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Trump facing warning signs from economy. TRANSCRIPT: 8/19/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Bill Kristol, Stephanie Murray, Victoria McGrane

RACHEL BITECOFER, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT UNIVERSITY`S WASON CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY:  And I`m not saying that moderates aren`t important, that there aren`t moderates, there certainly are.  And they can be appealed to although Democrats don`t do it well.  But really, it`s all about the base.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Professor Rachel Bitecofer, thank you very much for just the tip of the iceberg version.  We`re going to have to have you back and we`ll take more notes.  Really appreciate you joining us tonight.

BITECOFER:  Oh, love it.  Thank you so much for having me.

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

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the President reportedly most worried about the rising in Syria`s talk of an economic downturn goes after all kinds of grievances on social media.  Including but not limited to, the crowd of this rally last week, the former 11-day employee, the pursuits (ph) of a foreign territory and how we lost the popular vote.

Plus, reports tonight that there is a possible plan for a tax cut on American`s payroll checks to try to bolster the economy and that possible recession that the White House says isn`t coming anyway.

And updates on a possible clash of the political titans in Massachusetts and the ongoing shame in the City of Newark where the message is, if you want drinking water without lead in it, you`re going to have to come and get it.  All of this as THE 11TH HOUR gets underway on a Monday night.

Well, good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York as we start a new week.  Day 942 of this Trump administration.  Finds a president who`s facing down ominous signs about his reelection and warning signs about an economy possibly headed for a sharp slow down.

Tonight both "The Washington Post" and "The New York Times" report the administration is considering ways to help prop up a weakening economy and hold off recessions.  Among the options reportedly on the table, "a temporary payroll tax cut possibly reversing some of President Trump`s tariffs and a plan to reduce capital gains taxes."  The white house is pushing back on that first option, one official is telling NBC News and we quote, "cutting payroll taxes is not something under consideration at this time."  We should add in a place where minds have been known to change.  Trump is trying to shrug off concerns about the economy while, again, blaming his Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and his political opponents, "Our economy is strong despite the horrendous lack of vision by J. Powell and the Fed, but the Democrats are trying to will the economy to be bad for purposes of the 2020 election.  The Fed rate over a fairly short period of time should be reduced by at least 100 bases points with perhaps some quantitative easing as well."

Just yesterday, "The Washington Post" Phil Rucker who joins us in just a moment was asked -- asked Trump if the White House is prepared for a possible downturn.


PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF:  A lot of economists say that you should be preparing for a recession, that no president is immune from a recession, and that it`s malpractice for the government not to be doing something to get ready for that scenario.

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Yes.  I feel honestly I am prepared for everything.  I don`t think we are having a recession.  We`re doing tremendously well.  Our consumers are rich, I gave a tremendous tax cut and they loaded up with money.  They are buying.

I saw the Walmart numbers, they were through the roofs just two days ago.  That`s better than any poll, that`s better than any economists.  And most economy is actually, they feel that we`re not going to have a recession.


WILLIAMS:  Trump may also be rattled by the latest Fox News polling that shows him under water with leading Democratic 2020 candidates.  So much so he`s now lashing out at a network he has considered the home team.


TRUMP:  Fox is a lot different than it used to be, I can tell you tell you that.  Fox has change.  And my worst polls have always been from Fox.  There`s something going on at Fox, I tell you right now.  And I am not happy with it.


WILLIAMS:  The President also says he doesn`t believe the Fox`s poll because of the size of the crowds at his rally.  It appears he was most recently angered by images of empty seats at his rally last week in Manchester, New Hampshire.


TRUMP:  Every place I go we have lines outside.

I think they said 17,000 people outside that couldn`t get in.

The Fire Marshals closed it at a certain level.  The arena announced, I don`t know the people at the arena that I broke Elton John`s record.  And then I have fake news.  So, that was an amazing evening.  And you saw the enthusiasm.


WILLIAMS:  Along with crowd size, Trump has returned to another favorite topic alleged voter fraud in the last presidential election, never proven.  And he`s pushing a new conspiracy theory writing, "Google manipulated from 2.6 million to 16 million votes for Hillary Clinton in 2016 election.  This was put out by a Clinton supporter, not a Trump supporter.  Google should be sued.  My victory was even bigger than thought."  There is no evidence of that.

In fact it came shortly after a discussion aired on Fox Business about one psychologist research on the popular vote, research that Google had refuted.

Hillary Clinton responded today, "The debunked study you`re referring to was based on 21 undecided voters.  For context that`s about half the number of people associated with your campaign who have been indicted."

Then there is the President shifting positions when it comes to gun control.  Immediately after those mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, a combined death toll 31.  Trump sounded ready to support new background check laws much as he did following the Parkland School shooting last year.


TRUMP:  Take the guns first, go through due process second.  We`re going to get this done in a bipartisan matter.  I`m not even worried about 60 votes.  I really believe that 60 votes, 60 percent meaning is -- should be so easy.  It should be 100 percent.

I think we can do meaningful, very meaningful background checks.  I want to see it happen.  And I think we can bring up background checks like we never had before.


WILLIAMS:  Tonight, Annie Karni of "The New York Times" reports with her colleague Maggie Haberman that, "after discussions with gun rights advocates during his two-week working vacation in Bedminster, New Jersey, including talks with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive at the NRA, Mr. Trumps resolve appears to have substantially softened."  And here is what he says to reporters as recently as yesterday.


TRUMP:  People don`t realize, we have strong background checks right now.  You go into buy a gun, you have to sign up.  There are a lot of background checks that have been approved over the years.  Just remember big mental problem and we do have a lot of background checks right now.


WILLIAMS:  As all of this unfolds, the battle continues between the President and his former employee of less than two weeks, "Anthony Scaramucci is a highly unstable nut job.  I barely knew him until his 11 days of gross incompetence made a fool of himself, bad on T.V.  Got fired.  He wrote a very nice book about me just recently.  Now the book a lie?  He was a mental wreak.  We didn`t want him around.  Now fake news puts him on like he was my buddy."

Earlier this evening Scaramucci was back on cable T.V. again talking about replacing Trump somehow on the 2020 ticket.


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE DIRECTOR OF COMMUNICATIONS:  His entire Cabinet like hates his guts and most of the Congress.  It`s like the wicked witch of the west.  The water gets thrown, the witch melts.  So I`m telling my fellow Republicans and my fellow Americans, there is absolutely no reason to be frightened.  We have to come together now and call this for what it is.

And if we do that, and we do that together, we can bit it back and then we can get a really experienced Republican candidate to go against some of the Democratic adversaries that have already been declared.


WILLIAMS:  Here for our lead-off discussion on a Monday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," the aforementioned Annie Karni, White House reporter with "The New York Time," and Bill Kristol, back with us as well, a veteran at the Reagan and Bush administrations, director of defending democracy together and editor-at-large of "The Bulwark" on the web.  Good evening to you all.

Phil Rucker, the President said to you in Bedminster just yesterday he was prepared for everything.  Would his staff agree?

RUCKER:  I think not Brian.  And I think that`s why you see so much anxiety inside the White House right now while you have the President out there declaring that the economy domestically at least is healthy and that there is nothing to worry about.  And he does not foresee a recession because he is the one in charge.

Behind the scenes, the advisers, the economic team at the White House has been scrambling to come up with some plans and some measures that they can take in order to boost consumer confidence in order to reassure is the business world and save off what seems to be early signs right now of an economic downturn.  And at the core of all of this is concerned as always about the President`s political survival.  He thinks about nothing more than reelection all the time.  It`s at the top of mind for him and the concern is that he`s banking on a strong economy in order to win re- election in November of 2020.  And if there is as downturn, if, you know, there is as recession or something even more devastating, that could spell defeat for the President politically.

WILLIAMS:  And Annie, all of this gets us into the reporting by your paper and Phil`s paper about a possible payroll tax cuts or other type of tax cuts.  And our viewers would be forgiven for saying to themselves, "Hey, I thought this President just worked through a huge tax cut before?"

ANNIE KARNI, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE REPORTER:  He did, and this is something.  This was news that the White House immediately tried to down play after "The Washington Post" first reported the story.  First of all, this was a white paper put together by his economic advisors that hadn`t yet reach Trump`s eyes.  So, this was not something that was presented to him in the Oval Office today.  It`s not there yet.

People I spoke with said that this something a contingency plan and that right now they`re at the stage of looking at what and what previous administrations had done during a recession and just putting all options on the table.  Really, though, the message here is that Trump`s own advisers are making contingency plans for him while he goes out there and says there is nothing wrong and there`s no recession and the Walmart sales are great and everything, it`s fine.

The real question for Trump going into reelection is, can he put any blame on a potential downturn on his Fed chair, on the media, on these people he`s been trying to blame when -- as we saw last week at his Manchester rally, his pitch to voters is love me or hate me, you have to vote for me because if you don`t, your 401(k) will tank.  What does he do when that argument is no longer valid?  And that`s the real question for him right now.

WILLIAMS:  Bill Kristol, on social media he`s talking about crowd size, relitigating the popular vote, talking about Scaramucci.  And as they say the whole world is watching.  Our mutual friend, Eugene Robinson writes this, "The astonishing thing is that the President of the United States is, let`s face it, raving like a lunatic, and everyone just shrugs.  The truth is that we don`t have an actual presidency right now.  We have a tiresome reality show whose ratings have begun to slide and whose fading star sees cancellation on the way."

Bill, your response.

BILL KRISTOL, THE BULWARK EDITOR-AT-LARGE:  Yes, you know, it`s interesting with Anthony Scaramucci coming out just a week or two ago and he`s saying that Trump is getting worse, people around Trump are worried.  And then Trump seems to sort of confirm it with his tweets.  I think that`s pretty striking and gives Scaramucci who otherwise people might discount a little bit some credibility.

And I do think if other start to say, I was-- I`m not like Bill Kristol, I not some never Trumper, I was for Trump, I voted for him, I wanted to work, but I-- we just can`t afford a seconds term.  That could be a pretty interesting moment.

If you put the economic downturn which may or may not come but Germany is already in recessions.  So that`s a real question mark.  If you put together what`s going to happen in September in the Senate where Mitch McConnell seems to have committed to bringing up a gun bill which is you reported, the President is now backing off on, this election security legislation, there will be a lot of pressure to bring up because the President won`t be happy with.

And I think we`ll have one or two ex congressman announcing that they`re going to join Bill Weld in the field to challenge President Trump for the Republican nomination.  They will beat him presumably.

But again, that could be a bit of -- sort of a challenge.  Not just a challenge but a sense that, you know, it`s not so a 100 percent inevitable that everyone has to just stack (ph) a yes to the renomination from Donald Trump.

WILLIAMS:  Phil Tucker, president`s are entitled to their own council, they are entitled to their privacy, but what we have as an arrangement covering this President especially while at a Trump branded property like Bedminster, New Jersey, is the opposite of transparency, of not once seen a briefing from a briefing room there.  And it`s been over 100 days since we saw the briefing room in the West Wing.  Having said that, we are told now by both of your newspapers that the President had contact with people in his life who may have moved him back to the comfortable rights on things like gun control.

RUCKER:  That`s right, Brian.  You know yesterday evening at the end of the President`s vacation in New Jersey, we had that long Q & S session with him on the airport tarmac.  And I asked him repeatedly about gun control, what exactly is your position on background checks, because it was only a week or so ago that he was saying he supported very powerful background checks. He thought it would be the sort of obvious next step for policy making following the two horrific mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio.  And his position has changed almost over night.

On Sunday night into New Jersey, he was saying, "I`m not going to say anything about background checks until Congress figures out some solutions and gets back to me."  And then he said, "By the way, keep in mind, we already have this very strong background checks and it is a mental health problem."  And then he went on to advocating for reopening a series of mental health and institutions that had shuttered in the United States back in the 1950s and 1960s, of course, for inhumane practices there.

So this is not a president who seems to be warming to the idea of any sort of gun control.  And we should keep in mind this is not a question about taking away assault rifles or lowering the size of magazines.  This is about background checks, universal background checks to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and the other dangerous people.  And they`re supported according to polling by 80 percent to 90 percent of the American public.

WILLIAMS:  Ninety-four percent I saw in one poll.

RUCKER:  Ninety-four.

WILLIAMS:  Annie Karni, and this why that cliche about the last person who talks to him gets to decide his viewpoint comes up now and again.  This is a post Parkland established pattern as we said at the top of the broadcast, Annie.

KARNI:  Yes, that`s right, after Parkland, he also made big gestures of really wanting to do major action on guns.  And that, he changed his position in there after a late night Oval Office meeting with the NRA officials and then came out and said he would veto any bill about background checks.  So, this is turn around is a familiar playbook.

As Chuck Schumer said, I think, in a statement today, he said, "We`ve seen this movie before."  But it is a reminder that however much Trump wants to say he`s going to do something in the moment after a mass shooting or a crisis, he gets ultimately get swayed back to playing to his base.  And while Democrats, I think, want to see him do something and don`t want to leave the option open, that maybe he`ll come back in September and try and move Congress again to do something.

They admitted at this stage in a campaign when every other play he`s making in terms of attacking the four congresswomen of color, freshmen Democrats, in terms of attacking Elijah Cummings is a base play.  They don`t see how it would fit into his play book right now to do some major legislation on guns when he believes that members of the NRA make up a huge part of his base.

WILLIAMS:  Bill Kristol, about the polling, do you believe any of it?  The summer before an election year, do you believe any of the national polling?  Is it relevant to you?

KRISTOL:  I mean it`s some what relevant in terms of just the direction it`s going.  It doesn`t say where we`ll be in 12 15 months.  But I think Annie mentioned the base play, the attack on Congressman Cummings, the attack on the four representatives, the rhetoric about invaders and then obviously the terrible El Paso shooting.  I mean that six -- we forget this about six weeks ago where people weren`t sure if that was -- that might -- they thought that might, remember, even a lot of Democrats were kind of worried, you know, that this is his -- he`s so good at this in working up the base.

It seems pretty clear from the polling and we have this from the bull work early tomorrow morning making this argument that it has not work.  He`s in fact, he has lost some voters and I see reports, rather reports of a couple of focus groups where there`s some, you know, soft Trump supporters, some people who voted for him saying this is a little too much.  You know, a little disruption had been fine, he`s little vulgar, we could live with that and some of the tweets.  But now, we are talking about dividing the country on race and ethnicity even more than he was doing before.

And what would a second term be like?  I think that`s getting in there a little, the polling suggest that.  And so Trump looks at that and thinks, well gee, this is my sort of -- my whole card.  This is my ace.  And if this does not work and the economy slowing, you know, I do think he`s really worried.

WILLIAMS:  Our thanks tonight to our big three for starting us off as we begin a new week.  To Phil Rucker, to Annie Karni, to Bill Kristol, greatly appreciate you three coming on.

And coming up for us, the President says he does not see a recession ahead because American consumers, we heard him say it, are loaded up with money.  Tonight, what the actual economists have to say.

And later, it`s tough to beat a Massachusetts Democrat with 40 years under his belt in the Congress, unless you are a Kennedy.  Well, that`s the drama playing out in the bay state tonight as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting underway.


WILLIAMS:  President Trump says the U.S. economy is doing tremendously well even as others warn we are staring at an approaching downturn.  A dual byline piece from the Associated Press reports, "Privately Trump is growing increasingly worried the economy won`t look so good come Election Day.  Though a pre-election recession here is far from certain, a downturn would be devastating blow to the President who has made a strong economy, his central argument for a second term," as we heard in our last segment.

On television, Trump administration officials have been dutifully downplaying the risk of something bad around the corner.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR:  The fact is the fundamentals of our economy are very strong and you know it.  We have more people working in the country right now than even before in the nation`s history.

PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER:  Before I came to the White House, they spent a better part of 20 years forecasting business cycles and stock market trends.  And what I can tell you with certainty is that we`re going to have a strong economy through 2020 and beyond with the bull market.

LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL:  I sure don`t see a recession.  We had some blockbuster retail sales consumer numbers towards the back end of last week.  Really blockbuster --


WILLIAMS:  Sorry, he`s still talking.  Sorry, Larry Kudlow.  It`s time to bring on our next guest.  Back with us again tonight Stephanie Ruhle, a veteran of the Investment Banking and Business World and host of the 9:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. hours here on MSNBC.  You get what Larry was saying.  Here`s what I need, fact-check the economic indicator for us.  And when foreign leaders, when economists in Germany hear those guys we just aired, do they think it`s crazy talk?

STEPHANIE RUHLE, MSNBC CO-ANCHOR, "VELSHI & RUHLE":  They are utterly confused as our business leaders.  I spoke to a number sea sweet business executives today who said, "we are sitting on cash because who knows what the President`s policies are."

For his two top advisers, for Peter Navarro to say, "I can say with absolute certainty that the economy will be fine in 2020?"  Well, no one can say with absolute certainly.  For Larry Kudlow to say there`s no economic indicators?  First of all, Larry Kudlow, days before the crash in 2007 said we`re OK.  But as far as economic indicators go, no one`s cheering on a recession.  No one is hoping for it for any sort of political gain.  It`s more about historical perspective.  The economy is chugging along, compared to other countries, we are doing well.

Kellyanne Conway is right on employment is low.  But we are at a 10-year point in economic expansion and the way financial cycles work, they go up and down.  A recession is just two consecutive quarters of economic decline.  That`s not a crash, it`s not a disaster.  We`re at year 10.  According to David Rubenstein, the co-founder of Carlyle, since World War II cycles last seven years.  We are due, not celebrating it, but due for a recession.  We know that because R.V. sales are down 20 percent.  Historically that is a recession is coming.

I won`t get in to the wackiness of an inverted yield curve, but that`s the reason the Dow dropped 800 points.  So to say there`s no signs of it, is just incorrect.

WILLIAMS:  A lot of people have their favorite industry to track.  Some people like tracking R.V.`s, others look at trucking.  I know someone who looks at sales of palettes, wooden palettes because that`s an instant indicator of planed shipping and activity.

Here`s the question, if a payroll tax cut is sold to us as the solution and we`re told it`s everybody at 130 k is the top end, everyone below, it`s for working Americans.  Cost of good intentions.  It feels good to say a payroll tax cut.  Do people actually take the extra bump in their check and inject it back into the national economy?

RUHLE:  Well, you don`t have to take my word, you can look back to Larry Kudlow himself.  In 2011 when he tweeted the payroll tax cut doesn`t work because we saw it during the Obama administration that payroll tax cut at two different times to try to spur consumer.  So Kudlow made the argument that this doesn`t worked back then.  And now while the White House is denying it, they`re mulling it over.  But the fact that they`re mulling over a number of measures to keep us away from a recession is confusing again because why would they be deny there`s any indicators while at the same time talking about a payroll tax cut.  And I ask you, how are they going to pay for that?

You`ve got guys like Mark Sanford potentially looking to primary the President saying, "Shouldn`t we care about the deficit?"  If you don`t have ways you`re going to pay for this, how are you going to get it approved?

WILLIAMS:  It`s exerting care over the generations that follow after you.

RUHLE:  Indeed, it is.  You`re going to affect social security.


RUHLE:  And all of those social security recipients or people who are planning on it, go out there and vote.  It makes for a precarious situation.

WILLIAMS:  I think you have to be on the air in just over nine hours.  Thank you very much for stopping by and explaining all the stuff.

As usual, our thanks to Stephanie Ruhle.

Coming up, a relatively new politician with the last name we all know steps forward.  But he`s already getting blow back from a top presidential contender.  It must be Monday night in Massachusetts politics.



ELIZABETH WARREN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  We need Ed Markey in the Senate now more than ever, and here`s why.  Because he`s a leader, he`s a fighter and he`s a true progressive.


WILLIAMS:  Remember that right there because it`s important.  Elizabeth Warren reaffirming her support for her fellow Massachusetts Democratic Senator Ed Markey.  The video endorsement was released amid growing speculation that Markey, the KG veteran, would face a primary challenge from a much younger candidate from a very famous family that would be the young man on the right hand side o f your screen.

POLITICO was first to report that mysterious July telephone poll that tested Democratic Representative Joe Kennedy III against Markey in a head- to-head contest first sparked speculation about the young congressman`s intensions.  And the Boston Globe confirmed, "Indeed, Kennedy will make a decision about whether to run in the coming weeks."

We are happy to be joined tonight by two journalists responsible fore that reporting, Stephanie Murray, Author of the "POLITICO Massachusetts Playbook" and Victoria McGrane, Political Reporter for the Boston Globe.  Good evening to you, both.

Stephanie, I would like to begin with you.  How real is this?  And how close do you think we are to a decision and an announcement?

STEPHANIE MURRAY, AUTHOR, POLITICO MASSACHUSETTS PLAYBOOK:  So those closest to Kennedy are telling me that he`s definitely considering this race, and he is going to make a decision in the coming weeks.  I think he`s coming from vacation the next couple of days.  And I think he`ll be definitely be sitting down with folks close to him, donors, advisers, and really taking a serious and hard look at this.

WILLIAMS:  Victoria, as you know, he has a Kennedy-esque modern era resume, little Stanford, little Harvard, little Peace Corp, little money making, and now a seat in Congress.  Why now, if you`re Joe Kennedy, a very young man still?

VICTORIA MCGRANE, POLITICAL REPORTER, BOSTON GLOBE:  Everyone has a shelf life, and if you`re looking at Massachusetts politics, things -- these spots do not open up very often and there is no guarantee that he`s going to ever have a better shot.

So those who are urging him to run are looking at the build up of-- incredible political talent in the state, looking at the vulnerabilities of Ed Markey and, frankly, any long time incumbent given the kind of current restive mood of the Democratic electorate.  And we`ve seen that play out specifically here in Massachusetts with the surprise primary victory by Ayanna Pressley in 2018.

And, you know, some people could-- would argue and are arguing that this is the time to do it.  If Joe Kennedy wants to be a US senator that this may be his best shot.

WILLIAMS:  Stephanie, there are whispers, correct, that the double secret strategy here is maybe to get a 73-year-old, four decade veteran of Washington by way of Commonwealth of Massachusetts to consider stepping aside and retiring, and enjoying his life.

MURRAY:  That is something that`s kind of been brewing among the chatter in the state.  So you had the secret poll, you see a group of folks who Kennedy has worked with in past creating an effort to draft in for the Senate.  I think the next national step here is for some public polling to come out in the next month or two.

And Kennedy`s private poll, the Globe reported, showed him slightly ahead of Markey.  I think after all of this news, it might show him even more ahead of Markey, and if the polling looks bad for the incumbent that might lead him to retire.

But Markey`s campaign says there`s no chance that will happen.  And that he`s running for re-election no matter who gets in the race.  So we`re going to have to wait and see here.

WILLIAMS:  Victoria, couple of things, number one, when Markey jumped on the Green New Deal, a lot of veteran Democrats found that very interesting, the kind of people who whisper not on cable television that they don`t find it a serious document.  They thought his support for it so quickly and loudly, and publicly was of note.

Number two, let`s talk about Elizabeth Warren.  Joe Kennedy was there for her announcement.  He introduced her when it came time to make in a commercial, she`s got to side with her brother senator from Massachusetts.

MCGRANE:  Well, a couple of things in the Warren endorsement.  First of all, my reporting has been that Kennedy has kept this very, very close and it hasn`t been until recently with the news that broke about the poll, that even other people in the delegation were necessarily aware that he was seriously looking at this.

So we don`t know exactly when that video was cut.  But it was cut before the news broke that Kennedy is weighing this seriously.  So it`s hard to know, you know, exactly what to make of it.

Certainly, Warren gave some comments over the weekend.  She was asked if she was still endorsing Markey.  She said yes.  Ed has been a great partner.  Joe has also been a great partner.  I`ve been -- I`ve know him since before we got in politics.  He is an amazing guy, you know, I`m paraphrasing here.

So she clearly has great affection for both of them.  And at the end of the day, an endorsement like this when you have the Kennedy name, he doesn`t need the name recognition that these sort of endorsement are helpful with.

So, again, it remains to be seen.  If Kennedy gets in the race, if Markey stays in, how all of this will play but it certainly putting everybody in Massachusetts Democratic circle is in kind of an awkward position right now.

WILLIAMS:  To our viewers, we asked both hub journalists to stick around over this commercial break.  We`re going to talk some more when we come back.

And coming up, more news out of the Commonwealth as its senior senator issues yet another public apology for those claims she has made about her heritage when we come back.



WARREN:  Like anyone who is being honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes.  I am sorry for harm I have caused.  I have listened and I have learned a lot and I am grateful for the many conversations that we`ve had together.  It is a great honor to be able to partner with Indian country.


WILLIAMS:  Sioux City, Iowa, 2020 candidate Elizabeth Warren offered a direct apology today for his past claims of Native American heritage.  The comments came during that forum on Native American issues, a venue chosen seemingly in an attempt to put the controversy to rest, at least talk about it.  President Trump made clear last weekend he has no intention to let it go.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES:  I did the Pocahontas thing, I hit her really hard.  And it look like she was down and out but that was too long ago, I should have waited.  But don`t worry, we will revive it.  I can be revived.


WILLIAMS:  It was last Thursday up in Manchester, New Hampshire.  Tonight, Elizabeth Warren drew her largest campaign event crowd yet, an estimated of 12,000 people showed up to hear her speak at a town hall, the outdoor kind in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Still with us, our Stephanie Murray and Victoria McGrane.

Victoria, starting with you, 12,000 people, a lot of baseball teams would kill to have 12,000 people in the stands.  Does that say anything about her ability to put that issue which has been a nagging negative for her to rest?

MCGRANE:  I think it does.  You know, at the beginning of the year, there is all sorts of news stories written about how this was it.  She was, you know, not going to be able to overcome this fumble DNA test and what have you.

But the truth of the matter is, even back then when she was started doing these town halls and start campaigning, voters on the trail aren`t asking her about this.  And she has steadily climbed in the polls, it is not, you know, her bringing up the apology today, and not withstanding.  It is not seem to be an issue at least in the Democratic primary that is proving fatal to her.

WILLIAMS:  Stephanie, she has marketed herself otherwise as a candidate with a plan.  She`s been kind of in on the joke in that way.  There are Democrats who worried about how broad based her appeal is, and that she`s going to draw audiences of mostly earnest, like minded, left and democrats.

MURRAY:  Well, the thing that you have to think about here is that, going out and making this apology and talking to Native American people about these issues and listening to them isn`t to silence the President.  I think we all know that he`s going to go continue down this road of using these nicknames, and using these terms to define her.

And it`s not about him.  It`s about getting others folks on her side and broadening her appeal among Native American groups which is something she is needed to do and try to do over the last six or seven months.

WILLIAMS:  We greatly appreciate having the chance to talk to both of you on all of this.  To Stephanie Murray, to Victoria McGrane, thank you both for coming on as we start a new week here.

And coming up, the Islamic state claims responsibility for yet another deadly suicide bombing, this time a wedding in Kabul.  It`s an awful tragedy.  All of this concise -- coincides rather with Trump`s plan to pull US troops out of Afghanistan.  Retired US Army Four Star General Barry McCaffrey weighs in when we come back.



TRUMP:  We`re talking to Afghanistan, both the government and also talking to the Taliban, having very good discussions.  We`ll see what happens.  We`ve really got it down to probably 13,000 people and we`ll be bringing it down a little bit more.  And then we`ll decide whether or not we`ll be staying longer or not.

It can`t be a laboratory for terror, and we`ve stopped that.  And we have very, very good view.  I mean some things are going to be announced over the next couple of weeks as to what happens, who`s been taking out.  A lot of people have been taken out that were very bad, both ISIS and al-Qaeda.


WILLIAMS:  Well, a horrible event just this past weekend and start contrast to the President`s decidedly optimistic assessment of the situation in Afghanistan.  This is important, a terrorist bombing at a wedding.  The death toll was in a dozens.

The Associated Press reports, "The local Islamic state affiliate claimed responsibility for the deadliest attack in the capitol this year of 63 killed, 182 wounded.  While outraged Afghans questioned just how safe they will be under an approaching deal between the US and the Taliban to end America`s longest war.

Here to talk about it with us tonight, General Barry McCaffrey, retired US Army Four Star General, heavily decorated combat veteran of Vietnam, one of the US ground commanders in the Gulf War, former US drug-czar among his other roles.

General, what do you make of what the President said?  How do you think Afghanistan will end for us and how do you wish Afghanistan would end for us?

BARRY MCCAFFREY, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST:  Well, Brian, I think it`s fair that Mr. Trump did not create the mess in Afghanistan, but also think he`s going to end up owning its tragic outcome.  We got this brilliant Ambassador Khalilzad knows more about Afghanistan than anyone in the US government, negotiating in gutter with the Taliban.  But Mr. Trump has said publicly essentially we are out publicly by 2020.  So what is there to negotiate?

The Taliban are also winning, are now controlling more terrains than they have since 2001.  The Afghan government is fractured, incompetent, corrupt.  Their military is semi-dysfunction, no belligerent ever negotiates a way something that won in the battlefield.  The situation looks tragic, the outcome will come soon after we withdraw.

WILLIAMS:  As a commander, you have made the call to parents back in the states.  And if I am the parent of one of the 23,000 killed or wounded in Afghanistan, what do you tell me about the value of my son or daughter`s life, about their injuries or god forbid the end of their lives?

MCCAFFREY:  Well, it`s a very difficult situation.  There`s a parallel here to Vietnam, there`s no question.  In Vietnam, we had essentially 59,000 killed, 300,000 wounded.  The war came to knock.  The US politically lost all belief in the outcome and we withdrew and cut off the money, and it went under.

So the Vietnam generation, which certainly includes me, were very bitter about our politicians, the media.  There was a real alienation in the armed forces.  We`ve got millions of US servicemen and women who have fought and died in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

So the notion that you can casually pull the plug and walk away from it, you`re going to be discounting the commitment, the sacrifice, the courage in many ways of all of those troops.

WILLIAMS:  Just for a little context here, something I think about a lot but we don`t think to say often enough.  Tell our viewers how unusual the pace of deployments has been for our armed forces given the fact that we`ve been at it for 18 years. 

MCCAFFREY:  Well, it`s remarkable.  You know, I don`t think there`s been anything like this since World War II, which was an open-ended commitment, 16 million people in the armed forces.  The entire country was wrapped up in the war and committed to it, but now we`ve got a very small essentially cadre, 1 percent of the population fighting our wars.

Many of these young men and women have had -- and the senior NCOs and the lieutenant colonels have a dozen combat deployments.  And, you know, I remind people there`s over 60,000 killed and wounded in the US Armed Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So it`s been an unbelievable commitment.  They`re up to it.  I think they`ll stay in the fight as long as they`re asked to.  The footprint in Afghanistan is now way down.  It`s around 20,000 NATO forces.  But it`s been a display of courage and commitment, the likes of which a country has rarely seen.

WILLIAMS:  And also let our viewers know, if the United States gets out, does that mean everybody follow suit? 

MCCAFFREY:  I cannot imagine anybody in their right mind staying.  The United States is the load bearing institution in this war.  It`s our helicopter, our air force, our hospitals, our communications, our intelligence.  The Tier 1 Special Operations forces there who are in combat every night includes our allies, but basically it`s JSOC out of our special ops unit.

So if we leave everyone`s leaving.  By the way, I think that will also withdraw all possible financial support from Congress.  We won`t be in there.  We won`t be facing the enemy.  We won`t see the results of our own investment.  So I think the thing`s going to go implode pretty rapidly if we jerk the forces out by 2020.

WILLIAMS:  General Barry McCaffrey, sobering conversation tonight.  They always are.  Thank you very much for coming on to talk about it with us.

And coming up, the message from a major American city to the thousands who want clean water with no lead in it, come and get it.  An update on the shame of Newark, New Jersey after this.


WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go here tonight is the grinding urgent sad ongoing crisis in Newark, New Jersey.  Eight miles from this studio, largest city in the most densely populated state in the union.

This affects about 15,000 homes, and as we`ve said, they`re largely poor neighborhoods.  And if you live in the part of the city where the lead in your water exceeds federal standards, meaning it`s a poison to pregnant women, meaning it causes brain damage in your developing children, then you qualify to pick up your own water, two cases at a time at one of four distribution centers.

The governor of New Jersey says clean water is a right and not a privilege, but apparently that does not include delivery.  Brian Thompson, the veteran New Jersey reporter for our NBC station here in New York, WNBC, has been doggedly covering this story.  Big local news story in this area, not very big across the country.

Again today he showed us the hardship, the elderly and disabled, in some cases with disabled family members back at home who are forced to go get water, which they do largely without complaint because for them in Newark nothing has ever been easy.

We went on the city of Newark website tonight curious about the bottled water program, thinking maybe we had missed an announcement that the city perhaps over this past weekend had come up with a breakthrough idea like putting the water on trucks and delivering it to those in need.

No, nothing to see here.  But we did see this, waiting in the hot sun is not enough, re-engineering your life and household function on 16 ounces bottles of water.  Not enough, no.  You better be ready to prove you really need those two complimentary cases of bottled water that you`re prepared to lug back to your house in the hot sun.

And we quote, "Residents must show the most recent proof of residency to pick up bottled water, including a tax bill, water bill, lease agreement, utility bill, cable bill, driver`s license or government-issued ID."

Well, that will teach them, all those people from those surrounding towns who were probably planning right about now to flood into Newark for free water.  Having grown up just 23 miles from Newark, I remember my friends were always scheming, always planning some caper just to try to get our hands on some of that free Newark water.

Now back to real life and death in Newark.  One more time, let`s look at some of the elderly disabled folks in Newark as they struggle to get and then live on two cases of 16 ounce bottles of water.  The question for all of New Jersey`s political leadership is very simple, if this was your mom, would you stand for it?  If this was your town, would you stand for it?  Or would you demand better?

That`s our broadcast on this Monday night as we start a new week.  Thank you so much for being here with us.  Good night from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.

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