Trump airs grievances, stokes feuds. TRANSCRIPT: 8/21/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Michael Crowley, Anita Kumar, Donna Edwards, David Jolly, JethroJames

Show: 11TH HOUR WITH BRIAN WILLIAMS Date: August 21, 2019 Guest: Michael Crowley, Anita Kumar, Donna Edwards, David Jolly, Jethro James

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

BRIAN WILLIAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, the President of the United States declares himself the chosen one in a free-wheeling airing of grievances with the obligatory helicopter backdrop.  He takes on leaders home and abroad, labels another woman, a world leader, as "nasty," contradicts himself, goes after Obama, and trolls American Jews.

Plus, that silence you hear is the Republican Party unwilling, seemingly unable to take him on when the economy and the world`s national security are at stake.

And we`ll check in tonight on what may be America`s most urgent public health crisis playing out in plain sight 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 944 of the Trump administration, the day when our President found a new and novel way to describe himself.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  I am the chosen one.  Somebody had to do it.  So I`m taking on China.  I`m taking on China on trade.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Today`s comments from the President, the chosen one, as he described himself, amounted to a swirl of distractions.  Look over here as he calls a female foreign leader "nasty."  Over here as he uses a historic anti-semitic trope. Over here as he attacks Obama multiple times as he jokes before a veterans group today he wanted to award himself the Medal of Honor.

It clouds up the water to obscure a walk-back on guns, to obscure the coming signs of economic trouble including a soaring deficit, completely out of control now.  His remarks were a compilation of grievances, contradictions, policy reversals and falsehoods.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  The fake news, of which many of you are members, is trying to convince the public to have a recession.  Let`s have a recession.  Jay Powell and the Federal Reserve have totally missed the call.  I was right and he raised interest rates too fast, too furious.

I`m not looking at a tax cut now.  We don`t need it.

Well I have an app that tight for background checks.  We`re going to be doing background checks.

Putin totally outsmarted President Obama on Crimea and other things.

Obama was upset and he got Obama out of what was the G8 into the G7.  Russia should be a part of it because we`re looking for world peace and other things.

Denmark, I looked forward to going but I thought that the Prime Minister`s statement that it was absurd, all she had to do is say "no, we wouldn`t be interested."  But we can`t treat the United States of America the way they treated us under President Obama.

Respect has to be shown to the United States.

I am the one that kept the families together.  President Obama and others brought the family apart.

With what we`re doing now we`ll do even more of that but it will make it almost impossible for people to come into our country illegally.

I think that if you vote for a Democrat you`re very, very disloyal to Israel and to the Jewish people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  Couple of things to note here as we fill in some of the blanks of those assertions today.  On the recession, the bond market flashed a second warning late today.  While the Congressional Budget Office warned the U.S. deficit will grow by about 800 billion more than previously expected over the next decade.

Just yesterday Trump admitted he was considering a payroll tax cut to boost the economy.  On Sunday the President insisted the U.S. already has strong background checks, seemed to brush off the need for more.  Russia was booted for what was the G8 by the member nations over its invasion of Crimea, not because Putin outsmarted Obama.  It was the Trump administration that started the zero tolerance policy for illegal border crossings, which included the practice of separating thousands of families at the border.  And as for trying to purchase Greenland, here`s what Trump said just three days ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Strategically it`s interesting.  And we`d be interested.  But we`ll talk to them a little bit.  It`s not number one on the burner, I can tell you that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  There is also something of a breaking political news story, and it happened in this room.  Two hours ago Governor Jay Inslee of Washington State told Rachel Maddow tonight he`s ending his bid for the Democratic nomination and dropping out of the race. His run was not without its moments.  During the first Democratic debate back in June, Inslee said this when asked about the greatest geopolitical threat to our country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAY INSLEE, (D) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE:  The biggest threat to the security of the United States is Donald Trump, and there`s no question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  And with that here for our lead-off discussion on a Wednesday night, Anita Kumar, White House Correspondent and Associate Editor for POLITICO, Michael Crowley, White House Correspondent for "The New York Times" covering foreign policy, and Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist for "The Washington Post."  Welcome to you all.

Michael, I`d like to begin with you.  Content aside, is this the new normal, questions and answers spoken in a shout with the helicopter engines in the background.  It strikes me we have had a new press secretary for 51 days who most Americans could not pick out of a line-up because she has not briefed the press.

MICHAEL CROWLEY, THE NEW YORK TIMES WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  That`s right, Brian.  Her name is Stephanie Grisham and she replaced Sarah Sanders, who left the White House weeks ago, as you say.

And you know Sarah Sanders shut down the daily White House press briefing, which of course was this fundamental American political tradition.  Well, it seems to be back but in a way that no one really quite imagined, which is that President Trump basically anytime he goes anywhere or meets with someone where the press has any access just starts fielding questions for an extremely long period of time.

And so we`ve had several times in the last -- just few days the President has gone off for, you know, 30 or 40 minutes, I think today was 35 minutes on just all kinds of subjects.  And he doesn`t seem to have any particular message he wants to get out there.  You know, he doesn`t come in with any strategy.  It`s just kind of controlled anarchy. And it just -- it feels like he is spiraling in a certain way.  He`s filled with grievance, frustration, slights real and imagined.  And it`s fascinating to watch.

I know that he has been, you know, an extraordinarily talkative President throughout his administration.  But it feels like this is ramping up.  And that maybe something new is going on with him.

WILLIAMS:  Anita, indeed the word Michael just used, spiraling, this has kind of been the left-leaning cable T.V. talk for the last couple of days, if not weeks, if not months.  But I want to read you from our friends at "The New York Times," Baker and Haberman tonight, "Some former Trump administration officials in recent days said they were increasingly worried about the President`s behavior, suggesting it stems from increasing pressure on Mr. Trump as the economy seems more worrisome and next year`s election approaches.  After casting off advisers who displeased him at a record rate in his first 2 1/2 years in office, Mr. Trump now has fewer aides around him willing or able to challenge him, much less restrain his more impulsive instincts."

And Anita, this becomes a little bit more serious, this talk.

ANITA KUMAR, POLITICO WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  Yes.  I mean, I think they`re exactly right.  We are at the moment here in the year -- the third year where he is ramping up that re-election campaign.  And for the last 2 1/2 years you have heard from Republicans not just Trump Republicans but just Republicans, even those that didn`t support him, that felt that if the economy was staying where it was that if the economy was strong that a lot of these other things that people have problems with him about, you know, a lot of this rhetoric he has, a lot of other things he does, wasn`t going to matter, that this is what he was going to base his re-election on.

And now we`ve seen those signs, as you`ve indicated, that you know, things aren`t looking so good.  They are shaky.  And the President is increasingly worried.  If you talk to people close to him, campaign aides, this is what they plan to base the election on.  And so this is a really tough moment for him to kind of see where this goes and how he can handle it.

WILLIAMS:  Eugene, you wrote this week the President in your view is in a panic.  Is that what we`re watching?

EUGENE ROBINSON, "THE WASHINGTON POST" COLUMNIST:  If it`s not a panic, if it`s not -- I think I also said he was melting down.  If it`s not those things, I just don`t know what to call it, Brian.  I agree with Michael and Anita that he is terribly worried about his re-election.  He`s worried about the state of the economy.

Look, polls were showing that he had a very tough road to re-election even with a good economy.  If the economy is shaky, it becomes much harder to imagine that he can actually put together a majority vote next year.  And that is -- that drives him crazy.

But something else is going on.  I mean, the way he sort of conflates the United States with himself, there was almost a sort of L`etat, c`est Moi trope to his remarks today.  They can`t treat the United States this way when the Danish prime minister said that his notion of buying Greenland was absurd.  I am the chosen one to go against China in the trade war.  That sounded frankly not normal and not good.  And I understand why people who have been close to Donald Trump would be concerned about him.

WILLIAMS:  Michael Crowley, few people would have believed us if we`d said two years ago there`s going to be this Mueller report and when it comes out very few people will actually read it.  But that is actually what happened. Mueller is done with in terms of a chapter in our history and in the Trump presidency.  Yet there was no rest period, no pivot on the part of the subject of the investigation, just continued chaos.

CROWLEY:  Right. You could imagine a parallel universe where okay, Donald Trump went through this incredible turbulence of the federal investigation, the Mueller report, you know, some people thought that he was going to be potentially indicted or possibly impeached.  Anything seemed possible.  Was there this vast conspiracy with Russia that would completely destroy his presidency?  Well, he basically survived that.

Impeachment is kind of out of the headlines now.  It`s not, I suppose, impossible.  But it looks like it`s not going to happen.  You could imagine him going for a fresh start, trying to ride the positive economic news he`s had so far.  Yes, there are some clouds on the horizon.  But, you know, try to go over some kind of a sense of normalcy and start over in a way that was not possible when you had the Russia investigation going on, when you had the new Democratic Congress just coming in.

Instead he seems to need this chaos.  He seems to be manufacturing chaos around him.  It`s his only mode.  It`s chaos.  It`s attacking.  It`s fighting.

And Brian, what I think is kind of, you know, in a way boggles the mind to think about is what is this going to look like in a year.  Imagine this President potentially in a losing re-election campaign, his back is up against the wall.  People are talking about the possibility that he will face criminal prosecution if he is pushed out of office next November.  What is that going to look like?  I mean, we may just be seeing the beginning of this.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.  We forget about that aspect of this.

Hey, Anita, our tally is 127 Democrats and one Independent have now come out for impeachment.  Just a reminder the Democratic caucus numbers 235.  Falls short of what the Speaker had said should be overwhelming support for it.  Jerry Nadler went on this network and CNN on a Thursday night in the summer and said, "Yes, this kind of is impeachment."  That was followed by all of Congress leaving town on their summer break 2019.  Is it still a looming thing, Anita?

KUMAR:  Well, I think it is.  But I think as the clock ticks and the calendar goes it`s just more and more unlikely.  There are a lot of people across the country who feel that the closer we get to the election, the election is that moment, right?  The election gets to choose who the next person is.

So, you know, I think it`s more and more unlikely.  But you are seeing -- of course we`re not seeing it right now because Congress has left town.  What you will continue to see when they come back in a couple weeks is the investigations.  More letters, more subpoenas.  You know, that -- you will see that Democrats taking the President or his businesses or his, you know, aides to court to try to get some of that information.

That`s what the speaker says she wants to do.  Nancy Pelosi says that she wants to continue to legislate while they investigate.  And so they`re going to be doing both of those things.  And the question is when do they reach that breaking point.  And I`m just not sure that they`re going to reach that breaking point before people say it`s just too late to do this.

WILLIAMS:  Anita, in your in-person reporting have you encountered one person who can fog up a mirror who has expressed concern about the President?

KUMAR:  There are people expressing concern about the President.  But really most of us are all trying to keep up with what is going on.  I mean, we just touched the surface on so many major, major policy issues just this week on taxes.  And, you know, I`ve been following the gun legislation issue closely.  And he`s literally changed, you know, every day for the last few days.  And so we`re trying to figure out what`s going on.

But with this President part of what that is, and he has admitted this before, is he throws things out there.  He says things sometimes to see what the response is, to watch on T.V. to see what kind of reaction he gets, to hear what other Republicans do.  So I think that is also part of what he`s doing right now.

WILLIAMS:  And Eugene, as you well know, among the things he has thrown out there this week is a trope that has been used as cover to kill Jews in the history of the world.  Your take in your column was that the net effect is we don`t have a President -- I assume you also would like all of us in this business to keep up the business of saying, "here`s the deficit, here`s the economy, here`s the G7 meeting this coming weekend in Europe."

ROBINSON:  Right.  I mean, there`s real stuff going on in the world. The, you know, the Hong Kong democracy protests continue.

WILLIAMS:  Right.

ROBINSON:  In India and Pakistan could be at loggerheads over Kashmir and India`s putsch in Kashmir.  I mean, there are big important things happening in the world.

And what I wrote is we don`t have a presidency.  We have an elected president but we don`t have a functioning presidency able to confront and deal with the events and problems and issues as they arise.  We have a president who flits from this from that.  And so it`s impossible to predict.

Look, three weeks ago would anyone have predicted that the United States would be at loggerheads with Denmark over Greenland? No.  It was impossible to foresee.  That`s why I`ve given up on predicting things like impeachment because it is entirely possible that President Trump could do something between now and next week that would force the House`s hand and would force Nancy Pelosi`s hand.  And so we -- I have to confess that we don`t know what`s going to happen or how this is going to work out.

WILLIAMS:  About time somebody went after those Danes for their lack of available real estate.

Anita Kumar, Michael Crowley, Eugene Robinson, this is the state we`re in on this summer night 2019, our thanks to the three of you for starting us off.

And coming up tonight, the two worlds a Trump official uses to describe Donald Trump`s policy on guns.  They are not complementary.  Two former House members are here to map out a path forward after that presidential whiplash verbally today.

And later, we`ll introduce you to a pastor who`s just asking for clean water in Newark, New Jersey to replace the poison that`s coming in so many homes through the pipes.  He`s come here to tell us how that community is faring through that city`s water crisis as THE 11TH HOUR is just getting started on this Wednesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Well, I have an appetite for background checks, we`re going to be doing background checks.  We`re working with Democrats.  We`re working with Republicans.  We already have very strong background checks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  President Trump also spoke about his conversation with the NRA Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre.  That was yesterday.  The President denied recent reporting that he told LaPierre he would not pursue background checks and later added this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  We have background checks.  But there are loopholes in the background checks.  And that`s what I spoke to the NRA about yesterday.  They want to get rid of the loopholes as well as I do.  At the same time I don`t want to take away people`s Second Amendment rights.  I don`t want to take away the constitution having to do with gun ownership.

And you know, we can`t let that slope go so easy that we`re talking about background checks, then all of a sudden we`re talking about let`s take everybody`s gun away.  People need weapons, unfortunately, for protection.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  But sir, that word "slope, that is an NRA talking point --

TRUMP:  That`s a Trump talking point.

WILLIAMS:  POLITICO reports that Senate Homeland Security Chairman Republican Ron Johnson is casting major doubt on the prospects of significant gun regulations, passing this fall.  And we quote, "The Wisconsin Republican said that a background checks measure based on the bill written by Senators Pat Toomey and Joe Manchin and national "red flag" bill are both unlikely to pass.  He was open to GOP Senator Lindsey Graham`s bill that would establish a red flag grant program, but said the Senate would need to "attach with those grants very strict guidelines in terms of due process."

Back with us tonight, two former members of Congress, donna Edwards, former Democratic member from the great state of Maryland who is these days a "Washington Post" columnist, and David Jolly, former Republican member of Congress from the great State of Florida who has since left the Republican Party.  Good evening to you both.

Congresswoman, I would like to begin with you.  Phil Bump over at "The Washington Post" did a study of the limits of our concern, the end date of our concern over things like mass shootings.  Here it is, "Our analysis of the aftermath of recent high-profile mass shootings suggests that interest in addressing the problem tapers out after about three weeks or this week relative to the massacre in El Paso."  As much as it crushes my soul to admit this about the country we`ve become, that feels about right, doesn`t it?

DONNA EDWARDS, (D) MARYLAND FMR. U.S. CONGRESSWOMAN:  Well, it does.  And it feels like what has happened is that there are so many of these mass shootings.   Americans have become so accustomed to the Congress and political leaders not really dealing with them at all in a meaningful way that we`ve almost become numb to them.  I mean, it`s difficult to say but we have to recognize that.  And after all, look at what the President just did.

Talk about slippery slope.  He went from one flip-flop to the next flip- flop to the next one in the span of just a few days, holding an infant who`d lost the child`s parents and taking a photo opportunity but now not willing to do something that could have made a difference in that child`s life.

WILLIAMS:  All of it as we watched in real time.  Congressman, I want to know how moderate Republicans get elected on no action on guns.  Yes, we just decided to take a pass on guns.  How does Susan Collins get re-elected to the Senate from Maine?  A confusing state politically, but it looks like there`s going to be no output.

DAVID JOLLY, FMR. REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN:  I think it goes to Philip Bump`s analysis that they wait it out, that the attention span of the nation moves on, which is why there`s a cry for political leadership, dramatic leadership, not just demand for legislation that incrementally addresses this, like we`re talking about right now, but political leadership that fundamentally changes the conversation of guns in the country.  That political leadership if they can say to gun owners, lawful gun owners, "we`re not going to take your guns, you can still purchase guns, but this culture of guns on demand will change."  It may take you two, four, six weeks to legally purchase a gun in the United States because we`re going to have universal background checks, further than what the House wants to do, even among friends and family they`re going to be checked.

Checks are going to be comprehensive, not just criminal prosecutions but the criminal encounters that don`t lead to prosecution, domestic violence calls where a spouse doesn`t file charges.  Background checks are going to include mental health evaluations.  We`re going to either ban assault weapons or make them so difficult to get they`re functionally obsolete.  We`re going to ban high-capacity magazines.  We`re going to have zero enforcement.

As easy as it was to put marijuana offenders in jail, so will it be easy to put gun offenders in jail.  And for people who think that`s radical, I would point to what Florida did after parkland.  The debate around arming teachers was a controversial one, but here`s what they did.  They said if we`re going to arm educators they will be required to have 144 hours of training, a psychiatric evaluation, and a drug test.

So if Republicans in Florida think that those background checks and requirements are so critical for somebody to carry a weapon around children on a school campus, why not the same requirements to carry a gun around kids at a Walmart in El Paso or attendees at a Garlic Festival in California or a nightclub in Orlando or a restaurant district in Dayton?  We`ve got to fundamentally crush this culture of guns on demand.  That takes urgency of political leadership.  Without it moderate Republicans and those who do nothing will continue to be re-elected.

WILLIAMS:  The gentleman from Florida makes a very convincing argument.  Yet this is what the gentlelady from NBC News writes, our own Shannon Pettypiece, "A senior administration official cautioned that the messaging will most likely continue to be messy and confusing as Trump continues to search for a position to settle on."  And this is what you were just saying, congresswoman, we`ve watched it move.

EDWARDS:  Well, exactly.  And what position is there to settle on?  I mean in this country nine out of 10 Americans believe that there should be universal background checks.  An overwhelming majority believe that we should ban high-capacity magazines.  An overwhelming majority believe that we should place limits on assault rifles.

And so if the President is searching for a position he just needs to go to where the American people are.  And instead he`s the push me pull you of the National Rifle Association.  And I have to tell you, the proposal that was released just today from the Parkland students is really bold.  And it`s an action plan and it`s also an electoral plan.  It`s saying, "You know what, you`re not going to change the law, we`re not talking about that anymore, we`re going to get rid of you."

WILLIAMS:  And they told us they weren`t going to stop and they haven`t.  Both of our guests have agreed to stay here.

When we come back, did you catch what our President called the leader of a foreign nation today?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WILLIAMS:  A new report in "The Washington Post" reveals anti-Trump Republicans are eyeing a GOP primary race.  We`ll talk about this in a moment.

Robert Costa, Phil Rucker report it this way.  "The anti-Trump movement inside the Republican Party, long a political wasteland, is feeling a new urgency to mount a credible opposition to Trump before it`s too late.  Republicans considering bids as well as those trying to draft other candidates acknowledge that defeating Trump appears to be a -- the nearly impossible but argue that a recession or an unforeseen change in the political climate could weaken him enough to make a primary challenge more than a never Trump fantasy."

Also tonight, "New York Times" reporting former Republican Congressman Joe Walsh is expected to announce he`s running for president as early as this weekend.  Annie Karni and Maggie Haberman write, "Some Trump advisers are more concerned about a primary challenge than they publicly let on, as Mr. Trump faces more strain in the job than he has in many months.  They are also aware that primary challenges can weaken incumbents in a general election."  That`s what we`re going to talk about next.

Still with us, Donna Edwards and David Jolly, former Members of Congress both.  David, to you, is there real utility in that, finding a kind of willing pilot to fly the aircraft wherever it`s going to go but as long as there is a challenge to occupy the incumbent?

DAVID JOLLY, FMR. REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMAN:  I suppose to disrupt Trumpism at every stage is a good thing.  I think my former never-Trump colleagues, if you will, are a little more optimistic than I am about what Trumpism has done to the Republican brand and frankly the brand of conservatism which people seemingly are now trying to separate from Republicanism.  There was a time where conservative ideology was rooted in a political theory that was defensible.  In the era of Trump even conservatism is suffering from a branding crisis.

What used to be ideology around freedom of health care has now turned into ripping away a safety net.  A tax plan in conservative ideology that would reduce taxes for everybody has now been celebrating rigging the system towards the wealthy and accelerating the wealth gap.  On immigration what was a law and order platform has turned into a xenophobic one.  You can go down the list of where conservative ideology has been corrupted.

And so the never-Trumpers that are considering a primary challenge for me personally I don`t think there`s anything left to save.  They remain in the fight but I`ve made the decision, there`s nothing left to save.

WILLIAMS:  OK.  So that gets your attention, Donna Edwards.  So did this earlier today.  You and I were talking in the break.  Often when Donald Trump goes after someone of the male persuasion it`s to call them weak.  We have all seen what he has called women, his preferred term.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  No, Denmark, I looked forward to going but I thought that the prime minister`s statement that it was absurd, that was -- it was an absurd idea was nasty.

Such a nasty woman.

He performed incredibly well today.  And --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You know, Kamala Harris --

TRUMP:  Well, she was probably very nasty.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Nancy Pelosi.

TRUMP:  She`s incapable of doing deals.  She`s a nasty, vindictive, horrible person.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  So we get the talking points, Donna Edwards.

DONNA EDWARDS (D), FMR. U.S. CONGRESSMAN, MARYLAND:  Well, I mean, you know, the President of the United States has really decided that if a woman challenges him in any way, shape, or form then he describes her as nasty.  And so Prime Minister Frederiksen can put herself on the list of really strong powerful women who`ve dared to challenge Donald Trump.  This is another -- it`s another reason frankly why he`s losing suburban women, why he`s losing college-educated women, and now high school-educated women, non-college, because the President has a way of talking about women that is frankly just offensive.

WILLIAMS:  David Jolly, it is a good question because at the end of the day this comes down to the business of politics.  How do you do Hispanic outreach now if you`re the Trump campaign?  How do you do --

JOLLY:  Yes.

WILLIAMS:  -- Jewish outreach after what we`ve heard this week?

JOLLY:  You know, Donald Trump`s done something very different.  He`s moved out of politics into this cultural conversation, and at times, Donna and I were talking earlier, as you try to provide political analysis, some moments are not political, they`re cultural.  And for me the one example I draw that I would suggest makes it hard for the President to do outreach into certain communities is my wife and I, as we`ve talked, have a five- month-old baby at home.

My hope in this moment has nothing to do with politics, but it`s that this man is out of the Oval Office before my daughter`s old enough to recognize what the presidency is.  That my daughter`s not exposed to this type of leadership.  And so I think regardless of the community you`re in, if you`re the swing women voters in suburban districts across the country, if you`re communities of color that he continues to attack, if you`re Jewish Americans, if you`re Catholic Americans, if you`re Muslim Americans, that he continues to disparage, you want this man gone so that the lessons you teach your children are that we are better as a culture than what this president espouses.

WILLIAMS:  On that quote and on that note, our thanks to two of our frequent guests, David Jolly and Donna Edwards.  Thank you both for coming by tonight.

And coming up for us, a public health crisis playing out in plain sight for all to see in the city of Newark, New Jersey.  A local pastor is begging the nation to send the city water.  And he`s going to be on here with us from the studio next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BISHOP JETHRO JAMES, PARADISE BAPTIST CHURCH:  Send your brother some water.  We don`t need money.  We need water.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAMS:  We saw that yesterday afternoon.  We aired that on our broadcast last night.  A plea from our next guest for the people of Newark, where the water remains unsafe to drink for thousands of people.

Governor Phil Murphy, who has accepted our invitation to come on this broadcast at this time tomorrow night, announced today, however, he is not declaring a state of emergency.  That means the National Guard won`t be called in to distribute bottled water to residents as they did, for instance, during the Flint, Michigan water crisis back in 2016.

Now, the people who live in the 15,000 households that qualify for bottled water in Newark, meaning the people with poison in their water pipes, can only get bottled water by and large if they`re willing and able to go and get it in the hot summer sun.  And even then it`s two cases every two weeks.  And so the churches in Newark are doing what churches so often step up to do.  They`re taking it into their own hands.

So with us here in the studio tonight is a gentleman we heard from last night, thanks to the relentless local coverage, by the way, here on WNBC.  Bishop Jethro James, pastor of the Paradise Baptist Church in Newark, thank you so much for coming across the river to be with us tonight.

JAMES:  Thank you for having me.  It`s my pleasure and my honor.

WILLIAMS:  Bishop, what am I missing about this story that would prevent people from treating it as a health care emergency, as a crisis?

JAMES:  This particular governor has decided to put politics over people.  He called state of emergencies and spent $30 million for some storms that didn`t materialize.  And yet still we know that New Jersey leads the lower 48 when it comes to low birth rate in babies in the Latino and African- American community.  We know that Newark leads that group in New Jersey.

We know that every child that is born needs not to be in a place where lead can be ingested.  We know that most baby formulas now, especially for the poor, is no longer the milk that we see in the bottles and jugs and cartons.  This milk is a powdered substance that must be mixed with water.

And you mentioned, Brian, that there was 15,000 something, say 19,000.  But if you live in a high-rise in Newark you`re not even eligible.  So for every mother, this is about the born and the unborn, the yet to be born.  This is about the health of people.  This is about water that will make a difference.

We had a young lady in our church just yesterday.  She came in.  Her 2- year-old has already been diagnosed to have a lead problem.  She had a baby in her arms and she said to us, I can`t get water because I live in a high- rise called the colonnades.  I can`t get water.  She says, I`m breast- feeding my baby but I need water that that milk will be healthy, and I already have a 2-year-old.  Well, I said to her you won`t leave the way you came.

We were not only able to give her water but in our pantry we made sure -- and I said well, we`ve got a couple of turkeys, you can do a lot with a couple of turkeys and a lot of kids.  And so Brian, that`s what we`re about.  We`re not asking for anyone to bring any ID.  We just want you to show up.  You`re going to get as much water as we can get.

And let me thank all your listeners and all those that saw this program on last night.  My phone began to ring off the hook.  And the first group, I have to give it -- Paradise Church out of Kansas City, Missouri.  They`ve gone to Sam`s club.  They paid the bill out there.  We`re picking up I don`t know how many pallets of water first thing in the morning.

WILLIAMS:  And you`ve had volunteers get in touch saying let`s do what our state has refused to do, let`s take this around to people.

JAMES:  Well, not only volunteers to take it around to people but we have volunteers -- and I have to mention Assemblyman Holley.  They went to the senior buildings where the senior citizen can have a dignity in life.  It`s 90 degrees.  It`s 95 degrees.  Heat index of over 100 degrees.  And so they just had to go downstairs and get their water.

We have a list right now that exists of home-bound seniors.  We`re going to hit them tomorrow.  We`ve got volunteers coming from every walk of life in New Jersey saying that we will come and we will bring the senior to the water or the water to the senior.  We are excited.

We`re looking at buildings.  We have other clergy such as -- I have to mention my friend Joe Carter at the New Hope Church on Sussex Avenue who has capacity.  We have parking lots.  We can store.  We`ve got volunteers to unload trailers.  We went to -- I`m a retiree from PSE & G.

WILLIAMS:  I knew that about you.

JAMES:  And Brian, they have committed to 1,000 cases of water.

WILLIAMS:  Good for them.

JAMES:  And so I`m calling on the other large companies in New Jersey, but especially in Newark.  Where prudential, we need you to come to the table now.  We`re asking for I believe it`s the Pabst people and others, the breweries, the Budweiser people, come to the table now.

We`re asking for Panasonic.  Come to the table.  We`re not asking you for your money.  We`re asking you for water.  And we are loving it because it gives us an opportunity to do what is right by our people.  And our governor has to stop playing politics and be a governor for all the people.

WILLIAMS:  And we`ll take this to him.  Again, right now tomorrow night the governor will be on.  We`ll talk about this.

Our conversation about this slow-rolling public health emergency in the biggest city in the most densely populated state in our union will continue right after this.

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STEFANO DI LEONARDO, NEWARK RESIDENT:  I do have my questions in my mind, always.  Pretty much concerned about my life actually.

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WILLIAMS:  Like a lot of older cities, Newark is divided into not just neighborhoods with names like the iron bounds but wards.  So in Newark, the eastern ward, the residents there are not getting bottled water because their lead levels have tested lower than the western portion of the city.  A judge has yet to rule on a request to extend the assistance and imagine learning you`re on the boarder line between qualifying for your complementary two cases of water every two weeks and not.  Do you ever trust the water that comes out of the tap again?

Still with us, Bishop Jethro James, pastor of the Paradise Baptist Church in Newark.  And I was just reminded one of the chaplains for the New Jersey state police, I brought this visual aid to remind folks, when we talk about bottled water, when we talk about two cases of this every two weeks, think about all the purposes you and I have used water for today.  Civilized folks walking around and then think of doing all of that, consuming all of that through this vessel, 16.whatever ounces a time.  That`s not easy.

JAMES:  It`s not easy.  The other thing is, as I`ve said, what about the children, most of the formulas are mixed with water.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.

JAMES:  And so if you have a small child or if you just have a child that wants a soft drink that you -- whether it`s tea and what are you cooking with?

WILLIAMS:  Right.

JAMES:  What are you cooking with?

WILLIAMS:  You can`t boil this out.

JAMES:  You can`t boil this out.  And so to give just two cases, what we`re looking to give is whatever the need is and we`re going to keep giving because we believe that especially on this national audience and I have to thank you over and over again.  We`ve gotten calls prom all over the country and water is showing up from all over the country and we`re saying, they are saying, well, what do we have to do?  And we`re saying just show up.

WILLIAMS:  Yes.

JAMES:  Just give us your name.  How much do you need?  I think it`s really foolish, it is really foolish to have to prove you`re a Newark resident.

Just imagine, Brian, that you -- and you know the area, that you have to show up and bring two pieces of mail.  This is about water.  This is about the lifeline for people and I say this and I have to just be a preacher every now and then, Jesus said this.  He said look, when I was hungry, you didn`t feed me.  When I was naked, you didn`t clothe me.  When I needed drink, you didn`t give me water.  We`re asking for water.  That`s all we`re asking for.

WILLIAMS:  Because the Bishop asked me to do this, I`m going to do this at the risk of delousing (ph) their church.  I`m going to put the phone number on the screen.  And again, I hope a week from now your problem is you call us and say stop it, we have enough water.

What I want to be true is I want to be able to say that this response is no different from a wealthy town in New Jersey but sadly, one of the lessons this has taught me is that`s not true at all.  This has so much to do with race, class, ethnicity, poverty, zip code, you name it.

JAMES:  Well I`m glad you said it because I would have been accused of playing the race card.  But just imagine and I`ve been to Phil Murphy`s home, the governor`s home.  I`ve been there.  If this was in his neighborhood, they`d be digging up the streets now changing the pipes going in.

To say to poor people stand in the hot sun, to say to poor people you`re going to get two cases with 24 bottles in it and I`ll see you next week is really asinine and insulting.  To have the faith-based unit of the Homeland Security piece, by the way, which I`m a founder.  We have over 2,000 members.  I asked that they would send out a directive to the members of the faith-based community in New Jersey office (ph) perhaps they could help me with water.  And of course, we know that that all falls under the governor`s preview and so that memo could not be sent out.  For me, that`s insulting and you can say anything you want but governor, your actions is speaking louder than your words.

WILLIAMS:  I`m going to repeat that for him here tomorrow night.  Thank you very much.

JAMES:  Thank you for having me.

WILLIAMS:  Thanks for your work in the city of Newark.  Bishop James, our thanks tonight.

We have pledged to stay on top of the story.  Again, a reminder, New Jersey`s Democratic Governor Phil Murphy will be here live with us on this broadcast tomorrow night.

Coming up, using a single snapshot from today to measure how far we`ve come or how far we`ve gone depending on your view point.

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WILLIAMS:  Last thing before we go tonight, today`s torrent of words from the President including but not limited to an anti-Semitic charge that in years past has been used to kill Jews.  A fight with Denmark, an on going obsession with Obama, a walk back on gun control referring to himself as the chosen one and saying he wanted to award the medal of honor to himself.  The stories that can fall away and the haze and confusion of that torrent of words include doing Russia`s bidding, the looking possibility of a recession and word today the federal deficit is on route to hitting $1 dollars during the fiscal year.  A stunning reminder, a stunning number just like the Republicans who have chosen silence, the Republicans for whom the deficit for example was the North Star issue of our times.

Just today Michelle Goldberg of the "New York Times" a frequent guest on this network put this out on social media.  "The front page of the "new York Times" right now looks like one of those pre-election parodies about what a Trump administration would be like.  Indeed going counter clockwise from the upper left the headlines are about indefinite attention of migrant families rolling back protections from the late `90s.  The NRA getting the results they wanted after one phone call with the President, cancellation with the President`s trip to Denmark because they don`t want to sell Greenland and the President`s use of a vintage antis-Semitic trope."  All of it captured during just one moment on the electronic front page of "The Times" which by design changes all day and all night and every time another fuselage comes our way.

With that, that is our broadcast for this Wednesday night.  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