Democratic race tightens. TRANSCRIPT: 8/26/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: Christopher Dickey, Tamara Keith, David Fahrenthold, NatashaKorecki, Nick Corasaniti

MICHAEL MANN, PENN STATE UNIVERSITY ATMOSPHERIC SCIENCE PROFESSOR:  And we are seeing in densification.

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Professor Michael Mann gets tonight`s LAST WORD.  And that word is no to nuking hurricanes.  Thank you Professor, really appreciate it.

MANN:  Thank you, Lawrence.

O`DONNELL:  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight, President Trump comes home after barreling through the G7, locking horns with U.S. allies on trade, Russia, and climate change.  Will it amount to anything?

Plus, in a move that could vet millions for Trump`s business, the President pitches his Florida resort as the site for next year`s G7 using his farewell news conference to tout its abundance of parking.

And finally good news for the residents of Newark, New Jersey, whose water contains dangerous levels of lead but more waiting lies ahead as the THE 11TH HOUR on a Monday night starts right now.

Good evening once again from our NBC News headquarters here in New York.  I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Brian Williams who has the night off.  Day 949 of the Trump administration.  The President is back in Washington after a weekend of erratic behavior, unexpected pivots and erroneous statements in front of some America`s closest allies at the G7 summit in France.

Aside from brazenly pitching his own Miami resort as the location for next year`s G7, more on that later, Trump closed out the summit with a new line on a possible trade deal with China and a new set of claims.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  China called last night our top trade people and said "let`s get back to the table."

You had many calls over the last 24 hours, but certainly over the last 48 hours.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  So the Chinese are saying that there weren`t any particularly special calls.  Are they not being truthful?

TRUMP:  The Chinese aren`t saying that.  Excuse me.  Let me explain something.  The vice chairman of China, did you get higher than that, other than President Xi.  The vice president, the vice chairman, it`s like the vice president.  The vice chairman made the statement that he wants to make a deal.

Now whether or not we make a deal, it`s got to be a great deal for us.

And President Xi is a great leader who happens to be a brilliant man.  And he can`t lose 3 million jobs in a very short period of time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Trump was asked about his various statements about negotiations with China and quickly became defensive.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  What it comes from is the back and forth and the changing of statements from yourself so that --

TRUMP:  Sorry.  It`s the way I negotiate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Is that a strategy?  Is it a strategy to call President Xi an enemy one day and then say that relations --

TRUMP:  Yes.  No, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  -- are very good the next day and then, you know, it`s gone back and forth --

TRUMP:  The way I negotiate, it`s done very well for me over the years and it`s doing even better for the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Trump also had a lot to say about Iran.  That nation`s foreign minister appeared at the G7 summit on Saturday.  French President Macron, who is trying to preserve the 2015 nuclear agreement Trump abandoned invited Foreign Minister Zarif at the last minute.  Well, Trump did not meet with him.  Today he did not rule out a future meeting.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Would you agree to meet with Hassan Rouhani?

TRUMP:  If the circumstances were correct or right, I would certainly agree to that.

We`re not looking for leadership change.  We`re not looking for that kind of change.  We`re looking for no nuclear weapons, no ballistic missiles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  President Macron said he would like to see talks between and you President Rouhani within weeks?  Does that sound realistic to you?  Could you see yourself in talks with Iranians?

TRUMP:  Well, I don`t know the gentleman.  I think that -- I think I know him a little bit just  by watching over the last number of years that`s happened.  Tell you one thing he`s a great negotiator, but he -- I think he`s going to want to meet.  I think Iran wants to get the situation straightened out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Vladimir Putin was not at the summit in person, but Trump made sure he wasn`t forgotten.  The President continued to advocate for Russia`s readmission to the G7.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  I think that having President Putin in what was the G8, he was a member of the G8.  And I heard he was a good member of the G8.  Having him in I think is more of an advantage.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  A few years ago Russian foreign minister saying that it`s not their foreign policy pursuit to return to G8.  What`s your reaction?

TRUMP:  We`ll, you know, we`ll see.  I know one thing.  If they were invited back, I think they`d be there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Trump also reiterated the false allegation that President Obama pushed Russia out of what was then the G8 because he was embarrassed when Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, which was the official reason for Russia`s suspension from the G8 in 2014.  Fox News had this fact check.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SHEPARD SMITH, FOX NEWS ANCHOR:  President Trump says the Russians were removed from the group because President Putin was outsmarted President Obama.  That is not true.  The decision to remove Russia from the group was unanimous.  The reason, Putin invaded and annexed Crimea.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Never the less, Trump manages to bring up his predecessors named more than a dozen times.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Look what they did to get the deal.  Look what they did to John Kerry and to President Obama.

A very, very big and important area in the Middle East where the red line was drawn, and then President Obama decided that he was not going to do anything about it.

I know you like President Obama, but it was annexed during President Obama`s tenure.

It was sort of taken away from President Obama, not taken away from President Trump, taken away from President Obama.

But President Obama was unable to stop unable to stop it.

President Obama was pure and simply outsmarted.

Somebody had to do this.  They should have been done by President Obama.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  The President was a no-show at the meeting on climate change despite worldwide concern about fires in the Amazon. Given Trump`s past skepticism about climate change, it may not be surprising he was not at the meeting.  But here`s what he said when asked about it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you attend the climate session?

TRUMP:  Say it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you make it to the climate session?  Were there any conclusions that you took away from it?

TRUMP:  I`m going to, in fact, it`s going to be our next session.  But we haven`t had it yet.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  In fact, though the meeting had already happened, here is Trump`s empty chair while other leaders opened the talks according to the White House Press Secretary.  The President had scheduled meetings with Germany and India.  However, photos of that meeting show the leaders of both Germany and India at that meeting, while Trump`s chair remains empty.  Later Trump was asked about his past comments on the impact of climate change.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  There was a significant talk at the summit about climate change.  I know in the past you`ve harbored some skepticism of the science in climate change.  What do you think the world should be doing about climate change, and do you still harbor that skepticism?

TRUMP:  I feel that the United States has tremendous wealth.  The wealth is under its feet.  I made that wealth come alive.

I`m not going to lose that wealth.  I`m not going to lose it on dreams, on windmills, which, frankly, aren`t working too well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  And along with all of that, there was this from Trump about the First Lady and North Korea`s dictator.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  With respect to North Korea, Kim Jong-un, who I`ve gotten to know extremely well, the First Lady has gotten to know Kim Jong-un, and I think she would agree with me.  He is a man with a country that has tremendous potential.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  You may not recall seeing any images of the First Lady and Kim Jong-un together because, as the White House Press Secretary explained, they have actually not met.  "President Trump confides in his wife on many issues including detailed of his elements of his strong relationship with Chairman Kim, and while the First Lady hasn`t met him, the President feels like she`s gotten to know him too.

Here for our lead-off discussion on a Monday night, Philip Rucker, Pulitzer Prize-winning White House Bureau Chief for "The Washington Post," Christopher Dickey, a Veteran Foreign Correspondent and a Paris based world news editor for the Daily Beast who happens to be with us in New York tonight, and Tamara Keith, the White House Correspondent for NPR.  Thanks to all of you for being with us.

Chris, let me start with you.  Maybe to put this in some bigger picture perspective, these G7, G8, whatever it happens to be called in any given year, these meetings have been going on for decades now.  This one produced for all of the noise and for all the sort of chaos that`s been stirred up by the President`s various comments today and actions over the last few days, this didn`t produce any broad-based agreement between the participating nations on major issues.  How different is the G7 under Trump versus past presidents?

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, THE DAILY BEST WORLD NEWS EDITOR:  I`d say it`s almost worthless under Trump.  It was never worth that much to begin with.  It was the club of the richest democratic nations.  And they came together when there was still a Soviet Union to present the kind of alternative vision.  We`re rich, we`re democratic, this is the model that you should follow.

They brought in Russia in the 1990s because -- not because it was very it was very rich, it wasn`t, but because they thought it had democratic potential and they wanted to encourage that.  Vladimir Putin basically shut all that to hell.  He`s murderous autocrat.  And Trump now basically acts as if he`s at a club that he knows he should be blackballed in.  And he runs around and bullies his through everything.

And the only consensus that really existed at this G7 was let`s just try and keep him from going too crazy.  Because they didn`t want it to blow up the way it did in Canada in the last one or even in Taormina, in Italy, the one before.  They wanted Trump to just sort of be there, make a show and leave.

And Macron, President Macron of France, he sort of has a reputation as the Trump whisperer, the person who can sort of influence Trump, although it`s been disappointed on a lot of issues.  And he had a couple of little prizes for Trump.  One is you`re going to make advances on Iran.  We`re going to hold that as a potential breakthrough.  And of course Trump was busy also touting his new breakthrough with China.

I think the one thing that your report didn`t mention is he announced that breakthrough with China before the stock market opened here on Monday.  Having crashed the stock market on Friday with his erratic behavior and his erratic statements about China.  This main thing was that he wanted to see the stock market go up again.  This is all tactical stuff and it`s all embarrassing.  But the -- why do we have a G7 anymore?  And why are we going to have it at a Trump country club?

KORNACKI:  Well, Tamara, so to -- if -- what Chris is outlining is how perhaps the other participating nations -- leaders viewed this, how does the Trump administration view it?  How does the White House view it?  Do they think they actually got anything out of this?

TAMARA KEITH, NPR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT:  The President seemed pretty happy at the press conference, certainly.  And, you know, everyone is talking about him, talking about his performance.  And if they`re talking about him, generally speaking he feels like he is winning.

And certainly in the case of today, he was able to go out there and on a number of occasions say so-and-so wants to make a deal.  He says that Iran wants to make a deal.  He says that China wants to make a deal.  Now, whether there`s actually a deal in the offing, or whether this is vapor ware and nothing happens isn`t clear at this point, but it certainly gave the President another day to move forward, a day when the markets did perform better certainly than they did on Friday.

KORNACKI:  Phil Rucker, I want to reed something you wrote in "The Washington Post."  You said "The entire 44-year vision of the G7 gathering according to the non-U.S. participants is to hash out global issues among liked-minded democracies.  So the discussion quickly turned even more fundamental, whether the leaders should assign any special weight to being a democracy, officials said.  Most of the other participants forcefully believed the answer was yes, Trump believed the answer was no."

Painting a bit of a vivid scene there, explain it a bit more, could you?

PHILIP RUCKER, WASHINGTON POST WHITE HOUSE BUREAU CHIEF:  Yes, Steve.  A senior official who witnessed all of this told me colleague, Michael Birnbaum, that it was as if Trump himself were a dictator in those meetings, the way he talked about democracy versus other forms of government, the way he defended and promoted Vladimir Putin quietly.  He obviously talked about Putin, but he also talked about him extensively in these private sessions with the other leaders, really advocating on Putin`s behalf, becoming a cheerleader of sorts.

And of course he said he would plan to include, invite Putin to next year`s G7 summit that he plans to host at his own golf course down in Florida.  But it`s a noteworthy move for an American president to be advocating on behalf of the Russian autocrat and to not be the forceful defender of democracy in that setting given long history of the G7 as a group and previously G8.

KORNACKI:  And Chris, you just expressed a bit of a, I guess, pessimistic view about the role of the G7 or the lack thereof these days.  But the United States is due to host it next year.  There`s the question of where it`s going to be, we`ll get into that a little bit later.

But also this issue of the President going out of his way to say he would like Russia back in this group.  He like Putin to come to the United States next year for this session.  How will that go over by the other members?

DICKEY:  Well, they don`t want it.  They said no already.  They support democracy, and, you know, Trump has a real serious case of dictator envy.  I mean, he loves to talk about his friendship with Kim Jong-un, who`s probably the worst tyrant alive on the planet right now.  He loves Vladimir Putin for reasons we`ve never really known or understood.  And he has all kinds of admiring things to say about Xi Jinping.  He doesn`t talk about any democratic leader with the same tone of admiration that he tends to turn -- or even love that he tends to turn on these tyrants.

Now, should then the G7 be modified to embrace more tyrants?  No.  Look, there`s an organization that does that, and that`s the G20.  And in fact, the reason that Putin is not pushing to get back into the G8 is because there is the G20 and he can sit around with other tyrants, Mohammed bin Salman, he can sit around with Xi Jinping, he can sit around with leaders of the 20 richest countries, not the seven richest countries, and feel right at home.

I think probably President Trump would feel more at home in that environment too because the only measure there is money, and the only measure that Trump really understands is money, not democracy, not ideals, not human rights, not science, none of those things, just money.

KORNACKI:  Tamara, there was an exchange we played a little bit earlier where the President was asked about his statements about the status of negotiations with China seemed to be all over the place.  And he basically said at the press conference, look, this is how I negotiate.  You were saying a minute ago, it`s unclear what the status of the negotiations of the talks or lack of negotiations, lack of talks is with China.  When the President says, "Look, this is how I negotiate," I think there`s a question there of interpretation.  Does that mean it`s sort of -- it`s a self- contained thing?  It`s entirely how Trump is thinking about something at the moment or does it reflect a broader strategy that the administration is pursuing?

KEITH:  Well, the administration`s strategy is the President`s strategy, and we`ve seen that repeatedly.  And certainly in this case President Trump with these China negotiations really has been all over the place as Michael Shear of "The New York Times" pointed out in that question.  On Friday he was referring to Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, along with his hand- picked Fed chairman as enemies.  And now he`s once again lavishing praise on Xi.

It`s -- President Trump going back to when he was in real estate, which, of course, is very different than international negotiations, but he`s always been all about keeping people off balance.  I mean, that has been perhaps the most recurrent character of the Trump administration of the last two and a half years.

KORNACKI:  Another characteristic, I think, Phil, that we`ve seen before and heard before from this President was he invoked his predecessor by name.  We played it there multiple times Barack Obama`s name coming up.  The President taking all sorts of shots at him there.  Again, something you may not have seen past presidents do at an occasion like this, but, again, with this President it`s almost standard, I suppose.

RUCKER:  Yes, we`ll see if there`s no norm or tradition or protocol that President Trump feels he needs to honor.  And in this case, he wanted to place blame on President Obama, even though as I believe Shep Smith at Fox News was saying in that clip you played at the intro, it was actually Putin who invaded Crimea.  That was steamed a violation of international law by all seven members of the G7.  They issued a joint declaration kicking out Russia from the group and laying conditions, preconditions for -- that Russia would have to meet in order to come back into the group, and that would include recognizing the sovereignty of Ukraine and deescalating in Crimea, which are things that Putin has not done.  So Trump wants to bring Putin back into this organization without Russia doing really anything to atone for its misdeeds.

And one other important piece of contact with all of this, if Trump were to have Putin come to the G7summit next year in the United States, that`s an election year, presidential re-election year.  And as we`ve talked about on this program time and time again, the U.S. intelligence agencies have directly warned the President and the public that Russia is trying, actively trying to interfere in the 2020 presidential election, just as they did in the 2016 presidential election to help Trump win that election.  And so that would be a pretty extraordinary move for this President to welcome Putin to America in an election year while his own country is trying to interfere in our election here.

KORNACKI:  All right, I mean, picture a year from now you`ll be pretty much moving into the home stretch of the 2020 election.

RUCKER:  Yes.

KORNACKI:  That will be the backdrop for the next one of these G7 sessions.  Phil Rucker, Tamara Keith, Christopher Dickey, thank you for being with us.

And coming up from Russia, if you`re listening to Russia, are you coming, President Trump aiming to bring next year`s G7 to his Florida golf resort.  We`re going to talk to an expert on Trump`s finances.

And later, for voting numbers for Joe Biden, another new poll out just a few minutes ago.  We`ll have that for you.  While the former vice president`s campaign insists his support is solid.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Monday nigh.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  -- we have a series of magnificent buildings, we call them bungalows.  They each hold from 50 to 70 very, luxurious rooms with magnificent views.

And what we have also is Miami.  And we have many hundreds of acres so that in terms of parking, in terms of all of the things that you need --

In my opinion I`m not going to make any money.  I don`t want to make money. I don`t care about making money.

KORNACKI:  The United States will host next year`s G7 summit.  And just before leaving this year`s meeting, Donald Trump made something of a pitch to hold it at his own golf resort in Doral Florida, west of Miami.  That would also give him the chance to host Vladimir Putin at one of his properties if Russia were readmitted to the G7 or if Trump simply invited him.

Today Trump was asked about inviting the Russian leader to the summit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP:  Would I invite him?  I would certainly invite him.  Whether or not he could come psychologically, I think that`s a tough thing for him to do.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  The prospect of a summit at one of Trump`s properties raises all sorts of questions about mixing his for-profit business and the presidency.  Here is what Trump and his advisers said about potential conflicts after he won the 2016 election.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you think he`ll turn it over to the family or put it into a blind trust?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I`m not ready to reveal any of that.  People in this country knew and accepted and celebrated this business that Donald Trump has built throughout his entire life.  So now we`re working on making sure that all those conflicts are taken care of.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  He is so focused on taking over as President.  That`s his only focus, the only thing he`s worried on.  He`s completely getting out of the business, handing it over to the family.

TRUMP:  My two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company.  They are going to be running it in a very professional manner.  They`re not going to discuss it with me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Here to talk about all of this, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter David Fahrenthold of "The Washington Post."  David, thank you for joining us.

I was looking back the last couple of times the United States has hosted the G7 summit, I think in 2012, it was at Camp David.  In 2004 it was, I think, in Georgia.  It was not at a Trump property either one of those recent times.  The possibility that it would be in 2020, ethically, legally, constitutionally, are there specific provisions there that could come up against?

DAVID FAHRENTHOLD, THE WASHINGTON POST REPORTER:  Well, the most important is the emoluments clause in the constitution, which was the original anti- corruption statute in the constitution.  It says that presidents can`t take emoluments, which means payments from foreign states.

And so by setting this up this way, Trump would basically invite that, you might even say compel that.  It compel these foreign states.  If they want to go to the G7 summit they got to but hotel rooms from him, they got to buy food from him, they got to, you know, put money into his pocket. T rump has said that emoluments clause shouldn`t just mean that, it should just bribes, you can`t bribe the president, but it`s OK to do business with him.  But if you believe doing business with the president is a violation of the emoluments clause, this is that on an enormous scale.

KORNACKI:  He said that, in the press conference, he was saying, "Look, if this happened he wouldn`t make money off of this."  Is that a claim that you can -- you`re able to checked and verify?

FAHRENTHOLD:  No.  Right now he says that his company donates what it calls foreign profits, so profits from doing business with foreign governments.  And so it`s donated by $340,000 to that end to the U.S. Treasury.  But we really do not know what that number represents.  We don`t know what the overall amount of revenue Trump gets is from foreign governments, so we don`t how he calculates that profit figure.

And even if he has given away the profit, Doral is hurting.  This is a resort that`s in a lot of financial trouble.  It`s declined a lot under Trump`s leadership.  And so just putting money into it to keep it afloat, even if you don`t make profits would still be a huge boon for him.

KORNACKI:  It`s interesting, right?  There`s the question there of what the direct benefit of an event like this might be and also the publicity benefit of all the talk about it and getting the name out there given what you`re saying about its current financial state.

David Fahrenthold, thank you for taking a few minutes.  Appreciate it.

FAHRENTHOLD:  Thank you.

KORNACKI:  And coming up, two important numbers from this weekend, 15,020 percent.  We`re going to get into that at the big board when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI:  Guess what, folks, we have another day -- actually two new polls.  You can call today a pick your poll day when it comes to the Democratic race for president.  There`s one that came out early today.

I`m going to show you that first.  Got a lot of people talking because, look, Joe Biden, we`ve seen Joe Biden all year running in first place in the Democratic race in a Monmouth poll that came out this afternoon, Joe Biden running behind Bernie Sanders, behind Elizabeth Warren, sitting there at 19 percent.  Obviously, best poll Bernie Sanders has basically had since Biden got in the race.

Great news for Elizabeth Warren, she`s been steadily climbing in this race.  And obviously for Biden that a big drop, a big drop from what we`ve seen in other polls.  That`s a big drop from what we`ve seen in the Monmouth poll before this.

Now what in this Monmouth poll was fueling that drop for Joe Biden?  A couple things.  First, the question of ideology.  We`ve seen him struggling among liberal voters in the Democratic race.  You see him in the third place here.  But in this Monmouth poll, moderates and conservatives in the Democratic Party, there are still moderates.  There are still some conservatives in the electorate.

Biden has been clinging up among them in other polls.  And this one, only 22 percent, barely ahead of Bernie Sanders.  So he was struggling there.  He had some weakness there.  Also there was this age divide.

Again, this is something we`ve seen in poll after poll this year.  You could basically divide the Democratic Party in half.  Half Democratic voters are over 50.  Half are under 50.

In the under 50 in older category, Biden leading by double digits in this poll, we`ve seen that before.  But in the under 50 category, Biden falling all the way down to 6 percent.  We`ve seen him struggling with these voters.  In this, this Monmouth poll today, that`s as bad as it`s been, tied with Andrew Yang, the former Vice President among Democrats under 50.  So that`s the poll.

If you don`t like Joe Biden, that`s the poll you want to be talking about right now.  But now in the last hour, another poll has just come out.  Morning Consult, they do a weekly survey of the -- they`ve been doing this all year.

The Morning Consult poll came out in the last hour.  And look at this .  They got Joe Biden at 33 percent.  They also have Sanders at 20.  It`s 20 in both of them.  And Warren back at 15.

Again, Morning Consult`s been doing a weekly poll for months now.  This is where it`s been for a while in the Morning Consult thing.  So you got one poll that`s got really alarming news for Biden.  You`ve got one that kind of looks like status quo.

If you average everything together, Biden still in the lead in this race in the average, probably in about the high 20s if you average every poll that`s out there.  But really you got two polls today.  You can pick your poll depending on the narrative you want to craft.

By the way, the poll that Monmouth poll also did make some news critically.  Next Democratic debate middle of September, you have to qualify for it.  These 10 candidates are on the stage.  The deadline to qualify, Wednesday at midnight.

One candidate, Tom Steyer, the billionaire, he is one poll short of the threshold.  You got to hit 2 percent in four different polls.  If you do that and you raise the money, you can get on stage.

Steyer has raised the money.  He is one poll short.  He did not hit that number.  He did not hit 2 percent in that Monmouth poll today.  So Steyer is still short of qualifying.

Again, he would need some other new poll to come out either tomorrow or Wednesday.  He`d have to be at 2 percent.  Otherwise, Steyer will not make the debate.  Only these 10 candidates will.

And if only these 10 candidates do, guess what that means, all on one stage, all on one night, all together, one night, one stage, one debate, something we haven`t seen yet.  So keep that in mind if things hold as they currently are.

Coming up, after months of the frontrunner status, the Biden campaign`s forceful response to today`s numbers.  THE 11TH HOUR back after this.

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KORNACKI:  Well Joe Biden`s campaign pushed back on that new Monmouth poll that shows him in a virtual three-way tie with Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.  That poll comes as Elizabeth Warren drew another large crowd over the weekend.  This one was out in Seattle, an estimated 15,000 people showed up to hear her speak at a town hall.

For more, we welcome to the broadcast Natasha Korecki, National Political Correspondent covering the 2020 campaign for POLITICO.  And back with us tonight also covering the 2020 campaign, NBC News Correspondent Mike Memoli.  Thanks to both of you for being with us.

Natasha, let me start with you.  It`s always interesting when you see these candidates get those giant crowds.  Sometimes it seems to mean something.  You can remember Barack Obama, sometimes it doesn`t translate when they actually start voting.  I remember Howard Dean back in 2003, early 2004.  What does it look like when it comes to Elizabeth Warren?

NATASHA KORECKI, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO:  Well, there`s no question.  There`s a huge contrast with what warren was showing, the people that were showing up to Warren`s events back in January in Iowa and so forth, even in Massachusetts.  They were nothing like this.  She`s creating a movement bit by bit.  She is.  And it didn`t start off this way, but it`s growing.

You know, will someone be able to take her down?  Will she lose some of her own momentum?  That remains to be seen, but so far what`s interesting about it, it wasn`t like she shot up quickly.  She had actually a very difficult, bumpy rollout in January, but she overcame that and steadily she`s growing.  Not just in the polls, but in crowd size.

KORNACKI:  And Mike, again, look, there is that Morning Consult poll that`s now out tonight, so the Biden camp I`m sure is pointing to that one energetically.

MIKE MEMOLI, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  Yes, they are.

KORNACKI:  But if you look inside that Monmouth poll, if you take the horse race number out of it, one thing they also did find in there was that Elizabeth Warren, they found among Democratic voters to now be the most popular candidate, and they -- just popular in terms of the favorable rating.  And Biden`s negatives to have risen over the last few months.  Again, where the exact horse race stands here?  It does seem that Biden has taken some hits in among at least some Democratic voters.  Is negatives have gone up a little bit?

MEMOLI:  Yes, Steve.  I mean, the Biden campaign, as you say, forcefully pushing back on this Monmouth poll saying it`s an outlier, looking at the very small sample pop size, pointing out that in August it`s sort of a dead period for polling to begin with.  This was conducted over a summer weekend.  And you`re not going to get the kind of response rate that you like.

But they also think that the fundamentals, the theory of the case for them is really still strong, that the number one issue for Democratic voters continues to be Donald Trump and who is the best candidate to beat Donald Trump.  And they still believe and voters do show so far in this polling still that they think Joe Biden is that candidate.  But the risk of this kind of electability focus strategy is that it exposes them to these kinds of media new cycles that they hate, frankly, which is an emphasis too much on a bad poll.  And emphasis as well on the kind of gas, verbal miscues, whatever you want to call them that we`ve seen mounting over the past month.

And I also take it to the Warren point, you know, as Natasha points out as well, I think she started out sort of undervalued in large part because of the concern about the DNA test, this Pocahontas issue.  And what you`ve seen over the course of this primary campaign is she`s reminding Democrats of why they liked her to begin with.  And so it`s really created this situation where we essentially have a two to three person race heading into the next debate.

KORNACKI:  And Natasha, in that first Democratic debate a couple months ago, you saw Biden obviously he had that encounter on stage with Kamala Harris.  It helped her momentarily.  It certainly seemed to hurt him back then as well.  I think now folks are looking at -- it looks like Elizabeth Warren is going to finally be on the same stage with Biden in the next debate in September.  And I think wondering if something similar might happen then.

KORECKI:  Well, it`s certainly the battle that everyone`s been waiting for.  People have said that Biden skated by being able to avoid Warren the first two debates.  But on the other hand, Warren has really dominated because she was sort of, you know, central, at least in the first debate.  And, you know, with Biden there -- or with Bernie Sanders in the second debate, the two of them sort of joined up.  So it will be interesting to see how both of them respond, how both of them think on their feet.  But Warren is, you know, no question a formidable debater.

KORNACKI:  And just quickly, Mike, I`m curious but there was this -- a widely publicized I think most folks have probably seen the video over the weekend, Joe Biden in Keene, New Hampshire talking as if he was in Vermont.  What do you hear from the Biden campaign about that and about the concerns that it raises about whether he`s up to this?

MEMOLI:  Yes.  I was there for that.  It was, frankly, a baffling moment.  Reporters there in that gaggle looking at each other wondering how he could make that kind of mistake.  And this is the kind of thing where the Biden campaign will respond to say we make too much of an issue out of this, that there are other candidates making mistakes on the campaign, but we`re just trying to play into this issue.  But that`s why, as I said, this is a matter of making that electability case, that exposes you to these kinds of issues.  The candidate as I say who can most disqualify Joe Biden likely is Joe Biden himself.

KORNACKI:  All right.  Mike Memoli, Natasha Korecki, thank you both for being with us.

KORECKI:  Thanks.

KORNACKI:  All right.  And coming up, today`s breaking developments in the Newark water crisis.  How the city intends to bring safe drinking water back to its residents sooner than anticipated.  We`re back after this.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR RAS BARAKA (D), NEWARK, NEW JERSEY:  We`re actually here to announce, as we said earlier, $120 million investment made possible by the Essex County Improvement Authority expedite the modernization of Newark`s drinking water and infrastructure at no cost to the affected homeowners.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  After weeks of controversy, officials in Newark, New Jersey today revealed their $120 million plan to speed up the process of restoring clean drinking water.  Instead of 10 years to replace lead pipes, officials now say it should take less than 30 months to replace about 18,000 service lines in New Jersey`s largest city.  The proposal still needs the approval of county and city officials who are expected to hold meetings and to vote tomorrow.

Many Newark residents have been relying on bottled water for weeks and tonight frustration there is still growing.  Dozens of people demanding clean water, protests today outside Newark`s prudential center.  That`s the side of tonight`s MTV video music awards.  Earlier today, our own Ron Allen spoke to one Newark resident about today`s developments.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RON ALLEN, CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  They said today that they`re going to replace the pipes, the bad pipes over the next 30 months.

EVELYN THOMAS, NEWARK RESIDENT:  Thirty months?  That`s a long time.  Yes, I understand them why they can`t do it overnight, but, come on, it`s 30 months.

ALLEN:  It was going to be 10 years?

THOMAS:  Ten years?

ALLEN:  Now they`re speeding it up.

THOMAS:  Now, they`re speeding -- OK, well --

ALLEN:  That`s still a long time.

THOMAS:  That is a long time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Back with us tonight is New Jersey Native Nick Corasaniti, he covers New Jersey for "The New York Times".  Also here, Dr. John Torres, Medical Correspondent for NBC News.  Nick, let`s pick up on that reaction because I think, you know, when you hear just 30 months in isolation, two and a half years, I think everybody says that`s a really long time to fix this.  You have the mayor there saying this is a great triumph.  Why is that a fair framing of this?

NICK CORASANITI, NEW JERSEY-BASED CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  Well if you go back to March when they first broke ground on replacing the lead service lines, it was a $75 million bonding plan that was going to take 10 years and it was going to cost residents up to $1,000 per household.  So that`s a lot of money in a city like Newark where the average median income is $34,000.

So fast forward to today, once the crisis is really accelerated, they were able to announce a new $120 million plan that was going to expedite it from 10 years to less than three.  And 18,000 pipes is a lot of pipes, so even the ability to do that in 30 months is giving some skeptics, some hesitation.  So when you frame it like that, it does, you know, look like a significant development and it`s one of the first bits of news and progression that we`ve seen in a long time in Newark.

KORNACKI:  We`ve also been talking about the city handing out bottled water and residents forced to rely on that.  Does that mean there are residents in the next two and a half years are going to have to stay with bottled water?

CORASANITI:  They certainly hope not.  All we know so far about the current bottled water distribution is that they`ve been testing for two weeks, they`re going to be testing for at least two more.  They haven`t updated us whatsoever on what these tests are proving.  We asked the mayor today and he said he`s going to wait until there`s a scientific sample.

Right now they`re working on getting the corrosion inhibitor in the water set, it`s called an orthophosphate, and that takes up to six months.  But once that`s set, in a worst case scenario, hopefully they won`t need to use bottled water anymore.  We won`t know when they can stop distributing until these tests are done.

KORNACKI:  Dr. Torres, we all know sort of instinctively, you don`t want lead in your water.  But specifically medically, for children, for adults, what are the consequences of that.

DR. JOHN TORRES, MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT, NBC NEWS:  For everyone it`s a toxicity.  It`s a heavy metal, it gets into our body.  It disrupts the cells and how they work and it specifically it gets to organs, that was essentially nervous system.  The brain, the spinal cord.  It can also go to the kidneys and the heart.

It can cause a lot of problems and it`s a cumulative process.  So the more you`re exposed to it, the more problems it`s going to cause.  It`s going to start building up.  And that`s why three years, even though it`s not going to be 10 years, that`s 3 years, that`s still a very long time.

Six months is a long time to be exposed to lead.  It affects children especially under the age of six more -- affects developing fetuses and particularly their brain and their brain development.  That`s probably the biggest issue.  Can lower their I.Q., can cause cognition issues later on in life.  For adults, hypertension, high blood pressure type situations.  So again this is one of those things that the longer they`re exposed to it, the more problems it`s going to cause for them.

KORNACKI:  Is there a treatment for somebody who`s been exposed, maybe exhibiting some of the symptoms?  Is there a treatment for lead poisoning that`s effective?

TORRES:  So if it turns out that their lead levels are high in those lead levels and people have dropped to what we consider standards and say it`s high at this point, if they`re high, the first treatment you do is you remove the exposure to the lead.  That`s the very first immediate thing you do.  Once you remove the exposure, the lead levels will naturally start dropping.

If they`ve gotten to a high enough level especially in a developing child, they can be permanent issues and permanent damage.  If it gets high enough which means very high in their bodies, then there`s a medicine called a chelation that they can use to try and take the lead out of their body.  It doesn`t work as well as we`d like it to work and it`s only reserved for children that have very, very high levels.  But for most of them, the main point is just to remove the exposure as soon as you can.

KORNACKI:  The big question, I think, and the backdrop for all of these is how it ever reached this crisis point in Newark in the first place, especially in light of everything we saw in Flint, Michigan, a few years ago.

Nick, you were part of a team at "The New York Times" that really took a dive into this question over the weekend.  We`re going to talk about that in just a minute.  Nick and Dr. Torres are staying with us.

And again, coming up more on the critical lessons learned from the drinking water crisis in New Jersey`s biggest city, that`s when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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KORNACKI:  Well, we mentioned this a minute ago, but over the weekend "The New York Times" reported on a long line of questionable decisions that led to the current water crisis in Newark.  Our guest Nick Corasaniti shared a byline in the story.  It reads, "An investigation by "The New York Times" based on dozens of interviews and hundreds of pages of public records reveals blunders at all levels of government in safeguarding Newark`s water infrastructure.  City officials brushed aside warnings and allowed the system to deteriorate while state and federal regulators often did not intervene forcefully enough to help prevent the crisis."

Still with us, Nick Corasaniti and Dr. John Torres.  Nick, so take us through this because the political response from the city of Newark initially when there were indications began emerging was essentially there`s no crisis here.  And you also uncovered technically speaking what apparently happened to trigger this crisis in the first place.

CORASANITI:  Yes, if you were to go back to 2015, it appears that that`s when the city started tinkering with its water a little bit to deal with a problem with some carcinogens, and to do that they started making their water slightly more acidic.  Now, what that did was for 20 years Newark has been combatting lead.  It`s got these ancient old pipes and they were using this chemical called sodium silicate to prevent the lead from reaching into the water.

Now, when they made their water more acidic to deal with one problem, they kind of rendered the other sodium silicate ineffective.  Now, what we found in our reporting is they never did a test before doing that.  The state was unaware that they were doing this.  City officials couldn`t produce any tests that showed that when they were looking to change the acidity, they wondered what other impact it might have on the water.

So that`s what started the snowballing effect at least from what our report shows that brought us to 2017 when the first lead level exceedance test came to Newark.  Now those came in June and July of 2017, and the mayor was basically, his entire message was the water is completely safe to drink.  Don`t worry here.

Now there`s legal things that the city had to do like start testing, mail anyone whose house specifically turned to positive tests.  But those are the random samples that you don`t extrapolate from.  So for about 18 months, the entire message from the city was these are outrageously false statements coming in about our water and the water is absolutely safe to drink. 

If you were in one of those 1,400 to 1,500 households that was getting elevated lead levels in their water from the lead leaching in from the pipes, that was not true.  The mayor was trying to say that`s the water source from the reservoir was not contaminated and that is true.  But when it comes to what the residents were hearing and what was coming out of their faucets, there was a significant amount of them where the water was not safe to drink.

KORNACKI:  You know, Dr. Torres, when you read Nick`s story and you think about how big this country is and how just common political dysfunction is, and you`d have all these sort of  intermingling of agencies at different levels of government, we`ve seen it in Flint, we`ve seen it in Newark.  Are we likely to see this in other places?

TORRES:  And Steve, I think we are because the infrastructure in this country has aged and it has a hard problem of trying to get that up to date and modernized.  And like you said, you know, 1986 is when the standard came out saying anything after 1986 you cannot have lead pipes in the house.  So what the EPA says, houses built before 1986 more than likely has lead pipes or lead solder to join those pipes together sot it could leaching lead.  And so those are houses that definitely need to be tested.

And different sources are saying that there could be hundreds of cities out there that have similar problems, maybe even worse problems.  We just don`t know about them yet.

KORNACKI:  And Nick, very quickly, the mayor, given what you`ve told us, given what you`ve reported, what`s his standing in Newark right now?

CORASANITI:  He`s an incredibly popular mayor.  Up until this moment there hasn`t really been much of a controversy, much of a scandal for Baraka.  He took over from Cory Booker who was pretty popular.  But as he left there were few issues, there were some rising crime, there were some budget cuts, there were some corruption at the watershed (ph) commission under him.

So up until now, the mayor has been very popular.  He`s a very important ally of Governor Phil Murphy.  And he`s pretty well liked there in the state.  Which is what kind of surprised to many people to see how his messaging and his handling with this issue has been almost contrast to how we`ve seen him run the city so far.

KORNACKI:  OK.  It`s a depressing stories in some way, a fascinating story as well then.  Very well reported by you and your colleagues, appreciate that.  Nick Corasaniti, Dr. John Torres, thank you both for being with us tonight.

And that is our broadcast for this Monday night.  Thank you at home for being with us, and 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