Trump on buying Greenland. TRANSCRIPT: 8/27/19, The 11th Hour w/ Brian Williams.

Guests: A.B. Stoddard, Karen DeYoung, Clint Watts, Clint Watts, ShaneGoldmacher, Eliza Collins

LAWRENCE O`DONNELL, MSNBC ANCHOR:  Now, I want to stress, that`s a single source. This has not been confirmed by NBC News.  I have not seen any documentation from Deutsche Bank that supports this and verifies this.  This is just a single source who has revealed that to me.  And that`s where that stands at this point.  It`s going to need a lot more verification before that can be a confirmable fact.

So that is tonight`s LAST WORD.  "THE 11TH HOUR" with Brian Williams starts now.

STEVE KORNACKI, MSNBC HOST:  Tonight the world according to Donald Trump.  How the free-wheeling President is reshaping America`s relationship with its allies and how world leaders interact with each other.  All while the President extends a hand to Russia.

Plus the President wanted an unflinching defender in the Justice Department, and now the attorney general is doing some big spending at the Trump hotel and is raising some new ethics concerns.

And in less than 25 hours, we will know how big the next Democratic debate stage will be.  We`ll take a deep dive into what will be a do or die moment in the presidential race.  THE 11TH HOUR on a Tuesday 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 950 of the Trump administration and the President is furiously battling the perception of a White House with no strategy and no direction.  Trump made no public appearances today, but we did hear from him quite a bit on social media as he jumped from one topic to another on his Twitter feed, underscoring what the "Los Angeles Times" describes as "the scattershot focus that defines his stream-of-consciousness presidency."

Among the things on Trump`s mind, "I have gotten to know President Bolsonaro well in our dealings with Brazil.  He is working very hard on the Amazon fires and in all respects doing a great job for the people of Brazil."

And "No bedbugs at Doral.  The radical left Democrats upon hearing that the perfectly located for the next G7 Doral National Miami was under consideration for the next G7 spread that false and nasty rumor.  The G7 was a great success for the USA and all lame stream media coverage bore no relationship to what actually happened."

And this, "Wow!  Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico.  Will it ever end?  Congress approved $92 billion for Puerto Rico last year an all- time record."  In reality, Congress approved less than half that.  Less than $14 billion reached the island by the end of May.

"The Federal Reserve," the President continues on Twitter, "loves watching our manufacturers struggle with their exports to the benefit of other parts of the world, has anyone looked at what almost all other countries are doing to take advantage of the good old USA?"

All that on top of what we heard from the President over the past 10 days.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Greenland, I don`t know, it got released somehow.  It`s just something we talked about.  Denmark essentially owns it, and strategically for the United States it would be nice.

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.  I am the chosen one.  Somebody had to do it.  So I`m taking on China.

I have confidence that in the end, Kim Jong-un, who I`ve gotten to know very well, will do the right thing.

China called last night our top trade people and said, "let`s get back to the table."  So we will be getting pack to the table.

I have good feelings about Iran.  I have good feelings that it will work.

It would be better to have Russia inside the tent than outside the tent.  Do we live either way?  Yes, we live either way.  Is it politically popular for me to say that?  Possibly not.

I do nothing for politics.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Meanwhile at home, there are new signs that Trump`s trade war is taking its toll on one of his key voting blocks.  "The New York Times," "American farmers have become collateral damage in a trade war that Mr. Trump began to help manufacturers and other companies that he believes have been hurt by China`s unfair trade practices.  More than a year into the trade dispute, sales of American soybeans, pork, wheat, and other agricultural products to China have dried up.  Farm bankruptcy filings in the year through June were up 13 percent from 2018, and loan delinquency rates are on the rise."

Earlier on this network, the head of the National Farmers Union described members` fears.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROGER JOHNSON, PRESIDENT NATIONAL FARMERS UNION:  More and more farmers are coming to understand that, listen, what this President is doing is harming our reputation.  And it`s literally going to take us decades to get some of these -- we may never get some of these markets back.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KORNACKI:  Amid all of this, there`s other news involving the President.  "The Washington Post" reports that Attorney General Bill Barr has booked a $30,000 Christmas party at Trump`s D.C. hotel.

The paper also reports on Trump`s new directive to fast track a border wall, and he wants it black, and he wants it by Election Day, "Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the 2020 presidential election that he has directed aides to fast track billions of dollars` worth of construction contracts, aggressively seize private land and disregard environmental rules, according to current and former officials involved with the project.  He also has told worried subordinates that he will pardon them of any potential wrongdoing should they have to break laws to get the barriers built quickly."

Here for our leadoff discussion on a Tuesday night, Robert Costa, National Political Reporter for "The Washington Post" and Moderator of "Washington Week" on PBS, A.B. Stoddard, Columnist and Associate Editor at "Real Clear Politics."  And we welcome to the broadcast Karen DeYoung, Senior National Security Correspondent at "The Washington Post."  Thanks to all of you for being with us.

Robert, let me start with you.  It`s not your story, your paper is reporting, though, we just quoted from it here, the President apparently feeling some urgency to show tangible progress on this border wall by Election Day 2020.  Obviously the signature promise of his 2016 campaign.  Behind the scenes, how big a concern is that for Trump, that so little progress has been made in 2 1/2 years as president?

ROBERT COSTA, THE WASHINGTON POST NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER:  Inside the White House tonight, they`re bracing for a fall where the USMCA trade deal may not even be brought to the floor for a vote, where a China trade deal may be long away on the horizon.  And so they`re trying to look at executive authorities away to try to galvanize that Republican base, the President`s core voters for 2020.  And that`s why they`re going to put an emphasis this fall as "The Washington Post" reports tonight on what the wall is up to, where the progress has been made by using executive authority.

KORNACKI:  A.B., you talk about bedbugs, Brazil, Puerto Rico, in terms of Twitter.  That was how the President was communicating tonight.  He was sort of all over the place.  Is there a strategy here?  Is there a broader strategy that unites all of his pronouncements, all of his actions?

A.B. STODDARD, REAL CLEAR POLITICS ASSOC. EDITOR AND COLUMNIST:  I think Robert is right that they are desperate to show some kind of progress on whatever they can.  He will, you know, return to the immigration issue, no question, because he`s been trying to act on that through executive orders recently about food stamps and flu shots and all sorts of things to limit what is provided to families at detention centers.  I expect a lot more on immigration.

This wall thing is fascinating though, because "The Washington Post" did not put the impeachable offenses that this story reports on into the headline.  He is directing law-breaking and dangling pardons and that`s an impeachable offense.

The interesting thing about this story, though, is that Don Trump Jr. tweeted a video yesterday.  They are trying to convince their supporters a new wall has been built.  And it says, the wall is finally being built.  And they`re frustrated that all the new wall is refurbished pre-existing fencing.

So they`re trying to convince people that there actually is new border fencing because they feel that the, you know, their voters are getting restless about this.  And Donald Trump admits, you know, in this reporting, it shows he thinks it`s going to be seen as a defeat and an embarrassment.  So they`re desperate to show new wall.  And that`s, you know -- the story is not surprising, but directing law-breaking and dangling pardons to do it is going to be a huge problem for him.

KORNACKI:  And Karen, again, the other big story here, the President, I would say, on Twitter tonight making some headlines.  But the last few days in public at the G7 summit over in France, the headlines, of course, were largely made by the President.  I`m curious, so much attention to what he said, again, on various topics over there.  The G7 itself, this is an institution that goes back decades.  Has it been changed by President Trump?

KAREN DEYOUNG, THE WASHINGTON POST SR. NATL. SECURITY CORRESPONDENT:  I think that they -- certainly that was the case with the first two meetings that he attended where there were big blowups, there was a lot of concern that they couldn`t go on.  I think this time President Macron of France basically just decided from the beginning that he was going to avoid any chance of conflict.  There would be no communique.  There would be no big meeting on climate change.  There was a smaller meeting on the last day that Trump didn`t attend.  That was the subject that had blown him up before.

And I think he went out of his way to flatter President Trump.  Everyone was just sort of committed ahead of time that they would not allow anything to explode at the meeting.  And that they would smile and go about their business.  Not expect any big deliverables.  And hopefully get out of it unscathed.

KORNACKI:  Robert, we also mentioned there at the top the condition, the sort of reality for American farmers a year or so into this trade war with China.  Given the importance of sort of the agricultural rural constituency for a lot of Republican politicians, not just the President in 2020, but for a lot of folks in his party who have been going with him on this trade war or at least not standing up publicly and opposing him on it, how much latitude does the President have with his own party?  How much farther can he go without getting something tangible from China?

COSTA:  The question of what`s tangible, your word, is really what`s up for debate inside of the Republican Party.  When I`m talking to top lawmakers inside of the House of Representatives and the Senate, they say they encourage, broadly speaking, the President`s trade war.  They want to have a confrontation with China.

But would they accept a watered-down deal that maybe had China agree to some soybean agreements, some purchases of different agricultural goods later this year, early 2020, something that wasn`t wide in scope or hardline against China?  There`s a lot of appetite for that among my Republican sources who say, a watered-down China deal would jump start the market, would reassure farmers, they don`t need to have some kind of grand China deal on trade.

KORNACKI:  A.B., you were mentioning the issues raised by the President`s reported comments on the wall.  There`s also the President in the last couple of days obviously saying publicly he`d like to have the G7 at Trump Doral next year.  Also news tonight that his attorney general, William Barr, is going to be having a $30,000 Christmas party there.  Apparently they are saying they have clearance, Barr does, from the DOJs Ethics officials on this.  But still, the appearance there, I imagine, could raise some questions for some folks.

STODDARD:  You know, I was surprised to see Senator Rubio, who has stood up to the President now and then when he does the wrong thing, I guess he`s from Florida, and he`s supportive of this for Miami.  But this is another potential -- probably definite violation of the Emoluments Clause, the constitution that the President took an oath to defend.

And he`s just -- you know, he`s not shy about this.  He wants to promote his businesses, play golf at his resorts, hold events there and many, many people do business at the Trump hotel.  And I think Bill Barr, you know, might do it because it`s convenient, it`s near the Department of Justice.  But this is the kind of thing that you work hard to avoid doing so that even the appearance doesn`t raise these kinds of questions.

KORNACKI:  Well, speaking of that, Karen, you know, again, the President just on Twitter tonight is back at it saying, you know, basically, he`d like to have the G7 at the Trump Doral next year.  What are the prospects of that actually happening?

DEYOUNG:  Well, I think as far as the President`s concerned, it`s a done deal.  And you saw even though he and his press conference yesterday said, you know, we`re thinking very seriously about it, we`ve looked at a lot of other places and they just are not good enough.  The White House then came out and tweeted its own confirmation that that`s where it was going to be.

Today you saw a lot of people, including those who have planned the previous summit -- G7 summits that have been held in this country saying, wait a minute, it may have all the hotel rooms, it may have the ballrooms, it may have the golf courses and the restaurants as the President explained, but it`s located very close to Miami airport, it is in a neighborhood that is largely warehouses, places that would be very difficult to secure.

And previously they`ve closed down the airport.  You`ve got seven, used to be eight, now seven leaders of the world meeting there, and most of their Cabinets involved.  And so in previous -- for previous summits, they`ve closed down the airports.  They`ve cleared all the surrounding area.  And that`s just very, very difficult to do around Doral.

KORNACKI:  The President also had on Twitter tonight he had 2020 on his mind.  He attacked -- this might be potentially interesting here.  He attacked Elizabeth Warren, Democratic presidential candidate, he said, "They do stories so big on Elizabeth "Pocahontas" Warren`s crowd sizes, adding many more people than are actually there, and yet my crowds, which are far bigger, get no coverage at all.  Fake news.

Robert Costa, I guess what I`m curious about there is the President`s decision to go after Elizabeth Warren.  Obviously he`s been attacking Joe Biden quite a bit lately.  Does that say anything about how the White House, how this President is viewing the Democratic race?

COSTA:  It means he`s taking her candidacy seriously.  I remember as a reporter back in 2015, traveling with President Trump, he paid close attention to all of his Republican rivals, their crowd size.  He would always talk about his own crowd size.  It was not so much policy debate with him, among him and his rivals.  It was about asserting himself as someone who`d draw huge crowds.  And so when he sees a Democratic contender like Senator Warren, drawing thousands, over 10,000 in some places, that is something that perks the head of this president.  Someone who pays attention to celebrity populism, crowds, as much as he does that political issues.

KORNACKI:  Yes.  And A.B., just given the reality of American politics, Democratic Party politics today, if you`re Elizabeth Warren, you`re trying to win the Democratic presidential nomination, getting attacked by President Trump might actually help you in this moment?

STODDARD:  Absolutely.  That he sees her as a potential threat.  He also took the bait and started tweeting about the three stooges.  He calls them, the people that are running against him.  He`s upset about Joe Walsh.  I think that was Joe Walsh`s goal by the end of this week, former congressman running against the President in the primary, to get him to start barking at him on Twitter.  And so he`s taking the bait.  And this is exactly after a Friday when he tanked the markets in a chaotic, turbulent, and really largely negative G7 where he was really doing the marketing of Vladimir Putin.

What Republicans do not want him to be focused on, other people`s crowd size.  They want him to be focused on policy and assuring farmers and everything else.  So the tweets today were extra special.

KORNACKI:  OK.  A.B. Stoddard, Robert Costa, Karen DeYoung, thank you all for being with us.

And coming up, the government tries to shore up its defenses against election databases Russians compromised in 2016.  Will it make a difference in 2020?

And later, Congress moves forward obtaining President Trump`s tax returns.  THE 11TH HOUR just getting started on a Tuesday night.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI:  The Intelligence Community is launching a new effort to combat Russian interference in U.S. elections.  This time the Department of Homeland security is warning the Kremlin may turn to ransomware in 2020.

Reuters was the first to report that, "The U.S. government plans to launch a program in roughly one month that narrowly focuses on protecting voter registration databases and systems ahead of the 2020 presidential election."

Ransomware attacks hold computer systems hostage until payment is made.  A technology official telling Reuters, "A pre-election undetected attack could tamper with voter lists, creating huge confusion and delays, disenfranchisement, and at large enough scale could compromise the validity of the election."  Officials say this new DHS program will run parallel with local, state, and private sector efforts to try to keep Russian hackers out of American voting software.  Attacks that were attempted back in 2016.

Here with us to talk more about it, Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI Assistant Director for Counterintelligence.  And from Oslo, Norway Clint Watts, former FBI Special Agent, he`s also distinguished Research Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute and author of "Messing with the Enemy: Surviving in a Social Media World of Hackers, Terrorists, Russians, and Fake News."

Clint, well, speaking of the Russians, potentially, according to this reporting, anyone else who has some desire to interfere perhaps with American elections, ransomware is a potential avenue for doing so.  Describe exactly how that would work and what could be done to stop that.

CLINT WATTS, FMR. FBI SEPCIAL AGENT:  Yes, there are two parts.  If you remember back, Steve, when we looks at the end of the Mueller report, the first part people were worried about was changing votes.  So it would be actually getting in, changing the voting system so that the count came out different.  That`s actually much more difficult to do.

But what the Russians did last time around and what could be even worse this time is going after those voter rolls.  The way they could do that is by using basically off-the-shelf ransomware that any cyber criminal uses or other variants which they have used in attacks that have been connected to them in places like Ukraine.  What the idea would be is they would send out messages essentially to parts of the voter registration process.  This could be across any of the 50 states.

When someone in one of those local governments mistakenly clicks on it, it would seize that data.  It would essentially block that out, decrypt it so that they can`t access the voter rolls.  And they would either require a payment or in some cases may not ask for any payment at all, essentially takes those voter rolls and basically destroys them.  So you can imagine if you`re heading into Election Day and you don`t have those voter rolls, you don`t know who can vote, you don`t have access to them.  It would almost bring the voting day to a halt, depending on which locality got struck by it.

KORNACKI:  And Frank, the scale of what Clint`s describing there, 50 states, but within the states you`re talking about hundreds of cities, towns, precincts, potentially, where these records are going to be kept. Practically speaking, how do you defend against what Clint`s describing?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASSIST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  Well, it`s interesting you mention the thousands of municipalities involved in this because they`re being hit right now.  We have several states and little municipalities in the country right now who are literally being extorted for their own data at town hall.  And so this is part of what`s driving, in addition to the Mueller report findings and the fact that the Russians did this in 2016 and waved at us and said, "we can get into your town hall voter registration," we now have a realtime problem where towns are being held hostage.

And so, how do you defend against this?  Well, this is where the federal government needs to step in, and they are, at least now, and they`re saying, "you need backup systems," standalone systems, constantly backing up, making the backup database secure, so that if it goes down you`ve got a backup system.  That costs money.

And we`ve heard Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell say, "Hey, I`m not supporting the concept of the Feds coming in for security on elections because I think elections are about the states."

Well, let`s play out the worst case scenario.  The state, the town, key swing states, they get hit, they look to the federal government for help, the federal government says, "we`re not helping."  And now we don`t know what that election outcome is in those key precincts on Election Day.

KORNACKI:  And Clint, we know obviously from 2016, the Russians were very interested in meddling with the U.S. election.  So obviously you`re talking about something like this potentially in 2020.  All eyes on Russia.  But is there anyone else, any other country, any other actor around the world, we should be keeping an eye on here?

WATTS:  It could be anyone, Steve.  I can`t state that enough.  We`ve been focused on Russia, as we should be.  But when you look at these ransomware attacks, oftentimes we don`t even know where they come from.  That`s the brilliance of it from cyber crime perspective is you don`t know who the actor is whenever they execute it. And that malware, the ransomware that`s being used to target these cities, can be copied and used by any number of actors.

So it gives the ability for any country essentially that might want to provoke the United States, or even lay a claim or some sort of attack that might look like Russia, or even a criminal or a domestic actor, that wants to try and sow confusion or stop the vote, to have the ability to do a psychological attack on this country when we`re most vulnerable.  We know we have just gone through 2016.  So imagine in 2020 having issues again even when we knew this far out.

I have to say DHS has done a good job about notifying on all of this.  But look at what they`re dealing with.  They`ve got to go to 50 different states to get this done.  They have, as Frank said, no more resources to get that action done.  They need that money from the Senate.  They haven`t been able to get that bill through there.

KORNACKI:  So, Frank, you know, Clint says DHS is doing a pretty good job on this, that you`ve got the President, though, over the weekend, making the case for bringing Russia, bringing Vladimir Putin back into the G7, saying he`d like to have Vladimir Putin come to the United States next year at the height of the Presidential campaign to be part of the G7 summit here in the United States.  Those two messages, the signal being sent by DHS, the public signal being sent by the President, how is all that interpreted in Moscow?

FIGLIUZZI:  Well, it`s interpreted as a green light.  Essentially what the Senate is doing, what the President is doing in their posture, is saying, "Look, we`re not going to touch this.  If you`re going to do it again, we`re not going to step into this."  And so, as Clint said, it`s not just Russia we need to worry about.  Iran`s doing this.  China certainly has the capability of doing this, and your independent hackers can just mess with the election.  So it`s got to be a coordinated federal budgetary item to secure our democracy by preserving a free and fair election, and we`re not there yet.

KORNACKI:  OK.  Frank and Clint are staying with us.

And coming up, as we just mentioned, President Trump says Vladimir Putin would be welcome in this country next year.  So why is the Kremlin refusing to let U.S. senators into Russia?  THE 11TH HOUR back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KORNACKI:  Two U.S. senators who have been critical of Russia have now been banned from entering that country.  Republican Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Democrat Chris Murphy of Connecticut say their visa requests were denied ahead of a bipartisan congressional delegation trip.  In a statement Senator Murphy called it, quote, a perilous moment for our two nations` fragile relationships, saying it`s a shame that Russia isn`t interested in dialogue.

The Russian visa denials come as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter to President Trump arguing against Russia`s re-entry to the G7.  As POLITICO sums it up today, "Russia`s barring senators and Schumer`s letter, taken together, heighten the already fraught relationship between Congress and Putin."

Back with us, Frank Figliuzzi and Clint Watts.  Frank, what does Russia think it can achieve with this?

FRANK FIGLIUZZI, FMR. FBI ASST. DIRECTOR FOR COUNTERINTELLIGENCE:  Well, I think, first of all, this should be a reminder to all of us that we have adversaries in the world.  We may not like to hear it.  And the President may not like to acknowledge that, but we do.

And we`ve gotten into a scenario where the President`s foreign policy strategy, so to speak, of embracing dictators and adversaries, whether it`s North Korea or Russia, is not working.  Because as he does that, they continue to feel emboldened to do things like this.  And now international travel of elected officials is impacted.  And we have no standing to fight back because this President, our President, has actually blocked entry for people.

And we`ve heard reports today that people are being blocked from attending school, including Harvard, because they can`t get back into the United States.  We`re in kind of this escalated cold war that no one wanted to get into.

KORNACKI:  Clint, just given the friendliness that President Trump has shown towards Vladimir Putin, is it surprising at all that a member of the President`s party, Ron Johnson, is one of those being denied admission by the Russians?

CLINT WATTS, FMR. FBI SPECIAL AGENT:  Yes, it`s one of the more surprising things because you just watched the President here with the G7 basically going to bat for Vladimir Putin.  Essentially skipping over all the bad behavior, whether it`s Ukraine or interference on our own election that our President would advocate for Putin to be back in the G7, to be the G8, is not only just frightening, it`s a bit ridiculous.  And then to watch Putin essentially snub his own party.  You know, it`s been seen already that he`s trying to divide Democrats and Republicans.  That`s been Putin`s strategy from afar.

But now he`s even dividing people of his own party.  The GOP, with Senator Johnson.  Inside the United States, from the White House.  And I`m really interested to see how the President will handle this, because he would then -- again, we`ve seen him say the U.S. intelligence community doesn`t know what they`re talking about, we`ve seen him take Putin`s side in terms of election interference in Helsinki.  But is he going to actually go and fight for his own party, the GOP?  I think this will be a remarkable moment to see if there`s any line where the President will take a firmer stand against Russia.

KORNACKI:  Well Frank, on this question of the G7 and the line the President right now is taking, encouraging, saying he`d like to see Russia back in the G7, make it the G8 all over again, from Russia`s standpoint, is that a priority for Russia?  Has that been something they`ve been pushing for?

FIGLIUZZI:  They need to be that player on the world stage.  They need to be and want to be in that room at what would then become a G8.  And understand the strategy here.  What we`re going to watch play out is whether Trump decides to align himself with Russia on these issues or whether he`s more aligned with the GOP, his own party.  They are forcing his hand.  And we could actually see a scenario where Trump becomes tighter and digs in when it comes to joining at the hip with Russia than actually aligning with his own political party.

KORNACKI:  And Clint, this question of, again with the G7, if the President were to push forward with trying to -- just have Putin come next year, perhaps, forget the issue of Russia join organize not, what would the reception from the other leaders there be?

WATTS:  I think it would be strong negative and to the point where they would question why they keep the G7 going.  And let`s remember what the long-run goals of Russia is.  It`s to advance themselves on the world stage and push the United States down.  They have a zero sum view of the world.

And so could you imagine, you know, President Trump is advocating for Putin.  He`s actually driving a wedge between himself and his own alliances, the European Union and NATO.  To the point where I oftentimes wonder if those alliances would hold at all with the United States anymore based on the President`s behavior.  This is long-run damage.

Not only would Putin showing up in the United States for that G7/G8 summit be just devastating for morale, but it could be a wedge breaker where it really isolates the United States on a world stage and sends us off into our own after decades and decades of being the world`s leader and really bringing the unifier of all these countries, all these democracies around the world.  It could be just a further sign and maybe even a death blow to these things that have protected us for so many years.

KORNACKI:  All right.  Clint Watts from Oslo, Norway, with that two and a half second delay that we managed to navigate deftly there, and Frank Figliuzzi, thank you both for joining us, appreciate that.

And coming up, new poll numbers are just hours away now and one Democratic hopeful has a lot at stake.  I`m going to go to the big board and explain when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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KORNACKI:  All right, well almost exactly 24 hours from now, 11:59 p.m.  Tomorrow night, that is the deadline for candidates to qualify for the next Democratic presidential debate.  That debate`s going to be in mid- September.  The deadline to make it on the stage tomorrow night.

Now here is where we stand because there is a lot of suspense in these final 24 hours and change.  First of all you`ve got these 10 candidates you see right here.  These 10 candidates have qualified for the debate.  What does that mean?  There were two criteria for this.

Remember number one, you needed to raise $130,000 individual donations.  All of these candidates cleared that threshold.  The other thing you need to do, you have to hit 2 percent in four different polls that are recognized by the DNC.  Two percent in four different polls.  All 10 of these candidates have managed to do that.

Now remember what we`ve seen in this debate so far on the Democratic side, the maximum on stage, 10 candidates.  So right now that`s only one stage of candidates, right now, if nothing changes in the next 24 hours.  You`re going to have one stage, one debate, one night, every candidate on stage together.  No more of this two-night business.

Now the question is what happens over the next 24 hours or so?  Because in addition to these 10, there are three candidates who you might call on the bubble.  Meaning they have qualified for one but not two of those criteria to get into this debate.  Take a look here.  All three of these -- Tulsi Gabbard, Tom Steyer, and Marianne Williamson -- all three of these candidates have hit the donor threshold.  They`ve raised the individual donations.  The question is can they get up to four polls at 2 percent?

Right away what do you see?  Tom Steyer, one poll away.  That means Tom Steyer has 24 hours for one more poll to come out with Steyer at at least 2 percent in it.  If he gets that, he`s in.  Gabbard, she would need two in the next 24 hours.  Marianne Williamson, this is the Hail Mary of Hail Mary passage.  She`d need three in the next 24 hours.

Well, guess what we know, though?  There are at least two that we know are coming out tomorrow.  The Quinnipiac poll, 8:00 a.m.  About eight hours from now, about 8:19 from now, the Quinnipiac poll is coming out.  The DNC counts that poll.

If Tom Steyer is at 2 percent in that poll, Tom Steyer is in the debate.  If Tulsi Gabbard`s at 2 percent in that poll, Tulsi Gabbard one poll away from making the debate.  And if Tulsi Gabbard does that, she could get her fourth poll in the "USA Today"/Suffolk poll that is also coming out tomorrow.  We don`t know exactly what time yet.

But for Tom Steyer, that means two shots.  If in either one of these polls he can hit 2 percent, he can join the other candidates on the debate stage.  Tulsi Gabbard, she would need to do 2 percent in both of those polls.  Marianne Williamson, there really isn`t a scenario for her unless there are more polls that surprisingly coming out tomorrow.  And unless she suddenly at 2 percent in all those polls.

So realistically speaking, the drama is around Tom Steyer, maybe Tulsi Gabbard too.  And it`s a question, are you going to have a one-stage debate for the first time?  Or are we going to have another one of those multi- night affairs?  We will know 24 hours from now.

Coming up, raise you`re hand if you`re being outspent in the 2020 presidential election when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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KORNACKI:  And as we just mentioned, Tom Steyer needs 2 percent in just one more poll approved by the DNC tomorrow.  If he gets that, he qualifies for September`s debate.  And as you might have realized, Tom Steyer is already all over television.  The billionaire former investor has been spending heavily on TV ads to raise his profile after entering the race last month.

As of today, Steyer has spent $12 million on advertising.  That far surpasses anyone else in this campaign, including the incumbent, President Trump.

Shane Goldmacher of "The New York Times" is out with a new report to detail Steyer spending and what other Democrats are thinking about that he writes, "The Steyer campaign has floated a $100 million campaign budget which is more than the top five candidates for the Democratic nomination raised in the second quarter combined."  "You underestimate my brother at your own peril," said Jim Steyer, who is one year older.  Jim said that when Tom considered runs for California governor or senator, Kamala Harris and Gavin Newsom, now governor, would use him as a back channel to find out about his brother`s plans.  People like Gavin and Kamala, they were always afraid of Tom."

Here with us to talk about all of this, Eliza Collins, Politics Reporter covering the 2020 campaign for "The Wall Street Journal."  And the aforementioned Shane Goldmacher, National Political Reporter for "The New York Times."  Shane, let me start with you.  Big day tomorrow for Tom Steyer.  If he does not reach that magic number in either of those polls and does not make the debate stage, what does that do to this campaign?

SHANE GOLDMACHER, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES:  I mean, I think for starters the odds are against him in those two polls because the ones that he has qualified in are those early states where those ads have been running.  So Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire, Nevada, polling in those states have showed him well over the 2 percent mark.  But nationally he`s still at that 0 percent to 1 percent because that`s not where most of these ads have been running.

If he doesn`t make it tomorrow, he`s almost certain to make it by October.  Given the fact that reliably in non-qualifying polls, he`s been above the 2 percent mark.  But for now he continues sort of an unabated campaign of continuous television, Facebook, and Google ads.

Fun moment, I was around the state fair with him and somebody sees him and just like doesn`t really always, hey, it`s the YouTube guy.  I mean, this person is running for president for weeks and he`s already getting recognized, you know, walking around the state fair of Iowa.

KORNACKI:  $12 million can buy you something, at least.  Eliza, he`s an interesting candidate to me.  If he does get into these debates, at least, because of the money, obviously.  But it seems the message, you talk about somebody with his background, billionaire investor, you might think would have more of a Mike Bloomberg kind of message.  But this is somebody running on impeachment, running on a very aggressively liberal agenda, backed by potentially $100 million.

ELIZA COLLINS, POLITICS REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL:  Right.  And as Shane`s reporting notes, he believes that he is actually the outsider here.  He`s saying that some of the other progressive candidates, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, are the establishment because they are from Washington.  Bought Tom Steyer actually earlier this year had been thinking about running for president, and basically said, I`m not going to do it.  And then a few months later came back and said, well, actually, I am.

And part of that was because he didn`t feel that the candidates were taking basically his message, one of those being trying to impeach the President and running with him.  So he said, I`m stepping in, I`ve got the money, I`m going to try to run on that.  But part of Tom Steyer`s name ID and his huge lists of potential donors that he can tap into came from his push for impeachment and for environment and climate.  And he`s been pushing these things for a long time, for years, and collecting names of people interested in these topics.  And now his campaign is renting out those email lists and tapping those same people for donations, basically saying, Tom Steyer was heading up these efforts, now he`s running for president.

KORNACKI:  And Shane, you mentioned it`s the early states where the ads are running on TV where he is popping a little bit in the polls.  Not really seeing it nationally yet.  What are the other Democratic candidates -- what do they think of him?  What do they think of his candidacy right now?  How are they reacting to it?

GOLDMACHER:  There`s two real impacts.  For one, anyone who`s planning to have a media heavy campaign, their plans have been scrambled, right.  If you`re Mayor Pete and you`ve collected tens of millions of dollars and spent very little of it, maybe you could just do a huge set of ads in Iowa in January, guess what, you`re not going to have the airwaves to yourself and you`re not going to outbuy Tom Steyer.  So that`s impact number one for future plans.

And impact number two is it`s something they don`t know yet, will he go negative.  Will he run ads that attack these other candidates?  And when I was spending time with him in Iowa, I talked with him about the fact that he flies commercial, which I thought was interesting, right?  He can certainly afford his own plane.  And his eyes absolutely widened at the thought that other candidates were flying on private planes across the campaign trail.   So you could almost see him envisioning future attack ads on this exact topic.

He asked me a whole series of follow-up questions.  Like who?  How can I look that up?  Is this public information?  And he said, look, he absolutely will consider running any kind of ads, he`s in this to be competitive.

KORNACKI:  That`s a major variable potentially to keep an eye on.  Eliza, in terms of the front-runner in this race, Joe Biden, you`ve seen two different polls come out in the last day offering two different trajectories for his candidacy, one putting him back in third place actually, a point behind Warren and Sanders, the other putting him comfortably in first place, still low 30s, double-digit lead.  What is the mood around his campaign right now?  Certainly, there have been some issues on the campaign trail with him up in New Hampshire over the weekend.  He was in Keene, New Hampshire, seemed to refer to it as Vermont.  It`s raised some questions about, you know, at 76, 78 on inauguration day whether he`s fully up to this.  What`s the mood around his campaign right now?

COLLINS:  Well his campaign is certainly pointing to that poll that has him higher up and dismissing the other poll as political campaigns tend to do.  They like polls when they`re good.  They don`t like them when they`re bad.  But this really shows that his lead, he is the leader in most polling, is tenuous and it is not as strong as people may have believed early on in his campaign.  He has had a series of gaffes.  But he is still the front- runner.  So i think his campaign is taking this seriously, more seriously than they may be saying in public.

And they`re going forward and trying to get him out.  We`ve seen him out with an ad today talking about his personal story and the loss of his wife and daughter and his son later on.  Basically talking about health care and how it`s personal to him.  And so he`s coming out trying to be sort of on offense rather than defense, which he has been on a series of instances over the past few days.  And I think part of that is polling.  They`re looking at the numbers and realizing that he needs to sort of harden up his lead if he wants to continue his front-runner status.

KORNACKI:  Yes.  And Eliza, what you`re getting there gets to I think a big question about sort of the mood of the Democratic electorate right now.  What exactly he`s looking for in the age of Trump.

Eliza, Shane Goldmacher both staying with us.  We`re going to talk about that when THE 11TH HOUR continues.

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KORNACKI:  All right.  Back with us, Eliza Collins and Shane Goldmacher talking about the state of the 2020 race.  The President we mentioned this earlier, he was on Twitter tonight.  He has now drawn several Republican primary challengers and he went after them tonight.

Actually that was his attack on Elizabeth Warren right there but I can tell you what he said about his Republican challengers.  He said, "I`m at 94 percent approval in the Republican Party and I have Three Stooges running against me.  One is Mr. Appalachian Trail who was actually in Argentina for bad reasons."  Mark Sanford there he`s referring to.  "Another is a one- term bad congressman from Illinois who lost in his second term by a landslide then failed in radio.  The third is a man who couldn`t stand up straight while receiving an award.  I should be able to take them."

Shane, it is interesting.  We were talking earlier.  These Republican challengers need oxygen.  Did Trump just give them a little bit of it?

GOLDMACHER:  Yes.  I mean, Donald Trump is not known for his self-control on these things.  The whole hope for a Joe Walsh, for any of these other potential challengers, for Bill Weld I guess is running, is that Donald Trump pays any attention to them, right?  His entire political apparatus has been trying to seal up the nominating process so these guys can`t get delegates, so they can`t make noise at the convention.  He doesn`t have to pay attention to them.  But as he shows tonight and I think he will show in the future he`s likely to spend some time and give them some of the oxygen they need.

KORNACKI:  Yes.  You used to talk about the rose garden re-election strategy.  It doesn`t look that way on twitter tonight.

Speaking though of the Trump re-election campaign, Eliza, there was also this that went out tonight and I think generated some attention from the Trump campaign.  A fund-raising e-mail here.  Listen to this wording here.  "The President is calling on you at this critical time to remind AOC and Democrats that this is our country, not theirs."

And Eliza, I should put that in the form of a question, I suppose.  But that is so striking just given the controversy of the last month.

COLLINS:  Right.  I mean, this really shows -- we saw the President talking about this group of women and saying they should go back to their home country.  Of course they are all, you know, here legally.  They are citizens of this country.  And so it shows that they are doubling down.

His campaign is continuing this attack.  And they are basically trying to draw a line between this group of women who are progressives and trying to align the whole Democratic Party with this progressive group and saying that they`re out of line and really he`s saying that they`re unpatriotic and un-American.  And he was criticized soundly for this attack on those women earlier this month.  They were called racist tweets.  But the fact that his campaign is now using this as a strategy to raise money shows that this is not going away.

KORNACKI:  Yes.  And Shane, it does, it does seem to be an indication that this is a name AOC the group of congresswomen probably that will be invoked a lot by Trump and Republicans in 2020.

GOLDMACHER:  Yes, Donald Trump`s political tactics from the moment he announced has been an us versus them and his current them is this group of Democratic congresswomen of color.  And it is in his interests apparently for him to continue to attack them.

And look, Ocasio-Cortez is also, you know, gaining traction from striking back.  Today there was a curious moment where he was sending out this e- mail.  Her campaign was e-mailing out the fact that he`d been texting about her.  You know, look, it is unlike -- uncommon for a group of freshman congresswomen to get this much attention from a president seeking re- election.

KORNACKI:  And its attention that does not look like it`s going to fade out certainly before Election Day 2020.  Eliza Collins, Shane Goldmacher, thank you both for your time tonight.

That is our broadcast for this Tuesday night.  Thank you for being with us and good night from NBC News headquarters in New York.

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