of water distributed.  Well, some of those were past the expiration date, but he is asking the federal government to step in because at this point we don`t know how long this bottled water program is going to last.  And we don`t have any answers as to why these filters are failing at this point.

WILLIAMS:  For what it`s worth, Nick, again as someone who was born and raised in the state, if this were happening in my hometown of Middletown where the current governor lives now or Summit or Bedminster or Rammstein, there would be holy hell going on, and we all know it, that this is part of race and class.  Has a leader emerged to step forward and say I`m going to help fix this?

CORASANITI:  If there`s been any leader in this at least from my point of view it`s been the NRDC.  They`ve been sounding the alarm on this since before anyone was willing to acknowledge it.  You had Mayor Baraka denying in 2017 and 2018 that this was an issue.  And the NRDC was pushing and pushing.

Ever since it`s kind of come out and escalated over the past week you`ve seen Governor Murphy pledge that, you know, this is -- safe water is not, you know, a privilege, it`s a right.  And so he started the push, but if there`s been any leader that`s really sought to fix this the most it`s been the NRDC.

WILLIAMS:  Karen, I see a city paralyzed that can`t get water to people, that is saying to people if you want water, come and get it.  And if they would stop and think if someone emerged, New Jersey has about a thousand fire departments, most of them volunteer.  That`s what they do as volunteer.

Start making calls in a concentric circle around Newark, ask for one crew, a day shift, one fire truck for one day each, every firehouse.  They`ll arrive, they`ll put that bottled water on the hose bed of those trucks, give them a map of the service area, they will deliver that water as these folks deserve.  I`ve not heard anyone step up and say we wouldn`t ask our own moms and dads to wait in the hot sun for two heavy cases of bottled water.  How dare they expect people to do that when there`s poison running through their pipes?

YI:  Yes, I mean a lot of residents that I`ve spoken to are frustrated.  They are waiting in the summer heat.  And sometimes, you know, we`ve heard a couple of cases of people being turned away because they didn`t qualify, they weren`t eligible.  There`s two water systems, water treatment systems have feed (ph) the city.  Only residents in one of those water systems on the western side of the city are eligible.

So those on the eastern side can`t get water.  But today in court we were hearing the lawsuit that the NRDC has filed and the city official actually acknowledged that, well people in the eastern part of the city can`t get water.  If you`re a pregnant mom or nursing mom and you`ve waited in line you should be able to get that water because you`ve waited that long and at this point the city is not trying to be hostile or sort of fight with the residents when there`s so much panic and so many unanswered question going around.

I`ll say that there are companies that have stepped up.  Pepsi and Anheuser-Busch have pledged to help donate some bottled water.  I know Lift is offering rides to residents to help them pick up these heavy cases of water.  The city has also offered door to door services for some of the senior citizens.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  This needs to be more of a marshal plan than it is now.  We`ll stay on this.  I know you both will.  Thank you both for your reporting.  Our thanks to Karen and Nick for coming by and I look are for their bylines as well.

Coming up, a would-be Democratic rival for Donald Trump restarts his campaign.  We`ll talk about that when we come back.

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FMR. REP. BETO O`ROURKE (D), CANDIDATE FOR PRESIDENT:  The kind of challenges that we face in this country at this moment of crisis require an urgency.  Unless we want to reap the consequences of failing to meet them.

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WILLIAMS:  Beto O`Rourke today with the relaunch of his presidential campaign.  As you may know he came off the trial following the mass shooting that killed 22 people in his hometown 12 days ago.  Tonight on this network, the candidate made it clear he has no intention of heeding those calls to head home, drop out of the presidential race, run for Senate again in Texas.

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O`ROURKE:  Let me make your show the place where I tell you and I tell the country I will not in any scenario run for the United States Senate.  I`m running for President.  I`m running for this country.  I`m taking this fight directly to Donald Trump.

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WILLIAMS:  So much to talk about there, and luckily for all of us we have the perfect guest to do so.  A.B. Stoddard is back with us, Columnist and Associate Editor at RealClearPolitics.  So much to discuss.

His set piece cadence is very set piece.  It`s a method, a studied method of speaking.  Donald Trump uses the language of the streets as he did again today.  His speaking voice is the same as his speaking voice.  And all the events of today, the circus moved on through town.

And what are we left with here?  A guy who does not crack our polling, who is not in the top seven, who can`t buy double digits.  He`s beneath Yang so he doesn`t make the first panel of candidates.  So what`s in it for him if I can be so crass?

A.B.STODDARD, ASSOCIATE EDITOR AND COLUMNIST, REAL CLEAR POLITICS:  That`s a good question.  I think he`s in a nothing left to lose mode.  Politicians say the strangest things.  I remember watching him less than a year ago saying he was not going to run for president.  He was not going to run.

But I think he has made it clear like others that he doesn`t want to be in the Senate.  And he is because of 38 electoral votes in the Lone Star State which Democrats fantasize about breaking which would stop Donald Trump`s paths to victory no question.  He is hoping that something turns around for him or maybe Kamala Harris is the nominee and he is chosen because he has the map.  So I think he believes at this point he needs to go for Brook, and it is true that Hickenlooper didn`t even say when he dropped out today he would run for Senate.  He said he would consider it.

Governor Bullock doesn`t want to run for the Senate in Montana.  Chuck Schumer is desperate for these people to bring him a majority in the Senate and be the best recruits that he can get against people who he could be vulnerable in all these states.  Stacey Abrams in Georgia, for example, she refuses to do it.

WILLIAMS:  I have heard more passionately from you on the need for Democrats to go home and run for these seats, if they`re tired of Mitch McConnell for having the title majority leader, the way to do that is take away the majority.  Why do you say -- And if Chuck Schumer really believed in this, wouldn`t he be banging that drum every day?

STODDARD:  This is a -- He does believe in it.  The problem is the Democrats don`t want you to know they have a huge rift in their party not only from the people who believe that Elizabeth Warren is electable on a general election which I disagree with.  But to the fact that, you know, they`re in denial about the fact that they -- without the Senate they can do nothing.  They could get Donald Trump out of the White House, but on judges and everything else, legislation, they would be paralyzed.

The thing is these priorities, the devotion of time, resources, debate discussion, all of that gets lost in the fact they are quibbling over whether or not they want to reorder society with a huge revolution or stabilize the country with normalcy with Joe Biden.  And that`s going to get -- It`s going to become more tense as we get closer to Iowa in February.

WILLIAMS:  That was wisdom here and that happens when you invite really smart people to be here.  Luckily A.B. has agreed to stay with us over a break.

And coming up, as Democrats descend on New Hampshire, the President suggests that state was actually stolen from him in the last election.

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DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Is there anything better than a Trump rally?  What about a sleepy Joe Biden rally?

You`ve got Pocahontas rising.  You`ve got Kamala, Kamala is falling.  You`ve got Beto, Beto is like, gone.

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WILLIAMS:  That`s our President on the attack in New Hampshire at his rally tonight.  Earlier today he made a baseless claim that he would have won New Hampshire back in 2016 were it not for nonexistent voter fraud.

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TRUMP:  But I think we`re going to do very well in New Hampshire.  New Hampshire should have been won last time except we had a lot of people come in at the last minute which was rather strange situation.  Thousands and thousands of people coming in from locations unknown but I know where their location was.

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WILLIAMS:  Didn`t happen.  That is fantasy fiction.  He lost New Hampshire.

Still with us is A.B. Stoddard.  Wasn`t Canadians coming over the border for our health care.  Did you know thousands of people coming into New Hampshire at the last moment?

STODDARD:  This has been investigated.  Remember, he had a voter fraud commission which turned up nothing.  But he is like a four-hit wonder and he loves this.  He will go back to it next year.

You can bet your house on this, Brian.  If he loses, we`re going to hear about illegal voters.  There will be Somalis in Minnesota.  I mean, yes, in Minnesota.  There will be Mexicans in California.  This is exactly what he`s going to do if he ends up and defeat.  And he talks -- He`s always talked about it as if he believes it.  And New Hampshire in his mind was -- he just almost clinch (ph) it so it must have stolen.

WILLIAMS:  And watch those Canadians coming in for our health care.

Hey, let`s look at this Fox News poll.  This is the net change from July to August of again, national poll at summer.  We don`t have national elections.  We have 50 state elections.  Biden up 12 now as opposed to July.  Sanders up 9 but Warren jumps.  Harris jumps head to head versus this president.  Does that tell you anything?  Is it worth a bucket of warm spit, as they used to say?

STODDARD:  Well, I think that`s for the President, his polling against the Democratic contenders comes in lower than his low approval rating.  So --

WILLIAMS:  That`s interesting.

STODDARD:  -- there are really bad signs that a lot of these polls for him to worry about.  He refuses, as you know, Brian, to govern beyond his base, to campaign beyond his base, to try to grow his base.  He is -- He really is disinterested.  But if he looks at the number of people in this country that approve of the job he`s doing in the economy versus those who approve of his job, that`s still a huge gap.

So he doesn`t, you know, make efforts to mitigate this or to fix it but there`s a lot -- there`s very little in polling actually for him to be happy about it.  It`s a long time away.  There isn`t a Democratic nominee.  It is still looking like a referendum on President Trump when there is a Democratic nominee.  It would be a choice which he hopes, you know, that person we enable (ph) socialist.

But I think at this point if you look at all of his liabilities in the issues with the exception on the economy, and then his numbers against almost all the Democratic primary contenders, he has to be worried.

WILLIAMS:  A.B. Stoddard, our thanks for being with us here tonight.  Here`s a head look for her next piece on RealClearPolitics.  Look for every piece she does on RealClearPolitics.

Coming up, in this nation that used to do big things, is it really too much work to hand out bottled water?

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WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight is a reminder of what we can do in case there are any questions on that front.  On this day in 1914, the Panama Canal was opened.  It was and remains one of the great engineering feats of all time.  It changed the world.  It redefined what was physically possible.

It took the leadership of Teddy Roosevelt to ride to it completion, to overcome obstacles, make sure it got done.  This week is also the anniversary of V-J Day in 1945 when in colossal fashion following the only use of atomic weapons in the history of the world, the United States won the war in the Pacific, having vanquished tyranny both on the European front and across the best Pacific Ocean.

It took the leadership of Franklin Roosevelt who did not live to see the victory he engineered.  Why do we talk about our history every chance we get?  Very simply, to remind ourselves who we are and yes in many cases, who we used to be.  We`re hoping it will be useful for citizens.  Perhaps the citizens of Newark, New Jersey.

The next time any elected leader there says we`re sorry, we just can`t get you water to replace the poison in the pipes into your home, you`ll have to come get it.  We know it`s hot.  The lines are long and the water is heavy.  But there is really no way we could get it to you.  Remind them that at one time we were the wonder of the world, carving a path through the surface of the earth to join two oceans, later crossing those oceans to help save the world.

That`s our broadcast for this Thursday night.  Thank you so very much for being here with us and good night from NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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